Quartz Hill School of Theology

Chapter Seven
Christology: Doctrine of the Son

Introduction: Messiahship

The obvious answer to the question of who might the Son of God be, is Jesus Christ. What does this word "Christ" mean? Christ is a transliteration of a Greek word which means "anointed one". This makes it the equivalent of the Hebrew term "Messiah" (meshiach). The term "anointed one" comes from the Near Eastern practice of pouring oil on someone's head when he was commissioned for a job, particularly priests and kings. It was used in the Old Testament of any one who had been chosen by God to be used for his purposes. Look at 1 Samuel 10:1:

Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul's head and kissed him, saying, "Has not Yahweh anointed you leader over his people Israel? You will reign over Yahweh's people and save them from the power of their enemies round about. And this will be a sign to you that Yahweh has anointed you over his inheritance... [following the reading of the Septuagint and Vulgate]. (Notice 1 Samuel 16:13 and Leviticus 8:10-12, also.)

The term Messiah even described a pagan idolater who happened to be used for God's purposes:

This is what Yahweh says to his Messiah,
to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of
to subdue nations before him
and to strip kings of their armor,
to open doors before him
so that gates will not be shut...(Is. 45:1)

Even a Persian king, therefore, could be God's Messiah.

However, the word eventually took on more significance, particularly as it is applied to Jesus, who came as the special Savior, not only of Israel, but of the whole human race. And it is in the Hebrew Old Testament that we can find reference to his comings - both his first coming to die, and his second coming in glory. The rabbis, too, noticed this twofold aspect of Messiah's ministry. Some passages speak of the Messiah suffering and dying, while others speak of him reigning as king forever. For a time in Judaism it therefore became popular to think of two messiahs: one who would suffer and die, known as Messiah son of Joseph, and one who would reign as king, known as Messiah son of David. As Christians, we can recognize in this explanation the truth of Christ's two comings: first to suffer for the sins of the world, and later to reign as king forever. How much does the Old Testament say about Christ? Luke 24:25-27 records:

He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Not surprisingly, some commentators have taken this passage in Luke, and a similar one in John (John 5:38-40) as indications that the theme of the Old Testament is Jesus. Such a theory fails of demonstration, though, and seems an unsubstantiated overstatement lacking in hard data. But in any case, the Old Testament does say a lot about the Son, since he is the primary manifestation of God in the Old Testament. In the nature of predictions about his incarnation, notice the following as examples, divided into the two obvious categories:

Genesis 3:15     Zech 12:10
Deut 18:15     Dan 7:14
Isa 11:1, 10      Isa 9:6-7
Isa 7:13-14      Isa 11:1-10
Isa 52:13-53:12      Isa. 65:13-25
Isa 61:1-2
Zech 9:9
Micah 5:2
Psa 2:7
Psa 16:9-11
Psa 22:17
Colossians 2:17
Hebrews 10:1-4

There are many other passages that speak of his coming, and it should be recognized that the entire sacrificial system was a shadow of future developments (Heb 10:1-4). The entire book of Hebrews is devoted to explaining how the ritual of the Old Covenant has been fulfilled in the New Covenant of Jesus Christ (for further discussion, see the chapter on the relation of the OT to the NT).

Historical Views Concerning Christ

The history of the doctrine of Christ indicates the various attacks that have been leveled at the person of Christ:

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

a. Ebionism:

(From Hebrew: evyonim, "poor men"). It was an early Christian ascetic sect that retained and exaggerated the Jewish emphasis in Christianity. They accepted only the Gospel of Matthew and rejected the writings of Paul. They believed Jesus became the Messiah because he obeyed the Jewish Law. They denied his pre-existence, though some finally came to accept the Virgin Birth. They did not accept the deity of Jesus.

b. Cerinthianism:

(C. AD 100). Cerinthus was a Christian heretic (to confute whose errors, according to Irenaeus, John wrote his Gospel), was probably born a Jew in Egypt. Little is known of his life except that he was a teacher and founded a short-lived sect of Jewish Christians with Gnostic tendencies. He apparently taught that the world was created by angels, from one of whom the Jews received their imperfect Law. The only New Testament writing Cerinthus accepted was the Gospel of Matthew. Cerinthus taught that Jesus, the offspring of Joseph and Mary, received Christ at his baptism as a divine power revealing the unknown Father. This Christ left Jesus before the passion and the resurrection.

c. Docetism:

(From the Greek dokein, "to seem"). It is an early Christian heresy affirming that Christ did not have a real or natural body during his life on earth but only an apparent or phantom one. Though its incipient forms are alluded to in the New Testament, such as in the First Letter of John, Decetism became more fully developed as an important doctrinal position of Gnosticism, a religious dualist system of belief arising in the 2nd century AD which held that matter was evil and the spirit good and claimed that salvation was attained only through esoteric knnowledge or gnosis. Ther heresy developed from speculations about the imperfection or essential impurity of matter. More thoroughgoing Docetists asserted that Christ was born without any participation of matter and that all the acts and sufferings of his life, including the crucifixion, were mere appearances. They consequently denied Christ's Resurrection, and Ascension into heaven. Milder Docetists attributed to Christ an ethereal and heafvenly body but disagreed on the degree to which it shared the real actions and sufferings of Christ.

d. Arianism:

Arianism is a Christian heresy first proposed early in the 4th century by the Alexandrian presbyter Arius. It affirmed that Christ is not truly divine but a created being. The fundamental premise of Arius was the uniqueness of God, who is alone self-existent and immutable; the Son, who is not self-existent cannot be God. Because the Godhead is unique, it cannot be shared or communicated so that the Son cannot be God. Because the Godhead is immutable, the Son, who is mutable, being represented in the Gospels as subject to growth and change, cannot be God. The Son must, threfore, be deemed a creature who has been called into existence out of nothing and has had a beginning. Moreover, the Son can have no direct knowlege of the Father since the Son is finite and of a different order of existence.

According to its opponents, especially Athanasius, Arius' teaching reduced the Son to a demigod, reintroduced polytheism (since the worship of the Son was not abandoned), and undermined the Christian concept of redemption since only he who was truly God could be deemed to have reconciled man to the Godhead.

The Council of Nicaea (AD 325) condemned Arius and his teaching and issued a creed to safeguard orthodox Christian belief. This creed states that the son is homoousion to Patri ("of one substance with the Father"), thus declaring him to be all that the Father is: he is completely divine

The heresy continued, off and on, through the seventh century. In modern times, some Unitarians are virtually Arians in that they are unwilling either to reduce Christ to a mere human being or to attribute to him a divine nature identical with that of the Father. The Christology of Jehovah's Witnesses, also, is a form of Arianism; they regard Arius as a forerunner of Charles Taze Russell, the founder of their movement.

e. Monophysitism:

Those who taught that in the Person of Jesus Christ there was only one nature rather than two natures, divine and human, as asserted in the Council of Chalcedon in 451. In the development of the doctrine of the Person of Christ during the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries, several divergent traditions had arisen. Chalcedon adopted a decree declaring that Christ was to be "acknowledged in two natures, without being mixed, transmuted, divided, or separated." This formulation was directed in part against the Nestorian doctrine - that the two natures in Christ had remained separate and that they were in effect two persons - and in part against the theologically unsophisticated position of the monk Eutyches, who had been condemned in 448 for teaching that, after the incarnation, Christ had only one nature and that, therefore, the humanity of the incarnate Christ was not of the same substance as that of other men. Political and ecclesiastical rivalries as well as theology played a role in the decision of Chalcedon to depose and excommunicate the patriarch of Alexandria, Dioscorus (died 454). The church that supported Dioscorus and insisted that his teaching was consistent with the orthodox doctrine of St. Cyril of Alexandria was labelled Monophysite. The label was also attached to various theologians and groups, although some who were called Monophysite, notably Severus of Antioch (died 538), repudiated the terminology of Chalcedon as self-contradictory. Most modern scholars agree that Severus as well as Dioscorus probably diverged from what was defined as orthodoxy more in their emphasis upon the intimacy of the union between God and man in Christ than in any denial that the humanity of Christ and that of mankind are consubstantial.

In modern times, it is also generally accepted by Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant Christendom that those churches usually classified as Monophysite (the Coptic, the Syrian, and the Armenian) are essentially orthodox in their doctrine of the Person of Jesus Christ.

f. Nestorianism:

Christians of Asia Minor and Syria who refused to accept the condemnations of Nestorius and his teachings by the councils of Ephesus (AD 431) and Calcedon (AD 451). Nestorians stressed the independence of the divine and human natures of Christ and in effect thus suggested that they were two persons loosely united by a moral union.

g. The orthodox position:

The orthodox position, as elucidated by the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451) is that in the one person of Jesus, there are two natures: divine and human.

The Pre-existence of Christ

The Bible is clear that Jesus existed prior to his incarnation (see the discussion on the Trinity in Chapter Four: Theology Proper: The Doctrine of God -- The Trinity).

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
    Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:1-5)

"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!" (John 8:58)
And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. (John 17:5)
"Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. (John 17:24)
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:13-17)

a. Old Testament Appearances

Sometimes theologians make a distinction between a Theophany - an appearance of God, and a Christophany - an apearance of Christ in the Old Testament. However, based on John 1:18 and John 6:46 it is clear that any appearance of God in the Old Testament must be of the preincarnate Christ.


    Yahweh appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. He said, "If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way-now that you have come to your servant."
    "Very well," they answered, "do as you say."
    So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. "Quick," he said, "get three seahs of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread."
    Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.
    "Where is your wife Sarah?" they asked him.
    "There, in the tent," he said.
    Then Yahweh said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son."
    Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, "After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?"
    Then Yahweh said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Will I really have a child, now that I am old?' Is anything too hard for Yahweh? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son."
    Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, "I did not laugh."
    But he said, "Yes, you did laugh."
    When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. Then Yahweh said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of Yahweh by doing what is right and just, so that Yahweh will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him."
    Then Yahweh said, "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know."
    The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before Yahweh. Then Abraham approached him and said: "Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing-to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
    Yahweh said, "If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake."
    Then Abraham spoke up again: "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city because of five people?"
    "If I find forty-five there," he said, "I will not destroy it."
    Once again he spoke to him, "What if only forty are found there?"
    He said, "For the sake of forty, I will not do it."
    Then he said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?"
    He answered, "I will not do it if I find thirty there."
    Abraham said, "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?"
    He said, "For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it."
    Then he said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?"
    He answered, "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it."
    When Yahweh had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home. (Genesis 18)

Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank. (Exodus 24:9-11)

"We are doomed to die!" he said to his wife. "We have seen God!" (Judges 13:22)

b. The question of the Angel of Yahweh

Who is this Angel of Yahweh (also called the Angel of the Lord)? Below are all the occurances in the Old Testament of this enigmatic figure:

The angel of Yahweh found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. (Genesis 16:7)
Then the angel of Yahweh told her, "Go back to your mistress and submit to her." (Genesis 16:9)
The angel of Yahweh also said to her: "You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for Yahweh has heard of your misery. (Genesis 16:11)
    But the angel of Yahweh called out to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!"
    "Here I am," he replied. (Genesis 22:11)
The angel of Yahweh called to Abraham from heaven a second time (Genesis 22:15)
There the angel of Yahweh appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. (Exodus 3:2)
But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of Yahweh stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. (Numbers 22:22)
When the donkey saw the angel of Yahweh standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, she turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat her to get her back on the road. (Numbers 22:23)
Then the angel of Yahweh stood in a narrow path between two vineyards, with walls on both sides. (Numbers 22:24)
    When the donkey saw the angel of Yahweh, she pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam's foot against it.
    So he beat her again. (Numbers 22:25)
Then the angel of Yahweh moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. (Numbers 22:26)
When the donkey saw the angel of Yahweh, she lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat her with his staff. (Numbers 22:27)
Then Yahweh opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the angel of Yahweh standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown. (Numbers 22:31)
The angel of Yahweh asked him, "Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. (Numbers 22:32)
Balaam said to the angel of Yahweh, "I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back." (Numbers 22:34)
The angel of Yahweh said to Balaam, "Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you." So Balaam went with the princes of Balak. (Numbers 22:35)
The angel of Yahweh went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, "I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I swore to give to your forefathers. I said, `I will never break my covenant with you, (Judges 2:1)
When the angel of Yahweh had spoken these things to all the Israelites, the people wept aloud, (Judges 2:4)
`Curse Meroz,' said the angel of Yahweh. `Curse its people bitterly, because they did not come to help Yahweh, to help Yahweh against the mighty.' (Judges 5:23)
The angel of Yahweh came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. (Judges 6:11)
When the angel of Yahweh appeared to Gideon, he said, "Yahweh is with you, mighty warrior." (Judges 6:12)
With the tip of the staff that was in his hand, the angel of Yahweh touched the meat and the unleavened bread. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of Yahweh disappeared. (Judges 6:21)
When Gideon realized that it was the angel of Yahweh, he exclaimed, "Ah, Lord Yahweh! I have seen the angel of Yahweh face to face!" (Judges 6:22)
The angel of Yahweh appeared to her and said, "You are sterile and childless, but you are going to conceive and have a son. (Judges 13:3)
The angel of Yahweh answered, "Your wife must do all that I have told her. (Judges 13:13)
Manoah said to the angel of Yahweh, "We would like you to stay until we prepare a young goat for you." (Judges 13:15)
The angel of Yahweh replied, "Even though you detain me, I will not eat any of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, offer it to Yahweh." (Manoah did not realize that it was the angel of Yahweh.) (Judges 13:16)
Then Manoah inquired of the angel of Yahweh, "What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?" (Judges 13:17)
As the flame blazed up from the altar toward heaven, the angel of Yahweh ascended in the flame. Seeing this, Manoah and his wife fell with their faces to the ground. (Judges 13:20)
When the angel of Yahweh did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realized that it was the angel of Yahweh. (Judges 13:21)
When the angel stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, Yahweh was grieved because of the calamity and said to the angel who was afflicting the people, "Enough! Withdraw your hand." The angel of Yahweh was then at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. (2 Samuel 24:16)
The angel of Yahweh came back a second time and touched him and said, "Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you." (1 Kings 19:7)
But the angel of Yahweh said to Elijah the Tishbite, "Go up and meet the messengers of the king of Samaria and ask them, `Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going off to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?' (2 Kings 1:3)
The angel of Yahweh said to Elijah, "Go down with him; do not be afraid of him." So Elijah got up and went down with him to the king. (2 Kings 1:15)
That night the angel of Yahweh went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning-there were all the dead bodies! (2 Kings 19:35)
three years of famine, three months of being swept away before your enemies, with their swords overtaking you, or three days of the sword of Yahweh-days of plague in the land, with the angel of Yahweh ravaging every part of Israel.' Now then, decide how I should answer the one who sent me." (1 Chronicles 21:12)
    And God sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem. But as the angel was doing so, Yahweh saw it and was grieved because of the calamity and said to the angel who was destroying the people, "Enough! Withdraw your hand."
    The angel of Yahweh was then standing at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. (1 Chronicles 21:15)
David looked up and saw the angel of Yahweh standing between heaven and earth, with a drawn sword in his hand extended over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell facedown. (1 Chronicles 21:16)
Then the angel of Yahweh ordered Gad to tell David to go up and build an altar to Yahweh on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. (1 Chronicles 21:18)
But David could not go before it to inquire of God, because he was afraid of the sword of the angel of Yahweh. (1 Chronicles 21:30)
The angel of Yahweh encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. (Psalms 34:7)
May they be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of Yahweh driving them away; (Psalms 35:5)
may their path be dark and slippery, with the angel of Yahweh pursuing them. (Psalms 35:6)
Then the angel of Yahweh went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning-there were all the dead bodies! (Isaiah 37:36)
And they reported to the angel of Yahweh, who was standing among the myrtle trees, "We have gone throughout the earth and found the whole world at rest and in peace." (Zechariah 1:11)
Then the angel of Yahweh said, "Yahweh Almighty, how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem and from the towns of Judah, which you have been angry with these seventy years?" (Zechariah 1:12)
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of Yahweh, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. (Zechariah 3:1)
Then I said, "Put a clean turban on his head." So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of Yahweh stood by. (Zechariah 3:5)
The angel of Yahweh gave this charge to Joshua: (Zechariah 3:6)
On that day Yahweh will shield those who live in Jerusalem, so that the feeblest among them will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the Angel of Yahweh going before them. (Zechariah 12:8)

It becomes clear when the context of these appearances is studied that the angel (or messenger) of Yahweh simply refers to a visible representation or appearance of God. For example, in Judges, when the angel of Yahweh appears to Minoah and his wife, come Judges 13:22 Minoah is afraid he will die because he has "seen God."

    There the angel of Yahweh appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight-why the bush does not burn up."
    When Yahweh saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!"
    And Moses said, "Here I am."
    "Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. (Exodus 3:2-6)

Exodus 3:2-6 makes it explicit too. In verse two, we see the angel of Yahweh; almost at once, the angel of Yahweh is identified as God himself.

The Virgin Birth

The Septuagint translated the Hebrew word almah with parthenos (virgin) at Isaiah 7:14, a strong argument for translating the term in that way. It must be admitted and noted, however, that even the Greek term, as much as the Hebrew term, might conceivably be used of any young woman, virgin or not. The reason for this is simply that both Hebrew and Greek lacked words that were unequivocally a reference to a virgin, unlike the English word. That is why, in the New Testament, the writers lay stress on the fact that Mary had "never had intercourse", not just that she was a "virgin". That was because the Greek word parthenos was not unequivocol, any more than the Hebrew word was.

The doctrine of the virgin birth does not rest on how Isaiah 7:14 is translated. Rather, it rests on the references in Matthew and Luke, which leave no room for thinking that anything other than a virgin birth is being described.

The concept of a virgin birth has been criticized for nearly two thousand years. It is interesting, I think, that near the end of the twentieth century both in-vitro fertilization and the implantation of fetuses in the wombs of women (sometimes a woman's own embryos, sometimes those of someone else in the case of a surrogate mother), has made virgin birth not only possible, but even common.

For the critics of the virgin birth, it would seem clear that if human beings are capable of such a feat, then how tough would it have been for God to do it? Secondarily, the advance in technology helps explain the timing for Christ's appearance on Earth. If he had arrived in the last decade of the twentieth century, a virgin birth would not have seemed much like a miracle.

As a side note, the Roman Catholic opposition to invitro fertilization and surrogate motherhood seem odd, considering that Mary was precisely that: a surrogate mother.

As far as the actual process was concerned, it seems likely that Jesus was an implanted embryo rather than the result of a fusing of divine sperm with Mary's ovum. Women, no less than men, are fallen creatures, tainted by original sin. Therefore, Jesus could no more have had her ovum than he could have had a man's sperm as the basis for his body. Since the New Testament calls Christ a "new Adam", it would not be unreasonable to picture Jesus' human body as having been specially created in the womb of Mary.

So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being" ; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. (1 Corinthians 15:45-49)

The Humanity of Christ

The humanity of Christ is demonstrated by the fact that he was born of a woman. Its reality is also shown by the fact that he both called himself, and was called by others, a man (John 8:40, 1 Timothy 2:5, Acts 2:22) Additionally, he possessed the essential elements of a human being: body, soul and spirit (Matthew 26:38, Luke 23:46, 52). Jesus expressed the normal human emotions: love, anger and sorrow. (John 11:3, 5, 36, 13:1, 23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:7, 20, Mark 10:21, John 2:14-17, Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:13- 16, John 11:35). He was subject to the laws of development: he grew in wisdom, he suffered, and so forth (Luke 2:40, 52, Hebrews 2:10, 18; 5:8). Finally, and most significantly, he died (Luke 22:44, John 19:30-34). His death illustrates and demonstrates a question that is sometimes raised about Adam and Eve. Before they sinned, did they have eternal life? That is, would they have lived forever if they hadn't eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?


There are two reasons for this.

One, if they had everlasting life before they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, then that would mean that the loss of one's salvation would be a possibility. That is, the Bible says that we have everlasting life. If you have everlasting life, then how could you lose it?

Second, if Jesus is a second Adam, and if he is a sinless human being, then how is it that he was mortal? That is, if Adam and Eve were immortal simply because they hadn't sinned, then how could Jesus die, since he had never sinned?

This is solved when one considers the compulsion God had to get Adam and Eve out of the Garden and away from the Tree of Life. Had Adam and Eve eaten from that tree, then they would have become immortal. The fact that they ultimately died, indicates that they didn't eat from it, and their expulsion from the garden made it impossible for them to ever eat from it. Thus, they were mortal. They had been mortal, their mortality simply was sealed by their bad choice.

Jesus, then, was just like Adam before he sinned. In his case, he never did and became the perfect sacrifice; Jesus was a replay of what things were supposed to have been like.

The Significance of the Virgin Birth

    This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
    But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
    All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" -which means, "God with us."
    When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus (Matthew 1:18-25).

The virgin birth is significant and was necessary in order to prevent Jesus from being contaminated with the genetic predisposition to sin. Human beings are sinners because that nature is passed down from parents to children, generation after generation. Eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil caused physical repercussions in the race; the spiritual significance of what is going on should not obscure for us the fact that sin came into the world because of a physical act that damanged the human genome. Just as certain chemicals today are known to cause genetic damage, apparently there was something in that fruit that Adam and Eve ate that caused significant genetic damage, making us the sinners that we are.

Because we are born sinners, and have no choice in the matter, God alone was capable of doing something to rectify the problem. That is, we cannot fix ourselves; it is up to God if any fixing can be done. The death of Jesus on the Cross was the only possible cure.

The Union of the Two Natures in One Person

How are we to understand the union of the divine with the human? It is not explained or clarified in any detail. We do not have a blueprint, or a computer printout of the design specifications; we don't have anything explaining the process or the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional adjustments that had to be made. We are simply told that God came and lived among us, becoming one of us.

We must understand that it was not God and Man - as if there were two personalities or individuals cohabitating a single body; no, there was a full union, and only a single personality, which we call the God-Man. With his two natures He constitutes one person with a single consciousness and will. How this was accomplished we don't know because the details haven't been given to us. We lack the data.

Unfortunately, God was not overly concerned with satisfying human curiosity; he simply lets us know what he did, telling us only as much as we absolutely need to know in order to do what we're supposed to. In that, we're not so very different. How much information, how much explanation do you give a two year old when you've told him or her to do or not to do something? How much good would it do to go into all the whys and wherefores with a two year old? If you simply keep her from eating the dead bug on the floor, you're happy.

Is their scriptural evidence that Jesus is a union of humanity and deity, rather than two people in one body? Consider the following points:

1. Christ speaks of himself as one person

I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:23)

2. Attributes and powers of both human and divine natures are ascribed to Christ

Regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David... (Romans 1:3)
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the ghteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, (1 Peter 3:18)
For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, (1 Timothy 2:5)
...but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (Hebrews 1:2-3)

The Real Nature of the Union

It is a great mystery because of the limited nature of the evidence. If the Bible was a complete revelation of God to humanity, we wouldn't have to wonder about questions like this. We'd have the answers; it would just be a matter of locating them. Unfortunately, there are a lot of holes in our knowledge base about God.

The chief problems or questions

1. Christ is one personality and yet has two natures.
2. How could he assume a human nature without a separate personality? Two earthly parents produce one personality.
3. Relation of deity to humanity during the early life of Christ is a serious question. Usualy Philippians 2 explains this problem, although then we have questions regarding precisely what this emptying that Paul discusses entailed.
4. Then there is the question of the relation of Christ's humanity to his deity during the heavenly life of Christ, now. Based on the fact that he ascended in a human body and he is described returning in a human body, and based on Hebrews 13:8, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." it would seem likely that he is still the God-Man. See also 1 Timothy 2:5: "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." This passage may not be directly applicable to the question, however; it seems that the context here actually limits Christ's mediation to the work in his incarnation when he died on the cross.

Is it possible?

It is grounded in the original creation of humans in the image of God. The presence of two natures is possible because of personality - it takes personality to render two natures compatible, but it is not a double or split personality.

Effect upon the Human

The doctrine of the communion of attributes means characteristics of deity are contributed to humanity. Yet the true entity is not lost. It is not two natures uniting to make a third nature. The divine nature enabled the human nature and the human nature qualified the divine.

Effect upon the Divine

Jesus communicates his human ignorance to his whole person or deity. That is, he voluntarily restricts his knowledge as to when he is coming back, for instance (see Matthew 24:36). Through his union with humanity he is capable of suffering. It is not Christ suffering only in his human nature, however; it is God suffering. The enormity of a crime is determined by the one against whom we sin. Sin is against God, so an infinite atonement is needed.

The Necessity of the Union of God and Humanity

The unity of God with humanity was necessary if Jesus Christ was to serve as a proper mediator between God and humanity. His twofold nature gives him a bond with both parties. He is God's equal, and yet he has perfect sympathy with humans. (1 Timothy 2:5 and Job 9:33)

As a human being, Christ was able to bear sin, and as God, he could bear it away (John 1:29). It was only by becoming human that he could die; humanity requires finiteness. Yet, for the sin to be atoned for the whole race, forever, infiniteness was required and that was contributed by the divine.

It identifies God with humanity; God becomes our kinsman-redeemer (Ruth 4:1-11).

The union is eternal; it stands forever

Jesus can never become other than God-Man. He was always God, but he has become human. It is an eternal identification. It is an eternal union of two natures in one person.

The Orthodox View of the Person of Christ

In one Person, Jesus Christ, there are two natures, human and divine, each in its completeness. These two natures are organically united, but do not make a third nature.

The Two States of Christ

1. The state of exaltation in heaven with the Father prior to his incarnation. (John 17:5)
2. The state of humiliation on Earth
    a. In humiliation he voluntarily restricted or surrendered the independent exercise of his divine attributes in accord with his mediatorial ministry
    b. He is subject to the direction of the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:12)
    c. he is sujbect to the Father

I do always the things that are pleasing to him." (John 8:29)

Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (John 5:19)
So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him." (John 8:28-29)
For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say." (John 12:49-50)
But the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me. (John 14:31a)

Other passages relating to his voluntary emptying

Philippians 2:5-11

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Colossians 1:15-18

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

From the theology book by R.P. Nettelhorst, Does God Have a Long Nose?

Contact Details

Telephone: (661) 722-0891
Email: info@theology.edu
Website: www.theology.edu

Quartz Hill School of Theology
43543 51st Street West
Quartz Hill, CA 93536

Join our Newsletter

Sign up for our newsletter for all the
latest news and information