September 22, 2009

The Divinity and Humanity of Christ

“God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, one in Being with the Father” – Nicene Creed


From the beginning of the Church, the vast majority of Christians have accepted the humanity and divinity of Christ. This is evident from Scripture, the documents of the early Church, and the martyrs. In early times, the Gnostics denied the humanity of Christ and the Arians (hence Arianism; he was excommunicated in 319 A. D.) denied the divinity of Christ. Strangely enough, both the Gnostics and the Arians seem to have been motivated by a distaste for the world (in the physical sense), possibly the philosophical descendant of Platonic ideas. In any case, the Gnostics did not last long and the Arians, allied with Roman emperors after Constantine, enjoyed only fifty years of favor before dying out. Together, the councils of Nicaea (325 A.D.) and Constantinople (381 A.D.) addressed both of these conclusively, and we still refer to the Creed by the name of the council in which the bishops wrote it.

The Scriptures

While it is good to meditate on the dual nature of Christ, the intent is not to convince the reader, but to inform. As the proliferation of Christian denominations attests, proofs of anything from Scripture are impossible for those who have already made up their minds. Nevertheless, those who want relevant Scriptural texts will find them here, in no particular order:

  • The Virginal Conception (Matthew 1, Luke 1) – If Jesus is only a man, what is the necessity of a conception in this manner? Prophets and judges were born under miraculous circumstances, but not like this. Related text on the Incarnation
  • The Lord said to my Lord (Matthew 22:43-35, Mark 12:35-37, Luke 20:41-43) – Jesus offers this quote from David himself as a proof that he is not merely the human descendant of David.
  • Before Abraham came to be, I am (John 8:56-59) – Related to John 6:61-62. Jesus’ hearers would have understood the reference “I am” as an allusion to the name of God given to Moses at the burning bush. No wonder they were perplexed and angry.
  • Jesus has the authority to forgive sins (Luke 5:18-25) – As the Pharisees said, only God has the authority to forgive sins. The words of forgiveness are very direct.
  • My Father and your Father (John 20:16-18) – There are too many places to list them all, but Jesus consistently calls God “my Father,” not “our Father.” The “Lord’s Prayer” is for the disciples, not Jesus. The distinction between the two is consistent in the Gospels, and repetition in Scripture indicates an important point.
  • …and worshiped him (John 9:37-39) – Of the many times in Scripture where Jesus is worshiped, this one is special because it was used during the preparation for baptisms in the early Church (this Gospel chapter has been reinstated in the modern preparation of adults in the Catholic Church). Jesus was very clear that God alone could be granted worship, but did not correct those who worshiped him.
  • Through him all things were made… (John 1:1-3) – This was quoted in the Nicene Creed of 325 A.D.
  • …every knee shall bend (Philippians 2:9-11) – Combine this with Romans 14:11 (the same phrase applied to God).
  • There is no other name by which we are saved (Acts 4:12) – How could the death of a mere man bring about salvation for all? Salvation itself witnesses to the divinity of Christ. Yes, through Adam all sinned, but we also choose it. In salvation, we cannot will it on our own, we must accept what is offered. Salvation is greater than sin, and so the savior must be more than a son of Adam.
  • In Revelation, Jesus is called “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16) – Again, this seems far above a mere man. This title can only be applied to God, at least at the end of the world. Granted, there are powerful people now, but their power ends when Christ returns.
  • Ephesians 5:21-33 – St. Paul says marriage gives a sign of the love between Christ and the Church, but the Hebrew scriptures (Hosea for example) only use this for God and Israel, never for Moses and Israel. St. Paul knew this very well, and saw nothing wrong with putting Jesus in the place formerly reserved for God.

The Documents of the Early Church

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The Martyrs

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Our Response

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For another view of the Incarnation (a much older one), go here

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