"It is one of the most important and sacred duties of modern theology to overcome, in keeping with the uniform impression of true humanity and personal oneness produced by the person of Christ as delineated in the New Testament, the contradictory dualism beyond which the church doctrine of the God-man has so far failed to advance, and that in such a manner that the substance of the catholic dogma be preserved, and all exploded errors be avoided."1
A threefold impression is made upon every serious and unprejudiced reader of the New Testament concerning Jesus Christ, to wit, that he is a real man, that he sustains a unique relation to the Deity, and that this relation grows out of the very substance of his being. Wherever, whenever, on whatsoever occasion, under whatsoever circumstances, Jesus meets us, he makes the impression on us that we are in the presence of a realman, who has all the attributes and wants of humanity — who thinks, wills, resolves, has emotions, grieves, rejoices, sleeps, travels, grows fatigued, needs rest, eats and drinks, not for a show, but to satisfy his real wants, etc. But this real man assumes a relation to the Deity which no created being can claim without blasphemy, saying that he is of one substance (ἕν) with God; that he was with God in heaven before he came down on earth; that he wishes to return thither after the accomplishment of his mission, — representing himself as an ambassador of God, that he acts in God 's name and stead, whose doctrine is not his own, but God 's, who performs his miracles in the power of God, etc.
His most intimate and highly gifted followers and disciples have both confirmed and enlarged these declarations of their Master. John tells us expressly that his Master had existed from all eternity in a capacity to which self-consciousness and personality belong, and that he in the course of time had become something that he was not always, namely, man. In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was toward (πρός) God (τὸνΘεόν), and the Logos was God " (Θεός); and v. 14:" And the Logos became flesh." Nearly the same is affirmed by the Apostle Paul, who says (Phil. ii. 6, 7):" Who, existing in the form of God, considered it not robbery to continue in this Godlike state of existence, but emptied himself, having assumed the servant form, and having become in the likeness of men." Declarations to this effect abound in the New Testament; but these two may suffice for the present. Moreover, not only the highest honors that can be paid by an intelligent creature to another, but even supreme worship is paid to him by his disciples. He places himself on a level with the Father and the Holy Ghost in baptism; he is joined with them in invoking the divine blessing; he is represented as being intrusted with the government of the world, with hearing and answering prayer. These and similar declarations of Jesus concerning himself, and of his apostles and disciples — made at first by word of mouth, and subsequently reduced to writing, that they might be an infallible guide for the church of all times to come — furnished to the infant church the general outlines of the Saviour's image, and sufficient material to complete it in days to come; and the church set herself soon to work to draw from these data her Saviour's picture in detail, by endeavoring to become conscious of all she had of Christ through faith, by endeavoring to give a scientific expression to the contents of her faith.
Was she right in making this attempt; and did she succeed in it?
These two questions do not receive a uniform answer from all; some contending, not without a show of reason, that it would have been infinitely better if the church had contented herself at all times with the simple Bible teaching, with the inspired words of the evangelists and apostles; that all could have arrived by these means at a saving knowledge of the truth at any subsequent time, as well as in the days of the apostles themselves. And, if we bear in mind that all the parties that took part in the struggles that grew out of the christological question appealed to the Bible as the word of God, that in all the contending parties there were sincere and God-fearing persons that were actuated by the very best of motives, and that untold miseries were entailed by these contentions on countless multitudes, that the church herself was torn into hostile factions, etc., etc. — if, we repeat, we bear all this in mind, we are almost ready to wish that no attempt as indicated had been made.
But, notwithstanding all this, the thing was absolutely necessary; the constitution of the human mind being such that it cannot hold anything permanently as its own which it does not understand, which it has not analyzed, reconstructed, and thus appropriated to itself in a scientific form. Christian theology is the necessary result and condition of Christian life; life-producing faith carrying in itself the fruitful germ of γνῶσις, or knowledge.
The unchristian, bloody scenes that grew out of these attempts were, moreover, not their legitimate results, and ought never to have taken place; and we may trust that the church has profited by past experience; that she will no longer persecute with fire and sword all dissenters; that individual believers will no longer look upon their own views as an infallible apprehension of the Bible, or on any creed or confession of faith as an infallible exposition of the oracles of God, and, for the same reason, on opposite views as the outgrowth of malice and wickedness, unfitting its advocates for the company of good men here and the enjoyment of the Saviour hereafter.
Without fear of successful contradiction, we say, therefore, that the labors of the church with regard to the Christological as well as all other Christian questions, were legitimate and necessary; and, if the results so far reached are not in every respect satisfactory, the efforts must be continued until perfectly satisfactory results are realized.
It is absolutely necessary to acquaint ourselves with the whole history of the Christological question during the eighteen centuries of the existence of the Christian church, in order to pass a correct judgment on the relative merits or defects of its present status, and to make, with some prospect of success, any effort to advance it to a higher state of development.
The human side of the Saviour — his humanity proper — was never seriously questioned in the church. All doubts and erroneous notions on this subject had their origin and life outside of the church, and rested even here on a priori conclusions. Because matter is intrinsically evil, and be cause every emanation of light coming into contact with matter contracts a moral stain, a moral contamination, as many of the so-called Gnostics believed, they could not entertain the idea that the highest Eon, Christos, Logos, the Only-begotten, who dwelled temporarily in Jesus of Nazareth, should have occupied a material body. Jesus had, therefore, no actual, but only an apparent, body, which this high Eon had brought down from heaven. Being of an unchristian origin, these docetic notions had no permanency; but, after threatening for a while to eclipse the very splendor of the church, they died away without leaving any traces; and when they reappeared in the Reformation period as admixtures with Christian truth they found but little favor with the people, and are, virtually, held by no one in our days.
Not so with the other, or divine, element in our Saviour.
We find, accordingly, that when Jesus claimed really divine sonship, he gave great offence to the Jews, and even his Jewish followers were only gradually raised to the belief in his divinity, while many of them never rose to this height.
The heathen, likewise, had no idea of a real incarnation, as the gods of the multitude were not really divine; and the Absolute of the philosopher was still more unapproachable to creatures than the Jehovah of the Jews. The idea of the incarnation is of specifically Christian origin, and, in order to apprehend it, it is absolutely necessary to submit to the Spirit of Christ, and to receive instruction from this source exclusively.
Many of the Unitarians paid, indeed, divine honors to Christ, but not as being entitled to them by dint of his nature, but by his extraordinary merits; still he remained unto them what he always had been, a creature, however glorious and exalted. Others could not account for Jesus's whole character on the assumption that he was a mere man, but were, at the same time, prevented by their deism from believing in an incarnation, and they assumed, therefore, special divine favors showered upon him, yea, they even believed that divine powers, indeed, all the divine powers, had been centred on him, in a manner, however, that precluded a hypostatical union or an incarnation. This was the case with Sabellius, Paul of Samosata, the different shades of Patripassians, Monarchians, etc. Arius, not satisfied with either of these views, held that Jesus was more than a mere man, that a high Eon, who was, however, also a creature, had been so united with Jesus as to fill in him the place of the rational faculty in man, the νοῦς. These views of Arius were condemned by the Synod of Nice, and through the matchless efforts of Athanasius the ὁμοούσιον, i.e. the doctrine that the Son of God is distinct from the Father person ally, but of the same substance with him, was declared to be the orthodox faith. The other error of Arius, that was subsequently revived in a somewhat modified form by Apollinaris, namely that the higher Eon or Logos had filled the place of the νοῦς in Jesus, was not formally condemned at Nice.
From this time onward the divinity proper and real humanity of the Saviour may be considered as the settled
In perfect consistency with this theory, Apollinaris could and did say:" Our God has been crucified," and " the man Jesus is exalted at the right hand of God "; " Mary is the mother of God."
Against these and similar positions Nestorius, patriarch of Constantinople, protested, finding fault particularly with the term θεοτόκος, which came to be pretty generally applied to the blessed virgin. In keeping with the teaching of the school of Antioch, Nestorius insisted that the " divine and the human nature " in Christ be completely separated from each other, so that what applies to the one does not necessarily apply also to the other. Diodorus of Mopsuestia (died 394) had taught:" The divine nature has not been begotten from out of the virgin, but only what is of the virgin 's substance has been brought forth by the virgin; not the divine word has been born of the virgin, but the seed of David; not the divine Logos has been born of the virgin, but he that was formed by the Holy Ghost in her; he was born of no mother who is of the same substance with the Father, being according to blessed Paul, without mother." And Nestorius taught:" No creature gave birth to him who cannot be created, nor did God beget in the virgin the word, which was according to John in the beginning. The creature did not give birth to the Creator, but gave birth to the man, the instrument of God. The Holy Spirit did not create the divine word, but prepared from out of the virgin a temple for the word."
Although Nestorius was willing to adopt the term " Mother of God " under proper restrictions, and to extend religious worship also to the human side of Christ, protesting emphatically against a separation of the two natures, with which he was charged, yet his doctrine was condemned by the third general Synod held at Ephesus, A.D. 431. The views of Nestorius deserve the more attention, because in the days of the Reformation the Reformed church adopted views that came. very near those of Nestorius, and because in this country especially views prevail extensively, between which and those of Nestorius it may be very hard, if not impossible, to discover any real difference.
After disposing, by the condemnation of Nestorius, of the separation of the two natures, the Cyrillian party that had ruled at Ephesus, pushed its views of the absolute oneness of the Redeemer so far as to maintain only one nature in Christ. The views of the archimandrite Eutyches, that were formally condemned by the Synod of Chalcedon in A.D. 451, seem not to have been very clearly developed; and it is the more difficult for us to understand them correctly, because we have them only through the reports of his enemies. According to the acts of the Synod of Constantinople, that deposed him in A.D. 448, he taught that after the incarnation of the Divine Word, i.e. after the begetting of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, there is only one nature in the Saviour, and that of the incarnated God. He allowed two natures before the union (πρὸ τῆς ἑνώσεως), but admitted only one after this act. His views, however, were formally condemned by the Synod of Chalcedon, and as the decrees of this body are recognized by nearly all Christians of our days, and as they were virtually received into all the confessions of faith of the leading churches of the Reformation, and as, moreover, from them the views of Eutyches can be learned with a tolerable degree of correctness, we give both a translation, and the original of the decrees of the synod and of the letter addressed by Leo the Great to Flavian, bishop of Constantinople, on which the decisions of the synod were mainly based.
This so-called Flavian epistle reads:" Majesty took upon itself humility; strength, weakness; eternity, mortality, without impairing the properties of each nature and substance that unite in one person. In order to pay the debt due by man, the inviolable nature (of God) united itself with our frail nature, in order that according to the requirements of our case, one and the same Mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, might be mortal according to one side of his being, and immortal according to the other. The true God was, accordingly, born in the full and perfect nature of a real man, complete in the attributes of both his own nature and of ours, etc. For he that is truly God is also truly man; nor is this union merely apparent, the lowliness of humanity and the highness of Deity communicating themselves to each other. For as God is not changed by compassion, so the humanity is not crushed by the dignity conferred upon it. For each nature does, in connection with the other, what is peculiar to itself, i.e. the Word does what is the Word 's, while the flesh carries out what belongs to the flesh."3
In the same epistle birth, hunger, suffering, death, burial, etc., are claimed for his human nature, while his miracles are ascribed to his divinity. What the Lord says John xiv. 28, applies to his human nature, but the words recorded John x. 28 must be referred to his divine nature. The decrees of the Synod read:" Following the holy Fathers, we unanimously confess and teach that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is one and the same, perfect as to his divinity, and perfect as to his humanity, truly God and truly man, having a rational soul and a body; equal to the Father according to his divinity, and of the same substance with us according to his human nature, and like unto us in all things, sin alone excepted; begotten of the Father from all eternity according to his Godhead, but born of the Virgin Mary, the mother of God, in these last days, for us and our salvation, according to his humanity, and declared as one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, and consisting of two natures, without intermixture, change, division, or parting; the difference of the two natures being by no means abolished in the union, but the properties of each, constituting one person and hypostasis, being fully preserved; not divided or taken apart into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten, the divine Word, Lord Jesus Christ."4
These decrees enjoy, as a matter of course, the rank of infallible truth in the Roman Catholic church, which attaches as much, and, practically, more, importance to the decisions of general councils than to the Bible itself. They have also been embodied, as to their main features, as was remarked before, by nearly all the churches of the Reformation into their symbolical books.
The Lutheran church receives the Symbolum Quicunque, falsely ascribed to Athanasius, which teaches (§§ 28 – 35):" We believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ is equally God and man. As God, begotten of the substance of the Father from all eternity; as man, born in time of the substance of the virgin. Perfect God and perfect man, consisting of a rational soul and human flesh. Although he is God and man, yet there are not two Christs; but there is only one Christ — one, not through the conversion of the divinity into flesh, but through the assumption of humanity, by the Godhead – one, not through a confusion of substance, but by a oneness of person. For, as the rational soul and flesh constitute one man, so are also God and man one Christ." Art. III. of the Augsburg Confession reads:" We teach that the Son of God has become man, was born of the Virgin Mary, and that the two natures, the human and the divine, are inseparably united in one person, constituting one Christ, who is true God and true man."
Art. VIII. of the Formula Concordiae reads:" We teach, believe, and confess:(1) That the divine and the human nature are united in Christ personaliter in such a manner that there are not two Christs — the one the Son of God and the other the Son of Mary, — but that one and the same is the Son of God and the Son of man. (2) That the divine and the human nature are not blended into one being; that neither is changed into the other, but that either retains its own attributes, which never become those of the other nature. (3) Art. III. enumerates the attributes of the divine, and Art. IV. those of the human nature, and Art. v. goes on to say:" The personal union of the two natures does not mean such a conjunction of them that neither has anything in common with the other through this union — as when a man glues two boards together, neither giving anything to the other, nor receiving anything from it, — but this union is such that from it everything flows that is believed humanly of God and divinely of the man Jesus; which union and communion of the two natures the old church Fathers explained by the similes of hot iron, and of the union of soul and body in one man. Hence (6) do we believe that God is man, and man God, which would be impossible if the divine and the human nature had no attributes in common with each other. (7) Mary did not conceive and bear a mere man, but the true Son of God, whence she is properly called the Mother of God. (8) Not a mere man has suffered, died, etc. for us, but such a man whose human nature sustains such a deep and inexpressible union and communion with the Son of God that it makes with him one person. (9) The Son of God has truly suffered for us, yet according to his human nature, which he received into union with his divine person, so that he could suffer and become our High-priest, as it is written: They crucified the Lord of glory,' and, · We are purchased with the blood of God ' (1 Cor. ii. 8; Acts xx. 28). Art. X. teaches that the Son of Man was exalted to the right hand of God after he had been received into the Deity. Art. XI. maintains that the exalted Saviour laid aside only the servant form, not human nature, which is destined to be everlasting." As false and heretical are denounced with others the following propositions:" The personal union makes only names and titles common "; " It is only a phrase to say, God is man, and man is God, since Godhead and manhood have nothing in common with each other "; " that the human nature is localiter omnipresent "; " that the human nature of Christ alone has suffered for us, and that the divine nature took no part in his sufferings."
In these, as well as in all her other declarations of faith, the Lutheran church protests strongly against everything that looks like a separation of the two natures in Christ. Whether she succeeded in establishing one personality as constituted by two natures, we shall discuss hereafter.
At the bottom of all the Reformed Confessions, is the endeavor to put the two natures of Christ in such a relation to each other as to guard against their blending or uniting in such a manner as to impair any of the essential attributes of either. Whether the Nestorian views appeared, in some form or other again, in the teachings of the Reformed churches, and the Eutychean notions in those of the Lutheran church, while both professed to abide by the decisions of the Synod of Chalcedon, will appear hereafter. Of the declarations of the Reformed churches, clothed with symbolical authority, we quote the following: Question thirty-five of the Heidelberg Catechism, not only adopted by all the Reformed churches of continental Europe, but also approved by the Synod of Dort, reads:" What is the meaning of the words, he was conceived by the Holy Ghost '? " and is answered:-"That God 's eternal Son, who is and continues true and eternal God, took upon him the very nature of man, of the flesh and blood of the Virgin Mary, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, that he might be also the true seed of David, like unto his brethren in all things, sin excepted." Question forty-seven reads:" Is not Christ, then, with us, even to the end of the world, as he has promised? Answer: Christ is very man and very God; with respect to his human nature he is no more on earth; but with respect to his Godhead, grace, and spirit, he is at no time absent from us." Question forty-eight:" But if his human nature is not present where his Godhead is, are then the two natures in Christ separated from each other? Answer: Not at all; for since the Godhead is incomprehensible and omnipresent, it must necessarily follow that the same is not limited with the human nature he assumed, and yet remains personally united to it."
That the venerable authors of the Heidelberg Catechism felt, however, the necessity of the divine element taking a part in the work of redemption, appears from question seventeen, which runs:" Why must the Saviour be also very God? " and the answer:" That he might, by the power of his Godhead, sustain in his human nature the burden of God 's wrath, and might obtain for, and restore to, us righteousness and life."
All the Confessions of the several Reformed churches are to the same effect. The church of England, and after her the Methodist Episcopal church says:" The Son who is the Word of the Father, the very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father, took man 's nature in the womb of the blessed virgin; so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the Godhead and manhood, were joined together in one person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God and very man, who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us and to be a sacrifice, not only for our original guilt, but also for actual sins of man."
The Westminster Confession uses this language:" The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fulness of time was come, take upon himself man 's nature, and all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance; so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man."
More authorities it may be unnecessary to quote, as all so-called orthodox Christians, that believe in the Divinity proper of Jesus Christ, take in Christology either the Lutheran or the Reformed view, the Roman Catholic church abiding professedly also by the decrees of Chalcedon, but she has in reality fallen into the errors of Eutyches, not only sanctioning such expressions as " Mother of God," " God has been crucified," but getting Christ's humanity virtually altogether out of the way, in order to place the church instead thereof. This, however, is not the case with all the theologians belonging to the different parties in their individual capacity. Some of them tell us, indeed, that we have to deal here, as well as in the Trinitarian question, with a mystery, and that the fact implied in the mystery, and not the how, is an object of our faith. Others take a different view, and, while they are by no means averse to mysteries, they are unwilling to ask of the human understanding to consent to propositions that are not free from contradictions or imply impossibilities, which as a matter of course, have no foundation whatever in the word of God. These men believe, e.g. firmly in the divinity proper of Jesus Christ, in his being of the same substance with the Father; but they regret exceedingly the manner in which these truths are set forth in the so-called Athanasian symbol (Quicunque). So also with regard to the subject of Christology. This class of theologians hold fast to everything in the Bible; they hold fast to the divinity proper of Jesus Christ, equally fast to his humanity, but also to the reality of his Incarnation, which, as it seems to them, is in the Lutheran view only apparently admitted, while it is virtually excluded by the other. Their object, therefore, is to fall back upon the Bible, to examine its teachings on this as well as on any other subject in their organic connection, in order to develop them, if possible, into formulas that are free from all well-founded objections, even as to their terminology, etc.; mysteries will remain after all, but it is not mysteries that are objected to as such, since they must be looked for in the Christian economy; but the unsatisfactory manner in which they are stated. George Hill says:" After the fact is admitted that the divine and human natures were united in Jesus Christ, all speculations concerning the manner are vague and unsatisfactory, all disputes on this point degenerate instantly into a mere verbal controversy, in which the terms of human science are applied to a subject which is infinitely exalted above them, and words are multiplied very far beyond the number and clearness of the ideas entertained by those who use them. There are no disputes, even in scholastic theology, which are more frivolous, and none which in the present state of science appear more uninteresting than those that respect the doctrine of the Incarnation."5 This language would indeed be justified if it were an established fact that the doctrine in question was stated in the very words of the Bible in the different symbols, or if these expressed fully and unmistakably the sense of the Bible. But to assume this is a petitio principii, or popish infallibility claimed by Protestants. Nor is this all; the two views under consideration are in a number of points diametrically opposed to each other, the Lutheran symbols condemning, e.g. the following points held by the Reformed churches; to wit: that Christ's humanity alone did suffer; that Christ is everywhere present solely according to his divine nature; that his human nature is not capable of any really divine attributes, etc., etc.; and the Reformed neither are, nor ever were, loth to retaliate.
German divines, both of the Reformed and the Lutheran church, have for a long time acknowledged the insufficiency of the existing symbols, and have accordingly labored hard to develop the Bible teachings on the Incarnation, and to improve the symbols. And what objections do they urge against either of the two theories? The Lutheran view holds such a personal union of the two natures as to constitute only one person; this person was at all times, from the moment of the conception to his death on Calvary, in the possession of all divine attributes, although he did not always make use of them. Some of the divine attributes are such that we can indeed draw a distinction between their possession and their use, as e. g. omnipotence; but others are such that their possession implies their use, their disuse their nonpossession, as e.g. omniscience, eternal holiness, etc. If the incarnated Logos was always in the possession of his divine or eternal holiness, how could he learn obedience, how could he be perfected (Heb. v. 8, 9)? The same may be asked with regard to his omniscience: How could he not know the day of his second coming if he was possessed of omniscience? How could that take place which is said of him in Luke ii.52?
It seems, therefore, that this view sacrifices the humanity proper of Jesus Christ, and however promptly the charge of Eutychianism or Docetism may be rejected by those who hold this view, it would seem, nevertheless, that the possession of really divine attributes by any person makes his humanity, his childhood, his development, etc., a mere appearance.
This difficulty was felt by the Reformed churches, and hence their great anxiety to establish and guard the real humanity of the Saviour; but it is charged in turn that they did this in such a manner as to destroy the personal oneness of the Saviour, and the reality of the Incarnation. If the Logos, e.g. was present everywhere, continued to be omnipresent after his incarnation; if, as the Heidelberg Catechism says, his Godhead neither was nor is limited to his human nature which he assumed; he (the Logos) may have been united in some intimate way or other with the human nature, but not by a personal union, which implies that the whole Logos be confined to the human nature as the man Jesus, be, consequently, nowhere outside of him, as the human soul is personally present only in the body during the latter's life; a different incarnation would seem to be no reality, no incarnation at all. Again, if the Saviour knew some things as to his divine nature, which he did not know as to his human nature; if he could truthfully say that the Father was greater than he as to his human nature, but that the Father and he, as to his divine nature, were one, the divine nature and the human nature can evidently not have been united in him by a personal union, nor can they have been so united as to constitute oneness of personality. On the contrary, by ascribing all the attributes of personality, as self-consciousness and will, thinking, judging, feeling, to each nature, and even the expression of personality, viz. I, "nature " is thereby made synonymous with " personality," and two such " natures " cannot form one person.
"Personality," says Dr. Ranch, " is the centre and union of the manifold, like individuality; but personality is, unlike individuality, a union that is awake in itself, that has found and laid hold of itself, and having once found cannot again lose itself, but will enjoy forever; it is the centre of our bodily and mental activities. The expression of personal identity is the I, as the conscious centre of body and soul ..... The mind is one, and reason and will are so inseparable that the one includes the other. They have one principle and one life, and what is on one hand liberty of will, is on the other spontaneity of thought."
"So far," says Dr. Delitzsch, "as man knows himself in the innermost depth of his being as I, and comprehends the totality of his being in the I, we call him a person. The Bible does indeed not use the Greek term πρόςωπον and the Hebrew panim in this sense, but in that of self-manifestation on the part of God and man, in the sense of outward appearance. The Greek noun ὑπόστασις (Heb. i. 3) does not mean the self-conscious substance, but phenomenal substance, while the Latin persona is used by the best writers in the sense of personality. Personality is that which every member of the human family has, and which raises him above the plant and the animal. There is between the perception, feeling, instinct, of the animal, and the self-conscious and self-determining agency of man, not a gradual, but a specific difference; man's personality raises him to God, who is supremely personal."
If these definitions are correct, it follows that every being that consciously says I, is a person. In order to escape this double personality that is thus charged to adhere to the Reformed Christology, Drs. Auberlen and Ebrard have assumed that the Logos fully emptied himself in becoming man, subjecting himself to the laws of human development, while he continued, at the same time, in the possession and exercise of all divine attributes in the universe. But how the Logos could be personally in a finite being, or rather be the principle of a finite personality, and continue, at the same time, outside of that finite personality, in the universe in the exercise of all divine attributes, is something that not only passes all understanding, but seems to involve a positive and direct contradiction. If the meaning were that a certain power of the Logos, or some impersonal element of the Logos had been granted to Jesus, or had become personal in Jesus, as Hegel taught that the impersonal Deity attained first to consciousness in man, we could understand the proposition, however erroneous it might seem to us; but this is evidently not the meaning of these two eminent Christian scholars. But as the Saviour repeatedly referred to his antemundane state of existence as that of self-consciousness, of personality, it is impossible to conceive how one Logos-consciousness should have become human in Jesus, while another Logos-consciousness continued as such to pervade, uphold, and govern the universe.
Dr. Ebrard himself, modifying this view in Herzog 's Real-Encyclopedia, s. v. Jesus Christus, compares the incarnation of the Logos to the act of a crown-prince who becomes of his own accord a slave, this being the only means by which the release of his captured younger brother can be effected; and then goes on to say that this prince may truthfully be called and spoken of as a prince and a slave — he being both at the same time — but not as a prince that has united himself with or to a slave, nor as a being that is neither prince nor slave, but holds an intermediate position, as, for example, that of a chamberlain. To a certain extent this comparison is unexceptionable, and shows clearly how serious a mistake is involved in the phraseology, " the Logos united himself with the man Jesus," raising the attributes slavery and humanity to concretes; the first to a slave, the second to a man. But the comparison holds good only to a certain extent, failing, as it does, in its essential features. A prince may become a slave by his free will, by an accident, or otherwise, without a change of the principle of personality in him being necessitated thereby; but not so in the incarnation. The Logos's becoming man involves more than a change of condition or position. The personality in God, as well as in man, is self-consciousness and will; and, in order to become man or human, the self-consciousness of the Logos must know itself as human, must be human. If the self-consciousness of the Logos is not a human self-consciousness, he is no man, and the Incarnation is merely phenomenal, not real.
Another theory is, that Jesus was conceived and born as merely human, but that the Logos united himself by degrees with the soul of Jesus, until this indwelling of the Logos in Jesus became personal, and the human self-consciousness of Jesus was either displaced or swallowed up by the Logos-consciousness. But, not to press the fact that this theory virtually denies the fact of the Incarnation, it is positively contradicted by a number of declarations of the Saviour. So in John xvii.; only a short time before, he had declared that he did not know the time of his second coming; in the same prayer he declared that he was then not in possession of the glory that he once had been in possession of; but in this very declaration the personal identity of the speaker and of the ante-mundane Logos is maintained, and the personal indwelling of the Logos in Jesus was therefore anterior to the resurrection; simultaneous with which act it is supposed to be by the theory under consideration.
Some eminent divines of this country and of England seem to be of the opinion that all these difficulties can be got rid of by assuming that the humanity of Jesus was impersonal, or, as another one expressed it, pan-hypostatical. But a theory that gives us an impersonal humanity in the Saviour, or a Saviour with a divine personality — for this is the meaning of an all-personal humanity – cannot meet with our approbation, since an impersonal, as well as a divine humanity, is no real humanity at all.
But, if all theories are unsatisfactory, what then? Is the mystery of the Incarnation not true, because all attempts to give it a scientific expression have so far failed? Or does the mystery of the Incarnation, as taught in the Bible, really involve contradictions or impossibilities, as we have discovered in all the theories under review? Does the Bible really teach that there was in the Saviour really a divine I and a human I, and that these two Is constituted only one I, one personality? Does the Bible teach that the Logos was an omnipotent, omniscient child; that all divine and all human attributes co-existed personally in Jesus, as divine omnipresence and human limitedness, divine omniscience and human ignorance, divine omnipotence and human weakness, etc.? Before we answer these and similar questions in the affirmative, it may be well to re-examine the Bible, in order to ascertain what it really teaches in organic connection on this sublime and all- important subject.
The first passage on this subject is John i. 14: καὶ ὁ Λόγος σάρξ ἐγένετο (and the Logos became man). But, instead of taking these words in their natural import, and making them the basis of the whole Christological fabric, we are, in the first place, told that the Logos's becoming man meant that he " took upon himself our nature "; and this, again, is made to mean that the Logos united himself with the man Jesus, conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the Virgin Mary, in some mysterious manner. But to these explanations we object, as being unbiblical in diction and meaning, although we admit that the phrase " he took upon himself our nature " may be so understood as to convey an altogether biblical idea.
The passage Heb. ii. 16 reads, indeed, in the common version:" He took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham." But this translation is unqualifiedly false. The original reads: οὐ γάρ δήπου ἀγγέλων ἐπιλαμβάνεται ἀλλὰ σπέρματος Ἀβραὰμ ἐπιλαμβάνεται Whatever ἐπιλαμβάνεσθαι may mean here, it does not mean that he took on him the seed of Abraham, i.e. the nature of the seed of Abraham; it being used in the present tense, whereas the preceding finite verb (μετέσχε) and the following (ὤφειλε) are used in the aorist, and the action expressed by ἐπιλαμβάνεται is present at all times, was present when the apostle wrote. We propose to translate the passage:" For verily, he does not lay hold of angels (to succor them), but he lays hold of the seed of Abraham," i.e. he is the Saviour, not of angels, but of the seed of Abraham.
The Saviour prays, John xvii. 5: "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thyself with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." Here the Saviour prays for the re-instatement into something (δόξα) which he was not in possession of at that time, of which he had been in possession once, and of which, we must add, he had not the power then to possess himself. Whatever we understand by this δόξα, it is absolutely certain that Jesus was then dependent for it on his Father, since he prayed for it; and it would be very irreverent, if not blasphemy, to say that his. prayer was a mere formality, that he could give himself what he prayed to his father for. Many commentators understand by this δόξα the light in which God is said to dwell, and which the apostle calls (1 Tim. vi. 16) ἀπρόσιτον, not to be reached; but this seems to us to fall short of the full meaning of δόξα, because this prayer had evidently been answered, when the Saviour said:" All power is given unto me," etc.; and, with the exception of the transfiguration, no trace of that glorious light is ever spoken of in connection with our Saviour's earthly life. It must have implied more, and we are led to think that it meant the μορφὴ Θεοῦ, in which Jesus Christ is said to have existed at one time, but of which he divested himself at another (Phil. ii. 6 – 7).
But what is meant by the μορφὴ Θεοῦ The passage reads: "Who (Jesus Christ) existing in the form of God considered it not robbery (res rapta, to be retained with robber-like tenacity) to exist in a manner like God, but emptied himself, having taken the servant-form, having become in the likeness of men."6
We are afraid that the form of God " is taken by many for something unreal, outward, changeable, as it is said of the risen Saviour, that he appeared in another form, without having the nature of his being affected thereby. But to what does this view lead with irresistible necessity? The subject of vs. 6 and 7 is also the subject of v. 8, ἐταπείνωσεν ἑαυτόν, of the γενόμενος ὑπήκοος μέχρι θανάτου σταυροῦ. If the μορφὴ Θεοῦ is only something outward, something phenomenal, that can be changed or laid aside without affecting the nature of the subject, then by parity of reason the same is true with the μορφὴ δούλου; and from this it would follow that Jesus was not a real, but only a phenomenal man, and that his death was only an appearance, no reality. This would be Docetism in its worst form. For the introduction of a man or the man Jesus, with whom the Logos might have united himself personally, there is no room left, as the subject is throughout the same. The subject that suffered death on the cross is the same that had existed from all eternity in glory with the Father, or in the form of God; and since God, as God, cannot suffer, the apostle tells us that the Logos did something that enabled him to suffer, i.e. lie emptied himself, exchanged the μορφὴ Θεοῦ for the μορφὴ δούλου, or as John expresses it, he became man. If the μορφὴ Θεοῦ means the manner in which God exists as God, his being above time and space, independent of everything outside of himself; the δούλου μορφὴ means the form of existence of the finite being, which is over against God, δοῦλος, which is subject to the laws of time and space, and is dependent. Jesus, in exchanging his μορφὴ Θεοῦ for the μορφὴ åvopónov, became a dependent being, and was, as such, subject to the laws of time and space.
To the same effect, and, if possible, still stronger, is the language employed by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (v. 7 – 8): "Who having offered in the days of his flesh prayers and supplications unto him who was able to save him from death, with strong crying and tears, and having been heard on account of his piety, learned obedience from what he suffered, and having been perfected became to all that obey him the author of eternal salvation." The ὅς of v. 7 is evidently the Χριστός of v. 5, of whom it is said: " This day have I begotten thee," one of the strongest passages for the eternal sonship of the Logos. This eternal Son, then, was once " in the days of his flesh," i.e. was man, but not only man, but he even learned, as such, something, namely, obedience, and was thus made perfect. One can scarcely conceive how any stronger language could have been used than that which was actually employed by the sacred writers in giving to the church for all times to come their God-inspired views of the personality of the Saviour. If this view is correct it must be confirmed by the whole appearance of the Saviour on earth, by the whole tenor of his life, and of what he himself says of his relation to God. It is a fact worthy of note that the Saviour, during his whole earthly existence, never speaks of the Logos, never addresses any prayer or petition to him, but speaks solely and exclusively of and to the Father, and of the Holy Spirit, who is declared to be sent by the speaker; if another personality, another I, than that of the Logos had been in Jesus, it is inconceivable that no mention should have been made thereof. No, the I in Jesus is the Logos himself, sustaining, however, as we have seen, a relation to the Father different from that which he had sustained to him in his ante-mundane state, as well as from that which he sustains to him since his complete glorification. In his earthly state the Logos represents himself as the Father 's ambassador, who does not his own will, but his Father's who sent him; he represents his doctrine not as his own, but as his Father 's, all of which he could not have done if he had been at all times in the possession of omniscience; and he consequently disclaims this attribute formally (Mark xiii. 3, 2). It is true, different and widely varying interpretations have been given to this celebrated passage, but they are all so thoroughly imbued with the theory in whose favor they are made, that they have but moderate, if any claims at all, on our serious consideration. If the words say anything, they say that Jesus himself did then not know the day of his second coming. Even the latest commentator, Dr. Lange, gives us an interpretation of these words of the Saviour, that is scarcely worth the paper on which it is written; namely, " Jesus did not know the day in question for his disciples, while he knew it for himself." On a subsequent occasion his disciples asked the same question, and received, indeed, no answer to it, but were plainly given to understand that Jesus knew the answer to it.
The words in question are worth our attention in more than one respect; while the Saviour disclaims therein for the time being omniscience, he claims a higher degree of knowledge than is possessed by any created being:" Of that day and hour knows no one, i.e. no man, nor the angels (whose knowledge exceeds that of man) nor the Son [whose knowledge was superior to that of angels), but the Father."
Were it true, as is sometimes claimed, that he predicated this partial ignorance of the man Jesus exclusively, he would have claimed for man a degree of knowledge more than angelic, and this is positively contradicted by a number of passages of the scriptures. But not only omniscience, but also omnipotence and omnipresence are disclaimed by and for the Saviour during the days of his flesh. In Matt. xxviii. 18 the Lord says that all power is given unto him in heaven and upon earth, which is plainly synonymous with omnipotence; and as the Saviour declares that it was given unto him, it plainly follows that he had not possessed it for some time; that omnipotence belonged consequently as well as omniscience to the μορφὴ Θεοῦ, of which he had divested himself, to that δόξα which he had possessed with the Father from all eternity, and with which he prayed to be glorified, evidently not possessing it then. That the Lord was during the days of his flesh not in the possession of omnipotence, follows also from what he says John xi. 42:" I knew that thou always hearest me," representing all his miracles performed by power granted to him by his Father in answer to his prayer. In Eph. iv. 10 the apostle teaches that the earthly Jesus was not present everywhere at the same time.
But while the Saviour thus plainly disclaims really divine attributes during the days of his flesh, while he represents himself as his Father's ambassador, he claims at the same time a relation to God, and an amount of power, knowledge, and dignity, not only such as no created being possessed, but could scarcely have received at the hand of Omnipotence itself; and a number of these passages have been understood as if they ascribed really divine attributes to the Saviour on earth. This view is altogether inconsistent with what has so far been said, and the passages in question must therefore be thoroughly examined.
It is scarcely necessary to repeat here that really divine attributes are ascribed to the Logos in his ante-mundane state as well as to the glorified Jesus; all passages bearing on the subject must, therefore, be closely examined as to what period of the Saviour's life they apply. To the earthly life of the Saviour the following passages evidently refer: John iii. 13; v. 20; Matt. xi. 27.
The first of these passages is rendered:" And no man has ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man, which is in heaven." On this passage Hill comments:" Who is in heaven at the time when the body with which he has united himself is upon earth." Omnipresence is here claimed for Christ during the days of his flesh; and it is readily granted that, if this passage really says what it is thus made to say, it disproves much that has so far been advanced. But does it say so? Is the translation correct? Everything turns on the translation of the part. ὤν. In 2 Cor. viii. 9 it also occurs, and is translated:" though he was rich." That the pres. part. may thus be translated no scholar will question; the participles as such expressing no time, but only completeness or incompleteness of action.7 In John vi. 62 the language of the Saviour is:" If you now see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before," i.e. before he came down and was incarnated. But, although there is thus ample authority for translating the participial clause by " who was in heaven," we prefer a somewhat different view of the whole passage. The leading verb ' is the pres. perf. (ἀναβέβηκε) followed by an aor. part. (καταβάς) and the attrib. part. ὤν. The pres. perf. either expresses action completed now, or the abiding result of the completed action. Hence ἀναβέβηκε means, no one has (now) completed his ascension, or, no one is now in heaven by ascension, except he who had come down, namely, the Son of man, being (always) in heaven. Topically taken the words were not true, and they must therefore be taken tropically, and their sense seems then to us to be:" No one enjoys personal intercourse with God, from which all higher knowledge flows, except he who by virtue of his natural relation to God, always enjoys this divine communion, notwithstanding his going out from the Father, and his having come down from heaven for the purpose of being incarnated." This furnishes also the key to a correct understanding of the two other passages quoted above, and of all similar passages. John v. 20 reads:" For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all that he himself does, and will show him still greater things than these "; and Matt. xi. 27:" All things were delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does any one know the Father except the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son may be willing to reveal him." There is, indeed, in these and many other passages, a relation of the Son to the Father claimed, even during the former's being in the flesh, that cannot exist between any creature and God; but the possession of any really divine attribute by the Son is not implied in either of these passages. In the former, the present works shall be followed by greater ones, which is increase, development; and in the latter a knowledge of the Father by the Son is spoken of, which is communicable to believers — is, consequently, not omniscience. Nor are the words " All things were delivered unto me of my father " paramount to those recorded in Matt. xxviii. 18:" All power was given unto me in heaven and upon earth," meaning, with the former passage, in all probability, for the time being, only the souls of men, but carrying in themselves at the same time the earnest of enlargement, the earnest of what was actually given, according to the latter passage. Nor is this the case in these passages alone. In John xvii. 5 the Lord prays to be clothed with a glory which he had possessed before the foundation of the world; and in v. 22 of the same chapter he speaks of a glory which had been given him (then) by his Father, and which he had given to his disciples. This latter glory, being communicable to mortals, cannot possibly have been the glory which is the prerogative of the Deity alone. See also John i. 14, where a glory is spoken of that the disciples had seen during their Master's tabernacling among them.
The Saviour's earthly life was, moreover, emphatically a life of faith. In Heb. xii. 2 he is called the Chief and Completer of faith (ἀρχηγὸς καὶ τελεὶωτὴς τῆς πίστεως). Had he possessed his knowledge of divine things, his intercourse with his father, in any other way than by faith, those violent commotions of his mind of which his whole life was full could not have taken place. " He sighed deeply in his spirit" (Mark viii. 12); " He groaned in the Spirit " (John xi. 33); as the last conflict drew nigh, his spirit was at one time at the highest height, at another at the lowest depth, as during his great intercessory prayer (John xvii.), and during his agony in Gethsemane, where he prayed:" O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me," after he had shortly before said:" My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death " (Matt. xxvi. 38, 39). This state of mental depression reached its climax on the cross, and found expression in those awfully important words: "My God my God, why hast thou forsaken me (Matt. xxvii. 46.)? "
These words seem to exclude also every view of the Incarnation that radically differs from the one advanced here. They exclude the Lutheran view, as the Logos as such could not possibly have given utterance to them; they exclude the dualistic view, since they must have been addressed either to the Logos or to the Father; but if to the Logos, it must have been because the Logos had left the man Jesus (and this would be Cerinthianism); if to the Father it is inexplicable why the Logos should have been passed by entirely in this decisive hour, and also how a man personally united with the Logos could have felt himself forsaken of God. But in an Article like this not every Christological passage can be examined, since it would thereby swell into a commentary; we must therefore leave off this most interesting part of our subject, and pass to another.
From the passages that we have thus briefly examined, and the tenor of all other Christological passages, it seems to us that the following propositions are fairly deducible: The Logos, who is co-eternal and of the same substance with the Father, becomes, of his own free will and accord, for our salvation, man — the man that realized the idea of humanity – the man, whose substance was indeed the divine substance, but whose self-consciousness, will, thinking, judging, feeling, etc., were genuinely human, and subject to the laws of human development. But two features distinguished this unique man Jesus from every other man, and made his development, although genuinely human, likewise unique. In the first place, he was sinless. Sin being not a constituent part of human nature, but only an accident, Jesus could be a true, and at the same time a sinless, man. Now this sinlessness alone would have secured to him a development of all his powers, a progress in holiness and knowledge of divine things, of which it may be impossible for us to have an idea, as history furnishes us with only one sinless man. But Jesus was, though really human, at no time merely human. The substratum of his being was divinity; and such a basis secured, as we can readily under stand, a development even far beyond that of a merely sinless man. We hear, accordingly the boy Jesus, when twelve years old, speak of God in such a manner as no man has ever spoken of God; while we notice at the same time development, progress in his knowledge, not only as to the subject-matter, but also as to its form. The boy speaks of God as his Father, but entertains the idea that it is in the temple at Jerusalem where he can, if not exclusively, at least better than anywhere else, engage in his Father's service; but the man Jesus says:" The hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet in Jerusalem, worship the Father. ..... The true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him." As his whole organism developed, his self-consciousness left the narrow limits of human knowledge; it fully grasped the fact of his ante-mundane state, of his physical relation to God, without, however, becoming fully aware before the resurrection of the full contents of the Logos-consciousness. The self-consciousness of the risen Saviour is in extent and contents equal with the Logos-consciousness, and includes all divine attributes, which had been held, as it were, in abeyance during the gradual expansion of the circumscribed self-consciousness of Jesus. In John v. 26 the Saviour said: "As the Father has life in himself, so he gave also to the Son to have life in himself." In John vi. 57, subsequently, he said:" As the living Father sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me." In the latter of these passages the Lord declares that during his life on earth he was dependent on his Father for his life, as his disciples are dependent on the glorified Redeemer for their lives. (The first passage must therefore be prophetic in its main features in order to be consistent with the second; and the context justifies this view fully.) But this state of dependence, this state of being circumscribed, ceased with his resurrection; the risen body had become the adequate bearer of the whole divinity, wherein henceforth the fulness of the Godhead can and will dwell.
To this view it is objected that it implies an impossibility. " In like manner, the opinion of those who by the form of God understand the divine nature and the government of the world cannot be admitted; since Christ when he became man could not divest himself of the nature of God."8 But this way of settling by our own preconceived notions what God can do, and what he cannot do, does not become the Christian mind. To pass an intelligent judgment on this question by a priori reasoning is altogether impossible for us. Our duty is to learn what God has done, and to believe it. What he has done was, of course, possible for him to do. Many sorts of infidels take virtually the same ground. The deist, e.g. rejects miracles, because by a priori reasoning he has come to the conclusion that a miracle is an impossibility; the pantheist believes that personality is a limitation of the Infinite, and he rejects, therefore, a personal God; because matter and force appear uniformly united with each other — no force without matter, no matter without force, the atheist or materialist rejects a God as unnecessary; and as long as these disbelievers adhere to these their preconceived notions, it is impossible to cure them of their fatal delusions. Our subject belongs, of course, only to believers, and their highest authority is the Bible. By this standard every question proposed to our faith must ultimately be settled, and to this decision we humbly submit. We do not think that we have settled the Christological question — we have merely given our candid views, in order to call attention to the most important subject that can claim the Christian thinker 's attention. Should it be shown that the views advanced here are wrong, no one will receive the instruction more thankfully than the writer; should they prove in the main correct, and set any one to thinking, and assist him in getting a deeper insight into the truth, the writer will be more than amply rewarded for his labor. Many subjects legitimately connected with the Christological question, as that of the Trinity, the mutual relations of the three Persons of the Trinity, whether aseity must be ascribed to each of them, or to the Father alone; whether the incarnation of the Logos introduced no disharmony into the trinitarian relation and the government of the world,- these, and some more important subjects, we can here not even touch upon, as this Article is too long already. God willing, we may give our views on these subjects at a future time; but we bring this Article now to a close, with the prayer that the exalted and glorified Saviour may propitiously look upon and bless it.
1) Dr. Delitzsch.
2) Dr. Dorner.
3) Salva proprietate utriusque naturae et substantiae et in unam coëunte personam, suscepta est a majestate humilitas, a virtute infirmitas, ab eternitate mortalitas; et ad resolvendum conditionis nostrae debitum natura inviolabilis naturae est unita passibili, ut quod nostris remediis congruebat, unus atque idem mediator Dei et hominum, homo Jesus Christus, et mori posset ex uno et mori non posset ex altero. In integra ergo veri hominis perfectaque natura verus natus est Deus, totus in suis, totus in nostris, etc. Qui enim verus est Deus, idem verus est homo, et nullum est in hac unitate mendacium, dum invicem sunt et humilitas hominis et altitudo deitatis. Sicut enim Deus non mutatur miseratione, ita homo non consumitur dignitate. Agitat enim utraque forma cum alterius communione, quod proprium est:Verbo scilicet operante, quod Verbi est, et carne exsequente, quod carnis est, etc.- Mansi, v. pp. 13-59.
5) Lectures in Divinity, Book iii. chap. viii.
6) τὸ εῖναι ῖσα Θεῷ does not mean, to be equal to or with God; but, to exist in the samemanner in which God exists. This mode of existence the Logos enjoyed with the Father from eternity, but did not consider it as something to be retained with robber-like tenacity; hence laid it aside or exchanged it for the human form of existence. As to the translation of ῖσα εἷναι, see Winer's Gramm. des N. T. Sprachidioms, p. 204.
7) See Harrison 's Exposition of some of the Laws of the Lat. Lang. p. 270.
8) Adam Clarke.