Help Now >
FREE Catholic Classes
Christology is that part of theology which deals with Our Lord Jesus Christ. In its full extent it comprises the doctrines concerning both the person of Christ and His works; but in the present article we shall limit ourselves to a consideration of the person of Christ. Here again we shall not infringe on the domain of the historian and Old-Testament theologian, who present their respective contributions under the headings JESUS CHRIST , and MESSIAS ; hence the theology of the Person of Jesus Christ , considered in the light of the New Testament or from the Christian point of view, is the proper subject of the present article.
The person of Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the Son or the Word of the Father, Who "was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary and was made man." These mysteries, though foretold in the Old Testament , were fully revealed in the New, and clearly developed in Christian Tradition and theology. Hence we shall have to study our subject under the triple aspect of the Old Testament, the New Testament, and Christian Tradition.
From what has been said we understand that the Old Testament is not considered here from the viewpoint of the Jewish scribe, but of the Christian theologian. Jesus Christ Himself was the first to use it in this way by His repeated appeal to the Messianic passages of the prophetic writings. The Apostles saw in these prophecies many arguments in favour of the claims and the teachings of Jesus Christ ; the Evangelists, too, are familiar with them, though they appeal less frequently to them than the patristic writers do. Even the Fathers either state the prophetic argument only in general terms or they quote single prophecies ; but they thus prepare the way for the deeper insight into the historical perspective of the Messianic predictions which began to prevail in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Leaving the statement of the historical development of the Messianic prophecies to the writer of the article MESSIAS, we shall briefly call attention to the prophetic predictions of the genealogy of Christ, of His birth, His infancy, His names, His offices, His public life, His sufferings, and His glory.
(1) References to the human genealogy of the Messias are quite numerous in the Old Testament : He is represented as the seed of the woman, the son of Sem, the son of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the son of David, the prince of pastors, the offspring of the marrow of the high cedar ( Genesis 3:1-19 ; 9:18-27 ; 12:1-9 ; 17:1-9 ; 18:17-19 ; 22:16-18 ; 26:1-5 ; 27:1-15 ; Numbers 24:15-19 ; 2 Samuel 7:1-16 ; 1 Chronicles 17:1-17 ; Jeremiah 23:1-8 ; 33:14-26 ; Ezekiel 17 ). The Royal Psalmist extols the Divine genealogy of the future Messias in the words: "The Lord hath said to me: Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee" (Ps. ii, 7).
(2) The Prophets frequently speak of the birth of the expected Christ. They locate its place in Bethlehem of Juda ( Micah 5:2-14 ), they determine its time by the passing of the sceptre from Juda ( Genesis 49:8-12 ), by the seventy weeks of Daniel (ix, 22-27), and by the "little while" mentioned in the Book of Aggeus (ii, 1-10). The Old-Testament seers know also that the Messias will be born of a Virgin Mother ( Isaiah 7:1-17 ), and that His appearance, at least His public appearance, will be preceded by a precursor ( Isaiah 40:1-11 ; Malachi 4:5-6 ).
(3) Certain events connected with the infancy of the Messias have been deemed important enough to be the subject of prophetic prediction. Among these are the adoration of the Magi (Ps. lxxxi, 1-17), the slaughter of the innocents ( Jeremiah 31:15-26 ), and the flight into Egypt ( Hosea 11:1-7 ). It is true that in the case of these prophecies, as it happens in the case of many others, their fulfilment is their clearest commentary; but this does not undo the fact that the events were really predicted.
(4) Perhaps there is less need of insisting on the predictions of the better known Messianic names and titles, seeing that they involve less obscurity. Thus in the prophecies of Zacharias the Messias is called the Orient, or, according to the Hebrew text, the "bud" (iii; vi, 9-15), in the Book of Daniel He is the Son of Man (vii), in the Prophecy of Malachias He is the Angel of the Testament (ii, 17; iii, 6), in the writings of Isaias He is the Saviour (li, 1; lii, 12; lxii), the Servant of the Lord (xlix, 1), the Emmanuel (viii, 1-10), the Prince of peace (ix, 1-7).
(5) The Messianic offices are considered in a general way in the latter part of Isaias (lxi); in particular, the Messias is considered as prophet in the Book of Deuteronomy (xviii, 9-22); as king in the Canticle of Anna ( 1 Samuel 2:1-10 ) and in the royal song of the Psalmist (xliv); as priest in the sacerdotal type Melchisedech ( Genesis 14:14-20 ) and in the Psalmist's words "a priest forever" (cix); as Goel, or Avenger, in the second part of Isaias (lxiii, 1-6); as mediator of the New Testament, under the form of a covenant of the people ( Isaiah 42:1 ; 43:13 ), and of the light of the Gentiles ( Isaiah 49 ).
(6) As to the public life of the Messias, Isaias gives us a general idea of the fulness of the Spirit investing the Anointed (xi, 1-16), and of the Messianic work (Iv). The Psalmist presents a picture of the Good Shepherd (xxii); Isaias summarizes the Messianic miracles (xxxv); Zacharias exclaims, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion", thus predicting Christ's solemn entrance into Jerusalem ; the Psalmist refers to this same event when he mentions the praise out of the mouth of infants (viii). To return once more to the Book of Isaias, the prophet foretells the rejection of the Messias through a league with death (xxvii); the Psalmist alludes to the same mystery where he speaks of the stone which the builders rejected (cxvii).
(7) Need we say that the sufferings of the Messias were fully predicted by the prophets of the Old Testament ? The general idea of the Messianic victim is presented in the context of the words "sacrifice and oblation thou wouldst not" (Ps. xxxix); in the passage beginning with the resolve "Let us put wood on his bread" ( Jeremiah 11 ), and in the sacrifice described by the prophet Malachias (i). Besides, the series of the particular events which constitute the history of Christ's Passion has been described by the prophets with a remarkable minuteness: the Psalmist refers to His betrayal in the words "the man of my peace . . . supplanted me" (xl), and Zacharias knows of the "thirty pieces of silver" (xi); the Psalmist praying in the anguish of his soul, is a type of Christ in His agony (Ps. liv); His capture is foretold in the words "pursue and take him" and "they will hunt after the soul of the just" (Ps. lxx; xciii); His trial with its false witnesses may be found represented in the words "unjust witnesses have risen up against me, and iniquity hath lied to itself" (Ps. xxvi); His flagellation is portrayed in the description of the man of sorrows ( Isaiah 52:13 ; 53:12 ) and the words "scourges were gathered together upon me" (Ps. xxxiv); the betrayer's evil lot is pictured in the imprecations of Psalm 108 ; the crucifixion is referred to in the passages "What are these wounds in the midst of thy hands?" ( Zechariah 13 ), "Let us condemn him to a most shameful death" ( Wisdom 2 ), and "They have dug my hands and my feet" (Ps. xxi); the miraculous darkness occurs in Amos 8 ; the gall and vinegar are spoken of in Psalm 68 ; the pierced heart of Christ is foreshadowed in Zach., xii. The sacrifice of Isaac ( Genesis 21:1-14 ), the scapegoat ( Leviticus 16:1-28 ), the ashes of purification ( Numbers 19:1-10 ), and the brazen serpent ( Numbers 21:4-9 ) hold a prominent place among the types prefiguring the suffering Messias. The third chapter of Lamentations is justly considered as the dirge of our buried Redeemer.
(8) Finally, the glory of the Messias has been foretold by the Prophets of the Old Testament. The context of such phrases as "I have risen because the Lord hath protected me" ( Psalm 3 ), "My flesh shall rest in hope ( Psalm 15 ), "On the third day he will raise us up" ( Hosea 5:15 , 6:3 ), "O death, I will be thy death" ( Hosea 13:6-15a ), and "I know that my Redeemer liveth" ( Job 19:23-27 ) referred the devout Jewish worshipper to something more than a merely earthly restoration, the fulfilment of which began to be realized in the Resurrection of Christ . This mystery is also implied, at least typically, in the first fruits of the harvest ( Leviticus 23:9-14 ) and the delivery of Jonas from the belly of the fish ( Jonah 2 ). Nor is the Resurrection of the Messias the only element of Christ's glory predicted by the Prophets. Psalm 67 refers to the Ascension ; Joel, ii, 28-32, to the coming of the Paraclete ; Is., Ix, to the call of the Gentiles ; Mich., iv, 1-7, to the conversion of the Synagogue ; Dan., ii, 27-47, to the kingdom of the Messias as compared with the kingdom of the world. Other characteristics of the Messianic kingdom are typified by the tabernacle ( Exodus 25:8-9 ; 29:43 ; 40:33-36 ; Numbers 9:15-23 ), the mercy-seat ( Exodus 25:17-22 ; Psalm 79:1 ), Aaron the high priest ( Exodus 28:1 ; 30:1 ; 10; Numbers 16:39-40 ), the manna ( Exodus 16:1-15 ; Psalm 77:24-25 ), and the rock of Horeb ( Exodus 17:5-7 ; Numbers 20:10-11 ; Psalm 104:41 ). A Canticle of thanksgiving for the Messianic benefits is found in Is., xii.
The Books of the Old Testament are not the only source from which the Christian theologian may learn the Messianic ideas of pre-Christian Jewry. The Sibylline oracles, the Book of Enoch, the Book of Jubilees, the Psalms of Solomon, the Ascensio Moysis, the Revelation of Baruch, the Fourth Book of Esdras, and several Talmudic and Rabbinic writings are rich depositories of pre-Christian views concerning the expected Messias. Not that all of these works were written before the coming of Christ; but, though partially post-Christian in their authorship, they preserve a picture of the Jewish world of thought, dating back, at least in its outline, centuries before the coming of Christ.
Some modern writers tell us that there are two Christs, as it were, the Messias of faith and the Jesus of history. They regard the Lord and Christ, Whom God exalted by raising Him from the dead, as the subject of Christian faith ; and Jesus of Nazareth, the preacher and worker of miracles, as the theme of the historian. They assure us that it is quite impossible to persuade even the least experienced critic that Jesus taught, in formal terms and at one and the same time, the Christology of Paul, that of John, and the doctrines of Nicæa, of Ephesus, and of Chalcedon. Otherwise the history of the first Christian centuries appears to these writers to be quite inconceivable. The Fourth Gospel is said to lack the data which underlie the definitions of the first ecumenical councils and to supply testimony that is not a supplement, but a corrective, of the portrait of Jesus drawn by the Synoptics. These two accounts of the Christ are represented as mutually exclusive: if Jesus spoke and acted as He speaks and acts in the Synoptic Gospels, then He cannot have spoken and acted as He is reported by St. John. We shall here briefly review the Christology of St. Paul, of the Catholic Epistles, of the Fourth Gospel , and the Synoptics. Thus we shall give the reader a complete Christology of the New Testament and at the same time the data necessary to control the contentions of the Modernists. The Christology will not, however, be complete in the sense that it extends to all the details concerning Jesus Christ taught in the New Testament, but in the sense that it gives His essential characteristics taught in the whole of the New Testament.
'Live Lessons' with Zoom on Catholic Online SchoolProfessor Connolly: Monday-Friday @ 9am (PDT) / 12pm (EDT)
Deacon Frederick Bartels: Tuesday-Friday @ 10am (PDT) / 1pm (EDT)
LIVE Lessons Curriculum
(1) Pauline Christology
St. Paul insists on the truth of Christ's real humanity and Divinity, in spite of the fact that at first sight the reader is confronted with three objects in the Apostle's writings: God, the human world, and the Mediator. But then the latter is both Divine and human, both God and man.
(a) Christ's Humanity in the Pauline Epistles
The expressions "form of a servant", "in habit found as a man", "in the likeness of sinful flesh" ( Philippians 2:7 ; Romans 8:3 ) may seem to impair the real humanity of Christ in the Pauline teaching. But in reality they only describe a mode of being or hint at the presence of a higher nature in Christ not seen by the senses, or they contrast Christ's human nature with the nature of that sinful race to which it belongs. On the other hand the Apostle plainly speaks of Our Lord manifested in the flesh ( 1 Timothy 3:16 ), as possessing a body of flesh ( Colossians 1:22 ), as being "made of a woman " ( Galatians 4:4 ), as being born of the seed of David according to the flesh ( Romans 1:3 ), as belonging according to the flesh to the race of Israel ( Romans 9:5 ). As a Jew, Jesus Christ was born under the Law ( Galatians 4:4 ). The Apostle dwells with emphasis on Our Lord's real share in our physical human weakness ( 2 Corinthians 13:4 ), on His life of suffering ( Hebrews 5:8 ) reaching its climax in the Passion (ibid., 1:5; Philippians 3:10 ; Colossians 1:24 ). Only in two respects did Our Lord's humanity differ from the rest of men: first in its entire sinlessness ( 2 Corinthians 5:21 ; Galatians 2:17 ; Romans 7:3 ); secondly, in the fact that Our Lord was the second Adam, representing the whole human race ( Romans 5:12-21 ; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49 ).(b) Christ's Divinity in the Pauline Epistles
According to St. Paul, the superiority of the Christian revelation over all other Divine manifestations, and the perfection of the New Covenant with its sacrifice and priesthood, are derived from the fact that Christ is the Son of God ( Hebrews 1:1 sq. ; 5:5 sq. ; 2:5 sq. ; Romans 1:3 ; Galatians 4:4 ; Ephesians 4:13 ; Colossians 1:12 sq. ; 2:9 sq. ; etc.). The Apostle understands by the expression "Son of God" not a merely moral dignity, or a merely external relation to God which began in time, but an eternal and immanent relation of Christ to the Father. He contrasts Christ with, and finds Him superior to, Aaron and his successors, Moses and the Prophets ( Hebrews 5:4 ; 10:11 ; 7:1-22 ; 3:1-6 ; 1:1 ). He raises Christ above the choirs of angels, and makes Him their Lord and Master ( Hebrews 1:3 ; 14 ; 2:2-3 ), and seats Him as heir of all things at the right hand of the Father ( Hebrews 1:2-3 ; Galatians 4:14 ; Ephesians 1:20-21 ). If St. Paul is obliged to use the terms "form of God ", "image of God ", when he speaks of Christ's Divinity, in order to show the personal distinction between the Eternal Father and the Divine Son ( Philippians 2:6 ; Colossians 1:15 ), Christ is not merely the image and glory of God ( 1 Corinthians 11:7 ), but also the first-born before any created beings ( Colossians 1:15 ), in Whom, and by Whom, and for Whom all things were made ( Colossians 1:16 ), in Whom the fulness of the Godhead resides with that actual reality which we attach to the presence of the material bodies perceptible and measurable through the organs of our senses ( Colossians 2:9 ), in a word, "who is over all things, God blessed for ever" ( Romans 9:5 ).
Help Now >
The Epistles of St. John will be considered together with the other writings of the same Apostle in the next paragraph. Under the present heading we shall briefly indicate the views concerning Christ held by the Apostles St. James, St. Peter, and St. Jude .
(a) The Epistle of St. James
The mainly practical scope of the Epistle of St. James does not lead us to expect that Our Lord's Divinity would be formally expressed in it as a doctrine of faith. This doctrine is, however, implied in the language of the inspired writer. He professes to stand in the same relation to Jesus Christ as to God, being the servant of both (i, 1): he applies the same term to the God of the Old Testament as to Jesus Christ ( passim ). Jesus Christ is both the sovereign judge and independent lawgiver, who can save and can destroy (iv, 12); the faith in Jesus Christ is faith in the lord of Glory (ii, 1). The language of St. James would be exaggerated and overstrained on any other supposition than the writer's firm belief in the Divinity of Jesus Christ.
St. Peter presents himself as the servant and the apostle of Jesus Christ ( 1 Peter 1:1 ; 2 Peter 1:1 ), who was predicted by the Prophets of the Old Testament in such a way that the Prophets themselves were Christ's own servants, heralds, and organs ( 1 Peter 1:10-11 ). It is the pre-existent Christ who moulds the utterances of Israel's Prophets to proclaim their anticipations of His advent. St. Peter had witnessed the glory of Jesus in the Transfiguration ( 2 Peter 1:16 ); he appears to take pleasure in multiplying His titles: Jesus Our Lord ( 2 Peter 1:2 ), our Lord Jesus Christ (ibid., i, 14, 16), the Lord and Saviour (ibid., iii, 2), our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (ibid., i, 1), Whose power is Divine (ibid., i, 3), through whose promises Christians are made partakers of the nature of God (ibid., i, 4). Throughout his Epistle, therefore, St. Peter feels, as it were, and implies the Divinity of Jesus Christ .
(c) Epistle of St. Jude
St. Jude, too, introduces himself as the servant of Jesus Christ, through union with whom Christians are kept in a life of faith and holiness (1); Christ is our only Lord and Saviour (4), Who punished Israel in the wilderness and the rebel angels (5), Who will come to judgment surrounded by myriads of saints (14), and to Whom Christians look for the mercy which He will show them at His coming (21), the issue of which will be life everlasting. Can a merely human Christ be the subject of this language?
If there were nothing else in the New Testament to prove the Divinity of Christ, the first fourteen verses in the Fourth Gospel would suffice to convince a believer in the Bible of that dogma. Now the doctrine of this prologue is the fundamental idea of the whole Johannean theology. The Word made flesh is the same with the Word Who was in the beginning, on the one hand, and with the man Jesus Christ , the subject of the Fourth Gospel on the other. The whole Gospel is a history of the Eternal Word dwelling in human nature among men.
The teaching of the Fourth Gospel is also found in the Johannean Epistles. In his very opening words the writer tells his readers that the Word of life has become manifest and that the Apostles had seen and heard and handled the Word incarnate. The denial of the Son implies the loss of the Father ( 1 John 2:23 ), and "whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God abideth in him and he in God " (ibid., iv, 15). Towards the end of the Epistle the writer is still more emphatic: "And we know that the Son of God is come: and he hath given us understanding that we may know the true God, and may be in his true Son. This is the true God and life eternal " (ibid., v, 20).
According to the Apocalypse, Christ is the first and the last, the alpha and the omega, the eternal and the almighty (i, 8; xxi, 6; xxii, 13). He is the king of kings and lord of lords (xix, 16), the lord of the unseen world (xii, 10; xiii, 8), the centre of the court of heaven (v, 6); He receives the adoration of the highest angels (v, 8), and as the object of that uninterrupted worship (v, 12), He is associated with the Father (v, 13; xvii, 14).(4) Christology of the Synoptists
There is a real difference between the first three Evangelists and St. John in their respective representations of our Lord. The truth presented by these writers may be the same, but they view it from different standpoints. The three Synoptists set forth the humanity of Christ in its obedience to the law, in its power over nature, and in its tenderness for the weak and afflicted; the fourth Gospel sets forth the life of Christ not in any of the aspects which belong to it as human, but as being the adequate expression of the glory of the Divine Person, manifested to men under a visible form. But in spite of this difference, the Synoptists by their suggestive implication practically anticipate the teaching of the Fourth Gospel . This suggestion is implied, first, in the Synoptic use of the title Son of God as applied to Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Son of God, not merely in an ethical or theocratic sense, not merely as one among many sons, but He is the only, the well-beloved Son of the Father, so that His son-ship is unshared by any other, and is absolutely unique ( Matthew 3:17 , 17:5 ; 22:41 ; cf. 4:3, 6 ; Luke 4:3, 9 ); it is derived from the fact that the Holy Ghost was to come upon Mary, and the power of the Most High was to overshadow her ( Luke 1:35 ). Again, the Synoptists imply Christ's Divinity in their history of His nativity and its accompanying circumstances; He is conceived of the Holy Ghost (Luke, 1, 35), and His mother knows that all generations shall call her blessed, because the mighty one had done great things unto her ( Luke 1:48 ). Elisabeth calls Mary blessed among women, blesses the fruit of her womb, and marvels that she herself should be visited by the mother of her Lord ( Luke 1:42-43 ). Gabriel greets Our Lady as full of grace, and blessed among women ; her Son will be great, He will be called the Son of the Most High, and of His kingdom there will be no end ( Luke 1:28, 32 ). As new-born infant, Christ is adored by the shepherds and the Magi, representatives of the Jewish and the Gentile world. Simeon sees in the child his Lord's salvation, the light of the Gentiles, and the pride and glory of his people Israel ( Luke 2:30-32 ). These accounts hardly fit in with the limits of a merely human child, but they become intelligible in the light of the Fourth Gospel .
The Synoptists agree with the teaching of the Fourth Gospel concerning the person of Jesus Christ not merely in their use of the term Son of God and in their accounts of Christ's birth with its surrounding details, but also in their narratives of Our Lord's doctrine, life, and work. The very term Son of Man , which they often apply to Christ, is used in such a way that it shows in Jesus Christ a self-consciousness for which the human element is not something primary, but something secondary and superinduced. Often Christ is simply called Son ( Matthew 11:27 ; 28:20 ), and correspondingly He never calls the Father "our" Father, but "my" Father ( Matthew 18:10, 19, 35 ; 20:23 ; 26:53 ). At His baptism and transfiguration He receives witness from heaven to His Divine Son-ship; the Prophets of the Old Testament are not rivals, but servants in comparison with Him ( Matthew 21:34 ); hence the title Son of Man implies a nature to which Christ's humanity was an accessory. Again, Christ claims the power to forgive sins and supports His claim by miracles ( Matthew 9:2-6 ; Luke 5:20, 24 ); He insists on faith in Himself ( Matthew 16:16, 17 ), He inserts His name in the baptismal formula between that of the Father and the Holy Ghost ( Matthew 28:19 ), He alone knows the Father and is known by the Father alone ( Matthew 11:27 ), He institutes the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist ( Matthew 26:26 ; Mark 14:22 ; Luke 22:19 ), He suffers and dies only to rise again the third day ( Matthew 20:19 ; Mark 10:34 ; Luke 18:33 ) He ascends into Heaven, but declares that He will be among us till the end of the world ( Matthew 28:20 ).
Need we add that Christ's claims to the most exalted dignity of His person are unmistakably clear in the eschatological discourses of the Synoptists ? He is the Lord of the material and moral universe ; as supreme lawgiver He revises all other legislation; as final judge He determines the fate of all. Blot the Fourth Gospel out of the Canon of the New Testament, and you still have in the Synoptic Gospels the identical doctrine concerning the person of Jesus Christ which we now draw out of the Four Gospels ; some points of the doctrine might be less clearly stated than they are now, but they would remain substantially the same.
Biblical Christology shows that one and the same Jesus Christ is both God and man. While Christian tradition has always maintained this triple thesis that Jesus Christ is truly man, that He is truly God, and that the Godman, Jesus Christ, is one and the same person the heretical or erroneous tenets of various religious leaders have forced the Church to insist more expressly now on the one, now on another element of her Christology. A classified list of the principal errors and of the subsequent ecclesiastical utterances will show the historical development of the Church's doctrine with sufficient clearness. The reader will find a more lengthy account of the principal heresies and councils under their respective headings.
The true humanity of Jesus Christ was denied even in the earliest ages of the Church. The Docetist Marcion and the Priscillianists grant to Jesus only an apparent body; the Valentinians, a body brought down from Heaven. The followers of Apollinaris deny either that Jesus had any human soul at all, or that He possessed the higher part of the human soul, they maintain that the Word supplies either the whole soul in Christ, or at least its higher faculties. In more recent times it is not so much Christ's true humanity as His real manhood that is denied. According to Kant the Christian creed deals with the ideal, not with the historical Jesus ; according to Jacobi, it worships Jesus not as an historical person, but as a religious ideal; according to Fichte there exists an absolute unity between God and man, and Jesus was the first to see and teach it; according to Schelling, the incarnation is an eternal fact, which happened to reach in Jesus its highest point, according to Hegel, Christ is not the actual incarnation of God in Jesus of Nazareth but the symbol of God's incarnation in humanity at large. Finally, certain recent Catholic writers distinguish between the Christ of history and the Christ of faith, thus destroying in the Christ of faith His historical reality. The New Syllabus (Proposit, 29 sq.) and the Encyclical "Pascendi dominici gregis" may be consulted on these errors.(2) The Divinity of Christ
Even in Apostolic times the Church regarded a denial of Christ's Divinity as eminently anti-Christian ( 1 John 2:22-23 ; 4:3 ; 2 John 7 ). The early martyrs, the most ancient Fathers, and the first ecclesiastical liturgies agree in their profession of Christ's Divinity. Still, the Ebionites, the Theodotians, the Artemonites, and the Photinians looked upon Christ either as a mere man, though singularly enlightened by Divine wisdom, or as the appearance of an æon emanating from the Divine Being according to the Gnostic theory; or again as a manifestation of the Divine Being such as the Theistic and Pantheistic Sabellians and Patripassians admitted; or, finally, as the incarnate Word indeed, but the Word conceived after the Arian manner as a creature mediating between God and the world, at least not essentially identical with the Father and the Holy Ghost. Though the definitions of Nice and of the subsequent councils, especially of the Fourth Lateran, deal directly with the doctrine concerning the Most Holy Trinity, still they also teach that the Word is consubstantial with the Father and the Holy Ghost, and thus establish the Divinity of Jesus Christ , the Word incarnate. In more recent times, our earliest Rationalists endeavoured to avoid the problem of Jesus Christ ; they had little to say of him, while they made St. Paul the founder of the Church. But the historical Christ was too impressive a figure to be long neglected. It is all the more to be regretted that in recent times a practical denial of Christ's Divinity is not confined to the Socinians and such writers as Ewald and Schleiermacher. Others who profess to be believing Christians see in Christ the perfect revelation of God, the true head and lord of the human race, but, after all, they end with Pilate's words, "Behold, the man".(3) Hypostatic Union
His human nature and His Divine nature are in Jesus Christ united hypostatically, i.e. united in the hypostasis or the person of the Word. This dogma too has found bitter opponents from the earliest times of the Church. Nestorius and his followers admitted in Christ one moral person, as a human society forms one moral person ; but this moral person results from the union of two physical persons, just as there are two natures in Christ. These two persons are united, not physically, but morally, by means of grace. The heresy of Nestorius was condemned by Celestine I in the Roman Synod of A. D. 430 and by the Council of Ephesus, A.D. 431, the Catholic doctrine was again insisted on in the Council of Chalcedon and the second Council of Constantinople. It follows that the Divine and the human nature are physically united in Christ. The Monophysites, therefore, believed that in this physical union either the human nature was absorbed by the Divine, according to the views of Eutyches ; or that the Divine nature was absorbed by the human; or, again, that out of the physical union of the two resulted a third nature by a kind of physical mixture, as it were, or at least by means of their physical composition. The true Catholic doctrine was upheld by Pope Leo the Great, the Council of Chalcedon, and the Fifth Ecumenical Council, A.D. 553. The twelfth canon of the last-named council excludes also the view that Christ's moral life developed gradually, attaining its completion only after the Resurrection. The Adoptionists renewed Nestorianism in part because they considered the Word as the natural Son of God , and the man Christ as a servant or an adopted son of God, thus granting its own personality to Christ's human nature. This opinion was rejected by Pope Adrian I, the Synod of Ratisbon, A.D. 782, the Council of Frankfort (794), and by Leo III in the Roman Synod (799). There is no need to point out that the human nature of Christ is not united with the Word, according to the Socinian and rationalistic views. Dorner shows how widespread among Protestants these views are, since there is hardly a Protestant theologian of note who refuses its own personality to the human nature of Christ. Among Catholics, Berruyer and Günther reintroduced a modified Nestorianism ; but they were censured by the Congregation of the Index (17 April, 1755) and by Pope Pius IX (15 Jan., 1857). The Monophysite heresy was renewed by the Monothelites, admitting only one will in Christ and thus contradicting the teaching of Popes Martin I and Agatho and of the Sixth Ecumenical Council . Both the schismatic Greeks and the Reformers of the sixteenth century wished to retain the traditional doctrine concerning the Word Incarnate; but even the earliest followers of the Reformers fell into errors involving both the Nestorian and the Monophysite heresies. The Ubiquitarians, for example, find the essence of the Incarnation not in the assumption of human nature by the Word, but in the divinization of human nature by sharing the properties of the Divine nature. The subsequent Protestant theologians drifted away farther still from the views of Christian tradition ; Christ for them was the sage of Nazareth, perhaps even the greatest of the Prophets, whose Biblical record, half myth and half history, is nothing but the expression of a popular idea of human perfection. The Catholic writers whose views were derogatory either to the historical character of the Biblical account of the life of Christ or to his prerogatives as the God - man have been censured in the new Syllabus and the Encyclical "Pascendi dorninici gregis".
Copyright 2020 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2020 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.
Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.