Study on the Deity and Humanity of Christ
For the past 2000 years there came out several ideas and views about the person of Christ. We feature a number of articles to help brethren clarify this important issue. The period in Christ’s existence covered in this discussion is from 1 A.D. up to 33 A.D. at the cross. The questions asked are (a) Was Jesus fully human during the period from 1 A.D. up to 33 A.D. at the cross?, and (b) Was Jesus fully divine or true God during the period from 1 A.D. up to 33 A.D. at the cross?
1. Johannine View (1st Century)
The Apostle John (died between 95 and 100 A.D.) is very clear that the Logos, a spirit persona, existed before the creation described in Genesis 1:1. This Logos, a spirit persona, the second persona in the Holy Trinity, created all the invisible and visible, dominions, thrones, powers, and authorities according to John 1:1-3 and Colossians 1:15-16. This Logos became or was made flesh according to John 1:14. Jesus Himself recognized his humanity in John 8:40 and the Apostle Paul in 1Tim. 2:5 points to Jesus’ humanity as the mediator between God and mankind. He was at the same time deity or true God while existing in his humanity. Isaiah 9:6 offers a proof that the virgin born child is called “mighty God” which is understood from the time of birth, the child possessed the attribute “mighty God.” (More discussions on Christ’s nature in the following series.)
2. Anti-Christ View (1st Century)
During the life time of Apostle John, there were already groups within the Church that held the view that Jesus was God during the period of His personal ministry. However, this group taught that Jesus was not truly human or didn’t become flesh. This view is given notice in 1John 4:2-3. Perhaps this group in John’s days was the start of Docetism. Some historians point to one of the leaders of this movement at the time of the Apostles with the name of Cerinthus.
3. Docetists (1st Century)
They affirmed that Christ is God, is deity. His human nature was denied, however. Jesus only “seemed” to be human but not truly human. Of course there was no gospel account at that time from which they could have read the birth narrative of Jesus.
4. Ebionites (2nd Century)
They affirmed that Christ is truly and fully human, the natural son of Joseph and Mary. But they denied the deity of Christ.
5. Arians (4th Century)
Arius was the bishop in Alexandria, Egypt in the early part of the 4th Century. He taught that Christ was God but the substance of His deity was only similar or like the substance of the Father but NOT THE SAME SUBSTANCE. He further taught that Christ is not eternal. Athanasius, a deacon in Alexandria, Egypt opposed Arius. He taught that the deity of Christ is the same substance as the deity of the Father.
The Arian view was condemned in the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. where only four (4) bishops sided with Arius out of the 318 bishops in attendance.
6. Apollinarians (4th Century)
Christ was not fully human. Apollinarius taught that the divine Logos replaced the human spirit in person of Jesus from 1 A.D. to 33 A.D. at the cross. Since Christ didn’t have the ordinary human spirit, he was not fully human. However, this view recognized the full deity of Christ. Condemned in the 381 Council of Constantinople.
7. Nestorians(4th Century)
Nestorius at one time was the bishop in Constantinople. Historians generally believe that Nestorius taught that Christ was two persons: one complete person in his humanity plus another one complete person in his deity. The Orthodox view says that “Christ is complete man and complete God in one person.” Later historians believe that Nestorius was a little bit misrepresented in his belief. Condemned in 431 at the Council of Ephesus.
8. Eutychians (5th Century)
Christ had a single mixed nature– Not fully human and not fully divine. Condemned in 451 in the Council of Chalcedon.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Christ is a god (small g) which means that the substance of Christ’s deity or divinity is lower than that of the Father. It is claimed that Christ was a created spirit persona, perhaps one of the archangels like Archangel Gabriel or Archangel Michael but he was later promoted into the divine category.
Mr. Felix Manalo and the Iglesia ni Cristo (1914) teach that Jesus Christ is the natural son of Mary and Joseph. He was fully human, a great teacher, a prophet given extraordinary and supernatural power by God. However, Jesus was not God. If Christ is ever called ”God” it is because the supernatural powers were put on him, naiatang lang, but his likas na kalagayan ay hindi Dios.
The Qur’an teaches that Jesus is the Messiah, natural son of Mary and Joseph, a great prophet and teacher. However, Jesus is not the Son of God and He is not divine or is not God. Furthermore, Jesus the Messiah was not the one crucified at the cross but somebody else. The real Jesus, Muslims claim, escaped and went to the general area of Kashmir in Pakistan-India where he died a natural death.
12. Orthodox View
This view says that Christ is the second spirit persona in the Holy Trinity, that He is eternal and has the same substance as the Father, that “the Logos became flesh and tabernacle among us” (ho logos sarxs egeneto, kai eskeenosen en hemin), that during his earthly sojourn He was fully man (very man of very man) and He was fully God (very God of very God) subsisting in one person.
There’s a small segment in our Philippine brotherhood that takes the view that is expressed somewhat this way: “Christ was fully God in the past before the incarnation but during his earthly ministry he was fully human having emptied himself of his deity when he became flesh and then reassumed his deity after his resurrection from the dead.”
It is claimed that the term “emptied himself” (eaton ekenosen) means that Christ emptied himself of his deity, emptied himself of his divinity, emptied himself of his being God. Christ was not God from 1 A.D. up to 33 A.D. at the cross. Is this view supported by scriptures?
Please allow me to quote this short explanation, “KENOO (keno), to empty, is so translated in Phil. 2:7, R.V., for A.V., ‘made . . . of no reputation.’ The clauses which follow the verb are exegetical of its meaning, especially the phrases ‘the form of a servant’ and ‘the likeness of men.’ Christ did not empty Himself of Godhood. He did not cease to be what He essentially and eternally was. The A.V., while not an exact translation, goes far to express the act of the Lord (see GIFFORD on the Incarnation). For other occurrences of the word see Rom. 4:14; 1Cor.1:17; 9:15; 2Cor.9:3; In the Sept., Jer. 14:2; 15:9.” (VINE’S EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY OF THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT WORDS, Vol. 2, p. 25).
The authority of this book of W.E.Vine which was edited by F.F.Bruce declares that Christ did not empty Himself of Godhood. The scholarship of these two giants in biblical literature counters the understanding of some Filipino brethren “that Christ emptied himself of his deity from 1 A.D. to 33 A.D.at the cross.” In the succeeding series we shall present more scholars, and some scriptures about this topic.
Add the Pauline View expressed in Colossians 2:8-9, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” (NKJV)
Ganito ang pagkasabi sa Filipino, “Sapagkat ang buong kalikasan ng Diyos ay na kay Cristo nang siya’y maging tao at dahil sa inyong pakikipag-isa sa kanya, nanging ganap ang inyong buhay. Sakop niya ang lahat ng kapangyarihan at kapamahalaan.” (Col. 2:9-10, Magandang Balita Biblia) Ang katanungan dito ay: “Kasali ba ang 1 A.D. to 33 A.D. sa time frame found in the phrase nang siya’y maging tao?”
Note: This writer would be most happy to receive any comments or observations about this article. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eusebio Tanicala, PhD