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Person of Christ

PERSON OF CHRIST. See Christ, Jesus.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

Method of the Article

I. THE TEACHING OF PAUL 1. Philippians 2:5-9

(1) General Drift of Passage

(2) our Lord’s Intrinsic Deity

(3) No Examination

(4) our Lord’s Humanity

2. Other Pauline Passages


Hebrews 2:1 ff

(1) Background of Express Deity

(2) Completeness of Humanity

(3) Continued Possession of Deity



1. The Epistles

2. Prologue to the Gospel

(1) The Being Who Was Incarnated

(2) The Incarnation

(3) The Incarnated Person

3. The Gospel



1. The Johannine Jesus

(1) His Higher Nature

(2) His Humiliation

2. The Synoptic Jesus

(1) His Deity

(a) Mark 13:32

(b) Other Passages: Son of Man and Son of God

(c) Matthew 11:27; 28:19

(2) His Humanity

(3) Unity of the Person




Method of the Article:

It is the purpose of this article to make as clear as possible the conception of the Person of Christ, in the technical sense of that term, which lies on--or, if we prefer to say so, beneath--the pages of the New Testament. Were it its purpose to trace out the process by which this great mystery has been revealed to men, a beginning would need to be taken from the intimations as to the nature of the person of the Messiah in Old Testament prophecy, and an attempt would require to be made to discriminate the exact contribution of each organ of revelation to our knowledge. And were there added to this a desire to ascertain the progress of the apprehension of this mystery by men, there would be demanded a further inquiry into the exact degree of understanding which was brought to the truth revealed at each stage of its revelation. The magnitudes with which such investigations deal, however, are very minute; and the profit to be derived from them is not, in a case like the present, very great. It is, of course, of importance to know how the person of the Messiah was represented in the predictions of the Old Testament; and it is a matter at least of interest to note, for example, the difficulty experienced by our Lord’s immediate disciples in comprehending all that was involved in His manifestation. But, after all, the constitution of our Lord’s person is a matter of revelation, not of human thought; and it is preeminently a revelation of the New Testament, not of the Old Testament. And the New Testament is all the product of a single movement, at a single stage of its development, and therefore presents in its fundamental teaching a common character. The whole of the New Testament was written within the limits of about half a century; or, if we except the writings of John, within the narrow bounds of a couple of decades; and the entire body of writings which enter into it are so much of a piece that it may be plausibly represented that they all bear the stamp of a single mind. In its fundamental teaching, the New Testament lends itself, therefore, more readily to what is called dogmatic than to what is called genetic treatment; and we shall penetrate most surely into its essential meaning if we take our start from its clearest and fullest statements, and permit their light to be thrown upon its more incidental allusions. This is peculiarly the case with such a matter as the person of Christ, which is dealt with chiefly incidentally, as a thing already understood by all, and needing only to be alluded to rather than formally expounded. That we may interpret these allusions aright, it is requisite that we should recover from the first the common conception which underlies them all.

I. Teaching of Paul.

1. Philippians 2:5-9:

(1) General Drift of the Passage.

We begin, then, with the most didactic of the New Testament writers, the apostle Paul, and with one of the passages in which he most fully intimates his conception of the person of his Lord, Php 2:5-9. Even here, however, Paul is not formally expounding the doctrine of the Person of Christ; he is only alluding to certain facts concerning His person and action perfectly well known to his readers, in order that he may give point to an adduction of Christ’s example. He is exhorting his readers to unselfishness, such unselfishness as esteems others better than ourselves, and looks not only on our own things but also on those of others. Precisely this unselfishness, he declares, was exemplified by our Lord. He did not look upon His own things but the things of others; that is to say, He did not stand upon His rights, but was willing to forego all that He might justly have claimed for Himself for the good of others. For, says Paul, though, as we all know, in His intrinsic nature He was nothing other than God, yet He did not, as we all know right well, look greedily on His condition of equality with God, but made no account of Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and, being found in fashion as a man, humbled Himself, becoming obedient up to death itself, and that, the death of the cross. The statement is thrown into historical form; it tells the story of Christ’s life on earth. But it presents His life on earth as a life in all its elements alien to His intrinsic nature, and assumed only in the performance of an unselfish purpose. On earth He lived as a man, and subjected Himself to the common lot of men. But He was not by nature a man, nor was He in His own nature subject to the fortunes of human life. By nature He was God; and He would have naturally lived as became God--`on an equality with God.’ He became man by a voluntary act, `taking no account of Himself,’ and, having become man, He voluntarily lived out His human life under the conditions which the fulfillment of His unselfish purpose imposed on Him.

(2) Our Lord’s Intrinsic Deity.

The terms in which these great affirmations are made deserve the most careful attention. The language in which our Lord’s intrinsic Deity is expressed, for example, is probably as strong as any that could be devised. Paul does not say simply, "He was God." He says, "He was in the form of God," employing a turn of speech which throws emphasis upon our Lord’s possession of the specific quality of God. "Form" is a term which expresses the sum of those characterizing qualities which make a thing the precise thing that it is. Thus, the "form" of a sword (in this case mostly matters of external configuration) is all that makes a given piece of metal specifically a sword, rather than, say, a spade. And "the form of God" is the sum of the characteristics which make the being we call "God," specifically God, rather than some other being--an angel, say, or a man. When our Lord is said to be in "the form of God," therefore, He is declared, in the most express manner possible, to be all that God is, to possess the whole fullness of attributes which make God God. Paul chooses this manner of expressing himself here instinctively, because, in adducing our Lord as our example of self-abnegation; his mind is naturally resting, not on the bare fact that He is God, but on the richness and fullness of His being as God. He was all this, yet He did not look on His own things but on those of others.

(3) No Examination.

And here it is important to observe that the whole of the action adduced is thrown up thus against this background--not only its negative description to the effect that our Lord (although all that God is) did not look greedily on His (consequent) being on an equality with God; but its positive description as well, introduced by the "but ...." and that in both of its elements, not merely that to the effect (Php 2:7) that `he took no account of himself’ (rendered not badly by the King James Version, He "made himself of no reputation"; but quite misleading by the Revised Version (British and American), He "emptied himself"), but equally that to the effect (Php 2:8) that "he humbled himself." It is the whole of what our Lord is described as doing in Php 2:6-8, that He is described as doing despite His "subsistence in the form of God." So far is Paul from intimating, therefore, that our Lord laid aside His Deity in entering upon His life on earth, that he rather asserts that He retained His Deity throughout His life on earth, and in the whole course of His humiliation, up to death itself, was consciously ever exercising self-abnegation, living a life which did not by nature belong to Him, which stood in fact in direct contradiction to the life which was naturally His. It is this underlying implication which determines the whole choice of the language in which our Lord’s earthly life is described. It is because it is kept in mind that He still was "in the form of God," that is, that He still had in possession all that body of characterizing qualities by which God is made God, for example, that He is said to have been made, not man, but "in the likeness of man," to have been found, not man, but "in fashion as a man"; and that the wonder of His servanthood and obedience, the mark of servanthood, is thought of as so great. Though He was truly man, He was much more than man; and Paul would not have his readers imagine that He had become merely man. In other words, Paul does not teach that our Lord was once God but had become instead man; he teaches that though He was God, He had become also man.

An impression that Paul means to imply, that in entering upon His earthly life our Lord had laid aside His Deity, may be created by a very prevalent misinterpretation of the central clause of his statement--a misinterpretation unfortunately given currency by the rendering of English Revised Version: "counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God, but emptied himself," varied without improvement in the American Standard Revised Version to: "counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself." The former (negative) member of this clause means just: He did not look greedily upon His being on an equality with God; did not "set supreme store" by it (see Lightfoot on the clause). The latter (positive) member of it, however, cannot mean in tithesis to this, that He therefore "emptied himself," divested Himself of this, His being on an equality with God, much less that He "emptied himself," divested Himself of His Deity ("form of God") itself, of which His being on an equality with God is the manifested consequence. The verb here rendered "emptied" is in constant use in a metaphorical sense (so only in the New Testament: Ro 4:14; 1Co 1:17; 9:15; 2Co 9:3) and cannot here be taken literally. This is already apparent from the definition of the manner in which the "emptying" is said to have been accomplished, supplied by the modal clause which is at once attached: by "taking the form of servant." You cannot "empty" by "taking"--adding. It is equally apparent, however, from the strength of the emphasis which, by its position, is thrown upon the "himself." We may speak of our Lord as "emptying Himself" of something else, but scarcely, with this strength of emphasis, of His "emptying Himself" of something else. This emphatic "Himself," interposed between the preceding clause and the verb rendered "emptied," builds a barrier over which we cannot climb backward in search of that of which our Lord emptied Himself. The whole thought is necessarily contained in the two words, "emptied himself," in which the word "emptied" must therefore be taken in a sense analogous to that which it bears in the other passages in the New Testament where it occurs. Paul, in a word, says here nothing more than that our Lord, who did not look with greedy eyes upon His estate of equality with God, emptied Himself, if the language may be pardoned, of Himself; that is to say, in precise accordance with the exhortation for the enhancement of which His example is adduced, that He did not look on His own things. `He made no account of Himself,’ we may fairly paraphrase the clause; and thus all question of what He emptied Himself of falls away. What our Lord actually did, according to Paul, is expressed in the following clauses; those now before us express more the moral character of His act. He took "the form of a servant," and so was "made in the likeness of men." But His doing this showed that He did not set overweening store by His state of equality with God, and did not account Himself the sufficient object of all the efforts. He was not self-regarding: He had regard for others. Thus, He becomes our supreme example of self-abnegating conduct.

See also KENOSIS.

(4) Our Lord’s Humanity.

The language in which the act by which our Lord showed that He was self-abnegating is described, requires to be taken in its complete meaning. He took "the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men," says Paul. The term "form" here, of course, bears the same full meaning as in the preceding instance of its occurrence in the phrase "the form of God." It imparts the specific quality, the whole body of characteristics, by which a servant is made what we know as a servant, our Lord assumed, then, according to Paul, not the mere state or condition or outward appearance of a servant, but the reality; He became an actual "servant" in the world. The act by which He did this is described as a "taking," or, as it has become customary from this description of it to phrase it, as an "assumption." What is meant is that our Lord took up into His personality a human nature; and therefore it is immediately explained that He took the form of a servant by "being made in the likeness of men." That the apostle does not say, shortly, that He assumed a human nature, is due to the engagement of his mind with the contrast which he wishes to bring out forcibly for the enhancement of his appeal to our Lord’s example, between what our Lord is by nature and what He was willing to become, not looking on His own things but also on the things of others. This contrast is, no doubt, embodied in the simple opposition of God and man; it is much more pungently expressed in the qualificative terms, "form of God" and "form of a servant." The Lord of the world became a servant in the world; He whose right it was to rule took obedience as His life-characteristic. Naturally therefore Paul employs here a word of quality rather than a word of mere nature; and then defines his meaning in this word of quality by a further epexegetical clause. This further clause--"being made in the likeness of men"--does not throw doubt on the reality of the human nature that was assumed, in contradiction to the emphasis on its reality in the phrase "the form of a servant." It, along with the succeeding clause--"and being found in fashion as a man"--owes its peculiar form, as has already been pointed out, to the vividness of the apostle’s consciousness, that he is speaking of one who, though really man, possessing all that makes a man a man, is yet, at the same time, infinitely more than a man, no less than God Himself, in possession of all that makes God God. Christ Jesus is in his view, therefore (as in the view of his readers, for he is not instructing his readers here as to the nature of Christ’s person, but reminding them of certain elements in it for the purposes of his exhortation), both God and man, God who has assumed man into personal union with Himself, and has in this His assumed manhood lived out a human life on earth.

2. Other Pauline Passages:

II. Teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews.

The conception of the person of Christ which underlies and finds expression in the Epistle to the Hebrews is indistinguishable from that which governs all the allusions to our Lord in the Epistles of Paul. To the author of this epistle our Lord is above all else the Son of God in the most eminent sense of that word; and it is the divine dignity and majesty belonging to Him from His very nature which forms the fundamental feature of the image of Christ which stands before his mind. And yet it is this author who, perhaps above all others of the New Testament writers, emphasizes the truth of the humanity of Christ, and dwells with most particularity upon the elements of His human nature and experience.

Hebrews 2:1 ff:

(1) Background of Express Deity.

The great Christological passage which fills Hebrews 2 of the Epistle to the Hebrews rivals in its richness and fullness of detail, and its breadth of implication, that of Philippians 2. It is thrown up against the background of the remarkable exposition of the divine dignity of the Son which occupies Hebrews 1 (notice the "therefore" of 2:1). There the Son had been declared to be "the effulgence of his (God’s) glory, and the very image of his substance," through whom the universe has been created and by the word of whose power all things are held in being; and His exaltation above the angels, by means of whom the Old Covenant had been inaugurated, is measured by the difference between the designations "ministering spirits" proper to the one, and the Son of God, nay, God itself (1:8,9), proper to the other. The purpose of the succeeding statement is to enhance in the thought of the Jewish readers of the epistle the value of the salvation wrought by this divine Saviour, by removing from their minds the offense they were in danger of taking at His lowly life and shameful death on earth. This earthly humiliation finds its abundant justification, we are told, in the greatness of the end which it sought and attained. By it our Lord has, with His strong feet, broken out a pathway along which, in Him, sinful man may at length climb up to the high destiny which was promised him when it was declared he should have dominion over all creation. Jesus Christ stooped only to conquer, and He stooped to conquer not for Himself (for He was in His own person no less than God), but for us.

(2) Completeness of Humanity.

The language in which the humiliation of the Son of God is in the first instance described is derived from the context. The establishment of His divine majesty in chapter 1 had taken the form of an exposition of His infinite exaltation above the angels, the highest of all creatures. His humiliation is described here therefore as being "made a little lower than the angels" (Heb 2:9). What is meant is simply that He became man; the phraseology is derived from Ps 8 the King James Version, from which had just been cited the declaration that God had made man (despite his insignificance) "but a little lower than the angels," thus crowning him with glory and honor. The adoption of the language of the psalm to describe our Lord’s humiliation has the secondary effect, accordingly, of greatly enlarging the reader’s sense of the immensity of the humiliation of the Son of God in becoming man: He descended an infinite distance to reach man’s highest conceivable exaltation. As, however, the primary purpose of the adoption of the language is merely to declare that the Son of God became man, so it is shortly afterward explained (Heb 2:14) as an entering into participation in the blood and flesh which are common to men: "Since then the children are sharers in flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner partook of the same." The voluntariness, the reality the completeness of the assumption of humanity by the Son of God, are all here emphasized.

The proximate end of our Lord’s assumption of humanity is declared to be that He might die; He was "made a little lower than the angels .... because of the suffering of death" (Heb 2:9); He took part in blood and flesh in order that through death ...." (Heb 2:14). The Son of God as such could not die; to Him belongs by nature an "indissoluble life" (Heb 7:16 margin). If He was to die, therefore, He must take to Himself another nature to which the experience of death were not impossible (Heb 2:17). Of course it is not meant that death was desired by Him for its own sake. The purpose of our passage is to save its Jewish readers from the offense of the death of Christ. What they are bidden to observe is, therefore, Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels because of the suffering of death, `crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God the bitterness of death which he tasted might redound to the benefit of every man’ (Heb 2:9), and the argument is immediately pressed home that it was eminently suitable for God Almighty, in bringing many sons into glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect (as a Saviour) by means of suffering. The meaning is that it was only through suffering that these men, being sinners could be brought into glory. And therefore in the plainer statement of Heb 2:14 we read that our Lord took part in flesh and blood in order "that through death he might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the Devil; and might deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage"; and in the still plainer statement of 2:17 that the ultimate object of His assimilation to men was that He might "make propitiation for the sins of the people." It is for the salvation of sinners that our Lord has come into the world; but, as that salvation can be wrought only by suffering and death, the proximate end of His assumption of humanity remains that He might die; whatever is more than this gathers around this.

The completeness of our Lord’s assumption of humanity and of His identification of Himself with it receives strong emphasis in this passage. He took part in the flesh and blood which is the common heritage of men, after the same fashion that other men participate in it (Heb 2:14); and, having thus become a man among men, He shared with other men the ordinary circumstances and fortunes of life, "in all things" (Heb 2:17). The stress is laid on trials, sufferings, death; but this is due to the actual course in which His life ran--and that it might run in which He became man--and is not exclusive of other human experiences. What is intended is that He became truly a man, and lived a truly human life, subject to all the experiences natural to a man in the particular circumstances in which He lived.

(3) Continued Possession of Deity.

III. Teaching of Other Epistles.

IV. Teaching of John.

1. The Epistles:

2. Prologue to the Gospel:

From the point of view from which we now approach it, the prologue to the Gospel of John may be said to fall into three parts. In the first of these, the nature of the Being who became incarnate in the person we know as Jesus Christ is described; in the second, the general nature of the act we call the incarnation; and in the third, the nature of the incarnated person.


(1) The Being Who Was Incarnated.

John here calls the person who became incarnate by a name peculiar to himself in the New Testament--the Logos or "Word." According to the predicates which he here applies to Him, he can mean by the "Word" nothing else but God Himself, "considered in His creative, operative, self-revealing, and communicating character," the sum total of what is divine (C.F. Schmid). In three crisp sentences he declares at the outset His eternal subsistence, His eternal intercommunion with God, His eternal identity with God: `In the beginning the Word was; and the Word was with God; and the Word was God’ (Joh 1:1). "In the beginning," at that point of time when things first began to be (Ge 1:1), the Word already "was." He antedates the beginning of all things. And He not merely antedates them, but it is immediately added that He is Himself the creator of all that is: `All things were made by him, and apart from him was not made one thing that hath been made’ (Joh 1:3). Thus He is taken out of the category of creatures altogether. Accordingly, what is said of Him is not that He was the first of existences to come into being--that `in the beginning He already had come into being’--but that `in the beginning, when things began to come into being, He already was.’ It is express eternity of being that is asserted: "the imperfect tense of the original suggests in this relation, as far as human language can do so, the notion of absolute, supra-temporal existence" (Westcott). This, His eternal subsistence, was not, however, in isolation: "And the Word was with God." The language is pregnant. It is not merely coexistence with God that is asserted, as of two beings standing side by side, united in a local relation, or even in a common conception. What is suggested is an active relation of intercourse. The distinct personality of the Word is therefore not obscurely intimatead. From all eternity the Word has been with God as fellow: He who in the very beginning already "was," "was" also in communion with God. Though He was thus in some sense a second along with God, He was nevertheless not a separate being from God: "And the Word was"--still the eternal "was"--"God." In some sense distinguishable from God, He was in an equally true sense identical with God. There is but one eternal God; this eternal God, the Word is; in whatever sense we may distinguish Him from the God whom He is "with," He is yet not another than this God, but Himself is this God. The predicate "God" occupies the position of emphasis in this great declaration, and is so placed in the sentence as to be thrown up in sharp contrast with the phrase "with God," as if to prevent inadequate inferences as to the nature of the Word being drawn even momentarily from that phrase. John would have us realize that what the Word was in eternity was not merely God’s coeternal fellow, but the eternal God’s self.

(2) The Incarnation.

Now, John tells us that it was this Word, eternal in His subsistence, God’s eternal fellow, the eternal God’s self, that, as "come in the flesh," was Jesus Christ (1 Joh 4:2). "And the Word became flesh" (Joh 1:14), he says. The terms he employs here are not terms of substance, but of personality. The meaning is not that the substance of God was transmuted into that substance which we call "flesh." "The Word" is a personal name of the eternal God; "flesh" is an appropriate designation of humanity in its entirety, with the implications of dependence and weakness. The meaning, then, is simply that He who had just been described as the eternal God became, by a voluntary act in time, a man. The exact nature of the act by which He "became" man lies outside the statement; it was matter of common knowledge between the writer and the reader. The language employed intimates merely that it was a definite act, and that it involved a change in the life-history of the eternal God, here designated "the Word." The whole emphasis falls on the nature of this change in His life-history. He became flesh. That is to say, He entered upon a mode of existence in which the experiences that belong to human beings would also be His. The dependence, the weakness, which constitute the very idea of flesh, in contrast with God, would now enter into His personal experience. And it is precisely because these are the connotations of the term "flesh" that John chooses that term here, instead of the more simply denotative term "man." What he means is merely that the eternal God became man. But he elects to say this in the language which throws best up to view what it is to become man. The contrast between the Word as the eternal God and the human nature which He assumed as flesh, is the hinge of the statement. Had the evangelist said (as he does in 1 Joh 4:2) that the Word `came in flesh,’ it would have been the continuity through the change which would have been most emphasized. When he says rather that the Word became flesh, while the continuity of the personal subject is, of course, intimatead, it is the reality and the completeness of the humanity assumed which is made most prominent.

(3) The Incarnated Person.

That in becoming flesh the Word did not cease to be what He was before entering upon this new sphere of experiences, the evangelist does not leave, however, to mere suggestion. The glory of the Word was so far from quenched, in his view, by His becoming flesh, that he gives us at once to understand that it was rather as "trailing clouds of glory" that He came. "And the Word became flesh," he says, and immediately adds: "and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth" (Joh 1:14). The language is colored by reminiscences from the Tabernacle, in which the Glory of God, the Shekinah, dwelt. The flesh of our Lord became, on its assumption by the Word, the Temple of God on earth (compare Joh 2:19), and the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. John tells us expressly that this glory was visible, that it was precisely what was appropriate to the Son of God as such. "And we beheld his glory," he says; not divined it, or inferred it, but perceived it. It was open to sight, and the actual object of observation. Jesus Christ was obviously more than man; He was obviously God. His actually observed glory, John tells us further, was a "glory as of the only begotten from the Father." It was unique; nothing like it was ever seen in another. And its uniqueness consisted precisely in its consonance with what the unique Son of God, sent forth from the Father, would naturally have; men recognized and could not but recognize in Jesus Christ the unique Son of God. When this unique Son of God is further described as "full of grace and truth," the elements of His manifested glory are not to be supposed to be exhausted by this description (compare Joh 2:11). Certain items of it only are singled out for particular mention. The visible glory of the incarnated Word was such a glory as the unique Son of God, sent forth from the Father, who was full of grace and truth, would naturally manifest.

That nothing should be lacking to the declaration of the continuity of all that belongs to the Word as such into this new sphere of existence, and its full manifestation through the veil of His flesh, John adds at the close of his exposition the remarkable sentence: `As for God, no one has even yet seen him; God only begotten, who is in the bosom of the Father--he hath declared him’ (Joh 1:18 margin). It is the incarnate Word which is here called `only begotten God.’ The absence of the article with this designation is doubtless due to its parallelism with the word "God" which stands at the head of the corresponding clause. The effect of its absence is to throw up into emphasis the quality rather than the mere individuality of the person so designated. The adjective "only begotten" conveys the idea, not of derivation and subordination, but of uniqueness and consubstantiality: Jesus is all that God is, and He alone is this. Of this `only begotten God’ it is now declared that He "is"--not "was," the state is not one which has been left behind at the incarnation, but one which continues uninterrupted and unmodified--"into"--not merely "in"--"the bosom of the Father"--that is to say, He continues in the most intimate and complete communion with the Father. Though now incarnate, He is still "with God" in the full sense of the external relation intimated in Joh 1:1. This being true, He has much more than seen God, and is fully able to "interpret" God to men. Though no one has ever yet seen God, yet he who has seen Jesus Christ, "God only begotten," has seen the Father (compare Joh 14:9; 12:45). In this remarkable sentence there is asserted in the most direct manner the full Deity of the incarnate Word, and the continuity of His life as such in His incarnate life; thus He is fitted to be the absolute revelation of God to man.

3. The Gospel:

The same may be said of the other Gospels. They are all dramatizations of the God-man set forth in thetical exposition in the prologue to John’s Gospel. The Gospel of Luke, written by a known companion of Paul, gives us in a living narrative the same Jesus who is presupposed in all Paul’s allusions to Him. That of Mark, who was also a companion of Paul, as also of Peter, is, as truly as the Gospel of John itself, a presentation of facts in the life of Jesus with a view to making it plain that this was the life of no mere man, human as it was, but of the Son of God Himself. Matthew’s Gospel differs from its fellows mainly in the greater richness of Jesus’ own testimony to His Deity which it records. What is characteristic of all three is the inextricable interlacing in their narratives of the human and divine traits which alike marked the life they are depicting. It is possible, by neglecting one series of their representations and attending only to the other, to sift out from them at will the portrait of either a purely divine or a purely human Jesus. It is impossible to derive from them the portrait of any other than a divine-human Jesus if we surrender ourselves to their guidance and take off of their pages the portrait they have endeavored to draw. As in their narratives they cursorily suggest now the fullness of His Deity and now the completeness of His humanity and everywhere the unity of His person, they present as real and as forcible a testimony to the constitution of our Lord’s person as uniting in one personal life a truly divine and a truly human nature, as if they announced this fact in analytical statement. Only on the assumption of this conception of our Lord’s person as underlying and determining their presentation, can unity be given to their representations; while, on this supposition, all their representations fall into their places as elements in one consistent whole. Within the limits of their common presupposition, each Gospel has no doubt its own peculiarities in the distribution of its emphasis. Mark lays particular stress on the divine power of the man Jesus, as evidence of His supernatural being; and on the irresistible impression of a veritable Son of God, a Divine Being walking the earth as a man, which He made upon all with whom He came into contact. Luke places his Gospel by the side of the Epistle to the Hebrews in the prominence it gives to the human development of the Divine Being whose life on earth it is depicting and to the range of temptation to which He was subjected. Matthew’s Gospel is notable chiefly for the heights of the divine self-consciousness which it uncovers in its report of the words of Him whom it represents as nevertheless the Son of David, the Son of Abraham; heights of divine self-consciousness which fall in nothing short of those attained in the great utterances preserved for us by John. But amid whatever variety there may exist in the aspects on which each lays his particular emphasis, it is the same Jesus Christ which all three bring before us, a Jesus Christ who is at once God and man and one individual person. If that be not recognized, the whole narrative of the Synoptic Gospels is thrown into confusion; their portrait of Christ becomes an insoluble puzzle; and the mass of details which they present of His life-experiences is transmuted into a mere set of crass contradictions.


VI. Teaching of Jesus.

1. The Johannine Jesus:

The Gospel narratives not only present us, however, with dramatizations of the God-man, according to their authors’ conception of His composite person. They preserve for us also a considerable body of the utterances of Jesus Himself, and this enables us to observe the conception of His person which underlay and found expression in our Lord’s own teaching. The discourses of our Lord which have been selected for record by John have been chosen (among other reasons) expressly for the reason that they bear witness to His essential Deity. They are accordingly peculiarly rich in material for forming a judgment of our Lord’s conception of His higher nature. This conception, it is needless to say, is precisely that which John, taught by it, has announced in the prologue to his Gospel, and has illustrated by his Gospel itself, compacted as it is of these discourses. It will not be necessary to present the evidence for this in its fullness. It will be enough to point to a few characteristic passages, in which our Lord’s conception of His higher nature finds especially clear expression.

(1) His Higher Nature.

(2) His Humiliation

2. The Synoptic Jesus:

(1) His Deity.

(a) Mark 13:32:

We know how this apparently contradictory mode of speech has arisen in Keble’s case. He is speaking of men who are composite beings, consisting of souls and bodies, and these men come to be designated from one element of their composite personalities, though what is affirmed by them belongs rather to the other; we may speak, therefore, of the "blood of souls" meaning that these "souls," while not having blood as such, yet designate persons who have bodies and therefore blood. We know equally how to account for Paul’s apparent contradictions. We know that he conceived of our Lord as a composite person, uniting in Himself a divine and a human nature. In Paul’s view, therefore, though God as such has no blood, yet Jesus Christ who is God has blood because He is also man. He can justly speak, therefore, when speaking of Jesus Christ of His blood as the blood of God. When precisely the same phenomenon meets us in our Lord’s speech of Himself, we naust presume that it is the outgrowth of precisely the same state of things. When lie speaks of "the Son" (who is God) as ignorant, we must understand that tie is designating Himself as "the Son" because of His higher nature, and yet has in mind the ignorance of His lower nature; what He means is that the person properly designated "the Son" is ignorant, that is to say with respect to the human nature which is as intimate an element of His personality as is His Deity.

When our Lord says, then, that "the Son knows not," He becomes as express a witness to the two natures which constitute His person as Paul is when he speaks of the blood of God, or as Keble is a witness to the twofold constitution of a human being when he speaks of souls shedding blood. In this short sentence, thus, our Lord bears witness to His divine nature with its supremacy above all creatures, to His human nature with its creaturely limitations, and to the unity of the subject possessed of these two natures.

(b) Other Passages: Son of Man and Son of God:

(c) Matthew 11:27; 28:19:

In the former of these utterances, our Lord, speaking in the most solemn manner, not only presents Himself, as the Son, as the sole source of knowledge of God and of blessedness for men, but places Himself in a position, not of equality merely, but of absolute reciprocity and interpenetration of knowledge with the Father. "No one," He says, "knoweth the Son, save the Father; neither doth any know the Father, save the Son ...." "varied in Luke so as to read: "No one knoweth who the Son is, save the Father; and who the Father is, save the Son ...." as if the being of the Son were so immense that only God could know it thoroughly; and the knowledge of the Son was so unlimited that He could know God to perfection. The peculiarly pregnant employment here of the terms "Son" and "Father" over against one another is explained to us in the other utterance (Mt 28:19). It is the resurrected Lord’s commission to His disciples. Claiming for Himself all authority in heaven and on earth--which implies the possession of omnipotence--and promising to be with His followers `alway, even to the end of the world’--which adds the implications of omnipresence and omniscience--He commands them to baptize their converts `in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ The precise form of the formula must be carefully observed. It does not read: `In the names’ (plural)--as if there were three beings enumerated, each with its distinguishing name. Nor yet: `In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,’ as if there were one person, going by a threefold name. It reads: `In the name (singular) of the Father, and of the (article repeated) Son, and of the (article repeated) Holy Spirit,’ carefully distinguishing three persons, though uniting them all under one name. The name of God was to the Jews Yahweh, and to name the name of Yahweh upon them was to make them His. What Jesus did in this great injunction was to command His followers to name the name of God upon their converts, and to announce the name of God which is to be named on their converts in the threefold enumeration of "the Father" and "the Son" and `the Holy Spirit.’ As it is unquestionable that He intended Himself by "the Son," He here places Himself by the side of the Father and the Spirit, as together with them constituting the one God. It is, of course, the Trinity which He is describing; and that is as much as to say that He announces Himself as one of the persons of the Trinity. This is what Jesus, as reported by the Synoptics, understood Himself to be.

See Trinity.

(2) His Humanity.

(3) Unity of the Person.

These manifestations of a human and divine consciousness simply stand side by side in the records of our Lord’s self-expression. Neither is suppressed or even qualified by the other. If we attend only to the one class we might suppose Him to proclaim Himself wholly divine; if only to the other we might equally easily imagine Him to be representing Himself as wholly human. With both together before us we perceive Him alternately speaking out of a divine and out of a human consciousness; manifesting Himself as all that God is and as all that man is; yet with the most marked unity of consciousness. He, the one Jesus Christ, was to His own apprehension true God and complete man in a unitary personal life.

VII. The Two Natures Everywhere Presupposed.

VIII. Formulation of the Doctrine.

Meanwhile the wards remain complicated. Even in the case of our own composite structure, of soul and body, familiar as we are with it from our daily experience, the mutual relations of elements so disparate in a single personality remain an unplumbed mystery, and give rise to paradoxical modes of speech which would be misleading, were not their source in our duplex nature well understood. We may read, in careful writers, of souls being left dead on battlefields, and of everybody’s immortality. The mysteries of the relations in which the constituent elements in the more complex personality of our Lord stand to one another are immeasurably greater than in our simpler case. We can never hope to comprehend how the infinite God and a finite humanity can be united in a single person; and it is very easy to go fatally astray in attempting to explain the interactions in the unitary person of natures so diverse from one another. It is not surprising, therefore, that so soon as serious efforts began to be made to give systematic explanations of the Biblical facts as to our Lord’s person, many onesided and incomplete statements were formulated which required correction and complementing before at length a mode of statement. was devised which did full justice to the Biblical data. It was accordingly only after more than a century of controversy, during which nearly every conceivable method of construing and misconstruing the Biblical facts had been proposed and tested, that a formula was framed which successfully guarded the essential data supplied by the Scriptures from destructive misconception. This formula, put together by the Council of Chalcedon, 451 AD, declares it to have always been the doctrine of the church, derived from the Scriptures and our Lord Himself, that our Lord Jesus Christ is "truly God and truly man, of a reasonable soul and body; consubstantial with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the manhood; one and the same Christ, Son,. Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures-inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and Only-begotten, God, the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ." There is nothing here but a careful statement in systematic form of the pure teaching of the Scriptures; and therefore this statement has stood ever since as the norm of thought and teaching as to the person of the Lord. As such, it has been incorporated, in one form or another, into the creeds of all the great branches of the church; it underlies and gives their form to all the allusions to Christ in the great mass of preaching and song which has accumulated during the centuries; and it has supplied the background of the devotions of the untold multitudes who through the Christian ages have been worshippers of Christ.


The appropriate sections in the treatises on the Biblical theology of the New Testament; also A. B. Bruce, The Humiliation of Christ, 2nd edition, Edinburgh, 1881; R. L. Ottley, The Doctrine of the Incarnation, London, 1896; H. C. Powell, The Principle of the Incarnation, London, 1896; Francis J. Hall, The Kenotic Theory, New York, 1898; C. A. Briggs, The Incarnation of the Lord, New York, 1902; G. S. Streatfeild, The Self-Interpretation of Jesus Christ, London, 1906; B. B. Warfield, The Lord of Glory, New York, 1907; James Denhey, Jesus and the Gospel, London, 1909; M. Lepin, Christ and the Gospel: or, Jesus the Messiah and Son of God, Philadelphia, 1910; James Stalker, The Christology of Jesus, New York, 1899; D. Somerville, Paul’s Conception of Christ, Edinburgh, 1897; E.H. Gifford, The Incarnation: a Study of Philippians 2:5-11, London, 1897; S.N. Rostron, The Christology of Paul, London, 1912; E. Digges La Touche, The Person of Christ in Modern Thoughts, London, 1912.

(NOTE.--In this article the author has usually given his own translation of quotations from Scripture, and not that of any particular version.)

Benjamin B. Warfield