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The One Christ
An Enquiry into the Manner of the Incarnation

By Frank Weston

London and New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1914.


Note I--Definition of the Council of Chalcedon

The late Dr. Bright translates it as follows: "Following, then, the holy Fathers, we confess one and the sane Son, our Lord Jesus Christ; and we all with one accord announce Him the self-same perfect in Godhead, the self-same perfect in Manhood, truly God and truly Man, the self-same, of a reasonable soul and a body; of one essence with the Father as to Godhead, of one essence with us as to Manhood, in all things like unto us, sin excepted; before the ages begotten of the Father as to Godhead, but in the last days, for us and for our salvation, the self-same (born) of Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, as to Manhood. One and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in Two Natures without confusion, change, division, separation; the difference of the Natures being nowise removed by reason of the Union, but, on the contrary, the property of each Nature being preserved, and combining into one Person and one Hypostasis," and so on. See his History of the Church, A.D. 313 to 451, ed. 5, pp. 409-10.

The whole definition in the original will be found in Heurtley's De Fide et Symbolo, pp. 23-28.

With the definition must be studied the letters of St. Cyril and St. Leo that are accounted ecumenical. Those of St. Cyril are his second and third to Nestorius, and his letter to John of Antioch. They are printed by Heurtley in the work we have named; and are also published cheaply by Parker, as edited, with translation, by the late Philip Pusey. St. Leo's Tome, or letter to Flavian, will be found in Heurtley.

The English reader should procure St. Leo on the Incarnation, by the late Dr. Bright.

These letters are the authorized commentary on the dogma of the Incarnation, but they are not a dogmatic utterance of the Church. We are not bound by every word of the two writers: only by their doctrines as generally stated.

Note II--The Athanasian School of Christology

It is composed of writers who regard our Lord's human actions as quite natural and spontaneous; postulating a temporary quiescence or inactivity of the eternal Son in the sphere of the Incarnation, in order to make possible the manifestation of the human. The mark of the school is that it allows for some measure of real weakness and even ignorance in the Incarnate in respect to His manhood.

Ignatius of Antioch does little more than assert the reality of our Lord's manhood as against Docetic teaching. See especially Ad Trall., c. 9 ; Ad Smyrn., cc. 1, 2, 3.

Justin Martyr emphasizes the independence of our Lord of external help from the Spirit. See Dial. Tryph., cc. 87, 88. But he has no doubtful teaching about the reality of the manhood and temptations of Christ (Dial. Tryph., c. 125). He also refers to His prayers (Dial. Tryph., c. 106), and to the reality of His sufferings (Dial., c. 103).

Irenaeus is more fruitful in evidence; he is, indeed, the first theologian of the post-Apostolic Church. Justin is rather a philosopher, and the nature of his writings shuts out the discussion of a point such as we are considering. The following passages of Irenaeus shew that he is rightly placed among the Athanasians, and that he nay be counted as a true forerunner of the great Athanasius himself--

(1) "The only-begotten Son of God, who is also the Word of the Father, having ... been incarnate in a human being for man's sake" (Contra Haer., III, xvii. 4).

(2) "For as He was man, that He might be tempted, so was He also the Word that He might be glorified: the Word remaining inactive in His temptation and dishonour and crucifixion and death, but going along with the Man in His victory and endurance, and works of goodness, and resurrection and ascension" (III, x.; xix. 3).

(3) "He, the Invisible made visible, and the Incomprehensible made comprehensible, and the Impassible made capable of suffering, and the Word made man" (III, xvi. 6).

(4) "They did also see the Son of God ... affirming that He who was then in heaven had gone down to the clay of death" (IV, xx. 8). [Translation in the Oxford Library of the Fathers, published by Parker.]

Irenaeus regards the power of Christ's deity to be sometimes restrained, sometimes active. He does not teach a permanent quiescence of the Logos within the sphere of the Incarnation; nor does he see the difficulty of postulating a self in the Incarnate of a content too great to be mediated by His manhood.

A question arises about his view of our Lord's ignorance of the day of judgement. The passage in dispute is II, xxviii. 8. For various interpretations, see Liddon, Bampton Lectures, ed. 12, p. 468, note; and Gore, Dissertations, pp. 111-112.

Athanasius follows the method of Scripture. He recognizes the divine and the human in the Christ, but attempts no reconciliation. Large passages may be quoted to shew that he fully allowed for the reality of the manhood in Christ. See Orat., III, xxvi. 31-35; xxviii. 46; xxix. 54-57. De Incar., xviii.

But it is clear that he had not faced the question of the content of the subject of the manhood; for he ascribes to the Incarnate knowledge and ignorance of one and the same fact: knowledge as God and ignorance as man. See Orat., III, xxvii. 38 ff.; xxviii. 43.

It seems to me that Athanasius unconsciously accepted two centres of Christ-consciousness: the Incarnate as subject of deity, and the Incarnate as subject of manhood. This becomes evident in his refusal to allow for the growth of the Incarnate in wisdom. He says the growth affects only His manhood. See Orat., III, xxviii. 51-53. As man He advanced in wisdom; as God He could not so advance: therefore He has two centres of consciousness.

St. Gregory Nazianzen is fairly represented in such a passage as this: "He was baptized as Man, but He remitted sins as God. ... He was tempted as Man, but He conquered as God. He asks where Lazarus was laid, for He was man; but He raises Lazarus, for He was God" (Orat., xxix. 20; cf. 17-19). Or, again, "We are to understand the ignorance in the most reverent sense, by attributing it to the Manhood, and not to the Godhead" (Orat., xxx. 15). It will be seen that the second passage qualifies the first, giving it just that mark which characterizes the Athanasian school.

St. Basil shews signs of a desire to escape from the full force of the words of St. Mark about the ignorance of Christ concerning the day of judgement. See Ep. 236. But it is a letter to a great friend (cf. Ep. 232) and must not be taken as a treatise. However, he allows that Christ may have been ignorant of the point as regards His manhood. For the reality of the manhood, see De Spiritu, xv. 35. For the cooperation of the Spirit with the manhood, see the same treatise, xvi. 39.

Tertullian may be read with the Athanasian Fathers, though I have not classed him with them. See especially De Carne Christi, v.; ix.; xiii.; and Adv. Praxcan, xv.; xxvi.; xxvii.; xxx. The mark of the Athanasian school is most evident in his treatment of the desolation on the Cross, Adv. Prax., xxx.

Note III--The Alexandrian School

Clement is inclined to exalt the divine in Christ at the cost of the human. He wrote, of course, before the times of Christological controversy. To him the incarnation of the Word is the very centre of his faith. But he does not seem to have realized the need of the identity of Christ's humanity with ours. It is possible that his view of redemption may be due to his failure to grasp the truth of hereditary sinfulness. In his system the soul of Christ is the ransom for sin (Paed., 1. 9, 85); and our souls, received independently of our parents, are led to knowledge and salvation by the teaching of the Word, and by the communication of His risen life (Paed., 1. 2 ; iii. 3). The body is of minor importance; so much so that Clement does not hesitate to minimize the likeness of Christ's bodily nature to ours (Paed., 1. 2; Strom., vi. 9; Cohor., x., near the end). Clement was a Platonist, and did not honour the body. See Bigg's Christian Platonists for the whole of Clement's doctrine.

Origen stands alone. He regards the soul of Christ as eternal, the eternal link between the Word and the body that He was to take (De Princip., ii. 6). He allows for the growth of our Lord's mind, and postulates a self-emptying of the divine Logos that has to be made good by a human growth in wisdom (In Ier. hom., i. 7). Also, as he says, "Christ must learn to speak like a child with children" (In Ier. hom., i. 8). Bishop Gore claims Origen as one of the few Fathers who conceived of a true kenosis (Dissert., pp. 144 ff.).

Note IV--The Cyrilline School

It is composed of writers who tend to minimize the reality of the weakness and limitations of the manhood of Christ as being incompatible with the fullness of divine power that was His even in the state of the Incarnation.

St. Gregory of Nyssa tries to account for all the facts of Scripture, and is very much at one with the Athanasian school in his ordinary statement of the reality of the humanity. He allows for a real temptation in soul and body, and true mental growth, and real ignorance as man (Adv. Apoll., ii. 14, 24). He lays stress upon the wonderful power that could bring God to the lowness of humanity (Orat. cat. mag., 24). But he writes just a little uncertainly about the miracles of Christ. Normally he attributes them to the divine power of the Son, but in one place he thinks that they may be ascribed to power communicated by God from without (cf. Adv. Eunom., v. 5, and Adv. Apoll., 28). On the other hand, he has the Cyrilline tendency to deify the manhood, thus cutting himself off from the Athanasian writers (Adv. Apoll., 20, 25, 42). For Gregory's position see Gore, Dissertations, pp. 141-144; Ottley, Incarnation, Vol. II, pp. 60, 287, 289 ; and Dorner, Div. i, Vol. II, pp. 366-367, 384 ff.

St. Hilary conceives a very real self-emptying on the part of the Son, not as a single act preparatory to a period of powerlessness, but as a continuous, habitual, loving self-restraint (De Trin., ix. 51; in Ps. lxviii. 25). But he makes the manhood a little unreal to us. He does not admit any human ignorance (De Trin., ix. 62); and his account of the Christ's sufferings is unsatisfactory. His desire to magnify the moral value and beauty of each act of the Saviour in His passion makes him minimize the reality of the manhood; each act being assigned to a separate act of divine self-restraint (De Trin., x. 23, 24 47, 48, 62; in Ps. liii. 12; De Synod., 49). The Agony in the garden of Gethsemane is explained away (De Trin., x. 41). He regards the body as empowered through its conception by the Holy Ghost (De Trin., x. 35, 44, etc.).

St. Ambrose says that our Lord pretended to be ignorant of the day of judgement for the sake of the disciples, lest He should hurt them by telling them the truth (De Fide, V, xviii. 219. Cf. xvi. and xvii.).

St. Augustine in all his sermons on the Nativity emphasizes the fact that the Incarnation is the unveiling of divine love and power (e.g. Sermo 186, i.; 187, i., iii.; 188, ii.; cf. 225, iii.). In his treatment of the doctrine generally he is most careful to differentiate the acts of the Christ as God and His acts as man (Sermo 124, iii. is a good example). But in his treatment of the manhood he fails to allow for all the facts. He adopts the explanation that the ignorance of our Lord was assumed (De Trin., i. 23); and denies that He was ignorant of anything except sin (in Ps. xxxiv., Sermo 2, 11.). He maintains that the advance in wisdom was only in the manhood (Contra Max. Arian., II., xxiii. 7). But the positive evidence on this matter is contained in the retractation by Leprius of his view that Christ was really ignorant as man, to which Augustine put his name as a witness (Ep. 219).

St. Cyril is the second prophet of the Incarnation, St. Athanasius being the first and chiefest. Of the general principles of his Christology it is superfluous to speak. For "in proportion as Christians of this age confess their faith in the atoning work of this one Christ, they are daily debtors to St. Cyril" (Bright, History of the Church, p. 371). But he did minimize the human weakness and limitations of Christ, lest men should doubt the presence of the fullness of deity in the Incarnate. He ascribes to our Lord a pretended ignorance, and a merely apparent growth in wisdom. The passages of his works that prove these statements are most carefully arranged and translated by Professor Bruce. See The Humiliation of Christ, Lecture II, Note A.

St. Leo is the great preacher of the Incarnation. His sermons are of first importance to the faith. But he does shew a leaning to the Cyrilline school of thought. His line is that the Incarnation does not mean any loss of omnipotence to the Son (Sermo 27, i.). It is rather an unveiling of divine power and glory (Sermo 21, ii.; 22, i.). His Tome, or epistle to Flavian, lays down the principle that some things in the life of the Christ are proper to the deity, and some things to the manhood. But he does not go on to shew in what sense the Incarnate as subject of the manhood is also able to be the subject of the divine nature (Ep. ad Flav., Ep. 59, etc.). Leo shews the mark of the Cyrilline school in the frequent antithesis of divine omnipotence and human weakness in the Incarnate, without any attempt at unifying the conception of the self of the Incarnate (Sermo 56, ii.; 62, iii.; Ep. 28, iv.; Sermo 64, iv.; 70, iii.). His language is in itself quite compatible with the theory that will be advocated in this book; but he shewed no sign that he felt the need of defining the content of the subject of manhood of Christ.

Note V--Kenotic Authors Named in Chapter V

Thomasius. See Dorner, Person of Christ, Div. 2, Vol. III, pp. 228-246, etc. Bruce, Humiliation of Christ, pp. 138-144, 177-178, 386-394.

Fairbairn. Christ in Modern Theology, pp. 346-357, 475-479. Note especially his differentiation of God and Godhead, pp. 385 ff.; and the development of the idea of sonship, pp. 470 ff. The crucial passage for the kenosis is at pp. 475-477.

Gess. See Bruce, pp. 144-152, 178-181, and 394-410. Godet, St. John, Vol. I, p. 401. (T. and T. Clark.)

Godet. St. John, Vol. I, pp. 362 ff., 378, 396 ff., 399 ff., 403, note.

Clarke. Outline of Christian Theology (15th ed.). For the distinction of Trinity and Triunity, see pp. 161-181. For the manner of the Incarnation, see pp. 285-302.

Martensen. Christian Dogmatics (T. and T. Clark), pp. 240 ff., 259 ff., 264 ff.

Gore. Dissertations, pp. 94-97, 192-193, 202-207, 215-25.

Note VI--Passages Bearing on Our Lord's Knowledge

(i) Instances of Insight.

Matt. 9:4; 12:15, 25; 26:21, 34.

Mark 2:8; 14:18, 30.

Luke 6:8; 7:39, 40 ; 22:21, 34, 61.

John 2:24, 25; 6:70, 71; 13:21; 11:11-14; 13:38; and 1:47, 48.

(ii) Foreknowledge of the Passion.

Matt. 16:21; 17:22, 23; 20:18, 19; 26:2.

Mark 8:31; 9:9, 31; 10:33, 34.

Luke 9:22; 18:32, 33.

John 2:19; 12:32, 33; 13:1-3; 18:4.

(iii) Special manifestations of knowledge.

Matt. 17:27; 21:2.

Mark 21:2; 14:13.

Luke 19:30; 22:10.

John 4:17, 18.

(iv) Questions for information.

Mark 5:30; 6:38.

Luke 8:45-48.

John 11:34.

(I do not quote cases that I have not discussed, as there is much dispute about passages under this head.)

(v) Ignorance of the Judgement Day.

Matt. 24:36.

Mark 13:32.

(vi) Questions used in teaching, and rebuking, and to support conversation.

These cases are too numerous to mention. Examples are--

Matt. 8:26; 9:4, 28.

Mark 12:15.

John 6:5, 6.

Note VII--The Brethren of Our Lord

I have taken the traditional view that our Lord's mother was ever a virgin; and that the so-called brothers and sisters of the Christ were the children of Joseph by his first wife. The whole matter can be studied in Lightfoot's dissertation on the subject in his commentary on the Galatians. The new Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels also has an article.


Some readers may be struck by a certain similarity between points in my theory and points in Dr. Moberly's work on Atonement and Personality. It is fair to them and to myself to say that at the time that I composed the dissertation which is the basis of this book I had not read Dr. Moberly's book. Books take a very long time to reach a mission library. It is, however, a great joy to me to find that on some points I could quote so high an authority as the late Regius Professor of Pastoral Theology.

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