The Incarnation of Christ Part III: The Person of the Incarnate Christ -- By: John F. Walvoord

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 117:467 (Jul 1960)
Article: The Incarnation of Christ Part III: The Person of the Incarnate Christ
Author: John F. Walvoord


The Incarnation of Christ
Part III:
The Person of the Incarnate Christ

John F. Walvoord

[Editor’s Note: This article is the third in a series on “The Incarnation of Christ.”]

The Relation of the Two Natures

Few subjects in the realm of theology are more difficult than the definition of the relation of the two natures in the incarnate Christ. Theologians are faced first with the problem of definition. The English word nature is derived from the Latin natura and is the equivalent of the Greek phusis (cf. Rom 2:14; Gal 2:15; 4:8; Eph 2:3; 2 Pet 1:4). In the history of Christian doctrine the usage of the term nature has varied, but the word is now commonly used to designate the divine or human elements in the person of Christ. In theology the expression substance from the Latin substantia is also used, corresponding to the Greek ousia. All of these terms are used to define the real essence, the inward properties which underlie all outward manifestation. As this refers to the person of Christ, nature is seen to be the sum of all the attributes and their relationship to each other. Necessarily, such attributes must be compatible to the nature to which they correspond and cannot be transferred to another substance or nature. As applied to the problem of defining the humanity and deity of Christ, nature as used of the humanity of Christ includes all that belongs to His humanity. As applied to the deity of Christ, it includes all that belongs to His deity. Hence, theologians speak of two natures, the human and the divine, each with their respective attributes.

Much confusion arose in the early history of the church on the problem of how such incompatible natures as a human nature and a divine nature could be joined in one person without one or the other losing some of its essential characteristics. The resulting discussion, however, led to the orthodox statement that the two natures are united without loss of any essential attributes and that the two natures maintain their separate identity. Through the Incarnation of Christ, the two natures were inseparably united in such a way that there was no mixture or loss of their separate identity and without loss

or transfer of any property or attribute of one nature to the other. The union thus consummated is a personal or hypostatic union in that Christ is one person, not two, and is everlasting in keeping ...

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