The Humanity of Christ -- By: John Blanchard
RAR 2:2 (Spring 1993) p. 55
The Humanity of Christ
Martin Luther said that the right way to come to a proper understanding of Jesus Christ was to begin with His humanity. Many people’s first reaction to that statement would be to question its truth and to suggest that it is much more important to establish Christ’s deity. But to think like that is to make a serious mistake. The Bible gives resounding emphasis to both, making it crystal clear that Jesus of Nazareth is both fully God and fully man, and that both His divine and human natures, united in one person, are absolutely essential to the gospel and therefore to man’s salvation.
The real and total humanity of Jesus has not always been accepted by professing Christian scholars. Among the earliest of the heresies with which the early church had to contend was the teaching of the Docetists (Gk. dokeo = to appear, to seem), who taught that all matter was essentially evil, so that if Jesus was truly sinless His body could not have been real—in other words, He must have been some kind of ghost or phantom. But in speaking of Jesus the Bible never once uses dokeo, and the whole docetic idea is undiluted speculation. Reference will be made later to one of the most conclusive of the many anti-docetic statements to be found in Scripture.
In the fourth century, apollinarianism raised its heretical head. Apollinaris was among those who welcomed the great Athanasius back from exile in A.D.346 and eventually became bishop of the Nicene Church at Laodicea. He was generally orthodox in his theology but became derailed over the issue of Christ’s humanity. He believed that the root of sin was in the human spirit, so that if Christ was divine (which he believed) He could not have possessed a human spirit. In effect, he taught that Jesus had a human anatomy but not a human psychology; He was literally soulless, the human psyche being replaced by the divine Logos. Apollinarianism was roundly condemned by a succession
RAR 2:2 (Spring 1993) p. 56
of Church Councils from A.D. 311 onwards.
A century later the church had to repel monophysitism, a doctrine popularized by Eutyches, an influential monk from Constantinople. Monophysitism, from the Greek words monos (only) and phusis (nature)—taught that the only way to safeguard the unity of Christ’s person was to unify His nature. This was done by mingling Christ’s deity and humanity in such a way that His humanity virtually disappeared. Yet in the monophysitic model Christ’s deity was also affected, eventually leaving Christ with one new nature, neither fully divine nor fully human.
Monophysitism was outlawed by the Synod of Constantinople in A.D. 44...
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