Summary Against Modern Thought: Errors About The Incarnation VIII

Summary Against Modern Thought: Errors About The Incarnation VIII

Previous post.

Week 8 refuting arguments claiming Jesus was not the Word Incarnated. After last week, we’re ready for something a little simpler.


1 Since the mystery of the Incarnation, as has been shown in many ways, must be understood thus: there is one and the same person of the Word of God and the man, a certain difficulty remains in the consideration of this truth. For necessarily its personality follows the divine nature. The case seems to be the same for human nature, for everything which subsists in an intellectual or a rational nature fulfills the account of person. Hence, it does not seem possible that there be one Person and two natures, divine and human.

2 Now, for the solution of this difficulty various men have proposed various positions. Eutyches, for instance, to preserve the unity of person in Christ against Nestorius, says there is one nature, also. He says that, although before the union there were two distinct natures, the divine and human, they came together, nevertheless, in the union into one nature. And so he said that the person of Christ “is from two natures,” but does not “subsist in two natures.” For this he was condemned by the Council of Chalcedon.

3 The falsity of this position, of course, appears in many ways. For we showed above that there was in Christ Jesus a body, a rational soul, and divinity. And, clearly, the body of Christ even after the union was not the very divinity of the Word; for the body of Christ even after the union could be touched, could be seen with bodily eyes, and had distinctly outlined members.

All of these are foreign to the divinity of the Word, as the foregoing make clear. And in like fashion the soul of Christ after the union was other than the divinity of the Word, because after the union the soul of Christ was affected by the passions of sadness, of sorrow, and of anger. These, too, are entirely disproportionate to the divinity of the Word, as the foregoing shows. But a human soul and a human body constitute a human nature. Thus, then, even after the union, the human nature in Christ was other than the divinity of the Word which is the divine nature. Therefore, in Christ, even after the union, there are two natures.

4 Again. It is by its nature that something is called a natural thing. One calls it a natural thing because it has a form, as one does with an artificial thing; one does not call a house a house before it has the form of its architecture, nor a horse a horse before it has the form of its nature. The form of a natural thing is, then, its nature. But one must say that in Christ there are two forms, even after the union. For the Apostle says of Christ Jesus, when he was “in the form of God, He took the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:6-7). Of course, one cannot say that the form of God is the same as the form of the servant.

For nothing receives what it already has, and so, if the form of God and of the servant are the same, He would not, since He already had the form of God, have received the form of servant. Neither, again, can one say that the form of God in Christ is corrupted by the union, because thus after the union Christ would not be God. Nor, again, can one say that the form of the servant was corrupted in the union, because thus He would not have received the form of the servant. But neither can one say that the form of the servant is mixed thoroughly with the form of God, for things mixed thoroughly do not retain their integrity; rather, each is in part corrupted, and so the Apostle would not say that He had received the form of the servant, but something of the servant. Hence, One ought to say respecting the words of the Apostle that in Christ even after the union there were two forms; therefore, two natures.

5 The name “nature,” moreover, in its first imposition had as meaning the very generation of things being born. Thence it was carried over to meaning the principle of this kind of generation, and then to signifying the principle of motion intrinsic to the moveable thing. And because this kind of principle is matter or form, nature is further called the form or matter of a thing which has in itself a principle of motion. And since form and matter constitute the essence of the natural thing, the name was extended to meaning the essence of everything whatsoever which exists in nature. As a result of this, the nature of a thing is called “the essence signified by the definition.”O In this last fashion nature is in question here, for thus we say that there is in Christ human nature and divine.

6 Now, then, if, as Eutyches held, the human nature and the divine were two before the union, but from those in the union one nature was breathed together, this should take place in one of the ways in which it is natural that one comes to be from many.

7 Now, one way in which one comes from many is the way of order alone; so from many homes a city comes to be, or from many soldiers an army. Another way is that of order and composition; so a house comes to be when they join together its parts and its walls. But neither of these two ways fits the constitution of one nature from a plurality. For things whose form is order or juxtaposition are not natural things. The result is that their unity cannot be called a unity of nature.

8 In a third way, one comes from many by mixture, as from the four elements one gets a mixed body. And this way, too, does not fit the present consideration. The first reason is this: Mixture is only of things which have matter in common and by nature act and react reciprocally. Such cannot, indeed, be the case here, for it was shown in Book I that God is entirely immaterial and subject to no action.

The second reason is this: When one thing greatly exceeds another there can be no mixture, for, if a man puts a drop of wine into a thousand measures of water, he is not mixing, but spoiling, the wine. For the same reason we do not say that wood thrown into a furnace is mixed with the fire, but by reason of the superior power of the fire consumed by the fire. The divine nature, of course, exceeds the human by infinity, since the divine power is infinite, as was shown in Book I. There cannot, then, be any mixture at all of each nature.

The third reason is this: If a mixture were to come into being, neither nature would be preserved. For things subject to mixture are not preserved in the mixed product, if it be a true mixture. Given, then, a thorough mixture of each of the two natures, the divine, namely, and the human, neither of the two natures would remain, but some third. What Eutyches said, then, cannot be understood thus: There were two natures before the union, but after the union one nature in our Lord Jesus Christ, as though from two natures one nature has been established. Therefore, the understanding of it which remains is this: Either the one or the other remained after the union. Either, then, there was in Christ the divine nature only and what appeared human in Him was but phantasy as Mani said; or the divine nature was converted into the human as Apollinaris said. But against these we have previously disputed. The conclusion, then, is that it is impossible that before the union there were two natures in Christ; after the union, but one.

9 There is more. One never finds one coming to be from two abiding natures, because any nature is a kind of whole, but its constituents are accounted for as parts. Hence, when one comes to be from a soul and a body, neither the soul nor the body can be called a nature (as we are now speaking of nature), because neither has the complete species, but each is a part of the one nature. Since human nature, then, is a kind of complete nature, and the divine nature is similarly, it is impossible that they concur in one nature without the corruption either of each of the two, or of one of the two. Now, this cannot be, since from our previous points” the one Christ clearly is both true God and true man. It is impossible, then, that in Christ there is only one nature.

10 Again, from two abiding one nature is constituted: from bodily parts, if you like, as an animal is constituted of its members—which cannot be said in this case, since the divine nature is not something bodily; if you like, something one is constituted from matter and form, as an animal is constituted of its soul and body. Neither can this be said in the present discussion, for it was shown in Book II that God can neither be matter nor the form of anything. Then, if Christ is true God and true man, as was seen, it is impossible that in Him there be one nature only.

11 The subtraction or addition of an essential principle, furthermore, varies the species of a thing; consequently, it changes the nature which is not other than “the essence which the definition signifies.” For this reason we see that a specific difference added to a definition or subtracted from it makes a difference in species; so the rational animal and the one lacking reason differ in species, just as in numbers the addition or subtraction of unity makes another species of number.

But form is an essential principle. So, every addition of form makes another species and another nature (as we are now speaking of nature). If, then, the divinity of the Word be added to the human nature as a form, it will make another nature. And thus Christ will not be of the human nature but of some other, just as an animated body is of another nature than that which is body only.

12 Then, again, things which do not agree in nature are not similar in species; man and horse, for example. But, if Christ’s nature be a composite of the divine and human, clearly Christ’s nature will not be in other men. Therefore, He will not be similar to us in species. And this is contrary to the Apostle’s word: “It behooved Him in all things to be made like unto His brethren” (Heb. 2:17).

13 There is more. One species is always constituted of form and matter which is actually or potentially predicable of many according to the essentials of the species. If, then, the divine nature accrues to the human nature as a form, some common species must spring from the mixture of the two, and in this many should be able to share. And this is plainly false. For there is but one Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 8:6), God and man. Therefore, the divine and human natures have not established one nature in Christ.

14 Moreover, even this saying of Eutyches seems foreign to the faith, that before the union there were two natures in Christ. For, since a human nature is constituted of a soul and a body, it would follow that the soul, or the body, or both were in being before Christ’s incarnation. And this the points made above show to be false. This, then, is contrary to the faith: to say that before the union there were two natures in Christ and, after the union, one.

Notes Just three more short weeks of errors. Then we get to the Church teachings.


  1. C-Marie

    No matter how reason able the arguments for the Divinity and the Humanity of Jesus Christ, those who choose to not believe Him or in Him, will not be persuaded. Faith imparted by the Holy Spirit is the answer.
    God bless, C-Marie

  2. Shack Toms

    Yet it is a mistake to confound the divine and human natures. As the Chalcedonian definition states, Jesus Christ is “recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence”.

    It also asserts that, as regards the human nature (I think this refers at least to the physically manifested Jesus, the man), that he is “like us in all respects, apart from sin”. I wonder if perhaps we should take that seriously. As the old maxim goes, “He became what we are to make us what he is.”

    Humankind was (and I believe is) animated by the divine breath of life and remember that the divine is not divisible. So perhaps where we really fall short is not ontology, but sin. And perhaps we should honor our fellow human beings because it was perhaps literally true when Jesus said that “whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for me”. There may be a good theological reason that love of and service to others is so bound up with love of and obedience to the divine.

    I am Episcopalian (although perhaps a bad one) and in our baptismal promises we pledge, with God’s help, to “seek and serve Christ in all persons”. I don’t know if that pledge is widespread in Christianity, but I think the idea is, and I think it is profound. It makes a startling statement about human beings, all human beings. To me it is the most profound and most universal of the five baptismal promises.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *