Summary Against Modern Thought: Errors About The Incarnation X

Summary Against Modern Thought: Errors About The Incarnation X

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Week 10 refuting arguments claiming Jesus was not the Word Incarnated.


1 From the foregoing it is clear that there is only one Person in Christ as the faith maintains; and that there are two natures, contrarily to what Nestorius and Eutyches held. Yet this appears foreign to what natural reason experiences, and therefore there were some later on who took a position on this union such as the following. The soul and body union constitutes a man, but the union of this soul and this body constitutes this man. And this is the designation of person or hypostasis.

Wishing, then, to avoid being pushed into asserting in Christ some hypostasis or person other than the hypostasis or Person of the Word, these men said that the soul and body were not united in Christ, nor was a substance made from them. In saying this they were trying to avoid the Nestorian heresy. This also seemed impossible: that one thing be substantial to another, yet not be of the nature which that other previously had, without any mutation taking place; and the Word, of course, is entirely immutable.

Therefore, lest they be forced to make the assumed soul and body belong to the nature which the Word had eternally, they laid it down that the Word assumed the human soul and body in an accidental fashion, just as a man puts on his clothes. By this they wished to exclude the error of Eutyches.

2 But this position is entirely repugnant to the teaching of the faith. For a soul and body by their union constitute a man, since a form which accrues to matter constitutes a species. If, then, soul and body were not united in Christ, Christ was not a man. This goes against the Apostle’s words: The mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).

3 Again, everyone of us is said to be a man on this account that he is constituted of a rational soul and a body. But, if Christ is not called man on that account but only because He had a soul and a body, although not united, He will be called man equivocally and will not be in the same species with us. This is against the Apostle’s words: “It behooved Him in all things to be made like unto His brethren” (Heb. 2:17).

4 Furthermore, not every body belongs to human nature, but the human body alone. Of course, it is not a human body except for the fact that it has been vivified by union with the rational soul. For one says neither eye, nor hand, nor foot, nor flesh, nor bone, with the soul gone, except by equivocation. Therefore, one will not be able to say that the Word assumed human nature if He did not assume a body united to a soul.

5 What is more, the human soul by its nature has a capacity for union with the body. Therefore, a soul which is never united to a body to constitute something is not a human soul, for “what is apart from nature can never be.” If then, the soul of Christ is not united to His body to constitute something, we conclude that it is not a human soul. And, thus, in Christ there was no human nature.

6 There is more. If the Word was united to the soul and body accidentally, as one is to clothing, the human nature was not the nature of the Word. Then the Word, after the union, was not subsisting in two natures; just as a man in his clothing is not said to subsist in two natures. It was for saying this that Eutyches was condemned at the Council of Chalcedon.

7 Again, what the clothes suffer is not referred to the wearer. One does not say a man is born when he is dressed, nor wounded if his clothes are torn. If the Word, then, took on a soul and a body, as a man does his clothes, no one will be able to say that God was born, or that He suffered by reason of the body He assumed.

Notes What a delightful rebuttal.

8 If the Word, moreover, assumed human nature only as a garment in which to be apparent to the eyes of men, He would have assumed the soul in vain. This by its nature is invisible.

9 Furthermore, in this fashion the Son’s assumption of the flesh would not have differed from the Holy Spirit’s assumption of the form of a dove in which He appeared (Mat. 3:16). And this is plainly false. For one does not say the Holy Spirit has “become dove” or is “less than the Father,” as one says that the Son “has become man” and is less than the Father in the nature, assumed (John 14:28).

10 Again, when it is earnestly weighed, the awkwardness of a diversity of heresies follows on this position. For in saying that the Son of God is united to the soul and the flesh in an accidental mode as a man is to his garments, it agrees with the opinion of Nestorius, who claimed the union took place by the indwelling of God’s Word in a man. God’s being clothed, of course, cannot be understood through bodily touch but only through indwelling grace.

And in saying that the union of the Word to the soul and human flesh was accidental, one must be saying that the Word after the union was not subsistent in two natures. And this Eutyches said. For nothing subsists in that to which it is accidentally united. But, when this position says that the soul and body are not united to constitute something, it partially agrees with Arius and Apollinaris: they held that the body of Christ was not animated by the rational soul; and it partially agrees with Mani: he held that Christ was not true man, but a phantasy only. For, if the soul is not united to the flesh for the constitution of something, it was but phantasy when Christ appeared similar to other men constituted by the union of soul and body.

11 This position, of course, had as its occasion the words of the Apostle: “In habit found as a man” (Phil. 2:70). They did not understand that this was said metaphorically. But things said metaphorically need not be similar in every respect. So, the human nature assumed by the Word has a kind of likeness to clothing, in that the Word was seen in His visible flesh just as a man is seen in his clothing; but the likeness is not in this, that the union of the Word to human nature in Christ was in an accidental mode.


  1. John Watkins

    Hey, I thought it was perfectly reasonable!

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