Summary Against Modern Thought: Difficulties Of The Incarnation Explained

Summary Against Modern Thought: Difficulties Of The Incarnation Explained

Previous post.

Our first mention of Socrates!


1 With what has now been said the points made previously against faith in the Incarnation are easily disposed of.

2 For it has been shown that one must not understand the Incarnation of the Word thus: that the Word was converted into flesh or that He is united to the body as a form. Hence, it is not a consequence of the Word’s Incarnation that He who is truly God is a body or a power in a body as the first argument was trying to proceed.

3 Neither does it follow that the Word was substantially changed by the fact that He assumed human nature. For no change was made in the Word of God Himself, but only in the human nature which was assumed by the Word, in accord with which it is proper that the Word was both temporally generated and born, but to the Word Himself this was not fitting.

4 What is proposed in the third argument is also without necessity. For an hypostasis is not extended beyond the limits of that nature from which it has subsistence. The Word of God, of course, has no subsistence from the human nature, rather, He draws the human nature to His subsistence or personality. It is not through, but in, human nature that He subsists. Hence, nothing prevents the Word of God from being everywhere, although the human nature assumed by the Word of God is not everywhere.

5 Thus, also, the fourth is answered. For in any subsistent thing there must be only one nature by which it has being simply. And so, the Word of God has being simply by, the divine nature alone, not, however, by the human nature, by human nature He has being this—namely, being a man.

6 The fifth also is disposed of in the very same way. For it is impossible that the nature by which the Word subsists be other than the very person of the Word. Of course, He subsists by the divine nature and not by the human nature, but He draws the latter to His own subsistence that He may subsist in it, as was said. Hence, it is not necessary that the human nature be identical with the person of the Word.

7 From this also follows the exclusion of the sixth objection. For an hypostasis is less simple, whether in things or in the understanding, than the nature through which it is established in being: in the thing, indeed, when the hypostasis is not its nature, or in the understanding alone in the cases in which the hypostasis and the nature are identified. The hypostasis of the Word is not established simply by the human nature so as to have being through the human nature, but through it the Word has this alone: that He be man. It is, then, not necessary that the human nature be more simple than the Word so far as He is the Word, but only so far as the Word is this man.

8 From this also the way is open to solving the seventh objection. For it is not necessary that the hypostasis of the Word of God be constituted simply by signate matter, but only so far as He is this man. For only as this man is He constituted by the human nature, as was said.

9 Of course, that the soul and body in Christ are drawn to the personality of the Word without constituting a person other than the person of the Word does not point to a lessened power, as the eighth argument” would have it, but to a greater worthiness. For everything whatever has, when united to what is worthier, a better being than it has when it exists through itself; just so, the sensible soul has a nobler being in nun than it has in the other animals in which it is the principal form, for all that it is not such in man.

10 Hence, also, comes the solution to the ninth objection. In Christ there was, indeed, this soul and this body, for all that there was not constituted from them another person than the person of God’s Word, because they were assumed unto the personality of God’s Word; just as a body, too, when it is without the soul, does have its own species, but it is from the soul, when united to it, that it receives its species.

11 Thus, also, one answers what the tenth argument proposed. It is clear that this man who is Christ is a certain substance which is not universal, but particular. And He is an hypostasis; nevertheless, not another hypostasis than the hypostasis of the Word, for human nature has been assumed by the hypostasis of the Word that the Word may subsist in human as well as in divine nature. But that which subsists in human nature is this man. Hence, the Word itself is supposed, when one says “this man.”

12 But, let one move the very same objection over to human nature and say it is a certain substance, not universal but particular and consequently an hypostasis, he is obviously deceived. For human nature even in Socrates or Plato is not an hypostasis, but that which subsists in the nature is an hypostasis.

13 But to call a human nature a substance and particular is not to use the meaning in which one calls an hypostasis a particular substance. “Substance” we speak of with the Philosopher [Categories 5] in two ways: for the supposit, namely, in the genus of substance which is called hypostasis; and for the what-it-is which is “the nature of a thing.” But the parts of a substance are not thus called particular substances—subsisting, so to say, in themselves; they subsist in the whole. Hence, neither can one call them hypostases, for none of them is a complete substance. Otherwise, it would follow that in one man there are as many hypostases as there are parts.

14 Now, to the eleventh argument in opposition. The solution is that equivocation is introduced by a diversity of the form signified by a name, but not by diversity of supposition. For this name “man” is not taken as equivocal because sometimes it supposes Plato, sometimes Socrates.

Therefore, this name “man” said of Christ and of other men always signifies the same form; namely, human nature. This is why it is predicated of them univocally; but it is only the supposition which is changed, and, to be sure, in this: when it is taken for Christ it supposes an uncreated hypostasis, but when it is taken for others it supposes a created hypostasis.

15 Nor, again, is the hypostasis of the Word said to be the supposit of the human nature, as though subjected to the latter as to a more formal principle, as the twelfth argument proposed. This would, of course, be necessary if it were the human nature which establishes the hypostasis of the Word in being simply. This is obviously false: for the hypostasis of the Word is the subject of the human nature so far as He draws this latter unto His own subsistence, just as something drawn to a second and nobler thing to which it is united.

16 For all that, it does not follow that the human nature accrues to the Word accidentally, because the Word pre-exists from eternity, as the final argument was trying to conclude. For the Word assumed human nature so as to be truly man. But to be man is to be in the genus of a substance. Therefore, since by union with human nature the hypostasis of the Word has the being of man, this does not accrue to the Word accidentally. For accidents do not bestow substantial being.


  1. Uncle Mike

    I find this essay difficult to understand, in part because of the repetitive use of “hypostasis”. The word may mean “essence” or possibly something more basic like Platonic “form”, although the difference between the two is unclear to me. I think I get what Aquinas was driving at, but I’m not sure about the route he took.

  2. Barry Malcolm

    Jesus was/is not a historical person. A fabrication/amalgam from Ancient Assyrian, Egyptian and Pagan myths. There are “truths” in the myths and stories but they are not historical.

  3. Oldavid

    Ullow, ullow, ullow, we’ve go another foghorn on the block. This one is called Bleary Malcolmtent. His “wisdom” is accessible in any of the occult dungeons of the Synagogue.

    I’m a little bit inclined to agree with Unc but! my understanding of the hypostatic union is the intimate coexistence of two “essences” (the Divine and the Human) in that one and only Man. I can easily accept THAT it is so because it is so consistent with the conceivable nature and purpose of Creation but I cannot form a concept of HOW it is so. P’raps ole Tom has some idea of how it might be so but I’ve not been able to glean that idea from his writings. Maybe another possibility is that Tom got a glimpse of the hypostasis and that prompted him to give up trying to explain things as just so much “straw”.

    Now the indefatigable C-Marie will chime in with another “don’t get tangled up in all that stuff, this what y’ need to know and accept.”

  4. swordfishtrombone

    Two ways to explain ‘difficulties’ with the incarnation:

    1. Aquinas’s confused waffling based on a stack of arguments about two hundred layers deep.
    2. It didn’t happen.

    Which is simpler?

  5. Oldavid

    C-Marie has let me down. I’m starting to wonder that I might be on the wrong track.

Leave a Reply

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