1999 James A. Fowler
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I. Biblical references to "Christology"
A. There are no Biblical usages of
the word "Christology"
is derived from two Greek words
Christos meaning "Christ"
logos meaning "word, reason, study of"
is the study of the Person of Jesus Christ
distinct from "soteriology," which is the study of
the work of Jesus Christ in redemption
Christology addresses the issue of Jesus being both God and man,
and becoming such
Scripture has abundant references both to the deity and humanity
"Christology" attempts to correlate and explain how
Jesus could be both God and
in the same person.
B. Some references to Jesus' Deity
- Jn. 1:1,2; 17:5; Phil. 2:6; Col. 1:17; Rev. 1:8
- Jn. 1:3,10; I Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16
- Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3
of life - Jn. 5:26; 11:25; 14:6; 17:3; Rom. 6:23; I Jn. 5:12
of God - Matt. 11:27; Jn. 1:18; 14:7; II Cor. 4:4; Heb. 1:3
of God - Mk. 1:1; 9:7; Lk. 1:35; Jn. 1:34; 10:36; Rom. 1:4
as God - Jn. 5:18; 10:30; Phil. 2:6; Col. 1:19; 2:9; Titus 2:13;
Heb. 1:8; I Jn. 5:20
8. I AM
- Mk. 14:62; Lk. 22:70; Jn. 8:24,58; 11:25; 14:6; 18:5
- Matt. 28:19; I Cor. 12:4-6; Eph. 3:14-17
10. Holy One
- Mk. 1:24; John 6:69; Acts 2:27; 3:14
11. Object of
faith - Mk. 8:34-38; Jn. 6:29,40; I Jn. 5:13
sin - Matt. 9:6; Mk. 2:7,10; Lk. 5:21,23; Acts 5:31
13. Savior -
Matt. 1:21; Lk. 2:30; Jn. 1:29; 4:42; Acts 4:12; 5:31; Heb. 5:9;
II Pt. 1:1,11
14. Lord - Lk.
2:11; John 20:28; Rom. 10:9,12; 14:9; I Cor. 12:3; II Cor. 13:14;
- Eph. 1:20-22; Col. 1:18; 2:10
16. Judge - Matt.
7:21-23; 25:31-46; Jn. 5:22-30; II Cor. 5:10; II Tim. 4:1,8
- Acts 7:55,59; Phil. 2:8,9; Heb. 2:9; Rev. 3:21
C. Some references to Jesus' humanity
- Matt. 1:1-17; Lk. 3:23-38
as infant - Matt. 2:1; Lk. 2:7; Rom. 1:3; Gal. 4:4
flesh - Lk. 24:39; Jn. 1:14; Rom. 8:2; Heb. 2:14; I Jn. 4:2
- Col. 2:9; I Jn. 1:1-3
and growth - Lk. 2:40,46,51
senses - Matt. 4:2; Jn. 4:6; 11:34; 19:28
- Matt. 9:36; 26:37-40; Mk. 10:21; Lk. 10:21; Jn. 11:35; 12:27
- Matt. 4:1-11; Lk. 4:1-3; 22:44; Heb. 2:18; 4:15; 5:7
- Matt. 14:23; Mk. 1:35; Lk. 5:16; 22:39,41
activity - Jn. 8:28; 14:10; Acts 2:22
11. Death - Jn.
19:30; Phil. 2:8
12. Son of Man
- Mk. 8:31; 9:12; 10:33
13. Man - Acts
2:22; Rom. 5:15; I Cor. 15:21; Phil. 2:7,8; I Tim. 2:5
D. Particular references to God becoming
man in the incarnation of Jesus
- "the Word was God...the Word became flesh..."
- "His Son, who was born a descendant of David according
to the flesh"
- "God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh...
condemned sin in
- "the Christ according to the flesh"
- "in the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son, born
of a woman"
- "Christ Jesus...existed in the form of God..., but emptied
Himself, taking the
of a bond-servant, being made in the likeness of men...found
in appearance as a
3:16 - "He who was revealed in the flesh"
- "He Himself likewise partook of the same (flesh and blood),
that through death
might render powerless him who had the power of death...the devil"
I Jn. 1:1,2
- "the Word of Life...was manifested"
II. A brief history of Christian discussion concerning
the Christological incarnation
A. Greek Gnosticism suggested Jesus
only "appeared" to be human - Docetism
B. Ebionites (Jewish Christians) asserted
Jesus was fully human, and Holy Spirit descended
at baptism - Adoptionism.
C. Arius (c. 250-336) argued that Jesus
was subordinate to God the Father. "There was a time
Son was not" - Subordinationism; denial of pre- existence.
D. Council of Nicea (325) affirmed that
Jesus was fully God and fully man in homoousion.
E. Apollinarius (c. 310-380) posited
that human rational soul of Jesus was replaced by divine
in single nature - Monophysitism
F. Gregory of Nazianzus (330-389) stated,
"the unassumed is the unhealed"
G. Nestorius (c. 380-451) suggested that
there were two separate beings in Jesus Christ; no real
H. Eutyches (c. 378-454) indicated that
the human nature was absorbed into the divine in a
I. Tome of Pope Leo (449), Council
of Chalcedon (451) established orthodoxy as "two natures
and human) in one hypostasis or Person (Lat. personae)."
J. Leontius of Byzantium (c. 500-560)
introduced concept of enhypostasia, that human nature
did not have independent existence.
K. German theology of 18th and 19th centuries
- quest for "historical Jesus." Led to R.
L. Nineteenth century theology - argument
of kenotic theories of Christology
M. Karl Barth (1886-1968) - Christocentric
revelation of God. Humanity of God- assumption
into Deity, leading to universalism.
III. Issues of consideration concerning the Christological
A. What is meant by God and man?
Word of God - Jn. 1:1,14
Son of God - Rom. 1:3; 8:3
God the Father
Deity, Divinity, Godhead
Flesh - Jn. 1:14; Rom. 8:3
Human form - cf. Phil. 2:7
Humanity at large; human race
B. How can deity and humanity be unified?
and functions appear mutually antithetical
The Creator/creature distinction must always be maintained, and
never allowed to merge
C. How is it that two become one?
the twoness - what is commonality of God and man?
D. What type of union is formed?
Word became flesh - Jn. 1:14
Son in the likeness of sinful flesh - Rom. 8:3
taking the form of a bond-servant - Phil. 2:7
being made in the likeness of men - Phil. 2:7
partook of flesh and blood - Heb. 2:14
Word of Life was manifested - I Jn. 1:1,2
E. Necessary balance
Being, nature, life inherent in God
Even if one can conceive of Jesus being God and man simultaneously;
to fathom the simultaneous function/behavior/action of God and
Kenotic "emptying" of Phil. 2:7 cannot refer to ontological
Being, and must therefore
to operational Action of the voluntary laying aside of the prerogative
F. Some additional questions
1. If we
refer to "two natures" or any other commonalities of
God and man...
does this not establish an equality or equity?
Is this based on inadequate anthropological understanding?
2. Is the
union of God and man in Jesus Christ an eternal union?
Not in same sense as eternal unity of Godhead in Trinity
The union was commenced in time - Gal. 4:4
Is the God-man union everlasting? If so...
Does Jesus still have physical flesh, embodiment?
Is Jesus human forever?
Does the humanity of Jesus come to indwell us also?
Is Jesus still visible, mortal, temptible, dependent?
God become man?
Not a Biblical statement
Is this statement overly inclusive and unitary?
IV. Implications of attempting to understand the Christological
A. Correlation of Trinitarian and
1. 3 in
1 of Trinity sets up 2 in 1 of Christology
of unity and union considerations
Trinity - essential Divine unity
Christology - integral personal union
Christian and Christ - indwelling identificational union
B. Alternative responses to the Christological
as unreasonable - absurdity
to human reason by attempting to resolve antinomies; inevitably
humanity to neglect of other
the revelation of God concerning Christological incarnation
finite human reason will never explain or define
must accept manner in which God has revealed Himself
failure to do so is deification of human reason
C. Accepting the imprecision of Christological
explanation and definition
of translation and interpretation of meaning from the very beginning
Greek ousia translated as Latin substantia or essentia
Greek phusis translated as Latin substantia
Greek hypostasis translated as Latin personae,
creeds and formulations not as precise as many Christians think.
finite understanding still attempting to explain
D. Must look beyond Christological explanations
want to get mired in abstractions of thought
purpose of Christological incarnation
II Cor. 5:19 - "God was in Christ reconciling the world
"Man Christ Jesus" (I Tim. 2:5) serves as "one
mediator between God and man"
having effected redemption by taking the death consequences of
in order to reinvest and restore Divine life (I Jn. 5:12) and
Divine nature (II Pet. 1:4)
man by His Spirit.