Let’s learn about these key Christological points together, in the Q & A format.
As noted in the other posts in this series, theologians have to work out how these verses (and many others) fit together:
Phil. 2:6-8 (the highlighted portion says in Greek that he emptied himself, called the kenosis or emptying):
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
And Col. 2:9 indicates the fullness of Deity lives in bodily form, now in heaven and while he was on earth:
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.
John 1:14 says that the Word became flesh.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
What does his emptying look like? How exactly was he the God-man at his incarnation and during his ministry?
Don’t feel frustrated if you don’t get this at first and you have to read it several times. Sooner or later, things will “click.” It’s a profound mystery, after all!
Let’s get started.
1.. What does Christology mean?
As noted, you can see the word Christ. -O- is the mediating vowel, log– means “study or science of,” and -y is a noun ending. So it means “the study of Christ.”
2.. What does hypostatic union mean?
It is the union of Christ’s two natures, human and divine.
It means the union of Christ’s two natures (divine and human) in one person. In the section at this website on the Triunity (or Trinity), we learned that hypostasis can be translated as person, but the more formal definition encompasses subsistence or the way something exists.
Meaning: Hypostasis (person or being) union (of two natures).
So in this case it refers to two natures in one person or subsistence.
3.. What does incarnation mean?
Literally it means “the process or act of (being, coming) in flesh” (-carn– means “flesh”). It refers to the eternal Son of God taking on, assuming, or becoming the flesh of humanity.
God becomes man, deity and humanity in one person, Jesus Christ. He took on human nature at his birth (or conception).
4.. What does theanthropos mean?
The– means God, and anthrop– means man (-os ending is masculine nominative), so it means the “God-man,” which is a perfect word for Jesus’ incarnation and the union of his two natures, in one person.
5.. What does person mean in Christology?
It is the “I” or the “who” of you and me. We have will, emotions and intentions, and minds–that is our person.
In the Chalcedonian Creed or Creed of Chalcedon (AD 451), we read:
… The distinction of the [divine and human] 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 [prosōpon] and subsistence [hypostasis], not parted or separate into two persons …. (from Frame, Systematic, pp. 887-88, emphasis added)
See my post Statement of Faith: Three Historic Creeds, and look for the Creed of Chalcedon.
The Greek word translated person was prosōpon, which literally means “face.” (In 1 Thess. 3:10 it can mean “the whole person.”) The Latin version of the Creed translates it as persona. The Greek word hypostasis was translated as subsistence. In this case, the two terms prosōpon and hypostasis seem to be synonyms, or at least that seems to be the intention of the Creed’s authors. In truth, the language of the Creed was confused, as it goes from one language to the next, particularly into English.
So instead let’s focus on subsistence. It means “being.”
The person or being (subsistence) of Jesus is fully God and unlike us, and he is fully human and like us (except without sin). Those two natures come together to form one person or being.
Theologians usually stick with person: Christ is two natures in one person. Or this is equivalent and acceptable: Christ is two natures in one being.
Jesus of Nazareth (one person) is both God and man (two natures).
6.. What does the word nature mean?
Nature in the Chalcedonian Creed was the Greek word physis. In this context it is synonymous with essence, and essence means a collection of attributes. Christ’s human nature contained all human attributes except sin (emotion, will, consciousness, intelligence and so on). And Christ’s divine nature contained all the attributes of deity (omniscience, omnipotence, Lordship, eternality, sovereignty, immortality, consciousness, will, and so on).
However, it is better that we use the word nature instead of essence because it may mislead some us into believing essence is two persons. Nature still means a collection of attributes! Sometimes terminology is just a matter of tradition and history and the avoidance of confusion.
Bottom line: Theologians use nature for clarity.
7.. What does ‘filioque’ mean?
It is a Latin phrase meaning “and the Son.” Fil– means “son,” and the que attached means “and.”
In the Western church, Latin was the language of theology and the church. In the Eastern church, Greek was spoken and official.
The Nicene creed drawn up in 325 AD in the East said that the Spirit proceeds “from the Father.” It said nothing about his proceeding from the Son.
A local church council in Toledo, Spain (the Western church) in 589 AD added the phrase “and the Son.” So the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.
Normally this should not pose a problem, but this was about the nature of the Trinity, and since the Father takes the leading role, it made more sense that the Spirit would proceed from the Father.
Then politics got involved. The additional phrase (“and the Son”) received official endorsement from the Latin church in 1017, at a time when the Greek east felt the pressure of Islam aggressively and without provocation invading its territories. Sometimes the Western church helped the Eastern church in the Crusades; other times the West did not. In fact, sometimes the West attacked the East instead of the Islamic armies.
Please see my post at my earlier website:
So this insignificant doctrinal point was blown out of proportion that has not been resolved to this day.
Which side has the better Scriptural support?
In my view, it is the Western church, in these two verses from John:
When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. (John 15:26)
Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7b)
Both the verses say the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Also, if the Spirit proceeds only from the Father, it seems to create a distance between the Spirit and the Son.
It’s a pity the Eastern and Western churches divided over it.
In any case, we don’t need to divide over an obscure point of doctrine. Hurt feelings need to be released and purged out, and reconciliation is needed.
ARTICLES IN THE “TWO NATURES IN ONE PERSON” SERIES
1. Two Natures in One Person: Key Terms and Concepts
2. Two Natures in One Person: He Was Human and God (Scriptures in Part 2)