Did Christ have a fallen human nature? – Part 7 of 8

by Fr. Emmanuel Hatzidakis | December 12, 2019

In our previous post we addressed the statement, “No special exceptions are needed for Him” and we pointed out that Christ’s conception and birth were not like ours. Indeed, special exceptions are needed in His case, because by all accounts He is an extraordinary Being.

In another post our blogger states that Jesus was “born of a human vessel.” The most holy Virgin is not a “vessel,” a test tube. The incarnation was not “in vitro fertilization”; Jesus was not a “test tube” baby.” She conceived of the Holy Spirit, but she gestated and gave birth as any mother, yet in a supernatural and incomprehensible way, because her baby was the second person of the Holy Trinity in the flesh. She gave birth while keeping her virginity.

We now turn to other aspects of His humanness that reveal His “otherness.”

Was Christ’s humanity the same as ours?

Yes, Christ was/is 100% human, but more than that. Much more. So there were more “exceptions” in Christ. Besides His miracles, His suffering and death, and especially His bodily resurrection from the dead, they all testify that He was more than merely human. Contrary to the blogger’s assertion that Christ was a “human just like we are,” the Church’s belief is that even considered in His humanity He was above our human nature.

1) An official pronouncement of the Church

Sixth Ecumenical Synod, Synodical Epistle by St. Sophronios of Jerusalem:

His human characteristics were above human nature… and were not [acting upon Him] tyrannically or by constraint and unwillingly, as it is with us.”

2) The witness of the Holy Scripture

  • Mk. 2:10: The Son of Man has authority to forgive sins.
  • Lk. 9:47: Jesus perceived the thoughts of their hearts...
  • John 3:31: He who comes from above is above all…he who comes from heaven is above all.
  • John 6:40: I will raise him up at the last day.
  • Acts 2:27 (Ps. 16:10): For You will not abandon My soul to Hades, nor let Your Holy One see corruption.

3) The witness of the Fathers of the Church

St. Athanasios

God is not changed into human flesh or substance, but in Himself He glorified the nature that He assumed, so that human nature with its weak and mortal flesh was exalted into divine glory, whereby it possessed all power in heaven and on earth, which it did not possess before it was assumed by the Logos.

St. Gregory of Nyssa

He was born, and yet transcended our common humanity both in the manner of His birth, and by His incapacity of a change to corruption … [B]oth His birth and death were independent of the conditions of human weakness,—in fact, were above nature.

St. Dionysios the Areopagite

He is not called man as Author of men, but as being truly man in His essence. However, we do not define the Lord Jesus humanly, for He is not man only (neither beyond human essence nor of mere human essence)… [He] took substance above substance, and works things of man above man.

St. Maximos the Confessor

His flesh, united to Him hypostatically, was not human in the human way, for He was not a mere human being; but having seized the human [passions] naturally—for He had a human nature—He was carried to act not according to a natural need or constrain which is natural with us, but according to a divine authority.

4) The witness of the hymnology of the Church

Christmas Great Hours

God has appeared to men from a Virgin, assuming our form and deifying what He assumed.

5) The confirmation by Orthodox theologians

Fr. Georges Florovsky

The humanity of the Logos is different from ours: it is without sin. This has a decisive soteriological significance: Christ was exempt from the inevitability of death, and consequently His death was a voluntary death, or free sacrifice.

Fr. John Romanides

The Lord alone was exempted from this captivity [to be in a state of corruption and death], being born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin.

These differences are not “excuses.” They constitute our faith concerning Jesus Christ, and one is not allowed to distort the truth and falsify our Orthodox faith passed on to us. Christ was sinless. We are not. So what similarity is there between us? Sinless means not that He didn’t commit any sin, but that He could not commit any sin. He had a sinless nature. Not because natures have or have not sins, but because the agent of that nature, the hypostasis (person, if you wish) of Christ’s humanity is the sinless Son of God. But if Christ’s human nature was sinless, and if death is a consequence of sin, that means He should not suffer or die (and notice, we don’t say He couldn’t, but He shouldn’t). But He did. So, what’s your answer? Our answer will be the subject of our next and final post.

Some of this material was drawn from my book, Jesus: Fallen? The Human Nature of Christ Examined from an Eastern Orthodox Perspective (Orthodox Witness: Clearwater, FL, 2013).

Article graphics and editing by Anthony Hatzidakis

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