Can Jesus be fully man and fully God?
Many say that Jesus is fully man and fully God. But does scripture and reason support such a notion? The truth of the matter sheds light on the What of Who we hope in as our eternal Saviour. Reading the whole of this post with an honest heart is bound to change your way of thinking on this matter.
Origin of the term “fully man and fully God”
In the fourth century, the Catholic church (initially, Apollinaris of Laodicea) borrowed a Greek philosophical (Stoicism) term in the attempts to understand and come up with a description of the essence of Christ’s incarnation. But just because one has difficulty understanding the truth of a doctrine of God it does not give them the right to make theoretical assumptions as policy. Nevertheless, this is precisely what they did. (Those who shout the loudest are the ones more likely to be heard, and not because they are necessarily right). Consequently, the term “hypostatic union” was adopted, and the phrase “fully man (human) and fully God (deity)” was born. I will answer this difficulty of theirs later.
Is Jesus “Fully Man and Fully God” According to Reason?
Here is a full cup of Cappuccino coffee. If it was half full, the other half would consist of air. Reason dictates that if the cup is full of coffee, then it would be void of anything else. Consequently, if it is full of air it would be deemed empty of coffee. However, it cannot be filled with coffee and air. The statement contradicts itself, making it an absurdity. And this example goes for anything in the natural and spiritual.
The teaching that the body of Christ is fully man through Mary and fully God through the Holy Spirit is not reasonable in the common sense of the word. For that would make Him only half human and half God in body at best.
For if Jesus was “fully man” (human) –
Then Jesus would be a sinner
According to the “born sinners” advocates, the original sin doctrine would put Jesus as having inherited a sinful nature (on His “human” side), making Him a sinner through birth. But scripture explicitly declares that there is no darkness (sin) found in Christ (1John 1:5). Therefore, to cover this difficulty, Catholic Church Fathers (initiated by Augustine) contrived the idea of the Immaculate Conception. They purport that sin is genetically passed on through the males only, freeing Jesus from inborn sin, as He never had an earthly father. However, Mary was a sinner also according to scripture (Rom. 3:23). No one is exempt from the guilt of sin.
Then He would be barred from heaven
He would not have been allowed into heaven in the state of humanity because scripture says that flesh and blood (of humans) cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1Co 15:50). And seeing that He rose from the dead in the same fleshly body that He died with, then ascended into heaven, the notion of Jesus having a human body is therefore nullified by His ascension.
Then He couldn’t have appeared to Abraham
Whose flesh and blood did He have when He appeared to Abraham? For Abraham rejoiced when he saw Jesus in the flesh (Joh 8:56). If Jesus had a human body only because of His incarnation, inheriting His humanity from Mary, then how did He appear in human form to Abraham hundreds of years before His incarnation?
Scripture tells us that He also ate and drank with Abraham (Gen. 18:8) on His way to condemn the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, just as He ate and drank before and after His resurrection with the disciples (Luke 24:41-43).
Further; scripture tells us that we must be careful to welcome strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. (Heb.13:2) The angels that came with the Lord when He visited Abraham also sat at the table and ate.
Therefore, if angels can appear as men of flesh, and without having to be partakers of the flesh of men, then certainly God almighty, through Christ can!
Then Scripture would have told us
If Jesus inherited humanity then scripture would have stated such a signal doctrine plainly, and explained how it came about. For any doctrine to be true to scripture it requires a number of scriptures reinforcing the truth which it intends for us to believe and follow. For example:
– God is infinitely holy, lovely, gracious, etc.
– We are to follow suit and be likewise.
– All have sinned and need a Saviour.
– Jesus is infinite and absolute deity.
However, scripture is silent on any hint of Jesus being fully man and fully God in combined essence (hypostatic union), or in any way human at all. And the scriptures that have been used to support their claims require a far stretch of the imagination to make them fit. I will demonstrate this with their favourite scriptures further on.
Then God is not almighty
But scripture tells us that God prepared a body for Jesus (Heb 10:5). And Jesus said that God can even raise the stones up to praise Him. After all, didn’t He make man out of dust?
God does not need the medium of man (or a woman) to create a body for His Word. Nor did He choose to do so. It was His Word that created all things in the first place! In fact scripture specifically says that ” apart from Him (Jesus), nothing came into being that has come into being”. (John 1:3) . How then do some say that the Christ could only be incarnate by necessitating the assistance of that which He Himself created?
Jesus appeared to Abraham in human form just as easily as He did to mankind through the incarnation. God is not limited in power. Not only did Jesus appear “as a man” in the incarnation, but He also appeared and disappeared at will before His disciples after His resurrection. Scripture never said that the risen Christ walked through walls, or travelled through space at the speed of light. It said that He simply appeared (Luk 24:36) or disappeared (Luk 24:31). His ability ascends far above the laws of nature.
Then Christians have no hope in Christ as the eternal atonement
Then we have no eternal sacrifice / atonement paid on our behalf and therefore have no hope of salvation.
Sin causes eternal separation from God, but through His grace, He offered up Himself as the Eternal Word of God, incarnated in “the appearance of a man” (Phil 2:8) to become the atoning eternal sacrifice in order to win our reconciliation – those who come to the obedience of faith in Christ.
An eternal debt (through sin) can only be atoned for by an eternal propitiation (like exchange). Therefore, if Christ died in His “humanity”, which He would have, had He descended from Mary, then no eternal propitiation was made, and we are left unreconciled to God and without hope of eternal life.
I do not suggest Gnosticism, Docetism (Phantomists) or Marcionism, etc. These false doctrines advanced the false notion that Jesus did not exist in bodily form, but rather as an illusion. In Docetism particularly, He supposedly appeared as a phantom / ghost. (Hence the word’s literary translation – phantom). This is unbiblical and contrary to reason. The chief purpose of John for writing his first epistle was to refute and silence such doctrines. (See also A license to sin? for further details).
Then God would have to break His word and share His glory
God would have to share His glory with man, even if it was to become part of man. This is contrary to scripture where He says that He will not share His glory with another. (Is. 42:8; 48:11) To appear as a man does not necessitate Him being a man. He appeared as the flint Rock that followed the Israelites for forty years in the wilderness to give more than two million people water to drink and wash in every day (See 1Cor. 10:4). But He did not become a rock to do so!
Is Jesus “Fully Man and Fully God” According to Scripture?
For a Christian doctrine to be true it must be supported by a number of scriptures. (See also Discerning truth by the Principles of Truth)
As mentioned above; there is no place in scripture, either Old or New Testament, that portrays Jesus as having a body of humanity. But scripture does explicitly say what the essence of Jesus is, so that we can understand upon Whom it is that we have cast our hope.
Scripture says that Jesus was:
- The Word of Life (1John 1:1-2). This is the incarnate Word of Life, through which all things came into being (John 1:3) He is the Word of God – again in incarnate form.
- He is God. This is a difficult one to understand based on many people’s understanding through poor doctrine. However, He is God in the flesh – the express image of the omnipresent God. (Heb. 1:3 KJV) (Col. 1:15)
- The fullness of deity dwelling in bodily form (Col. 2:9). Did you see that?
Scripture says Jesus is the fullness of deity (God) dwelling in bodily form. It DID NOT SAY that the fullness of deity dwells in a body; but that the bodily form was itself the “express image” (Heb 1:3KJV) of God – the fullness of deity!!! And I do not mean that the omnipresent God dwelt in a body, but that the bodily form of Christ was the express substance of God alone (fullness of deity). There is no place for the notion of human substance / essence to be mixed with the eternal Christ.
- He was found in appearance only as a man. (Phil 2:8) See later why He had to be found in the appearance as a man.
For one to apply the reasoning that the terms “appearance as a man”, “the form of a bond-servant”, “the likeness of men”, “bodily form”, “like the son of man”, etc., means that He was of human flesh, one would then by that same line of reasoning, call Jesus a sinner, because scripture said that Jesus “appeared in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3).
What Jesus said about John the Baptist:
It is interesting to note what Jesus said about John the Baptist:
“Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Mat 11:11)
Jesus here is speaking about the natural birth of man from woman and of woman. If Jesus was of woman then He would be saying that John was greater than Him, and therefore He would not be of God. However, He states that John was the greatest of all humans because of his ministry. This excludes Jesus from humanity.
Could the infinite Christ come through the finite “seed” of man?
Here is a scripture that is often used as a “proof-text” that Jesus had a human body:
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” (Gen 3:15)
However, the above scripture is not referring to the seeds or progeny of men, but referring singularly to that which is to come. It is figurative speech. For Satan is spirit and therefore cannot be from the seeds / progeny of the serpent. In like fashion, Jesus was not the natural progeny of man. (Read on to see what Jesus said later).
Further; Jesus bruising the serpent on the head and him bruising Christ on the heel demonstrates the figure of speech in discussion. The portion of scripture was prophesying the incarnation of Christ; not suggesting that Jesus was going to be a “fully man and fully God” manifestation.
Paul used a similar line of speech
Paul said: Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ. (Gal 3:16) Here he does not talk about the progeny of man, which he would have referred to as “seeds” as in many, but to the one seed, i.e. Christ, and to those who would be in Christ, through the likeness of Abraham’s faith. (See Dr. Adam Clarke on Gal. 3:16) Paul demonstrates that scripture is talking spiritually of the coming Christ and those who will be renewed in Him.
The lineage of Christ “according to the flesh”
Firstly; the term: “according to the flesh” does not necessitate that one is human, but of fleshly substance. But the term can have several other meanings too: It can mean
- of the same tribe / nation (Rom. 9:3)
- physical strength as opposed to spiritual strength of God (2Cor. 10:2)
- the will of man as opposed to the will of God through the Spirit (Gal. 4:23; 4:29)
- according to man’s perspective (1Cor. 1:26) (John 8:15)
- carnal / sinful inclination (“nature”) (Rom. 8:5)
- human descendancy
Scripture talks of the genealogy through which the Christ would enter the world, but it never mentions a ” blood-line” as some like to claim. Jesus came “as a man” (Php_2:8 ) and as far as men were concerned, His father was Joseph (Joh_6:42; Luk 3:23 ). For this reason He came as the “Son of Man”. Joseph took Mary (already with child) as his wife to sanctify the Child according to the flesh (according to men) (see 1Cor 7:14 ). However, scripture is very clear that the so-called “blood-line” of Jesus has no beginning, nor has it an end. I will demonstrate this scripturally further on.
Jesus nullifies this fallacy of being “fully man and fully God” as a descendant of David
Jesus asked them whose son they thought He was, and they said the son of David. But He said to them, “Then how does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying, ‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I PUT YOUR ENEMIES BENEATH YOUR FEET”‘? “If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his son?” (Mat 22:43-45)
Jesus had no genealogy
Jesus, the man, had no genealogy. He was made like the son of man (Heb 7:3) for the sake of man’s reconciliation with God. Jesus said that Abraham rejoiced to see His day (John 8:56). This was recorded in Gen 14:18 and explained in Heb. 7:1 regarding Melchizedek.
But was Melchizedek really Christ?
Now some people say that Hebrews was certainly not referring to Jesus as being Melchizedek. But the writer of Hebrews says that it was hard to explain to them the truth of the matter because they were “dull of hearing” (Heb 5:11). But let scripture speak for itself:
- God said that Jesus was a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek (“to the order of” = in the same way) (Heb 5:6; 5:10), and not of Levi (according to human priesthood).
- Melchizedek was king of Salem (which means king of peace) (Heb 7:1-2).
- His name was translated king of righteousness (Heb 7:2). There is only One who is righteous.
- He was without father and mother, (Heb 7:3) i.e. no genealogy!(Heb 7:6)
- He had no beginning or end of days (Heb 7:3)
- He (Melchizedek still) was made like the Son of man (Heb 7:3)
- Melchizedek is a high priest forever (Heb 7:3). And He lives on (Heb 7:8).
- Melchizedek being Christ, who appeared in the form of man and for the sake of man, did not come to being by the law of nature / physical means (i.e. human), but “according to the power of an indestructible life” (Heb 7:16)!
Understanding Mary’s conception
Mary, a sinner like the rest of us (Rom 3:23), and therefore also in need of redemption as the rest of us, was chosen by God for her faithfulness and humility to bear the incarnate Word (John 1:14); as was Elizabeth to bear the forerunner of Christ, i.e. John the Baptist. The difference was that the birth of John the Baptist’s occurred through blessed nature. Whereas, with the eternal Christ, scripture said that the Word of Life, which was with the Father (1John 1:1-2), became flesh… as of the ONLY BEGOTTEN FROM THE FATHER (John 1:14). Mary is not a contributing factor other than being a surrogate mother.
Look again at John 1:14. It says that the Word became flesh. It did not say that the Word enjoined itself to the flesh of Mary to make her conceive. The conception was miraculous; (not half miraculous and half natural), in that God did not need the body of Mary for her to conceive. The notion that God could miraculously overshadow Mary and make her conceive, yet could not do it alone and without taking upon His Word her flesh, is without reason, and belittles God’s power.
What did Jesus think of Mary as His natural / human mother?
The law said that one was to honour one’s parents. Paul continued this law as a law of righteousness to always be followed and reminded us that the fulfilment of that particular law came with a promise:
HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), (Eph 6:2)
Now Jesus obeyed the law completely, being found not a transgressor of it. However, the scriptures that detail Jesus’ regard for Mary as His “mother” can be seen in the following verses:
- … “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.” (Luk 11:27)
But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” (Luk 11:28)
- … the mother of Jesus *said to Him, “They have no wine.” (Joh 2:3)
And Jesus *said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” (Joh 2:4)
- Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” (Mat 12:47)
But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” (Mat 12:48)
And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! (Mat 12:49)
There is not one instant that Jesus regards Mary as His mother in the flesh; but there are several that reveal that He regards her as a woman. He cared for her as He cared for others, and not noticeably more.
The Bible is clear on the fact that God is not a respecter of persons. He regards all of equal value. And even though Mary was of all women ever to live the most blessed, it was only because she bore the Messiah, and definitely not because she was the “mother of God” in the spiritual or physical sense. And definitely not because she was innocent of sin, because scripture reveals that no one is without the guilt of sin.
Why did Jesus claim to be the “Son of Man”?
Multiple times in the gospels Jesus states that He was the “Son of Man.” However, this does not mean that He is of the essence of man, as the many points above explain.
Daniel said that he beheld “One like a Son of Man” coming to be presented before the “Ancient of Days” (God). (Dan 7:13) This was the Christ as the atonement appearing before God to justify those who would turn their hearts to God through Him.
And in the gospels He confesses to be this Son of Man who came from God (John 16:30). But this was
a) to conceal from the depraved that He was God in the flesh
b) to give the true reason for His appearing
Why did Jesus need to be incarnated in the form of man?
To be the representative of man
Jesus had to come in the form of man so that He could become man’s eternal high priest. For the high priest by necessity is a member for that which he is priest. (Heb 2:17)
To show the way to God through faith
The Word of God came to earth to dwell among men. He could only partake of the life of man by becoming like a man. But He had to do it completely as the last Adam (1Cor 15:45), being the quickening Spirit. He was without sin so that His eternal atonement could be worthy to pay for our eternal debt by decree. Therefore, He had to enter the world as a man. Nonetheless, not as human, (as the many scriptures and reasoning above demonstrate) but in His eternal essence, so that He may be the perfect propitiation. An eternal price of God for an eternal debt of man.
Incarnated in the form of man, He was subject to live as man:
He came as man for the sake of man. This included Him coming in the form of “sinful flesh” even though He had no sin. This was so that He could be the perfect propitiation for mankind.
- This likeness included the limited ability of natural man.
- He grew in wisdom and stature.
- He possessed the five senses of man.
- The natural emotions of men were also His.
- Jesus lived by faith that was available to all men should they exercise it with holiness of heart. (Peter demonstrated the latter by walking on water, healing the sick, announcing judgement in death, etc.)
- Like a man, He was limited in knowledge. The things that were not pertaining to His ministry He did not need to know at that time on earth. (Mar 13:32). He said that He spoke what He heard from the Father, and did what He saw the Father doing. He did nothing apart from God’s eternal purpose for Him. This accounts for not knowing what day of His arrival. It was beyond the need to know at the time because it wasn’t given to Him to share. (This specific case was because God wants us all to be ready for His return at all times and not just before He comes. Hence the parable about the ten virgins).
- Because He walked in faith He would need to maintain His faith by the same power that was available to man. That is why He prayed often alone. He loved the presence of His Father, even though He was of the Father. The Father’s love for righteousness was Jesus’ love also.
- He said that the Father was greater than He was as concerning His representative state as man. An ambassador for a country is of that country, yet is not the whole of the country. So too, Jesus was the ambassador of God while on earth, yet was not manifest as the whole of God in His omnipresent form. This in no way makes Jesus inferior to the Father in essence.
In the likeness of sinful flesh
For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,(Rom 8:3)
It was because we exist as flesh and blood that Jesus had to partake of the same. This was so that He could be the eternal atonement for man. Some religions have hideous animal-like creatures as their gods, but reason dictates that these could never atone for man, not being in the likeness of man. But we were made in the image of our God and therefore by that image He had to atone for us. Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil (Heb 2:14).
Jesus wasn’t just the atonement for our reconciliation; He was the eternal SOURCE of our salvation. The flesh of man can not be the source of our salvation, for the source of salvation is God. (Heb 5:9)
It was through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption for us (Heb 9:12). The blood of human origin coupled with the origin of God (as in “fully man and fully God”) can never suffice to cover our eternal judgement. The flesh and blood of our Lord Jesus is eternal in essence. It has to be, for through it He inaugurated our access to the Father forever ( Heb 10:20), which human sacrifice in any part could never do.
So what substance was the bodily form of Christ?
The essence / substance of the bodily form of Christ was eternal. It was the same form as seen by Abraham. And the form that man saw in Jesus will continue to be forever. For it was this bodily form with which He lived, died, rose and entered into heaven. It was the bodily form of God coming as a Son to live among us (Lev 26:12) for the purpose of being the suitable eternal atonement. Scripture teaches that the person of the bodily form was absolutely infinite. Therefore, there was nothing finite / human about it.
A note of caution
If those who advocate that Jesus was “fully man” and fully God are right, even though scripture does not hint at the fact, then those who believe that Jesus was “the fullness of deity dwelling in bodily form” and appearing only “as a man”, yet in a fleshly body, as scripture clearly states, then no harm would come of the latter.
But if Jesus is what I purport above, which is according to scripture and reason, then those who believe and confess that Jesus is “fully man” even though also “fully God”, have diminished the ability of God, and maligned scripture. Would this not be tantamount to blasphemy?
I look forward to any questions you may have on the above. Send me an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org