Guide to the Mystery of the Incarnation
By Kenneth R. Samples
Greek mythology notwithstanding, it seems impossible that God could assume the nature of a horse or a dog and yet somehow remain divine.1 Why? Categories of being are fundamentally different between God and animals. And while it is deeply paradoxical and mysterious that God could take a human nature and live on Earth as the God-man as historic Christianity affirms, it seems from a biblical perspective that human nature was specifically created in anticipation of this extraordinary event.
God in Human Flesh
The Incarnation stands at the heart of historic Christianity and is celebrated around the world during the Advent season.2 This biblically derived doctrine teaches that the eternal Word, the second person of the Trinity, took on a human nature (became man) without in any way diminishing his deity (John 1:1, 14, 18; Philippians 2:5–6; Colossians 2:9; 1 John 4:1–3). Christian orthodoxy therefore views Jesus Christ as a single person who possesses both a divine and human nature. The two natures find their union in the one person of Christ (referred to theologically as the “hypostatic union”). This theological understanding of the Incarnation led ancient Christians to refer to Jesus Christ as the theanthropos (Greek: the “God-man”).
The Incarnation in Light of the Imago Dei
The Council of Chalcedon (AD 451) officially defined the doctrine yet did not attempt to explain exactly how the two natures that Christ possessed were united with his personhood. But it seems biblically correct to…
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