Trinity & Incarnation

Finding a Biblical Christology Within a Trinitarian Monotheism

Tertullian (c. 160-220 AD) is officially given credit for coining the term “Trinity” to refer to the triune nature of the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).[1] The term itself is nowhere used in the Biblical text, but the majority of Christian traditions have accepted “Trinity” as a sufficient way of describing the three-in-one relationship of God.

The Biblical text, specifically the NT, references the Father, Son, and Spirit in about 120 different passages (e.g. Matt 28:18-20; Jn 14-17; Acts 2, etc.).[2] Jesus of Nazareth began a fringe movement within a strict monotheistic Second Temple Judaism that would in time overtake the entire Roman Empire.

In the beginning, Christ’s claims to divinity set forth an early “binitarian devotional pattern” which revealed a plurality within the one God.[3] The doctrine of the Trinity would eventually arise during the patristic age in an effort to accommodate the lordship of Jesus and the experience of the Holy Spirit into a Trinitarian monotheism.

Larry Hurtado makes the following observation:

It may not be sufficiently recognized by historians of dogma or contemporary theologians that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is essentially a christologically shaped statement of monotheism. To be sure, the earliest Christian texts reflect a triadic experience of “God,” comprising the sense of “God” (“Father”) as the source and ultimate destination of all things, Jesus as the essential and unique agent of divine purposes through whom creation is now to be seen and through whom also redemption is provided, and the Spirit is the impartation and gift of “God” that is at the same time also the advocate and medium through which believers receive a filial status that derives from Jesus’ own unique divine sonship. So, if it is a bit anachronistic to speak of “trinitarian” theology in the NT, it is right to see the roots of this doctrinal development in this body of texts.[4]

Questions of Jesus’ relationship to God within a Trinitarian monotheism, while being the very God-man himself, naturally leads the student to consider the incarnation of Christ—the divine and human natures of Jesus. How can both natures coexist in one person? How can Jesus be fully God and fully man at the same time?

In pursuit of discovering the truth about the real identity of Jesus, the scholar must ask: “Can the Christ of faith and the Jesus of history be held together?” Millard Erickson concludes: “Since the Jesus of history is approached through reason and the kerygmatic Christ is seized by faith, we are apparently dealing with a case of the classic faith-reason dichotomy.”[5]

The kerygmatic Christ and the historical Jesus are the same person. Therefore, faith in the divine Christ does not exclude the use of reason, it makes it necessary.

In his Theology for the Community of God, Stanley Grenz writes:

Of the various aspects of our Christian understanding of God perhaps none is as difficult to grasp as the concept of God as triune. At the same time, no dimension of the Christian confession is closer to the heart of the mystery of the God we have come to know. In fact, what sets Christianity apart from the other religious traditions is the confession that the one God is Father, Son, and Spirit. As a consequence, no teaching lies at the center of Christian theology, if not of Christian faith itself, as does the doctrine of the Trinity.[6]

There are several historical traditions that have sought to make sense of Trinity and the incarnation of God in Christ. The purpose of this paper is to take a defendable position on the Trinity and incarnation by: (1) giving a brief critical examination of each major historical Trinitarian formulation, (2) surveying and critiquing the historical development of incarnational Christology, (3) constructing a Biblical theology that is sensitive to the Biblical texts in their original context.

This paper will conclude with a challenge to remain committed to a practical Trinitarian monotheism and faithful to a functional Christology that is rooted in the Scripture.


The Eastern Orthodox Formulation

The two most historic of traditions are the Eastern Orthodox and Western views. Both of these formulations were largely constructed in response to the Arian controversy.

Arius, a deacon in the Alexandrian church, taught that the Son was the first creation of the Father. He said that God “beget” Jesus—the Father made the Son. Therefore, Arianism stated that Christ was not co-eternal with God.

Arius’ teaching was especially concerning because of the way in which he argued from the Scripture and Greek philosophy to make his case. Arius was opposed by the theologian Athanasius at the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea in 325.

The church unequivocally affirmed the NT and the full divinity of Christ.

Arianism was denounced as a heresy and Arius himself was banished as a heretic. In the Nicean Creed, the council asserted that the Son is “begotten of the Father, of the substance of the Father, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father.”[7]

Tertullian used the Latin phrase tres personae, una substantia (“three persons, one substance”) to describe the Trinity, which the Cappadocian fathers would later refine to produce the classic formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity in order to avoid tritheism and modalism.

Tertullian and the church historian Eusebius are remembered as promoters of the Eastern Orthodox view. This view is heavily rooted in Greek philosophical (Stoic Logos) thought of the second and third centuries. Proponents of the Orthodox tradition believe in “eternal procession” from God the Father—the Spirit and the Son both proceeded from God. They are merely an extension of the Father, who is the source.

The incarnation is then the generated Son invading a (Neo-Platonic) human spirit and soul. The greatest weakness of the Eastern formulation is that it relies more heavily upon philosophical rhetoric and categories than it does the Biblical text.

The Western Formulation

Augustine was a major proponent of what is known as the Western view. He expressed that the “eternal generation” within the Trinity describes ontological relationships. He believed that any distinction of persons must reside within the relationships found in Triune community.[8] Each member of the Trinity is equally God and they have always operated together according to one will.

The Western view emphasizes the threeness characteristic of God as relational. This can be seen in the use of the triangle as a symbol for the shared relationships within the Trinity. Augustine saw human beings as a triad of being, knowing, and willing. He developed several analogies to further the idea that the Trinity has implications for living.[9]

Augustine’s view was much more balanced with a concern for the relationality of God within himself and creation. He nevertheless constrained himself to philosophical categories.

This philosophical understanding of God will reach its climax with Aquinas and continue to dominate until the Reformation.[10]

The Biblical Theology Formulation

There are two modern views that seek to modify the Eastern Orthodox and Western views. Dale Moody and Doug Kennard promote a Biblical Theology view that is careful to point out that the Father, Son, and Spirit are all God, but the Son is not the Father and the Father is not the Son.

These scholars hold that the philosophical language of “eternal procession” in understanding John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18 and 1 John 4:9 is logically contradictory and not helpful in discussions of Trinity and incarnation.

Instead, Jesus should be seen as being sent by God, not as the “only begotten” Son (Jn 3:16), but as the monogenes, from mono (single) and genos (kind)—Jesus is the only one of his kind. Just as Isaac was the uniquely chosen son of Abraham, not the only son (Ishmael), Jesus is the chosen one sent by God (Gen 21:12; Heb 11:18).[11]

In the Johannine writings the word monogenes is used exclusively to speak of Jesus’ unique historical birth. From this perspective, Biblical Theology proposes that there is an economic procession of Trinitarian ministry. There are three who’s and one what. Each member of the Trinity is unique in function.

Doug Kennard believes it is best to discard the ancient philosophical rhetoric:

Since the Biblical texts used to defend the doctrine of generation emphasize monogenes to be the historical birthing of Jesus’ humanity in incarnation, it is best to reject the ancient tradition that Jesus Christ was generated before all ages in eternity. As a historical oddity eternal generation does not reflect the Bible. At this point, the unanimous voice of scholarly commentators agree, further confirming the exegetical view that the generation of the Son should be Biblically understood as an initiation of an economic ministry of the divine Word incarnating to reveal the Father through His humanity.[12]

The Social Trinity Formulation

The Social Trinitarian view has been popularized by Leonard Hodgson, Stanley Grenz, and Jurgen Moltmann. This formulation emphasizes the ontological relationships shared within the Godhead.

This view incorporates the language of “generation,” but it is more specifically concerned to preserve the interpersonal relationships within the God who binds together all things in love. God is love because he is himself a social “familial” Trinity.

Therefore, Christ is fulfilling his divine familial role within the Trinity and incarnation. The Father is the originator, the Son is the revealer, and the Spirit is the completer of the divine program.

Grenz writes, “The ontological differentiations facilitate an economic as well as an ontological diversity in the one God. Each of the three Trinitarian members fulfills a specific role in the one divine program.”[13]


Logos Christology

Since Trinity and incarnation go hand in hand, it is necessary to briefly examine a few historical views regarding the incarnation of Christ before taking a position on the best Biblical explanation for the Trinity.

James D.G. Dunn reminds the student of the great importance in the unfolding of incarnational theology within the Biblical text:

We have found nothing in pre-Christian Judaism or the wider religious thought of the Hellenistic world which provides sufficient explanation of the origin of the doctrine of the incarnation, no way of speaking about God, the gods, or intermediary beings which so far as we can tell would have given birth to this doctrine apart from Christianity.[14]

Hurtado adds to the significance of incarnational theology: “In historical terms we may refer to a veritable “big bang,” and explosively rapid and impressively substantial Christological development in the earliest stage of the Christian movement.”[15]

This development begins with the NT writers revealing the full humanity and deity of Christ, and continues through to the creeds of Nicea (325 AD) and Chalcedon (451 AD)—affirming that Jesus is both God and man.

The first major philosophical explanation employed during the second and third centuries was known as Logos Christology. John declared that Jesus is the Word (Logos) in the prologue to the Fourth Gospel. The term corresponded with the Hebrew concept davar (Word of God) and the Stoic logos (inner law which humans ought to orient their lives).[16]

As stated previously concerning the Eastern Orthodox thinkers, this means that the incarnation is then the generated Logos invading a human spirit and soul. Folks like Justin Martyr and Origen utilized Stoic concepts to make sense of the Trinity and incarnation.

Kennard points out that, “the early church comes out strongly against embracing a Stoic world view, even though a few Stoic concepts contributed to Christology.”[17] It is understandable why the apologists would make use of philosophical concepts of their day to explain and defend the doctrine of Christ, but it quickly becomes a matter of debate and confusion (Arianism).

Logos Christology is built upon Greek concepts and it is explained in philosophical rhetoric that goes far beyond Biblical language.

Nestorian Christology

There does not seem to be any agreement as to how the early church articulated the paradox of Christ having two natures in one person. Nestorius (c. 386-451 AD) proposed that the two natures of Christ should be held apart from one another.

Was Nestorius promoting the heretical idea that two distinct persons resided in Jesus? It is hard to say because of the political and ecclesiastical rivalries that involved him in the church.[18] Also, his ambiguous language was easily misunderstood among the many heresies swirling about (e.g. adoptionism, docetism, Apollonarianism, etc.) Nestorius was viewed as not fully appreciating the unity of Christ’s person.

The West resolved the debate of the two-natures at the Council of Chalcedon (451 AD):

Therefore, following the holy Fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood; truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation, the distinction of 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 and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the Fathers has handed down to us.[19]

It should be acknowledged that Chalcedon did not entirely remove the mystery of the paradox that exists in the person of Christ. At best, the Chalcedonian Creed states what the “two natures in one person” does not mean.[20]

The Eastern Church continued with a Logos Christology. And others would come along and express dissatisfaction with the older explanations.

Kenosis Christology

In the modern era of Protestant scholasticism, Sartori sought to resolve the problem of the relationship between the two natures with his interpretation of Philippians 2:7.[21]

“Kenosis” is the Greek term used to say that Christ “emptied himself” (RSV) to take on human form. This view theorizes that Christ gave up or emptied himself of those divine attributes that were incompatible with his human existence (especially omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience).

Some proponents go so far to say that Christ set aside all divine attributes. This great flaw in the theory inevitably leads to confessing that Jesus is less than God. Therefore, a modified Kenosis theory is necessary.

Grenz says the appearance of setting aside those attributes is actually the Son’s giving up the “independent  exercise of those powers.” Christ submitted his divine capabilities to the Father’s will.[22]

Since it is right to affirm that all the fullness of God dwells in Christ (Col 1:19), it is most appropriate to accept a modified Kenosis theory. Jesus emptied himself of those attributes that were incompatible with his humanity in order to be fully human. He was obedient to the Father and did not consider equality with God something to be exploited (Phil 2:5-8).

This view is preferred to all the rest.


The historical views of Trinity and incarnation have laid a foundation on which future generations may construct, and deconstruct if necessary. It is likely that each generation of believers will seek to express a Christology that speaks directly to the needs of their own Christian community.[23]

As for the historical constructions, I believe it is the best of Biblical Theology and the Social formulation that combine for the strongest presentation of the Trinity. The relevant NT passages should not be read through Greek philosophical lenses of the patristic era in defense of  a Trinitarian monotheism and the incarnation of God in Christ.

Christ was uniquely born (Jn 3:16), sent into the world as the exact representation of God (Heb 1:3), and only subordinate to the Father in an earthly temporal sense (Phil 2:6-11). Christ is fully man and fully God. The NT writers do not leave this open to readers.

Jesus claimed to be divine and equal with the Father on multiple occasions (Matt 16:13-20; 26:63-65; Jn 1:1-14; 8:19-59; 10:30-33), God vindicated him through his resurrection from the dead (Jn 20), and he even received worship of himself (Jn 20:28-29). The Holy Spirit is economically sent by Christ after his ascension as the completer of God’s will (Jn 14:15-21; 16:12-15). The Father, Son, and Spirit are wholly God in a mysterious community of love (2 Cor 13:14; Gal 4:6; 1 Pet 1:2).

Oscar Cullmann said, “in the light of the New Testament witness, all mere speculation about his (Christ’s) natures is an absurdity. Functional Christology is the only kind which exists.”[24]

The church will continue to discuss and debate Trinity and incarnation. What matters most is that the church maintain a working Christology that leads to the perpetual celebration of the incarnation of the Trinitarian God, and faithful adherence to the Christ who has revealed the new way to be human.

May the continued pursuit of a Biblical Christology bless heaven and earth—until the Lord joins them together forever, and mystery gives way to perfect understanding.

D.D. Flowers, 2011.

[1] Fisher Humphreys, “The revelation of the Trinity.” Perspectives In Religious Studies 33, no. 3 (September 1, 2006): 287.

[2] Ibid., 292.; Not all of the references include the three persons together.

[3] Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2003), 134-153.

[4] Hurtado, God in New Testament Theology (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2010), 46-47.

[5] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 689.

[6] Stanley J. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 53.

[7] Henry Bettenson and Chris Maunder, eds. Documents of the Christian Church (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 27.

[8] C.C. Pecknold, “How Augustine used the trinity: functionalism and the development of doctrine.” Anglican Theological Review 85, no. 1 (December 1, 2003): 134.

[9] Grenz, 62.

[10] R.L. Saucy, “Doctrine of God” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. ed. Walter A. Elwell, 500-504 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 503.

[11] Dale Moody, “God’s only Son : the translation of John 3:16 in the Revised Standard Version.” Journal Of Biblical Literature 72, no. 4 (December 1, 1953): 213.

[12] Douglas Kennard, Messiah Jesus: Christology in His Day and Ours (New York: Peter Lang, 2008), 503.

[13] Grenz, 67. Also see Moltmann’s The Trinity and the Kingdom. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1981; and Hodgson’s How Can God Be Both One and Three? London: SPCK, 1963.

[14] James D.G. Dunn, Christology in the Making: A New Testament Inquiry into the Origins of the Doctrine of the Incarnation (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1989), 253.

[15] Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity, 135.

[16] Grenz, 300-301.

[17] Kennard, 495.

[18] Erickson, 743.

[19] Bettenson, 56.

[20] Erickson, 747.

[21] Kennard, 505.

[22] Grenz, 307.

[23] See Daniel L. Migliore’s “Christology in Context: The Doctrinal and Contextual Tasks of Christology Today.” Interpretation 49, no. 3 (July 1, 1995): 242-254.

[24] Oscar Cullmann, The Christology of the New Testament (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1963), 326.


About David D. Flowers

David received a B.A. in Religion from East Texas Baptist University and a M.T.S. in Biblical Studies from Houston Graduate School of Theology. David has over 20 years experience as a pastor and teacher in and outside the church. He currently pastors an Anabaptist congregation in Pennsylvania. View all posts by David D. Flowers

8 responses to “Trinity & Incarnation

  • Kurt Johnson

    David, thanks for this post. I’m reading Mark Noll’s “Turning Points” book on church history and I’ve been thinking more about Trinity and Christology than ever. I heard a helpful talk on Trinity recently… the guy was talking about God’s “oneness” and God’s “threeness” and the point was made that trinity is a little easier to grasp when we consider that God’s transcends number. So, when we say “God is one” (number) or “God is three,” (number) we don’t say it in the same way that say, “there is one chair” or “there are three chairs.”

    I have a couple questions for you…

    Regarding the Trinity, when the fathers say that Jesus was begotten “before the ages,” I’m wondering why they place the begotteness of Jesus prior to the world, and don’t see the begotteness of Jesus as coinciding with the incarnation?

    Regarding Kenosis Christology, If we’re are to reject Kenosis, how then might be understand Jesus’ development from infancy to adulthood? If by rejecting Kenosis, are we to understand that Jesus possessed the omni-attributes? Did he ‘grow into them’?… Take omniscience, for example… as Jesus developed from infancy to adulthood, did he gain a progressive awareness of the knowledge of all things? …or was his humanity somehow disjointed from divinity in a way which allowed the fulless of divinity ‘to dwell within him’ without those omni-attributes being ‘available’ to him? (the latter is how I have thought of it). I think of Luke 2 and Jesus “growing in wisdom” (omniscience) as a youth and I think also of Satan’s challenge to Jesus and how angels could assist him (omnipotence), and Jesus’ prayer to the Father in the garden, “If this cup…” and some other passages, and wonder about that. Was Jesus walking around with the understanding that He was the second member of Trinity and everything that entails? I want to affirm the ontological status of “two natures, one person” but I want to pull those natures apart a little by insisting that Jesus’ human nature was the software from which was working from and the divine nature was dwelling there in his one person. So, I could say something like, “He was in all ways tempted as we are, yet without sin” with conviction. Am I guilty of Kenosis, or worse?

    • David D. Flowers

      Hey Kurt, thanks for reading and giving a thoughtful response.

      I think the church fathers were preoccupied with articulating and defending the Trinity through Greek philosophical jargon of their day. They were especially concerned (rightfully) to defend the co-eternality of the Son with the Father. However, they were attempting to do this with John 3:16, a verse that isn’t concerned with pre-existence, but of economic ministry. The “only begotten” Son of God was their translation of a term that should probably be restricted to uniquely born (i.e. sent from God). Since their focus was on the “begotten” relationship of the Son from the Father, their discussions were centered on the pre-existent Son instead of the incarnation.

  • David D. Flowers

    Also, I do believe a “functional” Christology is what we’re left with, and what really matters most. I wouldn’t say that working out the obvious questions is a futile pursuit, but I like to keep in mind that the NT writers wrote of their experience of Christ, instead of the more analytical musings of his nature. The gospel narrative(s) indicate that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature as a human being, likely growing in his knowledge of who he was in relationship to the Father and his mission. He taught and related to a Triune God, he knew all things, yet he appeared to surrender his independent exercise of divine attributes to the Father—only saying, doing, and knowing what the Father gave him to say, do, and know. I think the Kenosis theory fails to hold Christ together as human and divine in one person. That’s why I choose a view that appreciates the tension.

  • Eli

    Interesting thanks. Personally I find the concept of trinity to be flawed in several respects but I acknowledge it is better than most of the alternatives because I think for the most part the reasons people hold onto the trinity are noble… protecting the divinity of christ, maintaining a degree of mystery when attempting to understand the nature of god, trying to make sense of scripture and simplify interpretation so it can be easily passed onto other believers. Add to that many great minds have attempted to fit scripture into a trinitarian framework, some very well indeed.
    My own view does not fit nicely into any category or label, I try as much as possible to stick to the language used in the bible, some of which has deep meaning to me, some is yet to be revealed and I wish it was that way with more christians.
    As to the dual nature of christ, by my reading it seems obvious that for someone to become something more than they initially were that means they changed which creates a logical and scriptural problem. So what happens is we are forced to default to the ‘its a mystery’ line of reasoning.
    There are several ways to accept and embrace the divinity of christ without going down the myriad of trinitarian paths. In fact the NT writers managed to explain a lot and leave a lot to mystery without a reliance on trinitarian creedal language.
    Anyways I appreciate writings on the trinity, its just a shame the discussion is often so narrow.

  • Elvera Ciazynski

    Thank you for this article. I have just come across your blog and haven’t yet read many of the previous posts. I have already read two of the books on your top ten list and also currently read four of the blogs on your blogroll.
    Trinitarian theology is becoming more interesting to me as I begin to grasp more of it and it definitely makes an incredible difference in the way I relate to God and others both in and out of the church. In case you may be interested, I would like to mention a few of the resources that I have found very helpful from a lay persons perspective over the last while: There are interviews with a broad range of Trinitarian Theologians on the GCI website “You’re Included” which make the topic and discussion very understandable. Martin Davis, on his “God is For Us” blog, has posted on the early church fathers and their controversies in his earlier archives. Bruce Wauchope of Perichoresis Australia has studied the influence of Greek philosophy on the Western church and has a fantastic series on Youtube –“What is the Gospel?” It is in several parts, but with the diagrams he uses, the concepts are clear to lay persons as well.
    I find it to be incredibly inspiring that God is bringing people from many backgrounds to a deeper understanding of who He really is. The Trinity as revealed in Jesus Christ and his relationship with his creation brings a fresh perspective to understanding the early church of the New Testament.

  • Gabriel (G²)

    Shalom.. If interested, there’s an excellent book by Jenkins I think you’d enjoy on the issue is known as [“Jesus Wars: How Four Patriarchs, Three Queens, and Two Emperors Decided What Christians Would Believe for the Next 1,500 years ” ( ) Peter Jenkins, who is Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of History and Religious Studies at Pennsylvania State University and Distinguished Senior Fellow, Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University, argued that the official orthodoxy of Christianity today was predominately forged by the political machinations of certain key political players of the fifth century. …and often the cannon that is accepted is due more so to which group was able to survive the longest. Here, from Jenkins, is a brief recap of what often occurred in the context of the fourth and fifth centuries (As seen on p.g 67 of “Jesus Wars ) :

    “But if they did not fully understand the theology they believed, Christians knew passionately the kinds of religious thought thatthey loathed. They knew what they were against. Much of the debate at the time’ consisted of identifying sets of theological ideas and giving them the name of some unpopular leader, so that believers could unite against a despised and demonized ism . And once something was an ism, it presumably represented that person’s twisted and peculiar view of church teaching, rather than the pure serene of authentic Christianity. Whatever he actually preached, Nestorius became the central figure in Nestorianism, a theological trend that supposedly divided Christ’s natures. Once this stereotype was established, it could be used to taint any theological approach with which the speaker disagreed. Theological debate became a game of guilt by association. Reading the denunciations of the time, we need to remember. that each faction tended to caricature and exaggerate the positions of its enemies.m[All the emphasis added by me.]”

    The book pays careful attention to the construction of the mono/dual nature of Christ, whose “orthodoxy” was decided by successive vendettas, bribery, assault and slander, watching the fall of Nestorius in particular, a bishop who believed that Christ was both fully divine and fully human in the days of an orthodox declaration of the Christ of a single nature…He was declared a heretic, and we’ve spoken of the Nestorian heresy to this day. Though his theology was declared “orthodox” fifty years after he was deposed as bishop, as the Alexandrian bishopric lost its prestige to conniving Rome, it was pointless since he was already gone…exiled to a monastery in the desert of his enemies. Consequently, the Syriac church has been called Nestorian to this day….and amazingly, they have done MANY amazing things. Jenkins gave a more in-depth review on the issue of Christianity within the world of those who were within the “unorthodox” camps and showed how they spread it as well—as seen in the book he made entitled “The Lost History of Christianity.” .and for more one can go here to Armarium Magnum: The Lost History of Christianity by Philip Jenkins

    And for some good reviews on the subject that may bless you, one can go online/investigate the following under their respective titles:


    Part 1, Dr. Philip Jenkins, The Lost History of Christianity, Part 1


    Part 2, Dr. Philip Jenkins, The Lost History of Christianity, Part 2


    ” “YouTube – Seaver College Distinguished Lecture Series – Phillip Jenkins”

    Much of what Jenkins has brought to the table has been highly invaluable in discussing what Eastern Christianity has always brought to the table…and many are often unaware of it in a myriad of ways. And with Before going further, some scriptures on the subject of Christ dying: It does seem that the Nestorian Christians were often given a bad rap….and yet Nestorius never denied that Jesus was both fully God and FULLY man. They went on spreading the Gospel into the deepest parts of Asia, even as far as China—and having a radically different hermenutic than the Western Christianity and Byzantine Christianity since they were not trying to have State Power backing them up. Jenkins gives great detail with this….and I’m glad he noted where Nestorious was very much for the mindset that the natures of man/god were united, but he also felt that there was a clear distinction. Alot of it, as it concerns Nestorian views, were never about trying to make it out as if Christ did not have union/oneness. What they were focused upon was the reality that the way oneness/union of Divinity and Humanity played out were not necessarily in the sense of “fusion.” For them, Nestorianism (called dyophysitism) was simply for saying that two natures of Christ were united and yet they also remained seperated/distinct in order for the atonement to truly work. Never was that something that all in the Church ever had issue with. Additionally, one of best scholars around to consider on the issue is one known as Philip Jenkins. In one of his works, entitled “Jesus Wars” goes into exceptional depth in giving careful attention to the construction of the mono/dual nature of Christ, whose “orthodoxy” was decided by successive vendettas, bribery, assault and slander, watching the fall of Nestorius in particular, a bishop who believed that Christ was both fully divine and fully human in the days of an orthodox declaration of the Christ of a single nature.

    . He was declared a heretic, and we’ve spoken of the Nestorian heresy to this day….even though it is anything but opposed to Christ. In the day when the church tended toward the Alexandrian Christology of Christ in one divine nature (physis), Nestorius came from Antioch, where they described Christ as having both divine and human nature eternally knit and one. The Alexandrians had already taken out one Antiochine Bishop in John Chrysostom….Cyril decided to repeat history with Nestorious. I was glad Jenkins noted what he did with Nestorius and thankful others are catching on..

    . It is interesting to consider what occurred with the “two-natured Jesus” dynamic, as the Council of Chalcedon resolutely affirmed dyophysitism over monophysitism and miaphysitism, saying that Christ had two inseparable natures in one person…with his having a Divine Will (being God) and also having a Human side subject to limitations Jesus had to deal with (including learning, development, relying on the Spirit and choosing to submit his will to the Father’s). Both of those things were united/had to come together. THere was at one time acceptance of that mindset. Much of that, however, changed in the 6th century when discussion occurred again in debate…and whereas some disagreed with the older stances, many felt they were still appropriate. On dyophysitism, much of it actually goes in support with one of the views within Church History known as Binitarianism. With Nestorious ideology, many things make sense when it comes to the person of Christ. If you believe that Jesus was truly able to be tempted with sin…and yet had to be a man in order to redeem mankind, then one believes in distinction. If one believes that the literal body of Jesus rested in the grave while the Spirit of Christ went to be with the Father in Paradise (as He claimed), then one truly does believe in a Nestorianism viewpoint. Paul often expounded upon the role of the Holy Spirit in the Life of Christ and how dualistic it was, showing how Christ relied upon the Spirit for the Ministry and the Power of the HOLY Spirit to raise the Body of Christ from the Grave (as he noted in Acts 2:26-28, Acts 2:30-32, Acts 13:27-38, Romans 1:3-5 , Romans 8:10-12, Hebrews 9:13-15, etc )……with it being established that the Spirit of Christ was present with the Father…and this is said in light of what the Word says when Luke 23:46 ( Mt 27:50, Mk 15:37, Jn 19:30, etc) tells us that Christ gave up His SPirit…and while the Physical Body of Christ remained, the Spirit of Christ left…and scripture shows where His spirit would go: into the Father’s hands…..just like Jesus told the thief on the cross when saying “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43), even though his Physical Body was still in the GRAVE…and very similar to how Stephen saw Jesus in heaven and asked Him to receive his spirit (Acts 7:55-60). The SPIRIT of Jesus is something that could NEVER be extinguished….

    . 1 Peter 3:18-19 “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit19through whom[a] also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, Other texts to consider are where he addressed the issue of Christ being God and yet explaining the reality of his coming with the emphasis on his being a man ( Phillippians 2, Hebrews 2:17, Hebrews 4:15, etc)–being perfected/living life as a Perfect man and experiencing growth/development as all men do in His PHYSICAL nature ( Hebrews 5:4-10, Luke 2:39-40, Luke 2:51-52, etc ) in order to aid us in our own growth of becoming like Him, both Co-Heirs with Him and “Sons of the Lord” ( Romans 6-8). For Christ’s divine authority is meaningless unless, with respect to his humanity, he has been raised from the dead… only a Resurrected Lord can be our cohem gadol, interceding with the Father on our behalf (Romans 8:34, Matthew 4:14, etc), only a resurrected man can be the firstfruits of the resurrection promised to us (Romans 8:23-29, I Corinthians 15) and only a resurrected Messiah can come to rule in glory and fulfill the universal Jewish expectation of final deliverance for the nations of Israel. .

  • Gabriel (G²)

    Something else I wanted to mention….

    My apologies for anything I wrote that was too extensive, as what you touched upon was a subject I’m very passionate about as I’ve grown up experiencing Eastern Christianity for some time now at the fellowship I attend with those who are Messianic Jews of an Eastern Persuasion. and have enjoyed many of the people I’ve encountered in it (discussed here and here )..and what I’ve come to conclude is that while those in Western Christianity often have views divorced from what occurred historically, many in the West are now coming to see alot of the beauty in Eastern Christianity (i.e. the Church Fathers/Desert Fathers and Desert Mothers, Eastern Monasticism, Theosis, etc)…and yet still ignorant of how extensive it is when not realizing how even those within Eastern CHristianity are more diverse than others realize. For it wasn’t just Eastern Orthodoxy that was influential since Oriental Orthodoxy (i.e. Coptic Orthodox, Indian, Ethopian, etc) is something else that many don’t consider when it comes to discussions and debates on the Trinity.

    The great fourth ecumenical council at Chalcedon in A.D. 451 was, like the others, called by an emperor and supposed to settle the controversy over whether Christ has two natures (Antioch’s view) or one (Alexandria’s view). Out of the council came the Chalcedonian Definition, which articulated the doctrine of the hypostatic union: Jesus Christ was one person of two natures “without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.” But it did anything but settle the controversy. Eventually, through much bloodshed, most Christians in Egypt and the Middle East broke from the churches of Rome and Constantinople and founded rival Christian traditions. One of those traditions is Nestorianism (because of belief that Christ’s two natures were and are in some sense separate, even though unified in purpose), the other Monophysitism (because of belief that Christ’s two natures merged to form one—primarily if not exclusively divine).

    With what I mentioned earlier on the work of Philip Jenkins, he attributed the Chalcedonian Definition to “political accident…whereas some attribute it to divine providence. For example, if emperor Theodosius II, champion of the Monophysite cause who condoned the Alexandrian murder of patriarch Flavian at the Gangster Synod in 449, had not been killed in a horse-riding accident in July 450, the Christian world may have become permanently Monophysite. Jenkins treats this crucial event, which made possible the defeat of Monophysitism at Chalcedon possible if not certain, as accident. Of course, many orthodox Christians view it as divine intervention.

    As it concerns the monophysite disagreements at Chalcedon, its rather fascinating to consider the many sides of history that may get lost when it comes to discussion on the various debates others had on the nature of Christ–especially in regards to how many Oriental Orthodox have long noted that the term “monophysite” is something that doesn’t really reflect what they’ve always believed. Ethopian Orthodox would prefer to be called tewahido (made one)……and in their mindset, misunderstandings occurred more so over not understanding what another meant and then carrying that misunderstanding further over the years. Yet even in the disagreements, there was still much fruit.



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