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§144. Christ and the Incarnation.


*Dionys. Petavius (or Denis Petau, Prof. of Theol. in Paris, d. 1652): Opus de theologicis dogmatibus, etc. Par. 1644–50, in 5 vols. fol. Later ed. of Antw. 1700; by Fr. Ant. Zacharia, Venice, 1737 (in 7 vols. fol); with additions by C. Passaglia, and C. Schrader, Rome, 1857 (incomplete); find a still later one by J. B. Thomas, Bar le Due, 1863, in 8 vols. Petau was a thoroughly learned Jesuit and the father of Doctrine History (Dogmengeschichte). In the section De Trinitate (vol. II.), he has collected most of the passages of the ante-Nicene and Nicene father, and admits a progressive development of the doctrine of the divinity of Christ, and of the trinity, for which the Anglican, G. Bull, severely censures him.

*George Bull (Bishop of St. David’s, d. 1710): Defensio Fidei Nicaenae de aeterna Divinitate Filii Dei, ex scriptis catholic. doctorum qui intra tria ecclesiae Christianae secula floruerunt. Oxf. 1685. (Lond. 1703; again 1721; also in Bp. Bull’s complete Works, ed. by Edw. Burton, Oxf. 1827, and again in 1846 (vol. V., Part I. and II.) English translation in the "Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology," (Oxford 1851, 2 vols.). Bishop Bull is still one of the most learned and valuable writers on the early doctrine of the Trinity, but he reads the ante-Nicene fathers too much through the glass of the Nicene Creed, and has to explain and to defend the language of more than one half of his long list of witnesses.

Martini: Gesch. des Dogmas von der Gottheit Christi in den ersten vier Jahrh. Rost. 1809 (rationalistic).

Ad. Möller (R.C.):Athanasiusder Gr. Mainz. 1827, second ed. 1844 (Bk 1. Der Glaube der Kirche der drei ersten Jahrh. in Betreff der Trinitaet, etc., p. 1–116).

Edw. Burton: Testimonies of the ante-Nicene Fathers to the Divinity of Christ. Second ed. Oxf. 1829.

*F. C. Baur ((I. 1860): Die christl. Lehre von der Dreieinigkeit u. Menschwerdung Gottes in ihrer geschichtlichen Entwicklung. Tüb. 1841–43. 3 vols. (I. p. 129–341). Thoroughly independent, learned, critical, and philosophical.

G. A. Meier: Die Lehre von der Trinitaet in ihrer Hist. Entwicklung. Hamb. 1844. 2 Vols. (I. p. 48-l34).

*Isaac A. Dorner: Entwicklungsgeschichte der Lehre von der Person Christi (1839), 2d ed. Stuttg. u. Berl. 1845–56. 2 vols. (I. pp. 122–747). A masterpiece of exhaustive and conscientious learning, and penetrating and fair criticism. Engl. translation by W. I. Alexander and D. W. Simon. Edinb. 1864, 5 vols.

Robr. Is. Wilberforce (first Anglican, then, since 1854, R.C.): The Doctrine of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, in its relation to Mankind and to the Church (more doctrinal than historical). 4th ed. Lond. 1852. (Ch. V. pp. 93–147.) Republ. from an earlier ed., Philad. 1849.

Ph. Schaff: The Conflict of Trinitarianism and Unitarianism in the ante-Nicene age, in the "Bibl. Sacra." Andover, 1858, Oct.

M. F. Sadler: Emmanuel, or, The Incarnation of the Son of God the Foundation of immutable Truth. London 1867 (Doctrinal).

Henry Parry Liddon (Anglican, Canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral): The Divinity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (The Bampton Lectures for 1866). London 1867, 9th ed. 1882. Devout, able, and eloquent.

Ph. Schaff: Christ and Christianity. N. Y. 1885, p. 45–123. A sketch of the history of Christology to the present time.

Comp. the relevant sections in the doctrine-histories of Hagenback, Thomasius, Harnack, etc.

The Messiahship and Divine Sonship of Jesus of Nazareth, first confessed by Peter in the name of all the apostles and the eye-witnesses of the divine glory of his person and his work, as the most sacred and precious fact of their experience, and after the resurrection adoringly acknowledged by the sceptical Thomas in that exclamation, "My Lord and my God!"—is the foundation stone of the Christian church;977977    Matt. 16:16-19 sqq77 and the denial of the mystery of the incarnation is the mark of antichristian heresy.978978    1 John 4:1-3.78

The whole theological energy of the ante-Nicene period concentrated itself, therefore, upon the doctrine of Christ as the God-man and Redeemer of the world. This doctrine was the kernel of all the baptismal creeds, and was stamped upon the entire life, constitution and worship of the early church. It was not only expressly asserted by the fathers against heretics, but also professed in the daily and weekly worship, in the celebration of baptism, the eucharist and the annual festivals, especially Easter. It was embodied in prayers, doxologies and hymns of praise. From the earliest record Christ was the object not of admiration which is given to finite persons and things, and presupposes equality, but of prayer, praise and adoration which is due only to an infinite, uncreated, divine being. This is evident from several passages of the New Testament,979979    Comp. Matt. 2:11; 9:18; 17:14, 15; 28:9, 17; Luke 17:15, 16; 23:42; John 20:28; Acts 7:59, 60; 9:14, 21; 1 Cor. 1:2; Phil. 2:10; Hebr. 1:6; 1 John 5:13-15; Rev. 5:6-13, etc.79 from the favorite symbol of the early Christians, the Ichthys,980980    See p. 279.80 from the Tersanctus, the Gloria in Excelsis, the hymn of Clement of Alexandria in praise of the Logos,981981    See p. 230.81 from the testimony of Origen, who says: "We sing hymns to the Most High alone, and His Only Begotten, who is the Word and God; and we praise God and His Only Begotten;"982982    Contra Cels. 1. VIII.c. 67.82 and from the heathen testimony of the younger Pliny who reports to the Emperor Trajan that the Christians in Asia were in the habit of singing "hymns to Christ as their God."983983    "Carnem Christo quasi Deo dicere," Epp. X. 97. A heathen mock-crucifix which was discovered in 1857 in Rome, represents a Christian as worshipping a crucified ass as "his God." See above, p. 272.83  Eusebius, quoting from an earlier writer (probably Hippolytus) against the heresy of Artemon, refers to the testimonies of Justin, Miltiades, Tatian, Clement, and "many others" for the divinity of Christ, and asks: "Who knows not the works of Irenaeus and Melito, and the rest, in which Christ is announced as God and man? Whatever psalms and hymns of the brethren were written by the faithful from the beginning, celebrate Christ as the Word of God, by asserting his divinity."984984    τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ τὸν Χριστὸν ὑμνοῦσι θεολογοῦντες. Hist. Eccl. V. 28.84 The same faith was sealed by the sufferings and death of "the noble army" of confessors and martyrs, who confessed Christ to be God, and died for Christ as God.985985    Comp. Ruinart, Acta Mart.; Prudentius, Peristeph., Liddon, l.c. pp. 400 sqq. "If there be one doctrine of our faith" (says Canon Liddon, p. 406) "which the martyrs especially confessed at death, it is the doctrine of our Lord’s Divinity. The learned and the illiterate, the young and the old, the noble and the lowly, the slave and his master united in this confession. Sometimes it is wrung from the martyr reluctantly by cross-examination, sometimes it is proclaimed as a truth with which the Christian heart is full to bursting, and which, out of the heart’s abundance, the Christian mouth cannot but speak. Sometimes Christ’s Divinity is professed as belonging to the great Christian contradiction of the polytheism of the heathen world around. Sometimes it is explained as involving Christ’s unity with the Father, against the pagan imputation of ditheism; sometimes it is proclaimed as justifying the worship which, as the heathens knew, Christians paid to Christ." Many illustrations are given.85

Life and worship anticipated theology, and Christian experience contained more than divines could in clear words express. So a child may worship the Saviour and pray to Him long before he can give a rational account of his faith. The instinct of the Christian people was always in the right direction, and it is unfair to make them responsible for the speculative crudities, the experimental and tentative statements of some of the ante-Nicene teachers. The divinity of Christ then, and with this the divinity of the Holy Spirit, were from the first immovably fixed in the mind and heart of the Christian Church as a central article of faith.

But the logical definition of this divinity, and of its relation to the Old Testament fundamental doctrine of the unity of the divine essence in a word, the church dogma of the trinity was the work of three centuries, and was fairly accomplished only in the Nicene age. In the first efforts of reason to grapple with these unfathomable mysteries, we must expect mistakes, crudities, and inaccuracies of every kind.

In the Apostolic Fathers we find for the most part only the simple biblical statements of the deity and humanity of Christ, in the practical form needed for general edification. Of those fathers Ignatius is most deeply imbued with the conviction, that the crucified Jesus is God incarnate, and indeed frequently calls him, without qualification, God.986986    Ad. Eph. c. 18: ὁ γὰρ Θεὸς ἡμῶν Ιησοῦς ὁ Χριστὸς ἐκυοφορήθη ὑπὸ Μαρίας (Deus noster Jesus Christus conceptus est ex Maria); c.7: ἐν σαπκὶ γενόμενος Θεός. Ignatius calls the blood of Jesus the "blood of God" (ἐν αἵματι θεου), Ad. Eph. 1.He desires to imitate the sufferings of "his God,"μιμητὴς εἶ́ναι τοῦ πάθος τοῦ Θεοῦ μου, Ad Rom. 6. Polycarp calls Christ the eternal Son of God, to whom all things in heaven and earth are subject (Ad Phil. c. 2,8 and his last prayer in Martyr. Polyc. c. 14). The anonymous author of the Epistle to Diognetus (c. 7,8) teaches that the Father sent to men, not one of his servants, whether man or angel, but the very architect and author of all things, by whom all has been ordered, and on whom all depends; he sent him as God, and because he is God, his advent is a revelation of God. On the Christology of the Apost. Fathers comp., besides Dorner, Schwane’s Ante-Nicene Doctrine History, pp. 60ff., and Liddon’s Lectures on the Divinity of Christ, pp. 379 and 411 sqq.86

The scientific development of Christology begins with Justin and culminates in Origen. From Origen then proceed two opposite modes of conception, the Athanasian and the Arian; the former at last triumphs in the council of Nicaea a.d. 325, and confirms its victory in the council of Constantinople, 381. In the Arian controversy the ante-Nicene conflicts on this vital doctrine came to a head and final settlement.

The doctrine of the Incarnation involves three elements: the divine nature of Christ; his human nature; and the relation of the two to his undivided personality.

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