the Second Week of Advent
Click here to learn more!
Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary
the son of God, the Messiah, and Saviour of the world, the first and principal object of the prophecies, prefigured and promised in the Old Testament, expected and desired by the patriarchs; the hope of the Gentiles; the glory, salvation, and consolation of Christians. The name Jesus, or, as the Hebrews pronounce it, יהושוע , Jehoshua or Joshua, ‘Ιησους , signifies, he who shall save. No one ever bore this name with so much justice, nor so perfectly fulfilled the signification of it, as Jesus Christ, who saves even from sin and hell, and hath merited heaven for us by the price of his blood. It is not necessary here to narrate the history of our Saviour's life, which can no where be read with advantage except in the writings of the four evangelists; but there are several general views which require to be noticed under this article.
1. Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ or Messiah promised under the Old Testament. That he professed himself to be that Messiah to whom all the prophets gave witness, and who was, in fact, at the time of his appearing, expected by the Jews; and that he was received under that character by his disciples, and by all Christians ever since, is certain. And if the Old Testament Scriptures afford sufficiently definite marks by which the long announced Christ should be infallibly known at his advent, and these presignations are found realized in our Lord, then is the truth of his pretensions established. From the books of the Old Testament we learn that the Messiah was to authenticate his claim by miracles; and in those predictions respecting him, so many circumstances are recorded, that they could meet only in one person; and so, if they are accomplished in him, they leave no room for doubt, as far as the evidence of prophecy is deemed conclusive. As to MIRACLES, we refer to that article; here only observing, that if the miraculous works wrought by Christ were really done, they prove his mission, because, from their nature, and having been wrought to confirm his claim to be the Messiah, they necessarily imply a divine attestation. With respect to PROPHECY, the principles under which its evidence must be regarded as conclusive will be given under that head; and here therefore it will only be necessary to show the completion of the prophecies of the sacred books of the Jews relative to the Messiah in one person, and that person the founder of the Christian religion.
The time of the Messiah's appearance in the world, as predicted in the Old Testament, is defined, says Keith, by a number of concurring circumstances, which fix it to the very date of the advent of Christ. The last blessing of Jacob to his sons, when he commanded them to gather themselves together that he might tell them what should befall them in the last days, contains this prediction concerning Judah: "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be," Genesis 49:10 , The date fixed by this prophecy for the coming of Shiloh, or the Saviour, was not to exceed the time during which the descendants of Judah were to continue a united people, while a king should reign among them, while they should be governed by their own laws, and while their judges should be from among their brethren. The prophecy of Malachi adds another standard for measuring the time: "Behold, I send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me; and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall come suddenly to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts," Malachi 3:1 . No words can be more expressive of the coming of the promised Messiah; and they as clearly imply his appearance in the second temple before it should be destroyed. In regard to the advent of the Messiah before the destruction of the second temple, the words of Haggai are remarkably explicit: "The desire of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of Hosts. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than that of the former, and in this place will I give peace,"
Haggai 2:7 . The Saviour was thus to appear, according to the prophecies of the Old Testament, during the time of the continuance of the kingdom of Judah, previous to the demolition of the temple, and immediately subsequent to the next prophet. But the time is rendered yet more definite. In the prophecies of Daniel, the kingdom of the Messiah is not only foretold as commencing in the time of the fourth monarchy, or Roman empire, but the express number of years that were to precede his coming are plainly intimated: "Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people, and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sin, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy. Know, therefore, and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem, unto Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks and threescore and two weeks,"
Daniel 9:24-25 . Computation by weeks of years was common among the Jews, and every seventh was the sabbatical year; seventy weeks, thus amounted to four hundred and ninety years. In these words the prophet marks the very time, and uses the very name of Messiah, the Prince; so entirety is all ambiguity done away. The plainest inference may be drawn from these prophecies. All of them, while, in every respect, they presuppose the most perfect knowledge of futurity; while they were unquestionably delivered and publicly known for ages previous to the time to which they referred; and while they refer to different contingent and unconnected events, utterly undeterminable and inconceivable by all human sagacity; accord in perfect unison to a single precise period where all their different lines terminate at once,—the very fulness of time when Jesus appeared. A king then reigned over the Jews in their own land; they were governed by their own laws; and the council of their nation exercised its authority and power. Before that period, the other tribes were extinct or dispersed among the nations. Judah alone remained, and the last sceptre in Israel had not then departed from it. Every stone of the temple was then unmoved; it was the admiration of the Romans, and might have stood for ages. But in a short space, all these concurring testimonies to the time of the advent of the Messiah passed away. During the very year, the twelfth of his age, in which Christ first publicly appeared in the temple, Archelaus the king was dethroned and banished; Coponius was appointed procurator; and the kingdom of Judea, the last remnant of the greatness of Israel, was debased into a part of the province of Syria. The sceptre was smitten from the tribe of Judah; the crown fell from their heads; their glory departed; and, soon after the death of Christ, of their temple one stone was not left upon another; their commonwealth itself became as complete a ruin, and was broken in pieces; and they have ever since been scattered throughout the world, a name but not a nation. After the lapse of nearly four hundred years posterior to the time of Malachi, another prophet appeared who was the herald of the Messiah. And the testimony of Josephus confirms the account given in Scripture of John the Baptist. Every mark that denoted the time of the coming of the Messiah was erased soon after the crucifixion of Christ, and could never afterward be renewed. And with respect to the prophecies of Daniel, it is remarkable, at this remote period, how little discrepancy of opinion has existed among the most learned men, as to the space from the time of the passing out of the edict to rebuild Jerusalem, after the Babylonish captivity, to the commencement of the Christian era, and the subsequent events foretold in the prophecy.
The predictions contained in the Old Testament respecting both the family out of which the Messiah was to arise, and the place of his birth, are almost as circumstantial, and are equally applicable to Christ, as those which refer to the time of his appearance. He was to be an Israelite, of the tribe of Judah, of the family of David, and of the town of Bethlehem. That all these predictions were fulfilled in Jesus Christ; that he was of that country, tribe, and family, of the house and lineage of David, and born in Bethlehem, we have the fullest evidence in the testimony of all the evangelists; in two distinct accounts of the genealogies, by natural and legal succession, which, according to the custom of the Jews, were carefully preserved; in the acquiescence of the enemies of Christ in the truth of the fact, against which there is not a single surmise in history; and in the appeal made by some of the earliest Christian writers to the unquestionable testimony of the records of the census, taken at the very time of our Saviour's birth by order of Caesar. Here, indeed, it is impossible not to be struck with the exact fulfilment of prophecies which are apparently contradictory and irreconcilable, and with the manner in which they were providentially accomplished. The spot of Christ's nativity was distant from the place of the abode of his parents, and the region in which he began his ministry was remote from the place of his birth; and another prophecy respecting him was in this manner verified: "In the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, by the way of the sea beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations, the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined," Isaiah 9:1-2; Matthew 4:16 . Thus, the time at which the predicted Messiah was to appear; the nation, the tribe, and the family from which he was to be descended; and the place of his birth,—no populous city, but of itself an inconsiderable place,—were all clearly foretold; and as clearly refer to Jesus Christ; and all meet their completion in him.
But the facts of his life, and the features of his character, are also drawn with a precision that cannot be misunderstood. The obscurity, the meanness, and the poverty of his external condition are thus represented: "He shall grow up before the Lord like a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form or comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. Thus saith the Lord to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship," Isaiah 53:2; Isaiah 49:7 . That such was the condition in which Christ appeared, the whole history of his life abundantly testifies. And the Jews, looking in the pride of their hearts for an earthly king, disregarded these prophecies concerning him, were deceived by their traditions, and found only a stone of stumbling, where, if they had searched their Scriptures aright, they would have discovered an evidence of the Messiah. "Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not this the son of Mary? said they; and they were offended at him." His riding in humble triumph into Jerusalem; his being betrayed for thirty pieces of silver, and scourged, and buffered, and spit upon; the piercing of his hands and of his feet; the last offered draught of vinegar and gall; the parting of his raiment, and casting lots upon his vesture; the manner of his death and of his burial, and his rising again without seeing corruption, were all expressly predicted, and all these predictions were literally fulfilled, Zechariah 9:9; Zechariah 11:12; Isaiah 50:6; Psalms 22:16; Psalms 69:21; Psalms 22:18; Isaiah 53:9; Psalms 16:10 . If all these prophecies admit of any application to the events of the life of any individual, it can only be to that of the Author of Christianity. And what other religion can produce a single fact which was actually foretold of its founder?
The death of Christ was as unparalleled as his life; and the prophecies are as minutely descriptive of his sufferings as of his virtues. Not only did the paschal lamb, which was to be killed every year in all the families of Israel, which was to be taken out of the flock, to be without blemish, to be eaten with bitter herbs, to have its blood sprinkled, and to be kept whole that not a bone of it should be broken; not only did the offering up of Isaac, and the lifting up of the brazen serpent in the wilderness, by looking upon which the people were healed, and many ritual observances of the Jews, prefigure the manner of Christ's death, and the sacrifice which was to be made for sin; but many express declarations abound in the prophecies, that Christ was indeed to suffer. But Isaiah, who describes, with eloquence worthy of a prophet, the glories of the kingdom that was to come, characterizes, with the accuracy of a historian, the humiliation, the trials, and the agonies which were to precede the triumphs of the Redeemer of a world; and the history of Christ forms, to the very letter, the commentary and the completion of his every prediction. In a single passage, Isaiah 52:13 , &c; 53, the connection of which is uninterrupted, its antiquity indisputable, and its application obvious, the sufferings of the servant of God (who under that same denomination, is previously described as he who was to be the light of the Gentiles, the salvation of God to the ends of the earth, and the elect of God in whom his soul delighted, Isaiah 42:10; Isaiah 49:6 ) are so minutely foretold, that no illustration is requisite to show that they testify of Jesus. The whole of this prophecy thus refers to the Messiah. It describes both his debasement and his dignity; his rejection by the Jews; his humility, his affliction, and his agony; his magnanimity and his charity; how his words were disbelieved; how his state was lowly; how his sorrow was severe; how he opened not his mouth but to make intercession for the transgressors. In diametrical opposition to every dispensation of Providence which is registered in the records of the Jews, it represents spotless innocence suffering by the appointment of Heaven; death as the issue of perfect obedience; God's righteous servant as forsaken of him; and one who was perfectly immaculate bearing the chastisement of many guilty; sprinkling many nations from their iniquity, by virtue of his sacrifice; justifying many by his knowledge; and dividing a portion with the great and the spoil with the strong, because he hath poured out his soul in death. This prophecy, therefore, simply as a prediction prior to the event, renders the very unbelief of the Jews an evidence against them, converts the scandal of the cross into an argument in favour of Christianity, and presents us with an epitome of the truth, a miniature of the Gospel in some of its most striking features. The simple exposition of it sufficed at once for the conversion of the eunuch of Ethiopia. To these prophecies may, in fact, be added all those which relate to his spiritual kingdom, or the circumstances of the promulgation, the opposition, and the triumphs of his religion; the accomplishment of which equally proves the divine mission of its Author, and points him out as that great personage with whom they stand inseparably connected.
2. But if Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, in that character his Deity also is necessarily involved, because the Messiah is surrounded with attributes of divinity in the Old Testament; and our Lord himself as certainly lays claim to those attributes as to the office of "the Christ." Without referring here to the Scriptural doctrine of a Trinity of divine Persons in the unity of the Godhead, (see Trinity, ) it is sufficient now to show that both in the Old and New Testament Scriptures, the Messiah is contemplated as a divine Person. In the very first promise of redemption, his superiority to that great and malignant spirit who destroyed the innocence of man, and blighted the fair creation of God, is unquestionably implied; while the Angel of the Divine Presence, the Angel of the Covenant, who appears so prominent in the patriarchal times, and the early periods of Jewish history, and was understood by the early Jews as the future Messiah, is seen at once as a being distinct from Jehovah and yet Jehovah himself; bearing that incommunicable name; and performing acts, and possessing qualities of unquestionable divinity. As the "Redeemer" of Job, he is the object of his trust and hope, and is said to be then a "living Redeemer;" to see whom at the last was to "see God." As "Shiloh," in the prophecy of Jacob, he is represented as having an indefinitely extensive reign over "the people" gathered to him; and in all subsequent predictions respecting this reign of Christ, it is represented so vast, so perfect, so influential upon the very thoughts, purposes, and affections of men, that no mere creature can be reasonably supposed capable of exercising it. Of the second Psalm, so manifestly appropriated to the Messiah, it has been justly said, that the high titles and honours ascribed in this Psalm to the extraordinary person who is the chief subject of it, far transcend any thing that is ascribed in Scripture to any mere creature. But if the Psalm be inquired into more narrowly, and compared with parallel prophecies; if it be duly considered, that not only is the extraordinary person here spoken of called "the Son of God," but that title is so ascribed to him as to imply, that it belongs to him in a manner that is absolutely singular, and peculiar to himself, seeing he is said to be begotten of God, Isaiah 49:7 , and is called, by way of eminence, "the Son," Isaiah 49:12; that the danger of provoking him to anger is spoken of in so very different a manner from what the Scripture uses in speaking of the anger of any mere creature, "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way when his wrath is kindled but a little;" that when the kings and judges of the earth are commanded to serve God with fear, they are at the same time commanded to kiss the Son, which in those times and places was frequently an expression of adoration; and, particularly, that, whereas other Scriptures contain awful and just threatenings against those who trust in any mere man, the Psalmist nevertheless expressly calls them blessed who trust in the Son here spoken of;—all these things taken together make up a character of unequivocal divinity: and, on the other hand, when it is said, that God would set this his Son as his King on his holy hill of Zion, Isaiah 49:6 , this, and various other expressions in this Psalm, contain characters of that subordination which is appropriate to that divine Person who was to be incarnate, and engage in a work assigned to him by the Father. The former part of the forty-fifth Psalm is by the inspired authority of St. Paul applied to the Christ, who is addressed in these lofty words, "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom." In the same manner Psalms 102:25-28 , is applied to Christ by the same authority, and there he is represented as the creator of all things, changing his creations as a vesture, and yet himself continuing the same unchanged being amidst all the mutations of the universe. In Psalm cx, David says, "Jehovah said unto my Lord, ( Adonai, ) Sit thou upon my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool." And in Isaiah vi, the same Adonai is seen by the prophet "seated upon a throne, high and lifted up," receiving the adoration of seraphs, and bearing the title, "Jehovah, Lord of Hosts," of which passage St. John makes a direct application to Christ. Isaiah predicts his birth of a virgin, under the title of "Immanuel, God with us." The same prophet gives to this wonderful child the style of "the Mighty God," "the Everlasting Father," and the "Prince of Peace;" so that, as Dr. Pye Smith justly observes, "if there be any dependence on words, the Messiah is here drawn in the opposite characters of humanity and Deity,—the nativity and frailty of a mortal child, and the incommunicable attributes of the omnipresent and eternal God." Twice is he called by Jeremiah, "Jehovah our righteousness." Daniel terms him the "Ancient of Days," or "The Immortal;" and Micah declares, in a passage which the council of the Jews, assembled by Herod, applied to the Messiah, that he who was to be born in Bethlehem was "even he whose comings forth are from eternity, from the days of the everlasting period." Thus the prophetic testimony describes him, as entitled to the appellation of "Wonderful," since he should be, in a sense peculiar to himself, the Son of God, Psalms 2:7; Isaiah 9:6; as existing and acting during the patriarchal and the Jewish ages, and even from eternity, Psalms 40:7-9; Micah 5:2; as the guardian and protector of his people, Isaiah 40:9-11; as the proper object of the various affections of piety, of devotional confidence for obtaining the most important blessings, and of religious homage from angels and men, Psalms 2:12; Psalms 97:7; and, finally, declares him to be the eternal and immutable Being, the Creator, God, the Mighty God, Adonai, Elohim, Jehovah.
In perfect accordance with these views, does our Saviour speak of himself. He asserts his preexistence, as having "come down from heaven;" and as existing "before Abraham;" and as being "in heaven" while yet before the eyes of his disciples on earth. In the same peculiar manner does he apply the term "Son of God" to himself, and that with so manifest an intention to assume it in the sense of divinity, that the Jews attempted on that account to stone him as a blasphemer. The whole force of the argument by which he silenced the Pharisees when he asked how the Messiah, who was to be the Son of David, could be David's Lord, in reference to the passage in the Psalms before quoted, arose out of the doctrine of the Messiah's divinity; and when he claims that all men should honour him as they honour the Father, and asserts that as the Father hath life in himself, so he has given to the Son to have life in himself, that he "quickeneth whom he will," that "where two or three meet in his name he is in the midst of them," and would be with his disciples "to the end of the world;" who does not see that the Jews concluded right, when they said that he made himself "equal with God,"—an impression which he took no pains to remove, although his own moral character bound him to do so, had he not intended to confirm that conclusion. So numerous are the passages in which divine titles, acts, and qualities, are ascribed to Christ in the apostolical epistles, and so unbroken is the stream of testimony from the apostolic age, that the Deity of their Saviour was the undoubted and universal faith of his inspired followers, and of those who immediately succeeded them, that it is not necessary to quote proofs. The whole argument is this: If the Old Testament Scriptures represent the Messiah as a divine Person; the proofs which demonstrate Jesus to be the Messiah, demonstrate him also by farther and necessary consequence to be divine. Yet, though there is a union of natures in Christ, there is no mixture or confusion of their properties: his humanity is not changed into his Deity, nor his Deity absorbed by his humanity; but the two natures are distinct in one Person. How this union exists, is above our comprehension; and, indeed, if we cannot explain how our bodies and souls are united, it is not to be supposed that we can comprehend the mystery of "God manifest in the flesh." So truly does Christ bear the name given to him in prophecy,— "Wonderful."
3. The doctrine of the Deity of Christ derives farther confirmation from the consideration, that in no sound sense can the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments be interpreted so as to make their very different and often apparently contradictory statements respecting him harmonize. How, for instance, is it that he is arrayed in the attributes of divinity, and yet is capable of being raised to a kingdom and glory?—that he is addressed, "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever," and yet that it should follow "God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows?"—that he should be God, and yet, by a human birth, "God with us?"—that he should say, "I and my Father are one," and, "My Father is greater than I?"—that he is supreme, and yet a servant?—that he is equal and yet subordinate?—that he, a man, should require and receive worship and trust?—that he should be greater than angels, and yet "made lower than the angels?"—that he should be "made flesh," and yet be the Creator of all things?—that he should raise himself from the dead, and yet be raised by the power of the Father? These and many other declarations respecting him, all accord with the orthodox view of his person; and are intelligible so far as they state the facts respecting him; but are wholly beyond the power of interpretation into any rational meaning on any theory which denies to him a real humanity on the one hand, or a real and personal divinity on the other. So powerfully, in fact, has this been felt, that, in order to evade the force of the testimony of Scripture, the most licentious criticisms have been resorted to by the deniers of his divinity; such as would not certainly have been tolerated by scholars in the case of an attempt to interpret any other ancient writing.
4. Being, therefore, not only "a teacher sent from God," but the divine Son of God himself, it might be truly said by his wondering hearers, "Never man spake like this man." On our Lord's character as a teacher, therefore, many striking and just remarks have been made by different writers, not excepting some infidels themselves, who, in this respect, have been carried into admiration by the overwhelming force of evidence. This article, however, shall not be indebted to a desecrated source for an estimate of the character of his teaching, and shall rather be concluded with the following admirable remarks of a Christian prelate:—
"When our Lord is considered as a teacher, we find him delivering the justest and most sublime truths with respect to the divine nature, the duties of mankind, and a future state of existence; agreeable in every particular to reason, and to the wisest maxims of the wisest philosophers; without any mixture of that alloy which so often debased their most perfect production; and excellently adapted to mankind in general, by suggesting circumstances and particular images on the most awful and interesting subjects. We find him filling, and, as it were, overpowering our minds with the grandest ideas of his own nature; representing himself as appointed by his Father to be our Instructer, our Redeemer, our Judge, and our King; and showing that he lived and died for the most benevolent and important purposes conceivable. He does not labour to support the greatest and most magnificent of all characters; but it is perfectly easy and natural to him. He makes no display of the high and heavenly truths which he utters; but speaks of them with a graceful and wonderful simplicity and majesty.
Supernatural truths are as familiar to his mind, as the common affairs of life are to other men. He revives the moral law, carries it to perfection, and enforces it by peculiar and animating motives: but he enjoins nothing new beside praying in his name, mutual love among his disciples, as such, and the observance of two simple and significant positive laws which serve to promote the practice of the moral law. All his precepts, when rightly explained, are reasonable in themselves and useful in their tendency: and their compass is very great, considering that he was an occasional teacher, and not a systematical one. If from the matter of his instructions we pass on to the manner in which they were delivered, we find our Lord usually speaking as an authoritative teacher; though occasionally limiting his precepts, and sometimes assigning the reasons of them. He presupposes the original law of God, and addresses men as rational creatures. From the grandeur of his mind, and the magnitude of his subjects, he is often sublime; and the beauties interspersed throughout his discourses are equally natural and striking. He is remarkable for an easy and graceful manner of introducing the best lessons from incidental objects and occasions. The human heart is naked and open to him; and he addresses the thoughts of men, as others do the emotions of their countenance or their bodily actions. Difficult situations, and sudden questions of the most artful and ensnaring kind, serve only to display his superior wisdom, and to confound and astonish all his adversaries. Instead of showing his boundless knowledge on every occasion, he checks and restrains it, and prefers utility to the glare of ostentation. He teaches directly and obliquely, plainly and covertly, as wisdom points out occasions. He knows the inmost character, every prejudice and every feeling of his hearers; and, accordingly, uses parables to conceal or to enforce his lessons; and he powerfully impresses them by the significant language of actions. He gives proofs of his mission from above, by his knowledge of the heart, by a chain of prophecies, and by a variety of mighty works.
"He sets an example of the most perfect piety to God, and of the most extensive benevolence and the most tender compassion to men. He does not merely exhibit a life of strict justice, but of overflowing benignity. His temperance has not the dark shades of austerity; his meekness does not degenerate into apathy. His humility is signal, amidst a splendour of qualities more than human. His fortitude is eminent and exemplary, in enduring the most formidable external evils and the sharpest actual sufferings: his patience is invincible; his resignation entire and absolute. Truth and sincerity shine throughout his whole conduct. Though of heavenly descent, he shows obedience and affection to his earthly parents. He approves, loves, and attaches himself to amiable qualities in the human race. He respects authority, religious and civil; and he evidences his regard for his country by promoting its most essential good in a painful ministry dedicated to its service, by deploring its calamities, and by laying down his life for its benefit. Every one of his eminent virtues is regulated by consummate prudence; and he both wins the love of his friends, and extorts the approbation and wonder of his enemies. Never was a character at the same time so commanding and natural, so resplendent and pleasing, so amiable and venerable. There is a peculiar contrast in it between an awful greatness, dignity, and majesty, and the most conciliating loveliness, tenderness, and softness. He now converses with prophets, lawgivers, and angels; and the next instant he meekly endures the dulness of his disciples and the blasphemies and rage of the multitude. He now calls himself greater than Solomon, one who can command legions of angels, the Giver of life to whomsoever he pleaseth, the Son of God who shall sit on his glorious throne to judge the world. At other times we find him embracing young children, not lifting up his voice in the streets, not breaking the bruised reed, nor quenching the smoking flax; calling his disciples, not servants, but friends and brethren, and comforting them with an exuberant and parental affection. Let us pause an instant, and fill our minds with the idea of one who knew all things heavenly and earthly, searched and laid open the inmost recesses of the heart, rectified every prejudice, and removed every mistake, of a moral and religious kind, by a word exercised a sovereignty over all nature, penetrated the hidden events of futurity, gave promises of admission into a happy immortality, had the keys of life and death, claimed a union with the Father; and yet was pious, mild, gentle, humble, affable, social, benevolent, friendly, affectionate. Such a character is fairer than the morning star. Each separate virtue is made stronger by opposition and contrast; and the union of so many virtues forms a brightness which fitly represents the glory of that God ‘who inhabiteth light inaccessible.' Such a character must have been a real one. There is something so extraordinary, so perfect, and so godlike in it, that it could not have been thus supported throughout by the utmost stretch of human art, much less by men confessedly unlearned and obscure." We may add, that such a character must also have been divine. His virtues are human in their class and kind, so that he was our "example;" but they were sustained and heightened by that divinity which was impersonated in him, and from which they derived their intense and full perfection.
5. A great deal has been written concerning the form, beauty, and stature of Jesus Christ. Some have asserted, that he was in person the noblest of all the sons of men. Others have maintained, that there was no beauty nor any graces in his outward appearance. The fathers have not expressed themselves on this matter in a uniform manner. St. Jerom believes that the lustre and majesty which shone about our Saviour's face were capable of winning all hearts: it was this that drew the generality of his Apostles with so much ease to him; it was this majesty which struck those down who came to seize him in the olive garden. St. Bernard and St. Chrysostom contend in like manner for the beauty of Jesus Christ's person; but the most ancient fathers have acknowledged, that he was not at all handsome. Homo indecorus et passibilis, says Irenaeus. Celsus objected to the Christians, that Jesus Christ, as a man, was little, and ill made, which Origen acknowledged in his answer to have been written of him. Clemens Alexandrinus owns, in several places, that the person of Jesus Christ was not beautiful, as does also Cyril of Alexandria. Tertullian says plainly, vultu et aspectu inglorius; that his outward form had nothing that could attract consideration and respect. St. Austin confesses, that Jesus Christ, as a man, was without beauty and the advantage of person; and the generality of the ancients, as Eusebius, Basil, Theodoret, Ambrose, Isidore, &c, explain the passage in the Psalm, "Thou art fairer than the children of men," as relating to the beauty of Jesus Christ according to his divinity. This difference in opinion shows that no certain tradition was handed down on this subject. The truth probably is, that all which was majestic and attractive in the person of our Lord, was in the expression of the countenance, the full influence of which was displayed chiefly in his confidential intercourse with his disciples; while his general appearance presented no striking peculiarity to the common observer.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Jesus Christ'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​wtd/​j/jesus-christ.html. 1831-2.