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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Lat. in, and caro, flesh), the permanent assumption of a human form by a divine personage.
I. False or Pretended Incarnations of Heathen Religions. — The mythologies of most nations afford traces, although faint, of the idea of incarnation. If, as Vinet has suggested, there can be no religion without an incarnation, the pseudo-incarnations of false religions may be regarded as so many gropings for the truth, "if haply they might feel after him" who at some time should become incarnate. These incarnations express the deepest need of our common nature. Sin has so isolated man from God that he feels there is no hope of his restoration except "the gods come down in the likeness of men." This idea confronts us from all parts of the world, whether in the avatars of the Hindu, the election and worship of the Lama of Thibet, the metamorphoses of the Greek and Roman mythologies, or the wilder worship of the aborigines of America. The earlier Christian apologists attributed these caricatures of the true incarnation to Satan, and alleged that "he invented these fables by imitating the truth." Neander makes the profound suggestion that "at the bottom of these myths is the earnest desire, inseparable from man's spirit, for participation in the divine nature as its true life its anxious longing to pass the gulf which separates the God-derived soul from its original-its wish, even though unconscious, to secure that union with God which alone can renew human nature, and which Christianity shows us as a living reality. Nor can we be astonished to find the facts of Christianity thus anticipated in poetic forms (embodying in imaginative creations the innate yet indistinct cravings of the spirit) in the mythical elements of the old religions, when we remember that human nature itself, and all the forms of its development, as well as the whole course of human history, were intended by God to find their full accomplishment in Christ" (Life of Christ, chap. 2, sec. 12).
The want that thus expresses itself in these fabled avatars lies at the foundation of idolatry. The unsatisfied nature of mall demands that his Deity should be near him-should dwell with him. It first leads him to represent the Deity by the work of his own hands, and then to worship it (see Tholuck, Predigten, 2, 148). Or we may look upon these avatars as so many faint and distant irradiations of the holy light that shone upon the Garden through the first promise given to man. On the contrary, Kitto denies "that there is in Eastern mythology any incarnation in any sense approaching that of the Christian, and that least of all is there any where it has been most insisted on" (Daily Bible Illus. on John 1, 14). Cocker, in his late work (Christianity and Greek Philosophy, N. Y. 1870, 8vo, p. 512), advances the theory that the idea. of "a pure spiritual essence without form and without emotion, pervading all and transcending all, is too vague and abstract to yield us comfort," and that therefore the need of an incarnation "became consciously or unconsciously ‘ the desire of nations' "by ‘‘ the education of the race" and "by the dispensation of philosophy. The idea of an incarnation was not unfamiliar to human thought, it was no new or strange idea to the heathen mind. The numberless metamorphoses of Grecian mythology, the incarnations of Brahma, the avatars of Vishnu, and the human form of Krishna, had naturalized the thought (Young, Christ of History, p. 248)." See Dorner, Lehre v. der Persons Christi, 1, 7 sq.; Biblioth. Sacra, 9:250; Weber, Indische Studien, 2, 411 sq.
Among the ancient Egyptians, Apis or Hapi, "the living bull," was esteemed to be the emblem and image of the soul of Osiris, who, as Pliny and Cicero say, was deemed a god by the Egyptians. "Diodorus derives the worship of Apis from a belief that the soul of Osiris had migrated into this animal; and he was thus supposed to manifest himself to man through successive ages;" while Strabo calls "Apis the same as Osiris" (Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. abridgm. 1, 290, 291). "About the time when Cambyses arrived at Memphis, Apis appeared to the Egyptians." Their great rejoicings led that prince to examine the officers who had charge of Memphis. These responded "that one of their gods had appeared to them-a god who, at long intervals of time, had been accustomed to show himself in Egypt" ‘ Herod. 3:27). Mnevis, the sacred bull of Heliopolis, was also a representative of Osiris, and with Apis, the sacred bull of Memphis, was worshipped as a god throughout the whole of Egypt. Ammianus says that Mnevis was sacred to the sun, while Apis was sacred to the moon (see Rawlinson's Hersod. 2, 354, Engl. edition). Hardwick, however, adduces Wilkinson as regarding it "a merit of the old Egyptians that they (lid not humanize their gods; and yet he admits that their fault was rather the elevation of animals and emblems to the rank of deities;" Hardwick denies that the idea of incarnation is to be found in the old. Egyptian creed (Christ and other Masters, 2, 351). (See APIS).
The mythology of the Hindis presents a vast variety of incarnations, the inferior avatars that have appeared in various ages being innumerable. The object of the avatar is declared by Vishnu himself, who, in the form of Krishna, thus addresses Arjuna: "Both I and thou have passed many births; mine are known to me, but thou knowest not thine. Although I am not in my nature subject to birth or decay, and am the lord of all created beings, yet, having command over my own nature, I am made evident by my own power; and as often as there is a decline of virtue, and an insurrection of vice and injustice in the world, I make myself evident. Thus I appear from age to age for the preservation of the just, the destruction of the wicked, and the establishment of virtue" (Bhagavad-Gita, p. 40). With this declaration accord, for the most part, the objects of the ten more conspicuous avatars of this deity, although the details of them abound in puerilities and obscenity. In the Matsya, or Fish avatar, Vishnu took the form of a human being issuing from the body of a fish, for the recovery of the sacred books which had been stolen from Brahma by the daemon Hayagriva. The Kurna, or Tortoise avatar, supported the earth sinking in the waters. The prayer of Brahma for assistance when the whole earth was covered with water called forth a third avatar of Vishnu, that of the Vardaha, or Boar, of which Maurice says, "Using the practical instinct of that animal, he began to smell around that he might discover the place where the earth was submerged. At length, having divided the water and arriving at the bottom, he saw the earth lying a mighty and barren stratum; then he took up the ponderous globe (freed from the water), and raised it high on his tusk-one would say it was a beautiful lotus blossoming on the tip of his tusk" (Hist. of Hindostan, 1, 575 sq.).
There can be but little doubt that these three avatars are perversions of the Hindu traditions of the Deluge. The next incarnation burst forth from a pillar as a man-lion for the purpose of destroying a blaspheming monarch. The Vamana, or Dwarf, in the next avatar, rebuked the pride of Maha Bali, the great Bali. In human form the divine Parasurama, in twenty pitched battles, extirpated the Kettri tribe to prepare for the Brahmin the way to empire. The seventh was very like that of the preceding, and for similar objects. Rama Chandra, however, was a great reformer and legislator. The eighth, that of Krishna, represents the Deity in human form trampling on the head of a serpent, while the serpent is biting his heel-a corruption of the promise to Eve. One object of the ninth incarnation, that of Buddha, is generally admitted to have been the abolition of sanguinary sacrifices. Whatever be the cause, "Buddhism stands conspicuous in the midst of heathendom as a religion without sacrificial cultus." Upon the tenth, the Kalki avatar, which is yet to take place, the destruction of the universe will ensue (see Maurice, History of Hindostan, passim; Hardwick, 1, 278; New Englander, 3:183-185). For the astounding events connected with the birth and infancy of Gotama (q.v.), (See BUDDHA). See also Hardy's Annual of Buddhism, p. 140 sq. (See AVATAR); (See HINDUISIM).
Lamaisn presents many features in common with Buddhism, so much so that it may be considered one of its outgrowths. It "differs fundamentally from Chinese Buddhism in the doctrine of hereditary incarnations. The great thought of some intelligence issuing from the Buddha world assuming the conditions of our frail humanity, and for a time presiding over some one favored group of Buddhist monasteries, had long been familiar to the natives of Tibet." In the latter half of the 15th century arose the idea of perpetual incarnations. "Then it was that one chief abbot, the ‘ perfect Lama.' instead of passing, as he was entitled to do, to his ultimate condition, determined for the benefit of mankind to sojourn longer on the earth, and be continuously new-born. As soon as he was carried to his grave in 1473, a search was instituted for the personage who had been destined to succeed him. This was found to be an infant who established its title to the honor by appearing to remember various articles which had been the property of the lama just deceased, or, rather, were the infant's own property in earlier stages of existence. So fascinating was the theory of perpetual incarnations that a fresh succession of rival lamas (also of the yellow order) afterwards took its rise in Teshu-lambu while the Dalai lamas were enthroned in Lhassa; and at present every convent of importance, not in Tibet only, but in distant parts of Tartary, is claiming for itself a like prerogative. .. The religion of Tibet is from day to day assuming all the characteristics of man-worship" (Hardwick, 2, 93 sq.). For the election of the successor of the lama, see also Huc's Travels in Tartary, 2, ch. 6:p. 197 sq.
The notion that prevailed in Egypt was similar, "save only that the symbolical bull was substituted for the literal man, and as Buddha is still held to be successively born in each infant lama, so the god Osiris was equally thought to be successively born in each consecrated Mnevis. Nor was the doctrine of a huntln incarnation by any means lost in that country. Diodorus gives a curious account of an infant in whose person Osiris was thought to have been born into the world in order that he might thus exhibit himself to mortals; and what Herodotus says of the Egyptian Perseus, who was the same divinity with Osiris, necessarily requires us to suppose that at certain intervals a man was brought forward by the priests as an incarnation of their god" (Diod. Sic. lib. 1, p. 20; Herod. Hist. 2, ch. 91; G. S. Faber, Eight Dissertations, 1, 61 sq.; see Wilkinson's note ad loc. cit. in Rawlinson's Herodotus). On the general subject, see also Faber's Origin of Pagan Idolatry, 6:ch. vi; Eight Dissertations, 1, 67 sq.
Under the head of classical metamorphoses it will be sufficient to refer to Baur in Baumgarten (on Acts, 1, 446, transl.); to Ovid, Metanorphoses, Baucis et Philemon; and the name that Jupiter bore of Ζεὺς καταβάτης (Biscoe, On the Acts, p. 205).
"Passing over to the American continent, whether by way of Iceland to Labrador, or eastward from Asia, we find the wilderness, from the frozen shores of the Arctic Ocean to the Mexican Gulf, resounding with the deeds of a hero-god corresponding in character, history, and name with the Wodin and Buddha of the eastern continent..... His grandmother descended from the moon, which, in the symbolic language of the early traditions, always represents the Noachian ark. The only daughter of this Nokomis, in the bloom of her maidenhood, without the concurrence of mortal agency, and in a miraculous manner, gave birth to a son, who became conscious, as he advanced to manhood, that he was endowed with supernatural powers for the redemption of the world from evil. Al his stupendous exploits were directed to that end. His name in the Indian dialects was Bosho, Bozho, etc. (Meth. Quart. Re. 1859, p. 596; compare Schoolcraft's Alic Res. 1, 135; and Kingsborough's Lex. Antiq. 6:175). The remarkable story of the birth of Huitzilopochtli from a virgin mother is given by Squier, American Archaeological Res. p. 196. For the reputed incarnations of the highest god, Tezcatlipoca, thought by Mr. Squier to be analogous to Buddha, Zoroaster, Osiris, Taut in Phoenicia, Odin in Scandinavia, etc., see Hardwick, 2, 152, with his remarks. — Brinton (Daniel G.), Myths of the New World (N Y. 1868), 12mo), chap. 2 and 4.
II. Definition of "Incarnation" in the Christian Scheme. — In the evangelical sense, incarnation is that act of grace whereby Jesus Christ, the Son of God, took upon himself the nature of man. "By taking only the nature of man, he still continueth one person, and changeth but the manner of his subsisting, which was before in the mere glory of the Son of God, and is now in the habit of our flesh" (Hooker, Ecc. Pol. 5, § 52). In the assumption of our nature he became subject to the consequences of sin, except that he was without the accident of sin (see Ebrard, in Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v. Jesus Christ). "-That Christ should have taken man's nature shows that corruption was not inherent in its existence in such wise that to assume the nature was to assume the sin" (Wilberforce, Doctrine of the Incarnation, p. 74). The essential features of the incarnation are peculiar to Christianity, and when we speak of the incarnation, that of Christianity is at once understood; for the incarnation of Vishnu as found in Krishna, which is admitted to be the most perfect of all heathen incarnations, and the only one to be compared with that of Christ according to Hardwick (Christ and other Masters, 1, 291), "when purged from all the lewd and Bacchanalian adjuncts which disfigure and debase it, comes indefinitely short of Christianity." "Nothing can be more absurd than to compare the incarnations of this Indian deity with that of Christ. They are by their multiplicity alone tinctured with the pantheistic idea. The human personality is destitute of reality, since it is taken- up and laid down as a veil or mask with which the divinity invested himself for a moment. Moreover, the degradation of the god is carried too far-he descended to evil; and participated in human corruption" (Pressense, Rel. before Christ, p. 61). Although, therefore, the idea of the union of the divine and human natures was not foreign to heathenism, yet that the divine Logos should become flesh belonged to Christianity alone. False religions teach an apotheosis of man rather than a proper incarnation of the Deity. Judaism itself had never risen to the conception of an incarnate God. The antagonism between the Creator and the creature was too sharply defined to admit such an interpretation of the first promise as the incarnation has given. See Martensen, Christ. Doym. § 128; Neander, Church Hist. (Clark), 2, 200 sq.; Kitto, Daily Bible Illus. 29th week, evening. The use of the term incarnation (later Latin) maybe traced back to Irenaeus, A.D. 180, as in the expression "Incarnatio pro nostra salute" (Contra Haer. 1, 10).
III. Theory. — The doctrine of the incarnation is fundamental to Christianity, and is the basis upon which the entire fabric of revealed religion rests. It is presented to our faith from the plane of the miraculous, and is to be considered as the one all-comprehensive miracle of Christianity. It contains within itself essentially the entire series of miracles as taught in the Gospels. These miracles are the fruit, after its kind, which this divine tree brings forth. Faith sees in the fallen estate of so noble a being as man, and his restoration to purity, immortality, and God, objects commensurate with the sacrifice and humiliation — that are implied in the incarnation, and accepts the doctrine as corresponding to the wants and necessities of human nature; but a divine revelation elevates our vision, and meets all objections founded upon the comparative insignificance of our race by indicating that in some mysterious manner the influences of the atonement may beneficially affect the entire universe. See Garbett; Christ as Prophet, 1, 12; Kurtz, Astron. and the Bible, transl. p. 95 sq.; Calvin on Col. 1, 20; Olshausen, Stier, and Harless on Ephesians 2:20.
The blending together of two natures implied in an incarnation presupposes some element of nature common to both. As far as we can see, "things absolutely dissimilar in their nature cannot mingle: water cannot coalesce with fire; water cannot mix with oil" (F. W. Robertson on Matthew 5, 48). "Forasmuch as there is no union of God with man without that mean between both which is both" (Hooker), we see in the incarnation, reflected as in a mirror, the true nobility of man's nature, and the secret of the fact that the incarnation took place in the seed of Abraham rather than in angels. "For verily he taketh not hold of angels, but of the seed of Abraham he taketh hold" (Hebrews 2:16, marginal rend.). "The most common mode of presenting the doctrine is to say that the Logos assumed our fallen humanity. — But by this, we are told, is not to be understood that he assumed an individual body and soul, so that he became a man, but that he assumed generic humanity so that he became the man. By generic humanity is to be understood a life-power, that peculiar law of life, corporeal and incorporeal, which develops itself outwardly as a body, and inwardly as a soul.
The Son, therefore, became incarnate in humanity in that objective reality, entity, or substance in which all human lives are one. Thus, too, Olshausen, in his comment on John 1:14, says, ‘ It could not be said that the Word was made man, which would imply that the Redeemer was a man by the side of other men, whereas, being the second Adam, he represented the totality of human nature in his exalted comprehensive personality.' To the same effect he says, in his remarks on Romans 5:15, ‘ If Christ were a man among other men, it would be impossible to conceive how his suffering and obedience could have an essential influence on mankind: he could then only operate as an example; but he is to be regarded, even apart from his divine nature; as the man, i.e. as realizing the absolute idea of humanity, and including it potentially in himself spiritually as Adam did corporeally.' To this point archdeacon Wilberforce devotes the third chapter of his book on The Incarnation, and represents the whole value of Christ's work as depending upon it. If this be denied, he says, ‘ the doctrines of atonement and sanctification, though confessed in words, become a mere empty phraseology.' In fine, Dr. Nevin, of America, in his Mystical Presence, p. 210, says, The Word became flesh; not a single man only, as one among many, but flesh, or humanity, in its universal conception. How else could he be the principle of a general life, the origin of a new order of existence for the human world as such?" (Eadie). This fine distinction, however, savors too much of transcendentalism to be capable of clear apprehension or general reception. It is sufficient to say that the divine Logos actually assumed a human body and soul, not precisely such as fallen men have, but like that of the newly-created Adam, or rather became himself the archetypal man after whom, as a pattern originally in the mind of Deity, the human race was primevally fashioned. (See IMAGE OF GOD). The question whether there would or could have been an incarnation without the fall of man has especially engaged the speculative minds of German divines, most of whom maintain the affirmative. "If, then, the Redeemer of the world stands in an eternal relation to the Father and to humanity-if his person has not merely a historical, not merely a religious and ethical, but also a metaphysical significance, sin alone cannot have been the ground of his revelation; for there was no metaphysical necessity for sin entering the world, and Christ could not be our Redeemer if it had been eternally involved in the idea that he should be our Mediator.
Are we to suppose that what is most glorious in the world could only be reached through the medium of sin? that there would have been no room in the human race for the glory of the only-begotten One but for sin? If we start with the thought of humanity as destined to bear the image of God, with the thought of a kingdom of individuals filled with God, must we not necessarily ask, even if we for the moment suppose sin to have no existence, Where in this kingdom is the perfect Godman? No one of the individuals by himself expresses more than a relative union of the divine and human natures. No one participates more than partially in the "fullness of him that filleth all" (Ephesians 1:23). All, therefore, point beyond themselves to a union of God and man, which is not partial and relative (Χε λειποᾷ, 1 Corinthians 12:27), but perfect and complete" (Martensen, Christian Dogmatics. § 131). See also Muller, Deutsche Zeitschrift, 1853, No. 43; Philippi, Kirchliche Glaubenslehre, Eifileitung; Ebrard, Dogmnlinik, 2, 95; British and Foreign Ev. Rev. in Theol. Eclec. 3. 267.
IV. Objections to the Bible doctrine of the incarnation worthy of consideration are more easily resolved, perhaps, than those against any other doctrine of Scripture, for they are mostly, if not altogether, to be comprehended under the head of its deep mysteriousness. Many writers, however, have adduced as parallel the mystery of creation, which is in itself the embodiment of thought in matter, and the existence of such a composite being as man, not to speak of mysteries with which our entire economy is crowded. Apriori, it is not more difficult to conceive of the union of the divine with the human, or the taking up of the human into the divine, than to comprehend the incarnation of an immaterial essence such as that of the mind in a material form like that of the body. "If even in our time the idea of the incarnation of God still appears so difficult, the principal reason is, that the fact itself is too much isolated. It is always the impulse of spirit to embody itself, for corporeity is the end of the work of God; in every phenomenon an idea descends from the world of spirit and embodies itself here below. It may therefore be said that all the nobler among men are rays of that sun which in Christ rose on the firmament of humanity. In Abraham, Moses, and others, we already discover the coming Christ" (Olshausen on John 1:14).
The strictures of archbishop Whately with respect to the substance of Deity, etc., may hold good of dogmatism upon the incarnation: "But as to the substance of the supreme Being and of the human soul, many men were (and still are) confident in their opinions, and dogmatical in maintaining them: the more, inasmuch as in these subjects they could not be refuted by an appeal to experiment. .. Philosophical divines are continually prone to forget that the subjects on which they speculate are confessedly and by their own account beyond the reach of the human faculties. This is no reason, indeed, against our believing anything clearly revealed in Scripture; but it is a reason against going beyond Scripture with metaphysical speculations of our own," etc. (Cyclop. Brit. 1, 517, 8th ed.). On objections, consult Liddon, Basmpton Lecture, lect. 5; Sadler, Emmanuel, chaps. 2, 5; Frayssinous, Def. of Christianity, 2, ch. 25; Thos. Adams, Meditations on. Creed, in Works, 3, 235; Martensen, Christ. Dogmat. § 132.
V. History of Views. — The true theory of the nature of Christ was of gradual development in the history of the Church. Not unlike the best and most enduring growths of nature, it sprang up and matured amid the conflicts of doubt and the tempests of faction. (See § VIII, below.) The efforts to harmonize the divine and human natures of Christ gave rise to a series of fluctuations of doubt, which illustrate in a signal manner the tendencies of the human mind to recoil from one extreme to another. The close of the 4th century (A.D. 381) witnessed the maturing of correct views as to the twofold nature in the one person of Christ, and their embodiment in the creed, which, subjected to the test of centuries, is still the expression and symbol of the faith of the Church. (See CREED, NICENE) and (See CONSTANTINOPOLITAN), vol. 2, p. 562.
"If we would correctly apprehend the ancient Church doctrine of the two natures, we must take ΘᾷιμΧ in the abstract sense in which it was used. The divine nature consists in this, that Christ is God, the predicate ‘ God' belongs to him; the human nature is this that the predicate ‘man' is assigned to it. His divine nature is the divine essence which subsists in the Logos from eternity, and which in his becoming man he still retained. His human nature is the man's nature or mode of being and constitution, which for itself does not subsist, but which, as a universal attribute, exists in all other men, and, since his incarnation, also in him-the natura hominum. To have human feeling, will, and thought, and as a human soul to animate a human body, is human nature. We must, however, never think of human nature as a concretum, a subsistens, a son of Mary, with which the Son of God united himself, or mixed himself up" (Ebrard, in Herzog, Real- Encyklopadie, s.v. Jesus Christ).
With the explanation thus given, we proceed to remark that the earliest controversies of the Church revolved around the physical nature of Christ. The result of those contests established the essential oneness of Christ's body with ours. The pungency of the arguments employed may be illustrated in the words of Irenaeus (quoted by Hooker, Eccl. Polity, 5, sec. 53): "If Christ had not taken flesh from the very earth, he would not have coveted those earthly nourishments wherewith bodies taken from thence are fed. This was the nature which felt hunger after long fasting, was desirous of rest after travel, testified compassion and love by tears, groaned in heaviness, and with extremity of grief melted away itself into bloody sweats." The earliest fathers, with the exception of Justin Martyr, held the opinion that Christ assumed only a human body, or, if he had a soul, it was animal, or, which was more common, they quite ignored the question of his human soul. The views of Justin, however, were colored by the Platonic philosophy, which led him to attribute to Christ body, soul, and spirit, but in such a mode of union with the Logos as to furnish the germs of the future error of Apollinaris the younger. Tertullian, about the end of the 2nd century, first ascribed to Christ a proper human soul, and thus met and disposed of the difficulties which had arisen from the teaching that connected the Logos immediately with the body of Christ. The doctrine of the human soul of Christ was more fully developed and illustrated by Origen. But, in comparing the connection between the Logos and the human nature in Christ to the union of believers with Christ, he drew upon himself the objection that he made Christ a mere man. (See further, Knapp, Lectures on Christian Theology, sec. 102, note by the translator.) Ambrose (De Incarnatione, p. 76) may more properly serve as the connecting link between Tertullian and the Athanasian Creed, the latter setting forth the doctrine to which the Church was slowly attaining in the following words: "Perfectus Dels, perfectus homo, ex anima rationali et ‘ humana carne subsistens." Thus Ambrose reasons: "Do we also infer division when we affirm that he took on him a reasonable sound, and one endowed with intellectual capacity?
For God himself, the Word, was not to the flesh as the reasonable intellectual soul; but God the Word, taking upon him a reasonable intellectual soul, human, and of the same substance with our souls, the flesh also like our own, and of the same substance with that of which our flesh is formed, was also perfect man, but without any taint of sin. ... Wherefore his flesh and his soul were of the same substance with our souls and our flesh." Questions in connection with the nature of the human soul of Christ came into greater prominence towards the close of the 4th century than ever before in the history of the Church. Apollinaris the younger revived the opinion which extensively prevailed in the primitive Church, that Christ connected himself only with a human body and an animal soul (Hase, Ch. Hist. sec. 104). "Two beings persisting in their completeness, he conceived, could not be united into one whole. Out of the union of the perfect human nature with the Deity one person never could proceed; and, more particularly, the rational soul of the man could not be assumed into union with the divine Logos so as to form one person" (Neander, 4:119, Clarke's edition). From an early part of the 9th century, when the Adoption tenets sank into oblivion, the Church enjoyed comparative rest. But, as might have been presumed, the era of scholastic theology, which was inaugurated at about the commencement of the 12th century, and continued into the 15th, although the attention of the schoolmen was more directed to other subjects, did not pass by one that so readily admitted the exercise of dialectic subtlety.
The nominalism of Roscelinus, "which regarded the appellation God, that is common to the three persons, as a mere name, i.e. as the abstract idea of a genus" (Hagenbach), had perverted the true idea of Father, Son, and Spirit into that of three individuals or things, in contradistinction to one thing (una res), In response, Anselm argued that, as every universal is a mere abstraction, and particulars alone have reality, so "if only the essence of God in the Trinity was called una res, and the three persons not tres res, the latter could not be considered as anything real. Only the one God would be the real; all besides would become a mere nominal distinction, to which nothing real corresponded; and so, therefore, along with the Son, the Father and the Holy Ghost would also have become man (Neander, 8:92). "The daring assertions of Roscelinus exposed him to the charge of Tritheism, while those of Abelard exposed him to that of Sabellianism. The distinction which Gilbert of Poitiers drew between the quo est and the quod est gave to his doctrine the semblance of Tetratheism" (see Hagenbach, History of Doct. 1, sec. 170). Though his starting-point was Realism, he arrived at the same goal as the Nominalist Roscelinus. "The Scholastics had much to say of the relation of number to the divine unity. Since Boethius had put forth the canon, ‘ Vere unum esse, in quo nullus sit numerus,' Peter the Lombard sought to avoid the difficulty by saying that number, in its application to God and divine things, had only a negative meaning; ‘ these are rather said to exclude what is not in God than to assert what is'" (Theol. Lect. by Dr. Twesten, transl. in Bib. Sac. 3, 770). "Considered as an act, according to Thomas Aquinas, the incarnation is the work of the whole Trinity; but in respect to its terminus, that is, the personal union of the divine and human nature, it belongs only to the Son; since, according to the doctrine of the Church, it is first and properly not the nature, but a person, and that the second person, which has assumed humanity." (For the accordance of this with the confession of faith of the. eleventh Council at Toledo, A.D. 675, see Bib. Sac. 4:50, note.) "Duns Scotus ascribed to the human nature of Christ's proper if not an independent existence. This fundamental view of the Middle Ages Luther also adopted, and designated the divinity and humanity as two parts;' and upon this he built his theory of the importation of the divine attribute to the human" (Herzog).
The age of the Reformation contributed nothing or but little new on the subject of the incarnation. The most that it did was to repeat some of the more pestilent errors of the past, and in the mean time, through the conflicts of mind, bring into bolder relief the lineaments of truth. "Thus Caspar Schwenkfield revived the docetico-monophysitic doctrine concerning the ‘ glorified and deified flesh' of Christ. Menno Simonis, as well as other Anabaptists, supposed (like the Valentinians in the first period) that our Lord's birth was a mere phantom. Michael Servetus maintained that Christ was a mere man, filled with the divine nature, and rejected all further distinctions between his two natures as unscriptural, and founded upon scholastic definitions alone. Faustus Socinus went so far as to return to the view entertained by the Ebionites and Nazarenes" (Hagenbach, History of Doct. sec. 265). According to Dorner, "Servetus, resting on a pantheistic basis, could say that the flesh of Christ was consubstantial with God, but the same would hold true in reference to all flesh." Nevertheless, he did not say it in reference to all flesh. "In his opinion, Christ alone is the Son of God; nor is that name to be given to any one else' (Hagenbach, sec. 265). The controversies between Calvin and Servetus, in which were comprehended the erroneous views of the latter on the subject of the incarnation, at last culminated in his death at the stake. Much, however, as Calvin was blamed for calling the Son, considered in his essence, αὐτόθεος , still he was right, and is supported by Lutheran theologians. In another point of view, that is, considered in his personal subsistence, the Son cannot be called αὐτόθεος, but only the Father, since he alone is αγέννητος; but the ἀγεννησία of the person is not to be confounded with the absoluteness of the essence." (See further, Twesten, in the Bib. Sac. 4, 39. For the differences, as respects the incarnation, between Luther and Zwingle, in which each failed to comprehend the standpoint of the other, see Herzog, Real-Encyklopadie, art. Jesus Christ.)
VI. Theophanies. — It might have been expected, from a consideration of an event of such moment to our race as the incarnation, that. delayed so long in the history of the world,-it would not have been without its adumbrations, like types in nature, mute prophecies of archetypal existence. The first prophecy of the incarnation was coeval with the fall. In terms succinct and yet clear, the announcement was made that from the seed of the woman should rise the hope of man. In analogy with nature the typical form was thus given, from which the grand archetypal idea should be elaborated, until in the fullness of time that idea should be permanently embodied, and God become manifest in the flesh. "No sooner had the first Adam appeared and fallen than a new school of prophecy began, in which type and symbol were mingled with what had now its first existence on the. earth-verbal enunciations; and all pointed to the second Adam, ‘ the Lord from heaven.' In him creation and the Creator meet in reality and not- in semblance. On the very apex of the finished pyramid of being sits the adorable Monarch of all-as the Son of Mary, of David, of the first Adam, the created of God; as God and the Son of God, the eternal Creator of the universe; and these-the two Adams-form the main theme of all prophecy, natural and revealed. That type and symbol should have been employed with reference not only to the second, but, as held by men like Agassiz and Owen, to the first Adam also, exemplifies, we are disposed to think, the unity of the style of Deity, and serves to show that it was he who created the worlds that dictated the Scriptures" (Hugh Miller, in Fairbairn's Typology, vol. 1, append. 1). See also Hugh Miller, Test. of Rocks, Lect. 5; M'Cosh, Typical Forms; Agassiz, Princ. of Zoology, pt. 1.
During the course of the preparatory dispensations, the divine Being disclosed himself to the more pious and favored of our race in the form of man, and with the title of "the Angel of Jehovah" - מִלְאִךְ יְהוָֹה The first of these appearances was to Hagar in her distress. The angel addressed her in the person of God, and she, in return, attributed to him the name of "Thou, God, seest me." The foremost of the three angels with whom Abraham conversed with respect to the cities of the plain (Genesis 18) is called not fewer than eight times "Jehovah," and six times "Lord" (אֲדֹנָי ). (See Hengstenberg, Christol. 1, 112, transl.) In the destruction of the cities of the plain an unmistakable distinction is made between two persons, each of whom bears the same divine name: "Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven" (Genesis 19:24). The full nature of the theophany to Jacob (Genesis 32:24-30) is made manifest in Hosea 12:3-5. The scene opens with the view of a man wrestling with Jacob, and closes with Jacob's calling the name of the place "Peniel, for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." "The prophet Hosea puts it beyond a doubt that this was a divine person by styling him not only an angel and God (אלֵַֹהים ), but Jehovah, God of hosts, Jehovah is his memorial. Whilst, therefore, he was a man and an angel, or the angel of the covenant, he was also the supreme Jehovah. These titles and attributes belong to none other than the second person of the blessed Trinity, Christ the Savior" (Davidson, Sacred Hermeneutics, p. 281). The "Angel of Jehovah" appears to Moses in a flame of fire from the bush, and still takes to himself the names of Deity, Elohim, and Jehovah (Exodus 3:2-7); manifests himself to Manoah as man, and yet is recognized and worshipped as God, while he declares his name to be "Wonderful," the same as in Isaiah 9:6; and at the close of the Old-Testament canon (Malachi 3:1): he is announced as the angel or messenger who should suddenly come to his Temple. (See also Exodus 14:19; Exodus 18:20; Exodus 23:23; Numbers 20:16; comp. Exodus 23:21; Exodus 33:2-3; Exodus 33:14; Joshua 6:2; Joshua 5:13-15; Judges 6:11-22; Judges 13:6-22; Isaiah 63:9.)
As to the nature of this mysterious personage, there have been those who have held, with Augustine, that the theophanies were "not direct appearances of a person in the Godhead, but self-manifestations of God through a created being" (see Liddon, Bampton Lect. 2. 87, note), among the latest defenders of which view are Hoffman (in his Weissagung und Erfü llung) and Delitzsch (on Genesis). On the other hand, the fathers of the Church prior to the Nicene Council were almost unanimous in the opinion that the "angel of Jehovah" is identical with Jehovah himself, not denoting an existence apart from himself, but only the mode of manifestation of the divine Logos, who subsequently became incarnate; and in this view the Church has generally acquiesced. (On the subject of theophanies, see Justin Martyr, Apology; Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 1, ch. 2; Kurtz, Old Cov. 1, 181-201, transl.; an able article in the Stud. u. Krit. of 1840 by Nitzsch; E. H. Stahl, Die Erscheinungen Jehovas u. Seiner Engel im A. T., in Eichhorn's Bib. Rep. 7:156 sq.; Hnilein, Ueber Theo. u. Christophanien, in the N. Theol. Journ. 2, 1 sq., 93 sq., 277 sq.) (See THEOPHANY).
VII. The Logos. — In the description of the incarnation given by the evangelist John there appears the term "Logos" in a sense new to the Scriptures, and among New-Testament writers peculiar to him. Mulch has been written on the origin of this word. The Targums, the best of which are generally attributed to the 1st century, may be regarded as embodying the sentiments of that age (Etheridge, leb. Lit. p. 191). In these, for the name of Deity, "Jehovah," there is employed the paraphrase "Word of the Lord." "On this circumstance much argument has been built. Some have maintained that it supplies an indubitable ascription of personal existence to the Word, in some sense distinct from the personal existence of the supreme Father; that this Word is the Logos of the New Testament; and, consequently, that the phrase is a proof of a belief among the ancient Jews in the pre-existence, the personal operations, and the deity of the Messiah, ‘ the Word who became flesh, and fixed his tabernacle among us' "(J. Pye Smith. Messiah, bk. 2, sec. 11; compare Bertholdt, Christol. Jud. p. 130 sq.). Others have referred the origin of the word to Philo; but, as has been abundantly shown, the Logos of Philo has but little in common with that of the Gospel (Tholuck, Comm. ad loc. p. 61), and is but a nucleus of divine ideas, which lacks the essential element of personality. "Blinding as the resemblance between many of his ideas and modes of expression and those of Christianity may be to the superficial reader, yet the essential principle is ‘ to its very foundation diverse. ‘ Even that which sounds like the expressions of John has in its entire connection a meaning altogether diverse. His system stalks by the cradle of Christianity only as a spectral counterpart. It appears like the floating, dissolving fata Morgana on the horizon, where Christianity is about to arise" (Dorner, Lehre v. der Person Christi, 2, 198, 342. Comp. Burton, Bampton Lect. note 93; Ritter, Hist. of Philos. transl. 4, 407-478; Liddon, Bampton Lecture, p. 93-108; Dollinger, Heid. u. Judenthum, 10:3; Bib. Sacra, 6:173; 7:13, 696-732; Meth. Quart. Rev. 1851, p. 377; 1858, p. 110-129). (See LOGOS).
VIII. Heresies. — The false theories that have gathered around the doctrine of the incarnation are manifold, and deny (1) that Christ was truly God, (2) that he was truly man, or (3) that he is God-man in one undivided and indivisible person. (See Wangemann, Christliche Glaubenslehre, p. 203; Ffoulkes, Christendom's Divisions, 2 vols. 8vo.) (See CHRISTOLOGY), III.
1. Ebionism. — This, the first heresy of importance, took its rise during the lifetime of the apostles, and received its designation, according to Origen, from םאֵַבייֹן poor, thus signifying, perhaps, the meagerness of their religious system, or, more properly, the poverty of its followers. They denied the divinity of Christ, but ascribed to him a superior legal piety and the elevated wisdom of a prophet. Eusebius says (Hist. Eccles. 3 7), "The common Ebionites themselves suppose that a higher power had united itself with the man Jesus at his baptism." The Ebionites, whose views are represented by the Clementine Homilies, differed from the former by asserting that Jesus had from the beginning been pervaded with the same power; in their opinion he ranks with Adam, Enoch, and Moses (Hagenbach, Hist. of Doctrines, 1, 180). This error, which has been called, not improperly, the Socinianism of the age, revived and embodied the sentiments concerning the Messiah current among the Jews during his life. The views of the Nazarenes, who are generally regarded as a species of Ebionites, while they more nearly approached the orthodox faith, agreed with them in regarding Christ as only a superior man.
2. Gnosticism. — The Ebionitish heresy that rose within the infant Church, from its necessary association with Judaism, was paralleled by another (Gnosticism), which sprang from a similar contact with the pagan philosophy of the age. The assumption of a superior capacity. for knowledge implied in the name the Gnostics bore (γνῶσις, 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Timothy 6:20; Colossians 2:8), probably self- assumed, indicated the transcendental speculations which they engrafted on the tender plant of Christianity. With respect to- the nature of Christ; they held that the Deity had existed from all eternity in a state of absolute quiescence, but finally he begat certain beings or eons after his own likeness, of whom Christ was one; and that he was allied to the lower angels and the Δημιουργός, Demiurge, to whom this lower world was subject. Moreover, he had never in reality assumed a material body, but became united with the man Jesus at his baptism, and abode with him until the time of his death. (See Mosheim, Commentaries on the first three Centuries, sec. 62.) The tenets of Gnosticism can be traced even to the apostolical age. Simon Magus appears to have represented himself as an incarnation of the demiurgic power (Acts 8:10). The ancient fathers regarded him as the father of the Gnostics (Ireieus, adv' Hor. 1, 23). On the other hand, Tittmann (Do vestigiis Gnosticorum, etc.) holds that nothing was known of the Gnostics until the 2nd century. However the opening chapter of St. John's Gospel seems to be directed against Gnostical perversions of the doctrine of the incarnation, which is not impossible if we admit the well-known tradition that Cerinthus disputed with that evangelist. (See Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 3, ch. 28.)
3. Docetism. — This was one of the forms of Gnosticism denying the reality of Christ's human nature, and representing whatever appertained to his human appearance to be a mere phantasm-δόκησις . Jerome tells us that while the apostles were still living there were those who taught that his body was no more than a phantom. This particular form of Gnostical error was censured by Ignatius in his Epistles, and therefore unquestionably arose early in the Church. (See Lardner, 3:441.) ‘ If the Son of God (said the Docetist) has been crucified for me merely in appearance, then am I bound down by the chains of sin in- appearance; but those who speak are themselves a mere show." For modern Docetism, as illustrated in the mythical treatment of the doctrines of sacred history by Schelling, and the Rationalists generally, see Martensen, Dogmnatics, p. 244.
4. Monarchianism, (about A.D. 170), μοναρχία, so called either from its regard to the doctrine of the divine unity, or from a regard to Christ's dignity. (See Hase, sec. 90.) According to its teachings, Christ was a mere man, but born of the Virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit, and exalted to be the Lord of the whole Church. A certain efflux from the divine essence dwelt in Christ, and this constituted his personality, while this personality originated in the hypothesis of a divine power. (See Neander, 2, 349, Clark's ed.)
5. Sabellianism (about 258) taught that the Father Son, and Holy Ghost were one and the same-so many different manifestations of the same being- three denominations in one substance. (See Hagenbach, 1, 263.) Thus the personality of the Son was denied. His personality in the flesh did not exist prior to the incarnation, nor does it exist now, as the divine ray which had been incorporated in Christ has returned to its source In the words of Burton, "If we seek for a difference between the theory of Sabellius and those of his predecessors, we are perhaps to say that Noetus supposed the whole divinity of the Father to be inherent in Jesus Christ, whereas Sabellius supposed it to be only a part, which was put forth like an emanation, and was again absorbed in the Deity. Noetus acknowledged only one divine Person; Sabellius divided this one dignity into three; but he supposed the Son and the Holy Ghost to have no distinct personal existence, except when they were put forth for a time by the Father." The views of Sabellius reappear in the dogmas of Schleiermacher (who regarded the eternal and absolute Monas as unrevealed; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as God revealed), and in a modified form in the Discourses on the Incarnation and Atonement by Dr. Bushnell.
6. Manichaeism (circa A.D. 274). — Mani or Manes, who was probably educated in the religion of Zoroaster, upon' his adoption of the Christian faith, transferred to his Christ the Oriental views of incarnation. In this system the dualistic principle was more fully developed than in Gnosticism. He brought together as in a kaleidoscope the fantasies of Parseeism, Buddhism, and Chaldeeism, bits of philosophy alike brilliant and alike worthless. "From Gnosticism, or, rather, from universal Orientalism, he drew the inseparable admixture of moral and physical notions, the eternal hostility between mind and matter, the rejection of Judaism. and the identification of the God of the Old Testament with the evil spirit, the distinction between Jesus and the Christ with the Docetism or unreal death of the incorporeal Christ." For a further admirable summary of his views, see Milman's Latin Christ. 2, 322 sq. The followers of Manes formed themselves into a Church A.D. 274, which possessed a hierarchical form of government, and consisted of two great classes, the perfect (electi) and catechumens (auditores). (See Hase, sec. 82.)
7. Arianism (about 318). — The 4th century witnessed the rise of the most formidable and persistent of all the forms of error as to the person of Christ. The teachings of Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, that the Son was of the same essence with the Father, developed the latent doubts of one of his presbyters, Arius, who rushed to the other extreme. Charging his bishop with Sabellianism, he maintained that the Son was not the same in substance (ὁμοούσιος ), but similar (ὁμοιούσιος). He did not hesitate to accept the logical consequences of his dogma-that Christ, though the noblest of creatures, must, like all others, have been created from nothing. This deduction contains, as in a nut-shell, the entire heresy.
8. Apollinarianisms (about A.D. 378). — Apollinaris the younger rejected the proper humanity of Christ. He adopted many of the sentiments of Noetus the Monarchian. From the postulate that as the person of Christ was one, therefore his nature must be one, he reasoned that there could be no human intellect or will, but that the functions of soul and- body must be discharged by the Logos, which so commingled with the uncreated body of Christ that the two distinct natures formed one heterogeneous substance entirely sui generis. (See Harvey, On the Creeds, 2, 645.) "Both Noetus and Apollinaris denied that the Word was made man of the Virgin by the Holy Ghost; the earlier heretic teaching that there was no real hypostatic distinction in the Deity, the latter supposing that the flesh, as an eternally uncreated body, came down from heaven., Both denied, for the same reason, the ‘ inseparable union of two perfect natures in one person; both denied that Christ was perfect man; the Patripassian, no less than the Apollinarian, having considered that the divine nature supplied the place of a human soul" (Harvey, Creeds, 2, 649).
9. Nestorianism (about 428) furnished the knotted root from which sprang ultimately the antagonist heresies of the Monophysites and Monothelites. To the phrase θεοτόκος, mother of God, applied to the Virgin, Nestorius took exception, maintaining that Mary had given birth to Christ, and not to God. Thus arose the long-protracted controversy respecting the two natures of Christ (Socrates, Eccl. Hist. 7, ch. 32). Nestorius maintained that a divine and human nature dwelt in Christ as separate entities, but in closest connection — συναφεία; to use the figure of Wangemann, "as boards are glued together." His own admission, "Divide naturas sed conjungo reverentiam," justified the allegation brought against his doctrines that Christ is really a double being. The humanity of Christ was the temple for the indwelling (ἐνοίκησις ) of Deity upon the separate basis of personality in his human nature.
10. Monophysitism (about 446). — The doctrine of Nestorius, that there must be two natures if there be two persons in Christ, led Eutyches, by the law of contrarieties, to an exact counterpart, that there is but one person in Christ, and this one person admits of but one nature. The logic was the same in both heresies. Liddon has properly said, "The Monophysite formula practically made Christ an unincarnate God;" for, according to Monophysitism, the human nature of Christ had been absorbed in the divine. "We get, as it were, a Christ with two heads: an image which produces the impression not merely of the superhuman, but of the monstrous, and which is incapable of producing any moral effect" (Martensen, Christian Dogmatics. sec. 136). Soon after the condemnation of this error by the fourth General Council at Chalcedon, it branched out into ten leading sects, whence it has been called "the ten-horned."
11. Monothelitism (about 625). — The controversy over the heresy of Monophysitism was prolonged for centuries. In the midst of the contest, the idle curiosity of the emperor Heraclius led him to propound the question to his bishops "Whether Christ, of one person but two natures, was actuated by a single or double will" (Waddington, Ch. History, 1, 355). The question met with a ready response, but it was the response of error. It was said in reply that a multiplicity of wills must of necessity imply a multiplicity of willers. This is the postulate of Monothelitism. In maintenance of the unity of Christ's nature, they held that in him was only one will or energy, and that this was a divinely human will (ἐνεργεία θεανδρική ). (For a statement of the orthodox view of the divine and human will of Christ, see Liddon's Bampton Lect. 5, 392.) The sixth General Council at Constantinople, A.D. 680, decided in favor of the Dyothelitic doctrine, while it anathematized the Monothelites and their views.
12. Adoptianism (about 787). — The incessant and fierce strife of the early Church with respect to the nature of Christ finally culminated in the Adoptian controversy. According to the views of this sect, in his divine nature, Christ is the true Son of God; but as respects his human nature, he is the Son of God only by adoption — ‘ his divinity according to the former was proper, but according to the latter nature nominal and titular" (Herzog, Encyklop.).
13. Socinianism, Unitarianism, and Rationalism present no new phase of heresy. They are simply resurrected forms of error that had again and again been refuted It may be questioned whether the inventive mind of German Neology has presented upon the incarnation any feature of error essentially new. The subtle minds of Arius, Sabellius, and other kindred philosophers of the early Church have explored every avenue of doubt, and left no now openings into which heretical error can possibly thrust itself. The most that modern speculations have done has been to revivify dead theories of the past, and clothe them with "the empty abstractions of impersonal idea." (See CHRISTOLOGY), vol. 2, p. 282. As a fair illustration of the mystical speculations with which the metaphysical theology of modern Germany has overlaid the doctrine of the incarnation, we quote from Hegel (religions philosophie, 2, 261): "That which first existed was the idea in its simple universality, the Father; the second is the particular, the idea in its manifestation, the Son - to wit, the idea in its external existence, so that the external manifestation is changed into the first, and known as the divine idea, the identity of the divine with the human. The third is this consciousness, God as the Holy Spirit and this spirit in his existence is the Church." According to Lessing, "This doctrine (of the Trinity) will lead human reason to acknowledge that God cannot possibly be understood to be one by that reason to which all finite things are one; that his unity must also be a transcendental unity which does not exclude a kind of plurality." To Schelling "it is clear that the idea of Trinity is absurd, unless it be considered on speculative grounds.... The incarnation of God is an eternal incarnation;" and by Fichte the Son is regarded as God attaining to a consciousness of himself in man. See, farther, Hagenbach, Hist. of Doctrines, 2, 384-420. Marheineke, who in theological obscurities was an apt disciple of his master Hegel, thus discourses of the incarnation (Grundlehren d. Christlichen Dogmatik, § 325, 326): "As spirit, by renouncing individuality, man is in truth elevated above himself, without having abandoned the human nature; as spirit renouncing absoluteness, God has lowered himself to human nature, without having abandoned his existence as divine Spirit. The unity of the divine and human nature is but the unity in that Spirit whose existence is the knowledge of the truth with which the doing of good is identical. This spirit, as God in the human nature, and man in the divine nature, is the God-man. The man wise in divine holiness, and holy in divine wisdom, is the God-man. As a historical fact, this union of God with man is manifest and real in the person of Jesus Christ; in him the divine manifestation has become perfectly human. The conception of the Godman, in the historical person of Jesus Christ, contains in itself
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Incarnation'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/i/incarnation.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12