Page images

Son absolute supremacy in relation to the universe (vers. 15-17), and the Church (ver. 18), and He starts by speaking of His relation to the invisible God, of whom He is the “image” (eikóv), a term which implies not mere likeness, but actual representation and manifestation. He then attributes to Him the work of creation of all things, both visible and invisible, and finally claims for Him a pre-existence before all time. “He is before all things.”1 Such claims could not, without blasphemy, be made on behalf of any creature, however glorious. He, of whom the apostle makes such assertions, can only be Himself God.

A similar passage, the witness of which is not less clear, is found in Hebrews i. 2 seq., where the work of creation is again attributed to the Son, who is also said to be “the effulgence of the Father's glory and the very image of His substance” (απαύγασμα της δόξης και χαρακτήρα της υποστάσεως αυτού), and contrasted with the angels, none of whom is ever addressed in Scripture as Lord, or God, as is the Son in Ps. xlv. 7 and cii. 25, as quoted by the writer of the epistle.

(6) The last-mentioned reference to the Old Testament (Ps. cii. 25) leads us naturally to another point, which brings out, in a most striking fashion, how completely the apostles assumed the Divinity of Christ. In Ps. cii. there is no reference to the Messiah. It is Jehovah of whom the Psalmist is speaking, and yet the writer of the epistle applies his words to Christ. Nor does the passage stand alone, for it will be found that several passages, which in the Old Testament are directly spoken of Jehovah, are in the New Testament cited as referring to Christ, a fact which implies that the writers who thus cited them identified Christ with Jehovah. E.g. Isaiah (ch. vi.) saw the glory of Jehovah. S. John, after speaking of Christ, says definitely, “These things

· Lightfoot on Colossians, p. 209 seq.

[ocr errors]

said Isaiah, when he saw His (viz. Christ's) glory, and spake of Him” (xii. 41). Zech. xii. 10 is quoted in S. John xix. 37 of the crucifixion of Jesus, but on turning to the prophet we discover that Jehovah is the speaker, who says, “They shall look unto Me, whom they have pierced.”! And once more S. Peter (1 Pet. iii. 15) takes up the words of Isaiah viii. 13 (“Sanctify the LORD of Hosts "), and says directly, “ Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts” (κύριον δε τον χριστον αγιάσατε εν ταίς kapdíais juôv), where LORD is, without the shadow of a doubt, intended to represent the sacred name of Jehovah, of the Old Testament. It has been said, not without truth, that if the word Lord had been written in capital letters in the New Testament, wherever it represents Jehovah, as it is written in the Old Testament, Socinianism would have been an impossibility.

() Further, an appeal may be made to those passages in which Christ is directly termed God. Foremost among these will stand the opening verses of S. John's Gospel. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God (Tepòs Tòv eóv), and the Word was God (θεός) .. the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." Here He who was incarnate is expressly identified with that “ Word ” which“ was God," and a few verses lower down, according to a very probable reading (noted in the margin of the Revised Version), S. John calls Him God again, for in the 18th verse, where we read, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him,” many very ancient authorities read“ God only begotten” for “only begotten Son. Next to this

It is possible, however, that with many Hebrew MSS. we ought to real "Him," and not "Me.”

Cf. Rom. x. 9-13 with Isa. xxviii. 16 and Joel ii. 32. * See Westcott's Commentary, in loc.; and Hort's Two Dissertations. Other pas

may stand Romans ix. 5: “Of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen." For though, as the margin of tho Revised Version tells us, “some modern interpreters place a full stop after flesh, and read He who is God over all be (is) blessed for ever,” yet such a rendering appears to be nothing but an evasion of the plain meaning of the words, for, as so careful and accurate a scholar as Dean Vaughan says, it introduces "a harsh and abrupt transition, for which there is no cause and no parallel.” 1 sages to which reference may be made are the following: Acts xx. 28, “The Church of God, which He purchased with His own blood” (here, however, the text cannot be regarded as certain, some ancient authorities reading “the Lord” for “God"). Titus ii. 13, where the natural rendering of the words, του μεγάλου Θεού και σωτήρος ημών Ιησού Χριστού is that of the Revised Version, “Our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ,” applying to Him the titles, God and Saviour. So also in 2 Pet. i 1, του Θεού ημών και σωτήρος Ιησού Χριστού, it is difficult to think any rendering correct except that of the Revised Version, “Our God and Saviour Jesus Christ." ;

(d) Lastly, we have the incidental witness of passing statements, in which divine attributes and actions are ascribed to Christ, and prayers and doxologies are addressed to Him. See Acts vii. 59; 2 Cor. v. 10 (where the office of judging the world is assigned to Christ); xii. 8, 9 (where St. Paul prays to Him, ó kúplos


The reading movoyevns Oebs is definitely accepted in Westcott & Hort's Greek Testament.

Commentary on Romans. See also note in Speaker's Commentary, in loc., and Sanday and Headlam's exhaustive note in The International Commentary.

2 In 1 Tim. iii. 16 it seems quite clear that the reading Oeds is not genuine, but even so, the pre-existence of Christ is implied in the word épavepúên. In 1 John v. 20 the words o Anouvds Oebs may refer to "Jesus Christ," but their reference is not certain. See Westcott's Commentary, in loc.

from the context can only be Christ whose "strength" is to “rest upon” the apostle); Eph. i. 20–23; Heb. vii. 3, xiii. 8; and the doxologies in Rev. i. 5, v. 9–14.

II. The Incarnation, “ The Son ... took man's nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance, so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say the Godhead and the manhood, were joined together in One Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God and very man.”

As in the earlier part of the Article so here the exact expressions used require careful notice. They are selected so as to exclude the three principal forms of heresy which have arisen on the doctrine of the Incarnation. Of the four great “ Christological” heresies of the fourth and fifth centuries, the earliest, that of Arius, denying the true Divinity of Christ, has been already excluded by the opening words of the Article. The three remaining ones, those of Apollinaris, Nestorius, and Eutyches, are effectually guarded against by the section before us.

Of these three heresies, that of Apollinaris, Bishop of Laodicea, was the earliest, following close upon the Arian, and being condemned at the Council of Constantinople in 381. It “maimed” the humanity of Christ. Adopting the threefold division of man's nature (body, soul, and spirit, 1 Thess. v. 23) Apollinaris admitted that Christ possessed both body and soul, by which latter term he meant the anima animans, the lower faculties common to man with the brute creation, but he denied to Him the anima rationalis, the higher "spirit,” including the intellectual and spiritual powers.

Of this he said He had no need, for its place was supplied by the divine Logos. Thus, on this theory, Christ could not be said to be perfect man, for an essential part of manhood, the higher spiritual nature, was wanting. Such teaching obviously affects the whole conception of Christ's redemptive work. If the humanity was incomplete and imperfect, the redemption would be incomplete, and imperfect, too, for the nobler part of man's nature, although needing redemption no less than the body, should have no part nor share in it.

The heresy of Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, which was condemned at the Third General Council at Ephesus, 431, involved the assertion that there were two persons in Christ. According to Nestorius, the blessed Virgin could not rightly be termed Theotocos (mother of God), for she gave birth only to a human person, who was conjoined with the divine Son of God. He who was formed in the womb of Mary,” said Nestorius, “ was not Himself God, but God 'assumed ' Him, and on account of Him who assumed, He who is assumed is also called God." This heresy involves, even more than Apollinarianism, the virtual destruction of the Atonement, for if in Christ there be two persons, one divine and the other human, it was only "a man " who died on the cross, and not a divine Person, whereas it is really " the infinite worth of the Son of God,” that is "the very ground of all things believed concerning life and salvation, by that which Christ either did or suffered as man in our behalf.”1

Eutychianism, the last of these heresies, was condemned at the Fourth General Council, held at Chalcedon in 451 Historically it was a reaction against Nestorianism. Eutyches, from whom it takes its name, was a monk of Constantinople, who in his anxiety to avoid maintaining anything approaching to a twofold personality in Christ, was led to assert that after the Incarnation there was but one nature in Him, for he thought that the human nature became so merged in the divine, as to be absorbed

Hooker, Ecclesiastical Polity, bk. V. ch. lii. $ 3.

« PreviousContinue »