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Who Is Jesus Christ, and How Can He Be Both Human and Divine?


One thing Christians of the modern era can agree on is that Jesus was fully human. He shared the same kindred humanity as his followers and was tempted in the same ways that they were. Regarding His humanity, theologians of all stripes agree that Christ is fully God and a complete man. To prove Jesus’ humanity, we must look no further than the Gospels themselves. When it comes to human limitations, Jesus has none. He experienced hunger like the rest of us, too. He approached the women at the Sumerian well and requested a glass of water. He required sleep and rest when he became fatigued. We are taught that he learned obedience the same way we do. It hurt him deeply whenever one of his followers betrayed him (Baillie, 1948). He broke down in sobs for the oblivion of the city he desperately wanted to rescue. His pain in the garden was the same as that of any other person. He suffered the ultimate torment of abandonment by God while hanging on the cross.

The story from the Bible is widely known. Turning to his disciples, Jesus asked, “Whom do they say I am?” John the Baptist, Elijah, or “one of the prophets” are some of the common responses. However, who do you say that I am, Jesus inquires? “You are the Christ,” Peter declares in response (Mark 8:29). Christology is the study and discussion of who Jesus is for Christians (McGrath, 2001). Christology is the study of Jesus Christ as the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of God, and the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. We are not interested in this debate from the sidelines. Like Peter and Martha, we have devoted our lives to following Jesus. As we consider who Jesus is, we also describe the relationship between Christ, his disciples, and even those who have never heard of him ( McGrath, 2001). What we believe about Jesus Christ is foundational to our own lives and the life of the church. Consequently, the more fully we answer the question of who Jesus is, the more fully we live as we confront each day, care for one another, and participate in the Mass.

To better understand what it is to be human, we must improve Jesus’ assumption of our nature. For example, the components of our nature that push us away from God are not necessary to our humanity. Since Jesus was fully human, yet without sin, we can safely say that avoiding sin is not a necessary part of being human. If Jesus is human, then he is the pinnacle of humanity. Third, Christians maintain that although Jesus shared human and divine characteristics, he is still just one person (Rausch, 2003). The risk arises when one perceives a zero-sum equation between Jesus’ divine and human personality, in which he can be neither. The key is to see that Jesus’ divinity animates and illuminates his humanity and that Jesus’ humanity concentrates and deepens God’s love.

One of the most intriguing and mysterious aspects of Christian belief is the character of Jesus Christ. The proof of Jesus’ divine character and human life may be found in the Old and New Testaments. The evidence from Scripture indicates that Jesus was a human male. He was a Jew of the first century, born to Jewish parents, raised in a Jewish community, educated in Jewish tradition, skilled in the craft of carpentry, awakened to his historical mission by the teachings of John the Baptist, and constrained by the frailties of human life (Rausch, 2003). Thesis Jesus has a human body made of flesh and blood like ours, but he also has the divine soul of God the Father.

The heretical belief known as “adoptionism” asserts that Jesus was just another regular guy who happened to be adopted by Joseph and Mary. Thanks to the Holy Spirit’s help, he followed the Law of Moses correctly and remained innocent for three decades. Because of this, during His baptism, God made Him divine (or, some said, after the Temptation). As a reward for His spotless life and atoning death, He was raised from the dead and admitted into the Godhead. The name “Adoptionism” refers to the belief that the Father brought about this transformation through a spiritual process of “adoption.” Numerous inconsistencies in the Bible make this idea difficult to accept (Cruse, 1886). To begin, it presupposes a trinitarian Godhead, consisting of the Father and Holy Spirit, before the adoption of Christ. This ridiculous construction runs counter to the overwhelming trinitarianism of the Scriptures. Among the first Jewish-Christian groups, the Ebionites adopted this erroneous teaching. They, too, believed that Jesus was just a man who, by keeping the Law, had earned his place as the Messiah. Eusebius could counter this, calling their interpretation of Christ “outrageous nonsense.” According to his writing, the Ebionites had “poor and nasty thoughts about Christ,” considering him “a simple and common man.” (Cruse, 1886).

Docetism was another early Christological heresy inside the church that denied Christ’s complete humanity, as described in the Bible. Some people, the Apostle John pointed out, still deny “that Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh” (1Jn. 4:1-3). Like Ignatius, Ignatius of Antioch cautions the Ephesian church to “do not so much as listen to anyone unless he talks genuinely about Jesus Christ” to dispel this false teaching. The intricate system of Gnosticism posed another major threat to the gospels’ account of Jesus’ life and teachings (Norris, 1980). Most Gnostic teachings attempted to reconcile the Bible with their cosmology. The Gospel of Thomas is arguably the most well-known of the Gnostic manuscripts that emerged in the second century, purporting to have come directly from the hands of the apostles. Attached to biblical names, other Gnostic books propagated the Gnostic cosmogony in a variety of ways while using biblical terminology to do so (Norris, 1980). As a rule, people tended to reject the inherent value of nature and place greater emphasis on purely spiritual redemption. To a few people, Christ came bearing the knowledge (gnosis) of this spiritual salvation.

The origins of Jewish apologetic literature can be traced back to the difficulties posed by pagans and, later, Christians, representing the complicated pattern of relations between Jews and Gentiles over the centuries (Holcomb, 2014). During the Middle Ages, Jewish apologists sought to defend Jewish religious practice and national identity from external assault and the internal doubts that inevitably result from comparing different cultures and ways of life (Holcomb, 2014). They were written to persuade non-Jews that the Jewish faith had merit and change their perspective and attitude toward the Jewish people and their faith.

The saints of the Old Testament were not like random pieces of a mosaic, bearing witness to a gospel design of which they were unaware. They, too, hoped that the patterns would be realized through the promises. At least, that is how Jesus, Paul, and Peter understood it. Every one of them claims that Moses and the prophets “wrote,” “said,” “prophesied,” and “predicted,” the message that the Old Testament narrative proclaims—”Christ’s sufferings and glory”—while also maintaining that this message is what the prophets and Moses “prophesied” and “said.” (Hall, 2002). Authentic faith has always been messianic faith based on Jesus Christ. The faithful put their faith in him, and he was the one who was upheld. All that the Father does, the Son also does. This is not the same as stating that Jesus picks and chooses to do simply what he sees the Father doing. Jesus does “whatever the Father does” (he does what the Father does). Jesus acts when the Father acts. The Jews probably heard Jesus say something similar to this. They were correct in assuming that your egotism made you think you were on equal footing with him. You make it sound like if he does something, you have to do it too as if the two of you are inextricably linked.

As a first step in resolving our issue, we recognize the well-established biblical teaching of the Trinity, which states that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are the three equal and eternal people that makeup God. The three persons of the Trinity have the same divine essence yet function in the world in distinct ways. Two main categories that theologians use to describe the Trinity are the “ontological Trinity” and the “economic Trinity” (Sanders, 2010). The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all God in the same way and measure, which is what the ontological Trinity focuses on. The economic Trinity refers to God’s actions in the world. Since the Trinity is one, in essence, we can begin to see that their roles and responsibilities are distinct from one another, even if they have the same essence. When we consider the connection between God the Father and God the Son, we find that the Son consistently submits to God the Father (Sanders, 2010). That the Son always remains subservient to the Father demonstrates that, while all three persons of the Holy Trinity are completely God, they operate within distinct positions within the Godhead.

The “heretical ideology that dismisses the different beings of the Trinity,” known as modalism, argues that the three persons of the Trinity described in the Bible are nothing more than different ways of existing or manifestations of the same God. This is why there is a tendency to refer to modalism as Sabellianism. Before the Council of Nicaea maintained the teaching of the Trinity, the orthodox church unanimously rejected modalism (Sabellianism).

The Christian religion cannot be understood apart from the doctrine of the Trinity. It is fundamental to getting a handle on who God is, His relationship with us, and how we need to relate to Him. Even if we cannot know everything there is to know about the Trinity (or anything else), we can get a good understanding of what it means for God to be three in one by answering questions like these. St. Thomas Aquinas explained the first definition [of person] that amounts to a new definition altogether: a substance, complete, subsisting per se, existing independently of others. The triune God is claimed to be “three distinct individuals” made up of “one substance,” at least according to trinitarian theology. Thus, the triune God is “one substance composed of three substances that each exist independently of the others.”

In the Christian view of the Trinity, endless generation is one of the essential principles. In response to fourth-century challenges to Son’s equality with the Father, the early Christians developed the theory of everlasting generation as a way to set apart the Son from the Father and assure that the Son is always understood to be coequal with the Father (Lee, 2009). For these reasons, the idea of everlasting generation was included in the Nicene Creed, the summation of Christian orthodoxy at the time. The “ontological Trinity,” which describes the mutual equality of the three divine Persons, is often brought up in discussions of the “economic Trinity” (Lee, 2009). “Economic Trinity” emphasizes God’s activities, while “ontological Trinity” emphasizes God’s nature. Together, these words illustrate the mystery of the Trinity, in which the Father, Son, and Spirit are all God but distinct Persons with distinct responsibilities. The Trinity is one yet also three separate persons.

Those who identify as Christians and adhere to a trinity doctrine are not monotheists. For early Christians, the concept that God exists in three persons was utterly foreign. They believed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God (Grudem, 1994). Not until over 300 years after Jesus’ death did people begin to consider the possibility that God had more than one personality. You could wonder why God withheld the trinity theory from the Apostles and other followers of Christ if Jesus is God. After all, Christ had personally instructed his Apostles and other disciples (Grudem, 1994). One might believe that Trinitarian theology was only developed sometime in the fourth century at the earliest. Before the end of the 4th century, the concept of “one God in three Persons” was not firmly established and indeed not entirely assimilated into Christian living and the profession of faith.


Baillie, D. M. (1948). God was in Christ: an essay on incarnation and atonement.

Cruse, C. F. (1886). Ecclesiastical history. Systematic Catalogue of the Public Library of the City of Milwaukee: With Alphabetical Author, Title and Subject Indexes. 1885270, 117.

Grudem, W. (1994). An introduction to biblical doctrine: Systematic theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Hall, C. A. (2002). Learning theology with the church fathers. InterVarsity Press.

Holcomb, J. S. (2014). Know the Heretics. Zondervan.

Lee, S. G. (2009). The relationship between the ontological Trinity and the economic Trinity. Journal of Reformed Theology3(1), 90-107.

McGrath, A. (2001). Christian theology: An introduction. Malden: MA: Blackwell.

Norris, R. A. (Ed.). (1980). The Christological Controversy (Vol. 1). Fortress Press.

Rausch, T. P. (2003). Who is Jesus?: an introduction to Christology. Liturgical Press.

Sanders, M. L. (2010). Subordinate but equal: the intra-Trinitarian subordination of the Son to the Father in the theologies of PT Forsyth and Jürgen Moltmann (Doctoral dissertation, University of St Andrews).


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