God-man (Christianity)

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God-man (Latin: Deus homo[1]) refers to a divine incarnation as described within Christian theology and mysticism.

Origins[edit]

The first usage of the term God-man as a theological concept appears in the writing of the Christian Apostolic Father Origen in the 3rd century AD:[2]

"This substance of a soul, then, being intermediate between God and the flesh – it being impossible for the nature of God to intermingle with a body without an intermediate instrument – the God-man is born."[3]

The Council of Chalcedon, meeting in 451, affirmed that Christ had two natures – human and divine – in hypostatic union.

Much is also written of the God-man by the medieval philosopher and theologian Anselm of Canterbury (11th century) in his treatise on the atonement, Cur Deus Homo (Why God Became Man):

"If it be necessary, therefore, as it appears, that the heavenly kingdom be made up of men, and this cannot be effected unless the aforesaid satisfaction be made, which none but God can make and none but man ought to make, it is necessary for the God-man to make it."[4]
"Therefore the God-man, whom we require to be of a nature both human and Divine, cannot be produced by a change from one into the other, nor by an imperfect commingling of both in a third; since these things cannot be, or, if they could be, would avail nothing to our purpose. Moreover, if these two complete natures are said to be joined somehow, in such a way that one may be Divine while the other is human, and yet that which is God not be the same with that which is man, it is impossible for both to do the work necessary to be accomplished. For God will not do it, because he has no debt to pay; and man will not do it, because he cannot. Therefore, in order that the God-man may perform this, it is necessary that the same being should perfect God and perfect man, in order to make this atonement. For he cannot and ought not to do it, unless he be very God and very man. Since, then, it is necessary that the God-man preserve the completeness of each nature, it is no less necessary that these two natures be united entire in one person, just as a body and a reasonable soul exist together in every human being; for otherwise it is impossible that the same being should be very God and very man."[5]

The term is used in Protestant documents such as the Westminster Larger Catechism, where it says that "Christ is exalted in his sitting at the right hand of God, in that as God-man he is advanced to the highest favour with God the Father," (Q&A 54).

The word is also found in religious poetry and essays of the Romantic era. An example can be found in the poetry of Goethe:

"The God-man closeth Hell's sad doors, In all His majesty He soars."[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Origenes "De Peincipiis", in Lating translation by Rufinus. Book II, Chap 7, sec 3, p. 196
  2. ^ Baldwin, James, Dictionary Of Philosophy And Psychology, 1901.
  3. ^ Origen, De Principiis, Book II, Chapter VI. On the Incarnation of the Christ, 203-250 A.D.
  4. ^ Anselm of Canterbury, Cur Deus Homo, Book Two, Chapter VI
  5. ^ Anselm of Canterbury, Cur Deus Homo, Chapter VII
  6. ^ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Thoughts On Jesus Christ's Descent into Hell, 1765; as translated by Edgar Alfred Bowring, 1853

External links[edit]