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Christology: Development of Christology


In no doubt, one will never understand Theology, the idea about God, without mentioning the character of Jesus. Christology then comes in, as among the many branches of Christian theology that purely addresses the mystery behind Jesus Christ: his nature, actions, and person, as it appears in the New Testament as well as in the canonical gospels. Among the issues considered in this field is the affiliation of God the Father and Jesus in terms of their nature and person. Christology too seeks to clarify the works as well as the words of Jesus enabling the reader to tell who Jesus is in person and the position he holds in salvation. In addition, Christology is a combination of two words, Christos and Logos, meaning ‘Christ’ and ‘Word’ respectively. The combination of the two portrays Christology as simply the study of Jesus Christ. The issue of, not only humanity but also the divinity of Jesus Christ, was, is and continues to attract discussions from different people ranging from theologians to psychologists. As a result, the subject of Christology comes in handy as a way out of the debate because it clarifies the connection between Christ’s deity and humanity. In addition, it answers the ever-burning question of how possible it is for the simultaneous existence of God and man. Among the issues highlighted in this paper is the historical account of the development of Christology.

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Development of Christology

To understand this subject, it suffices to check in details how the Christological thought was developed right from the early church. The doctrine of Christology dates back to the ancient Apostolic Father Age as well as the Apostles Age. In the very early views about Christology, the issue of whether Jesus is God or man appeared nowhere in the thoughts of the then people. In fact, records have it that the early church did not view Jesus as God until the 3rd and 4th centuries when Tertullian and Origen resolved to give the Christology belief. However, during the apostles’ age, there existed apostles whose messages addressed the dual nature of Jesus. Apostle John and Paul are believed to be the source of the debate about Jesus following the way they pictured him in their preaching. For instance, John, the apostle asserts, “Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God” (NIV 1 John 4:1-6). Paul and Peter concur with the issue of Jesus’ divinity and Humanity. According to these teachings, the apostles held that Jesus was both divines as well as humane, a claim that fueled the debate in some various schools that saw their dawn in the aforementioned centuries.

The Alexandrian and the Antiochene schools are among the early schools whose understanding of the Christological doctrine differed, calling for a more and thorough investigation of the doctrine. According to the school of Alexandria, Jesus has one nature. The scholars of this school argued, “Divinity and humanity of Savior…are united so close that they cannot be distinguished in the union (Simon 2003, 15). Therefore, according to this school, both the human and the divine natures must be one and not separated in order to accomplish the famous salvation and the suffering of Jesus. The school too claimed that the transformation of Christ could not be possible unless both his divine and human nature united. Another aspect of Christology, an improvement of the above, followed from the Antiochene scholars.

The Antiochene School on the other hand opposed the above claims asserting that Christ has two natures, divine and human. According to this school, the death and resurrection of Christ are not possible for a divine being. Moreover, for Christ to save, he must have won all the temptations and suffered for the people. He must have suffered hunger, sadness as well as pain that made him cry. Therefore, he qualifies to be a complete man. However, on dying, Christ reunites with God and resurrects as a savior, another nature independent of the previous. These two natures agree and operate as partners.

Christology in the reformation period took a slight change from the previous in the sense that Christ appeared as God and a son of God at the same time. He possesses both the divine nature, by the virtue of his being God, and the human nature, by the virtue of his being a son of God, just as people claim to be God’s sons. Addressing the issue of Christology in the modern world, Murray (1934) said, “…we should think of the origin of that life of Christ in the Father…they were ONE – one in life and one in love” (27). Therefore, as per modern Christology, though Christ is 100% man and God, the two are ever together. However, one may need to know the importance of the incarnation of Jesus Christ.

Importance of Incarnation

Incarnation is the belief that Jesus Christ, initially God, became man through birth by the Virgin Mary. This belief is mentioned in the New Testament is of paramount importance and more so to the early church. The belief is what fueled the preaching of the early church, whose then the message is even preached today. The subject of the incarnation of Christ, as taught in the early church, came at a time when the then people did not know what it meant by Jesus assuming two natures. The early church realized that it was a way used by God to unite heaven and the earth. Therefore, the early church taught how Jesus had to be born as a man to reveal the nature of heaven. In addition, the incarnation of Jesus revealed the way to heaven. In fact, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me” (NIV John 14:6). The early church too learned that if Jesus could overcome all the temptations, then any man could also overcome and since the early church reigned at a time when everything seemed amiss, it could use this claim to draw people together in the service and praise of one, who despite the same challenges, became a victor and united with God. This subject, therefore, helped the early church know that they too can unite with God, just like Jesus, the total man did. Moreover, the incarnation of Jesus helped in addressing the issue of sin. Just as it came through the transgression of a single man, another single righteous man also ought to come to remove them. Therefore, Jesus had to assume human nature to accomplish this mission. However, one can ask, ‘How is it possible for one man to have two natures?’

One Man-Two Nature

The issue of the two natures of Jesus still rages. Critics and adherents alike have come out to address their stand. However, “To say that Jesus is fully God and full man—that is, that in Jesus the two natures of deity and humanity are united in one person” (Ken 2003, 10). The one person addressed here is Jesus but how he is divine as well as human is what triggers the minds of people. However, the bible qualifies in explaining these two natures. For instance, the bible addresses God as the creator of the heavens and earth. In addition, it reveals Jesus as one through whom everything was made, qualifying him as God, the creator. Through this ability, the divine nature of Jesus stands out. However, the bible to reveals the birth of Jesus by the Virgin Mary. In his manhood, Jesus experiences everything that people encounter. For instance, he suffers hunger in the wilderness. He also cries of sorrow following the death of Lazarus as well as after seeing the wickedness of Jerusalem. In addition, he cries in pain when he is on the cross. All these experiences depict the human nature of the same Jesus because he goes through what people encounter, passing for a 100% man. These expositions, therefore, depict the issue of one man and two natures of Jesus. However, some figures received the issue of Jesus and God differently, for instance, Irenaeus of Lyon opposes the idea of Jesus being both human and God.

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Key Figures

Critics and adherents alike had their say about the puzzle behind Jesus and God. Irenaeus of Lyon, a bishop and a critic of the then preaching believed fully in the existence of Jesus but opposed the claim that he could be God and human at the same time because according to him, there could be no possibility of the existence of two Gods but one: God the father. Therefore, according to him, the issue of mediation, as claimed to be the work of Jesus does not exist. However, St. Athanasius the great, a religious Catholic figure born in 296 AD believed in the dual nature of Jesus, a stand that induced enmity between him and Irenaeus. Following the controversy behind this dual nature of Jesus, there were councils, whose sole purpose was to help settle down the dispute. These included the council of Nicene-Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon to mention a few.

Councils and their Significance

The council of Nicene-Constantinople believed in both the divinity and the humanity of Jesus. It held that Jesus was the son of God and one who became man through birth by the Virgin Mary. The council of Ephesus that reigned in 431 A.D concurred with the one man and two natures of Jesus. The second council of Ephesus that existed in 451 AD concurred with the one nature of Jesus as addressed in the Alexandria school. The council of Chalcedon claimed that Jesus is both divine and human. Worth noting is that this council’s rulings became of great use to the Catholic Church as it appears among its principles of Christology. In addition, this doctrine seems so sufficient that since its inception, the church has never reported any more disputes concerning the issue of Christology. However, Jesus demands to hear from his disciples about who he actually is.

Who Do Men Say I Am?

Jesus posed this question to his disciples in need of knowing whether they had recognized his two natures. However, many seemed not to recognize his deity as many associated him with other people like the prophets, Elijah, or even John the Baptist, all of whom are human in nature. It is only Peter, who identified Jesus as son of God. The varied answers given bring a very crucial lesson to Christians: that few people, even today do not believe that Jesus was God. It is the reason why only one, out of a crowd, believed in Jesus’ deity. Christians too can infer that Jesus knew that he is God but could not say it until people saw it through his actions. He wanted to show that actions matter more than the words.

Reference List

Ken, Jean C. 2003. Jesus’ Humanity and Deity. New York: Penguin Press.

Murray, Braxton H. 1934. Christology in Modern World. Britain: Rutledge Publishers.

Simon, Andrew A. 2003. Jesus: His Human and Divine Nature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

The New International Version Bible: Containing the Old and New Testaments With Apocrypha. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.

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