Book Review: Exploring Kenotic Christology by C. Stephen Evans (Ed.)

[C. Stephen Evans, ed., Exploring Kenotic Christology: The Self-Emptying of God. 2010 (2006 Oxford University Press), Regent College Publishing, Vancouver, BC.]

C. Stephen Evans’ compilation of modern essays on kenotic Christology brings together a number of current proponents of the kenosis theory with a few adherents of the historically orthodox view.  The essays are written by philosophers, theologians and Biblical scholars all professing Christian faith.  Certainly, some strides have been made in attempting to articulate a more coherent (and varied) kenosis doctrine since Gottfried Thomasius first proposed his theory in the mid-nineteenth century.  Yet, there are still problems inherent in any literal ‘self-emptying’ and/or ‘self-limiting’ doctrine with respect to the Word (Logos) when compared to Chalcedon and, by extension, Scripture.

Exploring Kenotic Christology: The Self-Emptying of GodConfusingly, some use the term kenosis as a way to define the Word’s (Logos’) necessary limitations qua human while neither divesting divine attributes nor limiting the usage thereof during the Incarnation, which is in actuality merely defining Chalcedonian orthodoxy.   For example, to claim that Jesus is limited in power yet God the Son is omnipotent is consistent with historical, orthodox Christianity.  Yet others in modern times use the term in ways far removed from the starting point of orthodoxy, even going so far as denying pre-existence.  Thomas R. Thompson explains: “Kenoticism is now applied to various Christological projects that differ significantly from the intent and strictures of nineteenth-century advocates” [p 102].  Thankfully, the essayists in this volume all affirm the Logos’ pre-existence, though some depart from orthodoxy in other areas.  On the more orthodox end, we have scholar Gordon Fee in his working definition as “some form of self-limitation of divine prerogatives on the part of the earthly Jesus” [p 29].  However, others use the term in the sense of either ontological kenosis (the Word no longer retains certain, or perhaps any, divine attributes) or functionalist kenosis (the Word retains all divine attributes yet restricts the usage of some or all).  For the benefit of the reader, the type of kenosis will be listed with the explanation of the essayist(s)’s stance in this review – ontological or functionalist (which will also be collectively identified as “unorthodox”), as opposed to orthodox (fully Chalcedonian/Biblical).

Not surprisingly, Fee, a renowned exegete, offers the most Scriptural examination of Jesus Christ’s earthly life.  He cautions against overly humanizing the divine or improperly divinizing the humanity of the Incarnate Christ, for to do the latter is a sort of “naïve docetism.”  Fee does an excellent job of debunking James D.G. Dunn‘s exposition of Philippians 2:6-11 as an ‘Adam Christology’ [30-32].  While not technically kenotic (excepting perhaps a modern understanding of the term), Dunn asserts that the Apostle Paul understood Christ as a man (Adam) rather than the pre-existent Logos who was subsequently made flesh [Dunn, Christology in the Making 1980,Westminster; pp 113-128].  Fee provides a fairly thorough exegesis of the Philippians passage illustrating that the best way to understand the ‘self-emptying’ is metaphorically rather than literally.  At times he seems to be propounding a functionalist kenosis [34], yet it appears Fee is merely explaining the Biblical grounds with which to approach the study of the humiliation of Jesus Christ [the Incarnation from conception to Cross and subsequent burial] to stay within the bounds of Chalcedonian orthodoxy [29].  Fee neither attempts to explicitly debunk any of the historically unorthodox kenosis theories (save Dunn’s) nor fully define his own stance.

Bruce Fisk agrees with the logic of kenosis, yet his essay focuses primarily on comparing the Philippians hymn (2:6-11) with contemporaneous Graeco-Roman fiction and how the Christ-hymn might have been understood by first century readers.  While interesting in its own right, it sheds only a small to moderate amount of light on the discussion of kenosis in this volume as Fisk, frustratingly, neglects to specifically state his own position.  To be fair, he does explain portions of the text by providing some commentary of orthodox scholars with whom he agrees (or seems to agree), with opposing viewpoints as well.  Furthermore, to his credit, Fisk touches on the problems in defining the Greek (transliterated) harpagmos [in verse 2:6b – see further explanation in section C of Rodney Decker’s exegesis – updated here] given its limited usage both in Scripture (only one time) and extra-Biblical material, noting that he himself leans toward the view of Moule, Hoover and Wright that Christ “did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited” [63-4].

Ruth Groenhout compares kenosis (self-emptying) in general to feminist thought, arguing that self-sacrifice is not antithetical to feminism: “When placed in the context of a robust notion of self-worth, and when oriented toward service to the Kingdom rather than purposeless self-abnegation, self-sacrifice is an appropriate call for all who call themselves followers of Christ” [311].  She makes a somewhat useful analogy of Christ’s state of humiliation in comparing fairy tale kings who temporarily dress as peasants, setting aside the prerogatives of royalty, who subsequently return to the throne receiving again their full due [297].   Noting that some feminists dismiss Christ’s sacrifice out of hand merely because He was male, Groenhout opines: “His life, death, and resurrection, however, are not intrinsically tied to his masculinity, but to this humanity” [312].  While this is a very profitable essay in its own right, it does little to advance the discussion of the kenosis theory.

Thomas R. Thompson provides a useful history of nineteenth century kenosis, discussing various models and their resultant criticisms from the right and the left.  In summation, Thompson asserts that any non-kenotic theory devolves into paradox with contradiction (in distinction from merely paradox) which makes ‘classical’ (19th century), or modern, kenosis theories more palatable in comparison.  Better, according to Thompson, to accept some paradox “pushing beyond contradiction, if possible” [110] in explicating a kenosis theory.  With this in mind, he claims that the W. F. Gess model (the Logos truly BECAME flesh as a human soul and gradually regained deity throughout the Incarnation – a true metamorphosis of the divine Logos) is “the most consistent and coherent” [111], while conceding it failed in the claim of deity.  Yet incredibly (especially in light of the fact that he’s at least cognizant that the Word was to sustain the cosmos [94], cf. Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:17), Thompson believes this kenotic motif provides the most promise, asserting that a Gessian model can somehow “make the deity claim”, concluding with, “But, that is the argument for another work” [111].   This most extreme of the ontologically kenotic theories has been described by La Touche as “incarnation by divine suicide” [“The Person of Christ in Modern Thought” in L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Eerdmans; p 327].

Edward T. Oakes expresses an understanding of the mystery of the Incarnation: “To explain that paradox by saying ‘the infinite has emptied itself to become finite’ certainly resolves that paradox.  But if one interprets self-emptying too univocally or too radically, the paradox is not just resolved but abolished” [218-219].  Oakes then proceeds to expound on an essay by Hans Urs van Balthasar putting forth a view that Jesus “descended into hell”, i.e. Sheol, to die there, between the Cross and the Resurrection (which, perhaps to some, could well be a logical conclusion to ontological kenosis, given that Christ took on the sins of the world [cf. 2 Cor. 5:21]).  He even seems to suggest that Jesus went to Gehenna, the lake of fire: “Sin is burnt up, as it were, in the fire of this love, for God, as Scripture says, is a consuming fire that will not tolerate anything impure but must burn it away” [240].  To support the view, Oakes/Balthasar use the Apostles’ Creed and much-disputed Biblical texts, primarily 1 Peter 3:18-20, the disparate views of which are aptly described by R.C. Sproul who admits his own view is in the minority: “I would hasten to add that most views of this passage are in the minority, since there is no majority view on the meaning of this text…” [St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: 1-2 Peter, Crossway; p 125].  Wayne Grudem explains the various theories related to this passage in the appendix of the TNTC of 1 Peter, taking 37 pages to do so.  Neither Sproul nor Grudem construe this passage as remotely kenotic, and Grudem contends the phrase in the Apostles’ Creed (descended into Sheol) is not in the earliest versions of the Creed [Systematic Theology, Zondervan; pp 583-588, cited from Schaff, Creeds of Christendom] and, on that basis, omits it from his systematic [p 1169].  Orthodoxy vehemently denies Jesus literally died in Sheol, much less Gehenna.

Not wishing to “abolish the paradox”, Oakes asserts that Jesus Christ was literally the Word ‘become’ flesh [218, 236] (a la Gess, as Thompson proposes above); subsequently, the second person of the Triune Godhead actually becomes wholly separated from the rest of the Trinity post-Cross [similar to the ‘Jesus Died Spiritually’ heresy of some Word of Faith teachers], at which point the kenosis is “subsumed” into the Trinity and the Trinity is “transformed” [241].  Oakes ends his essay with his admonition to “leave the paradox as stark as possible” [245].

In the Thompson/Cornelius Plantinga Jr. chapter the authors assert that kenosis theories are dependent upon the adoption of a ‘social’ view of the Trinity, but one that does not go so far as implicit or explicit tritheism [as Oakes’ essay does so implicitly].  While I’m not so sure that the authors make their case, there are other problematic issues put forth.  Again, the Gessian kenotic theory is the preferred model [170, 176].  In speaking of Gess’ view, Chafer aptly describes it thus, “This theory is so untrue…that it needs no minute refutation” [Systematic Theology, Kregel; I.380].

In asking the question “Is kenosis orthodox?”, Stephen T. Davis sets out to ‘prove’ that kenosis can be congruent with the Chalcedonian view that the Incarnate Christ was fully human and fully divine, “I am suggesting a kenotic theory as a way of interpreting Chalcedon” [115].  Davis does not propose a fully formed theory; he merely attempts to show that kenosis (vaguely defined) is orthodox.   To counter the charge that a kenosis entailing a ‘laying aside’ or restricting of the ‘omni’ attributes denies divine immutability Davis claims “soft immutability” such that “God is not fickle, capricious, mercurial, or moody; God’s holy and benevolent nature remains ever and eternally the same; God is faithful in keeping God’s promises; God’s aims and intentions for human beings do not change” [135-36].  But how does that square with Psalm 102:27 and Hebrews 13:8, as well as Colossians 1:15-17 and Hebrews 1:3 (and others noted below)?

In the introductory chapter it is stated that the Evans/Davis jointly authored closing essay “attempts to draw together some of the main strands made by the proponents of kenotic Christology today” as a challenge to “traditional theories” [24], with the concluding essay itself asserting that only a “full-fledged” kenosis provides “the best hope of an account of the Incarnation that is genuinely orthodox and yet does complete justice to the biblical portraits of Jesus” [321].   While no specific theory is proffered in the final essay, the authors do claim that Jesus Christ “lived his life in complete and continuous dependence on the Holy Spirit” which, while one could potentially argue that this view is not out of the bounds of Chalcedon, runs contrary to the Biblical witness [cf. John 5:21-25 (Christ acting divinely of and by Himself while incarnate by giving eternal life to whom He chose); John 2:19/10:17-18].  This dependence on the Holy Spirit implies at minimum a functionalist kenosis, but an ontological kenosis can be derived from this as well.

In his own essay, Evans promotes an ontological kenosis such that the claim is that if God is omnipotent then to be so necessarily means He should be able to forego His omnipotence.  Thinking this through, Evans rightly notes, “If he has given up omnipotence, he cannot use omnipotence to get it back” [213].  Excellent point.  Evans, however, explains, “That is why the glorification of the Son is described by Scripture as accomplished by the power of the Father” [213].  While I don’t believe this can be backed up Biblically, there are other problems with this view.  Both John 2:19 and 10:17-18 indicate that Jesus was in fact omnipotent as He raised Himself on the Third Day [In fact, the entire Trinity was involved in the Resurrection as other Scripture attests: Holy Spirit – Romans 1:4/8:11; Father – Acts 5:29-31/Galatians 1:1/Ephesians 1:17-20; God – Acts 2:24/Romans 4:24].  Moreover, John 2:11 makes the explicit claim that Jesus performed the miracle at Cana by His own inherent powers which “thus revealed his glory”.

Asserting that a kenotic theory should adhere to Chalcedon, Ronald J. Feenstra begins his essay with a brief Christological history starting with the events leading up to and the making of the Chalcedonian Creed.   He then proceeds to propound an ontological kenosis by distinguishing between ‘essential’ and ‘accidental’ attributes of divinity, similar to Thomasius’ “immanent” and “relative” attributes.  However, as in Davis’ view [Logic and Nature of God, London: Macmillan and Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983; p 124] God is, for example, “omnipotent-unless-freely-and-temporarily-choosing-to-be-otherwise”, borrowing this idea from Thomas V. Morris [152].

In favor of the orthodox view and specifically critical of the unorthodox theories, Edwin Chr. van Driel‘s essay notes the “polemic twist” of the unorthodox kenosis proponents.  While classical theologians see the Incarnation as an addition (of a human nature/body), the ontological or functionalist kenotic sees it as a divestment or necessary self-limitation of certain divine attributes instead.  Adopting a metaphor borrowed from Marilyn McCord Adams, van Driel calls the divine nature of the Word a “power pack” with the human nature acquired at the Incarnation an additional “power pack”.  Thus, the incarnate Christ had two complete “power packs” in one person.  Van Driel believes a satisfying kenotically orthodox account can be found in Chalcedon, keeping in mind Constantinople III (AD681) which further specifies a two-willed (and, van Driel construes, a two-minded) Incarnation.

Similarly, Sarah Coakley asks if modern kenosis “rests on a mistake”, and looks at patristic exegesis (Cyril, Nestorius, Gregory of Nyssa) of the Philippians hymn/poem as a way to show possibilities existing in the communicatio idiomatum to arrive at a coherent Chalcedonian, Biblically orthodox Incarnation, as opposed to an ontological or functionalist interpretation.  Disappointingly, Coakley stops short of fully codifying a theory concluding her essay with an admonition to “re-embrace alternative readings of kenosis that take the communicatio tradition seriously, along with its understanding of the radical difference of status of the ‘divine’ and the ‘human’” [264].  (Oliver Crisp, in his book Divinity and Humanity [Cambridge, 2007; {see my review}], uses a similar methodology promoting a fully formed theory which he terms “divine krypsis”. He defines it as not being kenotic (though one could argue, ‘quasi-kenotic’) in the manner of Evans, Davis, et al since the Logos is not limited in any way.  This works in virtue of the perichoretic relationship of the divine nature to the human in hypostatic union, while restricting any transference of essences or properties to either nature.)

While I will agree with the following statement in the Davis/Evans jointly-authored final essay that “Christology is THE Christian doctrine” [313], I do not agree with their kenotic conclusions on this all-important subject.  In fairness, however, the authors state just before their concluding remarks: “We believe that the challenge of kenotic theory will be helpful even to those who eventually reject a full kenotic theory.  For a kenotic account will stimulate those who reject it to think more deeply about the meaning of the Incarnation and do more justice to the full humanity of Jesus” [321].  I don’t disagree, as there are those who lean more towards divinizing Jesus’ humanity.  One must keep both the human and the divine natures in proper balance/tension.

This book mostly fails to fulfill its billing as from the back cover: “It is an attempt to make sense of the traditional [i.e., Chalcedonian; pp 1-2] Christian claim that Jesus of Nazareth was both human and divine by developing the idea that to become human God the Son temporarily emptied himself of some of his divine attributes.”  The reason it falls short is two-fold: 1) the essayists promoting a literal self-emptying fail to take into account the whole of Scripture [primarily Colossians 1:17/ Hebrews 1:3, John 2:19/10:17-18 & John 5:21-25] from which Chalcedon is drawn; and, 2) those who promote (or seem to promote) an historically orthodox view (that Jesus did not literally empty Himself of some of His divine attributes) are in opposition to the back cover’s claim.  And, frustratingly, neither camp fully explicates a viable theory, though some (Coakley, van Driel) come closer than others.  But this in no way renders the work fatally flawed; rather, this illustrates that whoever wrote the back cover commentary was either ill-informed of its contents or did not think through a proper synopsis.

A minor criticism: the book does not segregate those preferring (or seeming to prefer) a historically orthodox position from those who favor modern kenosis which can be confusing as one reads along.

All in all, the book is thought provoking both for those of orthodox persuasion and those favoring the more unorthodox kenotic views and is therefore well worth the read for either camp in investigating opposing views.  Be forewarned, unless one is well-versed in Christological issues and somewhat aware of the various kenotic theories, this book will be a challenging read (as it was for me) and likely a difficult read in spots.  Yet, it is this reader/reviewer’s contention that this volume deserves a close study as a way toward a (re)consideration of one’s own position on “THE Christian doctrine”.  Proper Christology is indeed central to the Christian faith.  Distortions can lead to heresy, and faulty Christology has negative implications on the Trinity and the Atonement.  Full adherence to Chalcedon is imperative, keeping in mind the full counsel of Scripture from which the Creed was codified.

Three (maybe 3.5) out of five stars overall for inducing further reflection on this subject.

71 Responses to Book Review: Exploring Kenotic Christology by C. Stephen Evans (Ed.)

  1. Craig says:

    Here’s another review from Ars Disputandi by Ivor J. Davidson:


  2. Paul says:

    Excellent review- thank you so much for laying the groundwork. I will be buying this at some point this year. I have been struggling with my own Pastor over this issue, since our Church is heavily influenced by Bethel teachings. I have tried to show that kenoticism is unorthodox and hazardous not only to a proper understanding of the atonement but also to the Person of Christ (I even drew heavily on your articles if that’s OK?). Last week the Pastor delivered what was- initially- a very orthodox view of Christ; by the time he had finished kenoticism had become a viable alternative to Chalcedonian Christology with an “everything goes you decide” kind of theory at the close. We talked about it, but he got agitated and so did I. It is *that* important to me!! Can I ask a question that has been asked of me about this? “Is this something we should split over?” What do you think??


  3. Craig says:


    I’m so thankful this has helped you! And, of course it’s OK if you have referenced the CrossWise articles. I will let the words of Anselm speak as he has done so very well [as translated in Brian Davies, G.R. Evans’ Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works 2008 (1998), Oxford University Press, NY]:

    If we have said anything that ought to be corrected, I do not refuse correction. But if it is corroborated by the Testimony of Truth, as we think we have by means of logic discovered, we ought to attribute this not to ourselves but to God, who is blessed throughout all ages… [Cur Deus Homo (Latin) – Why God Became Man; p 356]

    You asked, “Can I ask a question that has been asked of me about this? ‘Is this something we should split over?’” The answer is “Yes”; however, keep in mind that in your case it is your pastor who is splitting with the Church given that he is the one who is violating Chalcedon. You, on the other hand, are standing up for Truth, defending the faith [Jude 3]. Do not let him make you think you are the one who is dividing the body.

    I would think the Kenosis, Christology and Bill Johnson, part II article would be the most helpful given that it contains quotes from many different sources in Johnson’s own words exposing his faulty Christology and its implications on the Atonement and the Trinity. In addition, the Greater Works Shall You Do article illustrates that kenosis is the means with which Johnson humanizes Jesus at the expense of His deity while simultaneously elevating mankind to virtual deity.


  4. Craig says:

    I see I’ve been unclear about something in the section regarding Feenstra’s contribution; therefore, I’ve edited this paragraph.

    It formerly read:

    “However, in Davis’ view God is, for example, “omnipotent-unless-freely-and-temporarily-choosing-to-be-otherwise” borrowing this idea from Thomas V. Morris [152].”

    In its corrected and more complete form bearing the name of the work Feenstra cites, it now reads:

    “However, as in Davis’ view [Logic and Nature of God, London: Macmillan and Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983; p 124] God is, for example, “omnipotent-unless-freely-and-temporarily-choosing-to-be-otherwise” borrowing this idea from Thomas V. Morris [152].”

    Sorry for any confusion.


  5. Craig says:

    I’m delighted in the current interest in this particular review as evidenced by the stats. Any comments or questions are welcomed!


  6. Craig says:

    I’ve just fixed the broken link to Rodney Decker’s exegesis of harpagmos.


  7. Jim says:

    Of course, much of the difficulties with the divine man Jesus, that then lend themselves to full kenosis (emptying of the divine), disappear when you take a trinitarian presupposition out of the exegesis equation.


  8. Craig says:

    I would contend that it’s hardly a presupposition, but a fact as determined through proper exegesis of the relevant passages.


  9. Jim says:

    The presupposition of trinitarianism was based on references to God the Son rather than the biblically accurate son of God. One God, and one Lord, Craig 😀


  10. Craig says:


    First, I want to say that I appreciate the dialogue–even when we disagree. Having said that, we agree on many more points than we disagree. One God, One Lord (and see Hurtado’s book with that name), yes. The Son of God over against “God the Son” in Scripture?–yes, as well. However, there are Scriptures that point to Jesus the Christ, the Son of God as tantamount to “God the Son”.


  11. Jim says:

    Thanks for the generous way, Craig, in which you can see doctrinal overlap and allow me to express ideas you’re not in agreement with. You’re correct that there is probably more alignment than opposition.

    This would certainly be a good post to comment on Phil 2:5-11 although I think we are largely in agreement about Bethel style kenosis.

    As far as the trinity goes, I can see more space between the Father and his divine Logos/Son/Agent to the point whereby, as far as man is concerned they both merit the title YHWH at times yet are clearly separate entities. That much is easy to establish from scripture.

    If the definition of ‘God’ is less about how many persons comprise him and more about his relational position relative to all other possible ‘gods’ (spiritual and man-made), then we have one Most High God ( the Father) and his Son as our Lord (and the Lord of all creation as bestowed on him by the Father), who we can also call our ‘God’ as Thomas did in John 20:28. That doesn’t make a binity though, or two gods.


  12. Jim says:


    You say, ‘Full adherence to Chalcedon is imperative’. Why? Isn’t that presuppositional? I can read Phil 2 without kenotic conclusions and still not adhere to all of Chalcedon.


  13. Craig says:

    I know we’d discussed this before, and I still cannot see how your view escapes to separate entities, and hence, two gods.

    As regards my words about Chalcedon: 1) the book expressly states that the writers were working within that framework (see paragraph which begins “This book mostly fails…”); 2) in Christianity as a whole Chalcedon is assumed to be a ‘shorthand’ explanation of Christology as found in the whole of Scripture, and if one departs from this stance, it is incumbent upon this individual to defend their position (i.e. ‘disprove’ Chalcedon) before moving forward.


  14. Jim says:

    We have been there before. A good deal for sure. Maybe best not to revisit old ground. Suffice to say 😀 that I believe scriptures shows us that Jesus himself would say that there is but one Most High God. Indeed it is recorded that he did so. If he pointed to the Father as the one true God whilst aware of his own deity during his incarnation, he must regard himself as both separate and not also the Most High God.

    In relational terms, since he represents the fullness of the invisible Father to mankind, he can be accorded various titles also given to the Father. He still doesn’t elevate himself to Most High status. That is reserved for one divine being only. The one who came from that being, the Logos, is the Son/Agent/Messenger/Ruler on behalf of the Most High. As 1 Cor 8 says there are many gods and many lords, but we profess only one of each as truly worthy of those titles.

    If possible, I would like to go into how a non-trinitarian view lends itself to a more logical understanding of the Phil 2 Christ hymn. A less cluttered and more elegant view. Perhaps after you publish your thoughts first, Craig.


  15. Jim says:

    I’ve just refreshed my knowledge of the Chalcedon creed. What a lot of confusing neo-Platonic dualistic proto-Catholic misinformation. Two natures each of different substances yet indivisible and inseparable. God the Word. Honestly, it’s no wonder orthodox Christianity becomes so fractured and weak. With incoherent scripturally feeble roots of doctrine like those creeds, the church was on a hiding to nothing!

    Apologies for the rant! It makes me so frustrated this thinking dominated the day. And who did the dominating? A few key leaders who had the backing of Caesar and in a time when one cry of heresy was sufficient to warrant death or permanent exile. A good incentive to toe the trinitarian party line!


  16. Craig says:

    The Chalcedonian Creed was adopted largely because of Leo’s Tome. Most participants got behind it right away; some were unsure (probably a language gap), but these were persuaded, resulting in unanimous support. Yet later there was a schism.

    Chalcedon is the backdrop for all of historic, orthodox Christianity (RCC, EO, Protestantism). But, some at the time believed in monophysitism, however others adhered to miaphysitism. This is over against the Chalcedonian duophysitism (two natures).


  17. Jim says:

    Thanks for the links. Chalcedon was constructed in very turbulent times. Never a great backdrop for measured debate.

    Plus, as the wiki articles state with respect to the key terms, there is certain interpretative width that exists introducing speculation and some ambiguity. To me, this just makes the creeds more flakey and best avoided as the basis of faith.


  18. Jim says:

    Craig, as far as all the ‘physitisms’ go, I’m in the physicalist camp regarding human ontology, so I’d go with ‘mono’. Therefore, I would read Phil 2 to be saying that Jesus submitted his whole being (nephesh or soul) to death for a period of three days.

    Using ‘all things are held together in him’ as a text verse for a separate Logos deity still doing the holding together while the flesh Jesus was dead gets into unnecessary Greek dualism, I believe. I’m sure God the Father was able to undertake any ‘holding together’ (whatever that means at the universal or atomic levels) prior to resurrection.


  19. Craig says:

    In a physical sense, Jesus of Nazareth does not predate the Virginal Conception. In the beginning the Word existed, then the Word became flesh. In other words, pre-incarnation the Word existed, yet incarnationally He became Word-made-flesh. Stated another way, the Word existed in the beginning with God, then the Word underwent a fundamental change from the Word to Word-made-flesh at the Incarnation, and He is forevermore Word-made-flesh. Word-made-flesh is human, but He is not merely human. Your monophysite stance does not account for this.

    In Genesis 2:7 it was YHWH Elohim’s “breath of life” that made man a nep̱hesh chayyā, a psychēn zōsan (living “soul”). While I would agree that this is same thing bringing about the human Jesus of Nazareth, we must keep in mind the Word’s preexistence (with respect to Jesus of Nazareth). To assume that “the Word” died alongside “the flesh” would seem to guard against Nestorianism, but it runs afoul of the explicit words of both Paul (Colossians 1:17) and the writer of Hebrews (1:3).

    In the latter, “Son” is the subject, and the verb for sustaining/upholding is a present (imperfective aspect, meaning continuous action) active (as opposed to middle or passive voice) participle. Given that the writer had just stated that the Son is the agent of creation (He epoiēsen tous aiōnas, “made the ages”), then this implies a continuous sustaining since the advent of creation. In the Colossians passage, the subject is Christ Jesus, and the verb for consists/are held together is a perfect active indicative (“indicative” meaning a statement of fact). The perfect tense denotes (~) past action with present continuing results, which in this instance means that “Christ” is and has been holding everything together since the beginning. We mustn’t take the subject as strictly incarnational (one may wish to argue that “Christ” doesn’t predate the Incarnation, e.g.), as Paul had just stated that He is “before all things” (pro pantōn). In other words, while Paul didn’t state something to the effect of “Christ, in his pre- and para-incarnational existence” (which would be unnecessarily verbose and clumsy), he’d already also stated that Christ was prōtotokos pasēs ktiseōs, “firstborn of all creation”, and, thus, we shouldn’t attempt to limit this in such a manner.

    Moreover, there is no way Scripturally to back up your position that God the Father ‘held together’ “all things”/”the ages” between Christ’s death and resurrection. The two passages above state that it was the Son/Christ, and there are no other verses to substantiate that the Father took up the slack, so to speak.


  20. Jim says:

    The wikipedia article you linked to on monophysitism would seem to be accord with your para one above, Craig, in that this understanding of Jesus is a synthesis of the divine and physical into a single nature. This would be sympathetic to the Word made flesh. Mono is not a definition of a ‘mere’ man without a divine element.

    Sustaining things or holding things together, even if the verb is continuous, doesn’t have to mean Christ is the universal ‘plate-spinner’ and that somehow his being in the grave would result in the immediate disintegration of all atoms or the laws of physics. I think we have to be practical here and say that these verbs refer to and underline that the Logos and the Word made flesh Christ are one and the same. It’s more saying, the same creative person that brought the earth, all life and every star into existence also lived, died and rose from the dead as Jesus of Nazareth.

    If God is the one who imbued the creative power to the Logos and Jesus, and was the giver of Christ’s authority over all things, then ultimately the Most High is still in full command, but through his agent, or ‘full representation’. God chose his son to become flesh and fully die as a human would experience death (total loss of being). At the point of death Jesus handed back the reins, as it were, into the Father’s care – ‘into your hands I commit my breath’. Then he was resurrected and given back the glory he once held as the Logos before creation had commenced, but now as the resurrected Word made flesh. He was given back the authority to continue to ‘hold all things together’ and will do so until he hands all things back to the Father once death is defeated finally.

    So I don’t necessarily agree that ‘sustaining’ or ‘holding things together’ implies a separate divine nature that somehow didn’t experience death. The divine human Jesus really experienced death because he became ‘obedient to death’ according to Phil 2:8. Only divinity can be obedient to death voluntarily. To humanity, it’s an inevitability, along with taxes!


  21. Craig says:

    If Christ is one nature, then the divine is human and the human is divine, and Jesus really isn’t a “human” at all, but a tertium quid, a third thing.

    Logos and Word-made-flesh contain one commonality—the Logos—but Word-made-flesh has the added human element that Logos did not have pre-incarnation. The answer to your conundrum is John 4:24—God is spirit. As a spirit being, God is not constrained by the physical; thus, there is no problem with the Logos sustaining the cosmos between Christ’s death and resurrection. In other words, according to the duophysite stance, the human Jesus was dead while the divine Logos continued existing—surely the Divine does not die!—sustaining the cosmos. This became known as the extra calvinisticum.

    I think that once you adopt that stance that Logos both predates and is coextensive with Word-made-flesh, but Word-made-flesh is only coextensive with Logos at the point of the Incarnation, things will fall into place a bit better for you. Jesus Christ is Word-made-flesh, but Jesus Christ is not Logos. The “made-flesh” does not predate the Incarnation. We cannot replace “Word” with “Jesus” in John 1:1.

    It is the Logos who was agent of creation. It was Logos sustaining creation until the Incarnation, at which point it was/is Word-made-flesh sustaining creation.


  22. Jim says:

    Craig, I would have said that a baby who was conceived without male sperm, by the power of God on Mary, who was not of the Adamic sin-line, yet like him in all physical things, could be regarded as a tertium quid. Isn’t that ‘the Word made flesh’ after all? Not just a man, nor a deity masquerading as a human.

    If the answer is John 4:24, what about Heb 1:14? Angels are spirits, and God is (a) spirit. You’re not concluding that there is a substance called ‘spirit’ from which both God, the Logos and angels are made, are you? Clearly angels are created beings and must be made of different ‘stuff’ from the Creator. The point, I believe, of John 4:24 is the same as John 3:8 where Jesus is explaining that things of the ‘spirit’ are unseen, like the wind (which pneuma or ruach mean). It’s the non-physical and invisible aspect of God that means he ‘is spirit’. The worshippers will be ones who will be stirred to worship globally, not just in a specific Jewish location, but moved by the Spirit by faith.

    I’m happy with the distinction between Logos and Jesus of Nazareth. But, and this is where Phil 2 is so clear, the deity of the Logos subordinated himself under the humanity of Jesus in the ultimate act of humility, ie the true point of that chapter, to permit death and not over-ride it. If you think in trinitarian terms you will have a problem with that and say ‘how can God die?’, but the non-trinitarian is simply recognising that the Father has complete control while his agent/Son is in the grave, just as he always was and is in complete control. Jesus’s own words during his incarnation are replete with ‘I can do nothing of myself’, ‘I am doing what I see the Father doing’ and ‘I and the Father are one’.

    If the divine agent as incarnated Word made flesh obeys death, then he really obeys death. If he doesn’t die, as you’re suggesting by saying a divine nature can’t, then there is no death in the full sense, and we’re back to the bankrupt philosophy of Plato and Greek dualism which morphed into gnosticism and finally trinitarianism, which was it’s logical Christian outworking.


  23. Jim says:

    If the totality of death didn’t happen, and there was a contained and separate divine entity called the Logos who was ‘sustaining’ the universe still on God’s behalf in the grave, then Phil 2 is in error. It clearly says the Word made flesh Jesus obeyed death, even via the ultimate humiliation of crucifixion. There’s no hint of one ‘nature’ dying and a different one not.


  24. Craig says:


    Sorry for my delay here. I’ve been, as per the colloquialism, ‘under the weather’. (I suppose that means I should be attempting to get ‘over the weather’?)

    I’ll begin from a different angle in order to provide an analogy. Each Christ-follower becomes ‘indwelt’ with the Holy Spirit, God’s spirit. Now, of course, we understand that each believer receives the entirety of the Spirit (not just a portion), yet this creates a paradox. You and I have the same Spirit, and each of us has the Spirit in equal measure. A new believer now indwelt by the Spirit does not diminish the ‘quantity’ of the Spirit in you or me, just as the fact that you and I already have the Spirit does not diminish the ‘quanitity’ for this new believer. This attribute of the Holy Spirit has been defined as omnipresence. This all has nothing to do with gnostic dualism. On the contrary, it is a difference of corporeality vs. incorporeality, but with the added dimension of God’s omnipresence on the latter (as opposed to angels).

    Similarly, the Logos/Word is omnipresent. When the Logos/Word became Word-made-flesh, Logos/Word was not diminished in any way, nor was the Logos/Word constrained strictly to the human body of Jesus of Nazareth. We can hardly separate the Logos/Word as if there were an ‘outside-Jesus-body-Logos’ and an ‘inside-Jesus-body-Logos’. At all times the Logos/Word continued sustaining the cosmos after the advent of creation (as per Col 1:17 and Heb 1:3). And this ‘plate spinning’ continued/continues on from the moment of the Virginal Conception. And like the death of any believer never results in the death of the Holy Spirit, the death of Jesus of Nazareth should not be understood to result in the death of the Logos/Word.

    Also, Jesus’ death should not be understood as the Logos/Word leaving His body—and I’m not saying you have adopted this stance. There’s no reason to impose that particular belief and every (Scriptural) reason to retain its opposite. Hence, taking all the above together, upon the death of the physical body of the duophysite (dual-natured) Jesus of Nazareth, His human nature certainly died, but His Divine nature continued living ‘alongside’ His now-dead human nature/body. In fact, this is necessary to fulfill Jesus’ explicit words of John 2:19, in which He claims that He Himself will raise His ‘temple’, i.e., His body.

    Your argument that there’s no mention of one nature dying while another lives in Philippians 2 works both ways. There’s no mention of two natures at all in this passage. One must interpret this passage through the lens of other similar passages, as well as Scripture as a whole, without drawing any unnecessary conclusions either way, and any interpretation must be harmonious with the others (such as John 2:19 just mentioned above).

    Now, regarding your assertion that Jesus must have been a tertium quid, there are a number of reasons why we needn’t draw this conclusion. Of course, I agree that Jesus was “[n]ot just a man, nor a deity masquerading as a human.” He was both human and Divine. Sure His conception was unique, but then so was Adam’s. Yet we recognize our common ancestry with Adam without reservation. Moreover, I’d be careful about drawing too many conclusions from the silence of the texts regarding Jesus’ conception—again not saying you’ve done this. There are many Scriptures identifying Jesus as wholly man, yet one without sin. The latter is the only distinction from any other human. And it was this sinlessness that provided the means by which His death could provide the Atonement for all who would believe.

    Even in your own (working?) binity, the Son is of the same essence as the Father. We certainly agree that the Father cannot die, but how, in your view, can the Son die if He is of the same essence as the Father? With your statement “the deity of the Logos subordinated himself under the humanity of Jesus in the ultimate act of humility” it seems as though you’ve denuded Deity of all power (akin to Gess). If this is not what you mean, please explain.


  25. Craig says:


    Here’s a pianist/composer with which your son may not be familiar, namely, Marcin Wasilewski. And he’s one of my favorites. The following provides a fair representation of his oeuvre:


  26. Jim says:

    Very mellow. Thanks Craig. I’ll pass on the name. He’s refocused from Berklee to a very good domestic uni and hopes to get to the US for a music Masters. He’ll be majoring in jazz performance with minors in composition and production. He topped his audition and received a very sizeable scholarship, so I think God’s fingerprints are on this.


  27. Craig says:

    Congrats to your son on his scholarship! As I recall, you told me where he/you are. If so, where are you again? If not, and you prefer not to, no problem.

    Wasilewski is from Poland–in case you couldn’t tell by the name. 🙂 I really like his phrasing and his use of space between notes, especially in the ‘freer’ pieces and sections.


  28. Jim says:

    Craig you wrote: “With your statement “the deity of the Logos subordinated himself under the humanity of Jesus in the ultimate act of humility” it seems as though you’ve denuded Deity of all power (akin to Gess). If this is not what you mean, please explain.”

    I regard that as the distilled version of what you wrote above in the paragraph starting ‘Also Jesus’ death should not be understood…’

    I agree that there was no separation of natures at the point of death hence my idea that divinity was ‘alive’ but since it was subordinated as Phil 2 explains, the Logos would have remained captive to death forever if the resurrection had not occurred.

    I’m a bit bemused by your comment that scripture is silent regarding the conception of Jesus. Surely Luke 1:26-35 is clear that Joseph was only named as part of the lineage to fulfil the Davidic prophecy. Matt 1:16 substantiates the ‘human seed’ line stopping with Jacob, Joseph’s father. It was God alone who caused Mary’s pregnancy.

    The sinlessness of Jesus was a combination of his purity at birth and that he didn’t ‘fall’ while on earth. Yes his conception was unique as was the first Adam’s, but one was from the earth and one from heaven. They’re very different. We identify with earthly Adam in our natural constitution and with the second heavenly Adam as our spiritual inheritance and first fruit example post-resurrection.


  29. Jim says:

    Backing up to your opening comments on our being filled by the Holy Spirit and his totality just as the Logos was the totality of God in a human form (if I’ve paraphrased accurately).

    To me this is more logic-defying trintarianism. Yes we are filled and anointed as well as sealed with God. Scripture says the Father and Jesus will live in a believer. I don’t think we have ‘all the fullness of God’ in me though. Treasure for sure in a very clay jar.

    I think the best analogy is that our minds now have free access to God’s heart and wisdom and limited manifestations of his power through us at times. A bit like getting the password to an unlimited ‘computer cloud’. I don’t think of entities or persons living in me somehow.

    Again, I think of the term spirit as the invisible, whether that be breath, wind, God, angels, the inner thought life etc. So I’m not thinking about the infinite somehow occupying a tiny finite human in a three D way.


  30. Craig says:


    Disappointingly, I’ve a feeling we’re misunderstanding each other and, thus, in some sense talking past one another.

    Regarding my comments about believers receiving the Holy Spirit, I mean that we do not receive merely a portion, as if part of the HS is cut and apportioned to each believer, thus diminishing the HS as each new believer comes to the fold. Now, I’m not intending to convey that we each continuously live as though we have the entire power of the HS to the extent that we are always and ever having miraculous works performed through us. I mean to say that the entire power of the HS is always there ready to be used should the occasion arise and, more importantly, we are sufficiently yielded to allow it to work through us.

    In this same way, Jesus has His divine nature, the Logos, to the full. And, similarly, it wasn’t as though Jesus could have just walked up to, say, a 10,000 pound boulder and picked it up. Surely, He had unlimited power (omnipotence), but He was limited by the flesh He took on at the Incarnation. And, similarly, though the power to pick up this same boulder is inside believers, we cannot just walk over and pick it up—because of the limitations of our humanity.

    Yet, at the same time, Jesus was able to sustain the cosmos as He walked the earth. Of course, He didn’t do this in His humanity, but by His divine nature—this divine nature not constrained to His physical body.

    Jim, rather than construe the divine nature/Logos as have been ‘subordinated’ under the human nature, I think it better to understand that Jesus, the theanthropic Person, was limited in His earthly life by His earthly body yet, concurrently, the Logos continued to operate to the full just as He had pre-incarnation by benefit of the omnipresence inherent in Divinity. In other words, while Jesus in His theanthropic Person was certainly limited in terms of presence (present at only one place at any one time), the Logos continued to exist omnipresently. This is somewhat analogous to the HS in believers, though the analogy is certainly not complete. Allowing for this difference, while the divine nature/Logos was certainly alive during the time Jesus’ physical body was dead, it wasn’t as though the Logos was ‘trapped’, so to speak, inside Jesus—any more than the HS is ‘trapped’ in a believer.

    My comment regarding the virginal conception of Jesus is about the physical outworkings of it. We simply do not know HOW God performed this miracle.

    Yes, Jesus is ‘from above’, but this does not mean that His humanity is not 100% like the humanity of the rest of us. That Jesus would have the exact same humanity as the rest of us seems integral to the whole idea that He would be able to become the perfect sacrifice for us. So, instead of the once a year unblemished animal, Jesus, in Himself, provided the unblemished (sinless) human once-for-all self-sacrifice. It seems best that Jesus was 100% human for this purpose rather than supra-human.


  31. Jim says:

    There is a bit of talking across. I think due to two different perspectives of the same problem using the same lexicon and scriptures.

    To remain true to your original post, the point Paul makes in Phil 2 is one of giving up divine privilege, subordinating kingship beneath servanthood, and being obedient to an ignominious death. Besides wiping away the debt of sin, it was so we could model that same attitude in our church communities.

    To build a premise of two utterly different natures coexisting as Jesus on the couple of ‘sustaining’ verses (which is all there really is in support of the Logos still ‘living’ in the grave) is pretty flimsy. Remove the trinitarian lens and it all becomes much simpler.

    I am suggesting that the majority view from scripture is not trinitarian; that Jesus was uniquely God-essence divinity carried from the Logos into human form. That humanity was total and he bled red. But apart from a glimpse of subordinated glory (transfiguration) that human/divinity meld laid aside the right to bypass death as per Phil 2.

    Whether the ‘Word made flesh’ was the actual Logos entity or whether some ‘de-glorified’ divine essence or substance was perfectly mixed into the human person, is open to conjecture. Jesus was clearly aware of his unique connection with God the Father and his deity status was evident from early in his ministry.

    I just don’t know how to express this fully in English Craig. There aren’t the words. I’m considering the implications for this view of Jesus and all the omnis. If, at his core, the Logos and Jesus (pre and post resurrection), is begotten of the Father and given authority, is the visible representation of the invisible God, takes on human form and limits his capabilities then stays a human after being resurrected rather than resuming his Logos manifestation, does that bring into question omniscience, omnipresence and all power? Both before during and after his incarnation, Logos/Jesus/Christ was given all things by his Father.

    He doesnt have to be all the omnis, just God does. I’m kind of writing out loud because this is new ‘so what’ territory for me right now. I want to make sense of divinity and humanity in perfect coalescence, real death and the universe not turning to atoms during his grave time. I don’t want to stray into NAR thinking that Jesus was only a man reliant in the HS, basically as we are. Nor was he two mutually exclusive natures coexisting in a ‘body suit’.


  32. Craig says:

    I agree with the basic thrust of your 2nd paragraph (“To remain true to your original post…”). In becoming flesh—adding a human nature/body to Himself—the Word/Logos accepted human limitations, but only as the theanthropic Person Jesus Christ. This meant He was fully human (as per Chalcedon, which is derived from and is a sort of shorthand of Scripture). Yet the Word/Logos retained His Divinity to the full—unless one can adequately explain how Divinity retains its Divinity while existing in a limited state. The debate, of course, is how to conceive and explain this ‘mystery’. Paul remarks about this in 1 Timothy 3:16.

    You may benefit from reading the book reviewed in this particular blog post. I really like Edwin Chr. van Driel’s description (borrowed from Marilyn McCord) of the Word/Logos having one “power pack”, who then gained a 2nd “power pack” at the Incarnation. Under this conception, only one “power pack” is in use at one time through the theanthropic Person. When Jesus was asleep, it was the human “power pack”, when He quelled the storm, it was the Divine “power pack”. Yet, importantly, this doesn’t prevent the Divine “power pack” from remaining in use extra carnem (outside the flesh) at any and all times, due to its intrinsic omnipresence. Now one could accuse me of having the tail wagging the dog in imposing the category of omnipresence upon the Word during the Incarnation; however, I see this as the logical outworking of Scripture. Given that the Word was the agent in the creation event, the Word must have been omnipresent to accomplish this; so, why would we think this intrinsic property would be given up at the Incarnation—must especially given Col. 1:17 and Heb 1:3?

    If I recall correctly, in Gordon Fee’s essay he remarks how he likely could have beaten Jesus in one-on-one basketball. His point was that we must be cautious in overly divinizing the Person of Christ, while at the same time not overly humanizing Him at the expense of His divinity (the NAR crowd, e.g.).

    Yes, one could say there are certain things about the Incarnation that are open to interpretation; however, I’ve not found one more satisfactory than that which was hashed out in the first few centurys AD.

    As regards your last two paragraphs, I think these are very important to work through. Yes, at the Resurrection Jesus retained the same Word-made-flesh ‘manifestation’, but this mustn’t indicate diminished omniscience and omnipotence. Given that Jesus will be the Judge at the eschaton (John 5:28-30), He must be omniscient—and that’s not to mention a similar “judging” during the Incarnation (John 5:21-25) during which He must have exhibited omniscience. And that’s not to mention His startling physical appearance post-Resurrection in Revelation 1:12-16—an appearance much different than His earthly one.

    Relatedly, you are probably aware of the textual variants of John 1:18, one of which is monogenēs theos, with this one accepted in many modern Bible versions. This is as compared to monogenēs huios in John 3:16. (Though, awkwardly, the NIV uses both of these in 1:18.) I was somewhat surprised to find that monogenēs theos looks to be part of the Chalcedonian Definition/”Creed” (CD). I cannot say for sure because there is some ambiguity as to how to punctuate it, which I will explain in brief. First of all, punctuation is mostly absent in original NT Greek manuscripts. There is debate about when the comma was adopted as common usage, and, as far as I know, we don’t have an early CD in Greek which includes punctuation. In Philip Schaff’s 3-volume set The Creeds of Christendom the author punctuates a portion of the CD “monogenē, theon logon, kyrion Iēsoun”. All these words are in the accusative (~direct object), and with Schaff’s punctuation this would be “’unique-one’ (‘only-begotten’), God the Word, Lord Jesus”. But, this is not the only way to punctuate this section, as this wiki article illustrates: “only begotten God (μονογενῆ Θεόν), the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ”. I don’t recall ever seeing “God the Word” (theon logon) anywhere else, so I’m inclined to read this as monogenē theon instead. I plan to use this in my very slowly ongoing multi-part article on John’s prologue (1:6-8 is not too far from complete).


  33. Jim says:

    Thanks for commending or approving (‘synistemi’ as per Col 1:17?) the book. I will investigate buying a copy. Looking at that word and ‘phero’ from Heb 1:3, neither arguably are contextually about the universe being maintained in a constant and existential way that without Jesus performing some conscious act of sustainment, everything would cease to exist. Existence, and the concomitant laws of physics that allow things to be sustained, were brought in to being through the Word and the power given to him by the Father at the point of creation.

    Is there anything in the bible that alludes to an on-going requirement for the Word and Word made flesh to be actively engaged in universal ‘plate-spinning’? Your description of the Logos having to undertake this task during the incarnation suggests a divine being exercising all the rights of Father-level deity independently and without overlap, limitation or recourse to the human Jesus. It’s too close to discrete entities which goes against the grain of Chalcedon surely.

    That’s why a single entity or nature seems far simpler and more representative of the spirit of John’s account – a Jesus who was aware of his pre-incarnated personhood, but limited by and operating within the scope of full humanity.


  34. Craig says:

    Trinitarianism is defined as one ‘ousia’ (= one Being) with three hypostases (consubstantial ‘Persons’). While roles overlap, some have distinct roles: The Father sent the Son, the Son is the One sent; the Son died on the Cross; etc. Thus, for one ‘Person’ to sustain the cosmos in exclusion from the others is not unique.

    I disagree with your exegesis of Heb 1:3 and Col 1:17. These do, in fact, describe the Son/Christ is sustaining/upholding the “ages”/cosmos. I Corinthians 8:4-6 also affirms this, with the added advantage of more fully integrating Father and Son.


  35. Jim says:

    I think the point from any exegesis of those passages is that Paul is not referencing the requirement for micro-sustainment at the atomic level as seems to be your perception (correct me here if that’s wrong). As with the ‘all things’ of Paul, or the ‘world’ of John, what Jesus is the source of and continual provider of sustenance towards, is the principalities, powers and lower rulers of the spiritual and natural realms that he is given rulership and authority over.

    Yes every heartbeat is from God, yes he knows when our last breath will be and our spirit/breath ‘returns’ to him who gave it, through Christ. But the real point from these verses in Col and Heb is not really about whether everything will turn to dust like a Marvel movie without the Logos’s constant intervention, but more that he is the giver of natural and spiritual life to all creatures, and is above them all In so doing.


  36. Jim says:

    Btw you asked after our whereabouts. We’re in a small city on coastal NSW Australia. It’s a very pleasant 28C right now. You’d enjoy being over our current weather 😀


  37. Craig says:

    No doubt I’d be enjoying your weather. Here in San Antonio, Texas it is only going to get to about 7C tomorrow, with clouds all day. Yuck. I like very warm to hot weather, because I’m cold-natured.

    While I won’t say exactly how Christ/the Son sustains/upholds all things, I’m quite confident that all things is inclusive of all things without limitation. We’ve already discussed your views with respect to Colossians 1:17, so I won’t rehash here; but, your view cannot be imposed upon the Pauline passage. The first and second sections of 8:6 are in parallel, and “all things” are unrestricted for the Father, so we cannot restrict “all things” relative to the Son.


  38. Jim says:

    From the wiki article, it seemed like you took your life in your hands attending the Council gatherings:

    ‘Throughout these proceedings, Hilary (one of the papal legates) repeatedly called for the reading of Leo’s Tome, but was ignored. Dioscorus then moved to depose Flavian and Eusebius of Dorylaeum on the grounds that they taught the Word had been made flesh and not just assumed flesh from the Virgin and that Christ had two natures. When Flavian and Hilary objected, Dioscorus called for a pro-monophysite mob to enter the church and assault Flavian as he clung to the altar. Flavian was mortally wounded. Dioscorus then placed Eusebius of Dorylaeum under arrest and demanded the assembled bishops approve his actions. Fearing the mob, they all did.’


  39. Jim says:

    Craig, you wrote:

    ‘Given that the Word was the agent in the creation event, the Word must have been omnipresent to accomplish this; so, why would we think this intrinsic property would be given up at the Incarnation—must especially given Col. 1:17 and Heb 1:3?’.

    I don’t make your connection of creative agency by the Word and omnipresence. If the power behind the command (God the Father) is omnipresent that is sufficient. Prov 8 gives us a glimpse into the relational interaction between God and Logos during creation, and it is as though the Word spoke and rejoiced as he witnessed God do.

    Further, per Phil 2, there is a great deal of divine authority ‘given up’ at the incarnation, without going the whole Bethel hog of total emptying to the point of becoming simply and merely human.


  40. Craig says:

    Each and every Council of the first few centuries were convened to counter what was perceived as heresies of the time. The Bishops of each geographic area came together to hash things out, so there was definitely conflict–conflict preceding, during, and sometimes afterward.

    It may be beneficial to read this one volume in the Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers series:

    I have a hardcopy of this book (and I subsequently acquired it as part of a software package). I find it fascinating. If nothing else, check out the Actas of Chalcedon:,council,of,chalcedon#highlight

    Keep in mind that these are English translations. For example, I find “only-begotten” an unsatisfactory rendering of monogenēs.


  41. Craig says:

    Proverbs 8 uses “Wisdom” not Logos. I’ve argued that the Wisdom literature is a backdrop, but not an exact parallel. See the first section of 1:3-5 of “Prologue” series:

    While “Wisdom” is undoubtedly a backdrop here, the description of Wisdom in Proverbs 8:22-30 indicates that it is not an exact parallel. In other words, “the Word” is not just another name for “Wisdom”. Proverbs 8:22 specifies that Wisdom is a created ‘being’18—the first of created things (cf. Prov. 3:19), but created nonetheless. Since the Word is uncreated, and is Agent of creation, Wisdom apparently was the Word’s first creation. However, one must keep in mind that the associated Wisdom literature in general is metaphorical, and even allegorical, so it would be precarious to take it too literally. Should we be just as cautious with “the Word” here? In other words, have we been taking an intended metaphor or allegory too far, in asserting a literal, personal “Word” alongside God (the Father)? The answer will come as we progress.

    I conceive the ‘omni-‘ attributes as all inclusive. I concur with Thomas V. Morris on this issue, as I’ve quoted him here:

    Perhaps the best understanding of the attribute of omnipresence is that of its being the property of being present everywhere in virtue of knowledge of [omniscience] and power over [omnipotence] any and every spatially located object [creation].


  42. Jim says:

    If you have time, a read of this 7 pager might throw some more light on the personification of wisdom as the Logos:

    Click to access Proverbs_8.pdf

    Paul did refer to Christ as ‘the wisdom of God’. Perhaps he had Prov 8 in mind.


  43. Jim says:

    Re Morris’s quote, is the spirit realm ‘spatially located’?


  44. Craig says:

    As I read through the link you provided, I will briefly reply to your 12:14 am comment. I’m not sure what you’re getting at with your question, but the spirit realm has no ‘space’, as it is incorporeal.


  45. Craig says:

    I really don’t know about Martyr’s work here, so I can only comment about what I see at first blush. The term “rational principle” was a Greek philosophical concept expressly for logos–a concept that is not really ‘Christian’. Martyr appears to conflate the Holy Spirit and the Son/Logos here, as well. Thus, I don’t know how much we can depend on this one writer.

    John 8:42 can hardly be used as a proof-text for the Son’s ‘eternal generation’, in view of its larger context. Moreover, the translation provided is questionable, which I’ll get into in just a bit. First, though, the author of the piece provides no examples of these “earliest writers [who] sometimes appealed to the words of Jesus Himself in John 8:42” to bolster his specific interpretation. Maybe there are some, but I’d like to see proof.

    Now I’ll examine more closely the Greek of John 8:42. The words ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ (ek tou theou) could be translated “out of God”, “of God”, or “from God”, but the former doesn’t work well in this context, most especially with the verb. I’ll provide two comparisons. In John 1:24 we find ek tōn Pharisaiōn, which is either “of the Pharisees” or “from the Pharisees”, depending on how one wants to translate to English. Better yet is John 1:44: “apo Bēthsaida, ek tēs poleōs Andreou kai Petrou”. Here Philip was “from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter”. As one can readily see, it appears as though the words apo and ek overlap. I once did a study of these two words to determine if John used them differently, finding that they are instead used synonomously throughout the Gospel. (I recall one other verse in which a character was ek a particular city and apo the region surrounding it and another with the converse, thus disproving my initial working hypothesis.)

    Jesus describes Himself as ek tou ouranou, “from heaven” in 6:33, yet in 6:38 He is apo tou ouranou, “from heaven”. Clearly the terms are synonomous.

    The NASB is about the best translation, though I’d substitute “proceed” with the simple “came”: “for I proceeded [/came] forth and have come from God” (or “for from God I came forth and have come”). The first verb used here is exerchomai, which is the very common verb for coming and going erchomai prefixed with the preposition ek (changed to ex, as is common before a vowel). There is also its opposite eiserchomai, which means “come (in)to”. However, erchomai by itself can be using for coming or going, with the context being the determining factor. John uses all three.

    Also, if ‘eternal generation’ were in view here, the verb should be in the middle voice instead of the active voice. So, John 8:42 shouldn’t be viewed from an ontological sense, but a locative sense. He came from God.

    In Revelation 21:6 “the One Who sits on the Throne” identifies Himself as ἡ ἀρχὴ καὶ τὸ τέλος (hē archē kai to telos), so I think it precarious to use this designation strictly as solely the Son as being “the Beginning”. In fact, I’d say it supports the Trinitarian view: The Father is the Alpha and the Omega (Rev 1:8), while the Son is the Alpha and the Omega, ho prōtos kai ho eschatos, hē archē kai to telos (compare to 21:6).


  46. Jim says:

    Perhaps the best understanding of the attribute of omnipresence is that of its being the property of being present everywhere in virtue of knowledge of [omniscience] and power over [omnipotence] any and every spatially located object [creation].

    This was your quote from Morris regarding omnipresence. My point was that surely God is ‘present’ in the spirit realm, despite Morris only referring to ‘spatially located’ boundaries. Consequently I would have thought you shouldn’t concur with his definition strictly.


  47. Craig says:

    I’d have to look, but I think the context in the book was looking at this from a human perspective. I don’t think Morris meant to limit omnipresence in such a way.


  48. Jim says:

    Thanks for taking time to comment on the Greek Craig. The author is Tim Warner who used to run the Pristine Faith Restoration Society website. He seems to have a comprehensive understanding of the Greek nuances and relies a good deal on the early church fathers’ writings as well to bolster his doctrinal views. I don’t hold to his understanding of the incarnated person of Jesus and got evicted from their forum for challenging their position.

    Another biggie for him and his group is that when Jesus returns he will restore Israel and believers to the literal land within the Abrahamic boundaries set in the OT. Again, I challenged that quoting verses in Hebrews that what was originally given to Israel will be expanded to the whole earth in the millennium. That didn’t go down well either.


  49. Craig says:


    I went to his site and looked around. He really does have a fairly good grasp of the Greek. I will comment positively on one other part in a bit.


  50. Craig says:

    From Warner’s comments on John 8:25 I’ve been researching solutions to the grammatical problem posed by it. I’m disappointed I was unaware that this is the most difficult verse in all of John’s Gospel to exegete. That said, I’m convinced he’s wrong there–his claim is that the Douay-Rheims is the only one that gets it right. But the D-R relies on a Latin translation of the Greek, which in turn is based on a faulty understanding. On the surface, it looks correct–which is what threw me off. However, after carefully reading through a number of resources, I feel certain Warner (and the D-R) is incorrect, though I’m not positive how to adequately translate. There are a number of options, all of which understand τὴν ἀρχὴν (tēn archēn) as an adverbial accusative rather than a direct object (accusative) noun.


  51. Jim says:

    ‘The beginning’ could refer to a number of undisclosed aspects: from the D-R Jesus could have been to him as the beginning of a new creation, the first fruits as Paul says; or simply from the commencement of his public ministry, which would appear to make some sense as his identity on earth was being questioned and challenged regularly.

    It doesn’t have to be Jesus pointing back to being begotten before creation began. When he spoke of his heavenly credentials he was pretty clear (John 3), but such a reading of 8:25 being the deep past is fairly obtuse.


  52. Jim says:

    And a prosperous safe and enjoyable 2019 to you and yours Craig.


  53. Craig says:

    We agree generally that Warner is wrong here, but, further, “the B/beginning” is not really a good translation. Check out the various common English versions, most of which I think are in error. I think the Holman Christian Standard Bible, the International Standard Version, and the Darby come the closest. I wouldn’t phrase it as question (ISV), though it’s certainly possible. Something like “Primarily what I have been saying to you all along” is what I deem to be correct, with “primarily” the proper rendering of tēn archēn, instead of “the beginning”.

    And I wish the same to you and yours for the new year.


  54. Craig says:

    I should add for clarity: archē can be understand as “first” or “primary”, or something to that effect. For example, what is translated “high-priest” is a compound word prefixed with archē + the Greek word for priest.


  55. Craig says:


    If you haven’t seen, I’ve posted the next part (John 1:6-8) of the Prologue series.


  56. Craig says:


    If you’re still reading here, I happened across a (very technical) discussion of John 8:25. See especially the comment @ February 23rd, 2012, 9:16 am. The consensus is the that the D-R (and Warner) is wrong; but, there’s no real agreement on what the text means. There’s quite a variety of options!


  57. Jim says:

    Wow. That is a highly PhD level discussion and well done to an Aussie for providing all the options, although no final conclusion that is beyond question.

    But the non-DR translation is a fair overall translation.


  58. Craig says:


    Glad to see you’re back! I’m inclined to think this verse is purposefully syntactically ambiguous, such that more than one meaning is intended (double entendre). I’ve been wrestling over John 1:9, which I think also more than one meaning.

    It’s somewhat like this comment I saw yesterday on YouTube. The video was about an old classic ‘muscle’ car, and when Jay Leno and another comedian took it for a drive there was a bit rattling. The comment went something like this: ‘I think that rattle is some loose change under the ash track tray; that’s my two cents.’


  59. Jim says:

    Thank you for the welcome Craig. I’m not sure what double entendre or word pkay you see in John 1:9. You’ll have to unpack that a bit. Although John does quote Jesus using that kind of dual meaning technique in Ch 3 when talking with nicodemas. The spirit or pneuma blows where it will.

    To me I think John is referencing creation, the coming in to being of Light at the beginning and making a connection between that first appearance of light, the subsequent creative order (the earth and its people) , and Jesus the Christ. It’s all there tightly packed in poetic style prose but still understated and open to ambiguity, and somewhat disguised too.

    It’s almost as if John didn’t want to spell it out but wanted to let the reader see the picture emerge by spiritual revelation.


  60. Jim says:

    I should have posted my last on your next prologue instalment really.

    I should also confess to listening to a few of Bill Johnson’s more recent sermons. Very uncontraversial and actually good content and exegesis. I’ve been quite encouraged by his stuff of late. Weird world.


  61. Craig says:

    I replied over on the John 1:6-8 post.

    Interesting about Bill Johnson. But then again, he’s always mixed some good teachings amongst the rest. That’s the hallmark of an effective false teacher.


  62. Jim says:

    Craig, would you throw away all teaching from someone who was an avowed Catholic?


  63. Craig says:

    It depends on how much Catholicism they’d imbibed. RCC-ism teaches a great Christology, but it gets mucked up in their exalted mariology. An educated Catholic has been taught the importance of the early creeds, yet they are taught to value the early Christian “Fathers” a bit too much, viewing their writings just below (or in practical purposes equal to) Scripture.


  64. Jim says:

    Exactly. So even a scriptural Christology doesn’t make one immune from error, even heresy. There’s a baby with every bath water. Surely our job as responsible Christ-followers is to discern when the enemy’s voice says to us ‘did God really say….?’ and respond properly.


  65. Craig says:

    I don’t think that’s a good analogy. It’s the mariology that’s the problem, not the Christology. The way I see it, many pay lip service to the Christology when they exalt the mariology. Without the mariology, RCC has right Christology.


  66. Jim says:

    Well, the mariology, and the papology and the statue worship and the veneration of dead ‘saints’ etc etc all point to a serious denominational problem despite any christology.

    I know I have clearly been at odds on your blog with bill Johnson and Bethel, but in fairness does his different understanding of kenosis amout to a damnable heresy in Christological terms? I’m still highly sceptical of the angel feathers, sparkly glory cloud or random gems allegedly appearing in their services. To me though that’s more a desperate desire for miraculous manifestations and not necessarily the result of erroneous doctrine.


  67. Craig says:

    It’s not just Johnson’s ‘different understanding of kenosis’ that is at issue. The way I see it, he purposely equivocates on this while he propounds what is best defined as an antichrist Christology–as he implicitly accuses others of being antichrist due to his redefinition of the term:

    See “The Christ Anointing and the Antichrist Spirit”.


  68. Jim says:

    I re-read the linked article Craig. I think at worst Johnson is pushing a signs and wonders interpretation of scripture that can be used to encourage Christians to exercise the God given power or anointing for the miraculous.

    Slightly better, he could be conveniently ignoring the messiah or Anointed One references in 1 John 4 as being specifically Jewish focused. That this Jesus of Nazareth was/is indeed the root of Jesse, from David’s throne and as prophesied to Israel ie their saviour and now revealed in fact as the world’s redeemer.

    So he could simply be emphasising one aspect of those verses to suit his ‘power’ agenda rather than be deeply in error and deliberately (or in ignorance) deceiving the flock.


  69. Craig says:

    I’m not sure if you’re entirely grasping the implications. Johnson’s Christology fits a Gnostic conception, though slightly ‘Christianized’. That is, “the anointing” is what provides the power (secret knowledge) for any and all individuals. Even Jesus wasn’t really special, except that He was the first one so “anointed”, providing the model for all to follow. This means Jesus was not the unique Christ, Messiah–anyone so “anointed” is ‘christed’, i.e. “Christ” (Johnson calls it “the Christ anointing”, after all). This is a blatant denial that Jesus is the Christ (or that the Christ is Jesus, depending on how one reads the syntax). Thus, it’s anti-Christ.

    For the benefit of readers, please comment in the comments section of the specific article you are making comment on.

    As an aside, I will be posting a two-part article I think you’ll like, the first part of which will very likely be posted tomorrow.


  70. Jim says:

    I look out for your next post Craig and if this conversation needs to continue I’ll write in the appropriate place.

    But one last general comment on what you wrote. We have to be careful with apportioning what we take as implied conclusions from a person’s doctrinal stance versus what they actually espouse or stand for. Implications should not be placed in the mouths of others unless there is a series of cross-referenced statements that unequivocally ‘triangulate’ an implication we’ve decided on.


  71. Craig says:


    I should have used the word “ramifications” instead. I quoted Johnson verbatim, and it is those words that impeach his Christology, rendering them antichrist.


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