A question about the two natures of Christ...

This is actually for all non Chalcedonian churches not just the Coptic church... I don't know how you say that it's just one nature "Man-God" or the divined man as saint Cyril of Alexandria I think put it, but when it comes to answering people who ask about how Jesus said "The father is greater than me" you say that Jesus was talking with his human form (his human part) I mean saint Cyril (I am not sure again) said we can't speak of two natures after the union, after the incarnation we can't speak about two natures... I think this is a contradiction, and it bugged me for years. 

Plus how it can be one nature of two natures without mixture or so, this is not logical... and don't mention the example of the steel that is in fire, the steel that is in fire becomes molten steel and some of its properties change (like being solid, or the color when it becomes red, maybe even the outer layers turning to ash) so the steel in fire example is not logical for me!

By the way, I'm kinda agnostic, but I like to know about theological arguments and so... I was raised a Coptic orthodox and since I was 16 years old (7 years ago) I swayed to many religions but stayed for some time in a protestant church and now I left (or thinking about leaving) again, so yea my knowledge is not great and I apologize if I couldn't make my question clear enough. 


  • By the way examples of you separating the two natures are many... "The father is greater than me" "Don't touch me because I am not ascended to my god and your god" "Elahi, Elahi. lama sabathtani" or "My god, my god. why have you forsaken me" and "No one knows the time of the end of the world even the son but the father" so when you explain all these verses you blame it on Jesus speaking with his humanity/human form but how when it's just one nature, the man-god.
  • Dear Bishoy, 

    God bless your zealous heart. You are searching for the truth and it is very respectable.

    Your understanding is correct. It is incorrect to claim the humanity at one time and the divinity at another. Those who explained such answers to you were understandably wrong, as their are many explanations that make it all confusing. To respond to your question about "the Father being greater than I" verse in John14:28, here's what Saint basil says:

    “GREATER THAN” IMPLIES BEING OF ONE SUBSTANCE WITH THE FATHER. BASIL THE GREAT: “Greater” is used when talking about size, time, dignity, power, or the cause of something. The Father cannot be called greater than the Son in size because he is incorporeal. He cannot be called greater than the Son in time because the Son is the creator of time. You can’t say that he is greater in dignity either, because he was not made into something that he had not previously been, nor can you say he is greater in power since, “whatever the Father does, the Son does as well.” And finally, no one can say the Father is greater because he is the cause of the Son’s existence, because he is also the cause of our existence, and this would place the Son on a similar footing with us. Instead, see the words as expressing the honor that is given by the Son to the Father instead of devaluing the Son who speaks these words. You should also realize that what is greater is not necessarily of a different essence. One human being is called greater than another human being, just like one horse is called greater than another horse. If the Father is called greater, it does not immediately follow that he is of another substance. In a word, the comparison lies between beings of one substance, not between those of different substances. A human being is not properly said to be greater than a brute or an inanimate thing. Human beings are compared to human beings, just as brutes are compared with other brutes. The Father is therefore of one substance with the Son, even though he is called greater. AGAINST EUNOMIUS 4.42

    This would be the official answer to this verse from a non-chalcedonian perspective.

    All the verses you point out have explanations of their own. For instance, I was thought that the Jewish habit at the time was to recite the beginning of a verse/psalm as a means for all to begin and refer to it. Thus, when Christ was saying ELoi, Eloi, he was referring them to go and read Psalm 22. Telling them, go read, the prophecies are fullfilled.

    I pray that somewhat guides your discussion, and that God bless your search.

  • I never thought of it that way, it's just that I heard the explanation of "He was speaking with his humanity" from Pope Shenouda III the late patriarch of the Coptic church so I just assumed that all oriental churches believed that way... pray for me that I find the truth, although I think I would always be an agnostic even if I returned to the church! Thanks a lot for your answer @ShareTheLord :) 
  • Dear Bishoy,

    There is so much to unwind in your question.  St. Basil had one interpretation, but there can be another.  Pope Shenouda took St. Cyril's interpretation on this one.  But in order to understand proper Christology, a few things to ease your confusions a bit.

    First, there are mysteries, mysteries that befit the divine nature and His divine works of salvation.  We can understand as much as we can, but we also must understand that the faith is filled with "holy paradoxes".  For instance, can you explain how God can be every present at all times, and yet can also dwell in a person a particular moment at the same time?  Or the Eucharist.  When we eat the body and blood of Christ, it is not us who consume Christ, rather it is Christ's love who consumes us.

    So Christ also works in a paradox.  Imagine this!  The INFINITE GOD came and took flesh and became man and dwelt in us!  How is that the uncontainable God appear to us in contained fashion?  How can the eternal and timeless God come and allow Himself to live in history?  How can the source of Life take a body liable to death?  This is the paradox that we love and believe in.  Why?

    We cannot sufficiently explain this.  But we can defend it as the proof of the Love of God for us.  This is the mystery of Godliness, God was manifest in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16).  

    You quoted John 14:28, but what about John 14:1, "You believe in God, believe also in Me".  Read the whole chapter.  He equates Himself with the Father.  Jesus is a mediator, because He is both God and man, and He brings both in one.  He said later in the chapter, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."  For one to be a true mediator to the Father, He must be equal to the Father AND brought down as equal to OUR LEVEL.  Christ says again "He who has seen Me has seen the Father".  "Ask in my name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son."  And as a true mediator, He continues:  "At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you."  Jesus says "I am in the Father" by my divinity and "you are in Me and I in you" by my humanity.  And the Father who dwells in Him will also dwell in you!  "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him." He brings that which He has by nature, He grants to us in His presence through His humanity!  Again, He affirms His mediatorship:  "I am going to the Father" by my divinity and "the Father is greater than I" by my humanity.  No go back to verse 6.  Jesus said that you and I cannot to go the Father but through Him.  Now, in verse 28, He says, He goes to the Father DIRECTLY.

    St. Paul writes:  "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men." (Philippians 2)  When St. Paul says "did not consider it robbery", that means He did not exploit His natural equality with God, but took our form, our nature, and not just our nature, but also as a slave or a bondservant, not as a mighty and glorious man.  He wanted to lift up our conception of God spiritually, and not physically in a majestic way.  The glory of God is in the crucified Christ, not in pompous worldly glory as we see with kings and queens.  True kingdom is in the heart.  So God reveals His divinity through a poor human form, that the poorest of humans may be rich in God's nature dwelling in them.

    St. Ireneaus wrote, "the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ,...through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself."  I want you to meditate on these words because this was the primary purpose of the incarnation.  In taking our nature, He also takes our lowly status, and raises it up to the height of unapproachable glory that only Jesus can approach.  Anything He says about Himself, He "deifies" it.  This is how Christ is a proper and true Mediator.  He is who is God became man, that men may become gods.  When He says "my Father is greater than I", He says it in our status, but AT THE SAME TIME, takes this lowly status and raises it up to the Father.  So these words bless us, because the Father who is greater than all of us, brings us up into His kingdom through His Son by these very words.  That is why we confess "One nature", not because there is confusion, but because there is an elevation of our nature into God's Kingdom, something that cannot happen by the power of man, but by the power of God manifest in human form, which is Jesus Christ.

    In order therefore for Christ to be a true mediator and bring us to the status of gods, a few things need to be protected:
    1.  We are by nature nothing.  Nothing we can do can bring us into divine glory.  Only God can give us His own divine glory.
    2.  God cannot give us divine glory directly as if to say we are equal to Him.  He is not; God is greater than us.  "My glory I will not give to another" (Isaiah 42:8), which means, He will not equate His glory to anything that is created.
    3.  Jesus Christ has the same glory of the Father (John 17:5) and He asked the Father to glory Him with that same glory they both share (John 17:5) that Jesus in Himself (divine and human) may glorify us with that same glory (John 17:22).  "I in them, and You in me" (John 17:23).  Therefore, in this we learn Christ not only had the same glory as the Father (divine) but also He is glorified that we may be glorified (human).
    4.  Jesus had to keep the full integrity of His divinity.  Any loss of His divinity will render Him unable to become a true Mediator that we may be glorified in Him.  Furthermore, Jesus had to keep the full integrity of His humanity.  Any loss of His humanity will render Him as an incomplete for us, saving only a part of our humanity, and not every aspect of it.
    5.  It is not enough to say Jesus has two natures.  There has to be a mysterious unity, a paradoxical unity.  While both natures remain in their full integrity (that's what "without confusion" means), they still must function as One.  That is why we say "One nature".  If you say Jesus is two natures, John 14:28 would be:  "My divinity goes to the Father, for my Father is greater than my humanity."  But Jesus didn't say that.  He said, "I go to the Father, for my Father is greater than I." This is singular, one.  If Christ is not one, how can He be one with the Father? (John 10:30)  And if Christ is not one, how can we be one with Christ and the Father (John 17:21)?  "One nature" speaks of how Christ's humanity and divinity function together for our salvation.  Let's see how this works in the next post with the other three examples you asked:
  • edited June 2016
    1.  "My god, my god. why have you forsaken me".  God partakes of our agony, and talks to the Father as a human to God, that He may bless and deify our agony, and bring us into the dignity of being a son to God just as He is the divine Son of God.  His humanity and divinity did not separate, but by this action, He brings all of us as humans into His divinity.

    2.  "No one knows the time of the end of the world even the son but the father".  God partakes of our human minds, and teaches us not to pursue knowledge about an event for which profits us nothing, but pursue true knowledge of relationship with the Father through the Son.  He elevates our ignorance into the divine knowledge, which is to have a relationship.  To truly know someone is not to know about them, but to know them intimately.  He takes our human weakness, and lifts it into divine blessing and knowledge.

    3.  "Don't touch me because I am not ascended to my god and your god".  Christ has just risen from the dead!  He teaches us do not cling to Him in the same way as we knew Him before.  Now, He is in immortal glory.  So, now He tells us "don't touch me as I am now on Earth, but when I am seated at the right hand of the Father, then you will partake of Me with my own God who I am equal to as your own personal and intimate God, who I make manifest to you."

    Other paradoxes:  He expresses natural human fear that we may partake of divine courage.  He hungers and thirsts that we may be filled with the divine fullness.  He suffers pain that we may be healed.  He died that we may live.  His ultimate paradox is that His death gives us life, so that when we die, we partake of that divine life.  He calls His Father "my God" that God may be our Father.  He put Himself in their knowledge of the second coming that we may partake of the true knowledge of the Father which edifies.  He partook of our lowliness and called the Father "greater" than Him that we in our lowliness may be brought up to Christ's greatness.  In everything Christ does, we can contemplate on the human characters of them, but we also recognize the divine nature working in them and glorifying them that these same human characters we have may glorify us.  That's why we say "one nature".

    Think of metal with electricity flowing through it.  Without electricity, it's just cold metal.  But now, the FULL ELECTRIC CURRENT is in the metal.  The metal can electrify you, but it is still metal, and electricity is still electricity, and yet the metal and electricity is one electric metal.  Likewise, in Christ, humanity is still humanity, and divinity is still divinity, but He is God incarnate so that in His "divine humanity" we may be a divine humanity, just as metal with electricity can electrify another metal.  When Jesus says "my Father is greater than I", He "electrifies" these words with that is true about all of us as humanity, with His divine electricity, (that's what "deify" is) that we may be deified in these characteristics and in us.  That's why we say "one nature".
  • Jesus was without sin; the divine nature.
    Jesus had the human nature as well.
    Combine the two natures and we have one, but they didn't mingle because He didn't sin.
    Which coincidentally is what we are trying to achieve by His wisdom.

    Hope I am making sense. Please forgive if not.
  • edited June 2016
    Pope Shenouda also said the following in his book 'The Nature of Christ': 

    The expression "One Nature" does not indicate the Divine nature alone nor the human nature alone, but it indicates the unity of both natures into One Nature which is "The Nature of the Incarnate Logos". 
    The same applies when we speak about our human nature which comprises two united natures: the soul and the body. Thus, man’s nature is not the soul alone nor the body alone, but their union in one nature called human nature. We will discuss this point in detail later on. 
    St. Cyril the Great taught us not to talk about two natures after their unity.
    So we can say that the Divine nature united hypostatically with the human nature within the Virgin’s womb, but after this unity we do not ever speak again about two natures of Christ. In fact, the expression "two natures" implies in itself division or separation, and although those who believe in "the two natures" admit unity, the tone of separation was obvious in the Council of Chalcedon - a matter which prompted us to reject the Council and caused the exile of St. Dioscorus of Alexandria. 

    Thus, arguing that at one time it is the humanity of Christ, and at another the divinity of Christ, though makes it easier for our limited minds to comprehend, is not a fully accurate teaching. He is at all times, 100% Divine and at all times 100% Human and at no moment is there a seperation of such. At least, that is my limited understanding :). I like minasoliman's explanation, but because He is 100% God and 100% Human at all times, it makes it extremely difficult for us to understand how that is. It is a very valid explanation, though it is very difficult to talk about each nature distinctively as quoted above!

    Ps. For chalcedonian churches, they speak of 2 distinct natures united in 1 essence. 
     This play of words, is essentially what brought division in the church. There are many ways to try to understand God. Theology is an important aspect of our spiritual life is not to be taken lightly. However, we must all realise, that this same theology, will never be accurate or correct. Why? Because we are trying to describe an unlimited God, a God beyond our understanding in finite human words. So at a certain point, we try to explain in way that are understandable to our simple minds. This will bring incorrect theology at times. But the real objective is to bring all to the glory of God. He is beyond these words and definitions. He is beyond our understanding. He is God and all He wants is for us to unite with Him and experience and live within His, yet again, indescribable love.
  • Imagine a table with two glasses. One glass has oil. The other one has water.

    The table is the Person. The glass with oil is His human nature. The glass with water is His divine nature. Both natures, as you see, are separated from each other, but in the same Person (aka, the table)

    When He eats, the human nature comes up, and you only see the glass with oil. When He heals the blind, the divine nature comes up, then you see only the glass with water. Grossely speaking, it's dyophysitism.

    Now imagine a table with one glass. You put oil in this glass. Then you put water. In the same Person ('table'), you have two natures united in one recipient, and they are really together, but they don't mix.

    One participates with the other, without confusion. After all, the Word *made Himself* flesh, as we see in the Gospel of John. It is not like he took the flesh separately. That's, grossely kitchenly speaking, myaphysitism.

    Sorry, I can only explain like that cause kitchen and household is what I understand. But if you picture it in your mind, you can imagine the difference between two separated glasses that act separately, although in the same Person, and one glass containing both natures without blending, with both natures taking part in everything, which doesn't mean they mix and confuse.
  • SJC,
    I know you meant well but your analogies are filled with mistakes and heresies. The definition of Chalcedon is very specific and its meaning was further clarified in their 5th council. It does not speak of two separate glasses where one glass is seen when He heals the blind and another glass when he eats. (This is Nestorianism and Modalism). What Chalcedon says is the two natures and all their respective properties are preserved in the one hypostasis/person of Christ. When Christ does something BOTH His natures are "acting" simultaneously. (I put acting in quotes because natures don't act, persons or hypostases act. But that's besides the point.) That is dyophysitism. Using your analogies, Chalcedon seems to insist that the two glasses are natures and they are distinct. Sort of like one glass is a mug and the other is a cup with no handle. The point is that Chalcedonians stress a distinction of the two glasses with respective materials in it but no separation. 

    Miaphysitism does not mean there is one table with one glass. That would be monophysitism. If I understand your analogy correctly, in your example, miaphysitism would be still be two identical glasses with different materials or properties but they are so intimately attached to each other that the really become one composite unit. In essence, it is exactly like the dyophysite example but we just prefer to see the two glasses glued together, where Chalcedonians want to stress two glasses are distinct but not separated. 

    Also be careful of how you understand John 1:14. Yes, St John wrote "the Word became flesh" but that in itself can mean the Word changed or transformed into flesh. What all Christian Churches (minus some ultra-protestant churches) believe is that the Word took flesh and made that flesh His own (i.e., The Word did not take someone else's flesh or enter someone else's flesh or become something not divine). There is a big difference in the two concepts. In his time, St John wasn't concerned with difference between the two. But now the difference is important because Arianism and other heresies highlighted the difference to support their heresy. 

    One more thing. "Ps. For chalcedonian churches, they speak of 2 distinct natures united in 1 essence."
    That is not true either. Chalcedonians are very specific in their terminology. Their definition says, "One and the Same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten; acknowledged in Two Natures unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the difference of the Natures being in no way removed because of the Union, but rather the properties of each Nature being preserved, and (both) concurring into One Person and One Hypostasis; not as though He were parted or divided into Two Persons" 
    Notice the word essence is never used at all. My point here is let's not misrepresent what Chalcedonian Churches actually say. We've done it too long and it only illustrates our ignorance to them. 

    Minasoliman, do you concur? 

  • It wouldn't be monophysitism because water and oil don't mix, but thanks for clarifying the dyophysitism conception, I was thinking about them like nestorians ;)
  • All analogies describing the incarnation of Christ fail. But sometimes the analogy makes things worse.

    In your analogy, you wrote "The table is the Person. The glass with oil is His human nature. The glass with water is His divine nature."
    You are stating the glass is human nature. The glass is divine nature, not the material in each glass. To be accurate, the material in each glass is the properties of the nature. So human nature is the glass, hunger is the oil. Divine nature is a glass, omnipotence is the water, etc.

    By stating there is one glass with oil and water is to say there is one and only one nature with double properties. This is ends up with a hybrid nature that can do both. in fact, it will automatically lead to confusion because it would mean that this hybrid nature has hunger and omnipotence at the same time (which is logically impossible). It will also make that person (table) be half divine and half human. Rather in our OO theology, as pointed out already, Christ is 100% human and 100% divine, not half and half. 

    This all comes down to what nature means. To the Chalcedonians, nature is the individual instance of an essence that describes the properties of that essence. A good colloquial example is "to err is human". It is in human nature to sin. But it doesn't say anything about what a specific human is doing. To describe what a specific human is doing is to use the word hypostasis. In Christ both natures are maintained in the one hypostasis of Christ. 

    For the OO, nature is synonymous with hypostasis. This is how St Cyril used the word nature often. So if "to err is human", and one does err, then it is the whole person responsible for the mistake, not the physical only or the mind only or the soul only. It is the human who erred because all of his properties work in cohesion. This is something very few Chalcedonians are willing to accept. 

    Sometimes it is better to simply explain each word and thought directly than trying to find an analogy. This video is a parity on this concept. Notice how just repeating and explaining the Creed is better than giving an analogy. (And I couldn't stop laughing the first time I saw this)
  • Well, now that you use that video, sure, no analogy can really accurately help us understand certain mysteries. Even Christ's analogy of the vinedresser and the vine. ;)

    But if there is one analogy to help illustrate the nature of Christ, perhaps I would like using the idea of water and heat. Fire burns and water cools, but fiery water burns. This is a Miaphysite understanding of Christ's humanity "vibrating with divine energies" as St. Severus would say. Now the difference is that Christ can "empty Himself". In other words the fiery water can choose to cool someone even though the fullness of fire dwells "waterly" (use some imagination here without trying to be scientifically accurate) and that is because unlike contingent things like fire, the divine is free and diverse in His actions.

    Another example can also be an electric wire. A wire without electricity carries no power, but electricity does. An electric wire also does.

    The words "mix" or "mingle" meant different things at different times. So, I prefer to say this: the full integrity of divinity was kept and the full integrity of humanity was kept, but they were interweaved with one another, or rather the one was interwoven into the other that we may also be interwoven into it. We also are called "divine" not by a change in our integrity, but are filled with fire and power from the electric divinity, which gives us all types of gifts and blessings enhancing our humanity.

    Furthermore we stress "one nature" in that if Christ isn't one in Himself for our salvation, how can we be one with and in Him?

    Now Chalcedonians would probably use the same exact analogies today and mean the same thing. They are very scholastic in their words. They want to be exact as much as they can with theology. We are looser, in that we do not think of metaphysics, but in the purpose of our salvation. Christ does not act in His divinity alone or humanity alone, but uses both at all times as one whole unit for our salvation, no matter what He does. That is the purpose of Miaphysitism. Christ does not do human acts and divine acts, but theandric acts that our human acts may be deified. Chalcedonians also believe this, but they like to stress the distinctions and their full integrities, and count them. So a heated water or an electric wire will be two to them and one to us.
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