Jesus Is Not A Human Person

This might be surprising to you (it was to me). After all, surely there’s nothing more orthodox than to affirm that Jesus is fully human! And yet, Aquinas (following others in the Chalcedonian tradition, notably Damascene), insists that while Jesus is indeed fully human, his full humanity is assumed, with neither division nor confusion, into the divine person of God the Son (ST 3.4.2). Recall that Chalcedon teaches a hypostatic union of the divine and human nature, namely, a union in the hypostasis or person of the Son. If there’s a human person alongside the divine person of the Son, then Jesus is no longer a single dramatic agent, suffering and healing and saving us (this is Nestorianism). Rather, the Son assumes a human nature, and so knows and wills and feels in that full humanity, though this human acting is fully taken up within (TJ White would say, “is instrumental to”) the Son’s divine knowing and willing.

In his Incarnate Lord, White suggests that many theologians today, Protestant and Catholic, more or less treat the pre-Easter Jesus as a human person endowed by the Spirit with a great deal of grace, and only turn the Chalcedonian spigot after the Resurrection. Wolfhart Pannenberg’s temporal distribution of the threefold office works roughly like this: Jesus is a prophet in his earthly ministry, a priest upon the Christ, and king over all creation in the resurrection. But this, White reasonably suggests, isn’t much different from Nestorianism, for which Jesus is effectively just a super-prophet.

That they view Jesus as (functionally) a human person souped-up by the Spirit might explain why many such theologians see Christ’s status as fundamentally threatened by a high view of Mary: if Mary is full of grace, the exemplary disciple, the arch-prophet (as Jenson terms her), then what’s left for Jesus? But if we view Jesus as a categorically distinct from every other human being, by virtue of the fact that he is, uniquely, not a human but rather a divine person, whose human agency is exercised in constant and subordinate conjunction to his divine agency, then there isn’t much of a problem: Mary’s creaturely prerogatives don’t threaten the prerogatives of the God-Man. In a way (as Newman argued), a high view of Mary actually can serve as a kind of backstop for a high Christology, a reminder that, whatever we say about Mary, what we say about Jesus needs to be infinitely greater.

This entry was posted in Chalcedon, Christology, Divine Persons, Hypostatic Union, Incarnation, Jesus, Thomas Aquinas, TJ White, Virgin Mary, Wolfhart Pannenberg and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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