This series of blog posts is a response to a blog article entitled: “Was Jesus Christ Born With a Sin Nature and Original Sin?” The key paragraph in answer to the question posed is the following:
The Orthodox proclaim unequivocally that Jesus became like us in every way. No special exceptions are needed for Him–He was 100% human just like we are. He assumed every part of humanity as it is (post-fallen) in order to redeem it. This is the only answer you can give without making excuses for Christ’s exemption to some facet of our humanness. Jesus Christ, one person in two natures (everything it means to be human, Jesus became), 100% human and 100% God.
In a subsequent blog post the blogger stated: “Jesus by necessity assumed a post-fallen nature.” In this series of blog posts we are addressing the subject of the human nature of Christ from the perspective of the Orthodox Church. In this post we’ll address the question:
What happened when the Son of God assumed our nature?
The answer given by our blogger to this strange question is “Jesus became like us in every way.” He lived in this fallen world in the one and only humanity that exists. Certain Fathers too, including Church documents (as we’ve seen in a previous post), state that in some way the Son of God assumed a fallen human nature. However, even in such instances we are not to assume that He lived as all of us do in our “post-fallen” condition. Why? Because what He assumed He renewed and deified it.
The following quotations from Church councils, Church fathers, services and contemporary authors bring the Church’s answer to this question into focus.
1. An official pronouncement of the Church
Fourth Ecumenical Council, Tome of Leo
“The fact that He partook of our human infirmity did not make Him a partaker of our transgressions. He took on Him “the form of a servant” without the defilement of any sin, augmenting what was human, without diminishing what was divine.”
2. The witness of the Holy Scripture
Acts 2:27 (Ps. 16:10)
“For You will not abandon My soul to Hades, nor let Your Holy One see corruption.”
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.”
3. The witness of the Fathers of the Church
St. Athanasios the Great
“Christ’s body by virtue of the union of the Word with it, it was no longer subject to corruption according to its own nature, but by reason of the Word that was come to dwell in it, it was placed out of the reach of corruption.”
St. Gregory the Theologian
“Because the devil led astray to the transgression of God’s commandment the nature which God created sinless and caused to it sin, which brings death, this self-same nature did God the Logos assume once more (pavlin) unto Himself, and rendered it incapable of the diabolical deviation and of invention of sin. That is why the Lord said, “The ruler of this world is coming, and he finds nothing his in Me.”
St. Gregory of Nyssa
“He Who has taken all that was ours, on the terms of giving to us in return what is His, even as He took disease, death, curse, and sin, so took our slavery also, not in such a way as Himself to have what He took, but so as to purge our nature of such evils, our defects being swallowed up and done away within His stainless nature.”
St. Gregory Palamas
“Christ took upon Himself our guilty nature from the most pure Virgin and united it, new and unmixed with the old seed, to His divine person. He rendered it guiltless and righteous, so that all His spiritual descendants would remain outside the ancestral curse and condemnation.”
4. The witness of the hymnology of the Church
Feast of the Annunciation
Today…is the festival of the Virgin…Adam is renewed… the tabernacle of our nature, which the Lord took upon Himself, deifying the substance He assumed, has become the Temple of God … Christ God, our salvation, has assumed our nature, restoring it to Himself.
Feast of Holy Transfiguration
With Your invisible hands, O Christ, You formed man in Your image; You now manifest the original beauty in that same body; You reveal it not as an image, but as You are in Yourself, truly both God and man by nature.
Feast of the Ascension
The pre-eternal and un-originate God, having mystically deified the human nature He assumed, has now ascended.
5. The confirmation by Orthodox Theologians
Christ’s human nature remains always created, before and even after the Resurrection. On account, however, of the hypostatic union, it becomes a partaker of theosis and incorruption, not being subject to any corruption (neither decay nor dissolution). Before the Resurrection however it is subject voluntarily to the real blameless and natural passions through concession, so that the plan of divine economy may be realized.
Some of this material was drawn from my book, Jesus: Fallen? The Human Nature of Christ Examined from an Eastern Orthodox Perspective (Orthodox Witness: Clearwater, Florida, 2013).