Two natures of Jesus: another Christian mystery!

· Christianity

By Zia H Shah MD

If one tries to genuinely understand or conceptualize the dual or hybrid nature of Jesus rationally, one is likely to be led to the truth, away from Trinitarian faith to Unitarianism, be it Christianity, Judaism or Islam. Jesus is a man and God the father is divine!

In logical terms Jesus cannot be man and God at the same time. Like a man cannot be a rock or an apple, at the same time; men, rocks and apples are different things!

Humans and God are different things, but the paradoxical Christian affirmation is called a mystery because you cannot logically explain how Jesus can be both things at once. This is why the rational and insightful Christian theologians label the Christian dogma as mysteries for you cannot logically understand them. Either you adamantly stick to them in the name of faith or you trade them for some other better theology!

Historically, the debate about dual nature of Jesus can be examined in the first few Ecumenical councils and in the sixteenth century in the debate between Martin Luther and John Calvin, the pioneers of the Protestant movement. It is convenient to read some mythical or legendary Jesus, in the prologue of the Gospel of John, but as soon as we start examining the ramifications of divinity of Jesus and the three persons and one being of Trinity, flood gates of contradictions and irrationality open up, that completely wash away any semblance of reasonability in the Christian theology!

It is not the business of any Christian writer or preacher to dilute Christianity to suit the general educated public. The doctrine of the incarnation was to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, and so will it always be, for the doctrine not only transcends reason; it the paradox par excellence; and it can be affirmed only by faith, with passionate inwardness and interest. The substitution of reason for faith means the death of Christianity.  (Soren Kierkgaard)

Prof.  Phillip Cary explains the debate between Calvin and Luther regarding the nature / natures of Jesus in the context of Eucharist or Lord’s supper, my comments are within brackets:
Let me conclude by dwelling on the deepest underlying disagreement that undergirds this controversy about the Lord’s Supper. It’s the deepest underlying disagreement because it’s about Christ, and there’s nothing deeper in the Christian faith than what you think about Christ. (No, Controversy is special and deep not because it is about Jesus but because it challenges human rationality on both sides of the debate, both parties need to surrender their rationality in keeping with the advice of a Kiekgaard.) Remember how I mentioned this a few minutes ago ­for Calvin, Christ’s body is up in heaven. It’s not located in the bread; the bodily presence is not in the bread, it’s in heaven at God’s right hand. The spiritual presence might be in the bread, but his bodily presence is at God’s right hand up in heaven. So, the Reformed would argue against Luther, and this is already back in Zwingli; Zwingli makes this argument: ‘How can Christ’s body be literally present in the bread if it’s up in heaven?’
Luther’s answer is this: ‘What do you think God’s right hand is? Christ is at God’s right hand in heaven. Where’s that?’ Luther says, “That’s everywhere. You don’t think that Christ’s body is up in the planet Mars? Where did it go, up into outer space? Up in the moon, up in one of the stars? No, he’s at God’s right hand, and God’s hand is omnipresent. It’s everywhere,’ so the name for this distinctively Lutheran doctrine about the omnipresence of Christ’s body is called ubiquity, which is Latin for ‘everywhere,’ but notice how distinctive and constrained this doctrine is. Where is the human body of Christ located, according to Luther? Everywhere, not just Christ’s divinity. Of course, God is everywhere; every Christian believes that, but Christ’s human body is present everywhere, at least potentially and maybe actually. (A human body with omnipresence, go figure!)
And why? How in the world can a human body be present everywhere? ‘It’s at Gods right hand, just like the creed says,’ Luther says, and also, ‘Think about the nature of Christ’s body. It is the body of God. Christ’s body is the flesh of God and, therefore, like God, it is everywhere.’ In contrast, the Calvinists will say: ‘No, Christ’s body is a human body, and therefore it’s in one place, like all human bodies. It wouldn’t be a human body if it wasn’t in one place, and that means that Christ as the second person of the trinity, Christ as the divine Son of God, is present everywhere, while his body is present only in one place.’ So, Christ as God is present outside the flesh of the human being Jesus, because Christ as God is present everywhere, and the human Jesus is not.  (The hybrid of Jesus is some sort of amalgam of omni-present or infinite being with the finite fleshy human existence; what a mystery and what stubborn insistence of Trinitarians to hold onto these views!)
This presence outside Christ’s body is called the extra Calvinisticum; that’s the label that later Lutheran theologians gave it, extra meaning ‘outside,’ Calvinisticum meaning ‘those dirty rotten Calvinists said that you can find the eternal second person of the trinity, the Son of God, apart from the flesh of Christ, as if he existed outside the flesh of Christ, as if there was any God outside the flesh of Christ.’ The Lutherans want to say you’ll never find God apart from the human body of the incarnate God. What they’re doing is they’re insisting very strongly on the unity of Christ’s person. Christ is one person; he has a divine nature and a human nature, two natures but one person, and therefore the characteristics of one nature will kind of spill over to another nature-so, Christ has a divine nature, which is omnipresent, and that omnipresence spills over into his human nature, making it also omnipresent, ubiquitous, so that Christ’s human body, being the body of God, is present everywhere.   (Again, the hybrid of Jesus is some sort of amalgam of omni-present or infinite being with the finite fleshy human existence; what a mystery and what stubborn insistence of Trinitarians to hold onto these views!)
This spilling over is called communicatio idiomatum, in Latin and Greek. It’s actually a Latinized Greek phrase that literally means ‘the sharing of properties.’ The divine property of omnipresence is shared with the human property of the human nature of Christ. The divine property of omnipresence is shared with the human nature, so that the body of Christ is literally everywhere. The Calvinists say there is a communicatio idiomatum, but it doesn’t go so far. Don’t be so literal about this. The Calvinists will emphasize not so much the oneness of the person as the distinction of the natures. There are two natures of Christ; they say two natures. The divine nature is not the human nature, so the human nature of Christ remains truly human, which means it has to be in one place, just like all human bodies have to be in one place.
If you take the human body of Jesus and make it everywhere, then you’re de-naturing the human body of Jesus. It’s no longer a human body; it’s some kind of magical, strange amalgam. It’s not a human body anymore, so the Calvinists want to maintain the distinction between these two natures. The Lutherans insist on the unity of the one person. And, of course, all Orthodox Christians agree there’s one person, two natures, and there’s always this kind of disagreement about which to emphasize more. The Lutherans emphasize the one person, the Calvinists emphasize the (Are the words the ‘distinction between the’ missing here?) two natures, and that’s a deep disagreement about the nature of Christ. You can’t get a deeper disagreement in Christianity than about the nature of Christ.[1][2]
If you are not yet ready to give up Trinitarian ideas, read my articles about Trinity, Eucharist and the first few Ecumenical Councils also please and do not shoot the messenger!  May be it is time to give up obsession with the person of Jesus of Nazareth and to recognize and appreciate human spiritual experience all over the world over the centuries?
Now the human part of Jesus was not born until 2-6 BC.  So, according to perfect human and fully divine hypothesis of Trinitarian Christians, the hybrid (for the lack of a better word) did not exist before the common era.  Therefore, Jesus had no role in the creation of our universe and is hence not mentioned in Genesis.  Hence Jesus is not co-eternal or co-equal to God.

Hypostatic union

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Look up hypostasis in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

Hypostatic union (from the Greek: ὑπόστασις, {“[h]upostasis”}, “hypostasis”, sediment, foundation, substance, or subsistence) is a technical term in Christian theology employed in mainstream Christology to describe the union of Christ’s humanity and divinity in one hypostasis.[1]

The First Council of Ephesus recognised this doctrine and affirmed its importance, stating that the humanity and divinity of Christ are made one according to nature and hypostasis in the Logos.



The use of hypostasis

A series of articles on


Hypostatic union

Hypostasis had come into use as a technical term prior to the Christological debates of the late fourth and fifth centuries. Before there were Christians, the word was used in Greek philosophy, primarily in Stoicism.[2][3] Hypostasis had some use in the New Testament that reflect the later, technical understanding of the word; especially Hebrews 1:3. Although it can be rendered literally as “substance” this has been a cause of some confusion[4] so it is now often translated “subsistence”. It denotes an actual, concrete existence, in contrast with abstract categories such as Platonic ideals.

The First Council of Nicaea declared that the Father and the Son are of the same substance and are co-eternal. This belief was expressed in the Nicene Creed.

Through history

Apollinaris of Laodicea was the first to use the term hypostasis in trying to understand the Incarnation.[5] Apollinaris described the union of the divine and human in Christ as being of a single nature and having a single essence – a single hypostasis.

The Nestorian Theodore of Mopsuestia went in the other direction, arguing that in Christ there were two natures (dyophysite) (human and divine) and two hypostases (in the sense of “essence” or “person”) that co-existed.[6]

The Chalcedonian Creed agreed with Theodore that there were two natures in the Incarnation. However, the Council of Chalcedon also insisted that hypostasis be used as it was in the Trinitarian definition: to indicate the person and not the nature as with Apollinarius.

Thus, the Council declared that in Christ there are two natures; each retaining its own properties, and together united in one subsistence and in one single person (εἰς ἓν πρόσωπον καὶ μίαν ὑπόστασιν, eis hen prosopon kai mian hupostasin).[7]

As the precise nature of this union is held to defy finite human comprehension, the hypostatic union is also referred to by the alternative term “mystical union.”

The Oriental Orthodox Churches, having rejected the Chalcedonian Creed, were known as Monophysites because they would only accept a definition that characterized the incarnate Son as having one nature. The Chalcedonian “in two natures” formula was seen as derived from and akin to a Nestorian Christology.[8] Contrariwise, the Chalcedonians saw the Oriental Orthodox as tending towards Eutychian Monophysitism. However, the Oriental Orthodox have in modern ecumenical dialogue specified that they have never believed in the doctrines of Eutyches, that they have always affirmed that Christ’s humanity is consubstantial with our own, and they thus prefer the term Miaphysite to refer to themselves (a reference to Cyrillian Christology, which used the phrase “mia physis tou theou logou sesarkomene”).

In recent times, leaders from the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches have signed joint statements in an attempt to work towards reunification.

See also


  1. ^ Systematic Theology by Lewis Sperry Chafer 1993 ISBN 0825423406 pages 382-384 [1]
  2. ^ R. Norris, “Hypostasis,” in The Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, ed. E. Ferguson. New York: Garland Publishing, 1997
  3. ^ Aristotle, “Mund.”, IV, 21.
  4. ^ Placher, William (1983). A History of Christian Theology: An Introduction. Philadelphia: Westminster Press. pp. 78–79. ISBN 0-664-244963.
  5. ^ Gregory of Nyssa, Antirrheticus adversus Apollinarem.
  6. ^ “Theodore” in The Westminster Dictionary of Christian History, ed. J. Brauer. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1971.
  7. ^ Denzinger, ed. Bannwart, 148
  8. ^

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.


  1. Prof. Phillip Cray. Luther: Gospel, Law, and Reformation. Teaching Company Course Transcript, 2004. Pages 34-36.
  2. Prof. Phillip Cary. Luther: Gospel, Law, and Reformation. Teaching Company Course Transcript, 2004. Pages 34-36.
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