Table of Contents
Part I: Embodiment and The
A House of Glory
The house that is to be builded for the Lord
must be exceeding magnifical
Anselm of Canterbury
in England (c. 10331109) wrote a very remarkable book which
he titled (in Latin), Cur Deus Homo, i.e., "Why God
At one point in a simulated conversation
with a friend he discusses the various ways in which the Saviour
might have become man. Here is what he said. (96)
In four ways God can create
a man; namely, either of a man and a woman in the common way;
or neither of a man or of a woman, as He created Adam; or of
a man but not of a woman, as He created Eve; or of a woman without
a man, which thus far He had never done.
Wherefore, in order to show that this
last mode is also within his power, and was reserved for this
very purpose, what more fitting than that He should take that
man whose origin we are seeking [i.e., the God-man Redeemer]
from a woman without a man.
This seems to me
a wonderful exercise in logical construction and effective use
of the English language. Yet I am not sure that he really understood
why the virgin birth was so important. But such understanding
is only easier
96. Anselm of Canaterbury: Cur Deus Homo,
translated by S. N. Deane, LaSalle (Illinois), Open Court
Publishing, 1954, p.248.
for us today because
we stand on the shoulders of those who went before us.
In a volume already referred to
(The Seed of the Woman)
I have set forth at some length the relevance of some of
these things we have learned since Anselm regarding how birth
comes about, and in particular the bearing of these things on
the birth of a male child without the intervention of
a man. Theoretically, for genetic reasons, this is quite impossible.
Yet this is how the Saviour came among us, exactly as foretold
in Isaiah 7:14. "Behold a virgin shall conceive and
bear a SON." It was a miracle indeed.
I have discussed in this light how and why it was both necessary
and possible for the seed of the woman to be preserved against
the mortalizing effects of the forbidden fruit. *
As it was in the case of Adam,
so it was in the case of Eve, that the bodies of both of them
were now destined to experience death. But whereas Adam's seed
had also been mortalized, this was not so in the case
of Eve's seed.
Because of the special design of
her body, her seed was protected against mortalization, even
though it was housed in a mortalized body. Furthermore, such
was her constitution that she was nevertheless able, in the normal
course of events, to pass on this sole fragment of her original
immortality to all her female descendants. And each of them in
a like manner passes on this immortal stream in every succeeding
generation so long as the race continues to multiply.
It is becoming increasingly apparent
now that the woman's seed, prior to its fertilization by the
male seed, is the only truly immortal part of the human body
left undamaged by the Fall. All other cells in the human body,
male and female alike, have suffered a
fatal damage but this one priceless human heritage, the woman's
seed, remains intact.
* The documentation for the mechanisms involved
runs to some 60 pages of fine print. This is far from being merely
speculative: It is experimental fact.
any child born of a virgin will escape the physical effects
of the Fall, since the damage is passed on via the male seed.
If this should ever occur naturally, such a child would
presumably always have two characteristics. It would have the
potential for unending physical life as possessed originally
by Adam and Eve. But at the same time the child would of necessity
be a female and not a male.
It is this fact which makes Isaiah
7:14 such a remarkable prophetic utterance, since clearly Isaiah
could not possibly have known (except by revelation) that the
birth of a male child from a virgin could only be by a
As to the reference to a virgin
(and not just to a young woman, as many would like to argue),
there is no doubt that virgin is the correct translation
in English since Matthew 1:22 and 23 in quoting Isaiah confirms
the fact by using a word in Greek which, for the Jews, unequivocally
had this meaning. When we once recognize that the Author of both
statements (Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:22,23) is the same
namely, the Holy Spirit then we know what that Author's
intention is in the first instance in Isaiah by what the
same Author has made quite clear in the second by employing the
Greek word parthenos * in Matthew.
Now the Old
Testament is very clear that from the time of its conception
a child is corrupted in body. The most obvious passage is Psalm
51:5, "Behold I was shapen in iniquity and in sin did my
mother conceive me."
But Job, who almost certainly wrote
long before David had penned this Psalm, is even more specific
and in some ways more perceptive. He asks, "Who can bring
* The Jewish
commentators so understood Isaiah 7:14 since they employed
the same Greek word for virgin in the Septuagint
Greek version which was produced in the second century BC for
Gentile readers. For the Jews, this word signified sexual purity.
It was used to describe the only kind of woman acceptable as
a wife for a priest (Ezekiel 44:22). The idea of virginity is
implicit in this word as it is found in the Septuagint (for example,
Deuteronomy 22:28; Judges 19:24; 21:12; 2 Samuel 13:18; etc.).
thing out of an unclean?"
And he replies to his own question. "Not one" (Job
14:4). And later in the conversation with his friends, Bildad
is recorded as putting the problem that this creates even more
astutely when he asks: "How, then, can man be justified
with God? Or how can he be clean who is born of a woman?"
(Job 25:4). Much later in time, Isaiah would state the simple
fact that "we are all an unclean thing" (Isaiah 64:6).
So there is the problem. How is
man to be redeemed, if he must find a man to redeem him,
in view of the fact that it is impossible to find a man born
of a woman who is not just as unclean as the rest of men, and
therefore equally in need of redemption himself? Did Isaiah really
understand the significance of his own words in chapter 7 verse
14? Did he understand why the Redeemer must be born of a virgin?
Perhaps he was one of those whom Peter mentions (1 Peter 1:1012)
who pondered deeply the things they had been inspired to write
yet did not fully comprehend what they had written.
What is addressed
in this chapter is in essence the key to what is said in this
volume. Since we were determined to keep the chapters short,
it is very necessary to make sure that the point at issue in
each chapter is clearly stated. In this chapter one of the best
ways to accomplish this seemed to be to tabulate the structure
of the argument though this introduces a certain lack of
smoothness in reading.
We are here concerned with the
unique nature of the Lord's body. My plan is to demonstrate four
1. That the natural order was
designed from the very beginning to accommodate the Incarnation.
Part of this grand design included the mechanism of procreation
by the fusion of two seeds, housed originally in a single body
which was then divided into a male and a female body.
2. That the entail of Adam's disobedience
was, by virgin birth through the intervention of the Holy Spirit,
avoided in this one instance.
3. That this led to the recovery
of a truly Adamic body, i.e., an unfallen body constituted exactly
as Adam's had been at his creation.
4. That the New Testament has illuminated
this birth in some very striking ways and, in addition, has employed
two only slightly but very significantly different words in order
to make clear the distinction between that virgin-born body and
the bodies of all other men.
1. The mechanism of conception prepares
Many years ago Charles Augustus Briggs made the following
observation: "The virgin conception of Jesus is not to be
interpreted as if it were a miracle in violation of the
laws of nature. . . . The conception of Jesus in the womb of
the virgin Mary differs from all other conception of children
by their mothers in that there was no human father. The place
of the human father is taken by God Himself . . . in an extraordinary
way unrevealed to us and without violation of the laws of maternity,
impregnating the virgin Mary with holy seed." (97)
To put the matter slightly differently,
God did not contravene the design of the natural order
when bringing the Redeemer into the world. But He put that natural
order to a higher service, a service for which it was intended
in the first place. He had so designed the processes of conception
and birth that He could use them without doing any violence to
his own creation.
He did not need to set aside nature,
since there was nothing in the constitution of the human body,
except in so far as it has been defiled by sin, that God is ashamed
to take unto Himself and employ as a dwelling place under all
the circumstances and challenges of daily life from conception
to death. Undefiled by sin and indwelt by the Lord Himself, a
superb human body appeared on the stage of human history, and
men worshipped without shame or
97. Briags, Charles Augustus: James Hastings,
Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, Grand Rapids, Baker
reprint (originally1908), p.809.
hesitation, and sometimes
almost involuntarily, the One whose house it was. While He who
possessed it, accepted the worship of men which is reserved only
for what is divine, without hesitation whenever He knew it was
entirely proper, and rebuked it when He knew it was not (Luke
4:41). The house that was built for the Lord was indeed "magnifical."
Human embodiment in no way demeaned divinity.
2. The avoidance of the entail of Adam's disobedience.
birth was found the solution to the Old Testament questions.
We can see now in the light of modern knowledge how the seed
of the woman could escape the poisoned stream that passes via
the male seed from generation to generation in all who are natural-born.
In a way, we owe this discovery to the brilliant insights of
August Weismann a century ago, whose failing vision forced him
to forsake the microscope and the laboratory, and spend his working
hours reflecting upon what he had already observed while his
vision had been adequate.
The work of his successors has
remarkably confirmed his initial hypothesis that in each generation
it is the female seed that first reproduces itself and then
forms the body which is to house it. The order here is crucial
to a proper understanding. The succession of bodies are temporary
vehicles which death lays aside but not until the seed
in the next generation has had time first of all to reproduce
itself, and then to repeat the rest of the cycle. The
body is the ovum's way of perpetuating itself.
Tracing this process backwards
to Eve, we are forced to go one step further and say that Eve
received her seed from Adam. There is thus a continuity of the
seed originally in Adam, from one generation to the next, which
still remains intact after all these thousands of years, "a
bundle of immortality" which was once in Adam's loins. In
each generation it is the now mortalized male seed that introduces
mortality to the immortal seed of the woman as
Luther and Calvin both
perceived. But this fatal poisoning evidently does not take place
until the woman's seed has multiplied itself and made adequate
provision for the next generation by constructing also a body
to house it. This process is shown above.
Thus while Eve became the mother
of all living (Genesis 3:20), Adam had become the father of all
dying (Romans 5:12). This is precisely stated in verse 12 where
we are told simply, "by one man . . . death passed
upon all men." And then one day, by divine intervention,
the Holy Spirit introduced into the woman's seed in the virgin
Mary that which initiated its development into a man-child, and
by so doing, for the first time in history a woman was found
to be carrying in her womb a "clean thing."
Luke 1:35 tells us that the angel
said to Mary: "That holy thing that shall be born
of you shall be called the Son of God." The rendering "holy
thing" is perfectly justified by the original Greek and
is by implication reaffirmed in Matthew 1:20 which, rendered
literally would read, "for that which (neuter) is
conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit." Once again the
emphasized words are faithful to the original Greek.
When Mary's time was fulfilled,
she brought forth a son, and the angels announced to the shepherds
in the field, "Unto you this day in the city of David
is born a Saviour who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11).
That day the Lord of glory, the Son of God, became flesh and
began to dwell among us as the Son of Man. And the Father in
heaven confirmed the event, saying, "Thou art my Son, this
day have I begotten Thee" (Hebrews 1:5) or as
the New International Version has rendered it, "You
are my Son, today have I become your Father." See likewise
in the wording of Hebrews 5:5.
3. The recovery of
a truly Adamic body.
when He comes into the world, He says . . . 'A body have You
prepared for Me'." (Hebrews 10:5)
In the Greek of Hebrews 10:5, the
word which is rendered "prepared" is a particularly
significant one in the present context. Basically it means to
reconstitute, to restore, even to repair rather
than simply prepare. It is found in Matthew 4:21 in connection
with the mending of nets. Moreover, the Greek Papyri show
that it was currently used to mean to prepare to perfection.
In Classical Greek it means to furnish completely. In
the King James Version it has the meaning of to perfect
as in Matthew 2l:16; Luke 6:40; 1 Thessalonians 3:10;
The idea in Hebrews 10:5 seems
to be to underscore the fact that in some way this was a body
that restored perfection in the Adamic line, contrasting his
own body and its cleanness with the uncleanness of the bodies
of all others hitherto born in this line. His body was
flawless, and holy even in its fetal development and thus resolved
the problem raised in Psalm 51:5 and Job 14:4.
Thus we may conclude without hesitation
that the virgin birth did indeed produce a unique human body,
truly Adamic in origin since the woman's seed was once Adam's
seed, but free of all that fallen Adam has entailed to the rest
of his descendants without exception. Here, then, was a perfect
human body brought forth with the same potential for immortality
that had characterized Adam's body as created.
The body of the Lord Jesus Christ
was not therefore brought into being under the condition of our
fallen bodies which come forth under sentence of death, but "after
the potential for unending life" (Hebrews 7:16). Here was
a Second Man, biologically fulfilling precisely the conditions
which had characterized the body of the first man, which
Augustine spoke of so perceptively as being non imposse mori,
sed posse non mori: i.e., not unable to die (because He was
vulnerable to the assaults
of both the physical world and of men): but able not
to die (because no mortogenic factor had ever been introduced
into his body).
For Him there was no necessity
of death. Unlike ourselves, therefore, his body was raised uncorrupted,
still identifiably as his and needing no change in it save
only that which transformed it to a new working principle to
fit it for its heavenly role. Whereas for us there must always
be a change through death save only in the case of those
who remain alive at the Lord's second coming again, who will
somehow have a like change to fit their bodies for heaven (1
4. How the New Testament has used a group
of words to make clear the uniqueness of his body.
Let me illustrate
what seems to me one very important way in which the New Testament
has recognized a vital distinction between his body and ours,
his temptations and ours, his death and ours, and so on. These
distinctions have been blurred in most English translations.
In the original Greek they are marked carefully by the use of
two different classes of words, some of which are spelled with
a prefix ending with an i (called an iota in
Greek) and the others without the i. The first
group of words is prefixed by homoi- and the second by
homo-. Words prefixed by homoi- signify "likeness'
with the sense of similarity, but the words prefixed by homo-
signify "identity" or "exact sameness.
If I wanted to say "Margarine
can look like butter" in Greek, I would have to use a word
prefixed by homoi- for the English word "like,"
because margarine only looks like butter. It isn't actually butter
In English we use words which have
the prefix homo-, such as homology, homogeneous, homosexual,
homonym, homozygote, etc., to mean identical structure, identical
quality or consistency, identical sex, identical name, identical
genes, and so on. Homo- conveys the idea, therefore,
of precise identity,
not merely likeness in appearance.
On the other hand, we do not use
many words in English with the prefix homoi-. It is hard
to say why this is, and it contrasts strongly with Greek usage
both in the New Testament and in Classical literature. In Greek,
words beginning with the prefix homoi- always signify
mere similarity rather than precise identity.
Wherever words prefixed with either homo- or homoi-
are used in the New Testament it is incumbent upon the translator
to indicate to the reader whether the meaning is absolute identity
or mere similarity, since great care is taken in Scripture in
the distinctive use of these words. And this ought to be reflected
in any translation. The distinction is always of quite crucial
importance, but unfortunately many of even the best translations
have failed in this respect because they have used the word "like"
and "likeness" imprecisely. They have ignored the care
taken by the divine Author of Scripture to mark a fundamental
Let me give a few specific illustrations
from familiar passages in the New Testament where the difference
is often masked in the translation but is in fact of great importance.
In Romans 8:3 we have the words,
"God sending his son in the likeness of sinful flesh."
In the original Greek the word rendered "likeness"
is homoi-omati, and for this the word "likeness"
is a correct translation. It will be noted that the prefix is
homoi-, the i being part of the prefix.
All such words signify likeness only and not identity. Thus
the Lord's flesh was similar to ours but not identical. It was
identical only with the flesh of unfallen Adam but by
no means identical with the despoiled flesh of ourselves who
are Adam's fallen descendants. Our bodies are corrupted (1 Corinthians
15:53); his body was not (1 Peter 1:18,19).
In Hebrews 2:17 we have the words,
"in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto his
brethren." Had He been identical with his brethren, his
body would have been mortal like ours, and He would have been
under sentence of death as we are. The sacrifice of a body that
under sentence of death
can only be premature and never truly vicarious.
In Hebrews 4:15, "[He] was
tempted in all points like as we are, yet without
sin." The fact is that when Satan comes to tempt us,
he comes to a citadel that has already surrendered. The root
of sin is there to begin with, and Satan has only to appeal to
it to find a ready accessory. When Satan came to tempt Jesus,
he found nothing in Him to seize hold of, by which to work from
within (John 14:30).
The Lord was always tempted from
without: we are tempted from within. Indeed, we do not need Satan
to tempt us, our own fallen nature being usually sufficient unto
itself. The Lord was only tempted when Satan came to tempt Him:
never otherwise. His temptations were every bit as real as ours
but never arose from internal promptings.
In Romans 6:5, "We have
been planted together in the likeness of his death."
His death, and our deaths as individuals, are entirely different
in that He died for many men's sins but without obligation for
any of his own. When we are counted to have died in Him, we died
in Him for our own sins. The element of vicariousness
in our death is entirely absent.
And in Philippians 2:7 we
read, "And was made in the likeness of men."
The point in each of these important passages must by now be
clear. Had He been made as we are made, conceived and born in
sin, the consequences for mankind and indeed for the Universe
would have been disastrous. For the human experiment could only
have proved pointless without a Saviour and conceived and
born as we are, He could never have been a Saviour.
The second group
of words has the prefix homo-, without the terminal i.
There are some 46 instances of the use of such words, and
always without exception the meaning is "identical with":
not merely similar to, but precisely the same.
In Classical Greek literature the
distinction between the
prefix homo- and
homoi- is faithfully preserved in many verbs and nouns
which, however, do not appear in the New Testament.
One of the historically most critical
cases involving a compound word which can be prefixed by either
homo or homoi- appears in the formulation of the
Nicene Creed (325 AD) in which the Lord Jesus was held by one
party to be "of one [i.e., identical] substance with
the Father" (homo-ousios), and by another party to be only
"of like substance with the Father" (homoi-ousios).
Some said that He was actually one with the Father: others said
that He was merely like the Father. The Eastern and Western branches
of the Church split over the difference between the prefix homo-
and homoi-, or more precisely over the absence or
presence of the i. It seems a foolish thing that
Christendom should break in two at a critical point in its early
development over the presence or absence of a single letter.
But of course it was really over two entirely different concepts,
mere similarity, or absolute equality. *
is called in Greek an iota, and in Hebrew is termed
a jot, the two words being cognate. It is significant,
therefore, that the Lord should have said that no part of his
Word should fail, not even a jot (Matthew 5:18) until
all had been fulfilled.
that when we are told the Lord Jesus Christ was made in the likeness
of sinful flesh, or was made in the likeness of men, or was made
like unto his brethren, we are to understand that what we have
in this likeness is
* The following references are to words or
phrases incorporating the prefix HOMO- . To promise faithfully:
Matthew 14:7. To confess plainly: Matthew 10:32 (2x); Luke 12:8
(2x); John 1:20; 9:22; 12:42; Acts 23:8; 24:14; Romans l0:9,
10; Hebrews 11:13; 1 John 1:9; 4:2, 3:15; 2 John 7. To profess
forthrightly: Matthew 7:23. To be truly thankful: Hebrews 13:15.
To be of the same craft, not merely a related one: Acts 18:3.
Without doubt: 1 Timothy 3:16. Together as one: John 4:36; 20:4;
21:20. Sincere profession: 1 Timothy 6:12, 13; Titus 1:16; Hebrews.
3:1; 4:14; 10:23. Manifestly declared: 2 Corinthians 9:13. In
full agreement: Acts 1:14; 2:1,46; 4:24; 5:12; 7:57; 8:6; 12:20;
15:25; 18:12; 19:29; Romans 15:6; and 1 Peter 3:8.
only similarity, not
absolute identity. To have been identical with us would have
placed Him under the same sentence of death that we are under.
In one important respect the Lord's
body was identical with ours, simply because his was a
physical body and therefore vulnerable. His body was just as
subject to injury as ours. Like us He suffered fatigue, hunger,
thirst, pain, and wounds all such things as result naturally
from the demands of any physical body, whether human or animal.
These all come under the first part of Augustine's aphorism:
He could experience death. In this sense, He was exactly
as we are. We are told in 2 Corinthians 13:4 that He was crucified
through weakness. This was not the weakness of sin but the vulnerability
of a real body, as it was of unfallen Adam's body. It
was no sign of sinfulness that He could be wounded for our transgressions.
Ambrose (c.339397 AD) who had such a powerful influence
on Augustine, wrote: (98)
it is written, "God made this Jesus, whom you crucified,
both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). It was not the Godhead
but the flesh that was crucified. This indeed was possible
because the flesh allowed of being crucified." [emphasis
This "infirmity of his flesh"
* was not an infirmity due to the effects of sinful flesh, but
the vulnerability of all things set within the framework of the
Scripture has provided us with
enough information as to how this uniqueness of his body came
about. From the very beginning, nature was designed to make all
this possible without violation of its own order; to perpetuate
unfallen Adam's constitution and avoid the entailed damage from
the Fall; to produce as an end result a unique embryo which unlike
all other human embryos was "clean"; and
98. Ambrose: On the Christian Faith, ch.XV,
Principle Works of Ambrose, translated by H. De Romestin,
in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church,
edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, New York, Christian
Literature Co., Second Series, 1896, vol. X, p 217.
* Cf. Belgic Confession, Article xix:
"very man that He might die for us according to the infirmity
of the flesh."
thus to re-introduce
into the world a Second Adam whose body was not subject to death
and yet could experience it: none of these achievements
violated nature as God designed and created it. Into this body,
perfectly prepared for Him, the Son of God came to be our Saviour
as the Son of Man, becoming what He had not been hitherto yet
without ceasing to be what He was before. Only thus could the
Plan of Salvation by substitutionary sacrifice be made effective.
In short, the
divine nature was in no wise demeaned by the assumption of a
perfect human body. Such, then, was the form and dignity and
capacity of the body with which Adam was created. In the Lord
Jesus Christ true manhood, body and spirit, was once again displayed
in all its immortal glory before a fallen world.
The divine Logos who was with the Father throughout all eternity
and through whom the Universe was created and by whom it is kept
as a Cosmos rather than a Chaos, became Man and dwelt as a Man
among men, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only
begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
Everything hinges upon the perfection
of that body; everything hinges upon its being truly human; everything
hinges upon its being vulnerable; and every thing hinges upon
its being contingently immortal.
Such a glorious house was his!
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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It is conceivable that as
it now is, man's body might be accounted for by evolution.
But in accounting for the body of Adam as witnessed in the body
of Jesus Christ, fulfilling these four prerequisite conditions,
evolution utterly fails to help us at all.