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Table of Contents


Chapter  1

Part I
Chapter  2
Chapter  3
Chapter  4
Chapter  5
Chapter  6
Chapter  7
Chapter  8
Chapter  9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12

Part II
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17

Chapter 18


Part I: Embodiment — and The Incarnation

Chapter 12

The Invisible Becomes Visible

The mystery ... of God ... manifest in the flesh 1 Tim. 3:16
The glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ 2 Cor. 4:6
In whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily Col. 2:9

     It was not long after William the Conqueror crossed the Channel from Normandy and landed on the English south coast in 1066 that our friend, Anselm of Canterbury, wrote his famous treatise on the Incarnation to which we have already referred. You may recall that he titled it, Why God Became Man.
His answer was essentially what we would say today — "to become the Redeemer of Man." Many of his arguments are a delight to read and satisfying to both heart and mind. But there were some questions he did not address. Moreover, the answer which he did give, and which most of us would give, is not by any means the only reason why the Eternal Son of God became Man and dwelt among us.
     There are in fact a number of reasons beyond the redemption of man, of which the following three are worthy of special attention in the present context, and surprisingly all three of them required embodiment.

(1) He came to reveal God to man.
(2) He came to reveal man to God.
(3) He came to reveal man to himself.

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     In this chapter I want to address only the first two, and then deal with (3) in the next chapter.

          (1) He Came to Reveal God to Man

     The renowned British historian, Arnold Toynbee, was one day discussing man's knowledge of God with a close friend named Dr. Edwyn Bevan. During the conversation Bevan said to him, "Man's vision of God is like a dog's vision of his master. The dog by instinct, habit, and association, comes to know his master in a limited manner. But to know him fully the dog would have to forsake his canine nature for a human nature."
     Now, I have no knowledge of how the conversation proceeded from that point, but it naturally started me thinking about the Incarnation in that light. Of course, for the dog to become a man is a reversal of the situation in which God became man. For we have, in the first instance, the lesser becoming the greater whereas in the latter case we have the greater becoming the lesser, the infinite becoming the finite. Bevan does not here refer to the possibility of the man becoming a dog in order to understand his faithful pet, though it seems the natural alternative to raise for discussion.
     But does Bevan's solution really solve the problem of communication in any case? Suppose the dog becomes a man, would he not then of necessity cease being a dog? The dog who has become a man is no longer a dog! If he ceases to be a dog, what good is he to the man as interpreter of a dog's thoughts? In the very act of becoming a man he loses all contact with his former canine nature. On the other hand, to go halfway and become half a dog and half a man is to be neither dog or man, and in this kind of neutrality such a creature cannot wholly reveal the dog to the man or the man to the dog.
     The difficulty becomes a very practical one when anthropologists or missionaries employ a native interpreter. The interpreter must already have escaped his own culture in

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part and immersed himself in the alien culture of the anthropologist or missionary in order to be a good interpreter. How can he become a good interpreter without adulterating his understanding of his own culture in the process of learning to interpret it in terms of the alien culture? He is no longer "pure" native. Who knows thereafter how much of what he tells his inquirers is genuinely native and how much is unconsciously adopted from the alien culture?
     If there is no real solution at all by this route to the problem of communication, wherein does the answer lie? What form must such a 'bridge' between God and man take which does not surrender one or other nature? Can you build a bridge with the two ends in the middle? How can God possibly become man while yet remaining God? How did it come about that the Son of God could really become the Son of Man without ceasing to be what He was before? It would seem to be a sheer impossibility for the man to become a dog and remain a man. How, then, did God become a Man while remaining God?
     The answer lies perhaps in this: that the nature of God and the nature of man as originally created, shared a certain fundamental compatibility, which man and dog do not share despite the real companionship that may exist between them.
     Because man was originally made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27), his nature was compatible with the divine nature, thus making it possible for the divine nature in the Person of the Son of God to be fashioned in the likeness of man (Philippians 2:7) while at the same time retaining the precise image of the Father (Hebrews l:3). For this reason the Son of Man was able to mediate to us the capacity to partake of, even in our present state, something of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). *

* As, in the Incarnation, God partook of the nature of man without ceasing to be God, so, when redeemed. man may now partake of the divine nature — without ceasing to be man.

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     This duality of his nature constantly broke through to his companions and to his critics, causing the former to worship and the latter to condemn. On one occasion He had healed a man "with an infirmity of thirty and eight years" on a Sabbath day (John 5:5—9). When accused by the Pharisees of breaking the law by "working" on a holy day, Jesus replied, "My Father works hitherto, and so do I" (verse 17).
     This was seized upon at once as blasphemy by the Pharisees who took up stones to stone Him. When He asked them why it was blasphemy, they replied, "Because yhou, being a man, makes yourself God." They argued thus because Jesus had said not merely that God was his Father but that God was his very own Father. For this is how the Greek actually reads.
     In point of fact, the Pharisees were doubly in error! For it ought not to have been said of Him that He, being a man, was making Himself God. Quite the reverse: it was rather that He, being God, had made Himself man!

      Now, for over three years the disciples had walked with the Lord, rubbed shoulders with Him, seen Him daily performing wonders worthy of God Himself, while at the same time responding to the ordinary circumstances of life precisely as any other man would have done. He was often tired, sometimes hungry and thirsty, and in a multitude of ways humanly vulnerable, so that He had, occasionally, to escape from the crowd to protect Himself. Everything conspired to place the stamp of common humanity upon Him, and yet out of that common humanity there kept breaking through something that shook the disciples and made them wonder what kind of Person He really was.
     One day, feeling hungry like any other person might, and seeing a fig tree a little way off which was displaying the characteristics of a tree bearing fruit despite the fact that it was not the season, He went eagerly towards it with every expectation of finding something to eat. Both his

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natural hunger and his reasonable expectations were normal to any man. However, He was disappointed: there was no fruit on the tree. Humanly speaking, He had been deceived.
     For reasons which are not altogether clear, though perhaps because He desired to make the point for the disciples that a false witness was to be condemned, He simply decreed that the fig tree should no more bear fruit thenceforth. His power to do this was quickly confirmed, since by the very next morning the tree had already withered — to the amazement of Peter (Mark 11:21).
     Here was a striking case of what looks like a contradictory co-existence in one person of a human nature subject to hunger and surprise, with a divine power over inanimate forms of life that was absolute.
     This kind of juxtaposition was observed so frequently by the disciples that it dawned upon them they were indeed in the presence of some One quite different from and yet strangely the same as themselves. He seemed to be sometimes limited in his knowledge and at other times omniscient. On one occasion Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father and we'll be satisfied." Perhaps they were always asking Him questions. Jesus replied to him, "Have I been so long a time with you and yet you have not recognized who I am, Philip? He that has seen Me has seen the Father; and how can you say then, 'Show us the Father?' " *
      Thus by repeated demonstrations of the reality of his dual nature, human and divine, He had been making visible

* Theodoret (393—458) in one of his Dialogues says this to one of his (fictitious) antagonists: "How then was it possible for the invisible nature to be seen without a body? Or do you not remember those words of the Apostle in which he distinctly teaches the invisibility of the divine NATURE? He says 'Whom no man bath seen nor CAN see' (1 Tim. 6:16)?" Theodoret is speaking of the divine NATURE, and strictly speaking, the nature of nothing is visible until it is objectified in some way.
     Leo I the Great (400—461) wrote: "The Son of God therefore came down from his throne in heaven without withdrawing from his Father's glory, and entered this lower world, born after a new order by a new mode of birth. After a new order, in as much as He is invisible in his own nature, and He became visible in ours [i.e., in HUMAN terms, and showed God to be person-al]; He is incomprehensible and He willed to be comprehended; continuing to be before time He began to exist in time."

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in his Person the invisible Father in heaven whom man could not otherwise have seen. These sudden juxtapositionings of the human and the divine in the Lord Jesus Christ were constantly being displayed, but with such simplicity that the disciples were only surprised at the striking elements in the latter because they had no difficulty whatever in accepting the reality of the former.
     Take the familiar case of the terrible storm that arose on the Sea of Galilee, when Jesus fell asleep on a pillow in the stern of a small fishing boat. The event is noted by all three Synoptic Gospels, a circumstance which suggests that it left a profound impression upon them all. Mark 4:35-41 provides one of the simplest accounts.
There is a wonderful correspondence with life in the Word of God. No matter how weary a man might be, it is doubtful if he could sleep very soundly in the bow of such a small vessel on a choppy sea, and he would be subject to almost constant wetting by the spray. So we are told that He was asleep in the stern. In modern vessels with a stern post rudder such a place to sleep would be most inconvenient for the helmsman, but in those days there were no such rudders, only a board over one side to steer with. It was called a steer-board and gave rise to our word starboard.
      On this occasion, while the Lord had fallen into a deep sleep there had arisen a great storm. Most small hill-bound inland seas and lakes are subject to such sudden storms, and all too frequently they are remarkably violent. The Great Lakes of Canada and the United States are notorious for their wicked behaviour. Ocean sailors who know these lakes are very respectful of them.
     Over 6000 ships are recorded to have sunk in these lakes, and these ships were by no means small. In one single terrible night (November 9, 1913) over 30 ships were wrecked, 10 of which sank without a trace with all hands lost. The roster of wrecked vessels included ships of 269 feet in length, 270, 440, 452 and 524 feet, and most of them steel-hulled.
(99) This was on Lake Huron which can be vicious

99. Ratigan, WIlliam, Great Lakes: Shipwrecks and Survivals, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1960, p.131

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because it is shallow, though Lake Superior can be even more disastrous for the crew because the water is so cold. On that one memorable night waves of 60 and 70 feet in height crashed over and swept across the decks and wiped them clean of bridge, deck housing, funnel, and crews in their stern quarters — everything. Winds can be cyclonic and in this case persisted for 16 hours without a break, making man and his machinery utterly helpless.
     Many travellers in the Middle East have observed the same sudden violence on the Sea of Galilee despite its small size (6 miles x 12 miles). Evidently the storm to which Mark 4 refers was such a storm, so sudden as to take even the experienced fishermen by surprise. They were very soon in real danger of sinking — and yet the Lord slept on. How human was such a total weariness as this!
     The disciples awoke Him in desperation and appealed to Him: "Master, do you not care that we perish?" What did they really expect Him to do?
     Without a word of rebuke to them, He arose and, instead, rebuked the wind and the sea, saying, very simply, "Peace, be still"! And the wind ceased, we are told, and there was a great calm. The sudden silence must have been almost shattering. Then, and then only, did He rebuke the disciples for their lack of faith, for was He not with them in the boat? They in their turn must have been exceedingly relieved but also truly fearful, for they said to one another, "What kind of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?" (Mark 4:41).
What kind of a man indeed, if He was not also God? But then we know; He was acting as the Lord of the Old Testament, since this storm is described in Psalm 107:23—30. It is here recorded in extraordinary realism.

     They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. For He commands and raises the stormy wind, which lift up the waves thereof. They mount up to

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the heavens, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man and are at their wit's end.
     Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses. He makes the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they are quiet.
     So He brings them unto their desired haven [i.e., home again].

     Surely this was a prophetic forecast of this very storm, for it was the same Lord who with absolute authority stilled the waves by a single word of command.
     Here we have, then, at one moment the Lord Jesus asleep as only a terribly tired man could sleep for it is impossible to imagine that He was pretending; and the next moment the same Lord is commanding the winds and the waves to cease — and they obey so instantly and so literally that the disciples are truly amazed and ask themselves What kind of man is this.

     Let us take one more instance of the same juxtaposition of truly human and truly divine behaviour in a single individual. The details are given in John 11:1—44.
     Lazarus, after a terminal illness that seems to have been very brief, died and was buried in a garden tomb in Bethany. This Lazarus and his two sisters, Martha and Mary, were all three of them particularly loved by the Lord, as John 11:5 makes clear. If the Lord did have a 'home' on earth, it was with these dear people. Nevertheless, He did not at once respond to their call to come to their help, and He arrived too late to save Lazarus from death — although it is clear that He could have done so.
     When He did arrive, Lazarus was already four days dead and buried, and the process of putrefaction had begun. Almost at once it would seem, Jesus inquired where they had laid him, thus displaying the natural ignorance of any other

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man in such a circumstance. Then together they walked towards the burial place, and as they walked Jesus Himself was overcome by the grief of his two beloved friends and could not restrain his own tears.
     We thus have, once again, two clear evidences of a truly human nature marked by limitations of knowledge and incomplete emotional control. But the moment they reached the tomb the divine nature asserted itself. He commanded those who stood by to roll away the stone.
     At this command, Martha at once protested! What terribly disfigured spectre would the light of day reveal in that place of death and decay? Current means of embalming did little to preserve the body. The thought of exposure must have horrified her: "Oh no! Lord, by now he's . . .he . . . the odour, Lord! He has been dead four days already."
     We do not know how the Lord reassured Martha and Mary but without hesitation He signalled to those who stood by the stone to proceed, and they had soon complied with his command. Then Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth"!
     And he that was dead came forth from the tomb, wrapped hand and foot and head — separately, as was customary. And there he stood in the opening of the tomb, his face and his body still concealed. Imagine the fearful look that Martha and Mary must have cast towards this apparition. And imagine their even greater terror when Jesus said, "Unwrap him and set him free."
     What would they see beneath those wrappings? Some kind of ghastly travesty of a human face fit only for a horror movie: or the face of a dear soul as they had known him before his illness? Whatever they might have hoped before, was now almost certainly over-balanced by what it was natural to expect after so long in the grave.
     We are not told what did happen when they recovered their brother, healed, made whole, and alive again! Nor are we told what the Lord Himself did afterwards. Did He walk

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back with the three of them to the house? And what could they talk about on the way? The curtain is discreetly drawn, for Scripture never concerns itself with the satisfaction of mere curiosity. For the present, that was the end of the matter.
     He who had only shortly before told Martha that He was the resurrection and the life, a claim which only God could make, and later had wept, which only man does, had now proven that his higher claim was true. He was indeed the Son of God and the Son of Man: not two Sons but having two Sonships in his one Person.

     Thus in the Lord Jesus Christ we see a manifestation of the nature of God, God "objectified," the invisible made visible. From this revelation we see, above all, that God is personal: not some mighty force, but a Person. We observe the reality of this person-hood in the very range of reactions of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord was hungry in the wilderness (Matthew 4:2); thirsty on the cross (John 19:28); bone-tired at noon beside Jacob's well (John 4:6); asleep on a pillow on a stormy sea (Mark 4:38); overcome with grief, (John 11:35); tortured in body with frightful wounds at the hands of Pilate's soldiers (John 19:1—3); and physically exhausted (Matthew 27:32) by his suffering on the way to "the place of the skull." All these were evidences of a truly human Person in a perfect body unmarred in any way by sin. And yet this same human Person could command plants to wither, storms to cease, loaves to multiply, water to become wine, and the dead already putrefying to come forth whole.
If God the Father is revealed here, then how wonderfully personal our Father in heaven really is. You might say He is almost human! Indeed, more human than we are. It is not surprising perhaps that Karl Barth could write a book on The Humanity of God. How otherwise could He have created man in his own image?
     Thus was fulfilled one purpose of the Incarnation: a

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revelation of the personal nature of God and a demonstration of his great concern for man. God also is touched with the feeling of our infirmity, even while He is truly angry at our sin — just as the Lord Jesus was on many occasions (Mark 3:5), even in those whom He loved (Mark 10:14).

          2. The Revealing of Man to God.

     Does it really make sense to speak of something that had to be revealed to God? Could there possibly be such a need? Above all, is there anything hidden from God that He should need a Man to reveal it to Him? Surprisingly, there is indeed. And it all hinges on embodiment!
     What had to be revealed to God was the nature of human temptation. It is that form of temptation to which the vulnerabilities of human embodiment have exposed man. Such temptations cannot possibly be experienced by a purely spiritual being such as God is. Yet these demands of the body are enormous.
     God cannot ever have known by experience temptation due to hunger, or thirst, or physical pain, or weariness of the flesh, even less the fear of physical death which plagues man for most of his life.
     How, then, was God to judge man who is subject to so many temptations that acquire much of their force from the demands of the flesh? As we have noted, many of these demands do not stem from sinful flesh per se, but rather from the mere fact of bodily existence even in a house as perfect as was the body of the Lord. He, too, suffered from hunger and thirst and pain and fatigue. Even in his perfect body these could have been — and in some cases we know they were — avenues of attack by Satan.
     It was Satan who tempted the Lord to appease his hunger in the wilderness: and unless He was hungry, there could have been no temptation. But this was true also in the matter of thirst, as we have already seen.
     But as for the Father in heaven, how could He ever

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know what drives man to do some of the things he does — to steal because starving, to fight because of thirst, to lie because of unbearable torture, to fail in prayer because of sheer fatigue, to drink when the body makes demands beyond the spirit's bearing, and to over-indulge because the appetite is stronger than the will.
     Our lives are neither purely spiritual nor purely physical so that there is often a conflict between the two and we are torn between different kinds of impulse in ways which can never be experienced even by an angel. And what about the temptations which arise from our bondage to time and to place simply because we cannot wait?
     Because we belong in a physical world as well as a spiritual one, a purely spiritual being knows only half of what we are subject to by way of temptation. Is it not therefore only proper that the Father should send his Son to share our experience in the fullest way possible short of involvement in our sinful nature and its potential? Is it not reasonable that He would seek to "know" through his Son how our very physical existence contributes to our fallenness? And then having received his Son back again unspoiled by sin as man has been but only made even more mature in his manhood by the things He experienced (Hebrews 5:8), to delegate to Him the office of Judge of Man, in his own stead?
      In the old days when society was highly stratified by a class structure, one of the provisions of the law was that a man ought if possible to be tried and judged only by his peers. It was held to be unfair for a man in a certain situation in life to be judged by someone who could not know anything about that kind of life by experience, and would therefore be largely ignorant of the nature of the condemned man's temptations. Of course the justice of the class system can indeed be called into question to begin with. But the idea did have a measure of fairness about it, given the realities of social structure at the time.
     In scientific circles today, we feel that the value of a

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man's work can only be fairly judged by someone in a position to assess it knowledgeably, and not by one who has no such background experience or competence. We call this a system of "peer review." It is, of course, like all else that man does, far from perfect in its operation; but anything else could be considered entirely unjust.
      Since God cannot be tempted at all (James 1:13), and thus cannot know by experience even the meaning of being tempted except by observing its effect upon the individual himself and on others, how could his judgment of human behaviour be entirely just? Perhaps it would be better to say, How could any such judgment be seen to be just if the Judge Himself knows nothing personally of what temptation means under such conditions? A just trial demands that it not only is fair, but also seems fair to those who witness the proceeding. Will the Judge of all the earth do less than we attempt to do?

     At any rate, whatever the divine 'rationale,' this at least is clear: all judgment has been assigned to the One who became Man without ceasing to be God. As the Lord said plainly: "The Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment unto the Son . . . and has given Him authority to execute judgment also" (John 5:22,27). That is to say, not merely to pass judgment but also to carry it out. And why this delegated authority? Again the answer is straightforward: "Because He is the Son of Man" (verse 27). That is the specific reason, because He is the Son of Man.
     Paul fully confirms this fact in Romans 8:34, "Who is he that judges? It is Christ who died, yea rather, who is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God; who also makes intercession for us." Thus the very One who is the Saviour is also to be the Judge and to plead our case!
     And again in Acts 17:31 we find the same insistence that it is not merely One who lived and died as a man but who was also raised as a man that is to be the world's Judge. "Because

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(God) hath appointed a day in which He intends to judge the world in righteousness, by that MAN whom He has ordained: whereof He has given assurance unto all men, in that He has raised Him from the dead."
     In 2 Corinthians 5:10 Paul writes that we, the children of God, are also to come before the judgment seat of Christ that we may be declared worthy of praise for the good that we may have done, and thankfully see our failures removed from the record through his mercy and for his own name's sake. And Paul again lays emphasis on the fact that it is a judgment of "things done in the body," done by us not as spiritual beings but as embodied beings.
     This emphasis was often underscored by Tertullian whom we have already quoted in another connection. In his treatise, "On the Resurrection of the Flesh" (chap. xiv), he observed:

     Thus it follows that the fullness and perfection of the judgment consists simply in representing the interests of the entire human being. Now since the entire man consists of the union of two natures [i.e., both the physical and the spiritual], he must therefore appear in both, since it is right that he should be judged entirely; nor, of course, did he pass through life except in his entire state.
     As therefore he lived, so also must he be judged, because he has to be judged concerning the way in which he has lived. For life is the cause of judgment and it must undergo investigation in as many natures as it possessed when it discharged its vital functions.

      Tertullian therefore concludes that the flesh ought not to have any share in the sentence, either for praise or for blame, if it had no share in the cause of it. Since it clearly is to come into judgment, then obviously it did have a share in the cause.
     Now since the Father has never experienced embodiment, accordingly it was essential for the Son, if He was to become our Judge, to experience human embodiment

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because that embodiment plays such a part in the causes of our condemnation. He was therefore incarnate for this reason also: that He might reveal man to God, manifesting and communicating to his Father the nature of embodiment as it bears upon the nature of human guilt.
     Just how the Father shared in the experience of the manhood of the Son has never been adequately spelled out, though many attempts have been made. Was it by a kind of empathy, such as moved the Lord to tears beside the tomb of Lazarus in spite of the fact that He knew He was about to undo the cause of it all?
     All we can say is that the Father has committed all judgment to the Son because He was tempted as an embodied human being and therefore understands the human situation in a way that the Father never could. It would seem therefore that the Father has, as it were, withdrawn from that office in fairness to man and committed judgment to the only One who could exercise it justly.
     It would be hard indeed for us to conceive of a way more just and fair. Could there be a more excellent way? In Him was the pure essence of manhood and the pure essence of deity. And He placed Himself voluntarily in the position of experiencing the worst that the world could do. He thus becomes the perfect Judge between fallen man and a righteous God.

     The true bridge between Bevan and his dog could not take the form of a human spirit in a dog's body nor a canine spirit in a human body. Somehow no such bridge is possible, because the dog was not created in the image of the man. It would be neither dog nor man but a monster. But man was created in the image of God and thus God could and did become man by human embodiment while yet retaining his divine nature. It is clear that a human body did not make this amalgam in any way inappropriate. Thus the Lord Jesus as Son of God and Son of Man can stand in fairness as the Judge of men.

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      Among those to be judged in fairness because of this shared image is, of course, Adam himself, the first human being. Unless the Lord was made in the image of Adam and not merely in the image of we who are Adam's descendants, He cannot fairly judge Adam's temptations. Adam's body therefore cannot possibly have been the kind of primitive, barely human, body that evolutionary theory demands for the first man. The body of the First Adam as created must have been in every way homologous in form and function to the body of the Last Adam.

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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