Part III: When the Word Became Flesh
A Body Hast Thou
Prepared For Me
When He cometh into the
world He said,
. . . a body hast Thou prepared Me.
Then said I,
Lo, I come
. . . to do Thy will, O God.
of God is truly a wonderful book to study. Anselm, Archbishop
of Canterbury from 1093�1109, wrote what has become a classic
study of the Atonement. This work, brief as it is, is full of
profound insights. It is best known by its Latin title, Cur
Deus Homo, "Why God Man?"
In dealing with the provision of
the Lord's body, he said this � in the form of a conversation:
Anselm: Let us now examine the question, whether the
human nature taken by God must be produced from a father and
mother, as other men are, or from man alone, or from woman alone.
For in whichever of these three modes it be, it will be produced
from Adam and Eve; for from these two is every person of either
sex descended. And of these three modes, no one mode is easier
for God than another, that it should be selected on this account.
His friend: So far, it is well.
* Cur Deus Homo, LaSalle,
Illinois, Open Court Publishing Co., 1954, p.248, 249.
Anselm: It is no great toil to
show that that man will be brought into existence in a nobler
and purer manner if produced either from man alone, or
woman alone, than if springing from the union of both,
as do all other men.
His friend: I agree with you.
Anselm: Therefore must he be taken either from man
alone, or woman alone.
His friend: There is no other source.
Anselm: In four ways can God create man, viz., either
of man and woman, in the common way; or neither of man nor of
woman, as he created Adam; or of man without woman, as he created
Eve; or of woman without man, which thus far he has never done.
Wherefore, in order to show that this last mode is also under
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?
Now whether it be more worthy that he be born of a virgin or
one not a virgin, we need not discuss, but must affirm beyond
all doubt, that the God-man should be born of a virgin.
His friend: Your words gratify my heart.
Perhaps in the
end Anselm came to recognize another reason why the Lord had
to be born of a virgin, though we do not have any record
of it. For it will be realized that, had Mary given birth to
other children before the Lord was born, these children could
have contested the Lord's right to the throne of David and therefore
his claim to be the Messiah. Mary certainly bore other children
later, but when she conceived by the Holy Spirit and bore Jesus,
she had known no man previously (Luke 1:34; and cf. Matt. 1:18,
"before they came together").
So we have four alternatives for
the provision of the body by which the Lord was to become Man
and dwell among us: (1) by creation ex nihilo, (2) by
normal procreation, (3) by man without woman, and (4) by woman
without man. The final alternative was the one chosen, and in
fact was the only possible choice for the Saviour.
He must have a real body. It was
not enough for Him to come as He had often come to men in the
Old Testament in the form of a theophany with a mere appearance
of humanness but not the reality. The emphasis which the Epistles
were to place upon the importance of the Lord's body in reference
to his sacrifice on Calvary needs to be noted carefully. The
following passages reflect this emphasis.
"The Word became flesh . . .
". . . dead to the law, by the body of Christ. .
1 Corinthians 11:24
"This is my body which is broken for you. . ."
Colossians l:21, 22
"You . . . hath He reconciled in the body of his flesh
through death . . ."
1 Timothy 3:16
"Great was the mystery . . . God was manifest in the flesh"
Hebrews 2:9, 16
"We see Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels
for the suffering of death . . . that He by the grace of God
should taste death for every man. . . . For verily He took
not on Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed
"A body hast Thou prepared for Me. . ."
"By whose will we are sanctified through the offering of
the body of Jesus Christ once for all."
"A new and living way . . . through his flesh".
1 Peter 2:24
". . . who his own self bore our sins in his own body
on the tree."
It is important
to underscore once again the fact that this sacrifice was not
merely a spiritual one. As man dies two kinds of death (a spiritual
and a physical one), so man stands in need of two kinds of redemption.
But we have reached a point in modern preaching where the emphasis
has been almost entirely concentrated upon the spirit of man
to the virtual ignoring of his body, as if the spirit were the
man. This easily tempts us to see the Cross as a spiritual sacrifice,
the physical aspects of it contributing only as an exhibition
of the love of God (which indeed it is: 1 John 4:10,19), an exhibition
which is then presented as an appeal to the individual to respond
in like spirit. All other aspects of the crucifixion are played
down and the "moral influence" is emphasized instead.
The Lord's physical suffering has been the subject of
eloquent appeal to the artist, but the significance of his physical
death, the death of his body, has been largely overlooked.
And, not surprisingly, few preachers speak much about the fact
of his bodily resurrection either � or ours, for that matter.
The whole drama is cast in a spiritual light to the exclusion
of what happened to his body � a body so essential to his
assumption of a truly human nature.
The creation of the body of Adam was nothing
less than the first
3 of 22
step in the "preparation"
of a body for the Lord Jesus. (222) Such a body had to be immortal, since the eternal
Lord could not appropriately adopt as a vehicle for the expression
of his Person a house that had time limits placed upon it, and
which would be progressively wearing out while He dwelt in it.
Our bodies, as we have seen, are dying slowly from the day of
our birth. Each day brings us nearer to the inevitable total
breakdown. We dwell in a doomed house, a house in a state of
decay. The body that was to house the spirit of the Lord Jehovah
had to be entirely free of such effects of sin. It could only
be like our fallen bodies, not identical with them
(Romans 8.3). (223)
It must be identical with Adam's body in its unfallen state.
In us, mortality is a consequence of sin (Romans 5:12) and sin
is an inherent defect, and such an inherently defective house
is unthinkable for the Son of God to occupy as Man.
This body, being prepared in Mary's womb,
had to be both truly of Adamic origin and adequate to allow the
Lord (who through all eternity had only a divine nature) now
to express Himself also in truly human nature. While it therefore
contributed nothing to the reality of his existence as
a person, it temporarily placed certain new conditions and limitations
upon Him. It caused Him to experience physical fatigue to the
point of falling asleep in a boat on a storm-tossed sea, to be
physically weary enough to rest at a well in the heat of the
day, to suffer the physical agony of thirst on the cross, and
in a hundred other ways to experience those "vulnerabilities"
such as are common to man (like weeping at the grave of a friend)
and, in the end, tasting death itself. This vulnerability made
his crucifixion possible (2 Corinthians 13:4).
Now each man's
spirit is a unique creation. (224) The created spirit can be thought of as being given
a form or a structure unique to itself. The body which it is
to indwell and through which it will find its fulfillment must
presumably also be providentially constituted to allow the spirit
to express itself in keeping with its specific nature. *
The Lord of Glory was not a created spirit. But
even as all other created human spirits perform the function
of animating every newborn child, so He created for Himself a
human spirit (so Augustine, Letter #164) to complete his human
nature. And this extraordinary fact required that the vessel
which was thus prepared for Him should have an appropriate form
in order that He might be free to express both his
222. See Notes at the end of this chapter
223. See Notes at the end of this chapter (page
224. See Notes at the end of this chapter (page
* Abraham Kuyper, using the word soul for spirit, reflects
this view by saying, "The soul is indeed directly and instantly
created by God, but this does not happen arbitrarily, but rather
so that the soul is created in this man, at this time,
in this country, in this family, with the characteristics
which are suitable" [quoted by G. C. Berkouwer, Man:
the Image of God, Grand Rapids, Eerdman's, 1975, p. 290].
divine and his human
natures without the contamination of original sin. For this reason
I believe we must assume that a perfect human body was
the only kind of body which could possibly fulfill such a tremendous
role. * Adam's body, as first formed,
was structured by the creative providence of God as a first step
towards the provision of this body.
Had it been God's intention, even
Eve's firstborn could have been a perfectly appropriate body
for the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ to enter as its animating
principle. The Word might indeed have been made flesh and dwelt
among men at the very beginning. Had Adam not fallen, no virgin†
conception would have been necessary. Then the purpose of the
Incarnation would not have been to redeem man, but to reveal
God. In any case, a truly Adamic body would have been a fit abode
for the Son of God at any time in history, provided it was supernaturally
Now the title
of this chapter is a quotation from Hebrews 10:5 which reads:
"Wherefore when He [the Lord Jesus] came into the world,
He said, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body
hast Thou prepared Me. . . Then, said I, Lo, I come (in
the volume of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O
of this passage is somewhat cryptic but there is little doubt
that it refers to the moment of the Lord's incarnation. The words
"Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not" refer of
course to the Old Testament system of animal sacrifices and offerings,
* The contamination of the soul by the natural
born body was recognized by the Jews: "Only in the last
centuries (B.C.) did the soul-body dualism and the concept that
the soul was an independent substance joined to the body gain
general credence; the soul originates in heaven and descends
to earth joining a material body at the moment of conception
or birth and losing its original perfection." [Standard
Jewish Encyclopedia, edited by Cecil Roth, New York, Doubleday,
1962, under Soul, p.1743]. Hence the need of virgin birth.
This view was generally adopted by the Church and was widely
held by theologians (Augustine, Hugo St. Victor, AnseIm of Canterbury,
Stephen Langton, Anselm of Laon, Ulrich Zwingli, Peter Martyr,
Martin Chemnitz, Zacharius Ursinus, Andreae Hyperius, Benedictus
Aretius, Bartholomew Kerkerman, Francois Turretin, Amandus Polandus,
Johannes Wollebius, J. H. Hottinger, Samuel Endeman). It is still
widely accepted that the spirit is corrupted by the body.
† The seed of unfallen Adam, united with the seed of
the woman, would have naturally produced a body as perfect as
Adam's body when first created. That body would have served as
perfectly for the incarnation of the Lord as the body which was
prepared in Mary's womb by supernatural conception. The necessity
of supernatural conception was occasioned by the fact that fallen
Adam's seed would have communicated to it the defect of his own
body. It was not that a human body per se would have been
an unsuitable habitation for the Person of Jesus Christ, but
only that a defective human body would have been unsuitable.
system which had been
only a temporary measure and was not intended to be the actual
mode of man's redemption. These sacrifices were like a "stay
of execution." It was now, at this moment in history, that
the Lord in heaven announced his readiness to become Saviour
and Redeemer, by incarnation as Man. The circumstance that made
his announcement proper at that moment was the fact that a body
was ready to receive Him. The time had finally come, in short,
for the manifestation of God in human form.
The word prepared in the original
Greek (katartidzo: )
has a special significance in this instance since it is a word which
means something more than routine preparation. It means to "prepare
In view of our present knowledge
of how the seed of the woman may be preserved untouched by accidents
that happen to the body (even the ingestion of the forbidden
fruit), and in view of the fact that the original seed of the
woman was derived from Adam when Eve was first formed out of
him in his unfallen state, and in view of the fact that in Adam
this same originating germ plasm was exactly as created by God
in the first place, we are in a position to see that in Mary
was a seed which, energized by the Holy Spirit, would grow into
an immortal body such as Adam had as he came from the hand of
God. Thus was a body prepared for the Lord Jesus in which there
was none of the inherited corruption that renders us mortal
creatures and in its subsequent outworking turns us all into
sinners. Consequently his body was a body without spot or blemish
which, even while it lay in the grave, did not see corruption.
Thus Hebrews 10:5 was not merely
an announcement that Mary's 'full-time' had come (Galatians 4:4).
It was an announcement that Adam's created body had been recovered
as a house for the Lord's immediate possession, thus providing
a new and second mode of expression of his
* It is a verb used in a number of contexts,
all of which denote a special kind of making ready. It can mean
to reconstitute or to restore something as it should be. It is
found in Matthew 4:21, for example, applied to the mending of
broken nets. Barclay M. Newman gives such meanings as to set
right, to make perfect [Concise Greek-English Dictionary
of the New Testament, London, United Bible Societies, 1971].
J. H. Moulton and C. Milligan, on the basis of its use in Greek
Papyri of New Testament times, give the meaning as to prepare
to perfection [Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament,
Grand Rapids, Eerdman's, 1972 reprint]. H. G. Liddell and R.
Scott in their Greek Lexicon (of Classical and New Testament
Greek) give the meaning as to put in order again. to restore,
to furnish completely. C. Abbott-Smith gives the meaning
to render fit or complete, to mend, to repair, to perfect
[A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, Aberdeen,
Clark, 1964, p.238]. In the King James Version this Greek verb
katartidzo is rendered "to make perfect" (Hebrews
13:21; 1 Peter 5:10), "to perfect" (Matthew 21:16;
Luke 6:40; 1 Thessalonians 3:10), "to be perfectly joined
together" (1 Corinthians 1:10), "to restore" (Galatians
6:l) and "to frame" (Hebrews 11:3 � a passage of
special significance for the biblical cosmologist in the light
of this particular verb).
Person. God the Son was
about to become true Man without jeopardizing his deity. And
thereby, because He was now able to experience death, being embodied
in a house that was capable of dying, He could become
our Redeemer, in his own body bearing our sins on the cross,
reconciling us to God in the body of his flesh through death;
that we might be sanctified through the offering of his body
once for all. It was (and still is) a great mystery � God
manifested in the flesh: it provided a new and living way for
us to recover our sonship with the Father and our place in glory
with exceeding joy. And all this, because his Person was perfectly
housed in a perfect body uniquely prepared. Supernaturally conceived,
that little body developed in the womb without any violation
of the laws of nature that God had originally designed and
built into his created order for this very purpose.
The Formula of Concord clearly
acknowledges this truth when quoting Luther who, as we have already
noted, had said that the Saviour in order to suffer death must
become man: "For God, by his very nature, cannot die. However,
after God and man were united in one person, it is truly proper
to say, 'God has died'."*
Only by becoming man could God
become subject to death, and this is precisely what we are told
He did � He was made in the likeness of man . . . and He
became obedient unto death (Philippians 2:7,8). It is
in this sense that T. R. Birks nearly one hundred years ago in
his Difficulties of Belief, observed that man, unlike
angels, may have been provided with a material body in order
"to enable Christ to unite Himself to the race in order
to save it."† In
1 Peter 3:18 we are told that "Christ suffered once for
sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God,
being delivered up to death‡
in the flesh but quickened by the Spirit." He thus died
as to his humanity, but three days later was quickened again
as a Man by the divine nature and energy that resided in his
Person. In other words, there was no way in which He might bring
us (as composites of body and spirit) back to God except through
spiritual and physical death. And there was no way He
could experience physical death except by embodiment, by incarnation,
or as the Greek of Romans 1:3 has it, "being made according
* Formula of Concord, Art. VIII, Section 44, And see further, reference #225
in Notes at the end of this chapter (page
† Birks, T. R., quoted by A. H, Strong, Systematic
Theology, Philadelphia, Judson Press, 1974, p. 488.
The Greek here,
(thanatotheis men sarki), often has the meaning of "condemning
to death," or "delivering up to death." A good example
is in Romans 8:36, and even more explicitly in Mark 14:55, in view of
the fact that the Jews did not have this authority. "Delivering him
up" was all they could legally do (Acts 3:13). He, as God, did not
have his life destroyed by others, for He alone had the power to lay it
down (John 10:18).
the flesh" (kata sarka:
have placed considerable emphasis upon the scientific account
of the way in which preparation was made for the first
coming of the Lord. We now turn, with some relief, to Scripture
itself. What we have been dealing with is the scientific
account extracted from the data of nature by human ingenuity,
as God clearly foresaw it would be. And because He foresaw it
would be, it was not necessary that such details should be revealed.
But henceforth in this study we must depend more and more
upon Revelation for the completion of those details which are
inaccessible to us by any other means. And I must confess that
it is with a sense of exhilaration because, in spite of all that
we can attain for ourselves in the way of understanding by scientific
means, we still only see through a glass darkly and need constant
correction. The knowledge we gain by Revelation is so much more
One might ask, Do these scientific
details really matter at all? * They were hidden from
our brethren in Christ who have gone before us, and clearly therefore
they were not necessary to them. Why should they be necessary
for us? Have they been omitted from Scripture for this very reason,
simply because they are not important?
Not every one will
want to know about such things, and certainly no one actually
needs to be concerned with them. Those who have a simple
faith usually find their faith serving them adequately and well,
although analysis often shows that simple faith is, in reality,
quite complex, the complexity being concealed by intuitive understanding,
and therefore often unrecognized. But there are those who by
circumstance and disposition are driven, or drive themselves,
to inquire into the how of our redemption in greater depth.
Such people have a thirst to know more, and find the quest an
exciting one which sometimes amounts almost to an act of worship.
I think Benjamin Warfield has well
stated the difference between the desire to know and the
need to know. One is as real and undeniable as the other.
But it is by no means essential for any man to know how he is
saved in order to be saved, nor to know the intricacies
of the circumstances by which God made this provision in order
to have assurance of salvation. But if he does have the desire
to explore the ways of God with man, then the means to do so
are becoming increasingly accessible year by year.
* It is most important to keep constantly
in mind that humanly discovered knowledge is always to minister
to, not be master of, our understanding in the things
of God. The role of reason and scientific knowledge must always
be ministerium, not magisterium.
the centuries, many of the great theologians of the past struggled
with the problem of the provision of a perfect body out of the
sinful flesh that was Mary's (for she too needed a Saviour: Luke
1:47). Roman Catholic theology evolved the dogma of Immaculate
Conception. But I believe such a dogma is not necessary and that
many who sought to solve the problem by such means would have
revelled in the kind of understanding which is now open to us
and would have made the greatest possible use of it. Such knowledge
has been acquired almost entirely by those who are not at all
concerned with the doctrines of the Christian faith. Yet whether
they know it or not, they are God's servants, even as Cyrus was
a servant of God but knew it not (Isaiah 45:1,5). And I am convinced
we should respect this service by making use of it, not merely
to improve our lot in life but also to increase our understanding
of the things we most surely believe. We should not depend
upon the findings of science to confirm our Faith, though
this may well happen; but it is certainly proper to use these
findings to explore that Faith.
In his essay, "The Supernatural
Birth of Jesus," Warfield points out that there are really
two supernatural events involved in the virgin birth of Jesus
Christ. First, there is supernatural conception: and secondly,
there is supernatural provision of the spirit to animate that
little body. These were the truly supernatural aspects of the
Incarnation: the actual birth itself was almost certainly
quite natural. * But while the creation of a human spirit to
complete its humanness was indeed a supernatural event, do we
need to suppose it was different in any way from the mode of
provision of our spirits by which we achieve personhood?
In fact, only one miracle was really involved that was exceptional
in nature, namely, the supernatural fertilization of the woman's
of the Virgin Conception in relation to the Christian doctrine
of Redemption was abundantly clear to Warfield. He wrote:†
It is only in its relation to
the New Testament doctrine of redemption that the necessity of
the virgin birth of Jesus comes to its complete manifestation.
For in this [Christian faith of ours] the redemption that is
provided is distinctly redemption from sin; and that he might
redeem men from sin it certainly was imperative that the Redeemer
himself should not be involved in sin. . . .
* This is implied by Galatians 4:4, "made
of a woman, made under the law" � not merely
birth but even prenatal development was normal according to natural
† Warfield, Benjamin B., Biblical and Theological
Studies, Philadelphia, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing
Co., edited by Samuel G. Craig, 1968, p.165.
of Jesus, in the sense of freedom from subjective corruption
as well as from overt acts of sin, seems to be involved in the
incarnation itself, purely and simply; and in point of fact,
those who imagine it was in principle sinful flesh which was
assumed by the Son of God are prone to represent his flesh as
actually being cleansed of its sinfulness, either by the act
of incarnation itself or by the almighty operation of the Spirit
of God as a condition precedent to incarnation. *
In other words,
the body which the Redeemer was to assume had to be provided
in some very special way if He was to fulfil the conditions of
his office. He must be born humanly, and yet He could not be
born as we are born because He must then be as we are � defiled
with the entail of sin. But we know that He was not defiled as
we are. We know from Scripture that the Lord Jesus Christ was
tempted as we are (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 22:28), but He was always
tempted apart from sin (Hebrews 4:15). For in Him was
no inherited defect such as we are born with (contrast Psalm
51:5 and Romans 7:8 with l John 3:5). When we are tempted, we
are tempted from within, (James 1:13-16), but when Satan came
to tempt Jesus Christ he had to work entirely from outside, for
he found nothing in the Lord that could possibly serve
as a point of leverage (John 14:30). The phrase "apart from
sin" has in most translations, early and late, been rendered
"without sin" or "without committing sin."
This is undoubtedly a truth, but I believe that the original
supports an even more profound truth. It is the root of sin,
the inherited defect that gives Satan a head start with us. Jesus
was born without this defect in his body, and therefore although
tempted with the kind of temptations that may come to us, it
was always from without, never from within. The basic inward
root of sin was not there. When we are told (in Hebrews 4:15)
that He was tempted in all points like as we are, the
Greek is careful to use the word which (as we have already noted,
reference #223) means only in a similar way, not in the identical
way that we are tempted. His temptations were real enough but
not stemming from the same root cause as lies within us.
Now in Hebrews 4:15 the Greek word for "without"
(choris); and its basic meaning, according to Thayer, is "apart
from."† This passage therefore tells
* Perhaps he had in mind the Roman Catholic doctrine
of the immaculate conception. On this issue, see further reference
#228 (in notes at the end of chapter 22).
Many other theologians of the past have shared the view that Christ's
body had to be supernaturally protected somehow during gestation besides
being virginly conceived.
223. Referred to on page 4 (but see Notes at the end of this
chapter (page 18).
† The Definition of Chalcedon (451 A.D.) clearly
recognized this meaning. "Of one substance with the Father
as regards his godhead, and at the same time of one substance
with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart
when Jesus was tempted,
his temptation was not associated with inborn or original sin
but apart from it, i.e., independently of it. It was, to use
one of Thayer's alternative meanings, temptation "unconnected
with" any internal defect in the one tempted. Unfortunately,
Thayer then proceeds to suggest, with reference to Hebrews 4:15,
that this means He was tempted "without yielding to
sin." But surely the meaning is not this? The meaning is
that his temptations arose entirely from a source external to
It is a pleasure to find that Rotherham
in his Emphasized Bible and Robert Young in his Literal
Translation have both adopted the rendering "apart from
sin": not merely indicating it in the margin as a possible
alternative (as some other modern Bibles have done) but incorporating
it into their text.
Had the intent of the writer of the Epistle
to the Hebrews been merely to express the idea of never actually committing
sin (i.e., of being sinless in act), he would surely have not used the
Greek preposition ,
but the normal word for this kind of sinlessness which is .
This word is found in John 8:7, "Jesus said, He that is without
sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her." The meaning
here is quite clear; "he that has committed no sin." Thus Jesus
was not tempted as we are tempted due to the entail of inward defect we
acquire by natural generation. He escaped this entail by the very fact
of virgin conception, a divine solution the purpose of which was not altogether
clear to those who have struggled with this problem in the past. *
Thus Job foresaw
the difficulty of redeeming man. He knew that a man must be redeemed
by a man, and that animal sacrifices were only symbolic.
But how is one to find a man, born of a woman, who is not under
the same death penalty by the very fact of his human birth? Any
man born of a woman will be brought into judgment on his own
account: for, as Job put it, "Who can bring a clean thing
out of an unclean? Not one" (Job 14:4).†
Later on, Bildad faced the same
* For example, Calvin did not see that
the virgin conception made possible the provision of a perfect
body. He therefore proposed that the perfect body that the Lord
must have was not made perfect merely by being "born
of the seed of a woman unconnected with any man but because He
was sanctified by the Spirit so that his generation was pure
and holy, such as it would have been before the fall of Adam"
[Institutes, II. xiii. 41]. Calvin is really reiterating
the argument put forward by Athanasius in his De Incarnatione
Verbi Dei, § 20. The child conceived in Mary's womb
would still have been mortal like us, had it not been rendered
immortal by the presence of the Logos within, a circumstance
which "placed it beyond corruption."
the Hebrew original, "not one" is literally "not
a man" (lo adam). This is a far more significant
statement in the light of the virgin conception � which is
God's answer to Job's question.
issue and stated the
problem even more effectively in the form of a two-sided question:
"How then can man be justified with God? Or how can he be
clean that is born of a woman?" (Job 25:4). To be a substitute,
the Redeemer must be born of a woman, but somehow He must escape
our inherited corruption and be "clean."
The idea of a virgin conception
was not revealed till much later in history. We meet it first
in Isaiah 7:14, where it is important to note that Isaiah is
speaking of a virgin conception (Hebrew: harah) and
not merely of a virgin birth (Hebrew: yaladh). I
am well aware that the Hebrew word used in Isaiah 7:14 can signify
either a virgin or merely an unmarried woman of marriageable
age. The Septuagint took the word to mean simply a virgin and
so translated it, using the Greek word parthenos. For
myself, the New Testament use of the same word (parthenos)
when quoting Isaiah in Matthew 1:23, establishes what was
the intent of the Holy Spirit since the same Spirit inspired
both Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23.
Bildad's insight is perceptive.
To have asked exactly the right question in precisely the right
form is a clear indication of his understanding of the problem.
Today we can see how Mary might conceive (by some freak accident)
and bear a female child. But how she could bear a male child
* still remains a total mystery which only Revelation can illuminate
for us. It is significant, too, in the light of Job's question
(in 14:4) as to how a "clean thing" could be born of
a woman, that the angel said to Mary (Luke 1:35) "that holy
thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son
of God." This statement is so explicit that it cannot but
be in answer to both Job's and Bildad's question.
Only by revelation
do we know that the Holy Spirit supplied that which a human father
could not be allowed to supply in this single instance.
It may seem that we're
making too much of too little. We are complicating the Gospel
unjustifiably and destroying in the process the simplicity of
it which makes it so communicable to "all sorts and conditions
of men." Are we not then doing the truth a disservice? In
answer to this, I think an observation made by Warfield will
be more effective than anything I might say. Warfield wrote:
"We are discussing not the terms of salvation, but
the essential content of the Christian system; not what we must
do to be saved, but what it behooved Jesus
* Only via the male seed can a male child be conceived
under normal conditions, for only the male seed carries the Y chromosome
required to bring this about. All virgin births (except among birds) result
in female offspring. See further on this, reference #198, final paragraph
in chapter 16.
Christ to be and
to do that He might save us."
[emphasis mine]. * That is to say, we are not talking about what
a man must believe but what had to be done to make his salvation
possible. On the other hand, Warfield rightly emphasizes that
it is no virtue to be deliberately ignorant of these things if
one has the opportunity of knowing them, on the ground that such
knowledge is not essential to salvation. Thus he went on to say:
The act of faith by which (Jesus Christ) is savingly apprehended
involves these presuppositions, were its implicates to be soundly
developed. But our logical capacity can scarcely be made the
condition of our salvation. It will hardly do to represent ignorance
or error as advantageous to salvation. It certainly is worthwhile
to put our trust in Jesus as intelligently as it may be given
us to do.
To which I can
only add a fervent Amen! I am always amazed at the insights into
truth of which the human mind is capable when relying upon the
Word of God and enlightened by the Holy Spirit. In the Prayer
Book of Edward VI, issued in 1548, there was read during the
evening service a doctrinal statement of which I have extracted
the following words, retaining their old spelling for interest's
Perfecte God, and perfecte man:
of a resonable [i.e., rational] soule, and
humayne fleshe subsisting.
Equall to the father as touchyng
his Godhead: and inferior to the father
as touchyng his manhoode.
Who although he be God and man:
yet he is not two, but one Christe.
One, not by conuersion of the Godhead
into fleshe: but by takyng of the
manhoode unto God.
One altogether, not by confusion
of substaunce, but by unitie of person.
Let me give
one further example of the elegant working of man's mind when
called upon to grapple with the kind of unfathomable mystery
here involved in the manifestation of God in human flesh, in
what has aptly been called the "objectification of God."
This is to be found in the Tome of Leo. Leo was Bishop
of Rome from 440�461 A.D. and in his 28th epistle to Flavian,
dated June 13, 449, he wrote: *
* Warfield, Benjamin B., Biblical and Theological
Studies, edited by Samuel Craig, Philadelphia, Presbyterian
and Reformed Publishing Co., 1968, p 167, 168.
† The First and Second Prayer Books of Edward VI, Everyman's Library, London, Dent, 1957, p.31.
‡ Bettenson, Henry, Documents of the Christian Church,
Oxford University Press 1950, p.72.
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; he is incomprehensible and he willed to be comprehended;
continuing to be before time he began to exist in time. By a
new mode of birth, in as much as virginity inviolate which knew
not the desire of the flesh supplied the material of the flesh.
From his mother the Lord took nature, not sin. Jesus Christ was
born from a virgin's womb by a miraculous birth. And yet his
nature is not on that account unlike ours, for he that is true
God is also true man.
It seems presumption
to seek to amend a statement which has so many wonderful turns
of thought in it, but I think it is true to say that we need
not to speak of the birth itself as a miracle, only the conception.
To this extent, our understanding has perhaps been enlarged a
little since Leo's time. We now know more about the Creator's
reasons for designing the mode of human reproduction in its initial
stages in order to make his own incarnation possible.
It is clear that the Lord Jesus
Christ could not become Man without embodiment. And because He
was God, He could not be embodied appropriately except in a housing
that was altogether without corruption or defect. Such a body,
to be human, must be woman-born, but to be without corruption
cannot be man-begotten. All these conditions were perfectly fulfilled
at the time of his incarnation, and yet the order of nature was
not violated � only drafted to serve an even higher purpose
than before. Such is the wisdom of God, and such was his forethought
in creating Adam and forming Eve as He did.
On the following
pages we have summarized in word and diagram the substance of
what has preceded in terms of the unfolding of the plan for the
redemption of man by the Incarnation of the Son of God, though
it seems almost presumption to attempt representation of any
kind of such a profound mystery. Nevertheless the following may
help to show the continuity of events from the First to the Last
Turning, then, to Figure 17 , we
start at the top, level (1), with the creation of Adam represented
as containing within himself both seeds, male and female, symbolized
by open circles marked M and F.
We move down to level (2) and observe
that Adam has now been separated into two halves of himself,
each of which contains one seed.
We drop down from these two representative
figures to the next stage (3) which signifies their fallen state.
Both figures are therefore shaded. But they are shaded differently
and the difference is important. In Adam's case the shading includes
the circle which is the seed of the man. In the woman's case
the circle is not shaded,
signifying that it was
still untouched by the poison and has therefore all the potential
of the female seed in Adam as first created.
At level (4) sons and daughters
are born from the union of Adam and Eve. It will be noticed that
they are all shaded but that the shading in the male seed is
total, whereas the female seed is still not shaded. For the seed
of the woman is preserved untouched.
From level (5) we have simply marked
successive generations in the female line in which the seed of
the woman continues untouched by the stream of the poison which
nevertheless destroys the woman's body. Throughout this line
of successive generations the germ plasm retains the perfection
that marked the female seed in Adam. The continuity of the germ
plasm is indicated.
At level (6) we arrive at Mary's
generation. The time has come for the appearing of the Lord:
and from heaven the Holy Spirit overshadows Mary, perhaps to
provide the male component for her seed, a component therefore
untouched by the poisoned stream that has been contributed in
each generation by the male seed. And out of this fusion, a body
of a second Adam is in due time brought to birth. This is represented
at level (7).
It is at this time that a human
spirit is added to the body to complete it, while at the same
moment the Logos declared, "Lo, I come," and took up
residence in it, in order to assume a perfect human nature. Thus
He became what He was not before; while never ceasing to be what
He had always been. God had now become objectified in the only
kind of body that was fitting, a body with the same potential
of physical immortality originally enjoyed by the First Adam.
Accordingly He is called a Last Adam. At levels (7) and (8) the
figure is thus no longer shaded.
Several significant passages of
Scripture can be set forth sequentially in a way that may be
helpful to show the parallelisms and yet the differences between
our birth as mortal men and the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ
as perfect man with the potential of endless life (Hebrews
In natural generation:
The father begets (Isaiah 45:10; Jeremiah 16:3).
The woman brings forth (Isaiah 45:10).
God gives the spirit (Ecclesastes 12:7).
And so emerges the person or soul (Genesis 2:7).
In the generation of the Lord Jesus Christ:
The Father, through the Holy Spirit, begets (Luke 1:30-35; John
A virgin conceives (Isaiah 7:14) and a child is born (Isaiah
The Logos creates a human spirit to complete a man-child nature;
and then, sent by the Father (John 17:18; Romans
8:3) the Son is given (Isaiah 9:6) to assume that nature and
to become the seat of its self-consciousness.
so the Word became flesh (John 1:14; 1 Timothy 3:16), one Person
in two natures, human and divine.
. The seed of the woman has fulfilled its highest appointed
role. It is in this sense that the embodiment of Adam in the
first place was nothing less than a first step in "the preparation"
of a body for the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Lord.
We turn now
to a question that must often have been asked in private but
never seems to have been discussed in public � except by
Roman Catholic theologians but from a perspective unacceptable
to evangelicals as a whole. The question in its simplest form
is, Why did God specifically choose Mary to be the woman whose
seed should become a foundation of the Lord's humanity?
222. (See page 4) This is a fact of profound theological
and biological importance. I say biological because
there is a strong movement, even among evangelicals, to abandon
the doctrine of the creation of Adam's body. The theory is that
so long as he had a specially created spirit (or soul), he had
all he needed to qualify as a human being. His body could have
been evolved and it would make no difference. This volume demonstrates
that to surrender to the demands of evolutionary philosophy would
be fatal to evangelical theology.
Many Christians have unthinkingly
accepted this "out" � including the Roman Catholic
Church which now officially condones it so long as Adam's soul
is still held to have been a direct creation. The departure began
among evangelicals a long time ago and is to be observed in embryo
form in the works of A. A. Hodge [Evangelical Theology,
1890, Banner of Truth reprint, 1976, p.148, 154, 155], A. H.
Strong [Systematic Theology, 1906, Philadelphia, Judson
Press, reprint 1974, p.76], and B. B. Warfield [Biblical and
Theological Studies, 1911, Philadelphia, Presbyterian &
Reformed Publishing Co., 1968, p.238ff.]. Warfield effectively
destroys the chronological framework of Scripture in order to
accommodate, surreptitiously, an evolutionary interpretation
of the origin of man's body. He thus leaves us with a shadowy
figure in some exceedingly remote period of time whom we are
called upon to visualize nevertheless (in his unfallen state
at least) as the prototype of the Second Adam. The foundations
of biblical history are almost hopelessly confused and the rationale
of the plan of redemption is accordingly undermined.
The Papal encyclical (Sui Generis),
already referred to (chapter 9,
p.2, fn.), supplies all the latitude the orthodox Roman Catholic scholar
could ask for in the face of the implacable offensive of evolutionary
philosophy. The encyclical does emphasize that evolution
is still only a theory � but most readers will not recognize the significance
of this cautionary addendum.
223. (See page 4) In some circles there is considerable
debate as to whether the Lord's body was identical with ours
or only similar. It is argued that if his body was only similar,
then He was not a true representative of man. Against this argument
it may be said by contrast that we ourselves in our present fallen
state are not truly man, and that true Man is to be found only
in Adam before he fell. Since the Fall did irreparable and fatal
damage to his body, a damage shared by all his natural born descendants,
then any human being appearing with such a body as we now have
is not a true representative of manhood as originally constituted
Thus it is appropriate that Romans 8:3 should state very specifically
that God sent his Son only "in the likeness of sinful flesh"
but not actually in the flesh of sin which is ours since the Fall. The
Greek is unequivocal. It reads: en homoiomati sarkos hamartias ().
The crucial word here is homoiomati ()
which means very precisely "similar to" but not "identical
with." The first part of this word is homoi- ()
which is to be most carefully distinguished from homo- ().
The difference lies only in the single letter i (iota in Greek)
which though seemingly slight makes all the difference in the world. A
Greek scholar will not need elaboration of this, but for the reader not
acquainted with Greek, here are a number of examples of this prefixed
syllable in its two forms and the difference it makes to the words to
which they are prefixed.
"like" (so rendered 47 times in the King James Version)
homometrios means "of
the same mother" (i.e., true siblings).
The verb homoioo is regularly
used to introduce parables: for example, "the Kingdom of
heaven is like unto. . . " [see Kittel, Theological
Dictionary of the New Testament, vol.5, p.189].
In the article in Kittel on the
word homoioma by Johannes Schneider, emphasis is placed
upon the above distinctions, and Romans 8:3 is particularly referred
to. As Schneider says: "Paul is emphasizing that Christ
was really man. He bore a physical body, fashioned according
to the human body which is infected with sin. In outward form
He was in no way different from other men. But Paul does not
say that He came en sarki hamartias [i.e., He did not
come in sinful flesh, but only in the likeness of sinful
flesh, ACC]. With his words en homoiomati Paul is showing
that for all the similarity between Christ's physical body and
that of [other] men, there is an essential difference between
Christ and men . . . He became man without entering the
nexus [the actual stream, ACC] of human sin" [p.195].
The distinction between the two
groups of words prefixed by homo- and homoi- is
universally recognized by scholars, and by taking careful note
of these distinctive usages in the New Testament many wonderful
truths become apparent. For example, that the Lord was tempted
in all points like we are, means (according to the Greek)
"in a similar manner" but not "in an identical
manner" (Hebrews 4:15). The Lord "was made in the likeness
of men," but not identical with us as fallen creatures (Philippians
2:7). We have been "planted together in the likeness
of his death" but obviously not in precisely the same way
(Romans 6:5). Schneider quotes H. Schlier on this verse as saying
"the image (or likeness) of his death is like its
object but not equivalent" [p.192]. And he quotes S. Stricker
as saying, "It is something similar in another form."
Again, "It behooved Him to be made like unto his
brethren in all things that He might be a merciful and faithful
high priest" (Hebrews 2:17) but manifestly not to be made
exactly as his brethren are, for then He could never have become
our High Priest in the very presence of God.
Students of Church History will
recognize the importance of the distinction between the words
homo-ousias (of the same substance) and homoi-ousias
(of like substance) in the formulation of the Nicene Creed
(325�374). The Eastern Church favoured the view that the
Lord Jesus was only of like substance with the Father,
whereas the Western Church held the view that He was of the same
substance ("of one substance") with the Father.
The result was a final rupture between the Eastern and Western
branches of the Church which remains officially to this day.
This fundamental division was over an iota, the difference between
homo- and homoi-. Yet this iota was crucial
to the preservation of the Christian faith! It is interesting
that the Lord should have said "not one jot (the Greek iota)
. . . shall pass away from the law till all be fulfilled"
himself (c. 296�373), who became a great defender of the
homo-ousias principle, tells us that in the matter of
proving the faith of Christian leaders "homo-ousias
became the crucial test of orthodoxy" [The New Schaff
Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Grand Rapids,
Baker, 1969, vol.1, p.345]. And Augustus Neander, in his nine
volume General History of the Christian Religion and Church,
tells us that it was made the "watch-word" as a
bulwark in the Nicene Creed against the Arianism favoured by
the Eastern Church at that time [Edinburgh, Clark, 1885, vol.4,
224. (See page 4) Augustine listed four alternative views
regarding the origin of the soul. These four still remain valid
today, except that the strict materialist would add that "soul"
is a property of matter and appears, not as an addendum but as
matter reaches a certain level of organization. These four alternatives
(1) All souls are derived (Latin traducere, hence the
word traducianism) from the one given to the first man.
(2) Each individual soul is a direct creation (hence the term
(3) Souls already in existence are sent by divine act into
bodies, a form of divinely ordered distribution (pre-existence).
(4) Souls of the departed are reincarnated at their own instigation,
or by invitation of the living, or by some ritual manipulation,
other than by divine decree (re-incarnation).
The two that have been debated
most earnestly by the Church are Traducianism and Creationism.
Some form of pre-existence and/or reincarnation has at times
been seriously defended. The Jewish rabbis tended towards reincarnation,
and this is reflected perhaps in their supposition that Elijah
had re-appeared in John the Baptist (Matthew 16:14; cf. also
Matthew 14:2, and also cf. Nicodemus' words in John 3:4). The
Alexandrian School under the influence of Origen (185�254
A.D.) was the most forthright defender of pre-existence, but
Origen's views were officially condemned by the Catholic Church
in 543, by the Canons Against Origen [See G. C. Berkouwer, Man:
The Image of God, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1975, p.284, fn.8].
In due time the Roman Catholic
theologians settled for Creationism, and it is possible that
this fact drove Luther to favour Traducianism, although in his
later years he seems less certain in this respect. Lutheranism,
however, has not deviated from this traducianist position. Luther
was greatly influenced in his thinking by Augustine. And in this
matter Augustine never seems to have quite made up his mind.
This is reflected in his correspondence with Jerome. In his letter
[No. CLXVI written in 415 A.D. and titled "On the Origin
of the Human Soul" chapter IV, § 8] he wrote: "To
avoid unnecessary words, let me refer to the opinion which you,
I believe, entertain, viz., that God even now makes each soul
for each individual at the time of birth." And then in §
10 he confesses his problem with the opposite view, Traducianism,
saying that it seems to him strange and unfair that an innocent
babe should inherit a soul already guilty along with a body already
defective � and be condemned, unless baptized, on that account.
he comments, "I am willing that the opinion which you hold
should be mine also; but I assure you that as yet I have not
embraced it." And it is not clear from his other voluminous
works whether he ever did take a firm stand for Creationism.
Traducianism is a very ancient
view. From a book now apparently lost, which bore the title The
Two Tables of the Covenant (author unknown?), we find the
following statement quoted as from page 8, column 2: "The
soul of Adam is the root of all souls, and from him all souls
were spread out. for all were by his strength" [See F. R.
Tennant, The Sources of the Doctrines of the Fall and Original
Sin, New York ,Schocken Books, 1968, p.167].
Traducianism has always seemed
the simplest way to explain the universality of man's fallen
nature and the explanation for his inheritance of original sin.
The concept of Adam as a Federal Head of the race in whom the
whole race sinned has appealed to many as the best explanation
of Romans 5:18 and 19. Charles Hodge in his Systematic Theology,
though holding firmly to the Creationist position, nevertheless
frankly admits that this argument for Traducianism is a powerful
one [Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1973 reprint, vol.II, chap.3, §2,
Franz Delitzsch leans strongly
towards traducianism [System of Biblical Psychology, Grand
Rapids, Baker, 1966 reprint, p.137]. He makes much of the argument
that we have a clear precedent in Scripture in Hebrews 7:9, 10
where we are told that Levi paid
tithes in Abraham.
Others argue that God is not actively
"creating" today: that He ceased his creative activity
in Genesis 2:2. That Jesus in John 5:17 assures us that his Father
is still actively at work is not taken to be any contradiction
since the reference is assumed to be to his active providence,
not creativity. Nevertheless, in the matter of the soul or spirit,
we cannot overlook the implication of 2 Corinthians 5:17 where
creation of a new spirit is clearly indicated � implying
that the old spirit was also created.
W. G. T. Shedd held absolutely
to a traducianist position. He wrote: "The creation of the
soul subsequently to the conception of the body, and its infusion
into it, is contrary to all the analogies of nature" [Dogmatic
Theology, Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1969 reprint, vol.II,
p.76]. By contrast, Calvin was an equally forthright creationist.
A footnote in the McNeill edition of his Institutes sums
up his position by saying, "Calvin completely rejects the
[traducianist] teaching" [Philadelphia, Westminster Press,
1975, Book I, i. 7 fn. 20]. Beza and Turrettin both followed
Calvin. In his Institutio [IX. xii. 6], Turrettin wrote:
"Some are of the opinion that the difficulties pertaining
to the propagation of original sin are best resolved by the doctrine
of the propagation of the soul (animae traducem); a view
held by not a few of the Fathers and towards which Augustine
seems frequently to incline. And there is no doubt that by this
theory all the difficulties seem to be removed; but since it
does not accord with Scripture nor with sound reason, and is
exposed to great difficulties, we do not think that recourse
should be had to it."
Augustine could not see how a newly
created and perfect spirit could be infused into a corrupted
body by which it was itself to be corrupted. And yet he could
at the same time give examples of a similar nature, where good
seed is sown in bad ground. And he often returned to the question
of the justice of condemning innocent children, who had not had
the "benefit" of Christian baptism, for a guilt in
which they had really never taken any active part personally.
Berkhof asks the pertinent question as to why, if souls are derived
immediately from Adam and not immediately by creation, are they
held responsible only for Adam's sin in the Garden and not for
all the other and later sins of his life? [Systematic Theology,
Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1969, p.198]. And, one may ask further,
why are we not each of us responsible for all the sins of Adam's
descendants in the direct line of our own descent? This would
have the curious consequence of making each individual soul cumulatively
more sinful than all its predecessors as it added its own guilt
It is also to be noted that when
Eve was brought to Adam he did not exclaim, "This is now
flesh of my flesh and spirit of my spirit" but "bone
of my bones and flesh of my flesh" (Genesis 2:23) as though
to emphasize that her body was indeed derived from his but not
the spiritual component of her being. Perhaps one of the commonest
arguments against traducianism is the Lord's statement to Nicodemus
in John 3:6, a statement which seems almost to refer back to
Genesis 2:23, "that which is born of the flesh is flesh;
and that which is born of the spirit is spirit."
It is sometimes difficult to know
what the Reformed position actually is. Certainly Abraham Kuyper
is not a traducianist; yet he held that each man receives his
human nature "not directly from God but from God through
Adam." Exactly how this is to be understood is not clear,
for he statedly chose creationism nevertheless. He held that
God creates the soul, in the embryo � the embryo having a
predisposition towards a soul predestined for it. The soul is
wholly distinct, and human personality originates in the unity
of the body and the soul [See on this, C. C. Berkouwer, Man:
The Image of God, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1975, p.289]. Berkouwer
states Kuyper's position as being that God "directly and
instantly creates" the soul but not in an arbitrary form
but specifically for the body it is to dwell.
The issue is clearly one that cannot
be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties. Admittedly both
sides can produce "proof texts." For myself, it seems
that the weight of the evidence is strongly in favour of creationism
� particularly Genesis 2:23 by implication and in the light
of John 3:6; and such passages as Ecclesiastes 12:1, 7. Genesis
2:2 is counterbalanced by John 5:17 and 2 Corinthians 5:17. The
Fall intervened. The only difficult passage, to my mind, is Romans
5:18 and 19. Yet logically, speaking as one with scientific training
in a laboratory, I do not think a sound biblical psychology can
be built on a traducianist basis, though I acknowledge the work
of Franz Delitzsch as a magnificent effort.
225. (See page 7) There is a possibility, though I think it
somewhat remote, that the words in Hebrews 2:9, "by the
grace of God" may be a transcription error for an original
which would then read "apart from God." There are a
number of New Testament manuscripts and ancient authorities for
this alternative. The meaning would then perhaps be that "He,
the Lord Jesus Christ, tasted death but not as God." This
is contrary to Scripture (as the following passages show by implication:
Acts 20:28; l John 3:16; 1 Timothy 3:16; Luke 17:15, 16; Revelation
1:6, "unto God, and his Father").
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
Previous Chapter Next
The problem is to know how to reconcile
the idea that God could not die while yet keeping in view the
fact that only One who was God could make an atonement sufficient
for the sins of the whole world, as l John 2:2 seems to require.