Thursday, May 25, 2017

The man Jesus Christ

Unitarians make much of the fact that Jesus is sometimes called a "man" in Scripture. Scripture uses both generic masculine and gender specific descriptors for Jesus. For instance:

Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man (aner/andros) attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know (Acts 2:22). 

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man (anthropos) Christ Jesus (1 Tim 2:5).

i) Unitarians act as though this proves that Jesus is merely human. Needless to say, the humanity of Christ is entirely consistent with the Incarnation. Indeed, an essential component of the Incarnation. Not only was he human, but male. That in no way contradicts the deity of Christ. 

ii) However, I'd like to make an additional observation. The NT sometimes uses the same (or equivalent) terminology for nonhuman or superhuman figures. In particular, it uses that terminology for angels. For instance: 

4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men (aner/andros) stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee (Lk 24:4-6).

9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men (aner/andros) stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:9-11).

4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man (neonias) sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him (Mk 16:4-6).

That's because angels sometimes assume a humanoid appearance. The same linguistic phenomenon occurs in Septuagintal usage. For instance: 

Now God appeared to him near the oak of Mambre,while he was sitting at the door of his tent at midday. And looking up with his eyes he saw, and see, three men (aner/andros) stood over him, And when he saw them, he ran forward from his tent door to meet them and did obeisance upon the ground (Gen 18:1-2, LXX, NETS).

And it happened, when Iesous was at Iericho, that he looked up with his eyes and saw a person (anthropos) standing before him, and his sword was drawn in his hand. And Iesous approached and said to him, "Are you one of us or on the side of our adversaries? Then he said to him, "As commander-in-chief of the force of the Lord I have now come." And Iesous fell facedown onto the earth,and he said to him, "Master, what do you order your domestic?" And the commander-in-chief of the Lord said to Iesous, "Loosen the sandal from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy" (Josh 5:13-15, LXX, NETS).

In these cases, the terminology is applied to angels as well as to the theophanic "angel" (Yahweh).

As such, use of Greek words like aner/andros, anthropos, and neonias doesn't indicate the nature of the referent. It can be uses for numinous beings, including God–so long as they have a humanoid appearance. 


  1. I suspect that sometimes in some NT passages the humanity of Christ is emphasized precisely because the author was trying to balance an overemphasis and understanding of Christ's divinity. For example, 1 John's repeated emphasis of Christ having "come in the flesh". He was counteracting proto-gnosticism and proto-docetism which affirmed Christ's deity in some (and various) sense(s).

    Also, possibly in 1 Tim. 2:5 which Steve quoted above. IF the NT church already had an understanding that the Messiah would be (and is divine) [cf. Dan. 7:13ff; Rom. 9:5; Matt. 1:23; etc. see my Blog], then the phrase "*CHRIST* Jesus in 1 Tim. 2:5 would include the idea of His divinity which is balanced by the phrase "the man....". If Unitarianism were true, then it wouldn't really add much for Paul to remind his readers that Jesus was human. However, given something like Trinitarianism, then it makes sense for Paul to do so. To remind his readers that the divine messiah is the perfect mediator because he's also human like you.

    When the Gospel of John has has Pilate saying "Behold the Man!" [or "Here is the man!"- NIV](John 19:5), I suspect that the author of John had a secondary meaning that we're supposed to catch. Namely, that as human as Jesus seems to be, he's actually much more than merely human, but divine. We'd expect that from the Gospel of John which repeatedly teaches Christ's full deity.

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  3. I was listening to THIS DEBATE (already cued at 1:18:05) with Tony Costa and he made an interesting point. Mark 1:1ff is likely a cluster of 3 quotations/allusion, not 2. That's because Mark 1:2 in the Greek most closely resembles Exodus 23:20 (in the Septuagint) which refers to an angel/Angel whom God promised He would send. If 1. Mark really is alluding to this passage in Exodus, and 2. if that angel is The Angel of YHVH, then Mark is likely connecting Jesus with the Angel of YHVH. If so, then that kills at least two birds with one stone. It undermines versions of Unitarianism that 1. deny Christ's Preexistence and 2. versions of Unitarianism which affirm Jesus is only/merely a human savior.