Is it Scriptural to speak of the Lord’s humanity?


Scripture tells us that “no one knows the Son but the Father” (Matt. 11: 27), and unless we think we know better than God, it is therefore reverential and wise to confine our terminology to words “taught by the Spirit” (1 Cor. 2: 13) when speaking about the Lord.

   The Lord Jesus was a real man, for He is spoken of as a man (see 1 Tim. 2: 5) and refers to Himself as a man (see John 8: 40). The word used in both Scriptures is anqrwpoV, meaning man as a particular sort of being, rather than aner, man in distinction to woman. The equivalent Greek word for humanity is anqrwpinoV and refers to that which is common to man. It is never used in relation to Christ, for while the Lord Jesus was a real man, He was no ordinary man.

   Scripture speaks of a human way of speaking: “I speak humanly (anqrwpinoV) on account of the weakness of your flesh” (Rom. 6: 19, my emphasis). What this means is that the apostle used common phraseology, such that a ‘man in the street’ could understand his reasoning. Now, as is well–known, the Lord Jesus made much use of every–day language in His parables, but Scripture is also very careful to present His words as absolutely unique, and out of the ordinary: “Never man spoke thus, as this man [speaks]” and “as the Father has taught me I speak these things” (John 7: 46; 8: 28; see John 3: 34; 6: 63; 12: 49, 50; 14: 10). To actually say He spoke humanly (and Scripture never does) would detract from the divine origin of His words.

   The Bible also speaks of human wisdom: “that your faith might not stand in men’s (anqrwpinoV) wisdom, but in God’s power” (1 Cor. 2: 5, my emphasis; see also v13). When we come to Christ, it was asked “Whence has this [man] this wisdom”? (Matt. 13: 54), and the answer is that His Father opened His ear morning by morning “to hear as the instructed” (Is. 50: 4). To call this human wisdom would be grotesque, for it came “from above” (James 3: 15, 17). It was “God’s wisdom” (1 Cor. 1: 24, my emphasis).

   The apostle Paul refers to a human day: “for me it is the very smallest matter that I be examined of you or of man’s (anqrwpinoV) day” (1 Cor. 4: 3, my emphasis). The context of the apostle’s words is another day altogether, which he refers to as “the day” (1 Cor. 3: 13) in which the Lord will “bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and shall make manifest the counsels of hearts” (1 Cor. 4: 5). That day, is “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1: 8). Man’s day is the here and now, a day of flawed assessment—hence “do not judge anything before [the] time, until the Lord shall come” (1 Cor. 4: 5).

   The Bible mentions human nature: “No temptation has taken you but such as is according to man’s (anqrwpinoV) nature; and God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above what ye are able [to bear]” (1 Cor. 10: 13, my emphasis). In this context, human nature means what is common to man and indicates that the temptations we face are not of a superhuman sort. Some of the temptations are listed in the chapter including “lusters after evil things” (v6), and murmuring (see v10). Such things naturally flow from our fallen nature, but could not be said to be common to the Lord Jesus. There was nothing in Him that could respond to such temptations (see John 14: 30).

   The epistle of James refers to the human species: “For every species both of beasts and of birds, both of creeping things and of sea animals, is tamed and has been tamed by the human (anqrwpinoV) species (Jas. 3: 7, my emphasis). Here the expression human species refers to mankind—what sort (fusiV) of creature man is (compared to other creatures). Now while Christ is clearly man, to insist that He belongs to the human species takes us beyond the boundaries of Scripture. What the Bible says is that He took “his place in [the] likeness of men” and was “found in figure as a man” (Phil. 2: 7, 8, my emphasis).

   Finally, we read of human institutions: “Be in subjection [therefore] to every human (anqrwpinoV) institution for the Lord’s sake” (1 Pet. 2: 13, my emphasis). The reference is clearly to the arrangements of man’s world that enable it to function in an orderly way. Now Christ has nothing to do with these institutions except, through divine mercy, facilitating them in order that “we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all piety and gravity” (1 Tim. 2: 2)? The great end in view is a divine institution, when “the God of the heavens” shall “set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed” (Dan. 2: 44).

   What is clear from all this is that Scripture is extremely careful in the language it uses in connection with the Lord Jesus Christ. “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1: 14), but there ever remained a difference between that man and mankind. Our terminology should reflect that difference.

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