Who Is Jesus? (Part 5) – Hypostatic Union

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This is the 5th part of our series, Who Is Jesus? If you missed Parts 1-4, please click here.

Jesus often made enigmatic statements. One such is found in the Book of John: “I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, before Abraham was born, I AM.” (John 8:58). Let the records show that the people took up stones to kill him immediately. The reason was simple: he had committed blasphemy. (Not to talk of the sin of absurdity). He had used a technical phrase that transported them back to the commissioning of Moses as Deliverer. Moses had then asked for God’s identity – what was he to tell the Jews when they asked for the name of his Principal. God had replied, “You shall say this to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you!” (Exodus 3:14).

The Jews wanted to kill Jesus because he had said in essence, “I AM God.” That he was THAT God who spoke to Moses back then in the backside of the desert. “I AM” is expressive of the enigmatic, transcendent and eternal nature of God – the One who is, Who was, Who is to come. But then Jesus followed up with a reality-defying act. He “hid” from his would-be assassins. Right in front of them. “But Jesus was hidden from them and left the temple.” (John 8:59). The Amplified Bible says he concealed himself. It was like he deflected light, causing a refraction and thereby made himself “disappear”. He walked right out through their midst in acute demonstration of the import of what he had just uttered. He switched from the materiality of humanity to the invisibility of divinity.

And so we know from the words of Jesus that he was the God replete over the pages of the Old Testament – the one who parted the Red Sea with an east wind; who vanquished the army of Egypt; the Rock that followed the Israelites in the wilderness and from Whom they drank (1 Corinthians 10:4); the One who led the Israelites by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. (Exodus 13:21). “And the LORD spoke unto Moses…” “And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud…” (Exodus 14:1, 13:21). No wonder Prophet Micah wrote: “Whose goings forth have been from of old, from ancient days (eternity).” (Micah 5:2). And the Psalmist corroborated: “Before the mountains were brought forth or ever You had formed and given birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting You are God.” (Psalm 90:2).

Jesus is the “LORD our God” in Deuteronomy 6:4, “the LORD, the God” in Jeremiah 32:27, “the LORD” we give thanks to in Psalm 118:1, “O LORD God of hosts” in Psalm 89:8, the “God is the LORD” in Psalm 33:12, the “LORD” possessor of the earth in Psalm 24:1, “the LORD” who appeared to Abraham in Genesis 17:1, “the LORD” who is slow to anger and great in power” in Nahum 1:3. Those who imagine that it was the disciples of Jesus who deified him and so rely on the Torah and Psalms have no idea! There’s of course the obvious contradiction of relying on the records of the same disciples for historicity of Jesus… But the divinity of Jesus is even more rooted in the Torah and the Psalms than in the New Testament! The divinity of Jesus is so well established in the Old Testament the New Testament pales in comparison.

Concerning the birth of Jesus, Prophet Isaiah had prophesied: “For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, MIGHTY GOD, Everlasting Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). For obvious reasons the divinity of Jesus presents an intellectual and spiritual challenge for many. How do you reconcile human nature with divinity? How can you explain it? How can it make sense? The intellectual and spiritual resolution of the dualism of Jesus is a technical device known as the “hypostatic union.” Hypostasis in philosophy means substance, essence, or underlying reality. The term was used by Greek philosophers to denote reality, as distinct from appearances. It meant actual concrete existence, in contrast with abstracts, such as Plato’s ideals. Plato’s theory of ideas asserts that abstract forms (ideas) possess the highest and most fundamental form of reality.

We come across hypostasis in the Bible with regard to Jesus in Hebrews 1:3 – “Who being the radiance of His glory and the exact expression of the substance (hypostaseos) of Him…” (Hebrews 1:3). In other words, Jesus is the very substance, “the very perfect imprint and very image of God’s nature.” (Hebrews 1:3 AMP). It’s why Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9). He also said, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30). At which the Jews promptly resumed their favourite Olympic sport and sought to stone him to death.

In the hypostatic union, we see the humanity of Jesus coexistent with his divinity. And we see manifestations of this all over scriptures: we see the man Jesus and we see divinity in one entity. In John 4:6, Jesus the man, tired from all his journey sat by a well and asked for water to drink from a Samaritan woman. But in the same narrative Jesus the God told the Samaritan woman, “If you only you knew the gift God has for you and who you’re speaking to, you would ask of me, and I would give you living water.” (John 4:10). Two natures, one entity. That’s what Paul was talking about in the Book of Colossians: “For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.” (Colossians 2:9). Statements like, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35), “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12)… These are pointers to divinity.

In Christology, there is an interesting terminology– “Communicatio idiomatum.” Means communication of properties in Latin. It refers to the laying of claim to the divine attributes, history and assets of pre-incarnate Christ by Jesus the man. So Jesus the man can lay claim to the glory he had with the Father before the world began. It explains this statement: “Glorify thou me together with thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” (John 17:5 KJV). Jesus the man could only lay claim to the pre-existent properties of Christ the divinity because the attributes of the divine nature are ascribed to the single person, Jesus.

Another illustration of communicatio idiomatum is found in these words: “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” (John 3:13 KJV). In other words, the pre-existent Jesus is the self same Jesus who walked the shores of Galilee. They are one and the same. Hence the statement, “In the beginning (before all time) was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God himself… And the Word became flesh (human, incarnate) and lived awhile among us.” (John 1:1, 14). As one can imagine, reconciling these scriptures with what they portend will prove daunting to the natural mind.

And there were many heresies – Apollinarianism, Nestorianism, Eutychianism, Monophystism, Miaphysitism and Dyophysitism; all with varying degrees of treatment of the dual nature of Christ. To officially counter these heresies the Church in 451AD formally adopted hypostatic union at the Council of Chalcedon. At the time of this resolution in the 5th century AD, Islam had not been founded. It would not be founded until the 7th c. (622AD) in what is now Saudi Arabia – over 600 years after the death of Christ. In its resolution of the identity of God, Islam introduced a monotheistic concept that rejects the divinity of Christ. This is called “Tawhid”, meaning doctrine of “the oneness” of God. Associating others with God is known as “Shirk”.

The concept of the Tawhid is a major divergence between Christianity and Islam. Though it must also be noted that Judaism does not acknowledge Jesus as God, or as Messiah. Judaism believes in the absolute unity, singularity and indivisibility of God, like Islam. Judaism teaches that it is heretical for any man to claim to be God, part of God, or the literal son of God. But who is this Jesus? Why is he “Son of God”? What is the Trinity? Find out next week.

If you’d like to give your life to Christ, please pray this prayer: Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus Christ died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Please forgive me. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.

© Leke Alder | talk2me@lekealder.com