Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Humanity of Christ

Hebrews 5:8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

8 καίπερ ὢν υἱός, ἔμαθεν ἀφ᾽ ὧν ἔπαθεν τὴν ὑπακοήν, 9  καὶ τελειωθεὶς ἐγένετο πᾶσιν τοῖς ὑπακούουσιν αὐτῷ αἴτιος σωτηρίας αἰωνίου, 10  προσαγορευθεὶς ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ ἀρχιερεὺς κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Μελχισέδεκ.

This is an interesting passage to wrap the old noodle around, isn't it?  Here is looks like Jesus had a time when He was not obedient, but had to learn it throughout the course of His life.  Did He start out imperfect and then become perfect over time?

The grammar doesn't necessarily help us here.  The word τελειωθεὶς  is an aorist passive particple.  Being in the aorist means that it is simply undefined.  It could mean that His life was a time of sanctification in which He was slowly perfected until the cross.  All we know from this snapshot is that He was made perfect.  What's interesting is that ἐγένετο is also in the aorist.  It means that from the perspective of the author of Hebews there was a time when Jesus was made perfect.

But when?  This doesn't tell us for sure either way, but I would maintain that Jesus became perfect when He was born.  In other words, when the man Jesus was conceived He was conceived as a perfect man.  This makes this passage consistent with the rest of Christology that we get from clearer passages of Scripture.  This shows us that we cannot rely too heavily on rules of Greek grammar to tell us everything.  Sometimes it is just ambiguous.  Other times it is crystal-clear.

One thing the book of Hebrews does is that it shows me that Jesus is someone who can relate to me at some level.  He experienced humanity and knows what it was like. This is something that is a great comfort to me as I continually try to learn more obedience.

1 comment:

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

The divine and the human nature in Christ... here we go, the battle of the early Church fought to make specific and definable what in its later wisdom the Church, the Orthodox anyway, has thought better to let alone, but not before hair-splitting destroyed the organic unity of the ancient original apostolic churches of Armenia, Syria, the Hellenes and the Copts, not to mention their successors and protagonists.

Christ in His divinity is imperfectable because He is perfect; in His humanity He had to experience what all humans experience. There's no getting around it. The Sovereign Lord descends to earth, shedding His glory, to be the obedient son of two of His creatures, Mary and Joseph. Only infinite greatness can perfectly contract to infinite humility.

Whoever authored the letter to the Hebrews on the human side of it, we can't thank God enough for inspiring him. Nobody can hold a candle to the Word of God.