Human Being (Man)
In speaking about Jesus Christ assuming a human nature, Father Hardon uses the term “human being” for “man.” Some people associate the word “human being,” with “human person” and mistakenly conclude that Jesus is a human person. Jesus is not a human person; he is a DIVINE PERSON. The Second Person of the Holy Trinity, while retaining His divine nature, assumed a human nature and became man but He remained ONE Divine Person. He possesses two real and distinct natures, one human like ours and one divine (or of one substance with God the Father); yet the two natures are united in such a way that Christ is one Divine Person, and that each nature remains unchanged. Christ became truly man while remaining truly God. He is God from all eternity, and became man in time. Moreover, Christ will remain truly man for all eternity, just as He will remain truly God for all eternity; the hypostatic union will never cease.
Since Jesus assumed a human nature, He possessed the following:
- Human body.
- Human soul – with a human intellect and human will, capable of rational thought and voluntary decisions due to having a free will. Christ’s human intellect and human will are perfectly attuned and subject to His divine intellect and divine will.
- Human emotions, feelings and human affections.
- Human actions (He ate, slept, walked, talked, etc.).
- Human growth.
Christ in His human nature was like us in all things except sin. However, in saying this we must keep two things in mind. 1) The human nature of Christ, unlike ours, was united with His divine nature in one Divine Person. 2) Moreover, when we say He was like us in everything but sin, we mean much more than meets the eye. Since Christ’s human nature was united with a divine nature in the Second Person of the Trinity, His humanity was constantly under the influence of His divinity. Whatever He did as man, like speaking or walking or dying, was simultaneously the action of God.
As God, Christ possesses a divine intellect and a divine will. When we say that Christ has one divine will we affirm:
- Christ as the Second Person of the Trinity has one divine will because He is God.
- The three Persons in the Trinity have one divine nature and one divine will.
- This one divine will of Jesus Christ is both a necessary and a free will. It is one necessary will because the three Persons have only one divine nature. However, whenever the three Divine Persons do anything outside themselves, they exercise their one divine will with freedom. (This is called the unity of the divine operation ad extra (outside Himself), more commonly known as the divine economy.)
Does it matter that Christ has a human soul? It is imperative that we know why Christ had to have a human soul.
- Unless Christ had a human soul, He could not have a human free will. It was this human will united with His divinity by which Christ offered Himself on the Cross for our salvation.
- Since He had a human soul, He could die on the Cross when His soul left His human body. After all, human death means the separation of a soul from the body—no soul, no death.
- Now in Heaven and at the right hand of His heavenly Father, Christ continues to intercede for us through His humanity, which includes His human soul.
- In the Holy Eucharist, Christ remains present in our midst as true God and true man. In the Blessed Sacrament He has a living human body and blood animated by His human soul.
Does it matter that there are not two persons, one human and one divine, in Christ? Yes, if we believed Christ consisted of two persons it could not be said that God was born, or that God was crucified and died for our sins. The error of claiming there are two persons in Christ was the error of Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, who was condemned in 431 A.D. by the Council of Ephesus. According to the Nestorians, Christ had the divinity dwelling in Him. He might even be called “divine” but He was also a human person with a human individuality. A logical corollary of claiming that Christ was two persons, was to deny that Mary is the Mother of God. According to the Nestorians, she was only the Mother of Christ, the man, but not the Mother of God. What the Council of Ephesus brought out was that Christ is only one individual, who is divine. He is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity who assumed a human nature, but He was not a human person.
By the end of the first century of the Christian era, false teachers had arisen who denied the divinity of Christ. One of the main reasons why Saint John wrote his Gospel was to refute these errors and to prove Christ’s divinity is united with a truly human nature. Saint John recorded narratives in which Christ explicitly and unambiguously professed that He and the Father are one. Since Saint John wrote his Gospel especially to prove Christ’s divinity united with a truly human nature, the Evangelist gives us an insight into how truly Christ was both God and man. Thus, Saint John recalls the episode when the Jews picked up stones to kill Christ. When Christ asked them why they wanted to kill Him, they answered, “It is because you who are a mere man, claim to be equal to God.” Again when Christ wept at the grave of Lazarus, He revealed His complete and authentic humanity.
Even with Saint John’s Gospel, Arius (256-336 A.D.), a priest of Alexandria, denied that Jesus Christ is true God. According to Arius, Christ did not exist from all eternity and, since there was a time when He did not exist, Christ is just another creature and so He could not be God. Therefore, what Arius denied was the everlasting coexistence of the Second Person of the Trinity with God the Father. If Christ was created and not divine, then God did not become man and, hence, could not have redeemed the world with His perfect sacrifice on the Cross. Only God could make this perfect sacrifice to remit our sins. If Christ was not God, then all of the consequent mysteries of the Faith are dissolved. Arius was condemned in 325 A.D., by the First Council of Nicea, but Arius laid the groundwork for all future errors in Christology.
See also Catechism of the Catholic Church 461-483.
See also Modern Catholic Dictionary definitions for: Human nature; Hypostatic union; Incarnation.
(For Advanced Course lesson 6. Added in 2019.)
Other resources that are listed for Advanced Course:
From Fr. Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary: HUMAN NATURE. The nature of humankind considered abstractly and apart from its elevation by grace to a supernatural state with a heavenly destiny. It is the human as such, having a body and soul, capable of rational thought and voluntary decision. Actually human nature has never existed independent either of a supernatural destiny or of free acceptance or rejection of the supernatural invitation of God’s grace.
From Fr. Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary: HYPOSTATIC UNION. The union of the human and divine natures in the one divine person of Christ. At the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451) the Church declared that the two natures of Christ are joined “in one person and one hypostasis” (Denzinger 302), where hypostasis means one substance. It was used to answer the Nestorian error of a merely accidental union of the two natures in Christ. The phrase “hypostatic union” was adopted a century later, at the Fifth General Council at Constantinople (A.D. 533). It is an adequate expression of Catholic doctrine about Jesus Christ that in him are two perfect natures, divine and human; that the divine person takes to himself, includes in his person, a human nature; that the incarnate Son of God is an individual, complete substance; and that the union of the two natures is real (against Arius), no mere indwelling of God in a man (against Nestorius), with a rational soul (against Apollinaris), and the divinity remains unchanged (against Eutyches).
From Fr. Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary: INCARNATION. The union of the divine nature of the Son of God with human nature in the person of Jesus Christ. The Son of God assumed our flesh, body, and soul, and dwelled among us like one of us in order to redeem us. His divine nature was substantially united to our human nature. Formerly the Feast of the Annunciation was called the Feast of the Incarnation. In the Eastern Churches the mystery is commemorated by a special feast on December 26. (Etym. Latin incarnatio; from in-, in + caro, flesh: incarnare, to make flesh.) (2019)