“…to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with his own blood.”
“Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
1 Cor. 2:8
“I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore.”
Order of Contents
An Extended Introduction
Travis Fentiman, MDiv
It may be said because Christ is one Person, who both is God, and shed his human blood on the cross. Yet to properly attribute blood or the suffering of death to the divine nature is a serious error: it is to make divinity creaturely and to divinize the creature, destroying the natures of both by change and conversion. If this actually occured, Christ would no longer share the same human nature with us, or we with Him; his mediation would be undermined, as well as our redemption.
In concisely explaining these issues, this Intro will enter into metaphysics, touch upon parts of Church history, analyze the death of the God-man on the cross, and lead you into the depths of the unity of Christ’s Person in his two natures in more detail than is commonly available elsewhere, as the main trajectory of the reformed orthodox on the Person of Christ is followed through the Post-Reformation era, under the authority of the Word.
God’s Power & Contradictions
The most fundamental reason why one of Christ’s natures cannot take on properties of the other is because it implicates a straight contradiction. While God can do all things consistent with his nature, including working without, above, and against normal means (WCF 5.3), yet He cannot go against his own nature:¹ for instance, Scripture says that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18).
¹ God cannot go against his nature as it would make him mutable, yet He is immutable. For God to be something that He is not would destroy his nature as God and mean that his existence is not necessary. Yet, by definition, God’s existence is necessary, as being is more primary than non-being, and as God cannot not-be.
Contradictions go against God’s nature, not because logic is more fundamental than God, but because God’s being is the ground of all logic, from which it necessarily flows.² God is not only true, but the God of truth, and, fundamentally, Truth itself (Jn. 3:33; Isa. 65:16; Jn. 14:6; 17:17). Contradictions cannot be sustained by God’s nature, but are subversive of it, precisely because God is the ‘I am that I am’ (Ex. 3:14); He is not ‘I am which I am not’.
² See the outline to Rutherford’s Metaphysical Disquisitions on our page, Metaphysics.
A human nature taking taking on divine properties is not simply a mystery, or a paradox above reason, but is a direct contradiction. For some part of a human nature to be both circumscribed within space and limited in its knowledge and power, and be uncircumscribed within space and unlimited in its knowledge and power is a flat contradiction. It is no more intelligible or possible than for God to make one hand clapping or an uncreated rock more powerful than Himself, or for black to be white, or truth false. It would be to make human nature not to be human nature.
All attempts to relieve this incompatibility fail. To expose only one such shift: If it be said that Christ’s human nature remains at the right hand of God as local and finite, and yet in another respect it gains natural properties that are illocal and infinite:
– If those new properties are added to the human nature, then the human nature was not fully human before.
– If such divine properties (which we don’t have) are part of human nature, then we are not human.
– If Christ only came to exercise his power for such divine attributes at the Ascension, but previously possessed this power as a part of his human nature during his earthly ministry, though unexercised, then human nature is both incapable of such attributes and capable of these attributes, or we are also capable of being everywhere present, all-powerful and all-knowing as well.
It may be objected that reasoning in the way that we have been is to override Scripture with rationalism. However, Scripture assumes right reason, confirms it and tells us over and over again to discern and prove all things with it (Acts 6:2; 1 Thess. 5:21; 1 Jn. 4:1); and reason is inherent to nature: both are from God. While reason is not the ultimate principle of our faith, yet reason is a useful and necessary tool, and is consistent with the Faith.
Nor will any appeal to the Trinity be effectual: The Trinity is one in one way, and three in another way; it is not a contradiction, but a mystery above any other created reality we know of. Yet in the question at hand, we are not dealing with the existence of God beyond us, but with a part of creation: If a rock is constricted in space, and not unconstricted in space (which is precisely entailed in what a rock is), then it cannot be unconstricted in space: so it is with us and Christ’s human nature.
In the early Church, the Eutychians (from Eutyches, d. 456) made the error of attributing to Christ only one nature, partly divine and partly human (and hence neither fully either). The orthodox ecumenical Council of Chalcedon (AD 451) pronounced against them in affirming that Christ has two, full, distinct natures:
“without confusion, without change, without division, without separation… the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person…”
At the Reformation the Lutherans† made a very similar error. While they claimed to uphold both of Christ’s natures fully, and the Council of Chalcedon, denying that they were Eutychians, yet they said that certain properties of the divine nature (omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence) were communicated to the human nature. Hence, in their minds, Christ’s human body and soul after his ascension to Heaven became everywhere-present, all-knowing and all-powerful, as much as God.
† The Lutherans had much variety and development within their own general view, which may be explored in the resources below.
The driving impetus for the Lutherans was so that they could maintain their doctrine of consubstantiation with respect to the Lord’s Supper. According to consubstantiation, Christ is not only personally present in a special way by his divine Spirit, joining us, through faith, to his humanity in Heaven (as the reformed held), but that Christ’s human body and blood were in fact “in, with and under” the bread and wine.
Thus the Lutherans said that they held to a “real”, or physical, communication of properties, from the divine nature to the human nature (though not the other way around¹). They accused the reformed of maintaining that the communication of properties was not real, but only verbal (having no reality to it).
¹ Which is convenient for them, but arbitrary, as no sufficient reason for this is ever forthcoming. If it be said that the Word teaches one and not the other, and that this is possible due to the personal union in Christ: (1) It is denied that the personal union in Christ, or anything, makes contradictions possible. (2) Then it is also possible for the human properties to be physically communicated to the divine nature. Whatever objection may be given for why this cannot occur equally prevents divine properties from being communicated to the human nature.
How the Reformed Uphold
the Real Communication of Properties
On the one hand, Churches reformed according to the Word of God did teach that Scripture’s infrequent language attributing the properties of one of Christ’s natures to the other was verbal (by a synechdoche) and improper. Yet the foundation of this phenomenon, and why it represents not merely a verbal figure of speech (which might be spoken of other things in the same way) is because of the utterly unique, hypostatic union, the personal union uniting the two natures of Christ.
Thus the reformed, from the beginning, having no desire to react to extremes, but rather to describe the theology revealed in the Word as carefully as possible (with the light of the early Church to draw on), held that there was a real communication of the properties of the natures, divine and human, not directly between themselves, but with the Person of Christ, which unifies them.
Thus, Christ really is God, the Lord of Glory, and Christ really shed human blood and died in the flesh (1 Pet. 4:1), but the divinity was not crucified (it is impassible), nor the blood divine. If this is mysterious, we ought not to wonder: it is the work of God:
“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh…” 1 Tim. 3:16
Why it is Called ‘Real’ &
on Jn. 1:14
‘Real’ was often used as a technical term; it meant that something was not simply a relation or mental abstraction, but that it was a substantial entity. Hence, the real communication of divine properties and human properties to the Person of Christ meant that these things were not merely verbal, not otherwise existing in reality, but were in fact properties of Christ, as much as human properties characterize and constitute us.
The human nature of Christ was not merely a tool that the eternal Logos used, as a man uses an axe: for the axe does not become a part of the person, nor does the axe take on the properties of the man. Further, the axe exists of itself apart from that person. Such a conception hardly does justice to John 1:14, “And the Word was made [or became] flesh, and dwelt among us…”
While this verse could easily be taken in endless wrong ways (and has), yet the verse does not say that divinity became flesh, nor that flesh became divine. Rather Jn. 1:14 says that the Person of the Word became flesh. The reformed¹ understood this verse, in conjunction with the language of the divine Logos “taking” “the form of a servant” in Phil. 2:7 and “partaking” of “flesh and blood” in Heb. 2:14, in this way:
In the incarnation a particular,² substantial, impersonal,³ fully human nature, body and soul, not previously existing, was taken up and drawn permanently into union with the Logos, such that the human nature only exists by, and is personally sustained,† borne, inhabited, and used by the eternal, Second Person of the Trinity as a part, as it were, of Himself. It never exists outside of this union.
The human nature is peculiarly the Logos’s own, incommunicable to anyone or anything else. It has forever been joined immediately and directly into the unity of his Person, it bodily manifesting his Person to us. Whatsoever is done by Christ’s flesh, or done to it, his body and soul, is done by or done to the Logos Himself.
¹ Some variety of detail, language and emphasis existed (as would be expected). More qualifications and descriptors could be, and should be added to the above sketch of the hypostatic union. For that, see ‘On the Person of Christ, his Human & Divine Natures & the Hypostatic Union’.
† This is not simply a general sustentation, as the Lord has by creation with all creatures in upholding them in existence, but a sustaining of the nature in unity with his Person.
Hence the communication of the properties of both Christ’s natures to his Person is real, as they are really united to Him and cannot be divided or separated from Him.
Communicated in What Way?
However, as is clear from the first half of John 1, the relationship of the human nature to the Second Person is not completely symmetrical with the relationship of the Second Person to his divine nature. The passage shows that it was a pre-existent, eternal Person that took up a human nature created in time.
It is clear that the communicating, or sharing in, of the Person with the divine nature is as full and complete as words allow, the Logos being divinely simple. However, the reformed commonly held, in consistency with the immutability, impassibitlity and simplicity of the divine Second Person, that his being communicated with his human nature was passive and not active.
That is, the divine Person passively received the human nature into union with Himself, He remaining unchanged thereby. The created human nature and its relationship alone changed, as God is able to change all other things without Himself changing. The Person of the Logos was not actively, properly and formally, in an outgoing fashion, communicated to the human nature, as the Lutherans and many of the Romanists maintained. For detailed arguments why the reformed view is right, see the sections:
The Death of Christ
This asymmetrical relationship has consequences for the suffering and death of Christ. The Lutherans tended to say that God (or the divine nature) really suffered in the crucifixion.º
The reformed held that God is impassible, cannot suffer, and is completely, infinitely, blessed of Himself forever, as Scripture teaches. If God has only one impassibility, according to his divine nature, and not three impassibilities according to the Persons, then impassibility, and its converse, being acted upon and suffering, is formally proper to nature and not to person. Yet, all three persons are impassible as they equally share that one nature and do not differ really from it.
These things being the case, Christ’s sufferings and death were formally proper only to his human nature, and not to his Person as such, though his Person and human nature do not really differ insofar as they are not dividable substances.ª Hence, as Turretin says below, passions and suffering are denominated of the person, and yet are formal to the nature.
ª On the difference between real distinctions (which involve separability) and formal, logical and virtual distinctions (which do not), see Edward Feser, Scholastic Metaphysics (2014), pp. 80-82.
As Christ’s Person was really joined to his human body and soul, and undivided therefrom, it may be truly said that Christ’s Person really suffered according to his human nature (so Maccovius), on account of his Person being present and infinitely joined to and inhabiting his dying human body and soul, upholding it in existence as incommunicable to any other. So it is in 1 Pet. 4:1:
“Forasmuch then as Christ [not God] hath suffered for us in the flesh…”
Yet the Person of Christ considered in the abstract, or formally, in distinction from his flesh, did not suffer. In human persons’ suffering, distinguishing between the person and nature is not so productive, as the person does not exist except through their suffering nature. However, in the case of Christ, having two natures, his Person exists, and that fundamentally, as God. Hence, Peter Martyr Vermigli could say (in the link below):
“…the passion and death proceeded from the humanity and were terminated in it since they did not pass through nor penetrate the Word itself because it could neither die nor suffer.”
What Sense & Language is Proper?
The Lutheran claim that the divine nature really suffered, if we give them as much benefit of the doubt as possible, according to the techinical use of that term, it might be affirmed in a certain respect, namely in that the divine nature is inseparable from the human nature (as Chalcedon rightly affirms) through the Person of Christ. Hence when the human nature suffers, it may be said in some respect that the unitive thing suffers, that is, according to the humanity.
However, that can only be an improper use of language as the divine nature itself is not the unitive thing, nor can it formally suffer, and the two natures are different and contrary substances, which, according to further principles of metaphysics, makes them to differ really.† In this respect, that is, properly, the divine nature did not really suffer.
† Feser: “But separability is not the only mark of a real distinction. Another is contrariety of the concepts under which things fall, i.e. an incompatibility between some of the elements of these concepts. For example, being material and being immaterial obviously exclude one another, so that there must be a real distinction between a material thing [such as the human nature] and an immaterial thing [such as the divine nature]. A third mark sometimes suggested is efficient causality–the idea being that if A is the efficient cause of B [as the divine nature is the efficient cause of the human nature], then A and B must be really distinct…”, Ibid, p. 81
Likewise, saying that ‘the Son of God died’, simply and without further qualification, is also improper, except it be understood ‘according to the flesh’. Formally, only the human nature of Christ suffered. For more on this topic, see our section, ‘Did Christ’s Person Die?’.
Christ’s Eternal Person & Human Persons:
an Objection Answered
If it still be unreasonably objected that this paradigm seems to make Christ less of a man than we are, because his humanity does not exist of itself as its own person, but exists through another Person (the early Chuch term for this was that the human nature was enhypostatic), the reformed responded that:
(1) not only does Christ have every human property that we have, being as fully human as human gets, and has a particular human existence¹ as much as we do, but
(2) Christ’s existing as man was in a way more real and substantial than our own, as his humanity subsists through a much higher degree of perfection, namely, as being personally united to and directly upheld by the Divine Son.
Christ is not simply a person with a divine nature and a human nature. Nor, as the reformed held with the early Church, is He properly a human person. Christ’s individual human nature, body and soul, remains a nature (anhypostatic) even after the union¹ and is not turned into, nor exists as a person itself.‡ Rather his human nature is indivisibly and most intimately and mysteriously, personally joined to his eternal Person.
¹ That is, the human nature after the incarnation is enhypostatic in one respect, in relation to its existing and being sustained by the Person of the Logos, but with respect to itself, it is anhypostatic, without personhood.
‡ which is a form of the ancient heresy of Nestorianism, that Christ is two persons.
Thus, rather than Christ being formally a divine person and a human person (as the Lutherans and Cartesians affirmed), the reformed, in continuity with the Third Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (431), maintained that Christ is fundamentally an eternal Person who has partaken of flesh, or human nature, and hence is really man, and yet is not properlyª a human person.
ª A human person is properly defined (in the trajectory of how Boethius, d. 524, put it) as a rational, human nature susbsisting of itself. Improperly the definition may be extended to such a rational human nature subsisting through another (such as the Logos). Properly though, due to divine simplicity, Christ is an eternal Person, who, by the hypostatic union, is also a particular, individual man (Jn. 8:40; Acts 2:22).
The reformed understanding is not simply a product of inference or speculation, but has been derived from, and is subordinate to the Word of God, and it alone is warranted therefrom. While Scripture says that the Word “took upon Him the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:7) and “flesh and blood” (Heb. 2:14), and that He was made ‘flesh’ (Jn. 1:14) and that He died ‘in the flesh’ (1 Pet. 4:1), yet it nowhere indicates that He was a formal, human person.
The reformed view is a transparent reflection of John’s prologue itself:
“1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…
10. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him…
14. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father)…
18. No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him…
34. And I [John the Baptist] saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.”
Having sought to describe accurately to some limited extent the ineffable Person of Christ, let us return to the two primary Bible verses under consideration. Understanding them rightly is actually very easy.
God did purchase the Church “with his own blood” (Acts 20:28), as that blood was, and is, peculiarly his. While the Son alone took on human flesh, the incarnation terminating on Him alone, yet this occured, and continues, by the divine will, common to all three Persons, as has been standard reformed doctrine. The human nature of Christ cannot move or stir apart from the consent and effectual operation of the common divine will.¹
¹ See the Intro to ‘Christ’s Mediatorial Operations, Divine & Human, unto the Same Work’.
Further, as Chalcedon says, the divine nature is inseparable from Christ’s human nature. That is, there is a certain, real communion and fellowship of the divine nature (including the Father and the Holy Spirit), through Christ’s Person, with every aspect of Christ’s human nature, including his blood. This is necessary due to the mutual indwelling of the three Persons in one another, or perichoresis.
If it may be truly said that “God was manifest in the flesh,” (1 Tim. 3:16), then it may be truly said that God purchsed the Church with his own blood.
Turning to 1 Cor. 2:8, the verse says that worldly powers crucified, not divinity, but “the Lord of glory.” By “Lord” the verse is specifying Christ’s Person in the concrete. The same Person that was crucified in the flesh, is also the Lord, who is divinely glorious. Here we see not the two natures of Christ joined immediately together, but rather mediately through the Person of Christ.
What is sure, is that neither of these verses entails a physical communication of properties between the natures, such that one nature takes on properties of the other.
Both divine and human properties are really attributed to Christ by Scripture as a point of reality. While human and divine properties may be predicated of Christ’s Person, they cannot be predicated of each other except improperly and only verbally (such as occurs in Acts 20:28 & 1 Cor. 2:8). That they can be so verbally attributed is due precisely to the utterly unique, hypostatic union, which is the personal sustaining of the human nature by the Son of God.
Thus Christ’s eternal Person in the concrete is the God-man, both divine and human, and yet in the abstract, divinity is not humanity, and humanity is not divinity. That is, the union is in the unity of Christ’s eternal Person only, and not in the differing natures and properties directly with themselves.º As the reformed repeated from the early Church: Christ is not one person and another, but He is one thing and another thing.
º Many of the Lutherans had made the physical communication of Christ’s natures and properties to formally be the hypostatic union itself, or that which united the natures.
Be it noted though, while the reformed denied a direct, physical communication of Christ’s natures with each other, yet they also maintained (with the early Church) as necessary and orthodox, a certain, real communion and fellowship of the distinct natures with each other, through Christ’s Person.
The reformed understanding of Christ’s person, natures and properties is not derived from metaphysics, philosophy or simply logical inference, though it involves these things, but it is subordinate to the revelation of Christ in the Word of God, and is proposed as the most accurate understanding of Christ’s Person drawn therefrom.
The collection of resources below, which go into much more detail than this Introduction, especially with Scripture, is designed to allow you to seek into these depths as far as you are able to go. To yet go further, see our page, ‘Christ’s Mediatorial Operations, Divine & Human, unto the Same Work’.
Let not the discussions of the resources below be simply an exercise in refuting those who err; rather, positively seek the truth and let it grip and absorb you. Seek Christ, and you will find more of Him (Mt. 7:7), that He is the very boundless image of the Father in the flesh, our Savior and our God forever.
“Fear not; I am the First and the Last:
I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold,
I am alive for evermore…”
John of Damascus – bk. 3, ch. 4, ‘Concerning the Manner of the Mutual Communication’ in On the Orthodox Faith in NPNF2, vol. 9, pp. 48-9
Aquinas – Question 16, Of Those Things which are Applicable to Christ in his Being & Becoming (12 Articles) in Summa Theologica, 3rd Part, Treatise on the Incarnation
On the Post-Reformation
Heppe, Heinrich – sections 22-27 in ch. 17, ‘The Mediator of the Covenant of Grace, or the Person of Christ’ in Reformed Dogmatics (1950; Wipf & Stock, 2007), pp. 439-47
Heppe quotes or references: Wendelin, Mastricht, Polanus (with Leo, Hilary & Basil), Bucan, Beza, Pisctor, Riissen (Cyril following), Cocceius, Wolleb, Heidegger, Sohn, Zanchi, Keckermann, Leiden Synopsis, Pezel & Aretius.
pp. 9-13 in A Book of Christian Questions & Answers, wherein are set forth the Chief Points of the Christian Religion (London, 1574)
ch. 2, ‘Concerning the Person of Christ’ in Lutheranism vs. Calvinism: the Classic Debate at the Colloquy of Montbeliard, 1586 ed. Jeffrey Mallinson trans. Clinton J. Armstrong (Concordia, 2017), pp. 244-435
The Colloquy of Montbeliard was hosted by the Lutherans and held at their request with Beza and associates, hence they picked the topics for debate and the emphases to be insisted on. Thus this chapter is mostly about the communication of properties.
In the chapter (p. 235 ff.) the Lutheran theologians, headed by Jacob Andreae, first give 21 theses on the person of Christ, and then 8 points (characterizing the reformed) which they say contradict Scripture. Then on p. 244 Beza and his reformed companions respond to each thesis one by one. On p. 258, the reformed respond to each of the 8 points. Page 262 starts the discussion between Andreae and Beza, each going back and forth for 170 pp.
The volume itself leans Lutheran as it was originally published after colloquy by the Lutherans, they often giving the last word on the issues. Beza, however, responded to all of that commentary, with further detail into the issues, in a Latin volume below on this page.
pp. 32-40 of ‘The First Homily… 1574’ in Two Very Learned Sermons of Mr. Beza, together with a Short Sum of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper… (London, 1588)
Beza, Faius & Students – ch. 20, ‘Principles Concerning the Personal Union of the Two Natures in Christ’ in Propositions & Principles of Divinity Propounded & Disputed in the University of Geneva by Certain Students of Divinity there, under Mr. Theodore Beza & Mr. Anthony Faius… Wherein is Contained a Methodical Summary, or Epitome of the Common Places of Divinity… (Edinburgh, 1591), pp. 43-45
Almost the whole of this chapter relates to the communication of properties.
Zanchi, Girolamo – Confession of the Christian Religion… Buy (1586; Cambridge, 1599), ch. 11, ‘Of Christ the Redeemer’
Zanchi (1516-1590) was an important rerformed, Italian, clergyman and educator, who influenced the development of reformed theology after Calvin’s death.
Polanus, Amandus – ‘Now concerning the Communicating of the Idioms or Properties’ in Substance of Christian Religion Soundly set forth in Two Books, by Definitions & Partitions… (London, 1595), pp. 67-69
Wolleb, Johannes – pp. 91 (bot) – 93 (top) in ch. 16, ‘The Person of Christ the God-Man’ in Abridgment of Christian Divinity (1626) in ed. John Beardslee, Reformed Dogmatics: J. Wollebius, G. Voetius & F. Turretin (Oxford Univ. Press, 1965)
Wolleb (1589–1629) was a Swiss reformed theologian. He was a student of Amandus Polanus.
Johannes Maccovius – pp. 203-5 in ch. 11, ‘On the Person & Office of Christ’ in Scholastic Discourse: The Distinctions & Rules of Theology & Philosophy (1644)
Leigh, Edward – p. 565, top large margin note in chs. 3-4 in bk. 5 of A System or Body of Divinity… (London: William Lee, 1662)
Owen, John – section III in ch. 18, ‘The Nature of the Person of Christ…’ in Christologia in Works (NY: Robert Carter, 1850), vol. 1, pp. 233-5
Rijssen, Leonard – Controversy 4, ‘Are the properties of the divine nature such as omnipresence, omnipotence, and adoration communicated to the human nature? We deny against the Lutherans’ in A Complete Summary of Elenctic Theology & of as Much Didactic Theology as is Necessary trans. J. Wesley White MTh thesis (Bern, 1676; GPTS, 2009), ch. 11, ‘Christ’, pp. 122-23
Turretin, Francis – Question 8, ‘Were certain properties of the divine nature formally communicated to the human nature of Christ by the personal union? We deny against the Lutherans’ in Institutes (P&R), vol. 2, 13th Topic, ‘Person & State of Christ’, pp. 321-32
Westminster Confession of Faith
Ch. 8, ‘Of Christ the Mediator’
“2. The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance, and equal with the Father, did, when the fulness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature,[k] with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin;[l] being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance.[m] So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion.[n] Which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.[o]
[k] John 1:1,14. 1 John 5:20. Phil. 2:6. Gal. 4:4.
[l] Heb. 2:14,16,17. Heb. 4:15.
[m] Luke 1:27,31,35. Gal. 4:4.
[n] Luke 1:35. Col. 2:9. Rom. 9:5. 1 Pet. 3:18. 1 Tim. 3:16.
[o] Rom. 1:3,4. 1 Tim. 2:5.
3. The Lord Jesus, in his human nature thus united to the divine, was sanctified and anointed with the Holy Spirit, above measure;[p]… in whom it pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell:[r]…
7. Christ, in the work of mediation, acteth according to both natures; by each nature doing that which is proper to itself:[n] yet, by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in scripture attributed to the person denominated by the other nature.[o]
Institutes… (P&R), vol. 2, 13th Topic, ‘Person & State of Christ’, 7th Question, ‘Was the hypostatical union of the two natures in Christ such that neither the person is divided nor the natures confounded?’, section 9, p. 320
“Actions and passions belong to individual incommunicable subsistences denominatively. Yet they may also be ascribed formally to one or the other nature. Thus suffering and death properly and formally belong to human nature, but denominatively to the person according to the other nature.”
On the Post-Reformation
Muller, Richard – Dictionary of Latin & Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology 1st ed. (Baker, 1985)
‘communicatio idiomatum / communicatio proprietatum’
‘alius / aliud’
‘Logos non extra carnem’
‘praesentia extima sive totalis’
‘praesentia illocalis sive definitiva’
‘omnipraesentia sive partialis’
Hay, Andrew R. – ‘A Personal Union: Reformed Christology & the Question of the Communicatio Idiomatum’ Abstract in Journal of Early Modern Christianity, 2 (2015), pp. 1-18
Abstract: “First, this study shall examine the emergence of the Reformed notion of Christology against the backdrop of the Lutheran–Zwinglian Eucharistic debate. Second, there will be a gesture toward the use of the communicatio idiomatum in the dogmatic work of John Calvin and Zacharias Ursinus. Third, this article will outline the classic seventeenth-century Reformed orthodox doctrine, which builds on the sixteenth-century notion, with the addition of the idea that the person of the union indirectly mediates between the natures.”
On the 1500’s
Cross, Richard – Communicatio Idiomatum: Reformation Christological Debates in Changing Paradigms in Historical & Systematic Theology Buy (Oxford Univ. Press, 2019) 276 pp.
Cross has been a professor of philosophy at Notre Dame.
“It traces the central contours of the Christological debates, from the discussion between Luther and Zwingli in the 1520s to the Colloquy of Montbeliard in 1586… Cross shows that Luther’s Christology is thoroughly Medieval, and that innovations usually associated with Luther-in particular, that Christ’s human nature comes to share in divine attributes-should be ascribed instead to his younger contemporary Johannes Brenz. The discussion is highly sensitive to the differences between the various Luther groups-followers of Brenz, and the different factions aligned in varying ways with Melanchthon-and to the differences between all of these and the Reformed theologians.
By locating the Christological discussions in their immediate Medieval background, Cross also provides a comprehensive account of the continuities and discontinuities between the two eras. In these ways, it is shown that the standard interpretations of the Reformation debates on the matter are almost wholly mistaken.”
On the 1600’s
This surveys the metaphysics of the Person of Christ in the various varieties of Romanism and protestant theology in the 1600’s. Ch. 6 is on the reformed.
Aretius, Benedict – 4th Place, ‘Of the Communication of Properties’ in An Examination of Theology: A Brief & Clear, Written Out Method (Morgiis, 1584), 3rd Class, Against Other Sects of our Time, pp. 144-49
Beza, Theodore – Pt. 1, ‘On the Person of Christ’ in The Response of Theodore Beza to the Acts of the Colloquy of Montisbelgard, the Tubingen Edition Parts 1 (2nd ed.) & 2 (1st ed.) bound together (Geneva, 1588), pp. 78-186
This section is mostly about the communication of properties for the reasons given under the similar English work above.
First in the section is given one or several written theses of Jacob Andrea and the Lutheran, Wurttemberg, Germany theologians. Then the response of Beza to each of these is given in Antitheses.
After the colloquy Andrea had published a volume commenting on Beza’s Antitheses; these remarks are given in the margin of this volume. Beza then gives his extended response to these margin remarks of Andreae in the main body of the text of this volume. This cycle continues for a total of 21 Lutheran theses up to p. 167.
The next section (pp. 167-86) is of the 8 dogmas (characterizing reformed tenets) that the Lutheran theologians condemned at the colloquy. For each dogma, the response of Beza at the colloquy is given in an antithesis, with the later commentary of Andreae provided in the margin. Then follows Beza’s response to Andreae’s marginalia.
Zanchi, Jerome – On the Incarnation of the Son of God… (Heidelberg: Harnisch, 1593), Ch. 3, Propounds 12 Questions
Question 11, What consequences follow from the union 332 opposite things are to be predicated of Christ 333 names of the person and natures 334 the man, not the humanity is properly called God 337 what the grace of union is 341 Chemnitz and the Book of Concord do not badly define the communication of properties 347 in that which they err 348 how and by what gifts the human nature is endowed or deified 351 by which supernatural things 353 the habits of grace and the gifts of the Spirit which are given to Christ 354 places of Scripture, so Isa. 11, ‘The Spirit of Jehovah rests upon Him…’ explained 355 Lk. 2, ‘The child increased…’ 356 in what way He advanced 357 the sayings of the Fathers are not able to be taken of the real communication of divine properties 359 whether in the soul of Christ there was faith or hope 360 or love 362 of the threefold knowledge of the soul of Christ 362 whether by uncreated wisdom He saw God 364 whether He saw the whole essence of God 366 whether He saw all that is in God 367 whether the soul of Christ maintained equality with the wisdom of the Logos, reasons for the negative 371 it is not properly omniscient 372 the objection of the Ubiquitarians 373 whether through infused knowledge He knew all things 373 whether the infused knowledge rose above the angels 375 why habitual knowledge is so-called 376 the habitual knowledge of Christ is multifold 377 the kind of the acquired knowledge of the soul of Christ 378 whether He advanced or learned from angels 379 whether and what from men he learned 380 all He learned pertains to the perfection of the human intellect 381 of the power of the human Christ 382 what power and omnipotence is 383 howsofar Christ the man is omnipotent 384 the testimony of Lombard 385 the arguments of Thomas Aquinas 387 his response to that place, ‘All power is given unto Me’ [Mt. 28:18] 390 how great is the power of Christ’s soul 391 habitual graces, so they differ from the grace of union 393 of those testimonies of the Fathers, the simile of a grain ignited, the simile of the body and soul 394 this union made Christ the perfect Mediator 399 the office of the Mediator 401 Christ is the one Head of the Church 402 of the actions of Christ 405 what are the completed effects (apotelesmata) 405 in the one movement [agente] there are two principles of action 407 John of Damascus contra the Monothelite arguments 408 what energy is 409 the differences of the actions 411 the completed effects (apotelesmata) are threefold 412 the soul is the principle agent 413 miracles were of the divine nature, not the human 414-16 reasons for the double actions of Christ 418 exception one, according to Apollinarius 421 Christ-incarnate worked up to this point with the Father 423 exception two of the Monophysites 425 the plurality of actions does not infer plural persons 426 the simile of an ignited sword works against the Ubiquitarians 429 other arguments for the plurality of actions in Christ 432 the cause of the error of the Monothelites 437 their arguments 441 what theandric actions are and why they are so-called 444 how the actions of one nature are common to the other nature 448,455 the words of Leo, ‘Each nature works with the other in common,’ this is rightly explained contra the Ubiquitarians 457 Christ is the natural Son as God and man 462 Mary is the God-Bearer 464 from what is the efficacy of the blood of Christ? 465
Q. 12, Of what they [Ubiquitarians] call ‘real communication’ 466 what communication is and in what ways it occurs 467 properties, essentials, naturals or personals 472, which properties may be communicated: not personal but natural ones 472 the true state of the controversy 475 Ubiquitarians concede things out of which they are convicted 477 they are Monothelites 480 they contradict themselves grossly 480 a real communication is everted, the first argument: because it is not given in Scripture 483 by what sort of sayings they seek to confirm Ubiquity 484, they are examined, so Jn. 1, ‘the Word was made flesh’ 485 the hypostatic union does not infer such a communion 488 Jn. 17, ‘Glorify Me with that glory…’ 490 the interpretation of Augustine 492 of Cyril, to glorify through the glory to be revealed 495 a twofold glorification of Christ 495 Col. 2, ‘In whom dwells all the fulness of the Deity bodily’ 497 the simile of a glowing iron 500 ‘In whom are all the treasures of wisdom…’ 502 Mt. 28, ‘All power is given unto Me’ 506 2 Cor. 10, ‘the weapons of our warfare are mighty’ 512 a certain grace of union and certain habitual grace has been given to Christ 515 Jn. 5, ‘Has given Him power to execute judgment because He is the Son of Man’ 518 places on the anointing of Christ 520 Jn. 5, ‘and I work with the Father simultaneously’ 524 Jn. 5 on the resuscitation of the dead 527, the proper life of God is not communicated to the flesh of Christ 530 multifold-life is in Christ 532 vivification is attributed to each nature, but in a diverse respect 536 Jn. 6, ‘He who eats my flesh has life’ 540 1 Jn. 1, ‘The blood of Christ cleanseth us from sins’ 542 Mt. 9, ‘But that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power to forgive sins 544 places on the exaltation of Christ, so sitting at the right hand 546 the judgment of Chemnitz 546 that sitting is unto nothing according to the Ubiquitarians 549 what sitting (the session) is, is explained out of Heb. 1 and other places 553 the judgment of John of Damascus on the sitting (session) 558 the false consequences of the Ubiquitarians shown forth 560 the inconstancy of Chemnitz & others 563 of what sort the glory of Christ was in Mt. Tabor [the mount of Transfiguration] 567 places on the vision of God and Christ, so Jn. 14, ‘Who sees me sees the Father’ 568 of the worship of the man-Christ 571 the second argument against the Ubiquitarians from the testimonies of the Fathers 576 Chemnitz alleges Fathers for himself, but perversely 578 his scope, defects and frauds 582-87 predications of Christ proper or improper 589 communion is a unity, not a real communication 592 the testimony of Leo evidenced 594 whether all given to Christ in time are given to the humanity 597 the 6th [Ecumenical] Synod and the sayings of Justin, Cyril, Athanasius, Sophronius against the Ubiquitarians 606 the Ubiquitarians badly cite the 6th Synod and its fathers, Athanasius, Euphem., Sophronius 609 the 7th Synod 612 Justin 613 of the coming in of Christ with the closed doors 618,671,716,724,729,743 Tertullian 620 Origen 621 of the simile of the glowing iron 624 the judgment of Basil on it, and why it was used by him [pp. 626-39 are repeated after p. 629] 630 the judgment of John of Damascus on this simile 638 the judgments of Athanasius and Cyril on the same 640 the saying of Esuebius of Caesarea 647 a man so is said to have been deified 652,694 Athanasius to Arius (and in another place he condemns the Ubiquitarians) does not support 656, 663 Eustath. 668 Hippolytus 669 Amphiloch. 670 Cyprian 671 Hilary on the glory of Christ, Jn. 17 674 Emisen., Didymus, Gregroy of Nyssa 689 Basil 691 Gregory of Nazianzen 693 Epiphanius 698 is opposed to the Ubiquitarians [after p. 707, pp. 704-07 are repeated] 709 the heresies of the Dimaeritites on ubiquity 710 Ambrose is the enemy of ubiquity 710 Jerome 716 Augustine 719 Chrysostom and Theophylact 725,729 Ecumenius and Aretius 727 Cyril opposes the ubiquitarians and is explained [after p. 729, pp. 716-29 repeats] 730 Paul Emisen. 766 Theodoret 768 Primas. 776 Leo the Great 778 Vigilius 786 Cassiodorus 787 Sedulius, Nicephorus 788 the Golden Chain 788 Severian. 788 the Agnoets which were 789 Gregory the Great 789 Bernard 790 John of Damascus is examined 791 the third argument: a real communication fights with the Scriptures, it is proved by multiple testimonies, so on the union 811 of the properties of the natures, of actions 819 of the passion 822 the fourth argument is from the consensus of the Fathers against a real communication 828 proofs out of the 6th Synod 828 by Justin, Tertullian, Origen, Basil, Cyril 829 Eusebius, Athanasius 830 Ambrose 834 Cyril 834 Theodoret 837 Leo 838 Vigil 842 John of Damascus 844 Fulgentio 855 Ignatius 862 Irenaeus 863 Clement of Alexandria, Severian, Eustathio 864 Epiphanius 865-75 Gregory Nazianzen, Gregory Nyssa, Didymus of Alexandria, Jerome, Cassiodorus, Gregory, Niceta, Bede, Gelasius, Justin, Lombard, Thomas, Bonaventura
Pezel, Tobias – Theses on the Hypostatic Union of the Two Natures in Christ & that which follows, the Communication of Properties (Heidelberg, 1594)
Pezel (1571-1631) was German reformed.
Martinius, Matthew – ‘The Principle Testimonies of Scripture Against the Omnipresence of the Flesh of Christ, All Against those Three [Lutheran] Modes of the Communication of Properties’ in A Brief Confession on the Person of Christ… (Herborne, 1604), pp. 14-18
Martinius was German reformed.
Boethius, Henry – A Theological Disputation on the Person of Christ, of the Hypostatic Union of the Two Natures in Him, of the Communication of Properties & of his Office (Helmstedt, 1605) 20 pp.
Boethius (1551-1622) was a reformed professor of theology and greek at Helmstedt, Germany.
Piscator, Johannes – Locus 6, ‘Of the Communication of Properties, & the Same Locus, Another Tract’ in Theological Theses (Herborn, 1606-1607), vol. 2, pp. 35-43
Alsted, Johann Heinrich
A Lexicon of Theology… (Prostat, 1612)
ch. 10, ‘Of Jesus Christ, the God-Man, One Savior’, ‘Of the Communication of Properties’, pp. 264-65
Polemical Theology… (Hanau, 1620; 1627), Part 5, ‘An Examination of the Controversies which are now agitated in these times between Evangelicals, which are commonly called Lutherans and Calvinists’, Class 3, Controversies about the Creed
V. ‘Whether the Logos so be in flesh that it further may be outside the flesh? [Yes]’ 605
VI. ‘[Regarding Christ-incarnate] What kinds of predications may be expressed with regard to God about man and man about God?’ 606
VII. ‘What may be the communication of properties?’ 607
VIII. ‘Whether the communication of properties may be real? The Orthodox: It is real, that is, true; but it is not real, that is, such that it is an effusion of properties.’ 608
IX. ‘Whether the divine majesty and glory may have been given to the human nature of Christ? [No]’ 610
X. ‘Whether the actions of Christ’s office are common to the natures?’ 622
Pareus, David – A Christian Admonition about Peaceableness, or a Book by a Vow… on the Union, Synod & Syncretism between Evangelicals, that is Lutherans & Calvinists, Established in 1614, Divulged (Tubingen, 1616), bk 3, ‘On the Removal of the Impediments’, ch. 3, ‘On the Articles in Specific’
11. On the Communication of the Natures with respect to the Person of Christ 541
12. On the Communication of Properties with respect to the Person of Christ 558
13. On the Omnipresence of Christ the Man 570
14. On the Power of Christ the Man by which He did Miracles 597
Pareus, David – Theological Collections of Universal Orthodox Theology… (1611/1620), vol. 2
Collection 3, Disputation 10, ‘On the Natural Union in Christ & the Communication of Properties’, pp. 153-54
Collection 5, Disputation 10, ‘On the Communication of Properties in the Person of Christ, & on the Satisfaction of the Same’, pp. 201-2
Collection 6, Disputation 8, ‘On the Communication of Properties in the Person of Christ’, pp. 233-7
Beck, Sebastian – Inaugural Theological Disputation on the Communication of Properties (Basil, 1621) 12 pp.
Beck (1583-1654) was a reformed professor of Old & New Testament at Basil, Switzerland.
Voet, Gisbert – ‘Of the Communication of Properties’ in I. Of the Person of Christ the Mediator, 2. On the Consequences & Effects of the Union in Tract 2, ‘Of the Person, Offices & States of Christ the Mediator’ in A Syllabus of Theological Problems… (Utrecht, 1643)
The Scriptural Theology of Heidelberg (Amsterdam, 1646)
vol. 1, pt. 2, Elenctic Theology, Locus 10, ‘Of the Person & Office of Christ’
vol. 2, Theological Problems: Theoretical & Practical, pt. 1, ‘Theoretical Problems’
A New Problematic Theology, or a System of Theological Problems (Amsterdam, 1662), Locus 12, ‘Of the Person & Office of Christ’
Problem 21, ‘What in the controversy on the communication of properties is to be summarily held?’, pp. 589-91
Revius, Jacob – 331 Disputations of Compendious Theology, vol. 2 (Leiden, 1649)
Buxtorff, Johann – A Theological Disputation on the Communication of Properties (Basil, 1653)
Chamier, Daniel – bk. 5, ch. 3, ‘Of the Communion of Properties’ in A Body of Theology, or Theological Common Places (Geneva, 1653), pp. 172-6
Maccovius, Johannes – Johannes Maccovius Revived, or Manuscripts of his… ed. Nicolaas Arnoldi (Amsterdam, 1659)
The False First-Principles of the Papists, Socinians, Lutherans, Arminians, Anabaptists…, ‘An Examination of the Lutheran Controversies’
4. ‘The Personal Union & the Communication of Properties’, pp. 581-85
‘Anti-Eckhardus’ [Heinrich Eckhardi 1580-1624]
1. ‘Whether the communication of properties may be verbal?’ 639
2. ‘Whether the communication of properties may be figurative?’ 640
3. ‘Whether, with respect to the definition of the communication of properties, the proper genus having been sought out, may be preached?’ 640
4. ‘Whether the communication of properties may be so constructed and understood in the concrete.’ 641
5. ‘Whether the genuses of the communication of properties are distinct?’ 641
6. ‘Whether really or verbally only, or ketikos [Greek], God is said to have suffered for us? 641
7. ‘Whether koinopoiesis [Greek, a communion of effects], or the communication of effects, may be a grade of the communication of properties?’ 642
8. ‘Whether the doctrine of the communion of effects of the Calvinists may be the consensus of the decrees of the Synod of Chalcedon?’ 642
9. ‘Whether the gifts communicated to the human nature of Christ by the personal union were only created and finite, or whether those essential properties of divinity and gifts may be infinite?’ 642
10. ‘Whether Infinite power may have been joined to Christ the man?’ 644
11. ‘Whether Christ as man may have universal power and a full knowledge of all things?’ 644
12. ‘Whether the human nature of Christ with respect to the Person, the Logos, ought to be religiously worshipped? [No]’ 646
“Truly not…. further this we say, Christ, as He is Mediator, is not to be religiously adored in worship; and that we say with Zanchi, Cameron and the Leiden professors…”
13. ‘Whether Christ according to the flesh may have been given judicial power over the living and the dead?’ 647
14. ‘Whether the flesh of Christ may be life-giving?’ 647
15. ‘Whether Christ after the Ascension may be present by his body with his militant Church in these lands?’ 647
16. ‘Whether the presence of Christ is bounded in the lands to only the limit of the Church, or whether, further, it even encompasses other creatures?’ 649
Wettstein, Gernler & Buxtorf – sections 7-17 in Ch. 10, ‘On the Person & Incarnation of Christ’ in A Syllabus of Controversies in Religion which come between the Orthodox Churches & whatever other Adversaries… (Basil, 1662), pp. 33-34
Heidegger, Johann H. – The Marrow of Christian Theology: an Introductory Epitome of the Body of Theology (Zurich, 1713), Locus 17, ‘Of the Person of Jesus Christ’
Theses 25-27, ‘Of the Communication of Properties’, pp. 13-15
Strimesius, Samuel – Annotation 1, ‘On the Communication of Properties’ in A Hexad of Annotations, Comprehending Controversies between Protestants on the Person of Christ, Theanthropos, on Baptism & on Some Rites [such as Images in Churches, Baptismal Exorcism & the Breaking of Bread in the Supper] Not Wholly Adiaphora (Frankfurt, 1706), pp. 55-63
Vitringa, Campegius – The Doctrine of the Christian Religion, Summarily Described through Aphorisms (d. 1722), vol. 5, ‘Of the Person of the Messiah & his Twofold Nature’
Lutherans & Communication of Properties 268
Definition, History 269
Beginning of the Doctrine 270
History, Melanchthon 271
Lutheran Definition 272
Lutheran Statements of 273
Perichoresis of Natures 274
Communication of Properties Distinguished 276
Communication of Subsistence, Supper 277
Lutheran Statements 278
Sohn (Reformed) 281
Smalcald Articles 282
Lutheran & Reformed Writings 283
Writings Defending Formula of Concord 288
Reformed Against Formula of Concord 289
Hutter on Person of Christ 290
Gerhard on Person of Christ 293
Hutter & Franz on Person of Christ 294
Kromayer, Jaeger & Buddeus on Com. of Properties 295
Baumgarten & Moshem on same 296
Lutheran writings 297
Reformed writers, Lutheran Distinctions 298
Intra-Lutheran debates 300
Lutherans on Abstract & Concrete 303
Intra-Lutheran Debates 304
Calov & Pfaffius contra Reformed 306
Reformed writings 309
Bellarmine contra Lutherans 310
Papists & Remonstrants conta Lutherans 311
Selnecker & Eckhard: God really suffers 312
Communion of Effects: Buddeus 312
Synopsis & Chemnitz 313
Gerhard, Hutter, Eckhard, Quenstedt, Fabricius 314
De Moor, Bernard – sections 24 in ch. 19, ‘Of the Person of Jesus Christ’ in A Continuous Commentary on John Marck’s Compendium of Didactic & Elenctic Christian Theology (Leiden, 1761-71), vol. 3, pp. 807-9
Daneau, Lambert – An Examination of the book on the Two Natures in Christ, of the Hypostatic Union of them & of Various Things which follow out of that Union by Communication, written by Martin Chemnitz (Geneva, 1581) 463 pp. no ToC with a Preface by Beza
A Modest & Perspicuous Defense of Six Arguments amongst Some of the Ministers of the Churches of Arnholt [Netherlands], which Prosecute the False, Real or Physical Communication of Properties: being Opposite to the Emptiness & Frivolousness of the Refutation of them by Dr. Johann Matthew, Professor of Wittenberg, with a Supplement of his 82 Absurdities & Contradictions, & an Appendix of 28 Propositions… (Servesta, 1583) 325 pp.
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us);”
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.”
“Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh…”
1 Pet. 4:1