I have written an e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which is free to anyone. To download that book, in several formats, go here.
Creative Commons License
The posts in this blog are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. You can copy and use this material, as long as you aren't making money from it. If you give me credit, thanks. If not, OK.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christ didn't come as a baby, re-posted

We often say that Christ came as a baby, but this isn't true. Why not? Read on.

Christ didn't come as a baby. He came as an embryo -- probably as a one-celled embryo*. Did He retain any of His divine omniscience and omnipotence during that period? I don't know, but I suspect that He didn't retain all of it, and it is possible that He didn't retain any of it. The Bible teaches that He was tempted like we are (Hebrews 4:14-16). I don't know if embryos and fetuses are tempted. However, to really be like us, He must have had an experience much like ours, and I suspect that that meant, after He was born, not being able to speak for a year or so, and, before He was born, giving up some of his powers and awareness. Was this easy for the Creator of the Universe? I wouldn't think so. The cross wasn't easy, either.

If He gave anything up, He did it for me.

*Does a soul inhabit a one-celled embryo, or does a soul not appear until there is an embryonic brain complex enough to house it? I don't know, and I don't think anyone does, although there is no lack of opinions. If the latter is true, perhaps Christ didn't inhabit His body until the pregnancy was fairly well along. Or, if it is true, perhaps Christ gave up consciousness entirely for a few months. We don't know.

Thanks for reading.

* * * * *

Feb 6, 2008: Parableman has published on a related matter -- he proposes that Jesus, like other children, acquired language skills gradually, making errors in the process.


Steve Martin said...

Hi Martin,
Now that is an interesting question! And when did Christ gain (re-gain?) awareness of his divinity?

Martin LaBar said...

I don't know, of course, nor am I certain that He ever lost it. But He had such awareness as a boy, when He talked to the scribes.


Annette said...

the bible tells us that Christ was fully God and fully human. As such there doesn't seem to leave much room for argument saying that he gave up some of his awareness.

Even in the womb he was fully God and fully man, it's not like suddenly he became God. That makes no sense.

Being tempted isn't a wrong's the following up on the temptation that is wrong. So being tempted doesn't mean that He wasn't God, just means that he didn't sin when he was tempted.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Annette.

As I said above "I'm not sure he ever lost it." However, the fully God and fully human part, it seems to me, may have only applied when He was an adult.

You are right about temptation not being sin, of course. My point was that it seems to me that it's possible that young children, maybe even babies or fetuses, are tempted in ways that are peculiar to their ages, just as there are temptations that seem to mostly occur with adolescence, or with maturity. So possibly it was necessary for Christ to also be immature, in some ways, to be tempted like we are.

Annette said...

Okay, just wanting to clarify.... do you think temptation is a result of immaturity as people?

So that therefore Christ as a child wasn't really a child? and if he was that therefore he wasn't fully God?

Martin LaBar said...

I don't think that temptation is the result of immaturity. I do think that immature people can be tempted, at least some of them can, and that some of those temptations (to take the biggest cookie, or try to get a parent's attention when you don't really need it, for example) come in different forms to people at different stages of life. Presumably a 3-year-old can't be tempted to adultery, for example.

It is orthodox church doctrine, as I understand it, that Christ was fully human and fully God, and I subscribe to that. I don't think anyone can really understand all of that, although, no doubt, some understand it much better than I do. All I'm saying is that to be "fully human" involves going through developmental stages, and if Christ were fully human, then perhaps He went through these, too.


Rileysowner said...

Interesting thoughts. I think the problem is that we simply do not know. What does it mean the while an embryo Christ was fully God and fully human? I don't think we can answer it for at least two reasons. First, we simply don't know enough, and probably never will. Even as a single celled embryo everything that makes a person up (at least genetically) is already their. Yes, it has to grow and develop, but it is there. How that works its way out when joining the second person of the trinity to humanity is something that is beyond our understanding. Frankly, in my opinion, it is just as difficult to understand how this could be the case once that embryo has developed and been born and grown. While I know that the Son of God joined himself to a real human nature, I can't really comprehend how that could be.

Second, this is beyond our giving an answer because the written word of God simply does not tell us about this, much like it doesn't tell us much about Jesus childhood. What we do know, is that whatever that childhood was like, it was perfectly obedient to God and without sin or he could not have been the unblemished, sinless sacrifice for the sins of all who believe.

I think it may be helpful to realize that there would be a difference between what development from conception on would be like before the fall into sin and after. We cannot, at least from what we are told in the Bible, know what it would be like if Adam had never sinned, but I do believe it would be safe to say that because of that act, everything changed including how human beings develop because after that event, all human beings, even while still being in the image and likeness of God, have that corrupted and defaced so that at this point we really cannot say what it would be like without that sin we are all conceived with.

I would, however, have concerns saying that Jesus took on the divine nature at some point other than at conception, because he was to be like us in every way, but without sin. That would mean being the God/man from conception on.

As I said, I can't comprehend it, or what is would mean for the Son of God to be joined to a single cell, but is that not some of the wonder and glory of God doing what is so incomprehensible to us. Remember he is God.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, rileysowner!

As you say "we simply do not know" and "he is god." That's about where we are on this, and a lot of other questions.

Martin Cooke said...

Martin, what is full humanity? Is it not just, well, humanity? Maybe one could imagine removing bits from someone, and then ask oneself if what remains is human; one might eliminate all the body in that way, even the final cell, if there was a human soul. Since human souls are made in the image of God (somehow), a fully human and fully divine person seems logically possible...(?)...Merry Christmas

Martin LaBar said...

Good question, enigman, and, of course, in death all the cells are eventually, er, eliminated, but a human soul remains.

There are, however, limitations to humans, because of their bodies, especially to embryonic ones.


Stephen Matheson said...

Very nice point, Martin. But then I'm biased...embryos are cooler than babies, hands down. :-)

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, sfmatheson. Perhaps you are right.

Jamie said...

Thanks for directing me to the post. Interesting read. I'll look forward to presenting the question in heaven!

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Jamie! If such questions matter in heaven . . .

i am Grateful... Kerry i am. said...

Brilliant thoughts to ponder. Many thanks Martin.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Kerry. Brilliant, I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

Hewbrews 13:8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever. He was both God and man.
Since we know that He was conceived in the womb by the Holy Spirit thus becoming human, this verse must be speaking of Him as God, the Eternal One, since we know that he was not always human. If this is the case, then reason would have it that in whatever form He had to retain His Divinity. The "SAME",yesterday, and today, and forever.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Anonymous. You are probably correct.