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Our readers asked:

How can Jesus be the Son of God, but be the same person?

Richard G. Malloy, SJ Answers:

I assume you’re asking here how Jesus can be both divine and human. Well, that has been the question ever since the resurrection and before. A great old Jesuit theology professor ours, Brian Daley, S.J., once said the Mystery of the Trinity is “Three Whos in One What.” The Mystery of the Incarnation is “Two whats in One Who.”

Richard McBrien’s magisterial Catholicism roots the Christian understanding of God in the reality of the Trinity. But we could not know the Trinity without Jesus having come and “lived [literally ‘tabernacled’] among us” (John 1:14).

O’Brien goes on to say we are interested in Jesus because Jesus saves us. And, “If he is not truly God, then he could not SAVE us. If he is not truly a human being, he could not save US. If divinity and humanity are not united in a single person, then HE could not save us (O’Brien, 1981, P. 371. Study Edition. Emphasis in the original).

It took the church several hundred years to come to the definitive articulation of Jesus Christ as True God and True human at the Council of Nicea in 325 (That’s from where we get the Nicene Creed we recite every Sunday at Mass). Councils of Constantinople (381), Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451) and Constantinople II (553) further codified what we mean when we say Jesus is both human and divine.

There’s another old saying in theology. All you can say about Jesus is that he’s God and human. As soon as you say anything else, you begin to emphasize the divinity or the humanity and are thus tending towards heresy.

The Author : Richard G. Malloy, SJ
Richard G. Malloy, S.J., Ph.D., is Vice President for University Ministries, the University of Scranton, Scranton, PA, and author of A Faith That Frees (Orbis Books).
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  • Mike

    Jesus was made flesh, his soul is spirit, flesh came from this world, spirit came from God’s world. Both human and God at the same time, his spirit was given out after he died. Jesus worked by the Spirit of God within him. He was one with God, God was in Him and Him in God. when you get to where you know that Jesus is in you then you will know that God is in Him. until then it will be a complete mystery to you.

  • Marilyn Stevens

    While the above explanation is fine for those of us who have had at least 13 years of Catholic education, I need something simpler to enable me to get the concept across to my very New England Protestant spouse. Any ideas?

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