"The good of the grace of one soul is greater than the good of the nature of the whole universe"
- St Thomas Aquinas Ia IIa, q.24, a. 3, ad 2

 
CHRIST THE SAVIOUR
— A Commentary on the Third Part of St Thomas' Theological Summa

by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O. P.


CHAPTER I: THE MYSTERY AND FACT OF THE INCARNATION

Preliminary Remarks

Before we come to explain the article of St. Thomas, we must set forth what positive theology teaches on the fundamentals of this treatise. Speculative theology, of course, begins with the articles of faith as defined by the Church, and concerning these its method of procedure is twofold. In the first place it gives a philosophical analysis of the terminology employed in these articles of faith. Thus it shows the fittingness of the mysteries, the possibility of which can neither be proved nor disproved. As the Vatican Council says: "Reason enlightened by faith, when it seeks earnestly, piously, and calmly, attains by a gift from God some, and that a very fruitful, understanding of mysteries; partly from the analogy of those things which it naturally knows, partly from the relations which the mysteries bear to one another and to the last end of man."[12]

In the second place, speculative theology deduces from the principles of faith conclusions that are virtually contained in the principles. In this way a body of theological doctrine is established in which there is due subordination of notions and truths, some of these being simply revealed, whereas others are simply deduced from revealed principles. These latter truths do not properly belong to the faith, but to theology as a science.

So does St. Thomas proceed, presupposing in the first article of this third part of his Summa the dogma of the divinity of Christ as solemnly defined by the Church. The positive theology of St. Thomas is found especially in his commentaries on the Gospels and on the Epistles of St. Paul.

It is necessary, however, to begin with a chapter on positive theology, in order to show that the definitions of the Church express what is already contained more or less explicitly in the deposit of revelation, namely, in Sacred Scripture and tradition.

On this point it must be carefully noted, as regards the method, that positive theology, being a part of sacred theology, differs from mere history, inasmuch as per se or essentially it presupposes infused faith concerning divine revelation, as contained in Sacred Scripture and tradition, and faithfully and infallibly preserved and explained by the Church.

Thus positive theology differs from the history of dogmas, for this latter views them solely according to the rational exigencies of the historical method. Positive theology, under the positive and intrinsic direction of the faith, makes use of history, just as speculative theology makes use of philosophy, but in each case as a subsidiary science.

This means that positive theology, in studying the documents of Scripture and tradition, presupposes not only rational criticism and exegesis, as Father Zapletal ably points out,[13] but also Christian criticism and exegesis, which acknowledges the dogma of inspiration. It presupposes, too, Catholic interpretation of Scripture and tradition, which admits not only the dogma of inspiration, but also the authority of the Church in determining the true sense of Sacred Scripture and tradition, as also the authority of the Fathers and the analogy of faith, as Leo XIII explains in his encyclical Providentissimus Deus. In this encyclical he writes: "In the other passages, the analogy of faith should be followed, and Catholic doctrine, as authoritatively proposed by the Church, should be held as the supreme law.... Hence it is apparent that all interpretation is foolish and false which either makes the sacred writers disagree with one another, or is opposed to the doctrine of the Church."[14] In accordance with the analogy of faith, an obscure text in Sacred Scripture is to be explained by other texts that are clearer or more explicit.

This method appears to be most reasonable, since even in human affairs, if we wish to put a correct interpretation on the historical documents of any nation or family, their traditions must be considered, for these are always a living quasi-commentary of these documents, so that an interpretation of these documents which results in their being contradictory to the living tradition of the people should be rejected as false.

Thus not only rational but also Christian and Catholic exegesis must admit the canon of the books of Sacred Scripture, together with the text, which have been approved by the Church, and also the documents of tradition preserved in her archives.

Thus Catholic exegesis considers the books of Scripture not only as historical works written by certain authors, such as the Gospel written by St. Matthew, or that by St. Mark, but it also considers them as divine books that have God as their author, the preservation of which pertains to the Church; and it reads these books not only by the light of natural reason but also by the supernatural light of infused faith. Catholic exegesis, of course, makes use of the natural branches of knowledge, languages, for instance, but it subordinates these to a higher light and to the principles of faith.

Hence the Vatican Council, in recalling the decree of the Council of Trent, says: "In matters of faith and morals... that is to be held as the true sense of Holy Scripture, which our holy Mother the Church has held and holds."[15]

Finally, as Father Zapletal remarks,[16] the sacred authors sometimes did not fully understand the meaning which the Holy Spirit intended to convey by the words, that is, they did not always completely grasp the literal and objective sense of the words, as can be concluded from what St. Peter says about the prophets.[17]

In fact, St. Thomas says: "Sometimes he who is prompted to write something does not understand the meaning the Holy Spirit intends to convey by what he writes, as is evident in the case of Caiphas, who said: 'It is expedient for you that one man should die for the people.’ Then it is a case more of prophetic instinct than of prophecy."[18]

This observation may prove useful in connection with the question of the divinity of Christ as literally expressed in the Synoptic Gospels. Having completed these preliminary remarks, let us pass on to consider the testimony of Christ Himself as contained in the Gospels.

First Article: Christ's Testimony Of Himself And Primarily Of His Messianic Dignity

State Of The Question.

In our days what claims first attention is the opinion that Modernists and a number of liberal Protestants have about Christ. What they think is known from the propositions condemned in the decree Lamentabili.[19] Some of these read: "The divinity of Jesus Christ is not proved from the Gospels, but it is a dogma deduced by the Christian conscience from the notion of the Messias" (prop. 27). "In all the Gospel texts the expression 'Son of God' is equivalent merely to the name 'Messias'; it does not at all, however, signify that Christ is the true and natural Son of God" (prop. 30). "The doctrine of the sacrificial death of Christ is not evangelical, but originated with St. Paul" (prop. 38).

A number of rationalists, such as Renan, B. Weiss, H. Wendt, Harnack, recognize some divine sonship in Christ that is superior to His Messiahship, but they deny that Jesus, in virtue of this sonship, was truly God.[20]

Among conservative Protestants, however, several, such as F. Godet in Switzerland, Stevens and Sanday in England, defended in recent times the divinity of Christ, not only from the Fourth Gospel and the Epistles of St. Paul, but even from the Synoptic Gospels.[21]

Let us first briefly review what the Gospels say about the Messiahship of Christ; a fuller account will be given afterward of His divinity as recorded in the New Testament.

It has already been shown in apologetics by the historical method, that is by considering the Gospels as historical narratives, though not in this connection, as being inspired, that Christ very plainly affirmed Himself to be the Messias announced by the prophets. A few rationalists, such as Wellhausen, deny that Christ said He was the Messias; but very many rationalists, such as Harnack and O. Holzmann, acknowledge that Jesus affirmed His Messiahship, and Loisy admits that Jesus, not at the beginning of His public life but toward its end, taught that He was the Messias.[22] The Gospel texts in which the Messiahship is affirmed are quoted in all works on apologetics.[23] The principal texts are given below.

From the beginning of His ministry, Jesus testified that He was the ambassador of God, and later on much more explicitly He asserted that He was the Messias and the Savior.

This He affirmed both publicly and privately.

Publicly (1) He declared His mission as teacher and Messias, when the Evangelist says of Him: "He began preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of God. And saying: The time is accomplished, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe the Gospel."[24] In choosing His apostles, He said: "Come ye after Me and I will make you to be fishers of men."[25] "And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the Gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and every infirmity among the people."[26]

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus perfects the Mosaic law in His own name, asserting many times: "It was said to them of old.... But I say to you."[27] At the end of this Sermon, we read: "For He was teaching them as one having power, and not as the scribes and Pharisees."[28]

2) Jesus replied to the scribes and Pharisees that He is the "Lord of the sabbath,"[29] "greater than Jonas and Solomon,"[30] greater than David.[31]

3) Likewise, in the synagogue at Nazareth, after Jesus had read the words of Isaias concerning the future Messias: "The spirit of the Lord is upon me. Wherefore He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, to heal the contrite of heart," we read farther on that "He began to say to them: This day is fulfilled this Scripture in your ears."[32] When the people did not believe, and said: "Is not this the Son of Joseph?" Jesus replied: "Amen I say to you that no prophet is accepted in his own country."[33]

4) Jesus declared His Messiahship even in plain words, after He cured the paralytic in a certain house at Capharnaum, on the Sabbath. The Jews accused Him of blasphemy, and He replied: "But that you may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, then He said to the man sick of the palsy: Arise, take up thy bed and go into thy house. And he arose and went into his house."[34] Christ claimed for Himself all rights pertaining to the Messiahship, such as the power of doing what His Father does, raising the dead to life, judging all men, and bringing those faithful to Him to eternal life.[35]

Privately. Jesus preferred to make known His Messiahship when speaking more intimately to His apostles.

1) In the beginning, after John the Baptist had given his testimony, and Jesus had spoken to others for the first time, Andrew says to his brother: "We have found the Messias."[36] Philip and Nathanael had similar experiences.[37]

2) Jesus said to His twelve apostles: "And going, preach, saying: The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, raise the dead.... He that receiveth you receiveth Me, and he that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me."[38] "He that despiseth Me despiseth Him that sent Me."[39]

3) To the disciples of John the Baptist asking: "Art Thou He that art to come, or look we for another?" Jesus replied: "Go and relate to John what you have heard and seen. The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the gospel preached to them."[40] This text, however, is manifestly the fulfillment of the prophecy by Isaias, which the Jews understood as referring to the Messias.[41]

4) The first time that Jesus came to Jerusalem, He conversed with Nicodemus, one of the rulers of the Jews, and declared to him: "No man hath ascended into heaven, but He that descended from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven.... For God so loved the world, as to give His only-begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in Him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting."[42] It is most evident from this answer that Jesus teaches His Messiahship, in fact, His divine sonship.

5) Jesus spoke similarly to the Samaritan woman, who says to Him: "I know that the Messias cometh (who is called Christ) "; Jesus says to her: "I am He who am speaking with thee."[43] After the Samaritans had heard Jesus, they said: "We ourselves have heard Him, and know that this is indeed the Savior of the world."[44]

All the preceding testimony, however, belongs to the beginning of Jesus' ministry; but toward the end of His life He speaks more explicitly not only to His apostles but also to the people.

The Last Year Of His Life

1) As Jesus was approaching the city of Caesarea Philippi, He asks a question, and receives from Peter this answer: "Thou art Christ the Son of the living God."[45] These words at least signify that Jesus is truly the Messias, and they are approved by Christ as being inspired by His heavenly Father.

2) On the festival day of the Jews, Jesus says to them: "My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me."[46] The next day Jesus says to the Jews: "I am the light of the world.... I give testimony of Myself... and the Father that sent Me giveth testimony of Me."[47]

3) On the occasion of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, as the crowd was shouting: "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.... Hosannah in the highest,"[48] Jesus said to the Pharisees: "If these shall hold their peace, the stones will cry out."[49]

4) During the Passion, Jesus affirms before the Sanhedrim that He is the Christ, the Son of God. Thus at least He declared His Messiahship.[50]

5) After the Resurrection, Jesus said to the disciples on their way to Emmaus: "Ought not Christ to have suffered all these things, and so to enter into His glory?"[51] Similarly, Jesus said to the eleven apostles: "As the Father hath sent Me, I also send you."[52]

Conclusion. All this testimony, as Harnack[53] acknowledges against Wellhausen, is so interconnected with the entire Gospel narrative. that without it there would be almost nothing left that is historical in the life of Jesus, and His death could by no means be explained. There was also no time for a gradual idealization of Jesus' life, for the apostles already from the day of Pentecost taught that Jesus is the Messias and the Author of life.[54]

It must be noted that, theologically speaking, it is hard to determine in the Gospel texts when the expression of complete Messianic dignity ceases, and that of the divine sonship of Christ begins. The reason is that Jesus is called the Messias, or Christ, because He is the anointed of God. But the principal source of His anointing comes from the grace of union, by which His humanity is personally united to the Word, and by which He is therefore the Son of God. Hence, among the prophets and apostles, those who were more illuminated concerning the sublimity of the Messianic dignity already had a confused knowledge of the dignity of divine sonship.

Second Article: Testimony Of Christ And The Apostles Concerning The Divine Sonship

State of the question. Several rationalists, such as Renan, B. Weiss, H. Wendt, and Harnack, recognize some divine sonship in Christ that is superior to His Messiahship, but they deny that Jesus, in virtue of His sonship, is truly God.[55]

Several conservative Protestants, such as F. Godet, and in England, Stevens, Gore, Ottley, and Sanday, recently defended the divinity of Christ not only from the Fourth Gospel and the Epistles of St. Paul, but even from the Synoptic Gospels.[56]

Moreover, the Church declared against the Modernists, that the divinity of Christ is proved from the Gospels. Thus several of their propositions were condemned in the decree Lamentabili.[57]

Let us see what the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of St. John, and the Epistles of St. Paul say about the mystery of the Incarnation.[58]

For the state of the question it must be observed that Jesus is called the Son of God fifty times. The question is: In what sense is this expression to be understood?

In the Scripture, "son" is predicated in two ways. In the strict and literal sense it signifies a living being that proceeds from a living principle in conformity with the laws of nature. In the broad and metaphorical sense it denotes a disciple or an adopted heir. The term, with reference to God, also has two meanings. In the broad sense it is predicated of men who participate in the spirit and life of God, so that Christians are called "sons of God";[59] in the strict and proper sense, it is predicated of the Second Person of the Trinity, as in the text: "the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father."[60]

This expression "Son of God" sometimes perhaps in the Gospel means no more that Messias, when it is predicated of Jesus, for instance, by those who do not yet seem to know that He is by nature divine.[61] But from the Synoptic Gospels it is certain that Jesus said He was the Son of God in the proper, strict and most sublime sense of the term, inasmuch as He possesses the divine nature and is not merely a participator or partaker of this nature by grace.[62]

Christ Testifies To His Divinity In The Synoptic Gospels[63]

There are two ways by which Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels gradually declares His divine nature. (1) He claims rights or privileges that belong only to God. (2) He affirms that He is the Son of God. This gradual development is seen also as regards His Messiahship, which on several occasions is more affirmed as it is more denied or disbelieved by the Pharisees. The divine affirmation of these rights for the salvation of souls is intensified in proportion as the Pharisees increasingly resist these claims.

Moreover, we get a clearer insight into the sublime meaning of these words of Christ in proportion as the gift of infused faith increases within us, just as the validity of the first principles of reason and of being is more fully realized in proportion as the ability of metaphysical argumentation or the power of intellectual penetration increases within us. The scriptural texts that we shall now quote are considered by students of apologetics as it were from without, but in theology they are considered as it were from within, just as there are two ways of viewing the paintings on the windows of churches, either from the outside; or from within the church and thus in their true light, and then they are seen with better effect, and there is a realization of their value.

A. Christ attributed to Himself divine rights. The seven principal ones are these.

1) Jesus testified of Himself that He is greater than any creature. He is greater than Jonas and Solomon,[64] greater than David who called Him Lord,[65] greater than Moses and Elias who were present with Him on the day of the Transfiguration.[66] He is greater than John the Baptist, greater than the angels, because "the angels ministered to Him"[67] after His temptation in the desert, and they are His angels, for we read: "The Son of man shall send His angels and they shall gather together His elect."[68]

2) He speaks as the supreme Legislator, absolutely equal in authority to the divine author of the Old Law, which He completes and perfects, purging it of the false rabbinical interpretations, repeatedly saying: "It was said to them of old... but I say to you."[69] He forbids divorce to the Jews, which Moses permitted because of the hardness of their heart.[70] He says that He is the Lord of the Sabbath.[71]

3) He claims the right of forgiving sins, which the Jews considered a divine privilege. This is evident from the answer Jesus gave to the Jews when He miraculously cured the paralytic, saying: "But that you may know that the Son of man hath on earth to forgive sins, then He said to the man sick of the palsy: 'Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thy house. "[72] He even claims the right of communicating to others this power of forgiving sins, saying: "Whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven."[73]

4) He performs miracles in His own name, commanding the paralytic and the dead, saving: "Arise."[74] On the occasion of the storm at sea, He said: "Peace, be still. And the wind ceased."[75] On the contrary, others perform miracles in the name of Jesus, saying: "We have done many miracles in Thy name."[76]

5) He demands that all believe in, obey, and love Him in preference to all other affections, even at the cost of their life. "He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me, is not worthy of Me."[77] These words would express odious and intolerable pride if Jesus were not God. The prophets never spoke in this manner. There are similar texts in the Gospels.[78]

6) He assigns to Himself the power of judging the living and the dead. "You shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of the power of God and coming with the clouds of heaven."[79] "And He shall send His angels with a trumpet, and a great voice, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest parts of the heavens to the utmost bounds of them."[80]

7) He promises to send the Holy Ghost. "And I send the promise of My Father upon you."[81] Lastly, He accepts adoration from others; whereas, on the contrary, Peter, Paul, Barnabas, and the angels reject this adoration as being unworthy of it.[82]

B. In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus affirms several times that He is the Son of God in the proper and strict sense of the term.[83] There are six principal texts, which shall be set forth in chronological order.

1) "All things are delivered to Me by My Father. And no one knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither cloth anyone know the Father, but the Son, and he to whom it shall please the Son to reveal Him."[84]

The authenticity of this text is admitted by the majority of Protestant critics, and it is most ably defended by Catholic authors.[85] This text declares the equality of the Father and the Son both in knowledge and knowability. But this equality implies consubstantiality, as St. Thomas remarks, saying: "The substance of the Father transcends all understanding, since the essence of the Father is said to be unknowable as the substance of the Son is."[86] The Son is known only by the Father; therefore, like the Father, He exceeds all created knowledge, and hence is God. The above-mentioned scriptural text is substantially the same in meaning as when it is said: "No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him."[87] These two texts are equally profound and identical in meaning, as several critics admit.

2) Christ's answer to Peter's confession. Peter said: "Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus answering, said to him: "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but My Father who is in heaven."[88]

Some say that it cannot be historically proved from this confession that Peter affirmed anything more than Christ's Messiahship, since elsewhere he is quoted as saying merely: "Thou art the Christ,"[89] "Thou art the Christ of God."[90] Nevertheless, something more than this is clearly enough evident from Jesus' answer. For He says that Peter could not have known His sonship unless it had been revealed to him. The mere knowledge of Christ's Messiahship did not require so great a revelation, for the signs of Messiahship were already made manifest to the apostles from the beginning of Jesus' ministry, and several of them acknowledged it.[91]

3) Parable of the wicked husbandmen. The authenticity of this parable is admitted by most of the critics, even by very many rationalists. The parable says that the lord of the vineyard sent a servant to the husbandmen at the time of the harvest, then another, and many more, some of whom they beat, and others they killed. "Having yet one son, most dear to him, he also sent him unto them last of all, saying: They will reverence my son. But the husbandmen said to one another: This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours. And laying hold on him, they killed him and cast him out of the vineyard. What therefore will the lord of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy those husbandmen and will give the vineyard to others. And have you not read this scripture: The stone which the builders rejected, the same is made the head of the corner? By the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes. And they sought to lay hands on Him, but they feared the people. For they knew that He spoke this parable to them. And leaving Him they went their way."[92]

The application of this parable was manifest. The servants sent by the Lord of the vineyard were the prophets, and Jesus stated this more clearly to the Pharisees later on.[93] If, therefore, the servants of the Lord's vineyard are the prophets, His beloved Son is not only more than a prophet, but is truly His Son. Therefore this parable expresses absolutely the same truth as when St. Paul says: "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all in these days hath spoken to us by His Son... by whom also He made the world."[94]

4) Jesus questions the Jews about Christ the son of David. "And the Pharisees being gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying: 'What think you of Christ, whose Son is He.’ They say to Him, 'David's.’ He saith to them: 'How then doth David call Him Lord, how is He his Son?' And no man was able to answer Him a word."[95]

The authenticity of this text is admitted by the prominent liberal critics. But in the Messianic psalm just quoted, David, in calling the Messias "my Lord," acknowledges that this Lord is superior to him and equal to the first Lord, namely, to God the Father.

5) Jesus answers Caiphas. When Christ appeared before the Sanhedrim, "the high priest said to Him: 'I adjure Thee by the living God, that Thou tell us if Thou be the Christ the Son of God.’ Jesus saith to him: 'Thou hast said it. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of the power of God, and coming in the clouds of heaven.’ Then the high priest rent his garments, saying: 'He hath blasphemed; what further need have we of witnesses? Behold now you have heard the blasphemy.’"[96] From this answer we see that Jesus is more than the Messias, for divine sonship, sitting at the right hand of the Father, the exercise of supreme power, do not belong to the simple dignity of Messiahship. That is why Caiphas rent his garments, saying: "He hath blasphemed." These texts of the Synoptic Gospels receive further clarification in the Fourth Gospel, in which we read that, after Jesus had cured the paralytic at the Probatic pool, "the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He did not only break the Sabbath, but also said God was His Father, making Himself equal to God."[97] Similarly, in the history of the Passion we read: "The Jews answered Him: 'We have a law and according to the law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.’"[98] Hence the question put by Caiphas to Jesus was to get an answer rendering Him guilty of death.[99]

6) The baptismal formula. After the Resurrection, we read in the Gospel: "Jesus coming, spoke to them[His apostles], saying: 'All power is given to Me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.’"[100]

Even all liberal Protestants admit this formula,[101] and it was universally accepted in the various Churches at the beginning of the second century. In this baptismal formula the Son is declared equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion. It must therefore be said, in refutation of the Modernists, that the declarations of Jesus concerning His eminent dignity as recorded by the Synoptics transcend simple Messiahship and express divine sonship that belongs most properly to Christ. Moreover, this divine sonship is not only superior to simple Messiahship, which is conceded, as has been said by several rationalists of our times, such as Harnack, but it establishes Christ above all creatures as equal to, and one in nature with God, the Second Person of the Trinity.

Testimony Of The Acts Of The Apostles Concerning The Divinity Of Christ

The more conservative Catholic and Protestant historians consider it more probable that the Acts of the Apostles was written about A. D. 64 or, at least, before the year 70.[102] The rationalists of the Tubingen school set the date at A. D. 150. But, in our days, historical evidence made the rationalist Harnack assign the date of this work to the years 78-83, or perhaps even to 60-70.[103] From this it is evident that the above mentioned declarations of the Synoptic Gospels were not the result of a certain process of idealization, gradually evolved after Christ's death and ascribed to Him. The time required for this idealization was too short, for it is certain that from the day of Pentecost the apostles taught not only that Jesus was the Messias but also God.

The discourses of St. Peter are recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, in which we read: "The God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified His Son Jesus, whom you indeed delivered up.... But the Author of life you killed, whom God hath raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. And the faith which is by Him, hath given this perfect soundness [the lame man who sat at the gate of the Temple] in the sight of you all."[104]

The Author of life, however, is none other than God Himself. Likewise St. Peter says: "This is the stone which was rejected by you the builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other."[105] "God hath exalted Him [Jesus] with His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins. "[106] But only God is the Savior of souls, forgiving persons their sins.

Similarly St. Peter says: "By the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, we believe to be saved."[107] Jesus is called by St. Peter "Lord,"[108] "Lord to all,"[109] "He who was appointed by God to be judge of the living and of the dead."[110] Finally, the apostles work miracles in the name of Jesus, confer baptism; and the deacon St. Stephen says, when dying: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."[111]

It is no matter of surprise, therefore, that when the Ebionites, who were the first heretics, denied the divinity of Christ, they were immediately condemned by the Church, as is evident from the writings of the Apostolic Fathers.

Testimony Of St. Paul On The Divinity Of Christ

The principal epistles of St. Paul[112] were written about A. D. 48-59 or 50-64, as several rationalists admit, among whom are Harnack and Julicher. In these epistles, however, St. Paul, in affirming the divinity of Christ, does not announce it to the Churches as an unheard-of innovation, but he speaks of it as an already accepted dogmatic truth.

It will suffice if we give the principal references of St. Paul to the divinity of Christ.

1) According to St. Paul, Jesus is the Son of God in the strict sense of the term. He says of Him: "Who was predestinated the Son of God in power, according to the spirit of sanctification."[113] And again he writes: "God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, ... spared not even His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all."[114] Elsewhere he says: "But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, that He might redeem them who were under the law; that we might receive the adoption of sons."[115]

2) St. Paul affirms that the Son of God existed from all eternity before He became incarnate, and he also states plainly that the Son of God is the Creator. He speaks of "the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."[116] He says of Christ: "Who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature. For in Him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominations or principalities or powers; all things were created by Him, and in Him. And He is before all, and by Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the Church, who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; that in all things He may hold the primacy. Because in Him it hath well pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell."[117] In this text the Son of God is clearly declared the Creator, just as elsewhere St. Paul says of God that: "of Him and by Him and in Him are all things."[118] Likewise it is the common belief among Catholics, and even very many non-Catholic critics admit that: "the fullness of the Godhead here signifies "all that is required to constitute Christ as God."[119]

3) St. Paul teaches that Jesus is God and equal to the Father. He says: "But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness. But unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God."[120] And again of Christ he says: "For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead corporally. And you are filled in Him who is the head of all principality and power."[121] In another epistle he writes: "For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man."[122] There cannot be a clearer affirmation of the divinity of Christ than in this text.

Farther on in this epistle, he writes: "God hath given Him a name which is above all names, that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow"[123]

Likewise he says: "I wished myself to be an anathema from Christ, for my brethren, ... of whom is Christ, according to the flesh, who is over all things, God blessed forever. Amen."[124] But there is a difficulty concerning the punctuation of this text. Very many even of the liberal critics place merely a comma before the words, "who is over all things, God"; whereas, Tischendorf and Gebhardt put a period, thus making this expression to be only an invocation addressed to God. All the Fathers of the Church and Catholic exegetes saw in this text an affirmation of the divinity of Christ.

Finally, in another epistle, we read: "In these days [God] hath spoken to us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the world. Who being the brightness of His glory, and the figure of His substance, and upholding all things by the word of His power, making purgation of sins, sitteth on the right hand of the majesty on high."[125] According to this teaching, the Son is the Creator, for it is by the Son that God produced all things. With the Jews, however, creation is an act that applies solely to God. The Son is also the preserver of all things, upholding all things by the word of His power. Likewise in this same epistle the angels are called the ministers of Christ, and adore Him.[126] They are therefore inferior to Him.

The preceding texts clearly prove that St. Paul taught the divinity of Christ; and so speaking, he intended to affirm no new doctrine, but to state what was already the universal belief among the early Christians, even among the converted Jews, who adhered most firmly to monotheism.

St. John's Testimony To The Divinity Of Christ

1) In the prologue to the Fourth Gospel, we read:: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."[127] Three assertions are made: 1. The eternal pre-existence of the Word; 2. The Word is distinct from God the Father; 3. The Word is divine and therefore consubstantial with the Father. Then it is affirmed that all things were made by the Word.[128] Therefore the Word is the Creator, and He is consequently God. That Word or divine person assumed our human flesh, or nature, and lived among men. He is called "the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father."[129] Therefore St. John most clearly teaches the divinity of Christ in this prologue, which is a quasi-synthesis of revelation.

2) In the Fourth Gospel we find Christ reported as using words by which He declares Himself to be the Son of God and Lord, although He frequently calls Himself the Son of man, thereby showing the humble subjection of Himself as man to His Father.

He says: "Father, the hour is come. Glorify Thy Son... that He may give eternal life to all whom Thou hast given Him.... And all things are Thine, and Thine are Mine."[130] Again, we read: "The Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He did not only break the Sabbath, but also said God was His Father, making Himself equal to God. Then Jesus answered, and said to them: 'What things soever the Father cloth, these the Son also cloth in like manner... and He giveth life to whom He will.... The Father hath given all judgment to the Son, that all men may honor the Son, as they honor the Father.... For as the Father hath life in Himself, so He hath given to the Son also to have life in Himself.’"[131] Christ also says: "From God I proceeded and came."[132] And again: "I came forth from the Father and am come into the world.... And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me."[133]

It is eternal sonship in the strict sense to which Jesus refers, for He says: "Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham was made, I am."[134] And again: "Glorify Thou Me, O Father, with Thyself, with the glory which I had before the world was, with Thee."[135]

Moreover, Jesus says: "As the Father knoweth Me and I know the Father."[136] "All things whatsoever the Father hath, are Mine. Therefore I said, that He, the Spirit of truth, shall receive of Mine, and show it to you."[137] Jesus even says: "I and the Father are One.[138] The Jews understood these words in the sense that Jesus was equal in dignity to the Father, for they at once took up stones to stone Him. Similarly He said: "I am the way and the truth and the life";[139] but only God, who is essential Being, is truth and life; a mere man may have even infallible truth, but is not truth itself, just as he is not self-subsisting being. In this respect there is an immeasurable difference between the two verbs, "to be" and "to have." Hence this last utterance of Jesus would of itself suffice to constitute an explicit expression of His divinity, which is so clearly affirmed in the prologue of St. John's Gospel.

3) In St. John's First Epistle we read: "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard... and our hands have handled of the Word of life... we declare unto you."[140] Farther on he says: "And we know that the Son of God is come, and He hath given us understanding that we may know the true God, and may be in His true Son."[141] These concluding words of St. John's First Epistle most clearly show that the author's intention was to affirm the divinity of Christ just as this was his intention in writing his prologue to the Fourth Gospel.

4) In the Apocalypse, that Christ is divine and the Son of God, is clearly evident from the titles assigned to Him; for He is the First and the Last,[142] the beginning of the Creation,[143] the Lord of lords and the King of kings.[144] The divinity of Jesus is also equally manifested from the prerogatives attributed to Him, for He is called the Lord of life and death for all men,[145] the searcher of hearts.[146] He has power to open the book, which no man is able to open,[147] ruling over all things celestial and terrestrial,[148] being omnipotent as God Himself is.[149] The divinity of Christ is also clearly set forth in this book; because of the honors that are rendered to Him from men, the faithful are called servants of Jesus,[150] the faithful both of Jesus and of God.[151] There is reference in these texts to the priests of God and of Christ.[152] The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is adored as God,[153] and adoration is permitted to be given only to God.[154]

From what has been said, it is most clearly apparent that Jesus is God and a divine person distinct from God the Father. This will be more fully explained when we come to discuss the infinite value of the merits and satisfaction of Christ[155] and consider the texts of the New Testament concerning the mystery of Redemption.

Among the principal texts of the Old Testament about the divinity of the Messias, the following must be quoted: "A child is born to us and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace."[156] This text forms part of the Introit of the second Mass in honor of the birth of our Lord. The Church sees in this text an affirmation of the divinity of Jesus.

Concerning this text, the Rev. F. Ceuppens, O. P., remarks: "The true meaning of this expression 'God the Mighty,’ is very much disputed among Catholics. Following the opinion of such distinguished authors as A. Condamin, E. Tobac, F. Feldmann, and M. J. Lagrange, we think the expression must be accepted in the literal and proper sense, and the reason we give for this is that, in other texts of the Old Testament, the same expression occurs, and it is always predicated of Yahweh. This being the case, the future Messias is foretold as being truly God, and truly divine by nature. But it is another question whether the Jews, imbued with monotheistic concepts, perfectly understood all these things, and whether the prophet himself fully grasped this doctrine and saw it in all its applications."[157]

Third Article: Testimony Of Tradition And The Principal Definitions Of The Church

A more detailed account of tradition and the definition of the Church is given in the history of dogmas and in patrology. In this treatise we shall give a brief summary of what everyone is expected to know about these matters.[158] We notice that considerable progress has been made in the development of dogma in the course of combating the various heresies.

1) In the first three centuries, the Fathers affirm that Christ is both God and man, because He came to save and redeem us, which He could not have done unless He had been both God, the author of grace, and also man.[159] Hence they reject the errors of the Docetae, who said that Christ's body was imaginary and fantastic, and of the Dualists, who declared that the divine and human natures in Christ were united accidentally.[160] We find Tertullian, in his days, asserting that the union of the two natures in Christ was effected "in one person."[161]

2) In the fourth century, whereas the Apollinarists denied a rational soul to Christ, meaning to say that the Word took the place of the mind in Christ, the Fathers clearly affirm that Christ is both perfect God and perfect man; and they also assert that what was not assumed was not healed. If, therefore, the Word did not assume a rational soul, the soul was not healed; and besides, Christ could not have merited and been obedient.[162]

3) Finally, in the fifth century, the Nestorians declared that the union of the two natures in Christ was only accidental, and the Eutychians asserted that there was only one nature in Christ. Against these heresies the Catholic concept of one person in Christ and of the hypostatic union is explicitly affirmed, and these points must be fully explained farther on.[163]

Following are the principal definitions of the Church concerning the divinity of Christ.[164]

1) Christ is truly God, He is rightly called the Word, and Son of the Father, consubstantial with the Father, equal to Him, God of God, begotten not made, the only-begotten of the Father by natural and not by adoptive sonship.

2) "I believe in Jesus Christ, our Savior...," which is the most ancient formula.[165]

3) "I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son [of the Father] our Lord,"[166] which is the more ancient formula in the Western Church.

4) The Creed of St. Epiphanius proposed to the catechumens of the Eastern Church: "We believe in one God... and in one Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God, begotten of God the Father, the only-begotten, that is, of the substance of the Father, God of God, light of light, true God of true God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father by whom all things were made... who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate."[167]

5) The First Council of Nicaea (325) defines, against the Arians: "We believe in one God the Father almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in our one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of the Father, that is, of the substance of the Father, God of God, light of light, true God of true God, begotten not made, one in substance with the Father, by whom all things were made, both in heaven and on earth, who for our salvation came down, was incarnate, and was made man, suffered and rose again the third day, ascended into heaven, and will come to judge the living and the dead."[168] All these words of the Nicene Council must be seriously considered farther on, when we explain the articles of St. Thomas. The preceding testimony and definitions suffice for establishing the fact of the Incarnation.

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Footnotes

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"To do God's will -- this was the goal upon which the saints constantly fixed their gaze. They were fully persuaded that in this consists the entire perfection of the soul. "

St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"Every man naturally desires knowledge; but what good is knowledge without fear of God? Indeed a humble rustic who serves God is better than a proud intellectual who neglects his soul to study the course of the stars."

Thomas Kempis

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"Lord, take from me everything that hinders me from going to You. give me all that will lead me to You. Take me from myself and give me to Yourself."

St Nicholas Flue

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