Christ - His Human Spirit and Soul

come now to consider the deeper question of spirit and soul in Christ. "Docetism,"
which denied the reality of His flesh, needs now no argument to be spent upon
it, for it has no adherents at the present time; but that to which we are now
come involves, to begin with, the question of what spirit and soul are in man;
and many are not yet clear as to this. We can hardly therefore understand what
true humanity involves in the Lord, except we first understand what it is in
men at large.

for instance, we take up such a book as "Hodge's Outlines of Theology," (a
book which has been praised by a justly celebrated man, lately deceased, as a
"Goliath's sword-none like it" for the Christian armory,) we shall find the
writer saying:-

"Pythagoras, and after him Plato, and subsequently the mass of Greek and Roman
philosophers, maintained that man consists of three constituent elements: the
rational spirit, (nous, pneuma, mens;) the animal soul, (psuche,
anima;) the body, (soma, corpus.) Hence this usage of the
word became stamped upon the Greek popular speech. And consequently the
apostle uses all three when intending to express exhaustively in popular
language the totality of man and his belongings: 'I pray God that your whole
spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless' (1 Thes. 5:23; Heb. 4:12; 1
Cor. 15:45). Hence some theologians conclude that it is a doctrine given by
divine inspiration that human nature is constituted of three distinct

which view he objects:-

"That the pneuma and psuche are distinct entities cannot be the
doctrine of the New Testament, because they are habitually used
interchangeably and often indifferently. Thus psuche as well as
pneuma is used to designate the soul as the seat of the higher
intellectual faculties-(Matt. 16:26; 1 Pet. 1:22; Matt. 10:28). Thus also
pneuma as well as psuche is used to designate the soul as the
animating principle of the body-(James 2:26). Deceased persons are
indifferently called psuchai, (Acts 2:27, 31; Rev. 6:9; 20:4); and
pneumata, (Luke 24:37, 39; Heb. 12:23)."

These are all his objections, and at the first glance they are very
unsatisfactory. How much of the precision and trustworthiness of Scripture
must disappear if we are at liberty to credit apparent distinctions of this
sort to popular phraseology! On the contrary, the Old Testament is as clear as
to these distinctions as the New, long before philosophy had moulded the
speech of Greece, and outside altogether the Greek that it had moulded.

through Scripture, from the first chapter of Genesis on, the beast is credited
with a "soul." "Everything wherein there was a living soul' is the designation
(in Gen. 1:30, Heb.) of the mere animal as distinct from man. True, man
also is made a living soul; but that is not his highest-his special character.
God is the "Father of spirits" (Heb. 12:9), not of souls; and as
the son is in the image of his father, man is thus by a special work
created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Thus also it is the "spirit of
man that is in him" that "knoweth the things of a man" (1 Cor. 2:11); and this
spirit is therefore never ascribed to the beast. The writer of Ecclesiastes in
his early "thoughts" raises a question about it, but which he answers at the
close (3:21; 12:7), and it is merely the doubt of a man in a fog, not divine
truth, as is evident, nor given as that.

spirit and soul are always viewed in Scripture with perfect consistency in
this manner. Scripture is always self-consistent, and never loose in what it
says. The faculties proper to man, the mental and moral judgment are ascribed
to the spirit; the sensitive, instinctive, emotional nature is ascribed to the
soul. Yet there is a knowledge that can be ascribed to the soul, as
there is a joy of the spirit; and if "heart" be substituted for "soul," and
"mind" for "spirit," we can understand this without realizing any confusion or
inconsistency in the matter.

to the death state, if spirit or soul be absent the body will be dead, and
either may be mentioned in this way; yet here, too, Scripture will be found
perfectly at one in all its statements. In the body, (and through its
connection with it, doubtless, in the "natural" or "psychic" condition already
spoken of,) man-though he has a spirit-is a "soul;" so that
"soul" becomes, as in our common language also, the equivalent of self; while
out of the body, though he has a soul, he is a "spirit."

This will explain all passages, except perhaps those in Revelation, where also
that in chapter 20:4 is only a somewhat emphatic use of soul for self or
person; while the "souls under the altar," as applied to martyrs, are but
figured as persons whose lives had been offered up in sacrifice. The usage is
not really different.

"Spirit and soul and body," then, make up the man; and here the spirit it is
that is the distinctive peculiarity of man, as is evident. To be true Man the
Lord would surely possess both these; and both are accordingly ascribed to Him
in Scripture. He can speak of His soul being troubled and sorrowful (Matt.
26:38; Mark 14:34; John 12:27); and it can be said of Him, that "His soul was
not left in hell" (or hades), (Acts 2:31). On the other hand, in His youth He
waxes strong in spirit (Luke 2:40); He perceives in His spirit (Mark 2:8); He
rejoices and is troubled in spirit (Luke 10:21; John 13:21); He commends and
gives up His spirit to His Father (Luke 23:46; John 19:30).

Thus the proof of His true humanity is complete. Here too He is in all things
made like unto His brethren; and how much, in fact, depends upon this! That,
we must seek to get before us later on; but first, we must turn to certain
denials or explanations otherwise of what these texts seem to teach; old
speculations having been revived of late, and calling for fresh examination.
It will be of use to trace it first in its older form and then in its modern
phases. The older form is known (in Church history only) as Apollinarianism;
the later is all around us to-day in what is known as Kenoticism.

Apollinaris was a man in high esteem among the orthodox, and in opposition to
Arianism a zealous Trinitarian. It was, in fact, in opposition to Arianism
that his views seem to have been developed. "The Arian doctrine of the person
of Christ," says Dr. Bruce,6
"was, that in the historical person called Christ appeared in human flesh the
very exalted-in a sense,-divine-creature named in Scripture the Logos
[or Word],-the Logos taking the place of a human soul, and being liable to
human infirmity, and even to sin, inasmuch as, however exalted, he was still a
creature, therefore finite, therefore fallible, capable of turning, in the
abuse of freedom, from good to evil. Apollinaris accepted the Arian method of
constructing [conceiving? ] the person, by the exclusion of a rational human
soul, and used it as a means of obviating the Arian conclusion."

did not deny a human soul in Christ in the scriptural sense of soul,
but a rational human soul, which was the philosophic term for which
Scripture uses the term "spirit." The spirit of Christ he maintained to
be His Deity; and in this way he thought not merely to escape the Arian
doctrine of moral frailty in the Lord, but to obtain other results of the
greatest importance.

these the first was the avoidance of all possibility of supposing a dual
personality in Christ, such as in fact some of his opponents fell into.
Quoting Dr. Bruce again: In his view "Christ was true God, for He was the
eternal Logos manifested in the flesh. He was also true man, for human nature
consists of three component elements, body, animal soul, and spirit;" and all
these Christ had "True, it might be objected that the third element in the
person of Christ, the nous [mind] was not human but divine. But
Apollinaris was ready with his reply. 'The mind in Christ,' he said in effect,
'is at once divine and human; the Logos is at once the express image of God
and the prototype of humanity.' This appears to be what he meant when
he asserted that the humanity of Christ was eternal,-a part of his
system which was much misunderstood by his opponents, who supposed it to have
reference to the body of Christ. There is no reason to believe that
Apollinaris meant to teach that our Lord's flesh was eternal, and that He
brought it with Him from heaven, and therefore was not really born of the
Virgin Mary; though some of his adherents may have held such opinions. His
idea was that Christ was the celestial man; celestial, because divine;
man, not merely as God incarnate, but because the divine spirit is at
the same time essentially human."

"This," Bruce remarks, "was the speculative element in the Apollinarian theory
misapprehended by contemporaries, better understood, and in some quarters
more sympathized with, now."

here is our interest in all this matter, that in the ferment of men's minds at
the present time so much of the dead and buried past is being revived;
oftentimes in fragments which it is useful to put in their place therefore
again, that we may see their natural connection, and realize their

Apollinaris would have urged, no doubt, that this last part of his view was
not simply speculation. He might have appealed to John 3:13, "the Son of man
which is in heaven," or better still to 1 Cor. 15:47, "the second Man is (ex
ouranou) out of heaven.7"

Nevertheless, "made in all things like unto His brethren" could not be said,
as is manifest, of Christ as he has pictured Him, except we admit a
self-emptying so great as that this divine humanity shall be able to take the
true human limitation, be tempted as we are, increase in wisdom as in stature,
be the new Adam, Head of a new race of men: without this it is plain we have
not the Christ of the Scriptures. He is so unlike us that we would not have
courage to claim Him for ourselves. Nor can we think of Him as in the agony of
the garden, or in the darkness of the forsaken sorrow upon the Cross. The
whole mental and moral nature of man, Apollinaris rightly conceived to be in
that spirit of man, which he denied the Lord to possess. Spirit, He had
brought (according to this theory) from heaven with Him; or rather this was
the very One who came. Thus it became now indeeed "the spirit of a Man"; but a
human spirit it could not be called, except by an argument which leaps
over an infinite difference as if it scarcely were one, while in the interests
of the theory, (that is to provide against the mutability of the creature,) it
is appraised at its full worth.

there was a third advantage that Apollinaris conceived to arise from this
divine humanity of Christ, that it made God Himself to stoop to suffering and
death, as no other view did, and this he believed to be essentially necessary
to give power to His redemptive work. But the view he took of this is in

the whole, there can be no right question that Apollinarianism, though it had
long disappeared, and only for a short time indeed maintained itself, was none
the less a step towards Kenoticism, which has of late been spreading in many
quarters, and which was needed to round out the elder doctrine to any
consistency. An American writer of this school even "founds his theory on the
basis of the essential unity of the human and divine"; "the incarnation,
according to him, being the human element (the Logos) eternally in God,
becoming man by taking flesh, and occupying the place of a soul." (Bruce.)

Kenoticism, in connection with our present theme, a very slight notice will
suffice. Its main position is that the Son of God, in becoming man, contracted
Himself really within human limitations, so as either actually to become the
human spirit of Christ, or else to take place along side of this in one human
consciousness. Always the aim is, as with Apollinarianism, to escape the
attribution to the Lord of dual personality, to make the Christ of the
Gospels more simply intelligible, while conserving His actual Deity. Deity
can, they say, without real self-impairment, lay aside what belongs to it
except essential attributes; and omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence are
not these, but only expressions of free relation to the world which He has
made. "Incarnation is for the Son of God, necessarily self-limitation,
self-emptying, not indeed of that which is essential in order to be God, but
of the divine manner of existence and of the divine glory which He had from
the beginning with the Father, and which He manifested or exercised in
governing the world. Such is the view," says Thomasius as quoted by Bruce,
"given by the apostle in the epistle to the Philippians, such the view
demanded by the evangelic history; for on no other view is it possible to
conceive how, for example, Christ could sleep in the storm on the sea of
Galilee. What real sleep could there be for Him, who, as God, not only was
awake, but, on the anti-Kenotic hypothesis, as Ruler of the world, brought
on, as well as, stilled the storm?"

writer quoted here does not go the extreme length of Gess and others, who
reproduce the Apollinarian view of the Lord's humanity; but we need not cite
more to show from what questionings Kenoticism has arisen, or the answer which
essentially all forms of it supply. Who does not know these questions? and
does not know also how we are baffled by them? Is this difficulty after all
capable of satisfactory solution? or does it show us that we are face to face
with the inscrutable, only affirming to us the Lord's own declaration that "no
man knoweth the Son, but the Father"?

must give us pause, at least, to realize how truly hypothetical all the
answers are,-how little Scripture can be even pleaded in their behalf: and
here surely is the very subject upon which we should fear to hazard a word
without the safe-guard of Scripture. We may, however, look at what is
advanced, if only with the conviction that the feebleness of all our thoughts
is what will be demonstrated by it. Even this may have its good also in
keeping us within the limits of trustworthy knowledge, that with the psalmist
we may not exercise ourselves on things too high for us, and incur the sure
penalty that follows presumption.

indeed a word taken from Scripture: it is the "self-emptying" of the second
chapter of Philippians, the real force of the word which in our common version
is poorly rendered, "He made Himself of no reputation" (heauton ekenosen).
It thus professes to be based upon Scripture-indeed to be the only adequate
interpretation, as we have seen, of the passage referred to: a wonderful
passage indeed, with which we cannot do better than refresh our memories and
our hearts. Wonderful it is that it is an exhortation for us to the imitation
of Christ in it:-

"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus; who, being in the
form of God, did not esteem it a thing to be grasped at, the being equal to
God, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, becoming in the
likeness of men; and, being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself,
becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."

alteration from "thought it not robbery" to "esteemed it not a thing to be
grasped at" is in accordance with the alternative in the margin of the Revised
Version and with what is preferred by many at the present day. The point
evidently that the apostle insists on is, not that Christ could claim to be
equal with God, but that He did not hold fast that claim: He emptied Himself-gave
up the form of God for a servant's form. The point that the Kenotic theory
invites us to consider is what is involved in this self-emptying.

fact itself is manifest: He was here a Man, in a servant's form. He did not
come in the form which was proper to Him as God, though He was God. That is
surely plain. It does not seem necessary to go back of the simple truth with
which every Christian is acquainted, to understand this emptying. There is no
fresh revelation apparent in it: rather, it is to this general Christian
knowledge that the apostle appeals.

are entitled to seek the full worth of these expressions: that is surely true.
He emptied Himself of the form of God to take a servant's form: there is the
antithesis; but it only implies the actuality of His manhood. When in manhood
He Himself speaks of "the Son of man who is in heaven" (John 3:13). Was He in
heaven, then, in the servant's form? Nay, one could not say so. But
then the servant's form which He had assumed did not limit Him to that;
the kenosis was not absolute and universal, but relative to His
appearance upon earth; it was only what was necessarily implied in His coming
into the world as Man, and not to be carried back of this. It agrees perfectly
with the passage in Philippians as an appeal founded upon the facts of
Christian knowledge, and not a new revelation for the first time communicated.

Again when the apostle assures us in Colossians (1:19, ) that "it pleased all
the fullness (of the Godhead-the whole Godhead) to dwell in Him," this is
impossible to make consistent with the Kenotic view of self-contraction within
the limits of mere manhood. We may be indeed very feeble in understanding what
is meant by this, but it is not contraction at all but expansion of our
conception of Christ as Man. It is not Kenoticism, nor consistent with it.

But, apart from Kenoticism, the Apollinarian conception of the Lord's humanity
does not present a basis for a human life capable of faith, of temptation, of
sympathy with ordinary human experience, of growth in wisdom such as is
explicitly attributed to Him. The singleness of personality which is indeed
very manifest in it-and which is its attraction to the perplexed intellect-is
gained at too great a cost. We must assert against the Apollinarian His true
Manhood, and against the Kenoticist His complete Godhead; even while we own
that the connection between these is inscrutable, and must remain so:
comforting ourselves with the assurance that that is after all what our Lord
Himself has declared. We know not the Son in the mystery of His nature; but we
do know Him in His union of Godhead and manhood the living Link between God
and His creatures, which can never be undone, and will never give way whatever
be the strain upon it. In Him before God, accepted in the Beloved, we are
"bound in the bundle of life with the Lord our God" in a way no human thought
could have dreamed in its highest imagining. But it is no imagination, but the
assurance that He Himself has given us: "Because I live ye shall live also"
(John 14:19.)


"The Humiliation of Christ," pp. 42, 43.

7  So the editors read it now.