Jesus’s Humanity Throughout History

The Permanence of Christmas, Part 2: Church History

Throughout church history, the best of Christian theology has recognized and affirmed the truth of Jesus’ continuing incarnation—the idea that Jesus didn’t simply make a 33-year cameo in the created world, but rather forever joined our humanity to his divinity and will always be fully God and fully man.

Here’s a sampling with help from Gerrit Scott Dawson’s Jesus Ascended: The Meaning of Christ’s Continuing Incarnation.

Justin Martyr

Second-century apologist Justin Martyr is explicit in affirming that after the resurrection Jesus ascended in “the flesh in which He suffered.” Justin also maintains, in opposition to his critics, that flesh in heaven is not impossible (Fragments on the Resurrection, ANF, vol. 1, 9).

Tertullian

The line continues into the third century. Tertullian (about 160–225) writes:

Jesus is still sitting there at the right hand of the Father, man, yet God . . . flesh and blood, yet purer than ours. (On the Resurrection of the Flesh, ANF, vol. 3, 51)

Augustine

In the 5th century, Augustine speaks of “that one grand and health-giving miracle of Christ’s ascension into heaven with the flesh in which he rose” (The City of God, NPNF, 1st series, vol. 2, 22.8).

Why Origen Was Condemned

In the 6th century, the renowned philosopher-theologian Origen, who died in 254, was condemned posthumously for implying that “after the resurrection the body of the Lord was ethereal” (The Anathemas Against Origen, NPNF, 2nd series, vol. 14, 10).

John Knox

Skip forward to the Reformation. The Scottish reformer John Knox writes in the Scots Confession that Jesus returned to heaven in “the self samyn body” (The Works of John Knox, vol. 2, 102).

Karl Barth

Then to the twentieth century. Karl Barth writes that Christ’s humanity is “to all eternity...a clothing which He does not put off. It is his temple which He does not leave. It is the form which He does not lose” (Church Dogmatics, Vol. IV: The Doctrine of Reconciliation, Part 2, 100–101).

Forever the God-Man

From the New Testament until the present, Christian theologians have rightly celebrated that Jesus is forever the God-man. He is glorious not merely in assuming our human nature but in remaining our brother and continuing as the visible “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). Without his continuing humanity, there would be no humanity in the Godhead to which we may be joined for all eternity.

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor at desiringGod.org and an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis. He has edited several books, including Thinking. Loving. Doing., Finish the Mission, and Acting the Miracle, and is co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.