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Title: Christological  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Council of Chalcedon, First Council of Nicaea, Monothelitism, Chalcedonian Christianity, Son of man, Tertium quid, Miaphysitism, Amana (Bible), Hypostasis (philosophy and religion), Johannes Khuen
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Christology (from Greek Χριστός Khristós and -λογία, -logia) is the field of study within Christian theology which is primarily concerned with the nature and person of Jesus Christ as recorded in the canonical Gospels and the epistles of the New Testament.[2] Primary considerations include the relationship of Jesus' nature and person with the nature and person of God the Father. As such, Christology is concerned with the details of Jesus' ministry, his acts and teachings, to arrive at a clearer understanding of who he is in his person, and his role in salvation.[3] A major component of the Christology of the Apostolic Age was that of Paul the Apostle. His central themes were the notion of the pre-existence of Christ and the worship of Christ as Kyrios (Greek: Lord).[4]

The pre-existence of Christ is considered a central theme of Christology. Proponents of Christ's deity argue the Old Testament has many cases of Christophany: "The pre-existence of Christ is further substantiated by the many recorded Christophanies in the Bible."[5] Christophany is often considered a more accurate term than the term Theophany due to the belief that all the visible manifestations of God (or Jehovah) are in fact the preincarnate Christ. Many argue that the appearances of "the Angel of the Lord" in the Old Testament were the preincarnate Christ. "Many understand the angel of the Lord as a true theophany. From the time of Justin on, the figure has been regarded as the preincarnate Logos."[6]

Following the Apostolic Age, there was fierce and often politicized debate in the early church on many interrelated issues. Christology was a major focus of these debates, and was addressed at every one of the first seven ecumenical councils. The second through fourth of these councils are generally entitled "Christological councils," with the latter three mainly elucidating what was taught in them and condemning incorrect interpretations.[7] The Council of Chalcedon in 451 issued a formulation of the being of Christ — that of two natures, one human and one divine, "united with neither confusion nor division."[7] This is called the doctrine of the hypostatic union,[7] which is still held today amongst most Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Christians, referred to as Chalcedonian Christianity. Due to politically charged differences in the 4th century, schisms developed, and the first denominations (from the Latin, "to take a new name") formed.[7]

In the 13th century, Saint Thomas Aquinas provided the first systematic Christology that consistently resolved a number of the existing issues.[8] In his Christology from above, Aquinas also championed the principle of perfection of Christ's human attributes.[9][10][11] The Middle Ages also witnessed the emergence of the "tender image of Jesus" as a friend and a living source of love and comfort, rather than just the Kyrios image.[12] According to Catholic theologian Karl Rahner, the purpose of modern Christology is to formulate the Christian belief that "God became man and that God-made-man is the individual Jesus Christ" in a manner that this statement can be understood consistently, without the confusions of past debates and mythologies.[13]

Terms and concepts

Template:Christology Over the centuries, a number of terms and concepts have been developed within the framework of Christology to address the seemingly simple questions: "who was Jesus and what did he do?" A good deal of theological debate has ensued and significant schisms within Christian denominations took place in the process of providing answers to these questions. After the Middle Ages, systematic approaches to Christology were developed.

The term "Christology from above" refers to approaches that begin with the

The concept of "Cosmic Christology", first elaborated by Saint Paul, focuses on how the arrival of Jesus as the Son of God forever changed the nature of the cosmos.[4][16] The terms "functional", "ontological" and "soteriological" have been used to refer to the perspectives that analyze the "works", the "being" and the "salvific" standpoints of Christology.[17] Some essential sub-topics within the field of Christology include the incarnation, the resurrection, and salvation.

The term "monastic Christology" has been used to describe spiritual approaches developed by Anselm of Canterbury, Peter Abelard and Bernard of Clairvaux. The Franciscan piety of the 12th and 13th centuries led to "popular Christology". Systematic approaches by theologians, such as Thomas Aquinas, are called "scholastic Christology".[18]


Early Christians found themselves confronted with a set of new concepts and ideas relating to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, as well the notions of salvation and redemption, and had to use a new set of terms, images and ideas to deal with them.[19] The existing terms and structures available to them were often insufficient to express these religious concepts, and taken together, these new forms of discourse led to the beginnings of Christology as an attempt to understand, explain and discuss their understanding of the nature of Christ.[19]

Furthermore, as early Christians (following the Great Commission) had to explain their concepts to a new audience which had at times been influenced by Greek philosophy, they had to present arguments that at times resonated with, and at times confronted, the beliefs of that audience. A key example is the

The Kyrios title for Jesus is central to the development of New Testament Christology, for the early Christians placed it at the center of their understanding, and from that center attempted to understand the other issues related to the Christian mysteries.[22] The question of the deity of Christ in the New Testament is inherently related to the Kyrios title of Jesus used in the early Christian writings and its implications for the absolute lordship of Jesus. In early Christian belief, the concept of Kyrios included the pre-existence of Christ, for they believed if Christ is one with God, he must have been united with God from the very beginning.[22][23]

In everyday Aramaic, Mari was a very respectful form of polite address, which means more than just "Teacher" and was somewhat similar to Rabbi. In Greek, this has at times been translated as Kyrios. While the term Mari expressed the relationship between Jesus and his disciples during his life, the Greek Kyrios came to represent his lordship over the world.[24]

Apostolic Christology

And he asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." — ESV

No writings were left by Jesus, and the study of the various Christologies of the

Christologies that can be gleaned from the three

A foremost contribution to the Christology of the Apostolic Age is that of Paul. The central Christology of Paul conveys the notion of Christ's pre-existence and the identification of Christ as Kyrios.[4] The Pauline epistles use Kyrios to identify Jesus almost 230 times, and express the theme that the true mark of a Christian is the confession of Jesus as the true Lord.[26] Paul viewed the superiority of the Christian revelation over all other divine manifestations as a consequence of the fact that Christ is the Son of God.[3]

The Pauline epistles also advanced the "cosmic Christology" later developed in the fourth gospel, elaborating the cosmic implications of Jesus' existence as the Son of God, as in

Post-Apostolic controversies

Main articles: First Council of Nicaea, First Council of Ephesus and Council of Chalcedon

Following the Apostolic Age, from the second century onwards, a number of controversies developed about how the human and divine are related within the person of Jesus.[27][28] As of the second century, a number of different and opposing approaches developed among various groups. For example, Arianism did not endorse divinity, Ebionism argued Jesus was an ordinary mortal, while Gnosticism held docetic views which argued Christ was a spiritual being who only appeared to have a physical body.[29][30] The resulting tensions led to schisms within the church in the second and third centuries, and ecumenical councils were convened in the fourth and fifth centuries to deal with the issues. Eventually, by the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451, the Hypostatic union was decreed—the proposition that Christ has one human nature [physis] and one divine nature [physis], united with neither confusion nor division—making this part of the creed of orthodox Christianity.[27][28] Although some of the debates seems, for a modern student, to be over a theological iota, they took place in controversial political circumstances, reflecting the relations of temporal powers and divine authority, it certaintly resulted in schisms, among others what separated the Church of the East from the Church of the Roman Empire.[31][32]

In 325, the First Council of Nicaea defined the persons of the Godhead and their relationship with one another - decisions which were reratified at the First Council of Constantinople in 381. The language used was that the one God exists in three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit); in particular, it was affirmed that the Son was homoousios (of same substance) as the Father. The Nicene Creed declared the full divinity and full humanity of Jesus.[33][34][35]

In 431, the First Council of Ephesus was initially called to address the views of Nestorius on Mariology, but the problems soon extended to Christology, and schisms followed. The 431 council was called because in defense of his loyal priest Anastasius, Nestorius had denied the Theotokos title for Mary and later contradicted Proclus during a sermon in Constantinople. Pope Celestine I (who was already upset with Nestorius due to other matters) wrote about this to Cyril of Alexandria, who orchestrated the council. During the council, Nestorius defended his position by arguing there must be two persons of Christ, one human, the other divine, and Mary had given birth only to a human, hence could not be called the Theotokos, i.e. "the one who gives birth to God". The debate about the single or dual nature of Christ ensued in Ephesus.[36][37][38][39]

The Council of Ephesus debated hypostasis (coexisting natures) versus monophysitism (only one nature) versus miaphysitism (two natures united as one) versus Nestorianism (disunion of two natures). From the Christological viewpoint, the council adopted hypostasis, i.e. coexisting natures, but its language was less definitive than the 451 Council of Chalcedon. The Oriental Orthodox rejected this and subsequent councils and to date consider themselves to be miaphysite.[40][41] By contrast, Roman Catholics to date believe in the hypostatic union and the Trinity. The council also confirmed the Theotokos title and excommunicated Nestorius.[42][43]

The 451 Council of Chalcedon was highly influential and marked a key turning point in the Christological debates that broke apart the church of the Eastern Roman Empire in the fifth century.[44] It is the last council which many Anglicans and most Protestants consider ecumenical.[45] It fully promulgated the hypostatic union, stating the human and divine natures of Christ coexist, yet each is distinct and complete. Although, the Chalcedonian Creed did not put an end to all Christological debate, it did clarify the terms used and became a point of reference for many future Christologies. Most of the major branches of Christianity — Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, Lutheranism, and Reformed — subscribe to the Chalcedonian Christological formulation, while many branches of Eastern Christianity - Syrian Orthodoxy, Assyrian Church, Coptic Orthodoxy, Ethiopian Orthodoxy, and Armenian Apostolicism - reject it.[45][46][47]

Christological issues

Person of Christ

Main article: Person of Christ

The Person of Christ refers to the study of the human and divine natures of Jesus Christ as they coexist within one person.[48] There are no direct discussions in the New Testament regarding the dual nature of the Person of Christ as both divine and human.[48] Hence, since the early days of Christianity, theologians have debated various approaches to the understanding of these natures, at times resulting in schisms.[48]

Historically in the Alexandrian school of thought (fashioned on the Gospel of John), Jesus Christ is the eternal Logos who already possesses unity with the Father before the act of Incarnation.[49] In contrast, the Antiochian school views Christ as a single, unified human person apart from his relationship to the divine.[49]

John Calvin maintained there was no human element in the Person of Christ which could be separated from the Person of The Word.[50] Calvin also emphasized the importance of the "Work of Christ" in any attempt at understanding the Person of Christ and cautioned against ignoring the Works of Jesus during his ministry.[51]

The study of the Person of Christ continued into the 20th century, with modern theologians such as

Nativity and the Holy Name


Crucifixion and Resurrection

The accounts of the crucifixion and subsequent resurrection of Jesus provides a rich background for Christological analysis, from the canonical Gospels to the Pauline Epistles.[62]

A central element in the Christology presented in the

Paul's Christology has a specific focus on the death and resurrection of Jesus. For Paul, the crucifixion of Jesus is directly related to his resurrection and the term "the cross of Christ" used in Galatians 6:12 may be viewed as his abbreviation of the message of the gospels.[65] For Paul, the crucifixion of Jesus was not an isolated event in history, but a cosmic event with significant eschatological consequences, as in Cor 2:8.[65] In the Pauline view, Jesus, obedient to the point of death (Phil 2:8), died "at the right time" (Rom 4:25) based on the plan of God.[65] For Paul, the "power of the cross" is not separable from the resurrection of Jesus.[65]

Threefold office

Main article: threefold office

The Book of Hebrews.


Some Christians, notably Roman Catholics, view Mariology as a key component of Christology.[66] In this view, not only is Mariology a logical and necessary consequence of Christology, but without it, Christology is incomplete, since the figure of Mary contributes to a fuller understanding of who Christ is and what he did.[67] Certain Christian traditions of Protestant heritage tend not to hold this view.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) expressed this sentiment about Roman Catholic Mariology when in two separate occasions he stated, "The appearance of a truly Marian awareness serves as the touchstone indicating whether or not the Christological substance is fully present"[68] and "It is necessary to go back to Mary, if we want to return to the truth about Jesus Christ."[69]

See also



  • Chilton, Bruce. “The Son of Man: Who Was He?” Bible Review. August 1996, 35+.
  • Cullmann, Oscar. The Christology of the New Testament. trans. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1980. ISBN 0-664-24351-7
  • Fuller, Reginald H. The Foundations of New Testament Christology. New York: Scribners, 1965. ISBN 0-684-15532-X
  • Greene, Colin J.D. Christology in Cultural Perspective: Marking Out the Horizons. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 2004. ISBN 0-8028-2792-6
  • Kingsbury, Jack Dean. The Christology of Mark's Gospel. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1989.
  • Letham, Robert. The Work of Christ. Contours of Christian Theology. Downer Grove: IVP, 1993, ISBN 0-8308-1532-5
  • Hodgson, Peter C. Winds of the Spirit: A Constructive Christian Theology. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994.
  • MacLeod, Donald. The Person Of Christ: Contours of Christian Theology. Downer Grove: IVP. 1998, ISBN 0-8308-1537-6
  • Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology, Vol.2.
  • Rausch, Thomas P. Who is Jesus?: An Introduction to Christology (Michael Glazier Books)]. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2003 ISBN 0-8146-5078-3
  • Schwarz, Hans. Christology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1998. ISBN 0-8028-4463-4

Further reading

  • Berkhof, Louis. The History of Christian Doctrine. Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 1996. ISBN 0-85151-005-1
  • Bonino, Jose Miquez. Faces of Jesus: Latin American Christologies. Eugene: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2002. ISBN 1-59244-097-5
  • Brana, Fernando Ocariz. The Mystery of Jesus Christ: A Christology and SoteriologyTextbook. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1994. ISBN 1-85182-127-9
  • Brown, Raymond E. An Introduction to New Testament Christology. Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1994. ISBN 0-8091-3516-7
  • Brummer, Vincent. Atonement, Christology and the Trinity: Making Sense of Christian Doctrine. Burlington: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2005. ISBN 0-7546-5230-0
  • Casey, Michael. Fully Human, Fully Divine: And Interactive Christology. Liquori: Liguori Publications, 2004. ISBN 0-7648-1149-5
  • Chemnitz, Martin. The Two Natures in Christ. trans. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1970. ISBN 0-570-03210-5
  • Dunn, James D.G. Christology in the Making: A New Testament Inquiry into the Origins of the Doctrine of the Incarnation. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1996. ISBN 0-8028-4257-7
  • Dupuis, Jacques. Who Do You Say I Am?: Introduction to Christology. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1994. ISBN 0-88344-940-4
  • Dyson, A. O. Who Is Jesus? in series, S.C.M. Centrebooks [sic]. London: S.C.M. Press, 1969. SBN 334-01786-8-6
  • Fruchtenbaum, Arnold. Messianic Christology. San Antonio: Ariel Ministries, 1998. ISBN 0-914863-07-X
  • Fuller, Reginald Horace. The Foundations of New Testament Christology. Cambridge: James Clarke, 2003. ISBN 978-0-227-17075-5
  • Gathercole, Simon J. The Pre-existent Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 2006. ISBN 0-8028-2901-5
  • ISBN 0-664-22301-X
  • Guardini, R., The Lord, Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 1954, 1996. ISBN 978-0-89526-714-6
  • Haight, Roger. The Future of Christology. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2005. ISBN 0-8264-1764-7
  • Hatzidakis, Emmanuel. Jesus: Fallen? The Human Nature of Christ Examined from an Eastern Orthodox Perspective. Clearwater: Orthodox Witness, 2013. ISBN 978-0-9778970-5-6
  • Hengstenberg, E. W. Christology of the Old Testament. Reprint ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1970. 715 p. N.B.: On verso of t.p.: "[A]n abridgement by Thomas Kerchever Arnold of the translation [of the author's work] from the German of Dr. Reuel Keith. Reproduced from the ... Rivington edition, London, 1847."
  • Hick, John. The Metaphor of God Incarnate: Christology in a Pluralistic Age. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006. ISBN 0-664-23037-7
  • Johnson, Elizabeth. Consider Jesus: Waves of Renewal in Christology. New York: Herder & Herder, 1992. ISBN 0-8245-1161-1
  • Karkkainen, Veli-Matti. Christology: A Global Introduction. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003. ISBN 0-8010-2621-0
  • Kraus, C. Norman. Jesus Christ Our Lord: Christology from a Disciple’s Perspective. Eugene: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2004. ISBN 1-59244-789-9
  • Marchesi S.J., Giovanni. Gesu di Nazaret:Chi Sei? Lineamenti di cristologia. San Paolo Edizioni. 2004. ISBN 88-215-5218-7
  • Matera, Frank J. New Testament Christology. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1999. ISBN 0-664-25694-5
  • Meier, John P. A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, New York: Anchor Doubleday,
v. 1, The Roots of the Problem and the Person, 1991. ISBN 0-385-26425-9
v. 2, Mentor, Message, and Miracles, 1994. ISBN 0-385-46992-6
  • Moule, C.F.D. The Origin of Christology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978. ISBN 0-521-29363-4
  • McIntyre, John. The shape of christology: studies in the doctrine of the person of Christ 2nd edn, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1998; 1st edn, London: SCM, 1966.
  • Neuman, Matthias and Thomas P. Walters. Christology: True God, True Man (Catholic Basics). Chicago: Loyola Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8294-1719-2
  • Neville, Robert Cummings. Symbols of Jesus: A Christology of Symbolic Engagement. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-521-00353-9
  • Newlands, George M. God in Christian Perspective. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1994. ISBN 0-567-29259-2
  • Norris, Richard A. and William G. Rusch. The Christological Controversy. Sources of Early Christian Thought Series. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1980. ISBN 0-8006-1411-9
  • O'Collins, Gerald. Christology: A Biblical, Historical, and Systematic Study of Jesus Christ. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-19-875502-3
  • Outler, Albert C. Christology. Bristol House, 1996. ISBN 1-885224-08-7
  • Ratzinger, Cardinal Joseph. Introduction to Christianity. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1969. ISBN I586170295
  • Scaer, David P. Christology Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics Vol. VI. Northville: The Luther Academy, 1989. ISBN 0-9622791-6-1
  • Skurja, Katie. Living in the Intersection. Imago Dei Ministries, Portland, OR. (1/06), pp. 82.
  • Sobrino, Jon. Christology at the Crossroads. Eugene: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2002. ISBN 1-59244-095-9
  • Torrance, Iain R. Christology After Chalcedon. Eugene: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 1998. ISBN 1-57910-110-0
  • Witherington, Ben. The Christology of Jesus. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1997. ISBN 0-8006-3108-0
  • Battle, Donald E. "Jesus Christ Study Bible" JCSB Bible: Pleasant Word Publishers, 2009. ISBN 1-4141-1372-2

External links

  • Encyclopaedia Britannica, Christology - full access article


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