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Did Christ have a fallen human nature?


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#61 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 06 March 2010 - 04:15 PM

"In rejecting Aphthartodocetism, the Orthodox affirmed (1) that the inheritance of mortality from Adam was not an inheritance of guilt, and (2) that the Logos voluntarily assumed, not an abstract ideal manhood, but our fallen humanity, with all the consequences of sin, including incorruptibility" (Byzantine Theology, p. 158).

I presume that when Meyendorff speaks of fallen human nature, he is speaking of mortal human nature.

#62 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 06 March 2010 - 04:34 PM

"In rejecting Aphthartodocetism, the Orthodox affirmed (1) that the inheritance of mortality from Adam was not an inheritance of guilt, and (2) that the Logos voluntarily assumed, not an abstract ideal manhood, but our fallen humanity, with all the consequences of sin, including incorruptibility" (Byzantine Theology, p. 158).


Dear Fr,
Should this be corruptibility?

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#63 Father David Moser

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Posted 06 March 2010 - 04:52 PM

"...the Logos voluntarily assumed, not an abstract ideal manhood, but our fallen humanity, with all the consequences of sin, including incorruptibility" (Byzantine Theology, p. 158).


I'm sure its just a typo, but the quote here should read "our fallen humanity, with all the consequences of sin, including corruptibility"

Fr David Moser

#64 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 06 March 2010 - 05:10 PM

Yes, thanks for catching the typo. The passage should read:

"In rejecting Aphthartodocetism, the Orthodox affirmed (1) that the inheritance of mortality from Adam was not an inheritance of guilt, and (2) that the Logos voluntarily assumed, not an abstract ideal manhood, but our fallen humanity, with all the consequences of sin, including corruptibility" (Byzantine Theology, p. 158).

#65 Grace Singh

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Posted 06 March 2010 - 07:23 PM

Yes, thanks for catching the typo. The passage should read:

"In rejecting Aphthartodocetism, the Orthodox affirmed (1) that the inheritance of mortality from Adam was not an inheritance of guilt, and (2) that the Logos voluntarily assumed, not an abstract ideal manhood, but our fallen humanity, with all the consequences of sin, including corruptibility" (Byzantine Theology, p. 158).


wouldn't assuming fallen humanity also mean an assuming of fallen nature?

#66 Anna Stickles

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Posted 06 March 2010 - 07:47 PM

Isn't there another thread on here somewhere where we talked about that the fact that our nature as created and mortal is inherently corruptible? That being corruptible is not a result of sin? A picture that comes to mind is that of an electric magnet wherein as long as it is plugged in, the magnetism is holding together all the pieces in a large metal statue, but as soon as the magnet is unplugged and this stablizing force removed the statue starts collapsing into its indiviudal parts. This is like us in that when we are separated from God we start to suffer the effects of being mortal and corruptible, but when we are joined to Him, even though we are not suffering the effects of our corruptibility, we are still nevertheless intrinsically corruptible.

So then can we say that Christ assumed our corruptibility, but since in Him humanity was reunited with God, He did not assume our corruption?

#67 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 15 March 2010 - 04:18 AM

Anna, I am presently reading The Burning Bush by Sergius Bulgakov. It's a remarkable book. Bulgakov vigorously takes the Catholic Church to task for teaching that the human body, apart from supernatural grace, is naturally mortal. I'm not sure if Bulgakov accurately states the Catholic view, though he may well be stating the views of those writing at the time; but I think he wants to say that Adam was created naturally immortal. I'm not sure if I'm reading him correctly, though, and will need to re-read this short book a couple of times. But here's a couple passages:

The incorrupt and virginal human has in himself both the power of life--posse non mori--and the power of chastity--posse non peccare--not by means of an extraordinary gift--donum superadditum [the catholic view], but as an internal norm., the exact essence of his nature. Both death and sin, although possible in the human owing to his creatureliness (as sin as to a certain time was possible even for the world of bodiless powers: this is proven by the fall of the Morning Star and his angels and the battle of Michael and his hosts with him in heaven, who definitively resisted in this battle and conquered), were for the human precisely not normal and contrary to nature. (pp. 16-17)

Thus the primordial human was neither mortal nor concupiscent according to his nature, for in his very nature was included a life of grace in Gd and with God, for he was created int he world for God. But, as a creaturely being, he had in himself the creaturely weakness and instability of nature; in it lay the possibility of life not only in God and for God but also in the world and for the world. And in original sin the human extinguished the life of grace within and tore asunder his direct graced communion, "conversation" with God; he committed homicide against himself, ceased to be a human, a friend of God, and instead became a natural being, and plunged into cosmism. This fall, this homicide was at the same time suicide: as the soul is the life of the body, so God is eternal life for the human, the life of the soul. Having turned away from God, the human lost the power and fountain of life within and, weakened, he could no longer contain and bind his body. (p. 18)


I don't know how this rhymes with other Eastern writers.

#68 Anna Stickles

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 01:55 AM

Fr Alvin,

Both death and sin, although possible in the human owing to his creatureliness ..., were for the human precisely not normal and contrary to nature. Thus the primordial human was neither mortal nor concupiscent according to his nature, for in his very nature was included a life of grace in Gd and with God, But, as a creaturely being, he had in himself the creaturely weakness and instability of nature;


For more on the subtleties of what he is trying to say, there was an earlier thread where Fr Ireneaus says

The basic patristic position is nuanced, and amounts to essentially this:

  • Only God is eternal and incorruptible by nature; anything that is created is intrinsically, 'naturally' mortal and corruptible, since it is not God; yet
  • God creates all things into harmony with Himself, by which they participate in His eternity and incorruptibility and these attributes become those of creation in union with Himself; and since this participation / union is the manner in which God created them, it is their 'natural' condition.
  • Human sin forges a division between man and God, which extends beyond humanity to all the created realm, the consequence of this being that all things fall into their 'natural' mortality, finitude and corruptibility; yet
  • God, in redeeming creation, re-unites it with Himself through man, thus restoring to it the 'natural' immortality, eternity and incorruptibility which are God's own, and for which creation was always intended.
It is this nuance that allows the Fathers to say that man is both 'naturally' mortal/corruptible and 'naturally' immortal/incorruptible. But this is maintained in the very specific observation of the fact that, prior to sin, the 'natural' corruptibility of all created things did not result in the actual corruption or death of any created thing, since all existed in the 'natural', created state of communion in God's incorruptibility.


Whether this helps or not I don't know. Sergius Bulgakov is quite bold in saying that humanity has in itself the power of life, but I think that the way he qualifies this in defining what it means to be a creature keeps it within the Patristic context.

#69 Grace Singh

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 01:42 PM

Isn't there another thread on here somewhere where we talked about that the fact that our nature as created and mortal is inherently corruptible? That being corruptible is not a result of sin? A picture that comes to mind is that of an electric magnet wherein as long as it is plugged in, the magnetism is holding together all the pieces in a large metal statue, but as soon as the magnet is unplugged and this stablizing force removed the statue starts collapsing into its indiviudal parts. This is like us in that when we are separated from God we start to suffer the effects of being mortal and corruptible, but when we are joined to Him, even though we are not suffering the effects of our corruptibility, we are still nevertheless intrinsically corruptible.

So then can we say that Christ assumed our corruptibility, but since in Him humanity was reunited with God, He did not assume our corruption?


Ms. Anna ~

is it possible that we were created with the potential to die and grow weak over time, but that our disobedience to God made that potential a cursed reality? after all, Adam was made in God's image but was still a creation, not the Creator.

here is what the Lord God said to Adam after the fruit was eaten :

Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.

It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.

By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.

(Genesis 3:17-19)

so it sounds like the fate of returning to the ground and dying is something pronounced only after the fall, not something that would have happened anyway without the fall. the potential to die was there, but was realized by Adam's disobedience. similar to how all wood has the potential to burn, but is burned only if a spark ignites, or fire is touched to it.

#70 Anna Stickles

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 08:23 PM

so it sounds like the fate of returning to the ground and dying is something pronounced only after the fall, not something that would have happened anyway without the fall. the potential to die was there, but was realized by Adam's disobedience. similar to how all wood has the potential to burn, but is burned only if a spark ignites, or fire is touched to it.


I believe you are understanding me very well, and it is interesting that you use this analogy as this is almost exactly what St Athanasius says and notice how he says we put on Life like asbestos that protects us from being consumed by the fire. Of course this Life is Christ Himself.

Therefore He put on a body, that He night find death in the body, and blot it out. For how could the Lord have been proved at all to be the Life, had He not quickened what was mortal? And just as, whereas stubble is naturally destructible by fire, supposing (firstly) a man keeps fire away from the stubble, though it is not burned, yet the stubble remains, for all that, merely stubble, fearing the threat of the fire — for fire has the natural property of consuming it; while if a man (secondly) encloses it with a quantity of asbestos, the substance said to be an antidote to fire, the stubble no longer dreads the fire, being secured by its enclosure in incombustible matter; in this very way one may say, with regard to the body and death, that if death had been kept from the body by a mere command on His part, it would none the less have been mortal and corruptible, according to the nature of bodies; but, that this should not be, it put on the incorporeal Word of God, and thus no longer fears either death or corruption, for it has life as a garment, and corruption is done away in it. On the Incarnation ( 44.7)



#71 Grace Singh

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Posted 21 March 2010 - 10:37 PM

Anna ~

interesting! very beautiful and striking analogy of asbestos-covered stubble.... so does the writer mean to say that Christ assumed a pre-Fall human nature, but was still subject to the conditions of the flesh in a post-fall world? because as the writer said, Christ was slain, but was not consumed or destroyed, as it were.

#72 Anna Stickles

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Posted 21 March 2010 - 11:40 PM

Anna ~

so does the writer mean to say that Christ assumed a pre-Fall human nature, but was still subject to the conditions of the flesh in a post-fall world?


I'm not sure that it is quite right to say that Christ assumed a pre-Fall human nature. I think we are creating a false dichotomy here in differentiating between pre-fall and post-fall human nature. Human nature really hasn't changed in essence; what Christ assumed was our mortal nature. But in Himself He reunited that nature with God which restores it to it's pre-fall state, that natural state Fr Ireneaus describes in point 2 in the quote in post #68 above.

It is precisely because in Christ human nature is united to the Divine in an unbreakable bond that death no longer has any power to destroy it. But each of us has to take hold of what Christ offers for ourself. And this is what our spiritual practices in the Orthodox church teach us to do. This is also how we understand communion. We partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, we put on Christ, we are united with His Body, we receive His life, and our body is changed into the likeness of His body. This is a foreshadowing and foretaste of the resurrection.

II Cor 4:11,16 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. ...Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.

Notice above how the Apostle relives in himself this dying and coming alive with Christ. This is the essence of our spiritual practice in Orthodoxy entered into at Baptism. (see Rom 6:4)

II Cor 5:1 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, 3inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. 4For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life.

And here St Paul talks about what we've been talking about here, our need to be clothed with Life. The Church, the Body of Christ, is that heavenly dwelling.

There are a number of threads here dealing with the issue of how Christ assumes the consequences of sin, actually suffering our human frailty and mortality, while still remaining sinless. The only one I remember right now is the one Did Christ feel emotions, but I have this vague memory of there being another better one, but anyway, Fr Raphael describes it like this

It is very important that we keep in mind the term that the Fathers eventually formulated for Christ's manner of relation to human nature. This is summed up in the term, 'the blameless passions.' That is Christ fully adopts human nature including certain results of the Fall but He does this in a sinless way.

This last point is what is most important here for it relates to how Christ adopts the fullness of human nature without disdaining its present weaknesses. But the manner in which He does this as the pre-Incarnate Word of God is always in reference to man's original divine purpose.

Thus He feels hunger but without greed; He fears death but without fleeing from it. In other words Christ knows & experiences our sin inexpressibly more fully than we do but the way in which He does so is sinless.



#73 Antonios

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Posted 10 March 2014 - 05:28 PM

Reading a very interesting book entitled 'Jesus Fallen? The human nature of Christ examined from an Eastern Orthodox Perspective' and a footnote in the book references this thread. So far our a couple of people from Monachos have been quoted in this scholarly book. Just thought I'd share the news!

A blessed Lent to everyone!

Edited by Antonios, 10 March 2014 - 05:28 PM.





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