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And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. — John 1:14

I heard a Jehovah's Witness say that once the Word became flesh, it stopped being divine, because it became flesh. This sounds ridiculous, because one is essentially stating that God stopped being God. Nevertheless, what does it mean that the Word became flesh? In what manner did the Word become flesh, and how can one argue that the Word did not stop being the Word simply because it became flesh?

Thank you.

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The New Testament goes to great lengths to assert two facts: Jesus became human but remained fully divine. Note that John 1:14 specifically says that Jesus (the Word here) became flesh which occurred at His incarnation in Bethlehem. Before this time, Jesus had always existed with God in heaven (John 1:1-3, 17:5, etc) but remained God (Matt 1:23).

That Jesus was fully human is inescapable:

  • Attended social functions (John 2:1-11)
  • Became angry & passionate (John 2:12-25)
  • Nicodemus saw Him as a man (John 3:1-21)
  • Tired, hungry & thirsty (John 4:1-42)
  • Jesus referred to Himself as a man (John 8:40)
  • Jewish leaders definitely saw Jesus as a man (John 10:33)
  • Wept with human passion (John 11:1-57)
  • Prays for divine strength (John 17)
  • Feels pain and bleeds (John 18:12ff)
  • Pilate said, "Behold the Man" (John 19:5)
  • Called, “The Son of Man” (John 1:51, 3:13, 5:27, 6:27, 53, 62, 8:28, 9:35, 12:23, 34, 13:31)
  • Dies (John 19:17-42), etc, etc.
  • Jesus took the "form" of a human, Phil 2:5-8
  • In fact, the NT also says that anyone who says that Jesus was not human is "antichrist" 1 John 4:3, 4, 2 John 7.

However, Jesus remined fully divine.

  • John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. (Compare v14 where the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, thus identifying the Word as Jesus.)
  • John 1:18, “…but God the one and only who is at the Father’s side has made him known”
  • John 5:17, 18, “In his defence, Jesus said, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.’ For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was calling God his own Father, making him equal to God.” See also Luke 22:69-71.
  • John 20:28, “Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God.’”
  • Rom 9:5, “…Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.”
  • Phil 2:5-8, “…Jesus Christ: who, being in very nature God…”
  • Titus 2:13, “…our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.”
  • Heb 1:8, “About the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last forever’”.
  • 2 Peter 1:1, “…righteousness of our God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.”
  • Isa 9:6, “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
  • Jesus also called himself "I Am" (Matt 14:27, Mark 6:50, Mark 13:6, Luke 21:8, Mark 14:62, Luke 22:70, John 4:26, 6:20, 8:24, 28, 58, 13:19, 18:5, 6, 8 - see original Greek for exact wording here.) Compare Ex 3:13-17.

Thus, the fact that Jesus was fully human does not prevent Him being fully divine. since divinity is eternal, Jesus was always divine but only became human at the incarnation, hence the wording in John 1:14. Ellicott comments as follows:

Man came to be a son of God, because the Son of God became man. They were not, as the Docetae of that time said, believers in an appearance. "The Word was made flesh." The term "flesh" expresses human nature as opposed to the divine, and material nature as opposed to the spiritual, and is for this reason used rather than "body," for there may be a purely spiritual body (see Note on 1Corinthians 15:40-44); and rather than "man," which is used in John 5:27; John 8:40, for of man the spiritual is the highest part. It is not the approach of the divine and human nature in the region of the spiritual which is common to both that strikes the writer with wonder, but that men should have power to become sons of God, and that the Word, of whose glory he has spoken in the earlier verses, should become flesh. (Comp. Philippians 2:6-8; 2Corinthians 8:9, Notes.)

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It is surely meant in the same sense as Philippians 2:5-11 (DRB):

For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. 8 He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. 9 For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names: 10 That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: 11 And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.

Clearly someone cannot begin a divine person ("being in the form of God"), and then change into a created person: a person is either created or uncreated. It must mean that which Christians have always held: that the Word assumed or took human nature upon Himself—"became flesh and dwelt among us." It must be meant in the same sense as "he became a lawyer;" not that said hypothetical person ceased to be a father, or a husband, or a human, but only a lawyer!

"Flesh" here very clearly refers to a humanity, not a lump of meat, the meaning yielded, then, is "became a man;" and the meaning of that is obvious: when one says, "God became a man," they cannot mean "God turned His nature into that of a man," because such is not human, or "God is not a man," but rather that "God took on ["he took"] a human nature for himself."

If the Word stopped being the Word, or stopped being divine, at the Incarnation thereof, then why would one read something like the following?

Revelation 1:17-18 (DRB) And when I had seen him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying: Fear not. I am the First and the Last, 18 And alive, and was dead, and behold I am living for ever and ever, and have the keys of death and of hell."

Or,

Revelation 2:8 (DRB) And to the angel of the church of Smyrna write: These things saith the First and the Last, who was dead, and is alive:

Clearly the First and the Last who became flesh never ceased to be who He was—Mary was and is indeed the Theotokos, since she bore ("eteken") "[meth hymon] o theos" (God [with us]).

  • Thanks. These are good points. – CMK Jul 2 at 21:09
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This is an interesting question, and you may well get other responses that you find more acceptable, but in the meantime, here is how I see it.
The eternal life of the Word was manifest in the embryo of Jesus, becoming flesh, when Mary conceived by the Holy Ghost (Mat 1:18); and departed from the body of Jesus when he, "yielded up the ghost" (Mat 27:50), and Jesus' body died. The life of the Word was later restored to again be manifest in the body, giving life again to Jesus, when he was resurrected. I believe it is written somewhere that God both gives life and takes away life, thus Jesus briefly despaired, fearing that he had been forsaken, still being alive as the light of the new special day was about to appear, seconds before finally he did die, as he had been expecting, at the very last of the special 3 hour night darkness. The Word did not die, but the body of Jesus, in which the life of the Word had been manifest died, temporarily.

  • This is probably true. It's most likely what happens with human spirits in general. – CMK Jul 2 at 21:10
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63It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
-- John 6:63 (KJV)

Jesus makes it clear that "flesh" is nothing -- his flesh, our flesh, any and all flesh. It is the spirit that "quickeneth", i.e. that causes the flesh to move. The spirit that moved the bag of bones that bore the name Jesus, was God.

10Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.
-- John 14:10 (KJV)

The bag of bones that bore the name Jesus is rhema (the means), not Logos (the substance). The voice of Jesus delivering the words of his Father is rhema, not Logos. The words written in the text of scripture are rhema, not Logos.

44No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
-- John 6:44 (KJV)

The Father created a bag of bones in the womb of Mary that would grow to deliver His words, words that would open the gates of paradise for any and all who would step through them.

7Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 8And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

  • 9Of sin, because they believe not on me;

  • 10Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;

  • 11Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
    -- John 16:7-11 (KJV)

Jesus is redefining sin here. A man who breaks the Law of God sins against the flesh (his own and others'), but not believing in Jesus is a sin against the Spirit of God that longs to draw him to the Father.

All that is written and said, is rhema. May God be glorified!

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"I heard a Jehovah's Witness say that once the Word became flesh, it stopped being divine, because it became flesh."

That doctrine isn't specific to Jehovah's Witnesses. Many other denominations believe that between his conception and his resurrection, Jesus was fully human, without any divine nature that isn't also available to the rest of humanity. Those that don't realize this concept are missing a most significant aspect of Christianity.

The Bible is quite explicit about this.

Philippians 2:7 (NLT) says:

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. ...

Many other translations say he "emptied himself" of his divine nature.

Consider Hebrews 2:14-18:

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

This is the central message of Christianity, that as human beings, with the help of God's spirit, we can resist and overcome temptation and sin. Jesus showed that it was possible, relying upon God, while no longer being God. God the Father was so sure that this was possible, that he allowed God the Son to risk his own eternal life.

Here's part of an answer I gave elsewhere:

What the being we know as the Son did, was to completely empty himself of all divinity and become a fully human being. As such, he was subject to the same temptations as anyone else, and would have become subject to the eternal death penalty if he ever sinned. Jesus "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15).

This is a key point that many Christians fail to understand when they quote John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son".

If it were certain that as a human being Jesus would never sin, and that as a result he would be resurrected back to his fully divine spiritual self, then there really wasn't much of a sacrifice. And Jesus's temptation in the desert etc. would have been nothing more than symbolic rituals.

But this wasn't certain. The great sacrifice was that Jesus could have sinned; that had he done so, he would have died and stayed that way. He would no longer exist, and God the Father would be left alone for all eternity.

This is the central key to what Christianity is all about. The life of a spirit being that had existed for eternity was contingent upon the ability of a single human being to live a life without sin. That is what the Father's sacrifice was. That is what "so loved the world" really means.

  • The difficulty Jehovah's Witnesses face is that they believe Jesus was created by Jehovah, that he had not existed for eternity. – Lesley Jul 5 at 16:59
  • Philippians 2:7 says that Christ gave up His divine privileges, not that He stopped being divine. Being born as a human being does not stop Him from having a divine nature. – CMK Jul 22 at 21:53
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There were some great answers already. I would like to introduce an illustration which might help you as much as it has helped me to understand the distinction between the divinity and humanity of Christ.

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God is spirit, Jesus Himself attests to this being true. John 4:24

Jesus says that He had glory prior to Creation John 17:5. Therefore He existed prior to Creation. This includes all the heavenly hosts, they come after day 1 (probably day 2). So right there He is attesting to being God and therefore a spirit because God is spirit.

The problem therefore is how does a spirit manifest itself and interact with the material realm? One possibility is to materialize or to take on a body (another is Spirit to spirit but that can bypass the faculties of the brain and mind and might not be all that beneficial materially speaking 1 Corinthians 14:14). That’s partly why Jesus became the visible God in the form of the Angel of the Lord and the Father was the invisible God. (This is referencing the two powers).

What I’m saying is that the (material) body is not the identity of the individual. The anatomy or the biological machine that houses the soul and spirit is not the sum total of who a person is. A person is more than mere chemical components. While we can interact with the physical part of a person through the senses, we can also interact with the non physical part like the mind, which is immaterial but entirely real.

We humans begin from the point of conception but not just the biological body but also our spirit is created. Our names might be in a registry called the Book of Life but we only start to exist after we are conceived. Our spirits are no stocked up in some warehouse waiting to be dispensed.

“The oracle of the word of the Lord concerning Israel: Thus declares the Lord, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him:” ‭‭Zechariah‬ ‭12:1‬ ‭

The biggest difference with Jesus was that He IS and therefore the “He IS” (which is a spirit because He is God, and God is a spirit) is preexisting.

He didn’t need to be formed, He didn’t need a spirit to be formed, He just needed a body to inhabit.

The problem with the body is that it’s limiting. It’s very limiting. So it’s not that He lost His divinity, rather He chose to limit Himself voluntarily by taking on a limiting human body (non glorified body, non heavenly host-like or non ‘angel’-like body).

One limitation of the body is, you cannot be omnipresent.

Another is you cannot house all knowledge because even if all the knowledge is in the non physical mind or spirit, the processor or the brain cannot compute what it has not been taught. Jesus has to grow in knowledge while confined to a limiting body. Luke 2:52 (of course the glorified body has different properties 1 Corinthians 15:32)

So He relied on the Father to teach Him all things and was given the Spirit to do the things He saw the Father doing.

At any point He could have shed His body and escaped the “shell”. He had access to the Father to call legions of angels but He voluntarily showed restraint Matthew 26:53, He didn’t say He would call them Himself, rather He suppressed His omnipotency. He never stopped being God because the spirit that was in the biological machine was the second person of the Godhead Jesus, but He voluntarily chose not to access His divine attributes.

That’s simply all that Jesus was doing. He being a preexistent spirit took on a body. And that body had limitations right from the beginning. For one, it needed to grow and then be delivered via birth.

The reason some will argue that he stopped being divine might come from the fact that he chose voluntarily to suppress his divine attributes. He relied entirely on the Father and the Holy Spirit. He did not access his omnipresence, nor his omnipotency and nor his omniscience.

It also says that he took off his glory prior to even commencing the creation process. John 17:5 Meaning He stepped down voluntarily to take the role of the Angel of the Lord even before He started creating (some ~6950 years ago according to the Essene calendar)

So he appeared human, the thing that made him divine was that His Spirit was divine. Or put differently His Spirit was in fact God. Therefore God was inside a biological machine call a human body.

If nothing else this is encouraging to me, knowing that He was at no advantage and I’m at no disadvantage. If He could do it, then however He did it, I can too and He did it by not seeking His own will but only what the Father showed Him to do. Did nothing in His own strength but relied entirely on the strength of the Hole Spirit.

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John chapter 1 verses 1-5 state that Jesus was with God in the beginning. He was the Word. To atone for the sin of mankind, an unblemished lamb had to be sacrificed. But first, He had to live as a man--to see and experience our trials, our joys, our sorrows and all that it took to be human. He had to show that it IS possible to live and not sin. Sin is rooted in the flesh. The flesh is that part of us that consistently gives in to our senses--gluttony, promiscuity, covetousness, lying, cheating, stealing, bearing false witness, hatred, etc. The Word, Jesus, was born of a virgin--the Word was then made flesh. It in no way diminished His divinity. Jesus lived among us displaying His great love for us and His great glory. Then He suffered, died, was buried, and got up from the grave to deliver us from damnation.

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