JESUS CHRIST, TWOFOLD STATE OF: The doctrine dealing with the humiliation and exaltation of Christ.

The Lutheran Doctrine.

Christian faith has always spoken of a humiliation and exaltation of Christ when it compared the earthly appearance of Jesus on the one side with the mode of existence of the preexisting Logos, and on the other side with the present world-rule of the Mediator. But the formula of a twofold state has been coined only in connection with the definite interpretation given to the incarnation by Luther and the Christological theory that followed in his steps. From the dogmatic idea of the unchangeableness of God and of the communication of divine attributes to the human nature of Christ there results a terminology which must make room in the earthly life of the Redeemer for a human development, otherwise inconceivable, by a special "state of humiliation." Incarnation denotes, accordingly, not a descent of the Logos, but an elevation of human nature, which has been received into the most intimate connection with the divine nature. In virtue of the Communicatio Idiomatum (q.v.) which began with his incarnation, it was impossible for Christ to rid himself of his divinity. With the incarnation the exaltation of human nature to divine glory was completed once for all. "When he [Christ] began to be a man, he also began to be God" (Luther). According to Brenz, the real ascension of Christ began with the incarnation. "Divine nature," however, "can neither be humiliated nor exalted." The life of Jesus within the limits of human development rests, therefore, upon that act of self-limitation of the God-man--not of the Logos--which is described in Phil. ii. 5-9. In this way the state of self-renunciation is brought about. The exaltation or "majesty" of Christ was self-evident, but the great problem to be solved was how humiliation was possible.

Johann Gerhard among the Lutheran theologians most fully developed the doctrine of the two states of Christ. The communicatio idiomatum, according to him, was accomplished at the moment of incarnation, but Christ did not make use of them, he renounced them, he took upon himself the form of a servant, until he ascended to heaven and sat on the right hand of God; hence the distinction between the state of self-renunciation and the state of exaltation. The state of humiliation, therefore, does not denote the unconditional lack and absence of the divinity and majesty communicated to the flesh, but only the retraction and intermission of its use. In 1616 there originated a controversy between the theologians of Giessen and those of Tübingen (see CHRISTOLOGY, IX.) as to the manner in which Christ, emptied himself (see KENOSIS) of his divine attributes, whether it was mere concealment (Gk, krypsis) or an actual emptying (kenosis). The orthodox theologians did not consider the self-renunciation of Christ mere simulation, but a true and real self-renunciation of the plenary communicated divine majesty and virtue. There arose also a question as to the time when the state of self-renunciation began. According to Luther's interpretation of Phil. ii. this state began only after the birth of Jesus. After his birth Jesus might have exalted himself above men, if he had not been willing to serve them. But according to the later dogmaticians the state of humiliation began with the conception. Since humiliation, however, does not consist in the assumption of human nature, but in the assumption of the form of a servant, incarnation is distinguished from its incongruous form--the incarnation of the Logos is not his humiliation but an exaltation of human nature, while the act of conception is the first act in the humiliation of the God-man. The state of exaltation begins with the descent of Christ into hell as the triumph of the God-man over the devil (see DESCENT OF CHRIST INTO HELL).

The Reformed Doctrine.

For Reformed theologians the doctrine of the twofold state of Christ is of minor dogmatic importance; their attention was concentrated not so much upon the dogmatic assertion of the unchangeableness of God as upon the practical Biblical view of the truly human development of Jesus. According to the Reformed doctrine the Logos himself is the subject of the kenosis described in Phil. ii. In this way it was impossible for the Reformed to avoid contradiction with the dogma of the unchangeableness of God. In reference to Phil. ii. they accepted the Lutheran doctrine that the Logos did not assume human nature in general, but the form of a servant, and by identifying incarnation with Christ's obedient conduct until his death on the cross, the Reformed were able to speak of a humiliation of the God-man. The exaltation beginning with the resurrection actually extols human nature to a higher stage.

Development. Modern Teachings.

Within Protestant orthodoxy the treatment of the doctrine of states has led to a tendency to dissolve the theory of the two natures in its scholastic form. On the Lutheran side the true humanity of Christ became inconceivable, on the Reformed side there was at least proposed the full revelation of God in Christ. Holding to the orthodox standpoint of the unchangeableness of God, the Lutherans could not make conceivable the humiliation of Christ, while the Reformed could not explain the full and essential connection of God with the humiliated Christ. By their efforts to satisfy merely the immediate religious needs, in consonance with the practical and empirical spirit of modern times, theologians like Ritschl have discarded altogether the doctrine of states, holding that we must not transcend the simple belief that the man Jesus stands over against us on the side of God. Thus they simply cut off all insoluble questions concerning the relation of the eternal to the earthly son of God, and accordingly there is no need to speak of a special state of humiliation. But the development not only of the thought, but of practical faith results in the recognition that the truth of God's appearance in the flesh must in the end suffer if this side of the doctrine of states is discarded. In this connection the question of pre-existence


can not be discussed, but it is to be remembered that the Biblical passages relating to it confirm an actual participation of God in the revelation in Christ. God's self-offer in Christ becomes conceivable only by the humiliating sacrifice of the eternal son for sinful humanity. Passages like John iii. 16; I John iv. 9; Rom. viii. 31-32; Gal. iv. 4 testify that in Christ we have the living and decisive expression of divine love, not merely a historical phenomenon which assures this love. As to the interpretation of Phil. ii., there has been brought forth only one really exegetical reason which apparently excludes the relation of that passage to the descent of Christ from heaven. It has been pointed out that the apostle desires to give in Christ an example of humiliation which is irritable. But this objection may be refuted if it is considered that the imitation of Christ in the sense of the New Testament does not always mean an actual appropriation of his actions in their essential quality, but simply the mode and manner of his actions and sentiments so that he, like God himself, may be an example in matters which are not imitable in their essence (Eph. v. 25; I Pet. iii.13,18-19; Matt. v. 45; Eph. v. 1-2). See CHRISTOLOGY.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. J. Van Oosterzee, Christian Dogmatics, ii. 494 sqq., New York, n.d.; J. H. Ebrard, Christliche Dogmatik, vol. ii., Königsberg, 1852; F. A. Philippi, Kirchliche Glaubenslehre, vol, iv., Gütersloh, 1885; A. B. Bruce, Humiliation of Christ in its Physical, Ethical and Official Aspects, New York 1887; J. Köstlin, Luthers Theologie, Stuttgart, 1901; W. A. Brown, Christian Theology in Outline, pp. 332-336, New York, 1906; and the literature under COMMUNICATIO IDIOMATUM.


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