This book was written by Michael Servetus, a Spaniard, at the time of the Reformation. His work was regarded as heresy by virtually the whole of Christendom, both Catholic and Protestant. He was caught by the inquisition and would have been burned at the stake by them, but he escaped so they were only able to burn him in effigy. He then went to Geneva where he was arrested, tried and burned at the stake by the Calvinists. All unbound copies of his book were burned with him. However three copies survived (one was Calvin’s copy) and are kept in Vienna, Paris and Edinburgh.
The book was written in Latin and was translated into German and more recently into Spanish. It has now been also translated into English and was published in 2007. Before then the only part that had been translated into English was the section on the circulation of the blood. It is generally recognised that he had correctly ascertained this before Harvey. He was a doctor (medical) and practised as such. His book contains a good deal of medical information, much of it what was generally held at the time he wrote and which was based on Galen’s teaching which is not now regarded as correct in many respects.
However, it is not my object to consider the medical part of the work of Servetus but his thinking as to God, Christ and the Holy Spirit. Servetus corresponded with Calvin concerning his thinking and it is understood that his letters which have survived are at the time of writing in the process of being translated into English.
The English translation of Servetus’ work is by no means an easy read. Having read it through three times one would have to admit to not being very often able to grasp clearly what Servetus means. Copious foot notes have been added to the work which amongst other things give the sources of quotations. However, there is a grave danger of making Servetus mean what we want him to mean. For instance, what does the last sentence of his work mean? “May he alone, who reigns in unity of substance and spirit with God, the Father, have the glory, the authority, and all the power for ever. Amen.” It is possible that something has been lost in the translation of the work, but one has no doubt that the translators have done their best.
It is clear that Servetus’ understanding cannot be said to be in line with any other known theological system though some would be inclined to think it can be. He is not an Arian, Sabellian, orthodox Trinitarian or Socinian. Some Unitarians have, one may say, adopted him, but he is not properly speaking one of them. Neither was he, as some have suggested, a Pantheist. He was sui generis (of his own kind). One of my objects in reading his work is to ascertain how far his thinking is in accord with my own. After all, we have the same Bible and to suggest that the Scriptures are uncertain in their teaching, after allowing if need be for copyist’s and translator’s errors, is to throw into doubt their divine inspiration.
The burning of Servetus for heresy led people to question the rightness of such practises and resulted in their cessation. Later, imprisonment and other such punishments were inflicted - consider John Bunyan’s imprisonment for example. However, it is clear to me that there was no further divine light on the Word subsequent to the burning of Servetus, until the recovery of assembly truth in the 1800's. The truth as to justification by faith had been recovered and a good deal of Romish idolatrous practices repudiated but not much more. Luther was somewhat like Jehu in 2 Kings 10:28/29. Baal was extirpated, but the golden calves were not removed. In other words, the creeds of the Romish Church were not repudiated.
In the Foreword on page XVI we have it said: “The Servetus theology is truly Christocentric, and rests on three transcendental principles: 1. his insistence that Christianity is a religion of spirit and not of letter (and therefore, his obsession with the anti-evangelical character of established institutionalised churches); 2. his emphasis on the exclusively personal responsibility of each individual for his or her faith and salvation; 3. his defence of universal freedom of conscience as the highest divine participation, and thus the duty of mutual tolerance as the most essential of social ideals.” The foregoing is the understanding of the writer of the Foreword, Angel Alcala.
To get a fair assessment to start with it may be well to quote the full heading of the book. This is:
The Restoration of Christianity
The whole Apostolic Church is summoned to return to its origin
to restore the complete knowledge of God, of the faith of Christ,
of our justification, of the regeneration by baptism
and of the participation in the Lord’s supper.
And finally to restore to us the heavenly kingdom,
to end the wicked captivity of Babylon,
and to destroy the Antichrist with his host.
Following the above are two quotes: Daniel 12:1 and Revelation 12:7.
One would have to question what Servetus meant by “regeneration by baptism”.
When we come to Servetus’ PROɶMIUM (Introduction) we find the heading is:
Treatise Concerning the Divine Trinity
in Seven Books
The divine Trinity is not a mirage
consisting of three invisible entities,
but is the true expression of God’s substance
in the Word and its communication to mankind in the Spirit.
I have no intention to write a detailed critique of Servetus’ book. To do so would probably take me months, if not years. Maybe others will be able to go into the matter more deeply, particularly when Servetus’ letters have been translated into English. It is clear that Servetus does not think of God as “three invisible entities” (his terminology), but it is also clear that he does not think of the Son and Holy Spirit as being creatures. We thus have him writing as to Christ: “he is not himself a creature nor something of limited power, but rather is truly worthy of praise and the true God” (page 3).
(1) In Chapter One (called Book One) Servetus maintains that Jesus himself, the human being was first, Jesus Christ; second, the Son of God; third, God (page 5). He tells us elsewhere he means ‘man’ when he says ‘human being’ and we can use the latter term if we prefer (page 9). Jesus was Christ’s proper name; his title Christ (page 6). Servetus clearly held that Christ was Son of God as born on earth - nothing about Him being God the Son before He was born on earth (page 14). “He (Christ) is the true and natural Son while we are adoptive ones”. (in some places I have made use of capital letters in the quotes where it appeared appropriate) (page 18). Some of Servetus statements are obscure, but he certainly held that Christ had the divine nature when on earth (page 20), but he also received what is called divinity when he was exalted. Presumably he was referring here to the glory he asked to be restored to him in John 17: 5. Servetus makes it clear that Christ had divinity absolutely “the fullness of his (God’s) divinity”. It may be noted here that when Servetus was being burned he was heard to say: “Jesus thou Son of the Eternal God have mercy on me”. Had he said “Jesus thou Eternal Son” he would have been taken out of the fire, but because he would not use that unscriptural expression he was burned to ashes. (Note: Servetus reference to Psalm 44 should be to Psalm 45:6/7. Here and in other places Servetus appears to be using the LXX numbering) His view as to Christ’s sonship is in accord with the thought of James Taylor Snr. which was adopted by what are now known as the Exclusive Brethren and is also what I hold. (James Taylor Snr. New Series Vol.47, page 466 and Charles A. Coates Vol. 27a, page 86)
(2) It is clear that Servetus held that Christ was God as well as the Father, but not a person in the Godhead. He said: “We are not dissecting God nor dividing Him into parts” (page 24). Servetus regards orthodox Trinitarianism as a reaction against the error of Arianism (page 30). This is something I can agree with.
(3) Servetus indicates that John in his Gospel combats various errors that were prevalent including errors as to the Person of Christ. His Gospel has therefore a polemical aspect (page 26 including note 105). This is something I can agree with.
(4) It is clear that Servetus did not hold that Peter was the rock on which the Church was built as some read Matthew 16:16 (page 32).This seems to be broadly in accord with Protestant thinking.
(5) The rest of the chapter is mainly occupied with quotations from the Church fathers. It is clear that Servetus gives more credence to the earlier Church fathers (the anti-Nicene ones) than the later ones (the post-Nicene ones). In this he is at variance with John Nelson Darby who did not regard the earlier Church fathers as sound as to the Person of Christ (C.W. Vol.9 page 298). Darby’s view would mean that while the Church was sinking into idolatry at the same time it was establishing the truth as to God. Such a conception does not commend itself to yours truly. Mr James Taylor Snr did not apparently follow Mr. Darby in this (Letters Vol.1 page 325). Servetus quotes passages from the Church fathers who stated that the doctrine of the Trinity “is not demonstrated through the holy writings but rather received from tradition” (page 41). Neither Jews nor Mohammedans accept that God is a trinity (pages 48/49).
(6) Servetus lays emphasis on the fact that Jesus was the Son of God in a real sense (page 32). One would note here that the late Arthur Brown had the thought that there could well be a fresh presentation of Christ as the Son of God.
“Will the Lord through the operations of the Holy Spirit of God again promote and develop conditions in which a practical testimony is born to the truth of the “one body” and in which the Lord’s Supper may be celebrated in a way which is to his honour ?...
Might he not do so by emphasising some feature of His personal glories in manhood as THE SON, which would freshly move the affections of many of His own toward Him...” (from CAN THE LORD’S SUPPER BE RIGHTLY BE CELEBRATED WHEN BELIEVERS ARE DIVIDED IN SECTS AND SYSTEMS AND IF SO UNDER WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES AND CONDITIONS page 6, Sept. 1959 A. G. Brown) The reality of Christ’s sonship is something I would endorse.
(7) When we come to Chapter Two it is clear Servetus held the existence of the Word before he was born into this world. “Christ was personally in God when he said: ‘Let us make man according to our own image and likeness’” (page 71). This appears to be in accord with my own thinking. However, much that Servetus says in this passage is difficult to grasp so as to be sure of his meaning.
(8) Servetus thinks of the Word as a seed: “the seed which was the Word” (page 77). This is in accord with what Christ says in the parable of the sower: “The seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11). The thought of the Word as a seed is something I have also had in mind. Servetus also mentions this on pages 201 and 208. On pages 287/288 he says: “If you are loath to say that there is a seed in God, say that it was Divinity itself that acted in the seed’s place. This grain or drop is not called a seed in the material sense, but in the sense of a formal idea, which itself is the truest seed in God.”
(9) Servetus clearly held that God is outside of time for he said: “He who made time has no time before time nor does He who made the beginning have a beginning before the beginning. This is a firm solid system. For God has not so much subjected Himself to time as by creating it” (page 79). In another place he speaks of what was before time in the following words: “what existed before, if it can be called “before”, was the moment of eternity, so to speak”(page 294). This view of time is in agreement with that of Brethren and myself. “We suffer from time here, but there is none there” that is, with Christ (J.B.Stoney New Series Vol.2, page 194). “There is no such thing as time with God... with God there is an ever existing present” (F. E. Raven New Series Vol.15 page 235)
(10) The statement in Psalm 2:7 “Thou art my Son; I this day have begotten thee” Servetus applies to Christ’s resurrection and at the same time repudiates the idea that he was begotten before the ages or that his birth (generation) was an ongoing thing (pages 84/85). One, however, thinks it more likely that the passage refers to Christ’s birth into this world. Nevertheless Scripture does say that He is “firstborn from among the dead”(Colossians 1:18), so that in a certain sense He was born when he was raised from the dead.
(11) Servetus equates new birth with baptism which I believe is a mistake though something quite commonly held: “We are born again in his image through baptism and by rising again with him we are said to have been born anew” (page 86). One would also mention incidentally that on this page Servetus quotes 2 Kings 19. An annotation says the quote is from 2 Sam.19:22. However, in the LXX 2 Samuel is 2 Kings so presumably this is the reason Servetus specifies 2 Kings as the source of his quote.
(12) Servetus did not believe in keeping days as he says: “We maintain one , true and spiritual sabbath, a sabbath of sabbaths, without distinguishing between one day and another” (page 93). Servetus views on keeping days is in accord with Brethren’s thought and also my own (James Taylor Snr. New Series Vol.77, page 155).
(13) On pages 89 and 94 Servetus refers to Psalm 109 (LXX) whereas in the English Bible it is Psalm 110. See also the reference to Psalm 94:7 and 8 on page 92. In the English Bible this is Psalm 95.
(14) On page 100 Servetus makes the statement: “Christ does not seek what belongs to us, but rather our very persons”. Maybe Servetus had in mind what Paul said to the Corinthians: “I do not seek yours but you” (2 Corinthians 12:14).
(15) On page 109 Servetus says: “Now, if the man was truly dead, he must necessarily have stopped being a man”. What exists when a man is dead is not the man himself, but the spirit of the man (Hebrews 12:23). Servetus views as to a dead man agree with mine and that of Brethren. (F.E.Raven New Series Vol. 5, page 73 and Vol. 10, page 142)
(16) Various points are considered by Servetus in the rest of the chapter which it is not proposed to comment on.
(17) When we come to Chapter Three we find Servetus drawing attention to the fact that whereas in the Old Testament we have such things as God’s hands, eyes, face and feet spoken of; in the New we do not get such things attributed to God, but rather we have God a spirit and Christ his Son a corporeal being. “The reason for this is because at that time (Old Testament times) the person of Christ was indicated as being with God. There was then no actual distinction between the Father and the Son but, corporeal forms were attributed to God himself, which now exist in the Son.” (page 149). Servetus thought here is interesting but probably not particularly controversial. It appears that Servetus on page 145 was referring to the prophet Micah in 1 Kings 19 though he refers to the passage as being in 3 Kings following the LXX. See also his reference to Micaiah on page 204.
(18) “In the preaching of Paul and the other apostles never is anything heard but that there is the one God, who is the Father and that Jesus Christ is his Son” (page 152). What Servetus is pointing out is that Christ is really God’s Son. “In and of Himself God is utterly incomprehensible because He can neither be seen nor understood unless, as Christ himself teaches in John 5, you observe in Him a certain image” (page155) - put simply, God is seen in Christ. If we follow Scripture what Servetus says here cannot be refuted.
(19) Servetus says: “God by his essence is a mentality that takes on any form” (page 168). God is spirit, that is, intelligence and can take any form such as fire, light and so on. We cannot limit God.
(20) Chapter Four - Servetus speaking of Christ in his earlier production De Trinitatis erroribus (the errors of the Trinity) indicates that he “was in person a man and in nature God” (note 12 on page 178). This is what I hold, but probably not what many do.
(21) Servetus clearly believed in creation rather than emanation (page 182).
Further he was not a pantheist, that is, he did not identify God with the universe (page 183). However what he did hold was that God is the soul of the universe and the spirit sustains and makes everything live in the universe (page 189). This is in accord with what Paul says in Acts 17 to the Athenians. See also Job 34:14.
(22) Servetus speaks of a microcosm, no doubt having in mind that in Christ, the man, all fulness of the Godhead dwelt (Colossians 2:9) (page 203).
(23) Servetus often speaks of the ideas of the Greek philosophers. This often makes his thought difficult to grasp. He says: “Truth is the eternal Word of God with the eternal exemplars and essences of all things. Either way, Christ is truth.”(page 211). The last statement is undoubtedly true for “Grace and truth subsists through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).
(24) Servetus tells us that Jesus Christ was once in the form of God, no doubt having in mind Philippians 2:6 (page 213).
(25) In Chapter Five on page 235 Servetus speaks of “our substantial union with the Father through the Son.”, something that appears to be in accord with John 17:20-23. A quote on this page comes from Psalm 32:6 in the LXX, but is in Psalm 33:6 in our Bibles.
(26) Servetus calls the air “spirit” because as he says: “There is no other specialised word for atmosphere in the holy tongue”. At the same time he distinguishes the air from the Holy Spirit. “The substance of the created spirit of Christ has been joined in essence to the very substance of the Holy Spirit” (page 239). Perhaps Servetus had in mind Romans 8:16. However such a passage I think demonstrates the difficulty of being sure of the meaning that Servetus wants to convey. From this page on Servetus describes the lesser blood circulation, which was until recently the only part of the Restutio translated into many languages.
(27) Servetus distinguishes between the natural soul and the spirit of grace: “Regeneration is different from generation just as the spirit of grace is different from the soul that is born within.” (page 259). Clearly regeneration is different from generation as Servetus says.
(28) Servetus writes of angels and the fact that God speaks through them as in the burning bush. God says in one place of an angel, “my name is in him” (Exodus 23:21) (page 262).
(29) Servetus held that the “Christ and the Father are one... because they are in harmony, and because the Divinity is one and the same.” However, he held that “the Holy Spirit’s substance materially differs from the Son’s substance.” Although he uses other terminology his reason for saying this is that the Holy Spirit is like wind or breath which clearly the Father and the Son are not (page 264). This is not entirely orthodox, but in my view is correct.
(30) On page 266 Servetus indicates that he considers the use of the expression “another ‘person’ of the Divinity” is acceptable terminology. On that page he also goes on to show that God without Christ would be unknowable. Christ is thus necessary to Him.
(31) It is clear that for Servetus “the Holy Spirit... is... distinct from the Father and the Son” (page 268).
(32) Servetus thinks the Greeks wrong in not accepting the so-called Filioque clause regarding the dual procession of the Holy Spirit, though apparently not for the orthodox reasons. He also appears to take John 7:35 literally, that is, that the Spirit did not exist before Christ was glorified, though one would have to be careful before one assumed that this was what Servetus really meant (page 273). Consider that on page 272 Servetus speaks of the Holy Spirit as descending in Matthew 3:16.
(33) Servetus believed rightly that the Holy Spirit was in Christ and in us so that we are one with him as He is one with the Father. This appears to be in accord with what Mr. Raven taught. “The Spirit is the bond, if I may so speak, between the Father and the Son. The Father and the Son are one in the unity of the Spirit... It is the same way that the Spirit is the bond that binds all Christians together.” (F.E.Raven New Series Vol. 5 page 4). “The link was now the Holy Spirit, and He could say ‘he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one.” (Letters page 276).
(34) It appears that Calvin’s failure to understand the exact sense of what Servetus held is understandable as his terminology is often uncertain in meaning. Take such a sentence as: “God was not bound in this way with man before the incarnation as is now connected the spirit of Christ who became man” (page 280). Is it Christ who became man or his spirit ? Had Servetus got in mind the reference to the Spirit of Christ in 1 Peter 1:11 ?
(35) Regarding the creation Servetus says: “ With the Word He (God) orders something to be made; with the Spirit He gives it life” (page 281). This is really what I hold; the Word is the authority and the Spirit the power (vitality).
(36) When we come to Dialogue One Servetus maintains the oneness of the Person of Christ. Thus he says: “The one Christ is a single thing, a single being, and a single Son.”(page 286). Further, as Servetus maintains: “Everything and the origins of everything are in God.”(page 286). This is something I would agree with, though not all would consider the statements orthodox.
(37) Servetus held that there is no time with God: “The Word existed before the world, but... time did not exist... neither then nor now are there any differences of time in God’s presence... but they are perpetual always and an eternity of the present.” (page 296). This is clearly correct.
(38) Servetus took the waters above the heavens in Genesis 1:6-8 to be literally rainwater as I am inclined to do (page 303).
(39) Servetus held that the earth “bore animals which it possessed within itself”(page 309). The existence of fossils appears to support this thought, if we consider that they are simply the form of the creatures that came out of the earth. This is in accord with my own suggestion, but one would not be dogmatic.
(40) Servetus makes a lot of the fact that the old order is but a shadow of the new so that he speaks of created light and uncreated light (pages 309/310) and applies the principle very widely, including the old heavens and the new. The matter bears thinking about. Consider 2 Corinthians 5:17, Hebrews 8:5 and 10:1. Servetus appears to be using the word shadow where we would be inclined to speak of types or figures. See also page 328.
(41) Servetus considered that man was created on Friday and Christ died on Friday (the sixth day of the week). Adam sinned on Sunday and Christ was raised on Sunday (the eighth day of the week) (page 316). This is at least curious, though there is no proof that I know of that Adam sinned on the eighth day though the thought that Adam’s sin was soon after he was created appears to be in accord with the later failures of mankind such as that of the children of Israel when they made the golden calf (Exodus 32) and when the priesthood was instituted (Leviticus 10). The eighth day is, incidentally, the first day of the second week.
(42) Although not something Servetus says, note 110 points out that Philolaus a Greek philosopher considered “there was an analogy between the birth of a human being and the birth of the cosmos”. Scripture I believe supports this idea (Job 38:8/9).
(43) Servetus held that we are more privileged than angels although they existed before us (page 325). This is something Brethren hold. Again, Servetus is undoubtedly correct.
(44) Servetus states: “Christ was wholly God’s genuine Son, and that in a substantive and formal way he existed previously in God.”(page 330). Maybe he had in mind Philippians 2:6. He did not hold that Christ was just a thought in God’s mind before he was born; rather he had a substantive existence.
(45) Servetus held that Christ was by nature the Son of God. He did not hold that there were two natures in Christ. He did not hold Socinian views. Faustus Socinus wrote: “We deny that Servetus was our progenitor, it is not from him that we derive our thought concerning God and Christ, and the difference between him and us is not small.”(page 332 including notes). Brethren came to see that the idea of two natures in Christ was wrong.
(46) Servetus held that by his death Christ consummated all sufferings. He did not go down to hell to suffer there anew”(page 334). Brethren held that Christ’s sufferings ended at his death, as I do (J.N.Darby Letters Vol.3, page 392).
(47) In saying: “Hell followed death, as John said” Servetus almost certainly had in mind Revelation 6:8 (page337).
(48) It does not appear that Servetus held that all will be saved in the end (universalism), for he condemns Origen’s view on this point (pages 350/351).
(49) Note that Servetus says on page 353: “In Christ alone is... our complete salvation”. No one who maintains the recovered truth as to the way of salvation would I am sure object to this statement.
(50) The heading to Dialogue Two includes the statements that Christ is not a creature but that he is the true God and is to be worshipped (page 355).
(51) Servetus rightly points out that “in Christ, as in all creatures in general, the earthly matter is wholly from the mother alone.”(page 357). “The paternal seed... was the Word” as he goes on to say.
(52) Servetus says: “Christ derives from God” (page 362). This is in accord with the statement of Scripture which says He is the only begotten Son of God (John 3:18). Further Servetus says: “Christ exists in God... and is caused to live by Him.” Compare John 14:10 and John 6:57).
(53) On page 363 Servetus says: “Things of heaven and earth relate to Christ by analogy”. This is similar to what Mr Raven agreed to: “All creation had some reference to Christ” (F.E.Raven New Series Vol.17 page 12)
(54) As to a baby, Servetus states in answer to the question: “When is a man’s true soul breathed into him by God?” “When a man starts to breathe, at the moment of birth. There is no breathing in the womb or exhaling. The fetus does not live by its own soul, but by the mother’s soul, as if it were a part of the mother...”(page 367). This is a reply to the traditional Catholic doctrine according to which the spiritual soul is created by God individually in the first moment of the fertilisation of the egg.”(note on page 368). It seems also to be the popular evangelical view at the present time. However, Mr Raven speaks of a babe becoming a person when it breathes (F.E.Raven New Series Vol.8 pages 263/264). See also what Servetus says on page 257. Further, Servetus says on page 369: “It is not accurate to call what is in the womb a son because it is not actually a person”. I am not aware that Scripture ever speaks of a son being conceived. Servetus also makes it clear that vegetal life does not breathe and therefore has no soul (page 366).
(55) Servetus held that “God and man are one in Christ” as the union of a man and a woman produces a child which is one unit (page 382). This is in accord with my own thought.
(56) Servetus says on page 393: “What is annihilated is not capable of resurrection. In fact, it would not then be called a resurrection, but rather another ex nihilo creation.” This shows the falsity of Jehovah’s Witnesses thinking on this subject.
(57) Servetus says on page 396: “Christ has now been glorified with a greater glory than was the Word’s glory.” If this were not so Christ would not have obtained glory through all that He has done. We know that Christ will be glorified in his saints (2 Thessalonians 1: 10 and 12) and “he has not glorified himself to be made a high priest”(Hebrews 5:5). God has done it. These were clearly additional glories to that which he had before the worlds foundation (John 17:5 ).
(58) Servetus did not think that because Christ is at God’s right hand that he exists today in a fixed place in the heavens. He is above all heavens. To think of him as being in a fixed place is a carnal understanding (pages 397/398). This I believe is correct.
(59) Servetus methodology is to begin with Christ on earth, rather than with his existence in a past eternity (page 401).. This is the way I approach the subject in my article “Simplicity as to the Christ” (www.gsimmonds.com)..
(60) One would comment on the book generally that Servetus continually cites Scripture to support what he says. Opening his book at random one finds that on page 32 he quotes Scripture five times. Admittedly one of these passages is not now regarded as genuine (1 John 5:7/8), but it appears in Pagnino’s translation which Servetus annotated and in which verse numbering first appeared. In referring to Matthew 16:16 he makes it clear that he did not hold that the rock was the church. Servetus also refers to the Church fathers and to the Greek philosophers with which he was familiar. Being a doctor he also writes a good deal on medical matters, though his knowledge on these matters is largely limited to the medical knowledge in the days in which he lived, though he did include new thinking as to the circulation of the blood. The terminology in his book one often finds difficult to interpret and can easily lead to Servetus being misunderstood. The notes indicate that Calvin himself sometimes had difficulty in understanding Servetus (see for instance the note on page 312).
Apart from the lack of clear scriptural support for the orthodox understanding of the Trinity (God, Christ and the Holy Spirit) there are serious flaws apparent in it. Those that occur to one are as follows:-
(1) If each person were 100% God, then the very existence of two of them would be superfluous, that is, they could be done without. We would not have lost anything if they did not exist. Now this can’t be right. There is no idea in Scripture that they are parts of God, so that the only other alternative is that their relationship is complementary, that is, they are necessary to one another, which is what I hold.
(2) If Christ was both 100% God and 100% Man (perfect God and perfect Man if you like) then He would be effectively greater than his Father who is only 100% God. Again, this can’t be right. One cannot claim for Christ all the glory of the Father as well as all the glory he has been given and attaches to him as a man without making him more glorious than God his Father, unless we say that all the glory he has as a man has no value. Far be the thought.
(3) Further, it must be said that Christ “offered Himself spotless to God” (Hebrews 9:14). In order to do this He must have been personally distinct from God, which He is. Thus we have it said that the Word was with God (John 1:1), that he had a personality distinct from God, though having his nature absolutely (The Word was God). This is shown in his life here in many places, because He refers to God as someone other than Himself (e.g. John 20:17). His distinct personality is shown by the fact that He is the Son of God. I am personally distinct from my natural Father and Christ is personally distinct from his Father as well as from his Mother, incidentally. Christ though being a man was distinct from fallen man (He is the second man, out of heaven - 1 Corinthians 15:47). Had he not been another order of man He could not have died in our place because He would have been subject to the penalty of death Himself (Romans 5:12). To make it simple, we can take the example of two prisoners awaiting the execution of the death sentence that has been passed on them. One cannot say to the other I will die in your place, because the death sentence applies to both. On the other hand Christ had to be capable of dying and for this he became a man in flesh and blood.
(4) Lastly, one would say the underlying problem is how can God communicate with his creatures, without compromising his greatness or keeping Himself out of our reach. There has to be a mediator and Christ has this function. He is the one that Job wanted: someone to lay his hand upon us both (Job 9:33). To do that the mediator had to be distinct from God on the one hand and from fallen man on the other.
The above bears thinking about. The problems should not be swept under the carpet, so to speak. Dogmatic statements without clear scriptural support could well be erroneous. We do not want to trade on orthodoxy. If we do we may be simply shutting out the light.
My Biblical quotations are taken from the J.N.Darby translation.