Question #1: Robert, In the Apostle's Creed the word "conceived" is used. Some appear to believe the 'ovum' was of Mary ['Man'] and the 'sperm' was of the Holy Spirit [God]. The word conceived means to become pregnant. I don't think it implies human ovum and divine sperm; rather, that Jesus was formed by the Holy Spirit alone. What does your understanding of the Greek word for conceive suggest to you about this?
Thank you. God's Blessings,
Response #1: I don't put much stock in any of the church creeds. This early creed was either originally in Latin or else it's just that the earliest form we have is in Latin. In the Latin it says conceptus est which is probably an attempt to duplicate – to give them the benefit of the doubt – the angel's words to Joseph at Matthew 1:20: "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit" (NIV). Here we have to do with the Greek verb gennao, "to engender", as an aorist participle in the passive voice, and the preposition ek with the Spirit, indicating source. The Greek phraseology very clearly does indicate a normal pregnancy which would indeed mean that Mary supplied the egg and the Spirit caused the egg to become a human embryo. I do not use the word "sperm". We don't know any more than what the Bible chooses to tell us, but certainly it would not be necessary for God to follow the biological process as we understand it in every detail. You rightly point out that God doesn't need to go through the process at all. And, after all, He made Adam out of dirt. Now He could have made Eve the same way, but He chose to make her out of part of Adam, and there has to be a reason for this (i.e., the unitary origin of humanity). In the same way, it is clear that there was a reason why He didn't just make Jesus out the earth – He is the Last Adam, after all – but He didn't. Jesus was born in a normal way, even though His conception was unique.
From my reading of what the Greek says here, the only thing different was that the Spirit induced the pregnancy by supernatural means. It was important for Christ to be of the literal and actual seed of David, and for Him to be a complete human being. It was also necessary for Him to be unique, the Son of God not of a man's effort or desire, but of and from God (cf. Jn.1:13). It was also necessary for Him to be free from the sin that genetically inheres in our human flesh since Adam's fall. The only way all of these requirements could be met was the way it actually happened as described in Matthew 1:20 et al. So I would have to agree that the word "conceived" can be potentially misleading, for while Christ was indeed conceived in the sense that His pre-quickened embryo in the womb was "like as to us, except without sin" (Heb.4:15), yet the process by which this conception occurred was supernatural and defies human scientific understanding.
No matter how hard I try, I cannot seem to understand how Jesus can call His Father God if He is God. I believe Jesus is God but can't understand how Jesus can call His Father God.
But the Father is God. Therefore, what would our Lord speaking in the power of the Spirit call Him except "God"? Since He is God, He calls Himself God, is represented by the inspiration of the Spirit throughout the scripture as God, and is called by the Son "God" as well. We call Him "God" too. But we also call Jesus "God" according the example of the scriptures (as David calls Him "Lord": Ps.110:1; cf. Lk.20:41-44).
Thomas said to him (i.e., Jesus), "My Lord and my God!"
John 20:28 NIV
Jesus is God. He is also a true human being. Precisely how He became a man, being God, is beyond our ken at present in all its respects, but we certainly have it from scripture that He did:
And the Word became flesh and tented among us. And we beheld His glory, glory as that of the One and only [Son] from out of the presence of the Father, filled with grace and truth.
The Bible says that after becoming a man as well as the eternal Word, Jesus "tented" among us, and the idea of having a "tent" is also used of believers in the body as well. We become "people" when we are born as the Lord creates and places within these temporary tents (or bodies) a human spirit. How does that happen exactly? We don't know all the details, only that it happens (please see the link: in BB 3A, "The Human Spirit"). This same process happened for our Lord as well with the very important set of exceptions that 1) He was virgin born so that His body's male seed was directly created by the Holy Spirit, and 2) when He became a man, He was already existing as God. Just how His humanity adheres to His deity (and/or vice versa) is a mystery whose details we would all like to know, but I would guess that there are many other things we would also have to know first to completely understand it, things which are impossible for us to grasp this side of eternity. But we can take comfort in the fact that the Bible is telling us the truth, even when we have questions about the mechanics of that truth – we walk by faith, not by sight.
By faith we understand that the ages have been constructed by
the Word of God, so that what we see has not come into being
from the things presently visible.
In our dear Savior Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God.
This person is really confusing me...he said in another letter that Jesus is and isn't God. He seems to be trying to tell me that Jesus was created because He gave up His own spirit to the Father. He wrote:
"Is Jesus God? Yes His Being is all that the Father is. Jesus is Gods Firstborn Son who was made as Gods exact image by His Father. That is Jesus of the Bible
Luke 23:46 (King James Version) King James Version (KJV)
46And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost."
Does this mean the human spirit of Jesus? Thanks in advance!
First, Jesus is of course God (undiminished deity) and Man (perfect humanity) in one person forever. Second, "giving up the spirit" merely means "giving up one's life". When Jesus exhaled for the last time He released His human spirit, and His physical life came to an end. That is the theological definition of life and death – the retention of the human spirit in the body or its departure (e.g., Lk.8:55 of the little girl Jesus brought back to life: "Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up"; cf. Rev.11:11, and see the links in BB 3A: "The Creation of Adam" and "The Human Spirit"). We all receive a spirit at birth. That is when life begins. Our spirit returns to God at death. Death occurs in biblical terms when the spirit leaves the body, at the present time going into the presence of God and occupying a temporary body to await the resurrection (see the link: Our Heavenly, Pre-Resurrection, Interim State). Jesus didn't "lose" His spirit. As in the case of all departed believers before the ascension, His spirit went to be with the Old Testament saints in Hades ("Abraham's bosom") until His resurrection three days later when it was forever united with His eternal resurrection body (1Pet.3:18-22; cf. Lk.23:43). Now, since Jesus' ascension and His taking with Him all those redeemed before the cross, our spirits go into the presence of the Lord immediately upon our departure from this world (Rev.6:9-11; 7:9-17).
So Luke 23:46 is talking about Jesus' human spirit, but it refers to Him being on the point of exhaling His spirit to terminate His physical life (cf. the second half of this verse) after the work of salvation on the cross in dying for our sins was completed (the primary purpose of His taking on of human life in the first place).
In the One who died for us that we might live forever with Him, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I have received an odd response concerning Jesus' spirit which was committed to His Father in Lk. 23:46. As I have been taught that it was His human spirit. And I believe he's using Heb. 10:5 "....but a body hast thou prepared me" to try to prove that It was some kind of spirit other than human that was committed to the Father:
"What? So what if the body without the spirit is dead. I agree. That act doesn't define Jesus's being. Nor does that act kill His Spirit, the one He was born with as the Son before the creation of the man."
Does this make sense biblically?
To be honest, I am not sure at all what this person is saying and so am unsure how to respond. Jesus is a true human being in addition to being undiminished deity (any other position is heresy as traditionally defined). At the cross, He died for our sins in the darkness, carrying them in His body and being judged in our place (His spiritual death on our behalf). When He had accomplished this redemption in His blood, His work done, He exhaled His human spirit causing His physical death (we all die when the spirit leaves our body and not before). This "laying down of His life" both spiritually in atoning for our sins and then physically once His mission had been completed is unique, and He is the unique Person of the universe, being both perfect God and genuine man. But His human spirit is exactly like ours, and the exhaling of it is exactly parallel to what happens when we die – with the exception that we do not have the authority to lay down our lives in the way Jesus did, because we can have no precise idea when our mission here on earth is accomplished.
Is Jesus still a human being?
Yes He most certainly is! And He is God as well. From the point of the incarnation, that is, from the point of His birth into this world and His taking on of a human body and human spirit, Jesus is the God-Man, the one truly unique person in the entire universe. He always was and is and will be God (Jn.1:1-3), but He had to become a man as well in order to be able to go to the cross and bear and be judged for our sins in the darkness so that we might be saved. Now that He has been raised from the dead, He is still a human being, only one with a new and immortal body – just like we shall have on that great day of days when He returns for us!
The most complete treatment I have of this question is in part 4A of the Bible Basics series, "Christology"; see the link: section I.2 "Jesus Christ is Truly Human".
First, let me say, I love your web site, I plan to do the Bible studies. I only found this web site today while looking for something else. My lucky day. Thank you for your prompt answer, and I have another question. When I pray for those who are sick, I ask them to see Jesus place His hand on the Father's shoulder asking Him to answer our prayer. Is that sort of visualization wrong?
Thank you so much for your encouraging comments! As to your question, I think that is a wonderful idea. After all, Moses drew strength from "seeing the One who is invisible" (Heb.11:27), and our Christian walk is supposed to have us follow Christ, seeing Him more clearly with the eyes of faith day by day. Not only that, but of course we are directly told that Jesus is at the Father's side offering intercession on our behalf. I'm pasting in below the part of the aforementioned study that deals particularly with this issue of intercession. Thanks again for all your good words – and thank you also for the encouragement of your life and ministry of faith.
In Jesus our Lord.
Here is the bit about intercession:
6) Access and Intercession: One of the most encouraging and presently active blessings to result from the entrance of our Lord into the third heaven and His session of the Father's throne is the dual privilege of now being able to offer our own prayers with direct access to the Father and the Son (Jn.14:13-14) as they preside on the heavenly throne (cf. Rom.5:1-2a; 1Pet.3:18) . . .
For through Him [Jesus Christ] we both [Jews and gentiles]
have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Being in Him [Jesus Christ] and having confidence through our
faith in Him we possess this access [to the Father] and freedom
to speak [to Him].
So let us approach with confident free speech to the throne
of grace [of the Father] that we might receive [His] mercy and
gain [His] favor for timely help.
. . . while at the same time benefitting from the intercessory prayer that our Lord in His capacity as High Priest is constantly offering on our behalf (1Tim.2:5; Heb.7:24-25; cf. Job 16:20-21; Is.53:12b; Heb.4:14; 6:19-20; 9:11-12; 9:24), augmented by the intercessory prayers of the Spirit:
(33) Who will [dare to] bring charges against God's elect?
God is the One who is pronouncing [us] justified. (34) Who is he
that condemns [us]? Christ Jesus is the One who died [condemned
in our place], and the One, moreover, who was raised
from the dead [for us], who is [seated] at the right hand of
God, who is also making petitions on our behalf.
My children, I am writing these things to you so that you
won't sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate to
[approach] the Father [on our behalf], Jesus Christ the
1st John 2:1
(26) In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We
do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself
intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. (27)
And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit,
because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with
Romans 8:26-27 NIV
I have a quick question about monogenes--only-begotten. Doesn't "Only-begotten" mean "unique, special, one-of-a-kind"? A Jehovah's Witness says it doesn't. He says that other words convey that meaning, in Greek: "one and only in Greek is 'hEIS KAI MONOS'. ('Unique' or 'one of a kind' in Greek is MONADIKOS.)" This guy brings up "Hermogenes", in 2 Tim. 1:15, which means "born of Hermes." So, he thinks that "monogenes" must mean "born of". Is that correct? Or does the prefix "mono" change all that? I've never heard of those words. And I always thought "monogenes" meant "unique, one-of-a-kind" and by implication, "beloved." Can it mean "only born," or "only created"? I know that in Hebrews Isaac is called Abraham's "only-begotten son" so I don't see how it could mean "only born" or "only created" when he had 7 other sons.
Thanks for your help. God bless
Word meaning in any language, even in Greek and Hebrew where word roots mean quite a lot, is ultimately a question of contemporary usage. So the first point here is that while the root elements clearly play a role in determining overall meaning, the specific application of a word can only really be understood by seeing how it is actually applied in a given context (or, ideally, in many contexts). So while it is clear that the root gen has something to do with being, or existence, or becoming, or being born, that is a wide semantic scope that needs to be nailed down. In the case of a Greek word such as a name like Hermogenes, it no more means "Born-of-Hermes" than Rudolf means "Red-wolf". Etymologically that may be true, but Hermogenes, like Rudolf, is a name, and no one in antiquity would ever have it come into their mind that some fellow named Hermogenes was truly the offspring of Hermes any more that we think that a Rudolf has anything to do with wolves.
In contrast, the word monogenes is not a name but an adjective, and as such it conveys some sort of definite attributive meaning, with gen- compounded with the root mon- meaning "alone", or "one", or "sole", etc. It is very important to note that the fact may be other adjectives which may individually or in combination mean pretty much the same thing does not exclude a like or similar or identical meaning in other words. In Greek as in English and in all other languages I have ever studied we have something called synonyms. Language is not a logical construct composed of round and square holes into which only one peg will fit. Indeed, our language has much to do with how we conceptualize things (and conversely how we conceptualize things affects our language). Not every language/culture sees or expresses things the same way, but one thing that seems to be common in them all is the desire to have a variety of ways of expressing like or similar concepts. No, to see what monogenes really means we have to look at its actual usage.
One thing that complicates the discussion of this particular word is the fact that it is to some degree "technical". The idea behind the word was an important one in the Old Testament, hence the use in the New Testament can't be discussed without understanding that this was the adjective chosen by translators of the Septuagint for the Hebrew word yachidh. That word, related to the word to the root for "united" and possibly also to the root meaning "one" is the word applied to Abraham's son Isaac when the Lord orders him to sacrifice Isaac on Mt. Moriah: "Take your son, your one-and-only (yachidh) son . . ." (Gen.22:2; 22:12; 22:16). Of course at this point Abraham also had another son, technically speaking, namely, Ishmael. So in its scriptural usage, "only" or "solitary" doesn't quite cut it. In fact, even from this context alone we get the impression that this adjective has a special emotional connotation. Indeed, an examination of the contexts of both yachidh and monogenes indicates to me that this word has the connotation of "special" rather than being merely exclusionary – that is, it exalts rather than limits. I generally translate it "one and only", since that brings out both the etymological essentials as well as the fact that the word is calling attention to a specialness that is certainly present in the biblical usage of the word. As far as "only begotten" goes, that translation was fine in the days of the KJV, but today it is unusual and in the way in which we think about these things in contemporary English seems to be exclusionary vis- -vis natural birth (an idea not in the adjective at all). I like "unique" as a translation (the Hebrew word for "one" sometimes means this as well), and "one-of-a-kind" is OK too (though it also suffers from potential question-begging speculation: "what? were there others?"). Here is something I have written on this in the past:
John 3:16: KJV "only begotten" vs. NIV "one and only". Again, here I would have to side with the NIV. The phrase is translating the Greek word monogenes, with "mono" meaning only/unique and "gen" having to do with "being/becoming/being born". Etymologically, the KJV would seem to have a point, however the meaning of words in any language is defined by contemporary usage which may or may not be reflective of the etymology. The additional piece of information one needs to correctly translate this word is that this Greek adjective is being used to translate the Hebrew word yachidh since it is a deliberate echo of the description of Isaac as Abraham's "one and only son" in Genesis 22:2 (who is a clear type of Christ, especially in the sacrifice on Mount Moriah in that chapter). Since yachidh really means "special" or "unique" or "one and only" in the sense of being "one's very own", renderings of this sort are more helpful than "only begotten". Indeed, "only begotten" because of the "begotten" part has been fodder for heresy throughout Church history as this particular phrase seems to suggest that Jesus only "came into existence through birth" whereas in fact we understand that He has always existed as God. So the KJV usage has a negative. But it also lacks the positive of making it clear how special, how unique, how incomparable Jesus is in the Father's eyes (the real meaning behind the word monogenes, however one wishes to translate it).
Hope this helps,
In our Lord Jesus,
Hi--Thanks for the quick reply; you were very thorough. Just one more
question: what about the other two words that the JW put on here--"one
and only in Greek is 'hEIS KAI MONOS'. ('Unique' or 'one of a kind' in
Greek is MONADIKOS.)" Is he correct about their translation? The "heis
kai monos" meaning "one-of-a-kind" and "monadikos" meaning "unique'?
Thanks. God bless!
This is what I meant by other synonymous adjectives – which all three of these words are. Heis is the Greek cardinal number "one" in the masc./nom. Monos means "single" or "lone" or "sole" or "solitary" or "alone" – but sometimes with a twist of specialness. Monadikos is not a common word, occurring in classical times primarily in Aristotle and related philosophical words and generally meaning something like "composed of units", although Philo does later use it in the sense of uniqueness. The point is that there are other ways to express all of these ideas in Greek, and the fact that one word means "go" for example, cannot be used as a cogent argument that for this reason alone it is impossible for any other word to mean essentially the same thing (i.e., there are many verbs in Greek which mean "go" with completely overlapping semantic fields in some instances).
I have received an e-mails wanted to know your opinion. The person suggests that we are born "with" sin; that babies are pure and innocent unless and until they may sin; that we are not born with a sin nature and that it is possible to avoid getting one. Examples given in support are: Psalm 51:5; Psalm 58:3; Ephesians 2:3; Rom. 5:12, 18, 19. Also, what about Christ? He was born sinless and so clearly did not have a sin nature. But a friend insists that Mary's ovum could not have been perfect since every woman's ova have DNA defects of some kind or other so that the ovum would have had to be miraculously supplied as well. What do you think?
The e-mail to which you refer is heretical in the classical theological sense, the specific type being "Pelagianism". Claiming that human beings are capable of never sinning is not only contrary to all scripture and divisively heretical – it is also completely absurd for anyone with any experience of human beings. Anyone who thinks that sin is something that comes later through the world's cultural influence has clearly never had children (who demonstrate the vigor of the sin nature quite vividly before they are capable of talking or understanding speech). Still, there seem to be people who persevere in this heresy, generally, like Pelagius, because they want to pronounce themselves free from sin and in no need of salvation. Whatever the motivation, the idea is idiotic, scripturally without the slightest foundation, and spiritually dangerous in the extreme. There are enough people out there who are already convinced that they don't need God without preaching that they might not even be sinners at all anyway. As to Jesus' lack of a sin nature by virtue of the virgin birth, the best thing I can do is to reproduce for you here what I have already written on this subject in BB 3B: Hamartiology. This study also talks about the sin nature generally ("The Sin Nature"), and Adam's sin and the so-called doctrine of "imputation" in particular ("The so-called "imputation of Adam's sin"") if you are interested in the finer points – but they really can't be reduced to a summary:
3. The virgin birth of Jesus Christ: The physical birth of our Savior presents a unique case. Unlike any other human being before or since, the engendering of our Lord's human body came about not through the agency of any created thing, not through any man or any angel, but through the Creator Himself, specifically, the Holy Spirit.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ happened in this way.
While His mother, Mary, was engaged to Joseph, [and]
before the two of them had come together [as man and
wife], she was found to be pregnant from the Holy
The reason given in Matthew for this miraculous pregnancy which would result in the only virgin birth in human history is the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy of Immanuel (Matt.1:23; cf. Is.7:14). The miraculous sign that Jesus' unquestionably divine conception and birth provided and continues to provide is an important part of the reason for the virgin birth, but there is another highly significant aspect to this ineffably momentous event that brought the Savior of the world into the world: only a pure and sinless Jesus Christ would be qualified to bear our sins and so atone for them on the cross (2Cor.5:21; 1Pet.2:22-24; Heb.2:14-18; 4:15; 7:26; 1Jn.3:5; cf. Is.53:9). Without a human or angelic father (Heb.1-2; cf. Jn.19:34-35; 1Jn.5:6-8), the potential problem of the passing down of the sin nature through the line of Adam could be and was thus avoided. Indeed, since the sin nature is universally passed down from Adam through the male line, a virgin birth was the only way in which our Lord could be at the same time truly and completely human, and yet be born without a sin nature. For it was Adam who "brought sin into the world", even though Eve too had sinned, and it was Adam who caused "death to spread to all mankind", not Eve:
So just as through one man sin came into the world
and, through sin, death, and thus (i.e., Adam physically
passing on his sin nature resulting in universal
spiritual death) death spread to all mankind –
[obviously] everyone sins, . . .
The key phrase "and thus" above provides a critical qualification to the later words "all mankind". Jesus, in addition to being God, is indeed truly and completely human, but unlike every other truly human member of the human race since Adam and Eve was born without a sin nature, because corruption is passed down through the male, not the female. We find a hint of the reason why it is the male who passes on sin in Paul's explanation of male authority in 1st Timothy:
For Adam was molded first, then Eve. And while Adam
was not deceived [when he sinned], Eve found herself in
violation [of God's command] because she had been
1st Timothy 2:13-14
In the divine judgment of Genesis 3:13-19, each of the principles, Adam, Eve, and the serpent, receive additional punishments that are appropriate to their actions. The serpent was used by Satan, and suffers a symbolic penalty (crawling on his belly and eating dirt). Eve, though guilty, was deceived, and suffers the curse of pain in childbirth along with that of desiring a husband. Adam, on the other hand, knew what he was doing. Being thus fully responsible and culpable, it is upon the man that God laid the responsibility for passing down the sin nature (1Tim.2:11-14):
(13) Then the Lord God said to the woman, "What is
this you have done?" And she replied, "The serpent
deceived me, and I ate". (14) So the Lord God said to
the serpent, "Because you have done this, you are
accursed, more than any beast or wild animal. You shall
go on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life.
(15) And I shall place hostility between you and the
woman, that is, between your seed and her Seed. He will
attack you head-on, but you will attack Him from
The Seed of the woman who will vanquish Satan and his antichrist is our Lord, Jesus Christ, and it is important for this part of the discussion to understand that Jesus is the only "Seed of the woman" (Gal.3:16). The rest of us have our "position" in Adam, sharing in his sin nature passed down through the male line, and are only transferred from this sinful natural state through faith in the One Seed who died for us:
For just as all die in Adam, so also shall all be
made alive in Christ.
1st Corinthians 15:22
Scripture leaves us in absolutely no doubt about the fact that our Lord Jesus, while truly and completely God, is also truly and completely human (Rom.1:3-4; Phil.2:7). Yet scripture also makes clear beyond any dispute that our Lord was without sin in any way (2Cor.5:21; 1Pet.2:22-24; Heb.2:14-18; 4:15; 7:26; 1Jn.3:5; cf. Is.53:9), having no sin nature (as the rest of us universally have), and committing no personal sins (as the rest of us universally do). Our Lord Jesus lived a life of perfect, disciplined sanctification and total obedience to God the Father. But, without the virgin birth, this would have done you and I no good by itself. For our Lord had to be sinlessly perfect in every way in order to be qualified as our sin bearer (compare the flawlessness necessary for sacrificial animals under the Mosaic Law: Lev.22:18-25). Jesus is our Passover "lamb without spot or blemish" (1Pet.1:19; cf. Ex.12:5; 1Cor.5:7; Heb.9:14), a sacrifice acceptable to the Father because of His complete sinlessness. Only by being virgin born was our Lord spared the internal corruption of His earthly flesh which is otherwise universal in the human race – but this was so that He could die for us in order that we might be spared unto life eternal through faith in His sacrificial death for our sins on the cross.
Hope this answers all the parts of your question. Do feel free to write me back about any aspects of it.
In our sinless, virgin-born Lord Jesus who died that we might live.