The person of Christ According to the ancient church
I. The Biblical Witness of the Christ
A. The Messianic expectation of the Jews. The prophet Elijah is to return before the messiah comes. Because Elijah did not die but went in a whirlwind into heaven (2 Kings 2:11) it was believed that he would return before the Messiah would come. "Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes." (Malachi 4:5).
Elijah comes in the person of John the Baptist. Jesus taught that he has come (Mk. 9:13) and more directly in Matt. 11:4:
"And if you are willing to accept it, he (John) is Elijah who is to come." The Angel's message to Zechariah about his son John was that, "He (John) will go before them in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children. And you (John), child will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways." (Luke 1:17, 76). Elijah did not literally return-thus John denied that he was Elijah (see John 1:19) Jesus gives him the "title" not John.
B. The hope of Israel was to be freed from King Herod, who was imposed upon them by the Romans. They were looking for a "new Moses" who would restore Israel's relationship with God and Establish God's Kingdom.
C. Jesus was identified as a prophet by the common people. "A prophet, like one of the prophets of old" (Mk 6:15). "A Great prophet has arisen among us." (Luke 7:16) See also John 6:14; Luke 4:18; Mark 2:8; and Luke 24:19.
D. Jesus was seen as a false Prophet by the Temple authorities.
E. Jesus differed from old Testament Prophets, in that the Spirit descended upon him and remained in Him (John 1:32). "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good new to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of the sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (Lk. 4: 8-21). Jesus never used the prophetic formula: "thus says the Lord" but introduced his saying with "Amen, Amen, I say to you." This phrase appears 25 times in the Gospel of John. Jesus spoke as an authority in and of himself in light of his union with God the Father.
F. Jesus is known as "Rabbi." All of the four Gospels refer to Jesus as "Rabbi" (teacher). At the time of Christ the word "Rabbi" was a custom of respect, and it is not until the fall of Jerusalem in 70AC that this word becomes known as technical term for a teacher. In the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, the word "Rabbi" is translated as "Lord" and "Master." In the gospel of John, the word is translated as "teacher". The Scribes and Lawyers who were formally educated in the Torah were addressed as "rabbi." Jesus comes with no formal schooling (John 7:15; Mk. 1:22).
G. The Twelve Apostles view of Jesus. "Who do you say that I am?" Peter, as the leader of the group said, "You are the Christ," that is, "you are the expected deliverer." (Mk. 8:29).
II. The New Interpretation of the Messiah as Taught by Jesus.
A. On Palm Sunday, Jesus enters Jerusalem on an ass (a symbol of peace) and proclaims that he is a king without a sword who brings peace to the world. The people expected an earthly king as shown in their reaction to his coming. The disciples did not associate suffering with the Messiah. Even after the Resurrection, notions of nationalistic revival existed. Luke 24:13 "We had hoped that he was the one, to redeem Israel." Also in Acts 1:6 "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel. It is not for you to know times and seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority." Jesus' teaching was that the "restoration" shall come at the end of the age and not as a national revival of Israel.
B. The "I Am" of Jesus. Jesus refers to himself as "I am" (John 6:20; 8:24, 28, 56; 13:19; and 18:5, 6, 8), and is a deliberate reference to Exodus 3:13-14. "But Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the Israelites and say to them, The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,' and they ask me, ‘What is his name?' What shall I say to them?" God said to Moses, "I Am Who I Am." He said further, "Thus you shall say to the Israelites, "I Am has sent me to you." & "I Am" is the original form of the word, "Yahweh or Lord." &...; "I, I Am, he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins" (Isa. 43:25). &...; "I, I Am, he who comforts you; why then are you afraid of a mere mortal who must die, a human being who fades like grass?" (Isa. 51:12). &...; "Therefore my people shall know my name; therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here am I" (Isa. 52:6). &... "I Am" is the name of God and that name belongs to Jesus. It expresses his divinity, but also affirms that the fullness of the Diving Presence was dwelling in his human form.
From Col. 2:9, "For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily."
C. Jesus as the "Son of Man." Jesus primarily referred to himself as the "Son of Man" (Mk. 14:61-2). "Son of Man" refers to his divinity and humanity. It expresses his humble human condition (Lk. 9:58, and Matt. 8:20). It also expresses his Divine Authority over mankind (Matt. 25:31).
D. The Old Testament witness to the "Son of Man." Jesus instructed his followers to look to the Sacred Scriptures, especially Isaiah 53 and Daniel 7. Only one of the 12 verses in Isa. 53 is not quoted in the New Testament. Daniel 7 is mentioned in all the Gospels and in the epistles of Paul and Revelation.
Daniel 7:13-14 "I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the ancient of days (God) and was presented before him. And to give him dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom is one that shall not be destroyed."
In Daniel, the "son of man" refers to the pious Israelite who was martyred during the Maccabean revolt. In the Gospels, this expression came to mean "the Son of Man" an individual.
Before the "fall", the Son of Man is identified with the Messiah, in Enoch 37-71. This is an apocalyptic document, which was written before the Fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. It describes the "Son of Man" as a "single heavenly figure" and "an individual."
In 70 AD Daniel, 7:13 was being interpreted in Jewish circles as referring to the Messiah (2 Esdras 13:3, 25-28).
III. The Early Church Witness of Christ
A. New Testament references to the "Son of Man." In all 3 passion prophecies in Mark, it is the Son of Man who must suffer (Mk 8:31, 9:31, 10:33). The "Son of Man" is also used in John 3:14, 8:28, 12:32. John recognizes the Messiah in the "Son of Man" John 5:27, 6:27 and 8:28. Jesus relates himself to the "Suffering Servant" of Isaiah 53. Jesus reveals that the Messiah is a "Suffering Messiah" who also brings with him the Divine Presence of God in order to restore mankind to communion with God.
B. The early Church used three titles to describe Jesus: ...The Christ, the one who saves, (Rom 1:3-4). &...; The Lord, the LXX translated YHWH as "Lord" God's divine name). The first &...; Christians called Jesus Lord (Acts 2.36, Rom. 10:9; 1Cor. 12:3 16:22; and Rev 22:20). &...; Son of God (Divine Sonship is declared at the Baptism and Transfiguration (see Mk 1:11; and 9:7).
No Old Testament Prophet ever claimed to have full knowledge of God (Matt. 11:25, Lk 16:21; and John 10:30, 5:20, 1:18).
C. Jesus refers to God as "Abba" or "Daddy." The early Christian Church addressed God also as "Abba" (Rom. 8:14 and Gal. 4:6). "The Son" is also used in Mark 12:1-12).
D. The early Christian Church identified Jesus as Christ, The Lord, and Son of God.
IV. Christ in the Worship of the Orthodox Church
A. The Early Church then faces in the following Centuries Challenging views on who Christ is. "Of all the divine mysteries, the mystery that has to do with Christ stands out as the most mysterious." (St. Maximus).
B. Already in the early Church, they had a creed statement about Christ that is found in Philippians 2:5-11, the "Hymn of Kenosis." Paul incorporated this hymn of the Church into this letter. The hymn speaks of Jesus as the &...; Pre-existent Lord: "who was in the form of God but did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped." &...; The Incarnate: "but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of man and found in human form. &...; The Savior (Christ): He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on the cross. &...; The Exalted Son of God:" Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow&...; and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord."
V. Christ in the Councils of the Church
A. At four Ecumenical Councils dogmatic definitions of the nature of Christ was defined: Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451), and Constantinople (553 and 681).
The teachings which were crystallized from these councils, then found themselves incorporated into the hymnology of the Church, its worship! "The Church was strengthened into one faith through the preaching of the Apostles and the doctrines of the Fathers. The church is robed in truth woven of the word of God from above. It teaches truth, and glorifies the great mystery of faith." (Matins, Sunday of the 4th Ecumenical Council.
B. On the 4th Sunday after Pentecost the Orthodox Church honors the memory of the "the Holy and God-bearing Fathers who gathered at the six ecumenical councils.
In summary, they stated that Jesus was the "Son of God: became "perfect man" who took for himself a "perfect human nature" without being changed in any way. This human nature was taken from the Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit. In this "One Person" (Hypostasis), there dwelt two perfect and complete natures, human and divine with divine and human wills.
C. The Incarnation
"Since you have taken flesh from the Virgin's blood, O Christ, Immaculate, undefiled and hypostatized, logical and intellectual, animate, active, willing, self-mastering and self-validating&...;one hypostasis in two natures, God incorporate, have you brought forth, O All-blameless One (Theotokos)" (Canon of the Theotokion, 4th Tone).
D. The Feast of the Council (and others)
"You the indescribable and incomprehensible Word, who has taken flesh of us, O Lover of men, and have been proclaimed by the venerable college of the wise Fathers: perfect God and perfect Man, in twofold nature and activity, with twofold will, in one and the same hypostasis. Wherefore with the Father and Spirit knowing You to be God, we faithfully worship you the One and bless them." (Vespers of Feast). "The venerable Fathers gathered the whole of spiritual knowledge and conferring by the grace of the Holy Spirit, they set forth the divinely inspired, the blessed and venerable Creed. In which the glorious Fathers, truly inspired with divine wisdom, taught that the Logos is co-eternal with the Father and they are in truth of one essence, thus following the teachings manifested by the Apostles."
VI. The Divine Liturgy
A. The 2 Antiphon of the Liturgy "Only-begotten Son and Word of God, although immortal You humbled Yourself for our salvation, taking flesh from the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary and, without change, becoming man. Christ our God, You were crucified but conquered death by death. You are one of the Holy Trinity, glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit-save us. (2nd Antiphon of the Liturgy).
B. Prayer of the Cherubic Hymn "But because of your ineffable and immeasurable love for us, you became man without alteration of change" (Prayer of the Cherubic Hymn).
C. The prayer of the Great Anaphora: St. Basil's Liturgy "You are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the great God and Savoir of our hope; the image of your goodness; the true seal of revealing in himself; You, the Father. He is the living word the true God, eternal wisdom, life sanctification, power, and the true light." (The prayer of the Great Anaphora: St. Basil's Liturgy).
D. St. Basil's Liturgy "And when the fullness of time had come, You spoke to us through your son himself, through whom you created the ages. He, being the splendor of your glory and the image of your being, upholding all things by the word of his power, thought it not robbery to be equal with you, God and Father. But being God before all ages. He appeared on earth and lived with mankind. Becoming incarnate of the Holy Virgin, he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, conforming to the body of our lowliness, that he might change us in the likeness of the image of his glory" (St. Basil ).