Calvin, Institutes, Vol.2, Part 14
(... continued from part 13) 

Chapter 13. 
13. Christ clothed with the true substance of human nature. 
    The heads of this chapter are, I. The orthodoxy doctrine as to 
the true humanity of our Saviour, proved from many passages of 
Scripture, sec. 1. II. Refutation of the impious objections of the 
Marcionites, Manichees, and similar heretics, sec. 2-4. 
1. Proof of the true humanity of Christ, against the Manichees and 
2. Impious objections of heretics further discussed. Six objections 
3. Other eight objections answered. 
    1. Of the divinity of Christ, which has elsewhere been 
established by clear and solid proofs, I presume it were superfluous 
again to treat. It remains, therefore, to see how, when clothed with 
our flesh, he fulfilled the office of Mediator. In ancient times, 
the reality of his human nature was impugned by the Manichees and 
Marcionites, the latter figuring to themselves a phantom instead of 
the body of Christ, and the former dreaming of his having been 
invested with celestial flesh. The passages of Scripture 
contradictory to both are numerous and strong. The blessing is not 
promised in a heavenly seed, or the mask of a man, but the seed of 
Abraham and Jacob; nor is the everlasting throne promised to an 
aerial man, but to the Son of David, and the fruit of his loins. 
Hence, when manifested in the flesh, he is called the Son of David 
and Abraham, not because he was born of a virgin, and yet created in 
the air, but because, as Paul explains, he was "made of the seed of 
David, according to the flesh," (Rom. 1: 3,) as the same apostle 
elsewhere says, that he came of the Jews, (Rom. 9: 5.) Wherefore, 
our Lord himself not contented with the name of man, frequently 
calls himself the Son of man, wishing to express more clearly that 
he was a man by true human descent. The Holy Spirit having so often, 
by so many organs, with so much care and plainness, declared a 
matter which in itself is not abstruse, who could have thought that 
mortals would have had the effrontery to darken it with their 
glosses? Many other passages are at hand, were it wished to produce 
more: for instance, that one of Paul, that "God sent forth his Son, 
made of a woman," (Gal. 4: 4,) and innumerable others, which show 
that he was subject to hunger, thirst, cold, and the other 
infirmities of our nature. But from the many we must chiefly select 
those which may conduce to build up our minds in true faith, as when 
it is said, "Verily, he took not on him the nature of angels, but he 
took on him the seed of Abraham," "that through death he might 
destroy him that had the power of death," (Heb. 2: 16, 14.) Again, 
"Both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of 
one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren." 
"Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his 
brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest." 
(Heb. 2: 11, 17.) Again "We have not an high priest which cannot be 
touched with the feeling of our infirmities," (Heb. 4: 15,) and the 
like. To the same effect is the passage to which we lately referred, 
in which Paul distinctly declares, that the sins of the world 
behoved to be expiated in our flesh, (Rom. 8: 3.) And certainly 
every thing which the Father conferred on Christ pertains to us for 
this reason, that "he is the head," that from him the whole body is 
"fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint 
supplieth," (Eph. 4: 16.) Nay, in no other way could it hold true as 
is said, that the Spirit was given to him without measure, (John 1: 
16,) and that out of his fulness have all we received; since nothing 
could be more absurd than that God, in his own essence, should be 
enriched by an adventitious gift. For this reason also, Christ 
himself elsewhere says, "For their sakes I sanctify myself," (John 
17: 19.) 
    2. The passages which they produce in confirmation of their 
error are absurdly wrested, nor do they gain any thing by their 
frivolous subtleties when they attempt to do away with what I have 
now adduced in opposition to them. Marcion imagines that Christ, 
instead of a body, assumed a phantom, because it is elsewhere said, 
that he was made in the likeness of man, and found in fashion as a 
man. Thus he altogether overlooks what Paul is then discussing, 
(Philip. 2: 7.) His object is not to show what kind of body Christ 
assumed, but that, when he might have justly asserted his divinity 
he was pleased to exhibit nothing but the attributes of a mean and 
despised man. For, in order to exhort us to submission by his 
example, he shows, that when as God he might have displayed to the 
world the brightness of his glory, he gave up his right, and 
voluntarily emptied himself; that he assumed the form of a servant, 
and, contented with that humble condition, suffered his divinity to 
be concealed under a veil of flesh. Here, unquestionably, he 
explains not what Christ was, but in what way he acted. Nay, from 
the whole context it is easily gathered, that it was in the true 
nature of man that Christ humbled himself. For what is meant by the 
words, he was "found in fashion as a man," but that for a time, 
instead of being resplendent with divine glory, the human form only 
appeared in a mean and abject condition? Nor would the words of 
Peter, that he was "put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the 
Spirits" (1 Pet. 3: 18,) hold true, unless the Son of God had become 
weak in the nature of man. This is explained more clearly by Paul, 
when he declares that "he was crucified through weakness," (2 Cor. 
13: 4.) And hence his exaltation; for it is distinctly said, that 
Christ acquired new glory after he humbled himself. This could fitly 
apply only to a man endued with a body and a soul. Manes dreams of 
an aerial body, because Christ is called the second Adam, the Lord 
from heaven. But the apostle does not there speak of the essence of 
his body as heavenly, but of the spiritual life which derived from 
Christ quickens us, (I Cor. 15: 47.) This life Paul and Peter, as we 
have seen, separate from his flesh. Nay, that passage admirably 
confirms the doctrine of the orthodox, as to the human nature of 
Christ. If his body were not of the same nature with ours, there 
would be no soundness in the argument which Paul pursues with so 
much earnestness, - If Christ is risen we shall rise also; if we 
rise not, neither has Christ risen. Whatever be the cavils by which 
the ancient Manichees, or their modern disciples, endeavour to evade 
this, they cannot succeed. It is a frivolous and despicable evasion 
to say, that Christ is called the Son of man, because he was 
promised to men; it being obvious that, in the Hebrew idiom, the Son 
of man means a true man: and Christ, doubtless, retained the idiom 
of his own tongue. Moreover, there cannot be a doubt as to what is 
to be understood by the sons of Adam. Not to go farther, a passage 
in the eighth psalm, which the apostles apply to Christ, will 
abundantly suffice: "What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and 
the son of man, that thou visitest him.?" (Pa 8: 4.) Under this 
figure is expressed the true humanity of Christ. For although he was 
not immediately descended of an earthly father, yet he originally 
sprang from Adam. Nor could it otherwise be said in terms of the 
passage which we have already quoted, "Forasmuch, then, as the 
children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise 
took part of the same;" these words plainly proving that he was an 
associate and partner in the same nature with ourselves. In this 
sense also it is said, that "both he that sanctifieth and they who 
are sanctified are all of one." The context proves that this refers 
to a community of nature; for it is immediately added, "For which 
cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren," (Heb. 2: 11.) Had he 
said at first that believers are of God, where could there have been 
any ground for being ashamed of persons possessing such dignity? But 
when Christ of his boundless grace associates himself with the mean 
and ignoble, we see why it was said that "he is not ashamed." It is 
vain to object, that in this way the wicked will be the brethren of 
Christ; for we know that the children of God are not born of flesh 
and blood, but of the Spirit through faith. Therefore, flesh alone 
does not constitute the union of brotherhood. But although the 
apostle assigns to believers only the honour of being one with 
Christ, it does not however follow, that unbelievers have not the 
same origin according to the flesh; just as when we say that Christ 
became man, that he might make us sons of God, the expression does 
not extend to all classes of persons; the intervention of faith 
being necessary to our being spiritually ingrafted into the body of 
Christ. A dispute is also ignorantly raised as to the term 
first-born. It is alleged that Christ ought to have been the first 
son of Adam, in order that he might be the first-born among the 
brethren, (Rom. 8: 29.) But primogeniture refers not to age, but to 
degree of honour and pre-eminence of virtue. There is just as little 
colour for the frivolous assertion that Christ assumed the nature of 
man, and not that of angels, (Heb. 2: 16,) because it was the human 
race that he restored to favour. The apostle, to magnify the honour 
which Christ has conferred upon us, contrasts us with the angels, to 
whom we are in this respect preferred. And if due weight is given to 
the testimony of Moses, (Gen. 3: 15,) when he says that the seed of 
the woman would bruise the head of the serpent, the dispute is at an 
end. For the words there used refer not to Christ alone, but to the 
whole human race. Since the victory was to be obtained for us by 
Christ, God declares generally, that the posterity of the woman 
would overcome the devil. From this it follows, that Christ is a 
descendant of the human race, the purpose of God in thus addressing 
Eve being to raise her hopes, and prevent her from giving way to 
    3. The passages in which Christ is called the seed of Abraham, 
and the fruit of the loins of David, those persons, with no less 
folly than wickedness, wrap up in allegory. Had the term seed been 
used allegorically, Paul surely would not have omitted to notice it, 
when he affirms clearly, and without figure, that the promise was 
not given "to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, 
which is Christ," (Gal. 3: 16.) With similar absurdity they pretend 
that he was called the Son of David for no other reason but because 
he had been promised, and was at length in due time manifested. For 
Paul, after he had called him the Son of David, by immediately 
subjoining "according to the flesh", certainly designates his 
nature. So also, (Rom. 9: 5,) while declaring him to be "God blessed 
for ever," he mentions separately, that, "as concerning the flesh, 
he was descended from the Jews." Again if he had not been truly 
begotten of the seed of David, what is the meaning of the 
expression, that he is the "fruit of his loins;" or what the meaning 
of the promise, "Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy 
throne"? (Ps. 132: 11.) Moreover their mode of dealing with the 
genealogy of Christ, as given by Matthew, is mere sophistry; for 
though he reckons up the progenitors not of Mary, but of Joseph, yet 
as he was speaking of a matter then generally understood, he deems 
it enough to show that Joseph was descended from the seed of David, 
since it is certain that Mary was of the same family. Luke goes 
still farther, showing that the salvation brought by Christ is 
common to the whole human race, inasmuch as Christ, the author of 
salvation, is descended from Adam, the common father of us all. I 
confess, indeed, that the genealogy proves Christ to be the Son of 
David only as being descended of the Virgin; but the new 
Marcionites, for the purpose of giving a gloss to their heresy, 
namely to prove that the body which Christ assumed was 
unsubstantial, too confidently maintain that the expression as to 
seed is applicable only to males, thus subverting the elementary 
principles of nature. But as this discussion belongs not to 
theology, and the arguments which they adduce are too futile to 
require any laboured refutation, I will not touch on matters 
pertaining to philosophy and the medical art. It will be sufficient 
to dispose of the objection drawn from the statement of Scripture, 
that Aaron and Jehoiadah married wives out of the tribe of Judah, 
and that thus the distinction of tribes was confounded, if proper 
descent could come through the female. It is well known, that in 
regard to civil order, descent is reckoned through the male; and yet 
the superiority on his part does not prevent the female from having 
her proper share in the descent. This solution applies to all the 
genealogies. When Scripture gives a list of individuals, it often 
mentions males only. Must we therefore say that females go for 
nothing? Nay, the very children know that they are classified with 
men. For this reasons wives are said to give children to their 
husbands, the name of the family always remaining with the males. 
Then, as the male sex has this privilege, that sons are deemed of 
noble or ignoble birth, according to the condition of their fathers, 
so, on the other hand, in slavery, the condition of the child is 
determined by that of the mother, as lawyers say, partus sequitur 
ventrem. Whence we may infer, that offspring is partly procreated by 
the seed of the mother. According to the common custom of nations, 
mothers are deemed progenitors, and with this the divine law agrees, 
which could have had no ground to forbid the marriage of the uncle 
with the niece, if there was no consanguinity between them. It would 
also be lawful for a brother and sister uterine to intermarry, when 
their fathers are different. But while I admit that the power 
assigned to the woman is passive, I hold that the same thing is 
affirmed indiscriminately of her and of the male. Christ is not said 
to have been made by a woman, but of a woman, (Gal. 4: 4.) But some 
of this herd, laying aside all shame, publicly ask whether we mean 
to maintain that Christ was procreated of the proper seed of a 
virgin. I, in my turn, asks whether they are not forced to admit 
that he was nourished to maturity in the Virgin's womb. Justly, 
therefore, we infer from the words of Matthew, that Christ, inasmuch 
as he was begotten of Mary, was procreated of her seed; as a similar 
generation is denoted when Boaz is said to have been begotten of 
Rachab, (Matth. 1: 5, 16.) Matthew does not here describe the Virgin 
as the channel through which Christ flowed, but distinguishes his 
miraculous from an ordinary birth, in that Christ was begotten by 
her of the seed of David. For the same reason for which Isaac is 
said to be begotten of Abraham, Joseph of Jacob, Solomon of David, 
is Christ said to have been begotten of his mother. The Evangelist 
has arranged his discourse in this way. Wishing to prove that Christ 
derives his descent from David, he deems it enough to state, that he 
was begotten of Mary. Hence it follows, that he assumed it as an 
acknowledged fact, that Mary was of the same lineage as Joseph. 
    4. The absurdities which they wish to fasten upon us are mere 
puerile calumnies. They reckon it base and dishonouring to Christ to 
have derived his descent from men; because, in that case, he could 
not be exempted from the common law which includes the whole 
offspring of Adam, without exception, under sin. But this difficulty 
is easily solved by Paul's antithesis, "As by one man sin entered 
into the world, and death by sin" - "even so by the righteousness of 
one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life," 
(Rom. 5: 12, 18.) Corresponding to this is another passage, "The 
first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from 
heaven," (1 Cor. 15: 47.) Accordingly, the same apostle, in another 
passage, teaching that Christ was sent "in the likeness of sinful 
flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us," 
distinctly separates him from the common lot, as being true man, and 
yet without fault and corruption, (Rom. 8: 3.) It is childish 
trifling to maintain, that if Christ is free from all taint, and was 
begotten of the seed of Mary, by the secret operation of the Spirit, 
it is not therefore the seed of the woman that is impure, but only 
that of the man. We do not hold Christ to be free from all taint, 
merely because he was born of a woman unconnected with a man, but 
because he was sanctified by the Spirit, so that the generation was 
pure and spotless, such as it would have been before Adam's fall. 
Let us always bear in mind, that wherever Scripture adverts to the 
purity of Christ, it refers to his true human nature, since it were 
superfluous to say that God is pure. Moreover, the sanctification of 
which John speaks in his seventeenth chapter is inapplicable to the 
divine nature. This does not suggest the idea of a twofold seed in 
Adam, although no contamination extended to Christ, the generation 
of man not being in itself vicious or impure, but an accidental 
circumstance of the fall. Hence, it is not strange that Christ, by 
whom our integrity was to be restored, was exempted from the common 
corruption. Another absurdity which they obtrude upon us, viz., that 
if the Word of God became incarnate, it must have been enclosed in 
the narrow tenement of an earthly body, is sheer petulance. For 
although the boundless essence of the Word was united with human 
nature into one person, we have no idea of any enclosing. The Son of 
God descended miraculously from heaven, yet without abandoning 
heaven; was pleased to be conceived miraculously in the Virgin's 
womb, to live on the earth, and hang upon the cross, and yet always 
filled the world as from the beginning. 

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 2, Part 14
(continued in part 15...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvin2-14.txt