Is it a contradiction to say that Jesus is both 100% God and 100% man?
I was talking to a fellow believer who said it was a contradiction, but that he believed it anyway.
I tried to explain why it wasn’t a contradiction at all, and that if it were, he literally couldn’t believe it.
He seemed to be thinking of Godhood and manhood as two different kinds of stuff.
“You’re either one thing or the other, not both,” he insisted. “So it’s a contradiction! I don’t understand it, and neither can you!”
Instead of thinking in terms of stuff, I told him he should think of it in terms of properties or attributes. For example, think of Michaelangelo’s statue of Moses.
On the one hand, you can describe the statue solely in terms of physical properties. You can make a list of those properties. Your list might look like this:
- It is made of marble which is mostly composed of calcite CaCO3.
- It has a certain height.
- It has a certain weight.
- It is located in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli, in Rome.
Those are all physical properties.
But since the sculpture depicts Moses, a Biblical character, and does so in a certain kind of artistic style, the statue also has representational or artistic properties:
- It depicts Moses.
- Moses is presented as seated.
- Moses is holding the Ten Commandments.
- Moses is presented with two horns on his head, due to a mistranslation in the Latin Vulgate Old Testament between the terms “shinning” and “horned.”
Those are all artistic attributes.
The statue also has many historical attributes:
- The statue was commissioned in 1505.
- It was meant to adorn the tomb of Pope Julius II.
- Michaelangelo finally completed the statue in 1545.
You can say the statue of Moses is 100% physical, and 100% artistic, and 100% historical. By that, you are not saying it is mixed up of different “stuff” all competing for the same “space.” When you think of the statue in terms of properties, you see there’s no contradiction at all when you describe it’s physical vs it’s historical attributes. Those are just different ways of looking at the same thing.
Wearing Multiple Hats
The same is true for you. You have many different attributes. Maybe you are an accountant. In which case, you have the following attributes:
- You are good at math.
- You graduated with an accounting degree.
- You can use Excel.
- You work in accounts payable.
Besides being an accountant, maybe you are also a father. In which case, this might be true:
- You are biologically related to two sons and a daughter.
- You have been a father for seven years.
- You are tough but fair in your parenting.
- you provide for your children.
In other words, you can be 100% an accountant and 100% a father without there being a contradiction between the two. That’s easy to understand, right? Again, we are not talking about two different kinds of stuff—accounting stuff and fatherhood stuff—competing for the same space. We are talking about properties.
So, is there a contradiction in saying Jesus is both God and man? There might be…if you were talking about two kinds of stuff mixed together. That’s what some people do—and they come to the conclusion that Jesus is a half-breed mixture of Godhood and manhood making Him semi-divine.
But there’s no contradiction if you think of it in terms of two different sets of properties.
In terms of Jesus’ deity, you could list many divine attributes, such as:
- Perfectly good.
In terms of Jesus’ humanity, you could list many biological attributes, such as:
- Member of the species Homo sapiens sapiens.
- Has kidneys that process about 50 gallons of blood each day.
- 23 pairs of chromosones.
Just as Michaelangelo’s Moses can be 100% physical and 100% artistic because the statue has both sets of properties; and just as you can be 100% an accountant and 100% a father because you possess both sets of properties; so, too, Jesus is 100% man and 100% God because He has the attributes of both humanity and divinity.
The fact that Jesus is fully God and fully man is surprising, awe-inspiring, and humbling; but it is not a contradiction.