Book Review: The Nature Of Christ

The Nature Of Christ, by H.H. Pope Shenouda III

As part of my research for the Una Natura project [1], I thought it would be worthwhile to read, if possible, some literature by those who consider themselves to be Monophysites (believers in “One Nature”).  This is not as easy as one would expect.  One does not read a lot about the Monophysite controversy as a general rule, and it is especially difficult to get English language materials that present people with that perspective telling their own side of the story and their own interpretation.  Yet this little book definitely does justice, in that it contains the reflections of a somewhat prolific writer from the Coptic tradition on the subject, in such a way that one can see that those who would claim that Monophysites have a false view of Christ and a defective view of God greatly exaggerate the point.  For the most part, one reads in this book an admirable sense of mystery for the way that disparate elements combine into one nature for human beings, and that is a good thing.  There is much we do not know about the matter of nature, and a recognition of Jesus Christ as Incarnate Word and second Adam as being made of a union of the natures of God and man into a coherent but somewhat mysterious whole is a sensible approach to this reader at least.

The book itself is a short one of about 50 pages or so, and is divided into several sections.  After an introduction by the author, the proper contents of the book begin a discussion of the Orthodox concept regarding the nature of Christ (1).  After this there is some discussion of various widely known heresies about the nature of Christ regarding the belief in two separate natures (2) as was the case in the Nestorian controversy.  After this there is a discussion of the nature of this union being without mingling, confusion, alteration, or transmutation, being compared to the union between iron and fire or that between the spirit and the body within human beings (3).  The discussion of the unity of nature and its implications for the birth of Christ (4) and the possibility of that Union (5) follow.  This quite naturally leads into a discussion of the importance of the nature of Christ in matters such as propitiation and redemption (6) as well as the matter of suffering (7).  The author then closes with a discussion of the term “Son of Man” (8), some evidence from the Bible (9), and the one will and one act that follow from the one nature (10).

What does one gain from reading a book like this one?  For one, this book is worthwhile in giving a somewhat obscure and maligned perspective its chance to write about itself.  As one might imagine, what one reads about the Monophysite Coptic Church from its own writings on the subject is a great deal different than what one reads about it from unfriendly and hostile outsiders.  It is a good rule of thumb to, as much as possible, understand a worldview in terms of how it views itself, whether or not one agrees with it.  One gets a much more charitable view of a perspective from those who hold it and can at least define and describe it from an insider’s perspective, than one gets from those who clearly do not like what they are writing about at all, and in this case the effort is done well enough that one would happily read more from this author, given the generally winsome nature of his interpretations and perspective.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Book Reviews, Christianity and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Book Review: The Nature Of Christ

  1. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Reblogged this on James' Ramblings.

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