I am referring to clause III in "The Anathematisms of the Emperor Justinian Against Origen":

If anyone says or thinks that the soul of the Lord pre-existed and was united with God the Word before the Incarnation and Conception of the Virgin, let him be anathema.

This seems inconsistent with an important pillar of orthodox Christianity (not to be confused with eastern orthodoxy) doctrines: the doctrine of Trinity, which states that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit always exist.

All three divine Persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—share the one being of God. The Trinity doctrine explains that Jesus was not created sometime prior to his incarnation, but existed eternally as God.

Obviously these two can't be both right, so, how can "The Anathematisms of the Emperor Justinian Against Origen" and the Trinity doctrine be reconciled from orthodox Christianity point of view? Or the view expressed in "he Anathematisms of the Emperor Justinian Against Origen" is never a part of Christianity teaching?

  • Are you assuming that one of these has to be correct or does your question allow for both ideas to be falsehoods. Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 8:03
  • For the sake of argument, I allow for both ideas to be 1) both correct, 2) both wrong, 3) one correct and another wrong
    – Graviton
    Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 8:20
  • 2
    Souls are created by God. The 2nd Person of the Trinity is not a creature. Ergo.
    – Geremia
    Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 21:07

2 Answers 2


This is one of the popular misconception of trinity and incarnation.

Jesus as Logos (The Word) is divine. He existed in that form for eternity in the Trinity. But the humanity of Christ did NOT exist before incarnation. Humanity of Christ consists of his human soul and body. Humans are made up of soul and body, so when Christ became human, ie., when he took human flesh (physical) and soul (spiritual) form, he raised it to the level of his divinity. This raising was completed to the fullest extent in his resurrection thru his glorified humanity (body and soul).

"At the very instant (of incarnation) that there was flesh, it was the flesh of the Word of God, it was flesh animated with a rational and intellectual soul." - Damascene (De Fide Orth. iii)

Note that God the Father or God the Holy Spirit do NOT have a soul.

  • Being eternal, they don't have a need for one. Am I on the right track in understanding your answer? Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 19:13
  • 1
    @SimplyaChristian OK, that works. Thanks. Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 21:17

Defenders of the Trinity have historically argued that Jesus assumed a soul in the incarnation, not before.

Aquinas deals with exactly this question in the Summa (III.6.3), arguing that the soul of Jesus could not have been created prior to the incarnation, because if that were so it would either indicate that his soul did not need to be united to the Word, or that if it were united, that it was of a different type than our souls:

Origen (Peri Archon i, 7,8; ii, 8) maintained that all souls, amongst which he placed Christ's soul, were created in the beginning. But this is not fitting, if we suppose that it was first of all created, but not at once joined to the Word, since it would follow that this soul once had its proper subsistence without the Word; and thus, since it was assumed by the Word, either the union did not take place in the subsistence, or the pre-existing subsistence of the soul was corrupted. So likewise it is not fitting to suppose that this soul was united to the Word from the beginning, and that it afterwards became incarnate in the womb of the Virgin; for thus His soul would not seem to be of the same nature as ours, which are created at the same time that they are infused into bodies.

In the following article, III.6.4, Aquinas specifically argues that the taking on of flesh and soul happened simultaneously:

Therefore since the soul was not assumed before the flesh, inasmuch as it is against the nature of the soul to be before it is united to the body, so likewise the flesh ought not to have been assumed before the soul, since it is not human flesh before it has a rational soul.

More simply put, the Westminster Shorter Catechism reads:

Q. 22. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
A. Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin. [emphasis added]

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