Does the Eastern Orthodox Church consider belief in the existence of Jesus' soul before the incarnation a heresy?

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    What do you mean soul in your context? Please clarify for a proper answer. Jun 27, 2014 at 15:13
  • @МалъСкрылевъ, see the linked question
    – Graviton
    Jun 27, 2014 at 15:30
  • @Graviton : Whom do you refer to as orthodox Christianity churches? Doesn't that make this primarily opinion based and too broad? I request you to narrow it down to particular denomination. Jun 27, 2014 at 16:36
  • Perhaps the intended meaning is something like "Do the Christians who agree with @JayarathinaMadharasan in his answer to the linked question believe that those who disagree are heretics?" Jun 27, 2014 at 16:51
  • @MattGutting : The problem is that even-though some churches consider contradicting opinion as heretics, not all of them do. Jun 27, 2014 at 18:07

3 Answers 3


The question is imprecise. It can be read as asking the existence of Christ before His incarnation (which is about the divine person) or about the existence of His human soul before incarnation (which is about His human nature). If it's the former the answer is definitively no. Even Arius of Alexandria while denying the Son is of the same essence with the Father he never questioned that the Logos is exist prior to His incarnation. If it's the later the answer is affirmatively yes. At the Fifth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (553) the heresy of eternal humanity of Christ is condemned:

If anyone asserts the fabulous pre-existence of souls, and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it: let him be anathema.

First Anathema Against Origenism, Second Constantinople 553.

The confusion regarding the difference between what constitute a person and a nature. Jesus' human soul came into existence at the moment of His conception by Theotokos. Human soul is assumed by the Logos in His incarnation not prior. Why this is not the case? Because His humanity is not the proto-type of Adam, it's the other way around. His humanity was taken from Adam. He healed our humanity by assuming it. If He has His own humanity then our humanity is not healed because the fallen nature of Adam has not been assumed. This is why His human soul began to exist only after the conception not prior as argued by Origen.


A good friend of mine who is Eastern Orthodox answered this question for me - he said they DO believe Jesus was present BEFORE the incarnation (assuming I understand your question right). Hence the Hymn of the Only Begotten Son:
"O only begotten Son and Word of God,
Who, being immortal,
Deigned for our salvation
To become incarnate
Of the holy Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary,
And became man without change;
You were also crucified,
O Christ our God,
And by death have trampled Death,
Being one of the Holy Trinity,
Glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit—
Save us!"

To not accept Christ as being present before incarnation would be heretical, as He is the Word of God and was present before creation, and through Him all things were created. See the beginning of John, for example. And some part that escapes my mind in Hebrews.

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    The question was not about Christ's existence before the incarnation but rather about the existence of His soul before the incarnation. One common meaning of "soul" makes it a part of human nature, so Christ's soul would have been created along with His physical body at the moment of the incarnation. But I think there are other meanings that some people would give to the word "soul", and then perhaps the eternal Word could be considered to be a soul. This is, I think,the reason for the comments on the question asking what exactly Graviton means by "soul". Jul 6, 2014 at 4:11
  • No, it would not depend on the definition used, because regardless Christ's soul would have existed prior to the incarnation. The soul was given to man by God, after the body was created. This would lead to the natural assumption that the soul - for everyone - existed first. In Jesus Christ's case - having been present prior to creation, the Lord in the flesh and therefor unchanging - would have the soul of God (assuming we know whether or not God has a soul, which I feel we can assume he does). Therefor, Christ's soul existed first.
    – Jesse
    Jul 6, 2014 at 5:18
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    You seem to use a definition of "soul" that involves the soul's existing before the body and the body's existing (at least briefly) before it obtains a soul from God. That notion of soul differs strongly from the notion I'm accustomed to, which I think is the traditional Catholic one. Since you also reach the opposite conclusion from mine, it seems that the conclusion does depend on the definition. Jul 6, 2014 at 15:39
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    I would agree, however this is not about the nature of the human soul - but the soul of Jesus Christ. In the flesh or not, Christ never changes (Heb 13:8 KJV). And as the Lord - Who was, and is, and is to come - every aspect of His being has been since the beginning of everything. This would mean, theologically and literally, that the soul of Christ existed prior to His incarnation.
    – Jesse
    Jul 6, 2014 at 17:08
  • By the same logic you could also say that it would mean Christ was 'incarnated' prior to his 'incarnation' - which is either nonsense or a mystery depending on your point of view. Jul 21, 2014 at 11:08

The greatest cause of confusion, and a progenitor of heresy in our Orthodox faith, is trying to describe eternal concepts using thinking and expression born in an existential experience bounded by the limits of time and space. For example, and the texts above are rife with these, when Jesse writes, "Christ's soul would have existed prior to the incarnation." The phrase "would have existed prior" implies time, but "christ soul" must be eternal and so has no "prior" or "would have" involved. St Silouan writes,

"Eternity is a unique act of Divine being, an act of incomprehensible fullness, which, being transcendent, embraces in one point all the dimensions of the created world [all creation]. Only the One God is eternal in substance. Eternity is not an abstraction, an entity existing separately, but is God Himself in His own Being. When it is God’s good pleasure to give man grace and make him a partaker in Divine life, man becomes, not only immortal in the sense of having his life endlessly prolonged, but beginningless, too, for the sphere of Divine life into which he is lifted has neither beginning nor end." (Sophrony, St Silouan the Athonite. p. 146. Emphasis added.)

Origen wrote of the pre-existence of Souls and was anathemized for it. On the line of time, even from the perspective of immortality, every soul has her beginning when she comes into being at conception; so Origen’s thoughts are correctly confronted. Yet, all time has its existence in the eternality of the mind of the One Who is Three, and so every created creature exists in the eternality of the Logos. Thus, in the Mind of the Immanent-Transcendent Supreme Being, creation exists in the timelessness of beginningless endlessness, and from this vantage, all creation is preexistent. This includes Immortality, immortal souls, and all creation. From this vantage Origen was ignorantly accused of heresy. John

  • I think you're missing the point. The second person of the trinity is outside time and eternal. Jesus' body had a beginning. What about his soul? Either that or you're denying the existence of reality if it's all just part of God's mind?
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 7, 2015 at 1:59
  • I think you missed my point. You must, when asking or answering such questions, first define your perspective, are you looking from an eternal perspective, or from the perspective of time. To answer your last comment, no, I am not denying the existence of reality, reality is, to use your words, "just part of God's mind." God is reality, and there is no reality outside of God. Mar 7, 2015 at 11:32
  • Is creation distinct from God?
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 7, 2015 at 23:11

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