I heard that in the main stream Christianity there is such an assertion: In the Holy Trinity The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct, but not separated. I also heard this: the divine and the human natures in Jesus Christ are joined, not separated, and not intermixed.

What about the distinction of those two natures in Jesus Christ? Has it been asserted anywhere (in any counsel or any document) in main stream Christianity that the two natures in Christ (divine and human) are clearly distinct (just like the Three are distinct from each other in the Trinity)?

  • This is a conversation question. If they are looking for specific meanings to words, then it should go to Biblical Hermeneutics. I don't see a specific doctrine mentioned either. There are Christians who believe that Jesus is distinct from God and others who believe they are the exact same entity.
    – user1054
    Feb 28, 2012 at 20:48
  • @Dan - "This is a conversation question..." - What is a "conversation question"? "If they are looking for specific meanings to words..." - Who are "they" here?
    – brilliant
    Feb 28, 2012 at 21:00

2 Answers 2


On the contrary, mainstream Christianity has held that the human and divine natures of Christ are not separable. A key point was the third ecumenical council, held at Ephesus in 431 in order to resolve disagreements between Nestorius, the Patriarch of Constantinople, and Cyril, the Patriarch of Alexandria. Nestorius wanted to make a distinction between Christ the person, and the eternal Son: two distinct natures in one body.

Cyril's anathemata against Nestorius, which the council accepted, express the view that it is impossible to draw a sharp line between the human and divine natures. It's worth unpacking a few of these:

(2.) If anyone shall not confess that the Word of God the Father is united hypostatically to flesh, and that with that flesh of his own, he is one only Christ both God and man at the same time: let him be anathema.

This is an expounding of the hypostatic union idea, whereby the human and divine essences are joined, making Christ simultaneously fully human and fully divine.

(3.) If anyone shall after the union divide the hypostases in the one Christ, joining them by that connection alone, which happens according to worthiness, or even authority and power, and not rather by a coming together, which is made by natural union: let him be anathema.

The union is a "natural union", not an imposition of the divine over the human. This counters the Nestorian position that Jesus was merely the carrier for the Word (the human nature being subordinate).

(4.) If anyone shall divide between two persons or subsistences those expressions which are contained in the Evangelical and Apostolical writings, or which have been said concerning Christ by the Saints, or by himself, and shall apply some to him as to a man separate from the Word of God, and shall apply others to the only Word of God the Father, on the ground that they are fit to be applied to God: let him be anathema.

So Cyril says that in talking about Christ, it's wrong to apply separate terminology or titles for the human and divine natures. Again, this counters the idea that some of Christ's actions can be attributed to Jesus the human (such as his eating, weeping, dying, etc.) and others to the Word (responsible for our salvation, all things were made through him, etc.).

Twenty years later, the Council of Chalcedon of 451 adopted a creed that expresses the relationship more briefly:

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a rational soul and body; consubstantial with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the prophets from the beginning have declared concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.

The two natures are distinct insofar as they are not the same (humanity and divinity are different things), but they are united inseparably in Christ.

  • "On the contrary, mainstream Christianity has held that the human and divine natures of Christ are not separable" - James, my question was not about them being inseparable, but about them being distinct. I know that they are inseparable and that it was one of the main dogmas in the Church.
    – brilliant
    Feb 28, 2012 at 4:04
  • So (just double-checking) as far as I can see from your last quote, the distinction between those two inseparable natures in Jesus Christ WAS clearly established and proclaimed, right?
    – brilliant
    Feb 28, 2012 at 4:24
  • 1
    I'm not really clear about what you mean with "distinct", "separable", etc., to be quite honest. Sorry for being slow. If the Chalcedonian creed answers your question then I'm glad, but if not then I don't know of a better reference.
    – James T
    Feb 28, 2012 at 14:23
  • By "distinct" I mean that the difference between two natures in Jesus Christ can be clearly seen; by "separable" I mean that at a certain point of time since His conception in the womb of Mary Jesus Christ may have only one of the two natures, that is, instead of being the God-Man He can be just God, but not Man, or just Man, but not God.
    – brilliant
    Feb 29, 2012 at 4:07
  • @brilliant the distinction can be seen clearly. The Logos hunger and thirst that refer visibly to His humanity, divinity is impassible. The Logos forgives sin that refer explicitly to His divinity, no man can forgive. If your question is addressed to Oriental Orthodox then you might have an argument to ask how they distinguish one nature from another after being united. But for Chalcedonians we don't have any problem in distinguishing the two natures. It's clear like broad day light. Feb 18, 2015 at 4:14

If you understand to the extent that according to the Nicaea Creed, Jesus Christ was "eternally begotten, not made" meaning that even before the incarnation, he was eternally a Son already, generated from the Father, in order words, as far as "eternally" is concern, there was never a time when there was a Father without a Son nor was there a time when there was a Son without a Father, the next step to understand is that: there was never a time also when one aspect of Jesus' nature existed without the other. As a Person, Jesus is only but one and has two nature which are neither conflicting nor confusing in this one being - Jesus Christ. Therefore, even at his conception in the virgin's womb, He is undivided, fully one in his Person with no alteration in his natures - Emmanuel-Mary

  • 1
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    – user3961
    Jul 8, 2014 at 18:56

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