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Dialogue Between a Man and His Soul

by W. C.

The Gospels record several instances of the Lord praying, as for example, when He was baptized:

Now it came about when all the people were baptized, that Jesus also was baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, "Thou are My beloved Son, in Thee I am well-pleased."[1]

And in the garden of Gethsemane, the Lord said to Peter, James, and John:

"My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with me." And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as thou wilt."[2]

A person hearing such passages wants to know to whom the Lord was praying. Almost everyone would agree that the Lord was praying to His Father, but who was His Father? Orthodox Christianity believes that the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are each one of three persons (each of whom is God and Lord) who, together, are the one and only God. Some Christian sects, such as the Mormons and World Wide Church of God, believe that the Father and Jesus Christ are distinct Gods. Others, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses and Christian Science, believe that the Father was God and that Jesus Christ was something less than God. The New Christian Church, however, believes that from eternity there has been only one God, the Father, and that in time He assumed a human nature and was known to us as Jesus Christ. Orthodox Christianity, therefore, sees Jesus Christ as one person in the Godhead praying to the Father as another person in the Godhead. Others see the prayers of Jesus as being the communication between two, distinct Gods, or between someone who is less than God with God. But the New Christian Church sees the prayers of Jesus as being indicative of the communication between the Lord's merely human nature (which He had derived by means of His bodily inheritance from Mary) and His Divine nature (which He had by virtue of His Divine conception in the womb of Mary).

The New Church view seems very strange to many Christians because it seems so obvious that one part of a person does not pray to another part of himself; therefore, when Jesus prays to the Father, He must be praying to another person. But this is not necessarily so. The letter of the Word contains a style of writing known as "the Dialogue between a Man and his Soul."[3] In this style of writing one part of a person carries on a conversation with another part of himself. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the Lord's parable of the rich fool:

The land of a certain rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself saying, "What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?" And he said, "This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry."' But God said to him, "You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?"[4]

In this parable, which Jesus Himself told, a man speaks to his soul as if it were a separate person!

We find other examples of this way of writing and thinking in the Psalms:

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within Me?[5]

This form of speech also shows up in one of the graces which we frequently say before meals:

Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all of his benefits.[6]

Hannah spoke in a similar manner in celebrating the birth of Samuel,

My soul exults in the LORD; ... My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies.[7]

And in the New Testament we find Mary (the mother of the Lord) saying in the Magnificat, "My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior."[8] The Lord also used this style of speech: "Now my soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, Father, save me from this hour; But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Thy name."[9]

Further, the Jews were not the only people to use this style of speaking and writing. The Canaanites also used it: "Then Yassib returned to the palace, and his innards instructed him: Go to your father, Yassib, go to your father."[10] And the Egyptians had a story of a man who argued with his soul. The man gave his soul all the reasons why he was going to commit suicide; and the soul argued back, telling the man why he shouldn't commit suicide.[11]

These passages clearly show us that for a person to speak to (or about) a part of himself, as if it were a separate person, was a perfectly acceptable Biblical practice. The possibility that the Lord's human nature was praying to His Divine nature is thereby established, but not proved. To determine whether this is a fact or not, we must find out what the Lord meant when He spoke of His Father.

It is important to keep in mind that the Lord was raised as a Jew, His disciples were Jews, and His audience was mostly Jews. When the Lord spoke, therefore, He did so with an understanding of how the Jews would interpret His remarks; and in such a way that they would know what He meant. So we must keep in mind the Jewish idea of God, if we are to understand the intent of the Lord's words about the Father.

For the Jews, there was only one God-Yehowah. This Yehowah Himself declares, even going so far as to say that He doesn't know of any other gods.

Thus says Yehowah, the King of Israel and his Redeemer Yehowah of Hosts. "I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me. And who is like Me? Let Him proclaim and declare it; Yes, let him recount it to Me in order, from the time that I established the ancient people. And let them declare to them the things that are coming and the events that are going to take place. Do not tremble and do not be afraid; Have I not long since announced it to you and declared it? And you are My witnesses. Is there any God beside Me? Or is there any other Rock? I know of none."[12]

The Jews frequently used the title "Father" when speaking of God; so when the Lord spoke of the "Father," they knew from the context of His remarks that He was referring to God. But Jesus spoke of the Father in a different manner than the Jews did. The Jews seldom said: "my Father," and when they did, they would add: "in heaven." Their usual custom was to say "our Father" in speaking of God.[13] But this the Lord did not do. Jesus frequently addressed God as "Father," or "My Father," without ever adding the qualifying phrase "in heaven." In this manner the Lord implied that He had a special relationship with God that the Jews did not have. But what was that relationship?

Since Jesus spoke of God as His Father, and God spoke of Jesus as His Son, there is a tendency to think of God and Jesus as being two separate beings, who have a parent-child type of relationship. But this is not necessarily implied by the terms "father" and "son." Both terms are used in the letter of the Word to show that a person has certain qualities.[14] Isaiah, for example, prophesies that Christ would be the "Father of Eternity,"[15] meaning that He is eternal, and that He is the giver of eternal life.[16] In John, the Lord describes the character of the Jews by saying that the devil was their father, and that the devil is the "father" or source of lies.[17] The term father can also mean the author or maker, as in Job: "has the rain a father?"[18] Teachers and masters are also called "father" in the Word;[19] and Joseph, who was Pharaoh's chief adviser, said that he had been made "a father to Pharaoh."[20] An "intimate connection and relationship" is sometimes expressed by the term father,[21] as when Job lamented: "I have said to corruption, you are my father."[22]

The term "son" has very similar usages in the Word. Thus we read in the Word of the "sons of the east,"[23] the sons of wickedness,"[24] "the sons of the kingdom" and "the sons of the evil one,"[25] and "the sons of God."[26] Such expressions describe a person's quality; a "son of God" was a person who was a "manifestation of God in human form,"[27] thus a very pious and holy person. Angels, heroes, and kings were also called "sons of God"[28] because their power came from God.

From these examples we can see that the terms "father" and "son" in the letter of the Word do not always refer to people, but may in fact refer to the quality or characteristic of a person. This raises some important questions. When Jesus spoke of God as "My Father," was He referring to a separate being, or to His own Divine nature? Is the "Son of God" one Divine being begotten of another, or is the "Son of God" the supreme manifestation of God in Human form?

The answers to these questions are important, for the whole of Christian faith rests upon the nature of Jesus Christ. Due to two assumptions, many people conclude that Jesus and God are two separate beings. It is assumed that since the Lord prayed, He must be praying to a being outside of Himself. And it is assumed, since God is called the "Father," and Jesus is known as the "Son," that they must be two distinct beings, or persons. These assumptions, however, are not necessarily correct. We have already seen how a person may speak with his own soul as if he were talking to a separate person. And now we have seen that the terms "father" and "son" do not necessarily refer to separate people, but may refer to the qualities of a person.

If we keep in mind the Jewish background of the Lord's life on earth, we can easily determine the true relationship between Jesus and God. Especially if we keep in mind that the Jews believed that there was only one God in one person, whose sacred name was Yehowah; and that they spoke of Him as "the Father." With these things in mind, it should not surprise us that when Jesus said: "I and the Father are one;"[29] the Jews picked up stones to throw at Him. They clearly understood Him to say that He was God. Note what follows:

But Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?" "We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."[30]

The Lord did not deny this charge; in fact, His response only reinforced their first understanding of His meaning. They were so certain of His meaning, and so angered by it, that they tried to grab hold of Him. They wanted to stone Him to death for blasphemy, according to the penalty of their religious law. But He slipped away from them.

But this was not the first time that they had wanted to stone the Lord. Previously the Jews had asked Him: "Who do you think you are?"[31] And Jesus answered them by claiming to be Yehowah. "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!"[32] Here, also, they tried to stone Him for blasphemy. Why? Because Jesus was clearly alluding to the name of God (Yehowah--derived from the verb "to be"), that was revealed to Moses from the burning bush, and applying it to Himself:

Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?" God said to Moses, "THE-I-AM-WHO-IS-THE-I-AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'" God also said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites, 'Yehowah, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob-has sent me to you.' This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation."[33]

There are many other occasions throughout the Gospels where Jesus clearly claims to be God,[34] and uses the Divine name: "I AM" in reference to Himself.[35] Since Jesus (who is the Son of God) claims to be the only true God (who is the Father); it is obvious that Jesus and God, the Father and the Son, are not two distinct beings, but are really two natures in one being.

To understand these two natures, we must examine the conception and birth of Jesus Christ. By birth all people have two hereditary natures: one from their father, and one from their mother. While Jesus had a purely human heredity from His mother, His paternal heredity was not human. We know from the fact that He was born of a virgin, that He did not have a human father. And the Gospels tell us that the conception of Jesus Christ was brought about by God Himself, for we read that the "power of the Most High overshadowed" Mary.[36] And that which was conceived was to be called the "Son of the Most High,"[37] that is, the Son of God, because He was conceived by God. The crucial question is, "What was conceived?" Surely it was not another God, for all Scripture testifies that there is only one God, and Jesus Christ claimed to be Him. Nor could that which was conceived be merely human, for in place of a human father there was a Divine activity.

What was conceived, however, was a human nature-a vessel-by which the only true God could come into the world and save the human race from its sins. This is evident from the prologue to John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This was in the beginning with God , . And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only one from the Father, full of grace and truth.[38]

The Greek term which is here translated as the "Word" means the expression of thought, thus it involves both the thought and the speech of a person. It was, therefore, the "expression of thought" which was in the beginning, and which "was with God," and which "was God." It was the "expression of God's thought" that was "in the beginning with God . . . and became flesh, and dwelt among us." Thus it was the Word of God, His Divine truth, that assumed a human nature and revealed God to us.

The Word, or Divine truth, however, is not a thing apart from God, but is God Himself. Remember, John says, that the Word was not only with God, but was God. And Paul declares that in Christ "dwells all the fullness of the Divine nature bodily;"[39] or what is the same: "In him dwells all the fullness of God in bodily form." Again Paul states that "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself."[40] It is evident, therefore, that Jesus was not merely a Divinely inspired leader, but God Himself dwelling in a human nature, that He might give us salvation.

Jesus, consequently, was the fulfillment of those prophecies that proclaimed that Yehowah Himself would come. " [Yehowah] said, 'Surely, they are My people, Sons who will not deal falsely.' So He became their savior."[41] Certainly it was the advent of Yehowah that John the Baptist announced when he claimed to be the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah: "The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of Yehowah, make straight in the desert a highway for our God."[42] To fulfill these prophecies, Yehowah-the one and only God-created for Himself, in Mary's womb, a human nature by which He could come into the world, reveal Himself to us, and teach us.

The human nature which the Lord put on by means of the virgin conception was like a body, and His Divine nature was like a soul. The relationship between the Lord's Divine nature and His human nature is analogous with the relationship between the soul and the body. The soul and body are distinct, yet they form one person, the soul being the life of the body. Similarly, the Lord's two natures are distinct, yet they formed one person, Jesus Christ, and it was the Lord's Divine nature that was the source of His life and power. By understanding this analogy, many confusing and apparently contradictory teachings in the Word can be seen as being beautifully and harmoniously interrelated.

Jesus said, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father,"[43] because His human nature revealed God, just as our bodies are a reflection of our souls. Frequently the Lord says that He can "do nothing from Himself,"[44] "but the Father abiding in Me does His works;"[45] similarly, our bodies do nothing from themselves, and everything from their souls.

"Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me."[46] Two beings can not be in each other, but the soul can be in the body, and the body in the soul. And our motives, our thoughts, and our actions can be of one spirit, even as the Father and the Son are one.[47]

When Jesus prayed, therefore, He prayed to the Divine nature that was within Him. He prayed because His human nature, derived from Mary, had inherited inclinations and tendencies towards evils. And it was into these hereditary inclinations that the hells could inflow, tempting Jesus to forsake His mission. just as we are not conscious of our souls, neither was Jesus conscious of His Divine nature in itself. He was conscious of its leading and guidance, and at times this influx was so strong and clear that He knew that He was the incarnation of God. At these times He could declare His oneness with God, perform miracles, and speak with authority. But at other times, in states of temptations, the influx from His Divine nature seemed so remote and weak, that He had doubts about Who He was, and whether His mission could succeed. In such states He would pray to God, seeking a renewed state of the Divine presence in His human nature.

While both the New Christian Church and orthodox Christianity recognize the fact that the Lord had two distinct natures, one human and the other Divine, there are two important differences. The first is the answer to the question: "Who was the Lord praying to?" The New Christian Church uses the fact that the Lord had two different natures to answer this question, by saying that Jesus was seeking a renewed influx of His Divine nature into His maternal human. Orthodox Christianity does not make use of the fact that the Lord had two natures to answer this question. Instead, they believe that there is only one God and that in this God is a trinity of distinct persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each of these persons is God and Lord, and has properties that the others do not; nevertheless they are one God because they consist of the same substance and essence. When Jesus (the second person of this trinity) was praying to the Father, He was not praying to His own Divine nature, but to the first person of this trinity. Christian scholars admit, however, that their doctrine of the trinity "is nowhere explicitly expressed in the scriptures [sic.]," though there are a couple of passages that they feel are suggestive.[48] Even the "Apostles' Creed is not clearly Trinitarian."[49] Further, they tell us that the "Church began to formulate its doctrine of the Trinity in the fourth century."[50] But as we have seen, the Word of God clearly teaches that there is only one God, and that Jesus is the incarnation of that God.

The second important difference between the New Christian Church and orthodox Christianity is the position taken concerning the Lord's human nature. Orthodoxy believes that after the resurrection of Jesus Christ and His ascension into heaven, He retained the merely human nature that He had from Mary. The New Christian Church, on the other hand, believes that by means of victories over temptations (the last of which was the passion of the cross) the Lord put off the merely human nature that He had from Mary, and replaced it with a Divinely Human nature from the Father. While there is not enough time here to demonstrate the validity of this belief, its truthfulness can be briefly indicated.

Given the fact that Jesus was the incarnation of the only God, what else could Jesus have meant when He said that He would "go,"[51] or "ascend,"[52] to the Father; then, that He will make His human nature Divine? For one part of a person cannot move towards another part of himself, except in the sense that it becomes like the part towards which it is moving. Since Jesus was the human nature that God assumed when He came into the world, and since Jesus (before His resurrection) always gave credit to His Divine nature for all His works, He would never have allowed Himself to be worshipped and called "My Lord and my God,"[53] unless His merely human nature had been made Divine. Nor could He have said: "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth."[54]

The great truth of the New Christian Church is that it worships one God in one person, and that God is the Lord Jesus Christ. We do not deny a trinity, but we see the trinity in the person of Jesus Christ: that within Him there is the Divine in itself, a Divine Human, and a Divine Proceeding, which is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. No other Christian denomination sees the true Divinity of the Lord's Human nature, or worships Jesus Christ as the one and only God of heaven and earth. This is the true Gospel, "the Lord God Jesus Christ reigns, whose kingdom shall be for ever and ever."[55]

Footnotes

1. Lk. 3: 21, 22; NAS. NAS-New American Standard Bible, Lockman Foundation, Copyright 1975.

2. Mt. 26: 38, 39: NAS.

3. Mitchell Dahood, Psalms I, II, and III, vols. 16, 17 and 17A of The Anchor Bible, ed. by William Foxwell Albright and David Noel Freedman (59 vols.; Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1964-see the notes to Psalms 42: 6; 62: 2; 103: 1; & 116: 7.

4. Lk. 12: 16-2 1; NAS.

5. Ps. 42: 5, 11; NAS.

6 . Ps. 103: 1, 2; KJV

7. 1 Sam. 2: 1; NAS.

8. Lk. 1: 46, 47; NAS.

9 Jn. 12: 27, 28; NAS-cf. Mt. 26: 38; Mk. 14: 34. Even though the Lord quickly identifies the troubled state of His soul with His own state of mind, He begins the passage quoted speaking of His soul as if it were distinct from Himself. This creates an interesting ambiguity: Is the Lord discussing with the Father the state of His soul? Or is He addressing His soul as "Father"?

10. UT, 127: 25-28, as quoted in Dahood, Psalms III, q.v. notes on Psalm 116:7. (See fn. 3 for bibliographic information.)

11. "A Dispute Over Suicide," trans. by T. W. Thacker in Documents from Old Testament Times, ed. by D. Winton Thomas (New York: Harper Torchbooks; Harper &Row, Publishers, 1961), pp. 162 ff.

12. Isa. 44: 6-8; NAS-marginal reading; and substituting Yehowah for LORD in accordance with the Hebrew.

13. Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Copyright 1972), pp. 95 f.

14. James M. Freeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible (Logos International: Plainfield, N.J., 1972), #1 and #650.

15. Isa. 9: 6.

16. Freeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible, #I; and customary translation.

17. Jn. 8: 44.

18. Job 38: 28.

19. 1 Sam. 10: 12; 2 Kings 2: 12, 5: 13, 6: 21, 13: 14; Jud, 17: 10, 18: 19.

20. Gen. 45: 8.

21. Gesenuls' Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, qv. [beth][cha] (7).

22. Job 17: 14; KJV, slightly modified.

23. Jud. 7: 12

24. 2 Sam. 3: 34

25. Mt. 13: 38.

26. Mt. 5: 9, 45.

27. W. E. Vine, Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1940), qv. Son: The Son of God.

28. Joseph Henry Thayer, The New Thayer's Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament (Wheaton, Il.: Evangel Publishing Company, 1974), p. 636.

29. Jn. 10: 30.

30. Jn. 10: 32, 33; NIV. NIV-New International Version, Copyright 1978 by New York International Bible Society.

31. 1 Jn. 8: 53; NIV.

32. Jn. 8: 58; NIV.

33. Ex. 3: 13-15; NIV modified to read THE-I-AM-WHO-IS-THE-I-AM in place of "I am who I am." For the doctrinal basis of this change see the article by Andrew James Heilman in March, 1976, NCL, p. 105 ff. Also modified to read Yehowah for "The LORD" in accordance with the Hebrew.

34. See Jn. 5: 9-18; Mk. 2: 5-7; for example.

35. See Mt. 14: 2 7; Mk. 14: 62; Lk. 24: 36; Jn. 8: 24, 28; 13: 19.

36. Lk. 1: 35, cp. Mt. 1: 20.

37. Lk. 1: 32.

38. Jn. 1: 1, 2, 14; NAS, substituting "one/only" for "only begotten" in accordance with the Greek; and "Son" for "God" following the traditional text, as opposed to earlier Greek manuscripts.

39. Col. 2: 9; both renderings are mine.

40. 2 Cor. 5: 19; NAS.

41. Isa. 63: 8; NAS.

42. Isa. 40: 3; KJV, substituting "Yehowah" for "LORD" according to the Hebrew. See also Mt. 3: 3; Mk. 1: 2, 3; Lk. 3: 4; Jn. 1: 23.

43. Jn. 14: 9; NAS.

44. Jn. 5: 19, 30; 14: 10.

45. Jn. 14: 10; NAS.

46. Jn. 14: 11 ; NAS.

47. Jn. 17: 22.

48. Claude Welch, "Trinity," in A Handbook of Christian Theology, ed. by Marvin Halverson and Arthur A. Cohen (New York: New American Library, 1958), p. 366.

49. J. Kenneth Grider, "The Holy Trinity," in Basic Christian Doctrines, ed. by Carl F. H. Henry (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1962), p. 37. Cp. BE 31.

50. L. Berkof, Systematic Theology (4th rev. and enlarged ed.; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1941), p. 82. Emphasis added.

51. Jn. 7:33; 14: 12, 28; 16: 5,17,28. Cf. Jn. 13: 1,3.

52. Jn. 20: 17; 6: 62. Cf. 16: 19; Lk. 9: 51; 24: 51.

53. Jn. 20: 28.

54. Mt. 28: 18; NAS.

55. TCR 791.

-New Church Life 1979;99:534-542

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Dialogue with the Soul

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