The Incarnation as Revelation

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The following was a college essay written by Katherine Stoeckl. It has been edited and approved by Mary Boneno. If you have a Theology essay that you would like published that received a grade of an A- or higher, please be sure to contact us.

By Katherine Stoeckl, Texas A & M

Revelation is the means of understanding God and the Incarnation serves as a form of revelation. God shows Himself to man differently throughout salvation history and, in the fullness of time, in the Person of Christ through the Incarnation. Athanasius encapsulates Irenaeus’ definition of man as body, soul, and spirit using the words imago Dei, which he explains as God mirrored in man. In the Incarnation, the Logos hid Himself by appearing on the earth in a body so that He could draw men to Himself and work among them. Man is unique as being created in God’s image and he reflects Him in the rationality of his soul. Irenaeus also applied to the human rationality his spirit, the part of him that is oriented to divine things. Man is able to communicate with God and be in relationship with Him and because of that, direct his own actions. Man can know something of the plans of God and he can act on them. The last of these revelations is distinctly Christian because in many places, man runs into determinism. But being made in the image of God, man has rationality and freedom. Man, however, uses these two aspects to sin, yet he does not relinquish his nature through sin, as Irenaeus showed that man retained the image of God after the Fall, though His likeness was disfigured in the soul. God saves us by revealing Himself to us so that we may once again reflect Him and His image.

The Word is the penultimate imago Dei because His intellect informed His will and with His freedom, he chose to submit His will to the Father’s will, thereby choosing to suffer in place of man. Athanasius says, “it belonged to none other to bring man back from corruption… than the Word of God, Who had also made him in the beginning.”[1] Only could an infinite being make up for the sin of man against God because man is finite, and God is infinite. It is fitting that since the Word of God created man, he would also be the one to recreate man and to carry out recapitulation, as Irenaeus says. Conversely, it is also fitting that Christ should become man in order to carry this work out since it was through man that sin entered into the world. Faced with the Fall, God chose to humble Himself so that His creation would be elevated to the status of adopted children, recreated and related.

The perfect image of God is the Word since He is in perfect relationship to the Father always, and in entering humanity, He makes this relationship possible for man. Christ presented Himself to men “so that by perceiving the Image, that is the Word of the Father, they may be able through Him to get an idea of the Father and knowing their maker, live the happy and truly blessed life.”[2] By sin, man did not lose the image of the Father, but lost His likeness, which for Irenaeus, includes his rationality. In His coming, Christ makes possible once again knowledge of the Father through knowledge of Him. Christ’s coming in the flesh restored man’s rationality because only through the Reason of the Father could man know his own reason and thereby seek relationship with God and work to avoid death of the soul, that is, mortal sin. The will of man could once again have its formation through the intellect and the freedom that allowed the first man to sin finds its example in Christ Who chose to suffer out of obedience to the Father.

[1] Athanasius of Alexandria, De Incarnatione, 10.4.

[2] Ibid, 11.3.

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