The Incarnation

By Thomas Hill Green

This work is an extract from lectures on the fourth Gospel, based on John 1:14.
ὁ λόγος σὰρξἐγένετο
The Word became flesh

Καὶ ὁ Λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ Πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας. – John 1:14

'Became flesh' does not mean 'became human,' took for the first time a human nature distinct from the divine, which yet in combination with it formed 'one person,' Christ. The word, according to this evangelist, is true man, no doubt, but is so from eternity: see John 3:13; 8:38 and 62; 4:26; 8:58; 13:19 (ἐγώ εἰμι); and compare 1 Corinthians 15:47. The general idea of 'flesh' in the Pauline epistles and the fourth gospel is determined by its opposition to 'spirit.' Primarily it is the animal element in man, sense and appetite, or the objects of these. But in man sense and appetite are not what they are in animals. They are not so, because they take a new character through the action of reason (the divine principle) upon them. Appetite becomes a source of pleasure sought for by the self-seeking and reflective principle; sense becomes a source of delusion in virtue of the knowledge-seeking principle, which takes the first impressions of the senses for the truth. For a mere animal there is no selfishness and no delusion, because it has not the reason which renders alike selfishness and self-negation, delusion and true knowledge, possible. In the New Testament 'flesh' generally means sense and appetite as these are for man, i.e. false intellectual interpretations of sensation, and sensual pleasure selfishly sought; in other words, delusion and vice. From this again it comes to mean human nature as subject to delusion and vice, human ignorance and selfishness. 'Flesh' thus comes to be treated as a principle of evil antagonistic to the spirit; see 3:6, 8:15 (where it is spoken of as the source of delusion) and Galatians 5:17. It is in the primary sense that the word becomes flesh, that is, as becoming the object of sense, or apprehensible to the senses; which implies also (though this notion is secondary in the fourth gospel) that he shares sense and appetite: compare Hebrews 2:14, καὶ αὐτὸς παραπλησίως μετέσχε τϖν αὐτϖν, i.e. αἵματος καὶ ςαρκός. The incarnation is a manifestation to those whom otherwise sense renders blind to God; a manifestation which to those who are thus blind is the condition of knowing -208- God in spirit. The fleshly manifestation by no means constitutes spiritual knowledge of God, but is the needful preliminary to this with 'fleshly' men. (See 1 John 4:2; 1 Timothy 3:16; Romans 2:28.)

The prevailing view with Paul is that the 'flesh' separates from God; prevents the divine law from entering the man as a principle of action; so that the effect of law upon those in the flesh is to give knowledge of sin, which thus becomes 'more exceeding sinful.' This fleshly barrier between man and God is broken by the manifestation of the Son of God under conditions which seemed to separate from God; the manifestation 'in the likeness of sinful flesh' (Romans 8:3). By this 'sin is condemned in the flesh,' almost in the sense in which it is said in this gospel that the (prince of this world is judged' (16:11); in the sense that sin is exhibited in its true nature in relation even to the flesh; shown not to be the true law of the fleshly existence; to be that which God does not intend to prevail in the flesh. To 'take flesh' is one thing; to take flesh (as the subject and object of sense, and the source of appetite and want) in the relation in which this stands to man, is another. If 'flesh' really cannot be assumed in the latter sense except as sinful (a source of sinful interests), Paul cannot think of the Son assuming it as sinful: hence he only says 'the likeness of sinful flesh.' Yet to 'take flesh,' unless it is taken as determined by relation to that which is primarily the self-seeking principle in man, is not to become a 'man like one of us.' Nor is it consistent with the thoughts of Paul or the author of the fourth gospel to speak of the 'word' or 'Son' as having become a 'man like one of us.' The most that Paul says is that 'he was found in fashion as a man' (Philippians 2:7-8). The passages which come nearest to the subsequent theological view are Hebrews 2:18 and 4:15; but a person 'tempted like as we are, yet without possibility of sin' is not a man like one of us: not a man of the only sort with which we are acquainted.

Doubtless the 'Son of God' was to Paul, as more clearly and definitely to the writer of the fourth gospel, 'perfect man'; but (a) not in the sense expressed by saying that he was a 'man like one of us'; (b) not so in virtue of being sent 'in the likeness of sinful flesh.' He is so as the 'ideal man,' man as an object to the mind of God, and thus already, from eternity, for God, what we are becoming through that change -209- 'from glory into glory,' which Paul considers to be going on in believers through the operation of the spirit of God (2 Corinthians 3:18). The sending of the Son 'in likeness' is the condition of our becoming thus changed, but it is not in virtue of it (according to Paul's view) that the Son (the 'heavenly man,' the 'second Adam,' the 'lamb slain from the foundation of the world') becomes 'perfect man.' In order to become 'man' he does not need to take the 'body of our humiliation' (Philippians 3:21), though he does so out of the fulness of his grace and condescension. He is man already in that 'body of his glory' to which he returned, carrying by anticipation all believers with him, upon his deliverance from the 'body of humiliation.' It is, perhaps, not easy to prove that Paul thought of 'the body of his glory' as belonging to the Lord from eternity; but there are certainly no traces of the contrary view, that this 'body' first comes into being at his resurrection. The ascription of it to the Lord from eternity would be quite natural to one who identified the Son with the 'Angel of the presence,' through whom the glory of God was manifested under the old dispensation and whom contemporary Jews spoke of as the Shechinah. Σϖμα της δόξης naturally means 'the body belonging to his glory,' and his glory is that which he receives from full intercommunication with the Father, of which the incarnation is in some way an interruption, and hence a κένωσις (Philippians 2:7).

In the fourth gospel the 'flesh' which the word becomes is thought of specially as having been, till he took it, the source of ignorance. In becoming flesh, he does not so much assimilate himself to us in that which had hitherto been the source of violations of the law (as in Paul's view) and which henceforth is ceasing to be so, as become 'apprehensible to our senses' (14:9, 6 ὁ ἑωρακὼς ἐμὲ ἑώρακε τὸν πατέρα). The incarnation is thus of a kind with the miracles, as it is characteristic of this gospel to regard them, viz. as 'signs' (σημεια), manifestations to sense, which are granted indeed out of condescension to human weakness, but which it still is a weakness to require (4:48; 20:29). The manifestation of the word in the flesh is the preliminary condition of communication with God through the spirit; but not only is it not itself that communication, but the word must withdraw from the flesh before that communication can take place; (7:39; 6:7). -210-

His glorification (also called his 'lifting up') is the 'giving up' (παράδοσις του πνεύματος, 19:30), in which the spirit (which is the word) returns from the world (16:28; 17:11), in other words from its tabernacle in the flesh, to the Father, in order to come back to the believers as the indwelling spirit (14:17-18). While with them, he could not be in them: while present to sense, he could not communicate himself spiritually. We cannot understand the 'becoming flesh' as equivalent to becoming man, without supposing that the word was understood by the evangelist to cease to be man when he withdrew from the flesh, as according to the evangelist he undoubtedly did when he 'gave up the ghost'(παρέδωκε τὸ πνευμα). Σάρξ, 'flesh,' is not convertible with σωμα, 'body.' Every 'flesh' is 'body,' but not vice versa. See 1 Corinthians 15:38-44, σὰρξ ἀνθρώπων, πτηνων, σώματα ἐπουάνια; Philippians 3:21, τὸ ςωμα της ταπεινώσεως, τᾦ σώματι της δόξης; Romans 7:4-5, ἐθανατώθητε τᾦ νόμῳ διὰ του σώματος του Χριστου … ὅτε ἦμεν ἐν τη σαρκί; Colossians 1:22, ἐν τᾦ σώματι της σαρκός; Ephesians 2:15, τὴν ἔχθραν ἐντη σαρκί αύτου καταργήσας. Σάρξ in the fourth gospel carries with it ψυχή as the principle of animal life; John 10:11, 15, 17, τίθημι τὴν ψυχὴν ὑπὲρ των προβάτων; so 13:37-38; 15:13; 12:25, ὁ φιλων τὴν ψυχήν αὐτου; 12:27, ἡ ψυχή μου τετάρακται. Such 'troubling' of the soul as is mentioned in the last passage is to be distinguished from the troubling of the 'spirit' (11:33, ἐνεβριμήσατο τᾦ πνεύματι; 13:21, ἐταράχθη τᾦ πνεύματι). Έμβριμασθαι, according to the examples, can hardly be understood of anything but indignation; an indignation of which the divine principle in Christ is the subject (comp. 3: 36, ὀργὴ του θεου). What is he indignant at? At the carnal mind which required a sign, and could not believe in an eternal life overcoming death without it (11:24, foll.)? Can this be reconciled with 5:15 (χαίρω δι ὑμας, ἵνα πιστεύητε, ὅτι οὐκ ἤμην ἐκει)? The cause of indignation must in any case be connected with the sight of Mary weeping and the Jews weeping with her, Meyer thinks the latter is the special provocation, the hypocritical sympathy of these Jews with Mary, who were all the while full of hatred against him. Other views are that it was the power of death; unbelief of the sisters; unbelief of the Jews; or the reflection that he had not been able to prevent this calamity. It may be that -211- his spirit is indignant at human weakness; at the 'mortal yearning' expressed by the weeping, which at the same time in virtue of his 'flesh' or 'soul' he cannot help sharing, just as in 12:27 he cannot help a momentary shrinking from death.

There is a special difficulty as to the meaning of 'flesh' in 6:51, 'the bread which I will give is my flesh, etc.' The 'living bread' is first identified with the person of Christ; 'I am the bread of life' (5:48); then apparently with his 'flesh,' which he gives or surrenders, but which (according to the ordinary meaning of 'flesh') is by no means his person, and which in 5:63 is specially distinguished from the 'life-giving spirit,' as that which 'profiteth nothing.' The life-giving spirit of 5:63 must be that which is intended by the life-giving bread of 5:50-51, and it is opposed to 'flesh.' Again in 5:56 ('he that eateth my flesh, etc.') the 'eating my flesh, etc.' constitutes the 'dwelling in me and I in him'; and such dwelling of the believer in Christ and of Christ in the believer is equivalent to the communication of the spirit, which again consists in love and knowledge (see 15:4 and 9; 17:23; 1 John 3:23, 24; 4:16). Can the 'flesh,' then, here spoken of be the flesh or bodily life which Christ lays down in death (10:15; 15:13)? Of this it might indeed be said that it was 'given for the life of the world,' but this is not the person of Christ, which, as dwelling in the believer, constitutes eternal life. The giving up of Christ's life in the crucifixion is, indeed, according to the evangelist, the condition of the communication of the spirit, but the flesh or bodily life given up is opposed to the spirit, so opposed to it that while it remains the spirit cannot be given.

The only possible conclusion is that though in the 'flesh and blood' spoken of there is a reference to the death of Christ, yet they here represent not that which died on the cross, but his spirit or true person, which was sacrificed or devoted from eternity in a manner of which the death on the cross was only a sensible sign. Thus here 'my flesh' means 'my sacrificed person'; that person which came down 'to do the Father's will' (6:33, 38, 50, 58; comp, 3:13), and did it more sensibly in the physical dying upon the cross; the 'lamb slain from the foundation of the world.'

The disciples, like 'the Jews' (5:52), understand him 'carnally,' and find the saying 'hard' (5:60). To them he -212- makes explanations, while to the Jews he had only repeated the scandalising utterance in a more scandalising form. 'What and if ye shall see the son of man ascending where he was before?' he says to the disciples; 'if you regard my person in this limited sensuous way, if you understand the 'flesh' I have spoken of as literally what you can see and handle, what will you say if you see me ascending up where I was before, and thus showing perfect freedom from this flesh; showing that it is the 'heavenly man' of which I would have you 'eat and drink' in order to eternal life? That in virtue of which I shall thus ascend, that which is alone the life-giving bread for you, is the spirit which alone quickeneth, while the flesh, of which you think I am speaking, profiteth nothing. In the words that I have spoken (in the preceding discourse), that is, in the mind which those words convey,* the mind given up to doing the Father's will, lies this quickening spirit: but the condition of receiving it is that faith which some of you have not.' (*For the 'words' of Christ in the sense of the mind they convey, as equivalent to the spirit through which he dwells in believers, comp. John 3:34; 6:68; 8:47; 12:47; 15:7.) Why then is 'flesh' introduced in 5:51, if it is to be understood of the spiritual person of Christ, and not of his flesh in the proper sense? The commentators generally take it either of Christ's body given up on the cross, or of his earthly or sensible manifestation generally. The answer seems to be (1), that as out of the assimilation of the person of Christ to 'bread from heaven' arises the presentation of the process of appropriating his person (compare Galatians 2:20) under the figure of eating, so out of this again arises the presentation of the spirit thus appropriated under the figure of flesh and blood. (2) The devotion of Christ's spirit or person which the believer is to share in and make his own, has its 'sign' in the crucifixion of his body and the shedding of his blood. In 5:51 and foll. there is a blending of the 'sign' and that which it represents. The crucified flesh and blood shed are presented as that which the believer has to appropriate, subject to the explanation in 5:63. Just as in 19:36 the crucified Jesus is spoken of as the antitype of the lamb (comp. 1 Corinthians 5:7) which was eaten at the passover, so here the flesh and blood, which represent his devoted spirit, are to be in figure eaten and drunk. (3) There may be a reference to the eating bread and drinking -213- wine in the Lord's supper, as representatives of Christ's body and blood. Whether we accept such reference or no, really depends on whether we take the words to have been actually uttered by Jesus or no. If they were so uttered, he cannot have meant to convey a reference to a rite which had not yet been instituted. All that could plausibly be held would be that participation in his devoted spirit was represented verbally under the same figure under which it was afterwards represented by an act at the last supper. If we take the words not to be an historical utterance of Jesus, we may suppose that the evangelist, the eucharistic rite being in existence as a symbolical eating and drinking of Christ's body and blood, at once availed himself of it as a figure to express the spiritual union with Christ, and by so doing sought to give a higher and more spiritual significance to the rite.

Just as the person of Christ in this gospel always appears as simply the divine word, or spirit, or 'son of man which is in heaven,' though he has for the time come down from it, not as a person made up of this and a 'reasonable human soul,' so there is no mention of his birth or growth. On his first appearance in the gospel, he is already all that he ever is during the time of his manifestation to sense. Supernatural knowledge appears in 1:49; comp. 2:25 and 7:15. The explanation of this is the complete and constant communication of the Father's mind to him (8:26; 15:15). All his acts are done with a complete consciousness of the divine plan to which they belong, the plan of sensible manifestation to men. So far as these imply a separation from God, such as is implied in the incarnation as such (comp. 14:28; 16:28; 17:5 and 11) and in acts like the prayers of 6:41-42, and 7:27-28, the separation is for man's sake; and though the evangelist will not represent it as unreal (to do so would be inconsistent with his great purpose of showing that a manifestation of God in the flesh had taken place once for all) he does represent it as accompanied on the part of Christ by the consciousness of a complete participation of the divine glory. The 'glory' is eternally shared by him with the Father, yet the participation has been suspended in order that he may return to it. If it is said that these are incompatible propositions; that the 'humiliation in the flesh' could not be real, if the 'divine glory' was the eternal possession of the Son and therefore not to be suspended; the -214- answer is that such incompatibility is necessarily involved in the conception of God's manifestation of himself in the world and in the moral self-abandonment which is the completion of all the processes of the world, as an event that once took place in time.

On the importance which the evangelist attached to the reality of the fleshly manifestation of the word, compare 1 John 1:1, foll., where we have a more emphatic assertion of what is stated in the gospel John 1:14; compare also 1 John 4:2. The 'docetism,' however, which these passages have in view is not one which denies a distinct 'reasonable soul and human flesh' or manhood, which in combination with the word becomes the person Jesus Christ, but one which denies the reality of the manifestation in the flesh of the pre-existent Jesus Christ. The evangelist had before him two tendencies, the prevalence of either of which would have prevented Christianity from becoming what it has actually, in its best form, become, a means through which unphilosophical men have come to think of and worship God under the attributes of perfect moral life. One was the tendency to regard Jesus simply as the true Messiah, as Son of God and Son of man, in a way differing in degree but not in kind from David or the prophets; the saviour of the Jews and of that enlarged Israel to which believing gentiles were admitted, who had wrought miracles and been raised from the dead, but was not God manifested for all men. The other was the gnostic tendency to interpret the story of Jesus into a process of 'becoming,' by which a philosopher might explain to himself the relation of God to the world, or the transition from absolute to relative existence. If these two tendencies had been left to go on apart, in virtue of the former Christianity would have become merely a higher and purer form of that which mahometanism afterwards became; while the latter would have been one more theosophy, which would have had no lasting effect on the moral and religious life of men. If Christianity was to be in any sense a religion for all time and all mankind, it was essential (1) to substitute for the gnostic development of things as they are, through a series of seons half mythological and half metaphysical, out of a God who does nothing and of whom nothing can be known and said, the simple idea of God manifesting himself, and manifesting himself fully only, in the moral life of complete self-devotion. -215-

(2) If, again, this idea was to take hold on men, it must connect itself with the belief in the events of a life actually lived on earth, and find expression in a society free from all conditions of place or nation or ceremony, and held together merely by common thought about God. These results are attained by the combination of the two tendencies spoken of; a 'chemical combination,' one in which each takes a new and higher form from contact with the other. Thus combined, they yield the belief that God, having always manifested himself in nature and providence, manifests himself finally and completely in Christ, as, in the first place, having lived in the flesh a life of complete unity with God and abandonment of self, and, secondly, continuing to live in a mode of which this life in the flesh was a condition, in a spiritual society in which all men should be drawn to him and to God through him. Of this belief, already virtually the belief of Paul, the detailed application to the story of Jesus is furnished by this gospel, to which, therefore, it is equally essential that the reality of the sensible miraculous acts, especially the resurrection, ascribed by the Jewish disciples to Jesus of Nazareth, should be asserted as against the gnostic interpretation of them into eternal but not historical processes (an assertion put most emphatically in the words 'Jesus Christ has come in the flesh'); and that, as against the Ebionites, the person to whom the acts were ascribed should be regarded as the eternal word or spirit, still operative in the Christian society, so that the 'cultus' of Jesus may amount to the worship, through love and knowledge, of God as a spiritual being, immanent in the moral life of man.

The words 'tabernacled among us' (ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, 1:14) further illustrate the mode in which the evangelist conceived the incarnation. The 'flesh' is a temporary resting-place of the word or spirit, in which he dwells with us; which the spirit must occupy, but from which it is equally necessary that he should withdraw, in order to his communication to men. To the 'flesh' of Jesus are transferred the conceptions which had been attached to the tabernacle, especially in the mind of the prophets and later Jews. (See Leviticus 26:11-12; Ezekiel 37:27; 43:7; Ecclesiasticus 24:8-9, where 'wisdom' is spoken of; Revelation 7:15; 21:3. Comp. also John 2:21; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Colossians 2:9; -216- and for the notion of temporariness attaching to 'tabernacling,' 2 Corinthians 5:1). As in the tabernacle the 'divine glory' was behind a veil, so the revelation of God through the word, so long as the word remains 'in flesh,' is behind a veil, which the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews (10:20) regards as broken in Christ's death; just as our evangelist identifies the glorification of Christ, the full manifestation of his glory, with his return to the Father in death, which is the condition of his return to us in the spirit (7:39; 16:7). The veil of his flesh must be broken in order that Jesus may enter into his glory. He enters into it for us, and enables us to enter with him ('that where I am ye may be also,' 14:3), which is the same thing as God's entry into us through the spirit, because through his putting off the flesh which he had assumed we are enabled to put it off too, to break the barrier which it presents to the spiritual communication of God. There is, no doubt, a difficulty about the view of our participation in Christ's death, which Paul represents as the condition of his living in us, and equally about the connection between the death of Christ's flesh and the new spiritual life in us, according to the view of this gospel; because the 'flesh' means different things in relation to us and in relation to the eternal Son. In relation to us it means 'selfishness,' in relation to him not. How should Christ's putting off of the flesh enable us to put it off, and thus to become 'born of the spirit' (3:6), when our putting it off means really something quite different from what it can have meant to one to whom it was no impediment to communication with God? There is no sufficient logical answer to this question. The possibility of identifying that death to the flesh on our part, which is the condition of being born of the spirit, with Christ's death on the cross, arises (a) out of the view of Christ's death in the flesh as the 'sign' of his eternal self-sacrifice, and (b) out of the unconscious blending of the 'sign' with the thing signified.

In the words 'we beheld his glory' (ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, John 1:14), does the writer mean to represent himself as an eye-witness of Christ's life on earth? What sort of 'beholding' is intended? a θεωρίανοητική, as one of the Fathers calls the Baptist's sight of the spirit 'descending like a dove,' or as sensuous as the 'handling' of 1 John 1:1, would seem intended to be? What is the 'glory'? It must -217- mean the glory exhibited in the incarnate life of the word, if the 'beholding' is sensuous, the beholding of the apostles, with whom the writer means to identify himself. Yet how can this be, if the 'glorification' of Christ is identical with his withdrawal from the fleshly life to the Father in his death? In asking such questions, we are introducing distinctions which were not present to the mind of the evangelist, distinctions the presence of which would have rendered the writing of the gospel impossible. Two kinds of sight are included under the term θεωρειν and ὁραν. Comp. 14:19; 16:10, 16; and 14:9 with 1:18; 'no man hath seen God,' yet 'he that hath seen Christ hath seen the Father.' This cannot mean 'hath seen the Father sensuously,' since the Father cannot be so seen. Yet as little can it mean that he that hath seen Christ sensuously hath seen the Father spiritually. The seeing of Christ, then, must mean a spiritual sight, an intellectual apprehension of him, which is not merely speculative, but also moral, i.e. leading to action. In 14:19, 'yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more, but ye see me,' 'see' (θεωρει) in the first clause cannot mean the same as 'see' (θεωρειτε) in the second; but it does mean the same as 'see' in 16:10 and 17. Again, what is the meaning of 'ye shall see me' (ὅψεσθε) in 16:19? It may be taken of a sensuous seeing after the resurrection, but, if so, it conveys a different notion from 'ye see me' (θεωρειτε) in 14:19, which must represent that continuous state of beholding which is different from an event or events of sensuous seeing. There is a like ambiguity about the 'glory.' If it is not sensible, the incarnation is unmeaning. Yet only upon the withdrawal of Christ from the flesh does the 'glorification' take place. If the 'glory' is that which the believer sees after the word has ceased to be sensible, how can his becoming sensible be a manifestation of his glory?

The 'sensible glory' is glory exhibited in the 'signs' (John 11:40, sἐὰν πιστεύσῃς ὄψει τὴν δόξαν τοῦ Θεοῦ ), but only for those who believe are the 'signs' such an exhibition. In the other gospels belief on the part of the person upon whom the miracle is wrought is the condition of its being wrought. It is not so here; it is not meant that Martha's belief is the condition of Lazarus being raised, but that the raising of Lazarus, if she believed, would be to her, what it was not to the Jews, a 'sign' of the glory of God. But a 'seeing' -218- thus conditioned is not a sensuous seeing, nor the 'glory' a sensible glory. It is not to be supposed that the evangelist was distinctly aware that he was using the same word in different senses. Undoubtedly he held that the 'word' became apprehensible to the senses. If we could have asked him whether by the 'sight of Christ' he meant merely a way of thinking about God, he would have said 'No.' Still it is a 'sight,' according to him, which only a way of thinking renders possible. So far as sensuous seeing goes, the Jews see as much of Christ's glory as the disciples; yet not of them would the evangelist say 'they beheld his glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, etc.' This, it will be said, means that to see Christ we must have the 'eye of faith.' "Well, but this at any rate implies that to the mind of the evangelist 'seeing' depended on 'believing,' not 'believing' on 'seeing'; which again implies that the 'faith' of which he speaks is not, and does not include, acceptance from others through tradition of the so-called 'reports of their senses.' Yet such acceptance is what people mean by 'faith' when they make it a part of faith to believe on the authority of the gospels, or on any other authority, that miracles were really wrought. The 'faith' of which the evangelist speaks is the practical consciousness of God, which overcomes the selfish will (called 'the world' in 1 John 5:4; comp. John 5:44). Such 'faith' enables the believer to see the 'glory of the only-begotten' by reading aright the 'signs,' or manifestations to sense, of the word or spirit, which to 'the Jews' (though, in respect of the relation to sense they were the same to them as to the disciples) were no manifestations at all; and the sight of the glory again gives a higher character to the 'faith,' transforms it into consciousness of a 'sonship of God' partaken in by all believers, through which 'faith' becomes 'love' (1 John 4:16; John 17:26).

This is the evangelist's view. We, looking back, may hold that it was 'faith' which led to the supposition of the signs having been granted, and was as well a condition of their being read aright, and that such an opinion does not detract from the character of Christianity as a revelation, since it merely means that God reveals himself through a state of the human mind to which under certain conditions a belief in miraculous events is incidental, instead of through the actual occurrence of such events. To the evangelist, -219- however, the occurrence of such events seems essential, though (a) faith is not derived from them, but is the condition of the right interpretation of them, and (b) the highest faith can dispense with them. See 20:29, 'blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed,' a passage which, like the whole account of the appearances at the resurrection, brings into the strongest contrast the evangelist's belief in the fact of a sensuous manifestation of God in Jesus (which he does not scruple to put into the most paradoxical form, e.g. the body which Thomas feels violates all the known conditions of body, 5:26), and his counter-judgment that only in and for the spirit can God be manifested at all. The value of Thomas's experience lies, not in its sensuous character, but in the consciousness of God which he attains through it ('my Lord and my God'), and which he should have attained without it. It is because the evangelist blended, or (if you like) confused, the sensuous seeing and the spiritual cognition, while yet he makes the latter the one thing needful, that this gospel has filled the special function of presenting the highest thought about God in language of the imagination, and has thus become the source of the highest religion. All religion (as distinct alike from thought and morality) consists in the presentation of the objects of thought under the forms of imagination. The value of the religion depends on the adequacy of the imagined form to the object thought of (to which it never can be quite adequate). To think of God, and to give expression or realisation to the thought in moral life, that is our first and eternal business; but that is not distinctively religion. For religion to exist, we must in some mode imagine God, and the most nearly adequate imagination of him is as a man in whom that which seems to be the end of moral discipline and progress has been fully attained, viz. the union of the will with God, perfect unselfishness, the direction of desire to ends which one rational being can consciously share with all other rational beings. Such a 'man' would not be man as we know man, because the conditions of human existence in this world are such that this end can never be completely attained. Thus the religious imagination of God as Christ has to become the imagination of him as a 'glorified' Christ; a Christ such as Jesus of Nazareth was potentially, not actually; a Christ put to death in the flesh,' but alive and giving life in the spirit. -220- In other words, though the religious imagination may require, as historically it did require (whether it does is not so certain), (a) a belief in the manifestation of God under the ordinary conditions of an individual human life as its starting-point, it equally requires that this belief should pass into (b) a belief in a person now spiritually present to and in us. This transition is specially represented by the 'gospel according to John,' which retains (a) but has its permanent value in the transformation of it into (b).

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Thomas Hill Green
British philosopher and social theorist,
an early leader of the British Idealists.
Elected a Fellow of Balliol College, Uiversity of Oxford, 1860, Whyte's Professor of Moral Philosophy, 1878, he died at the young age of 45.



Green, Thomas Hill. Works of Thomas Hill Green, "Miscellanies and Memoir," vol. 3 of 3. K. L. Nettleship, ed., London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1888 pp. 207-220.