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Cyprian of Carthage on the Incarnation

December 29, 2018

Here is another excerpt from one of the Fathers we posted some years ago–Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage around 250 A.D., had these insights about the Incarnation:

…Christ is both man and God, compounded of both natures, that He might be a Mediator between us and the Father. In Jeremiah: “And He is man, and who shall know Him? Also in Numbers: “A Star shall arise out of Jacob, and a man shall rise up from Israel.” –from Treatise XII

Moreover, God had previously foretold that it would happen, that as the ages passed on, and the end of the world was near at hand, God would gather to Himself from every nation, and people, and place, worshippers much better in obedience and stronger in faith, who would draw from the divine gift that mercy which the Jews had received and lost by despising their religious ordinances. Therefore of this mercy and grace the Word and Son of God is sent as the dispenser and master, who by all the prophets of old was announced as the enlightener and teacher of the human race. He is the power of God, He is the reason, He is His wisdom and glory; He enters into a virgin; being the holy Spirit, He is endued with flesh; God is mingled with man. This is our God, this is Christ, who, as the mediator of the two, puts on man that He may lead them to the Father. What man is, Christ was willing to be, that man also may be what Christ is. –from Treatise VI

…although from the beginning He had been the Son of God, yet He had to be begotten again according to the flesh.

In the second Psalm: “The Lord said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten Thee. Ask of me, and I will give Thee the nations for Thine inheritance, and the bounds of the earth for Thy possession.” Also in the Gospel according to Luke: “And it came to pass, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and she was filled with the Holy Ghost, and she cried out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Also Paul to the Galatians: “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent His Son, born of a woman.” Also in the Epistle of John: “Every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God. But whosoever denies that He is come in the flesh is not of God, but is of the spirit of Antichrist.” –from Treatise XII

One thing that has impressed me about Cyprian’s writings has been his use of the Scriptures to prove his points. Note that in both quotes from Treatise XII he shows a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures; may we follow his example in reading, learning, and applying the Word.

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