Bishop Grosseteste (+1253) – 16 arguments for the Incarnation even if Adam had not sinned

Bishop Robert Grosseteste (+1253) was an amazing figure in England during the scholastic period, both as Bishop of Lincoln and Professor of Theology at Oxford University. If you want to learn more about him or look up his writings (in Latin), there is an amazing website you can visit called Electronic Grosseteste.

In Part III of his volume De cessatione legalium – “On the Cessation of the Laws” he gives sixteen arguments for the Incarnation even if Adam had not sinned. As much as I would like to post all of his arguments here, it seems best to limit myself to a few highlights. Thanks to Dr. Stephen Hildebrand and CUA Press anyone who would like to read Bishop Grosseteste’s full presentation on the subject can purchase the English translation of this work here.

From the pen of Grosseteste:

“… let us suppose that man had not fallen and that God did not become man; the created universe would not be as good, as perfect, as beautiful as it is now, would it? …” (P.III, Ch.1, n.8)

“Again, when God, who is supremely generous and from whom envy is supremely banished, creates every kind of creature that can exist (in order to show that He, who must be participated in by every possible nature, Himself shares with each inasmuch as its nature can receive it), and does not leave even the nature of the insect or of some kind of fly or reptile uncreated, how will He not all the more make one Person to be God and man, that is, one Christ, because one Christ, God and man, is an incomparably greater good than all of creation by itself? He does not omit the nature of the insect lest the whole of creation be imperfect and less honorable; would He omit Christ, the greatest honor for all creation [if Adam had not sinned]? … How could He [Christ], being such, be omitted in such a way that He would never have existed if man had not sinned, when even the lowest species of reptile would not have been omitted?” (P.III, Ch.1, n.9)

“In addition, if there were not one Christ, that is, God and man in one Person, the Church would not have the head which it now has, nor would it be as the Apostle says, ‘The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church’ (Eph 5:23); and again, the head of man is Christ, and the head of Christ is God, but the Church would be headless and so would man.” (P.III, Ch.1, n.10)

“In addition, if the God-man, who suffered, through Himself justifies fallen man, and if this cause is precisely proportionate to this effect, then, if you take away the ‘fallen’ and ‘suffering,’ the precise cause of man’s justification, the God-man, will, it seems, remain. For if man had not sinned, he still would not be able to be just by himself, but would always need someone who is just by nature to justify him.” (P.III, Ch.1, n.11)

“What the Apostle says about Christ seems to contradict this line of thought [that we are justified by God, not the God-man], that for us He was made by God to be wisdom, justice, holiness and redemption (cf. 1 Cor 1:30). Therefore, He redeems, sanctifies, and infuses justice and wisdom according to His becoming [man], not because as God He infuses holiness, justice, and wisdom; rather, He does this only through the assumed man, because of whom He is the mediator between God and man (cf. 1 Tm 2:5)…” (P.III, Ch.1, n.13)

“So then, if the formation of justice always happens in one way, because the cause of one thing is always one, justice always and simply descends from God through Christ, the God-man, into every rational creature who is made just. On account of this, it seems, angels and men are not justified from the beginning except through the Son of God, God and man…” (P.III, Ch.1, n.14).

A summary of Bishop Robert Grosseteste’s position on the primacy of Christ By Fr. Eric Wood will be posted soon…

Rev. Chris Webb – Christ in All Scriptures

In an earlier post I highlighted some inspired insights of Rev. Chris Webb (see HERE), an Anglican priest who embraces the Benedictine spirituality and promotes in a particular way the Lectio Divina. What is unique about Rev. Webb’s approach to reading the Bible is his Scotistic Christocentricism. He recently posted a piece called “Christ in All Scriptures” at Renovaré and gave me permission to repost it for your perusal. The following are his reflections:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. —Colossians 1:15-16

If the whole of creation entirely centered on Jesus, then we might reasonably expect to discover that Scripture is equally Christocentric. Not only that, but the idea of the Absolute Primacy of Christ could then become a compelling starting point for our interpretation of Scripture, especially when we approach Scripture with the desire, above all else, to find in it an encounter with God in Christ.

And in fact this was the way most Christians read the Bible for much of the Church’s two millennia long history. During one of his sermons on the Psalms, the fifth century African bishop Augustine of Hippo exhorted his congregation to “remember that God speaks only a single word throughout the length of Scripture, and that only one Word is heard from the many mouths of the sacred writers—the Word that was in the beginning, God with God.” Six centuries later the hugely influential Parisian abbot Hugh of St. Victor would write: “All sacred Scripture is but one book, and that one book is Christ, because all divine Scripture speaks of Christ, and all divine Scripture is fulfilled in Christ.”

These writers were developing a tradition that reaches right back to the New Testament period. Throughout the Gospels, the epistles, and the book of Revelation we see Jesus presented as the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures. We have often narrowed that focus by affirming that in Christ a specific collection of ancient biblical prophecies about the future came to pass; some even claim to be able to enumerate the number and sequence of such prophecies. But the apostles and the New Testament writers asserted so much more: for them, Jesus was the completion and fulfillment of all Scripture, of the whole Bible in its many varied aspects.

Think, for example, of Peter’s first sermon on the day of Pentecost. These few brief words draw together a collection of different texts from the Hebrew Bible—a passage from Joel and quotations from a couple of Psalms—and apply them all to Jesus. Two chapters later in Acts, Peter is confronting the Sanhedrin and quotes from another Psalm (“the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the chief cornerstone,” Psalm 118:22) which, he asserts, speaks directly of Christ. In a prayer later in the same chapter the disciples apply yet another Psalm to Jesus, while in chapter seven Stephen, during his trial, draws whole sweeps of the Old Testament narrative into his interpretation of the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection. Philip hears an Ethiopian official reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah while traveling on the road to Gaza—“starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35). This same pattern continues throughout Acts: the Old Testament is constantly referred to as a text which speaks of Christ.

If anything, the picture becomes even richer as we turn to the New Testament letters. Paul, in particular, seems to see Jesus everywhere he looks in Scripture. Christ is portrayed as a new Adam, a descendant of the first man who overturns the tragic results of the first sin in Eden (Romans 5:12-21). Abraham’s unwavering faith in God’s promise makes him the spiritual ancestor of those who will place their faith in Christ’s resurrection (Acts 4:1-25). Sarah and Hagar become allegories of the challenging choice presented by Christ: between living under the law of Sinai or in the freedom of the new Jerusalem (Galatians 4:21-5:1). In one text Jesus is linked to the entire story of the exodus—to the “baptism” in the Red Sea, the leadership of Moses, the miraculous food and drink provided in the wilderness—leading to the startling assertion that Jesus was present to the Israelites throughout their wanderings: “they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:5). And so it continues throughout Paul’s letters—it seems that he is able to discern the presence of Christ in almost any biblical text.

The letter to the Hebrews draws on the Old Testament in a remarkable way to expound on the significance of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. After a short, breathless introduction in the first four verses (just a single sentence in the Greek original) the letter launches into a whirlwind tour of the Hebrew Scriptures: quotations from right across the Psalter; excerpts from books as diverse as Deuteronomy, Proverbs, Isaiah, and Jeremiah; allusions to the meeting between Abraham and Melchizedek, the giving of the law at Sinai, Israel’s wandering in the wilderness, the design and structure of the temple, the rules governing the priesthood and the sacrificial system laid out in Leviticus, and the prophetic promise of a new heart covenant between God and his people. The eleventh chapter famously presents a panorama of Old Testament heroes, calling to mind the examples of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Barak, Samson … the list is overwhelming. And all this is offered as one great and glorious witness to Jesus—Jesus who is greater than the angels, who mediates a better covenant than Moses, who embodies the Sabbath rest of the covenant, who fulfills the great priesthood of Melchizedek, who ministers in the true heavenly sanctuary of which the earthly temple is simply an imitation, who offers the supreme and final sacrifice, and who establishes the foundations of the heavenly Jerusalem.

No wonder, then, that the author of this letter calls Jesus “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). He is the beginning and the end, the one who participates in creation with God at the dawn of time and draws it to its conclusion at the end of days. His presence can be felt on every page, during every incident, through every prophecy, in every life. Jesus is not simply a character who appears in the Bible somewhere towards the end, drawing together the threads of a rambling and complex story. Jesus is the central character from the first page to the last. The Bible is, above all else, the book of Christ.