Article 1. Whether the Son of God in human nature ought to have assumed defects of body?
His soul had every perfection, even as human. Ought not His body, then, have the same? Is not the pain and mortality of the body the result of sin?
“It was fitting for the body assumed by the Son of God to be subject to human infirmities and defects; and especially for three reasons.”
- It was in order to satisfy for the sin of the human race that the Son of God came into the world. One satisfies for another’s sin by taking on himself the punishment due to the sin of the other. Isaiah 53:4says “Surely He hath borne our infirmities.”
- Secondly, in order to cause belief in Incarnation. Human nature is understood by men only as it is subject to these defects. Philippians 2:7: “He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men.”
- Thirdly, in order to show us an example of patience against passibility and defects. Hebrews 12:3 says He “endured such opposition from sinners against Himself, that you be not wearied.”
Article 2. Whether Christ was of necessity subject to these defects?
Romans 8:3 says that God sent “His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.” Now it is a condition of sinful flesh to be under the necessity of dying, and suffering other like passions. Therefore the necessity of suffering these defects was in Christ’s flesh.
Of course, it was not a necessity of “constraint,” brought about by an external agent. Nothing over God (since this cannot exist) forced this as an absolute necessity. However, it was a “natural” necessity, resulting from the natural principles of a human body composed of matter and form. It is likewise not necessary (constraint) that God make a circle, but if He does make a circle, it is necessary (by nature) that it be round, have no straight lines, and no corners, etc.
Article 3. Whether Christ contracted these defects?
The cause of death and such like defects in human nature is sin, since “by sin death entered into this world,” (Romans 5:12). Effects follow cause. Contracting defects would be the effect, and sin would be the cause. Obviously, this cannot be the case for Christ.
It is interesting to note here something Thomas says: The flesh of the Virgin was conceived in original sin, and therefore contracted these defects. But from the Virgin, Christ’s flesh assumed the nature without sin, and He might likewise have assumed the nature without its penalties.
Some have taken this to be a Thomist rejection of the immaculate conception. However, Thomas also believed in Mary’s sinlessness. How is this? In short, at the time, many thought that the soul was infused in the body at 40 days after conception. This was not a taught “fact” but an admitted speculation. (We have seen such “theologians” as Nancy Pelosi try to show that St. Thomas would have been pro-first trimester abortion by this, a fanciful idea, for sure). And so, Mary’s body, before receiving her soul, would have contracted this original sin. However, when her soul was united to the body (and this would be the first moment of there being a “person” Mary) she was protected from all sin, saved from it by the merits of her son. This is a brief look at a much more complex topic, but worth noting here.
Article 4. Whether Christ ought to have assumed all the bodily defects of men?
He did not, for this was by nature impossible, since some infirmities are contrary to each other, being caused by contrary principles, and it could not be that Christ assumed all human infirmities. There are some defects that are incompatible with the perfection of knowledge and grace, as ignorance, a proneness towards evil, and a difficulty in well-doing. Some other defects do not flow from the whole of human nature in common on account of the sin of our first parent, but are caused in some men by certain particular causes, as leprosy, epilepsy, etc. Basically, Christ had to take on what was a given in our nature as fallen, but not all possibilities of physical evil.
For example, how could He have been both quadriplegic and at the same time have a malformed hand and clubbed feet? In other words, it is simply not necessary that Christ take on every possible infirmity, but those that are material to the salvation of us by His becoming true man, capable of suffering as we do.
“He assumed our defects economically, in order to satisfy for our sin, and not that they belonged to Him of Himself. Hence it was not necessary for Him to assume them all, but only such as sufficed to satisfy for the sin of the whole nature.”