Did Jesus Get Rid of Some of His “God-hood” While on Earth?
The Teaching of Kenosis
By: Rev. Joe Kramer
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,
-Colossians 2:9 (NIV)
( 6 )Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; ( 7) rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (8) And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
-Philippians 2:7–8 (NIV)
This is actually a very important topic. This question, in times past, has been widely debated. The view that Jesus gave up some of His divinity while on earth is called Kenosis. This teaching is widely used and popular.
Unfortunately Kenosis is not Biblical. In this teaching one is taught that Jesus gave up some of His divine attributes, which for sure is not the case. If Jesus were to give up some of His attributes when becoming a man then He in essence is not God. To give up who He is would make Him less than God. So what is this small passage teaching?
Jesus could not have given up anything because verse six affirms His divine nature. It says He is in His very nature God. So what does verse seven teach? That is the million dollar question. Some scholars have tried to make a kind of sub-kenosis viewpoint that says He didn’t give up His nature, but
His attributes were veiled to Him for a time. This view, however, doesn’t make sense. This is saying that Christ couldn’t have used His attributes if He wanted. A better view is succinctly explained from a book called the survey of Bible Doctrine by C.C. Ryrie (see sources below). It reads:
. . . condescension of taking on Himself the likeness of sinful flesh (Ro 8:3), and the voluntary nonuse of some of His attributes of deity during the time of His earthly life (Mt 24:36). His humanity was not a glorified humanity and was thus subject to temptation, weakness, pain, and sorrow. Choosing not to use His divine attributes is quite different from saying that He gave them up. Nonuse does not mean subtraction.
So we see that Jesus voluntarily did not use his divine attribute, not that they were stripped away from Him. This is very important to remember, because if we don’t we deny His divinity.
Remember that when dealing with these kinds of concepts we must take them out to their logical conclusion. To not do so may make us walk into error.
I hope this small article will spur you on to do more research on the subject. God bless!
Sources Consulted in Research
- Ryrie, C. C. (1972). A survey of Bible doctrine. Chicago: Moody Press.
- Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. 2003 (C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, T. C. Butler & B. Latta, Ed.) (979). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
- Myers, A. C. (1987). The Eerdmans Bible dictionary (621). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.