Is Jesus unchanging?

Hello everyone.

I am just looking for some clarification about Hebrews 1:12 and 13:8. 13:8 reads, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” How do we square this with the fact that Jesus coexisted eternally with the Father and Holy Spirit without a human body, then came the Incarnation and He took on flesh, and now He has ascended into Heaven and exists eternally with His glorified human body? That sounds like changing.

Any thoughts will be appreciated. Thanks.

Heaven is not affected by time.

The body is not the self: I would suggest that the text is talking about Jesus’ character, not his appearance, because I would guess that he was taller at age 30 than at age 3, and the writer of Hebrews had to know that.

If you take that too far, however, what about His human mind?

That too was different the day before His death than during His childhood.

And unlike the “body”, you can’t divide the human mind from the self. (In fact, you can’t really do it with the body.)

ICXC NIKA

Seriously? You’re asking me to answer a question which requires steering within spitting distance of the Monothelite Heresy? Are you trying to get me burnt at the stake? :stuck_out_tongue:

I would say that much the same applies to his mortal mind as to his mortal body: it grew, and it changed (Lk 2:52), but it was not the whole of who Jesus was. Let me call that one Jesus-M (mortal). Existing in the same person at the same time was the divine aspect, which had pre-existed the body (Jn 1:1). Let me call that one Jesus-D (divine)

Then, there is the combination of M and D in Jesus-A (absolute), the Jesus of the Chalcedonian Definition: two natures not confused, not changeable, not individually divisible, not separable. Being timeless, D not only always existed, but always existed in its relation to M, even though M did not exist for most of our perception of linear time (think of that as “Jesus, being omniscient, always had absolute knowledge of being the Incarnation, and so effectively ‘experienced’ the Incarnation before it ‘happened’ in our understanding of the universe”, if it helps). As a result, Jesus-A, the hypostatic union, is also unchanging.

Jesus-A appears to have been the one in view in Hebrew 13:8, not least since the text was written after Jesus’ return to the Father, and so its “yesterday” was not a day when Jesus-M was walking around with them.

So, yes, his mind grew and changed, but that mind was only one part of him, and it only grew and changed with respect to our linear perspective on time, not with respect to D or A’s omniscient and timeless perspective.

There! Did I manage it without straying into unforgivable heresy? Or should I reach for the marshmallows? :eek:

And unlike the “body”, you can’t divide the human mind from the self. (In fact, you can’t really do it with the body.)

You really, really can (although that might be easier for those of us who are disabled). The mind can be altered merely by altering the chemical or the electrical state of the brain, but, when you remove the alteration, the same character is there: the mind is not the self. The body, meanwhile, is just the vehicle: you can do all manner of things to it without changing the character.

I think you have essentially asked the same question that I joined this Forum to ask.

I joined this Forum in Nov of 2004. I asked my very first question two weeks later (I lurked for a little while).

Here is my very first question on this Forum:

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?p=315919

(OK, I was somewhat more strict in my formulation back then.) Over the years, I have posed this question again, with no response that I could really understand (something about the verb “assumed” seems important, but I don’t know why).

I think that you (and I) have asked the hardest question that CAF has ever seen. It is a question that has eluded an answer that I find tenable and comprehensible. I hope and pray that you will do better.

God changes, the Bible tells you so. If God didn’t change, then Genesis would read very differently:

On the first day God said, “Let there be light,” and on the second day God said, “Let there be light,” and on the third day God said, “Let there be light,” and on the fourth day …"

Being unchanging means that you cannot change, and that is extremely restricting. Whatever the words in Hebrews, they do not mean “stays exactly the same over time”, because God, and hence also Jesus, obviously does not stay exactly the same over time.

Some aspects of both God and Jesus might not change, but there are other aspects of them that do change.

rossum

D-R Bible, Haydock Commentary:

Ver. 8. Yesterday, and to-day, and the same for ever. That is, Christ is the same merciful and powerful advocate and protector, in regard of all that serve him faithfully to the end of the world. (Witham)

Rossum,

I’m not sure that the beginning chapters of Genesis shows us God changing, but it shows us God creating. He doesn’t need to change who He is at all to bring about creation.

I’ve heard it said a long, long time ago that God is unchanging because He is perfect. Perfection cannot change because that implies a move away from perfection. If God can’t move to a position that is less than perfect (because than He would be less than perfect), or above perfection (because there is no such thing), than He is unchanging.

But then I wonder if there can’t be a “neutral” sort of change that doesn’t move away from perfection? Could that maybe be what Hebrews is talking about perhaps? That Jesus is the same always in that He is and always has been perfect in His Divinity whether He is in Heaven with His body, without His body, or on earth?

Just thinking aloud again, I guess. I appreciate all the comments, though. It helps alot.

He creates different things at different times. Since change is defined as difference over time, then the Creator must have changed. Creating one thing on day one and a different thing on day two. Difference in time equates to change. The Creator changed from creating light to creating humans. Everyone agrees that the two did not appear simultaneously; light appeared before humans.

rossum

Seriously? You’re asking me to answer a question which requires steering within spitting distance of the Monothelite Heresy? Are you trying to get me burnt at the stake?

I’m no theologian; there is no black band around my neck; the Grand Inquisitors are gone. Fear not.

ICXC NIKA.

You really, really can (although that might be easier for those of us who are disabled). The mind can be altered merely by altering the chemical or the electrical state of the brain, but, when you remove the alteration, the same character is there: the mind is not the self. The body, meanwhile, is just the vehicle: you can do all manner of things to it without changing the character.

I don’t agree. Body is much more than a “vehicle” that our “character” rides around in the head of. Our bodies are not draft animals; they keep our minds alive and live life for the mind.

If the human self is neither the body nor the mind, what at all is it? How do we normally think of “self” if not BOTH mind and body?

The “character” changes all the time, and it is changed according to the trajectory of our life. That trajectory is shaped not only by the mind, or interpersonal interactions and events, but by the body. The body’s abilities, construction, hormones and limitations direct the path our lives will take.

Disability does not prove your point. If anything, it shows how critical embodiment is to making us ourselves. Someone who is disabled may fully overcome or transcend their limitations, but that in itself directs the trajectory of the life.

ICXC NIKA.

Nope, God does not and can not change. As a prior response indicated this is based on his perfection. Here is how the Catholic Encyclopedia explains it:

That the Divine nature is essentially immutable, or incapable of any internal change, is an obvious corollary from Divine infinity. Changeableness implies the capacity for increase or diminution of perfection, that is, it implies finiteness and imperfection. But God is infinitely perfect and is necessarily what He is. It is true that some attributes by which certain aspects of Divine perfection are described are hypothetical or relative, in the sense that they presuppose the contingent fact of creation: omnipresence, for example, presupposes the actual existence of spatial beings. But it is obvious that the mutability implied in this belongs to creatures, and not to the Creator; and it is a strange confusion of thought that has led some modern Theists — even professing Christians — to maintain that such attributes can be laid aside by God, and that the Logos in becoming incarnate actually did lay them aside, or at least ceased from their active exercise. But as creation itself did not affect the immutability of God, so neither did the incarnation of a Divine Person; whatever change was involved in either case took place solely in the created nature.

Hang on a sec. If change is defined as difference over time, then it seems the Creator cannot change (at least in that sense) because He is not bounded by time. He is outside of time or transcends it. Doesn’t He see all of time (past, present, and future) all at once because He exists outside of time? Time is simply a part of His creation.

Creating different things on different days doesn’t change God, it simply changes what He is doing. I hope we are not talking past one another (I fear we might be) because I do agree with you that He changed from creating light to creating humans, etc. I’m not sure that means that He changed in who He is, in His essence. Isn’t that kind of like saying that person changed because they were eating with a fork and now they are eating with a spoon? Well, the person didn’t change at all, they just changed what they were doing. (Not a great example, I know, because we are stuck in time and God isn’t).

I’m starting to think there is more than one way of thinking about “change”.

Thanks for you post from the Catholic Encyclopedia, InternetWoman, that is interesting and helpful.

JohnGerard

Then we have two different entities, God, who does not change and What-God-is-doing which does change. Since one thing cannot both change and not change, then we have two different things here. God does not change, but cannot create. What-God-is-doing creates but is not unchanging.

I’m starting to think there is more than one way of thinking about “change”.

There is indeed. Being unchanging very much limits what you can do. You can only do today exactly what you did yesterday. Doing anything different is a change. Being unable to change is extremely limiting.

rossum

They keep our brains alive, yes, but the mind lives its own life inside the body, with or without the operation of the vehicle: dreamers live, people in comas live, and people in “locked-in” pseudocomas live, but none of those is living through the body’s interface with the physical world. The body is not just a draught animal, but a Mobility Animal: it takes the mind to new physical locations and helps it to interact with new physical objects.

If the human self is neither the body nor the mind, what at all is it? How do we normally think of “self” if not BOTH mind and body?

Well, apparently, we do not think of “self” the same way, because I would never imagine my body to be a central element in that. The body is replaceable: at present, only in part, but our technology is rapidly approaching the point at which the brain, at least, and perhaps one day the consciousness, could be transferred to a robotic ‘body’. If I could do that, I would not become a different person merely because the vehicle were different: my experiences would differ, and that would affect my personality, but the same is true if I suddenly became wealthy.

Let me put this another way: I love my Beloved for who she is, not for the flesh which transports her. If she were somehow transferred (scientifically or even magically) into another body, I would still love her, because it is her self, the continuing nature which underpins all of her moods and feelings and responses, which I love.

The “character” changes all the time, and it is changed according to the trajectory of our life. That trajectory is shaped not only by the mind, or interpersonal interactions and events, but by the body. The body’s abilities, construction, hormones and limitations direct the path our lives will take.

Character/personality does change (usually very slowly), and it can change in response to all manner of stimuli: the body has an effect, but so do the physical environment, diet, and especially life experience. The body is one of many factors which act upon the mind.

An obvious example at this point is sexual orientation. While the body plays a part in that, its role is not simply determinant. Experience also plays a part, but its role is not determinant. Life experience plays a part, but its role is not determinant. Physical environment plays a part, but its role is not determinant. At some point among all of these factors (most likely expressed as some sort of complex algorithm) is the “base state”, the “self”, of the human creature which encounters them, and it is that base state which determines how the others will condition the person to love a particular type.

Disability does not prove your point. If anything, it shows how critical embodiment is to making us ourselves. Someone who is disabled may fully overcome or transcend their limitations, but that in itself directs the trajectory of the life.

Sorry, but no, my disabilities do not determine who I am, either positively or negatively. They provide challenges, but the self which meets some and fails to meet others is not simply the product of the body. The same is true of my socio-economic circumstances, which (like my body) make some opportunities possible and others impossible: they provide challenges, but the self which meets some and fails to meet others is not simply the product of my wealth.

(Very interesting discussion, however!)

Let me put this another way: I love my Beloved for who she is, not for the flesh which transports her. If she were somehow transferred (scientifically or even magically) into another body, I would still love her, because it is her self, the continuing nature which underpins all of her moods and feelings and responses, which I love.

I would imagine however, if she somehow became male, that would profoundly alter the relationship between you, although a priori only the embodiment would be affected.

The flesh not only “transports” someone; it forms some**body. **

ICXC NIKA

Well, apparently, we do not think of “self” the same way, because I would never imagine my body to be a central element in that. The body is replaceable: at present, only in part, but our technology is rapidly approaching the point at which the brain, at least, and perhaps one day the consciousness, could be transferred to a robotic ‘body’.

Robot “bodies”, if complete, are impossible because not alive. As soul beings, we require an embodiment that holds life.

ICXC NIKA

Sorry, but no, my disabilities do not determine who I am, either positively or negatively. They provide challenges, but the self which meets some and fails to meet others is not simply the product of the body. The same is true of my socio-economic circumstances, which (like my body) make some opportunities possible and others impossible: they provide challenges, but the self which meets some and fails to meet others is not simply the product of my wealth.

Financial assets are extrinsic to the person. Body is not.

ICXC NIKA

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