If that be so, it is of radical importance to obtain a correct view of the origin, meaning, and value of this doctrine. In its completed form it must look strange to anyone who comes to it straight from the evangelists. While no historical reflection can rid us of the impression that the whole fabric of ecclesiastical Christology is a thing absolutely outside the concrete personality of Jesus Christ, historical considerations nevertheless enable us not only to explain its origin but also even to justify, in a certain degree, the way in which it is formulated. Let us try to get a clear idea of the leading points.
We saw in a previous lecture how it came about that the Church teachers selected the conception of the Logos in order to define Christ’s nature and majesty. They found the conception of the “Messiah” quite unintelligible; it conveyed no meaning to them. As conceptions cannot be improvised, they had to choose between representing Christ as a deified man, that is to say, as a hero, or conceiving his nature after the pattern of one of the Greek gods, or identifying it with the Logos. The first two possibilities had to be put aside, as they were “heathenish,” or seemed to be so. There remained, therefore, the Logos. How well this formula served different purposes we have already pointed out. Did it not readily admit of being combined with the conception of the Sonship, without leading to any objectionable theogonies? It involved, too, no menace to monotheism. But the formula had a logic of its own, and this logic led to results which were not absolutely free from suspicion. The conception of the Logos was susceptible of very varied expression; in spite of its sublime meaning, it could be also so conceived as to permit of the bearer of the title not being by any means of a truly divine nature but possessing one that was only half divine.