QUESTION 14: OF THE DEFECTS OF BODY ASSUMED BY THE SON OF GOD
We must now consider the defects Christ assumed in the human nature; and
first, of the defects of body; secondly, of the defects of soul.
Under the first head there are four points of inquiry:
(1) Whether the Son of God should have assumed in human nature defects
(2) Whether He assumed the obligation of being subject to these defects?
(3) Whether He contracted these defects?
(4) Whether He assumed all these defects?
Article 1: Whether the Son of God in human nature ought to have assumed defects of body?
Objection 1: It would seem that the Son of God ought not to have assumed human
nature with defects of body. For as His soul is personally united to the
Word of God, so also is His body. But the soul of Christ had every
perfection, both of grace and truth, as was said above (Question , Article ; Question , seqq.). Hence, His body also ought to have been in every way perfect, not
having any imperfection in it.
Objection 2: Further, the soul of Christ saw the Word of God by the vision
wherein the blessed see, as was said above (Question , Article ), and thus the
soul of Christ was blessed. Now by the beatification of the soul the body
is glorified; since, as Augustine says (Ep. ad Dios. cxviii), "God made
the soul of a nature so strong that from the fulness of its blessedness
there pours over even into the lower nature" (i.e. the body), "not indeed
the bliss proper to the beatific fruition and vision, but the fulness of
health" (i.e. the vigor of incorruptibility). Therefore the body of
Christ was incorruptible and without any defect.
Objection 3: Further, penalty is the consequence of fault. But there was no
fault in Christ, according to 1 Pt. 2:22: "Who did no guile." Therefore
defects of body, which are penalties, ought not to have been in Him.
Objection 4: Further, no reasonable man assumes what keeps him from his proper
end. But by such like bodily defects, the end of the Incarnation seems to
be hindered in many ways. First, because by these infirmities men were
kept back from knowing Him, according to Is. 53:2,3: "[There was no
sightliness] that we should be desirous of Him. Despised and the most
abject of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with infirmity, and His
look was, as it were, hidden and despised, whereupon we esteemed Him
not." Secondly, because the de. sire of the Fathers would not seem to be
fulfilled, in whose person it is written (Is. 51:9): "Arise, arise, put
on Thy strength, O Thou Arm of the Lord." Thirdly, because it would seem
more fitting for the devil's power to be overcome and man's weakness
healed, by strength than by weakness. Therefore it does not seem to have
been fitting that the Son of God assumed human nature with infirmities or
defects of body.
On the contrary, It is written (Heb. 2:18): "For in that, wherein He
Himself hath suffered and been tempted, He is able to succor them also
that are tempted." Now He came to succor us. hence David said of Him (Ps. 120:1): "I have lifted up my eyes to the mountains, from whence help
shall come to me." Therefore it was fitting for the Son of God to assume
flesh subject to human infirmities, in order to suffer and be tempted in
it and so bring succor to us.
I answer that, 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. First, because it was in order to satisfy for the sin of the
human race that the Son of God, having taken flesh, came into the world.
Now one satisfies for another's sin by taking on himself the punishment
due to the sin of the other. But these bodily defects, to wit, death,
hunger, thirst, and the like, are the punishment of sin, which was
brought into the world by Adam, according to Rm. 5:12: "By one man sin
entered into this world, and by sin death." Hence it was useful for the
end of the Incarnation that He should assume these penalties in our flesh
and in our stead, according to Is. 53:4, "Surely He hath borne our
infirmities." Secondly, in order to cause belief in the Incarnation. For
since human nature is known to men only as it is subject to these
defects, if the Son of God had assumed human nature without these
defects, He would not have seemed to be true man, nor to have true, but
imaginary, flesh, as the Manicheans held. And so, as is said, Phil. 2:7:
"He . . . emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in
the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man." Hence, Thomas, by the
sight of His wounds, was recalled to the faith, as related Jn. 20:26.
Thirdly, in order to show us an example of patience by valiantly bearing
up against human passibility and defects. Hence it is said (Heb. 12:3)
that He "endured such opposition from sinners against Himself, that you
be not wearied. fainting in your minds."
Reply to Objection 1: The penalties one suffers for another's sin are the matter,
as it were, of the satisfaction for that sin; but the principle is the
habit of soul, whereby one is inclined to wish to satisfy for another,
and from which the satisfaction has its efficacy, for satisfaction would
not be efficacious unless it proceeded from charity, as will be explained
(XP, Question , Article ). Hence, it behooved the soul of Christ to be perfect as
regards the habit of knowledge and virtue, in order to have the power of
satisfying; but His body was subject to infirmities, that the matter of
satisfaction should not be wanting.
Reply to Objection 2: From the natural relationship which is between the soul and
the body, glory flows into the body from the soul's glory. Yet this
natural relationship in Christ was subject to the will of His Godhead,
and thereby it came to pass that the beatitude remained in the soul, and
did not flow into the body; but the flesh suffered what belongs to a
passible nature; thus Damascene says (De Fide Orth. iii, 15) that, "it
was by the consent of the Divine will that the flesh was allowed to
suffer and do what belonged to it."
Reply to Objection 3: Punishment always follows sin actual or original, sometimes
of the one punished, sometimes of the one for whom he who suffers the
punishment satisfies. And so it was with Christ, according to Is. 53:5:
"He was wounded for our iniquities, He was bruised for our sins."
Reply to Objection 4: The infirmity assumed by Christ did not impede, but greatly
furthered the end of the Incarnation, as above stated. And although these
infirmities concealed His Godhead, they made known His Manhood, which is
the way of coming to the Godhead, according to Rm. 5:1,2: "By Jesus
Christ we have access to God." Moreover, the ancient Fathers did not
desire bodily strength in Christ, but spiritual strength, wherewith He
vanquished the devil and healed human weakness.
Article 2: Whether Christ was of necessity subject to these defects?
Objection 1: It would seem that Christ was not of necessity subject to these
defects. For it is written (Is. 53:7): "He was offered because it was His
own will"; and the prophet is speaking of the offering of the Passion.
But will is opposed to necessity. Therefore Christ was not of necessity
subject to bodily defects.
Objection 2: Further, Damascene says (De Fide Orth. iii, 20): "Nothing
obligatory is seen in Christ: all is voluntary." Now what is voluntary is
not necessary. Therefore these defects were not of necessity in Christ.
Objection 3: Further, necessity is induced by something more powerful. But no
creature is more powerful than the soul of Christ, to which it pertained
to preserve its own body. Therefore these defects were not of necessity
On the contrary, The Apostle says (Rm. 8:3) 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.
I answer that, Necessity is twofold. one is a necessity of "constraint,"
brought about by an external agent; and this necessity is contrary to
both nature and will, since these flow from an internal principle. The
other is "natural" necessity, resulting from the natural
principles---either the form (as it is necessary for fire to heat), or
the matter (as it is necessary for a body composed of contraries to be
dissolved). Hence, with this necessity, which results from the matter,
Christ's body was subject to the necessity of death and other like
defects, since, as was said (Article , ad 2), "it was by the consent of the
Divine will that the flesh was allowed to do and suffer what belonged to
it." And this necessity results from the principles of human nature, as
was said above in this article. But if we speak of necessity of
constraint, as repugnant to the bodily nature, thus again was Christ's
body in its own natural condition subject to necessity in regard to the
nail that pierced and the scourge that struck. Yet inasmuch as such
necessity is repugnant to the will, it is clear that in Christ these
defects were not of necessity as regards either the Divine will, or the
human will of Christ considered absolutely, as following the deliberation
of reason; but only as regards the natural movement of the will, inasmuch
as it naturally shrinks from death and bodily hurt.
Reply to Objection 1: Christ is said to be "offered because it was His own will,"
i.e. Divine will and deliberate human will; although death was contrary
to the natural movement of His human will, as Damascene says (De Fide
Orth. iii, 23,24).
Reply to Objection 2: This is plain from what has been said.
Reply to Objection 3: Nothing was more powerful than Christ's soul, absolutely;
yet there was nothing to hinder a thing being more powerful in regard to
this or that effect, as a nail for piercing. And this I say, in so far as
Christ's soul is considered in its own proper nature and power.
Article 3: Whether Christ contracted these defects?
Objection 1: It would seem that Christ contracted bodily defects. For we are
said to contract what we derive with our nature from birth. But Christ,
together with human nature, derived His bodily defects and infirmities
through His birth from His mother, whose flesh was subject to these
defects. Therefore it seems that He contracted these defects.
Objection 2: Further, what is caused by the principles of nature is derived
together with nature, and hence is contracted. Now these penalties are
caused by the principles of human nature. Therefore Christ contracted
Objection 3: Further, Christ is likened to other men in these defects, as is
written Heb. 2:17. But other men contract these defects. Therefore it
seems that Christ contracted these defects.
On the contrary, These defects are contracted through sin, according to
Rm. 5:12: "By one man sin entered into this world and by sin, death." Now
sin had no place in Christ. Therefore Christ did not contract these
I answer that, In the verb "to contract" is understood the relation of
effect to cause, i.e. that is said to be contracted which is derived of
necessity together with its cause. Now the cause of death and such like
defects in human nature is sin, since "by sin death entered into this
world," according to Rm. 5:12. And hence they who incur these defects, as
due to sin, are properly said to contract them. Now Christ had not these
defects, as due to sin, since, as Augustine [*Alcuin in the Gloss, Ord.],
expounding Jn. 3:31, "He that cometh from above, is above all," says:
"Christ came from above, i.e. from the height of human nature, which it
had before the fall of the first man." For He received human nature
without sin, in the purity which it had in the state of innocence. In the
same way He might have assumed human nature without defects. Thus it is
clear that Christ did not contract these defects as if taking them upon
Himself as due to sin, but by His own will.
Reply to Objection 1: The flesh of the Virgin was conceived in original sin,
[*See introductory note to Question ] 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. But He
wished to bear its penalties in order to carry out the work of our
redemption, as stated above (Article ). Therefore He had these defects---not
that He contracted them, but that He assumed them.
Reply to Objection 2: The cause of death and other corporeal defects of human
nature is twofold: the first is remote, and results from the material
principles of the human body, inasmuch as it is made up of contraries.
But this cause was held in check by original justice. Hence the proximate
cause of death and other defects is sin, whereby original justice is
withdrawn. And thus, because Christ was without sin, He is said not to
have contracted these defects, but to have assumed them.
Reply to Objection 3: Christ was made like to other men in the quality and not in the cause of these defects; and hence, unlike others, He did not contract them.
Article 4: Whether Christ ought to have assumed all the bodily defects of men?
Objection 1: It would seem that Christ ought to have assumed all the bodily
defects of men. For Damascene says (De Fide Orth. iii, 6,18): "What is
unassumable is incurable." But Christ came to cure all our defects.
Therefore He ought to have assumed all our defects.
Objection 2: Further it was said (Article ), that in order to satisfy for us,
Christ ought to have had perfective habits of soul and defects of body.
Now as regards the soul, He assumed the fulness of all grace. Therefore
as regards the body, He ought to have assumed all defects.
Objection 3: Further, amongst all bodily defects death holds the chief place.
Now Christ assumed death. Much more, therefore, ought He to have assumed
On the contrary, Contraries cannot take place simultaneously in the
same. Now some infirmities are contrary to each other, being caused by
contrary principles. Hence it could not be that Christ assumed all human
I answer that, As stated above (Articles ,2), Christ assumed human defects
in order to satisfy for the sin of human nature, and for this it was
necessary for Him to have the fulness of knowledge and grace in His soul.
Hence Christ ought to have assumed those defects which flow from the
common sin of the whole nature, yet are not incompatible with the
perfection of knowledge and grace. And thus it was not fitting for Him to
assume all human defects or infirmities. For 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, and the like; and these
defects are sometimes brought about by the fault of the man, e.g. from
inordinate eating; sometimes by a defect in the formative power. Now
neither of these pertains to Christ, since His flesh was conceived of the
Holy Ghost, Who has infinite wisdom and power, and cannot err or fail;
and He Himself did nothing wrong in the order of His life. But there are
some third defects, to be found amongst all men in common, by reason of
the sin of our first parent, as death, hunger, thirst, and the like; and
all these defects Christ assumed, which Damascene (De Fide Orth. i, 11;
iii, 20) calls "natural and indetractible passions" ---natural, as
following all human nature in common; indetractible, as implying no
defect of knowledge or grace.
Reply to Objection 1: All particular defects of men are caused by the
corruptibility and passibility of the body, some particular causes being
added; and hence, since Christ healed the passibility and corruptibility
of our body by assuming it, He consequently healed all other defects.
Reply to Objection 2: The fulness of all grace and knowledge was due to Christ's
soul of itself, from the fact of its being assumed by the Word of God;
and hence Christ assumed all the fulness of knowledge and wisdom
absolutely. But 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.
Reply to Objection 3: Death comes to all men from the sin of our first parent;
but not other defects, although they are less than death. Hence there is