Introduction to Christology 101 — Who Is Jesus?

“At the time appointed by God, the only Son of the Father, the eternal Word, that is, the Word and substantial Image of the Father, became incarnate; without losing his divine nature he has assumed human nature.” (CCC 479)

Peter Paul Rubens, “Supper at Emmaus,” ca. 1635
Peter Paul Rubens, “Supper at Emmaus,” ca. 1635 (photo: Public Domain)

As someone who is blessed to have the opportunity to teach theology to seminarians, religious and lay students in Rome, one of the things that I most love to teach is Christology and soteriology.

Christology is, by definition, the study of the person and natures of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christology, simply put, answers the question “Who is Jesus?” Soteriology comes from the Greek word “soter” which means “savior.” Therefore, soteriology, as a theological discipline, is the study of the saving action of the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, in plain language, soteriology answers the question “What does Jesus do?” 

In fact, all one needs to do is to look to the Holy Name of Our Lord, Jesus, to see how it is both a Christological and a soterological title. Jesus, which means “God Saves,” is both a Christological and a soteriological title. His very identity tells us what he does — he is God and he saves us! The title Christ in Greek means “Anointed One.” Thus, when we say “Jesus Christ” it is a statement of faith. It means, “The Anointed One, who is God, saves.”

The fields of Christology and soteriology fall into the specialization of theology which is called dogmatic theology. At its essence, dogmatic theology is the “what?” of theology? Dogmatic theology deals with doctrine of the faith. We might recall that in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, much of the content of dogmatic theology is found in Part One — specifically, one can find the section on Christology in the Catechism in numbers 430-682.

The fact that Christology is primarily a part of dogmatic theology certainly does not mean that the other fields of theology are not involved in this study. Certainly, they all are. Christology needs to also involve fundamental theology, the “why” of theology, that field that involves the transmission of Divine Revelation and the credibility of Divine Revelation (sometimes known as apologetics). At the basis of the study of Christology we find the fonts of Divine Revelation — Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition — so therefore both biblical studies and patristic and historical studies must be involved in our examination.

Because Christ is the object of our faith and we offer worship in, through and with him to God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, liturgical studies are closely tied to the study of Christology. Since Our Lord Jesus is the model and exemplar of our faith, it is natural enough that both moral theology and spiritual theology are essential for a proper study of Christology. And since the Lord Jesus is the paradigm of ministry and service, the specialization of pastoral theology is likewise fully involved in a proper study of Christology and soteriology.

Simply put, I content that Christology is the center of any and all theological studies! It is my hope that over the next few articles I can introduce you to this fascinating study of theology, an inquiry that involve examining the Lord Jesus, someone whom we love and someone who loves us more than we could ever ask for or imagine.