How We Are Made: Embryos, Biology and Belief

How does a single fertilized cell become an infant? What does that process say about us—and God?
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

What does it mean to you that Jesus “became an embryo”?

I don’t think words are adequate to answer that question! However, as I am responding to the question, I will give my best, though totally humble, simple and unscientific response! It means first and most importantly to me that He loved/loves us. He loved us enough to humble Himself to the messiness of life and eventual death. It also means that He experienced our humanity fully. We often think our feelings, our temptations, our disappointments are ours alone. However, I find great comfort in knowing that our Creator knew what it meant to be human and all the joy and pain that comes with it. He isn’t just sympathetic from afar, but empathic right where we are and this makes me trust Him with my life even more. I have often wondered if He, as a child becoming an adult had moments where He said, “Ah, this is how it feels”. Did He have the ability to be more aware and tuned to each new experience as fully human and fully God and take note of it? Even as an embryo?

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And what about “the Terrible Twos”? Jesus was born with human genes. Human genes show their ‘selfish expression’ most obviously at the age of about two years: “Mine, mine!! No, I don’t wanna!! Gimme, gimme”. Jesus might NOT have been the ‘perfect child’ as he is depicted in so many paintings or in the infancy Gospel of St. James. Did he spend the 30 years before his public ministry learning how difficult it really was for a human to overcome the selfish genes of his evolutionary past. What part did His mother, Mary, play in that transformation? Just at the Immaculate Conception? Personally, I believe that the 30 yr. scenario for his becoming the True Image of His Father is a more likely one than the (partially mythical) story of one, single forty day sojourn in the desert to test His ability to resist temptation.

Al Leo

Imagine an omniscient two-year old. And now, in case you aren’t in nightmare land yet, let’s throw omnipotence in there yet too! Of course, we all know according to some doctrine, He must have been an omniscient embryo.

But I shouldn’t continue making light of this. I do think (seriously now) that this is a beautifully deeper look at just how far “in” to our experience God comes just because He love us. Not only merely a human, but even a baby, not even just a baby, but even an embryo! Thanks for this profound look.

Has this not been a theological problem since the early fathers of the Church wrestled with it? If Jesus had never doubted that He was fully God, how could he be considered truly human? One of the most painful of human experiences is self-doubt. This is how I interpret the gospel of Mark where Jesus asks God why He has been forsaken. At least for some moments, He apparently believed that all His life, all His sacrifice might have been in vain. THAT would have been the ultimate pain that He could experience as a human–mental pain on top of the most excruciation physical pain.

We believe that throughout His ministry, Jesus performed many miracles, and it is easy to believe that this gave Him supreme confidence that He was really God in human form. But did it? In in his own home town His ability to perform miracles failed Him. So to accomplish our redemption, He apparently had to empty Himself completely of the (supposed) attributes of God–omniscience, omnipotence–and suffer every kind of physical and mental pain that humanity is capable of. That’s the kind of Love for Others that He holds up as a model for us to imitate.
Al Leo

I do believe that God is omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent, … the whole works … the ground of all being. And I also believe that Jesus is God come to dwell among us. You’ll find that a lot of us get all tripped up with each other trying to agree on whether all (or how many) of God’s attributes were manifest in Jesus in the flesh. And it is no surprise that we won’t all agree. What is a surprise is that so many consider the proper (interpreted as “mine”) understanding of this to be important enough to fight over. Sort of like coming to blows on whether it’s three angels or four on top of that pin. The important question is: do you trust Jesus or don’t you? Jesus is the perfect communion with God and that should be all any of us need --it was all He needed. If we want to withhold our trust, pending our approval of Jesus’ mental abilities/stock of futuristic knowledge while he walked this earth, then it is evident we have placed our trust in some empty doctrine rather than in the person of Jesus.

So while I have my opinions, and have defended them before (too much perhaps) I will try not to get drawn too far in to these sorts of arguments.

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That’s a good reminder, Mervin. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in arguments about what Jesus knew or didn’t know, etc, when the important thing is to trust him. And yet, thinking about Jesus’ humanity is a healthy corrective for those of us in the church who prefer thinking only about his deity. He wasn’t just pretending to know hunger, pain, suffering, humility, temptation. He actually experienced those things, and yet–we believe by faith–he was without sin. And that is what makes him the prophet, priest, and king we worship and trust, as well as the faithful elder brother and friend we lean on.


@Mervin_Bitikofer @Kathryn_Applegate
Both of you express this idea very well, and this is why I enjoy discussing (never arguing) these matters with thoughtful people–I get different slants on the same Truth. Our brains may have the same architecture, but our minds may process information slightly differently for maximum (individual) effect. We just celebrated the feast of Christ the King. But the image of King does not resonate with me personally. To me He comes across as a Friend–a friend who has acquainted me with His Father, who created and sustains this Universe. Just how and when the baby Jesus attained the level of Christ our savior makes for interesting conjecture, but it should not deflect us from the important result.
Al Leo

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I think you could be right. However, it is also enlightening to see that Jesus is referring to Psalm 22. This Psalm starts with these exact same words of despair (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”), but it ends with beautiful words of hope. Psalm 22:29-31:

29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
30 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!



I find the best definition of Who Gods is is not from the Greek philosophers, but from God, “I AM WHO I AM.” Exodus 3:14. It is YHWH Who defines Godself, not humans. YHWH tells us that YHWH does whatever YHWH chooses to do, but since YHWH always wants to do what is right and good, YHWH always does what is good and right. At the time YHWH revealed God’s Name to Moses YHWH was sending him to save God’s people from slavery.

If God were omniscient, God could not be a human being, but YHWH in the form of Yeshua was. If God were all powerful, YHWH could not suffer and die, but YHWH in the form of Yeshua did.

Do not ask me how YHWH could do these things, but YHWH did.

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