C.D. Broad on Christian propositions about Jesus


In his article, “The Present Relations of Science and Religion,” C.D. Broad identifies the following propositions as essential for understanding the Christian view of the exceptional status of Jesus. These are his words below:


(i) There is a single eternal supernatural existent on which everything else depends one-sidedly both for its origin and its continuance. This may be called “the Godhead.”


(ii) Within the unity of the Godhead, there are three and only three most intimately related “factors” or “moments,” each of which can properly be called God.


(iii) A certain two of these factors in the Godhead stand in a peculiar kind of asymmetrical dyadic relationship, which is least imperfectly adumbrated by the analogy of fatherhood and sonship. In respect of this, one of them is called “God the father” and the other is called “God the Son.” The third factor in the Godhead is related to both the others by another kind of asymmetrical dyadic relation. This is denoted by the phrase “proceeding from,” and the factor in question is called, “God the Holy Ghost.”


(iv) There is some uniquely intimate relation between that eternal factor in the Godhead called “God the Son” and a certain man Jesus who was born at the village of Bethlehem during the reign of Augustus. This relation is such that it is appropriate to say of Jesus (and of no other man) that He was divine as well as human, and to say of God the Son (and of no other factor in the Godhead) that He is eternally human as well as divine. (I must confess that I can think of no interpretation of these statements which would enable me to attach meaning to them.)


(v) The birth of Jesus was miraculous, in so far as He had no human father. His mother was caused to conceive Him through the direct agency of the third factor in the Godhead, viz., the Holy Ghost.


(vi) After preaching, and collecting a body of disciples, Jesus was eventually crucified by the Jewish ecclesiastical authorities at Jerusalem. He died on the cross and was buried, but His body never suffered decay. On the contrary, at some period during His burial it underwent a miraculous change in consequence of which it ceased to be subject to the physical and physiological limitations of the ordinary human organism. He emerged from His tomb, which was found empty and open, although it had been carefully guarded; and for a period of forty days He appeared from time to time, visibly, tangibly, and audibly, to certain groups of His disciples. The circumstances of some of these manifestations were such that no ordinary living man could have appeared and disappeared in the way in which Jesus is alleged to have done.


(vii) After the expiry of a certain time these manifestations ceased, and Jesus is said to have ascended to His Father in heaven. Since this statement can hardly be admitted to be intelligible if taken in a literal spatial sense, it may perhaps be interpreted as follows. At the end of this period God the Son resumed a relationship with God the Father which had been suspended during the earthly life of Jesus, and He suspended or modified a relationship to the material world which He had entered into at the conception of Jesus. (I do not pretend to understand what could be meant by changes in the relationship of an eternal being either to another eternal being or to the temporal order of nature.)


(viii) Henceforth Jesus guides and influences individual Christians and Christian communities by insensible means. He will continue to do this until the Day of Judgment, when He will reappear physically and sensibly, will allot fitting rewards and punishments to the whole human race, and bring the present order of nature for ever to an end.



Broad, C.D. 1939. The Present Relations of Science and Religion. Philosophy 14: 131-154.