H. R. Mackintosh, The Person of Christ
Announcement: I’ve actually edited and self-published this book on Amazon. Unlike most other copies of this work, I’ve taken the time to edit it. I’ve modernized/Americanized many of the spellings. I’ve broken up the paragraphs to a readable length. I’ve added subheadings in the text so that you can track his argument a little bit more easily. Finally, I’ve footnoted his sources so that you can track down where he got his ideas. In the first edition, there were only two footnotes, even though he made over thirty direct quotes. I hope you enjoy!
Here is my review:
Genre. The Person of Christ falls into the genre of a speech manuscript. As such, there are not many footnotes, even though Mackintosh cites several of his sources in the body of the text. Also, he is highly engaged with his audience and addresses them passionately. With that passion, he relies on emotional appeal quite often. Finally, this book was written for the lay reader. He avoids technicalities and jargon, choosing rather to explain concepts in lay terms.
Organization. Mackintosh broke down his work into three chapters: the Jesus of History, the Christ of Experience, and Jesus Christ and God. The substructure of each section was there, but it was not indicated typographically. This made the organization a little hard to follow initially. But as the pattern of his style emerged, it became clear where he was subdividing his material.
In his introduction, Mackintosh sets the stage by claiming that the most important subject to study was the identity of Jesus and His work. It was the purpose of Mackintosh to explore this topic. His one caveat concerning this study was that one must be a Christian in order to fully comprehend Christ and His claims.
First, Mackintosh examined the Jesus of History (ch. 1). It was Mackintosh’s goal in this chapter to explore what Jesus really thought of Himself. At the beginning of the chapter, Mackintosh threw aside the accusation that Jesus was deluded and then moved on to discuss the unique claim that Jesus’ followers should follow Him after His death. Jesus supported this claim with two other claims: a claim to Messiahship and a claim to be the Son of God.
Mackintosh next covered the claim to Messiahship. He detailed the implications of what it meant to be the Messiah. Then he examined Jesus’ life to see if He measured up to the claim. The first detail that he brought up was that of Jesus’ moral authority. Second, he discussed Jesus’ ability to forgive sin by His own power. Third, he brought up Jesus’ ability to work miracles. Fourth, he talked about how Jesus’ sufferings proved his Messiahship.
In the last part of the chapter, Mackintosh covered how Jesus claimed to be God’s Son. He pointed out that Jesus did not so much discuss this claim to be God’s Son as He did presuppose it. Also, Jesus’ claim that God was His Father, Mackintosh observed, was not the same as when Jesus’ followers claim God as their Father. Jesus claimed a unique position before God. And it was this claim to Sonship that drove His life and His work.
Mackintosh moved from Jesus’ claims in history to how Jesus works even today (ch. 2). Mackintosh first discussed how men feel the presence of Jesus Christ even after His resurrection. This feeling is not instantaneously strong in every Christian, but it grows over time. The presence of Jesus is not the same as the spirit of someone’s work carrying on in a group or organization. Jesus’ presence is real to the believer because He is alive. This feeling may not be philosophically describable, but it is real, nonetheless.
In the next section Mackintosh covered man’s conquest of sin through Jesus. First, Jesus enables this to happen because He Himself forgives sin and then restores the person to Himself. When a man is presented with the Gospel, he feels his sin condemned. But also, he feels the love of Christ in the Gospel. When a man accepts the Gospel, Jesus breaks the tyranny of sin in his life.
In the final section of chapter two, Mackintosh points out that Jesus reveals the Father to the individual believer. While men may find some revelation of the Father outside of Christ, they cannot find sufficient revelation. It is only when man looks at the revelation of Jesus about the Father that he gets a full picture of who God is. And when he looks, he receives the satisfying impartation of God.
Mackintosh finished with Jesus’ relationship with God (ch. 3). First, he covers the significance of Jesus’ person. Here, he stated that Christians must place Jesus in the realm of divinity. Second, he discussed the significance of Jesus’ incarnation and how Jesus focused on the suffering of people and their longing for answers. Then he stated how God not only understands their pain but He Himself came and lived in their pain. He did not stand afar off, but instead He became human and suffered with men. It is because of Jesus’ incarnation that God’s love was revealed to us perfectly. Finally, Mackintosh concluded with a discussion of Jesus’ rank in the Trinity. Here, among the Persons of the Trinity, men can see the unique bond of love the members of the Trinity have for each other.
In Mackintosh’s conclusion, he reviewed the points he made (because this is a speech). Then he challenged his readers to find their satisfaction in the gift and object of Christ. Part of the satisfaction in Christ is that Christians have become free men. And the other part is that Jesus is our master and Lord. Mackintosh’s final exhortation was for men to claim Jesus for themselves and all whom they influence.
Unique Features and Strengths. The speaking format made this book stand out among others. Because of this, it is very engaging and motivating. On several occasions, Mackintosh challenged the audience directly to apply and to think deeply about what he was saying. Thus, his lecture touched the heart as well as the head. Also, he brought a wide variety of material to his subject from philosophers such as J. A. Taylor, to poets like Wordsworth. This selection of material made his book easy to read and understand. Further, while he started with the historical Jesus, he did not stay there. Instead, he moved beyond what Jesus did back in first-century Palestine to what He does in the present. It was refreshing to hear both the historical claims of Jesus and the work that He does in the lives of present believers.
Weaknesses. While the praise for this work overshadows the weaknesses, there still were several issues. As far as his logical development, most of it was well-placed. But I found his title of the first chapter The Jesus of History a little misleading. At first, I thought he was going to do battle with the Quest for the Historical Jesus movement which was alive and well in his day. Instead, the chapter was about Jesus’ claims of himself in history. Thus, the chapter title should have read something to that effect.
The larger complaint I had was with the editorial work. When he transferred this from a speaking medium to the written medium, he did not do a good job restructuring the genre. For example, some paragraphs were very, very long. It was hard to see where one thought ended and the next began. Also, the same could be said about his sentence structure. While they work well for speech, his sentences tended to be long and interrupted by interjections and clarifications.
Finally, the last issue was with his footnotes. Even though he cited many works, he only had two footnotes for the entire book. I have attempted to locate most of his quotations, but some of them I was unable to find. Understandably, this is not an academic work. Nevertheless, it would have been very helpful if he cited his sources when they created the print edition.
Position on Key Issues. Mackintosh took the Scriptures as an accurate source for the reconstruction of Jesus’ life and works although he did not develop his position on this point. And this at a time when the History of Religions School was at its greatest. Also, he took the position against the Quest for the Historical Jesus school and the liberal movement. Mackintosh believed that Jesus was more than just a man. Jesus was, in fact, God. Also, Mackintosh stood against the deistic worldview and argued for God’s active role in history both through Christ’s work back in the first century and His work in life today.
Evaluation. Since the purpose of his work was to explore the identity of Jesus, I believe that Mackintosh effectively completed his purpose. His writing was powerful and heartwarming. I would recommend The Person of Christ for anyone interested in a devotional look at the person of Jesus.