I’m reading through Larry Hurtado’s recent book God in New Testament Theology. Since there has been a lack of teaching on God in the New Testament, Hurtado was asked to write this book. I exclaim wholeheartedly this book is definitely worth the read.
Hurtado argues that the New Testament teachings of triadic relationship were the very impetus for the development of a logically robust Trinitarian theology in the Patristic Era; thus, Hurtado says: “To be sure, the earliest Christian texts reflect a triadic experience of “God,” comprising the sense of “God” (“the Father”) as the source and ultimate destination of all things, Jesus as the essential and unique agent of divine purposes through whom creation is now to be seen and through whom also redemption is provided, and the Spirit as the impartation and gift of “God” that is at the same time also the advocate and medium through which believers receive a filial status that derives from Jesus’ own unique divine sonship. So, if it is a bit anachronistic to speak of “trinitarian” theology in the NT, it is right to see the roots of this doctrinal development in this body of texts.”
I agree with this statement thoroughly. I want to hear your thoughts on this matter, though. Do you find there to be implicit and explicit references that would necessarily cause the development of Trinitarian theology in the New Testament?
In this post I will discuss the implications of some of the verses Paul and the Gospel writers use in reference to Jesus to show that when being used, one has to adopt the highest Christology possible, precisely because the attributes, worship, and theological ideologies in these verses were exclusive to YHWH alone in a Second Temple context.
In part one I listed attributes, types of worship, and theological ideologies of different sorts that belong alone to YHWH. So from here I will attempt to flesh out Bauckham’s argument that:
“They [early Christians] include Jesus in the unique divine sovereignty over all things, they include him in the unique divine creation of all things, they identify him by the divine name which names the unique divine identity, and they portray him as accorded the worship which, for Jewish monotheists, is recognition of the unique divine identity. In this way, they develop a kind of christological monotheism which is fully continuous with early Jewish monotheism, but distinctive in the way it sees Jesus Christ himself as intrinsic to the identity of the unique God. [Furthermore] I shall be arguing what will seem to anyone familiar with the study of New Testament Christology a surprising thesis: that the highest possible Christology – the inclusion of Jesus in the unique divine identity – was central to the faith of the early church even before any of the New Testament writings were written, since it occurs in all of them.”
The Exalted Jesus Participates in God’s Sovereignty Over Everything: No where throughout the era of Second Temple Judaism do we see any figure exalted to the sovereign place of YHWH who participates in His sovereign reign and rule over all things. Whether angels or exalted patriarchs, no where is this seen. Yet, when coming to Jesus, it’s presupposed all throughout the New Testament literature that He is exalted to the throne in the highest heaven.
A verse that expressed this that was implicitly, yet explicitly recognized by early Gentile and Jewish Christian readers is Psalm 110:1. This verse says: “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.’ - Though this verse didn’t need to be read this way contextually, the early Christians used it in a way where virtually any Jewish monotheist hearing it knew exactly what was being said. They used it as placing Jesus on the divine throne exercising God’s own rule over all things.
From here, I will break this thought of exaltation into different categories in which the New Testament writers attributed to Jesus.
Jesus’ Exaltation Above Every Angelic Power: Throughout the New Testament, we see quite explicitly Continue reading →
This is an excellent video by Christology expert, Larry Hurtado. Check it out.
I found an interesting discussion that I heard a while back between Richard Bauckham and James Crossley on the question of Jewish Monotheism being at odds with the belief in Jesus’ divinity. While listening to it again, I figured I ought to link it to you all. Click here.
I just finished Richard Bauckham’s book, God Crucified. This turned out to be a phenomenal read for me. Though Bauckham doesn’t engage so much in critiquing the micro details of the views his interlocutors hold, he does so in the rest of his book, Jesus and the God of Israel: God Crucified and Other Studies on the New Testament’s Christology of Divine Identity – which I have yet to finish.
Bauckham’s main thesis is to introduce a new form of understanding when coming to the discussion of Christology within the New Testament. During the production of this book, New Testament scholarship primarily focused on discussing Christology using two terms: ontic (ontological) Christology and functional Christology. Bauckham argues that both kinds of Christology fall desperately short of making sense of the Second Temple understanding of monotheism and the Christology presented in the New Testament. He thus argues for what’s called a Christology of Divine Identity. Before getting much into detail about a Christology of Divine Identity (further explained in part 2 and 3), I want to explain, just briefly, ontic Christology and Functional Christology.
An Ontic Christology is argued to have been developed out of the Patristic era by infringing philosophical thought upon the texts that weren’t there in the production of the New Testament. Ontic Christology has to do with the ontology of Christ, thus discussing His nature.
A Functional Christology argues that ancient Jews could have attributed to Jesus the doing of divine functions, this way it wouldn’t infringe upon Jewish monotheism.It furthermore argues that the ancient Jews weren’t capable of placing divine nature upon Christ since this would cause issues with Jewish monotheistic philosophy.
Now a Christology of divine identity takes both views, ideas from functional Christology and ontic Christology Continue reading →
So where am I at in my current biblical research? As of right now I’m working on a directed research project under biblical scholar and Pentecostal Eschatology expert, Dr. Robby Waddell out of Southeastern University. Check out his two books here and here. Anyway, the topic of research is early Christology within the New Testament. Thus, a good place I figured I ought to turn to is the classic kenosis passage, Philippians 2:6-11.
For a very good while I understood this passage to be a pre-Pauline hymn that St. Paul drew upon in his letter to the Philippian church. Upon reading eminent Pauline scholar, Gordon Fee’s NICNT Philippians commentary I’m not near as convinced of this as I once was.
As Fee begins to bring forward his thoughts on this passage, he first and foremost makes it clear that New Testament scholarship is nearly universal in its judgment that this text is a pre-Pauline hymnal; thus, he’s swimming against the current of New Testament scholarship. He goes on and provides the most commonly accepted structural arrangement of vv. 6-11; I’ll post it blow:
6 a Who in the form of God being
b Not grasping considered
c to be equal with God,
7 a But himself emptied
b the form of a slave taking,
c In the likeness of human beings becoming;
d And in appearance being found as a human being
8 a He humbled himself
b Becoming obedient unto death,
c but death of a cross
9 a Therefore also God him highly exalted
b And bestowed on him the name
c that is above every name,
10 a So that at the name of Jesus
b Every knee should bow
c of those in the heavens and on earth and under the earth
11 a And every tongue confess that
b the Lord [is] Jesus Christ
c to the glory of God the Father.
Fee stops his readers here and gives his reservations about this passage being a pre-Pauline hymn. Here I will briefly (and not exhaustively by any sense of the word) overview his points:
1) If as normally claimed it is a hymn, it would have to be Semitic in origin. The reason for this is because it has no familial correspondence with any kind of Greek hymnody or poetry. Okay, no problem, it has to be Semitic in origin is all. Not so fast; the only issue here is that there isn’t any Semitic piece of literature from the Hebrew psalmody that has parallelism with this supposed “hymn”. Building off this point, the word hymn properly describes what is to be a song used in praise of deity. Even in this version of the textual reconstruction and other various ones proposed, it thoroughly lacks rhythm and parallelism that one would expect to find in material that is sung. Furthermore and probably more importantly, it doesn’t fit with explicitly clear hymnic material found in the Psalter, Luke 1:46-55, 68-79, or 1 Timothy 3:16.
2) Exalted or even poetic prose does not, by any means, surmount in and of itself to the literary genre found in Semitic hymnals. Though it may be riding on a similar road, it still doesn’t have the punch to make it up the hill. Regarding this, Fee notes: “Paul is capable of especially exalted prose whenever he thinks on the work of Christ.”
3) The supposed literary familial features of christological hymns found in St. Paul’s other writings (1 Tim 3:16 and Col 1:15, 18) are not consistent in structure with the 2:(5)6-11 passage. The reason for this is because the Greek hos (who) is not precisely like it’s alleged parallels. In Col 1:15, even though its antecedent is “Son” of verse 13, the connection with v. 15 isn’t gramatically smooth. Regarding the latter, 1 Tim 3:16, the hos, if connected with the rest of the sentence makes it ungrammatical, thus suggesting that it belonged or was apart of an original hymn. To the contrary, the hos in our present text fits neatly as a standard Pauline text which follows its antecedent, Christ Jesus.
4) These sentences, even though they are rhythmic and exalted in style, follow one another in what would be expected in a Pauline literary prose.
5) If wanting to argue this is Semitic poetry, it would be hard to maintain this considering that in the structural arrangement given above, six of the lines are exempt from verbs: 6c, 8d, 9c, 10a, 10c, and 11c.
All of this is said acknowledging that there is obvious rhythmic and poetic features to this passage, but as expressed earlier (in a slightly different fashion), it seems as if it can’t make it up the hill to claim the prize of being a pre-Pauline hymn.
Now, my thoughts on this are entirely flexible and subject to drastic change. With this said, I would like to hear your thoughts on this passage.
Grace & peace,