Historical Origin of Divine Christology Part 5. The Son from Pre-existence to the Consummation of Creation

A. Two Fundamental Roots of Christology – Promised Messiah and Resurrection
It is observed that various elements from the Old Testament and Jewish sources were incorporated in the development of the Son of God Christology in the first twenty years of the infant church leading to the development of Paul’s mission after the Apostolic Council. However, the Jewish categories were transformed through a creative process that was stimulated by the extraordinary event of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Martin Hengel explains:

First and foremost, we must remember that what happened cannot just have been a simple reproduction of earlier Jewish speculations about hypostases and mediators. Earliest christology has a quite original stamp, and is ultimately rooted in the contingent event of the activity of Jesus, his death and resurrection appearances. A history-of-religions comparison can only explain the derivation of individual themes, traditions, phrases and functions, and not the phenomenon of the origin of christology as a whole. At the same time, we must also consider the possibility of ‘unparalleled’ innovation. [Martin Hengel, The Son of God (Fortress Press, 1976), pp. 56-57]

Hengel identifies two fundamental roots of Christology based on Rom. 1:3-4. First, the earthly Jesus is the fulfilment of God’s promise that the messiah is from the seed of David. Second, the crucified Jesus is declared to be the Son of God in power by virtue of his resurrection from the dead. Continue reading “Historical Origin of Divine Christology Part 5. The Son from Pre-existence to the Consummation of Creation”

Historical Origin of Divine Christology Part 4 – Reading on the Son of God in the Fourth Gospel

One of the most distinct differences between the Synoptics and John is the different role Jesus’ sonship to God plays. In the Synoptic tradition, Jesus is reticent to speak of his sonship and God’s Fatherhood. Pater is used by Jesus of God in Mark four times, Q eight or nine, Matthew some twenty-three times. In the Synoptics this form of speech is confined to the latter half of his ministry, and is used by Jesus only when speaking to his disciples. However, Jesus speaks of God as Father 106 times in John, and the usage is not restricted to any period of his ministry or to any group of hearers. He speaks of “my Father” twenty four times in John, eighteen in Matthew, six in Mark, three in Luke. It is obvious that Jesus’ sonship is the central christological idea in John, and that he writes his Gospel to make explicit what was implich in the Synoptics. The Gospel is written that people may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, but more than Messiah; he is the Son of God (John 20:31)… Continue reading “Historical Origin of Divine Christology Part 4 – Reading on the Son of God in the Fourth Gospel”

Historical Origin of Divine Christology Part 3 – The Origin of Paul’s Divine Christology

Why bother to collect water with leaky buckets from distant wells when one can draw fresh water from the well in one’s backyard? [cf. endnote 7]

One of the most dramatic stories in the Bible is the transformation of Paul after he had a vision of the risen Christ. Paul was bent on destroying the church, but he suddenly turned into a preacher whose influence on the development of Christianity is second only to that of Jesus Christ. F.F. Bruce describes the significance of Paul’s conversion experience on Damascus Road,

No single event, apart from the Christ-even itself, has proved so determinant for the course of Christian history as the conversion and commissioning of Paul. For anyone who accepts Paul’s own explanation of his Damascus Road experience, it would be difficult to disagree with the observation of an eighteenth century writer [G. Lyttelton] that “the conversion and apostleship of St. Paul alone, duly considered was of itself a demonstration sufficient to prove Christianity to be a divine revelation.” /𝟏/

The cradle of Christianity was Judaism and Paul could rank himself as among to the finest elite of Judaism: He was born a “Hebrew of Hebrews,” sat at the feet of the outstanding teacher, Gamaliel, who was the grandson of the great rabbi Hillel. He was an emerging leader of the strict sect of the Pharisees who boasted that he was blameless in his observation of the Law (Phil. 3:6). He shared the same dogmatic assurance with his religious cohorts that the tradition handed down to them by their learned rabbis contained the whole truth of the religion. As such, there is no need for new revelation from God. Continue reading “Historical Origin of Divine Christology Part 3 – The Origin of Paul’s Divine Christology”

Historical Origin of Divine Christology. Part 2 – Exaltation Christology in Luke-Acts

I. Luke 22:69
It was understandable that Caiaphas demanded an explicit answer from Jesus to the question whether he was the Messiah. Perhaps a display of miraculous power would be in order. After all, God will not abandon his Anointed One in the face of deadly opposition. But Jesus refused to call upon legions of angels to rescue him. What could Jesus be thinking about himself, his relationship with God and his mission when he allowed himself to be arrested and abused by his enemies?

Jesus refrained from any public declaration of himself as the promised Messiah because he did not want to pander to the political and nationalistic expectations of the Jews. His ambiguous answer to Caiaphas was intended to expose the insincerity of his questioner. Nevertheless, he was fully assured that he was God’s chosen servant despite facing adverse circumstances. It is significant that Jesus corrected the high priest by substituting the ‘Son of Man’ for the ‘Messiah’. By referring to the ‘Son of Man’, Jesus answered the question on his own terms and stressed the transcendent character of his mission against all political misinterpretations. /1/ Continue reading “Historical Origin of Divine Christology. Part 2 – Exaltation Christology in Luke-Acts”

The Exalted Christ in the Book of Acts: Reading 1 on Historical Origin of Divine Christology

The Messianic King
The exaltation of Jesus to the right hand of God means nothing less than his enthronement as messianic King. Peter concludes his first sermon with the affirmation, “God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36). Taken out of context, this saying could mean that Jesus became Messiah at his exaltation and represents an “adoptionist” Christology. However, the context makes it clear that Jesus was the Messiah in his earthly ministry, and the immediate context makes it clear that Peter means to say that Jesus has entered in upon a new stage of his messianic mission. He has now been enthroned as messianic King. Continue reading “The Exalted Christ in the Book of Acts: Reading 1 on Historical Origin of Divine Christology”

Historical Origin of Divine Christology. Part 1 – Apostolic Christology vs Mythological Christology

Mythological Christology
Some critics of Christianity assert that the doctrine of the deity of Christ was imposed on the church by Emperor Constantine during the Council of Nicaea (325 AD). Presumably, the early church in the first century began with a lower view of Jesus as an itinerant teacher and apocalyptic prophet of God. However, Jesus was gradually elevated to a higher status as Christianity spread through the Roman Empire. Christianity was loosened from its monotheistic Jewish roots when the new Hellenistic Christian communities surpassed the early Judaistic Christian community. A higher Christology evolved with adoption of elements of pagan religions. The result is the deification of Jesus Christ.

This theory has its roots in the “history of religions school” (Religionsgeschichtliche Schule) in Germany in the 19th century. The school extended its influence into the USA through the seminal works of Wilhelm Bousset, Kyrios Christos (1913) and Walter Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity (1934). High profile scholars like Bart Ehrman are essentially theorizing from the framework of Bauer’s theory even as they speculate further that the deification of Jesus Christ was accelerated, purportedly under the influence of Jewish angelology. Continue reading “Historical Origin of Divine Christology. Part 1 – Apostolic Christology vs Mythological Christology”

On Male Headship and Female Submission

Sam Storms’ remarkable taxonomic heterogeneity (Amillennial, Calvinistic, charismatic, credo-baptistic, complementarian) may be taken as evidence of a confused mind, but his writings is a model of depth in simplicity which indicates a mind of firm and clear conviction. Given below are some excerpts taken from his four recent posts related to “10-things on male headship … Continue reading “On Male Headship and Female Submission”

Sam Storms’ remarkable taxonomic heterogeneity (Amillennial, Calvinistic, charismatic, credo-baptistic, complementarian) may be taken as evidence of a confused mind, but his writings is a model of depth in simplicity which indicates a mind of firm and clear conviction. Given below are some excerpts taken from his four recent posts related to “10-things on male headship and female submission.”

On Male Headship
Among the many misconceptions about male headship in Scripture I mention these. First, husbands are never commanded to rule their wives, but to love them. The Bible never says, “Husbands, take steps to insure that your wives submit to you.” Nor does it say, “Husbands, exercise headship and authority over your wives.” Rather, the principle of male headship is either asserted or assumed and men are commanded to love their wives as Christ loves the church…Headship is never portrayed in Scripture as a means for self-satisfaction or self-exaltation. Headship is always other-oriented. I can’t think of a more horrendous sin than exploiting the God-given responsibility to lovingly lead by perverting it into justification for using one’s wife and family to satisfy one’s lusts and thirst for power.

Headship is not the power of a superior over an inferior. Continue reading “On Male Headship and Female Submission”

Thomas Schreiner’s Critique of N.T. Wright’s View of Justification – Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and NPP. Part 7

NPP Reading No. 4 Excerpts taken from: Thomas Schreiner, Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification: What the Reformers Taught…and Why it Still Matters (Zondervan, 2015) Problems with Wright’s View of Justification [244] I see three false polarities in Wright’s thought. First, he wrongly says that justification is primarily about ecclesiology instead of soteriology. Second, he … Continue reading “Thomas Schreiner’s Critique of N.T. Wright’s View of Justification – Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and NPP. Part 7”

NPP Reading No. 4
Excerpts taken from: Thomas Schreiner, Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification: What the Reformers Taught…and Why it Still Matters (Zondervan, 2015)

Problems with Wright’s View of Justification
[244] I see three false polarities in Wright’s thought. First, he wrongly says that justification is primarily about ecclesiology instead of soteriology. Second, he often introduces a false polarity when referring to the mission of Israel by saying that Israel’s fundamental problem was its failure to bless the world whereas Paul focuses on Israel’s inherent sinfulness. Third, he insists that justification is a declaration of God’s righteousness but does not include the imputation of God’s righteousness.

Ecclesiology or Soteriology?
[244] Let’s begin with the first point of discussion, which fits with the idea that justification is more about the church than the individual. Wright mistakenly claims that justification is fundamentally about ecclesiology instead of soteriology. Let’s hear it in his own words, “Justification is not how someone becomes a Christian. It is the declaration that they have become a Christian.” And, “What Paul means by justification, in this context, should therefore be clear. It is not ‘how you become a Christian,’ as much as ‘how you can tell who is a member of the covenant family.’”

[245] Justification has to do with whether one is right before God, whether one is acquitted or condemned, whether one is pardoned or found guilty, and that is a soteriological matter. Continue reading “Thomas Schreiner’s Critique of N.T. Wright’s View of Justification – Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and NPP. Part 7”

NPP – Regensburg (1541) Redux? Reformation Forensic Justification vs Transformative Justification: Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and NPP. Part 6

In 1541, the Emperor Charles V convened a theological conference at Regensburg (also known as Ratisbon) bringing together the top Catholic theologians Johann Eck and Albertus Pighius to meet with some of the greatest theologians of the Reformation at that time, Philip Melanchthon and Martin Bucer (John Calvin was there merely to keep a watching … Continue reading “NPP – Regensburg (1541) Redux? Reformation Forensic Justification vs Transformative Justification: Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and NPP. Part 6”

In 1541, the Emperor Charles V convened a theological conference at Regensburg (also known as Ratisbon) bringing together the top Catholic theologians Johann Eck and Albertus Pighius to meet with some of the greatest theologians of the Reformation at that time, Philip Melanchthon and Martin Bucer (John Calvin was there merely to keep a watching brief). The Emperor hoped that resolving the doctrinal conflict between the Roman Catholics and the Reformers would bring unity to the empire.

The theologians quickly reached agreement on the issue of original sin and Pelagianism. The Roman Catholics made unexpected large concessions in their debate on the doctrine of justification. The conference eventually issued a statement on the subject of justification by faith which even acknowledged that it is by faith we “are justified (i.e. accepted and reconciled to God) inasmuch as it appropriates the mercy and righteousness which is imputed to us on account of Christ and his merit, not on account of the worthiness or perfection of the righteousness imparted [communicatae] to us in Christ… Although the one who is justified receives righteousness and through Christ also has inherent [righteousness]…nevertheless, the faithful soul depends not on this, but only on the righteousness of Christ given to us as a gift, without which there is and can be no righteousness at all. And so by faith in Christ we are justified or reckoned to be righteous, that is we are accepted through his merits and not on account of our own worthiness or works.” [Anthony Lane, “Appendix I: The Regensburg Agreement (1541), Article 5” in Justification by Faith in Catholic-Protestant Dialogue: An Evangelical Assessment (T&T Clark, 2002), p. 235.]

However, Article 5.4 requires a closer examination: Continue reading “NPP – Regensburg (1541) Redux? Reformation Forensic Justification vs Transformative Justification: Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and NPP. Part 6”

Righteousness and Justification in the Book of Galatians: Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and NPP. Part 4

N.T. Wright asserted in his debate with Richard Gaffin at the Auburn Avenue Pastors Conference in 2005, and elsewhere in his numerous writings that the debate on justification in Gal 3:14 is not about the gift of righteousness as it is about determining the grounds for inclusion of the Gentiles into the covenant. As Wright … Continue reading “Righteousness and Justification in the Book of Galatians: Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and NPP. Part 4”

N.T. Wright asserted in his debate with Richard Gaffin at the Auburn Avenue Pastors Conference in 2005, and elsewhere in his numerous writings that the debate on justification in Gal 3:14 is not about the gift of righteousness as it is about determining the grounds for inclusion of the Gentiles into the covenant. As Wright writes,

“Justification” in the first century was not about how someone might establish a relationship with God. It was about God’s eschatological definition, both future and present, of who was, in fact, a member of his people. In Sanders’ terms, it was not so much about “getting in,” or indeed about “staying in,” as about “how you could tell who was in.” In standard Christian theological language, it wasn’t so much about soteriology as about ecclesiology; not so much about salvation as about the church. [What Saint Paul Really Said, p. 119]

Gaffin who seems to be a far better scholar than a debater failed to challenge Wright understanding of righteousness and justification with evidence based on biblical linguistic-theology or to question the coherence of Wright’s view from the logic of systematic theology.

Given below are excerpts taken from Douglas Moo’s excellent commentary on Galatians which offers a more plausible reading than Wright on the linguistic meaning of righteousness and justification in Gal. 3:14. Continue reading “Righteousness and Justification in the Book of Galatians: Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and NPP. Part 4”