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”

Exposing Academic Nonsense and Intellectual Impostures

The “Sokal Affair” (1996) was an expose pulled off by Alan Sokal, a physics professor at New York University when he submitted for publication, a grand-sounding spoof article “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.” He claimed in the article that postmodern science based on theories by Jacques Lacan and Iris Irigaray demonstrates that quantum gravity within the framework of reality as a social and linguistic construct and its multidimensional manifolds topological space, transgresses the concept of objective truth and thus provides “powerful intellectual support for the progressive project, understood in its broadest sense: transgressing of boundaries, the breaking down of barriers. the radical democratization of all aspects of social, economic, political, and cultural life.”*  The article was accepted and published by the postmodern cultural studies journal Social Text (Duke University Press) in 1996. The publication of a spoof article laced spurious physics by an established journal became a scandal. It also confirmed that much of postmodern theories is just academic nonsense or in the words of Sokal, “intellectual impostures.” Continue reading “Exposing Academic Nonsense and Intellectual Impostures”

Was there a Palestinian State in History? The Historical Facts

In this post, I shall focus only on historical facts and will not be making any definitive moral judgment on the current war between Hamas & Israel.

Without a doubt, the name Palestine was used before the founding of the state of modern Israel in 1948. There are maps from the 19th century which have the name Palestine printed over the region of the Holy Land. However, the name Palestine was used to describe a geographical area rather than an independent state or a region defined as a specific administrative region.

The word Palestine was derived from the Philistines, an Aegean people who migrated to the Mediterranean coastal plain between Tel Aviv-Yafo and the Gaza Strip in the 12th century BC. These Aegean people have no genealogical connection recent Palestinian people. The Philistines disappeared from history after they were destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia 2600 years ago. The Jews who were exiled to Babylon resettled in the land  under the Persian Empire and reestablished Jerusalem as their capital. The Romans who destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD and crushed the last Jewish revolt (the Bar Kokhba revolt, 132-136 AD) applied the term Palaestina to Judea in order to erase any Jewish legitimate claim to the land of Israel. The Arabic word Filastin is derived from this Latin name. Continue reading “Was there a Palestinian State in History? The Historical Facts”

Michael Polanyi on Science as Personal Knowledge

Conventional wisdom would like us to believe that science has triumphed over Christianity because science relies on objective knowledge while Christianity relies on blind faith based on ecclesiastical authority. In solving the recalcitrant problems of life, educated people should rely on the cool and dispassionate judgment of the scientist based on careful research in the laboratory instead of the authoritative pontification of the priest from the pulpit. As Bertrand Russell wrote, “The triumphs of science are due to the substitution of observance and inference for authority. Every attempt to revive authority in intellectual matters is a retrograde step.”

According to critics, Christianity relies on myths without factual foundations to impress emotionally vulnerable believers who accept myths according to the shifting impulses of the heart. In contrast, science relies on rigorous and detached analysis to offer reliable and objective knowledge of reality. The proponents of “strong scientism” argue that something is true, rationally justified, or known if and only if it is a scientific claim that has been successfully tested with a proper application of scientific methodology. To be sure, the confidence of scientism has recently become more tempered as a result of scientists themselves failing to gain consensus on the fundamental theories of physics and cosmology. What has emerged is a more modest “weak scientism” which acknowledges that there could be truths known through other means. Nevertheless, “weak scientism” continues to insist that knowledge gained outside of science is certainly less robust and that science remains the ultimate authority in the quest for knowledge. Continue reading “Michael Polanyi on Science as Personal Knowledge”

Are non-Muslims Barred from using “Tuhan” since DBP says it refers to Allah?

On 17 April 2021, Uthaya Sankar criticized Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) for restricting the word “Tuhan” to Islamic usage. He observes that for DBP, “Tuhan” seems to refer exclusively to Allah, whereas “tuhan” refers to “something worshipped by people whose religion or belief is not based on the One God” (“sesuatu yang dipuja oleh golongan manusia yang agama atau kepercayaan mereka tidak berasaskan kepercayaan kepada Tuhan Yang Esa”). [Re: Apart from Allah, why is the word “Tuhan” exclusive for Muslims too?]

However, DBP defends its decision. Continue reading “Are non-Muslims Barred from using “Tuhan” since DBP says it refers to Allah?”

The Meaning of “Son of God”: A Muslim Critique – Christology Part 1

Author: Ungaran Rashid
Publisher: IIUM Press, 2021.
ISBN 9789674910945
No. of pages: 128
Price: RM 45.00

[This book is a revised version a thesis in fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Master of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Heritage (Uṣūl al-Dīn and Comparative Religion) at International Islamic University Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur].

Muslim scholars’ critique of the Christian teaching of the deity of Christ would be more credible if it engages with the origin of divine Christology in its historical context rather than relies on dogmatic assertions of Islamic doctrine. As such, this book is a commendable attempt by a Muslim scholar to engage with Christian scholarship based on historical criticism of primary sources and critical analysis of concepts of Christology.

For Christians, “Son of God” describes the filial relationship between Jesus Christ and God the Father. However, Muslims reject the Christian understanding and assert that “He (Allah) begot no one nor was He begotten” (Sura 112 – Abdel Haleem translation). Dr. Ungaran Rashid, assistant professor at International Islamic University, Malaysia, argues that the way to resolve this conflict of interpretation is to examine the term “Son of God” from the main source, which is Jewish Scriptures (Ungaran’s term for the Old Testament). Continue reading “The Meaning of “Son of God”: A Muslim Critique – Christology Part 1″

Apart from Allah, why is the word “Tuhan” exclusive for Muslims too?

Apart from Allah, why is the word “Tuhan” exclusive for Muslims too?
By Uthaya Sankar in Focus Malaysia 17 April 2021

While reading Meredah Kabus (2021), an anthology of Bahasa Malaysia short stories published by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP), Uthaya Sankar notices that “every time a non-Malay (non-Muslim) mentions “Tuhan” (God), it is printed as “tuhan” (god).”

Continue reading “Apart from Allah, why is the word “Tuhan” exclusive for Muslims too?”