The issue of book blurbs has come back up (see Danny’s post, which was inspired by Carl Trueman’s scathing review of G. R. Evans’ The Roots of the Reformation) and since I just mentioned Chris Tilling’s soon-to-be-published monograph, yet again, I thought I’d share the endorsement I wrote for it. By way of background; Chris asked me and a few others if we’d say something about it back when he was talking to publishers. It will seem overly enthusiastic to some, and perhaps hyperbolic to others, but it really does describe how I feel about this work. Here’s my blurb:
The academic study of Christology has seen some significant shifts in the past 30 years or so. Long gone (thankfully!) are the days when “titular Christology” (i.e., the study of the titles applied to Christ) reigned supreme. This shift began, arguably, with James Dunn’s Christology in the Making, but even with his focus upon the broader theological/philosophical/cultural backgrounds to the NT statements about Jesus, and his exegesis of the texts, his work was still at heart a study of the same old titles/concepts. The works of scholars such as Larry Hurtado (One God, One Lord ; Lord Jesus Christ ) and Richard Bauckham (God Crucified ), to name but two, have shown the importance of the broader intellectual and cultural world of Second Temple Judaism (especially with regard to Jewish monotheism) for the study of the origins and development of NT Christology. Hurtado’s focus on cultic devotion and Bauckham’s interpretive category of “unique divine identity” have signaled paradigm shifts and moved the field forward in significant ways.
Thankfully, these scholars and those who have followed them haven’t exhausted every fruitful area of research and interpretation for the subject. The thing about shifting paradigms is that they can always shift again. Enter Chris Tilling and his PhD thesis “Paul’s Divine-Christology: The Relation between the Risen Lord and Believers in Paul, and the Divine-Christology Debate.” Whereas Hurtado and Bauckham escaped from the arid desert of titular Christology by their examinations of cultic devotion and divine identity, Tilling has settled in lush green pastures with his examination of the risen Lord’s relationship to believers. By examining the Apostle Paul’s language regarding the risen Lord’s relationship to believers in the undisputed Pauline letters, Tilling persuasively establishes a pattern of language that has as its only real analogy the pattern of language used with reference to God and Israel in earlier Second Temple Jewish literature. This has significant implications for NT Christology and the so-called divine Christology debate.
In addition to a compelling argument, Tilling has a well-written thesis. Rarely are doctoral theses a pleasure to read, and I say this as someone who has read through dozens of them, but Tilling’s work is shockingly engaging. It’s written with a scholar’s deftness yet it manages to be accessible to non-specialists. From literature survey, to exegesis, to conclusion, Tilling has produced a solid and unpresumptuous piece of scholarship. In much the same way as Hurtado and Bauckham, Tilling is certain to move the field forward in significant ways. My only qualm with his work is that it hasn’t been published sooner!