Category Archives: Christology

Baylor & Christology

I’ve just spent the better part of the morning perusing Amazon’s “Prime Day” deals (with no interest in anything they have on sale) and in so doing I’ve learned that Baylor University Press is rereleasing some important volumes on Christology.

The first is Charles A. Gieschen’s Angelomorphic Christology: Antecedents and Early Evidence (Library of Early Christianity). This is slated for release at the end of this month. Considering that third party sellers on Amazon are selling the original hardcover version for over $500 I think that $40 is a steal!

Next up is the incredibly important collection of essays The Jewish Roots of Christological Monotheism: Papers from the St Andrews Conference on the Historical Origins of the Worship of Jesus (Library of Early Christianity)The Jewish Roots of Christological Monotheism edited by Carey Newman and James Davila. This is also set for release at the end of this month and the price is right at $40 as compared to the over $200 price tag from sellers of the original.

Carey Newman’s Paul’s Glory-Christology: Tradition and Rhetoric (Library of Early Christianity) has the same price tag and same release date.

Finally, Larry Hurtado has a collection of essays (750 pages in total!) being published in September entitled Ancient Jewish Monotheism and Early Christian Jesus-Devotion: The Context and Character of Christological Faith (Library of Early Christianity).

While I have most, if not all, of the essays being published in the Hurtado volume in either digital or print formats it will be nice to have them all bound together. I’ll definitely be ordering the Gieschen and Newman volumes as well. Newman’s has eluded me for years. I have a PDF of Gieschen’s but it’s a scan and not the best quality. Still, real books are better than PDFs any day of the week!

I should note that these are all part of Baylor’s Library of Early Christianity series, which I just learned about this morning. I can’t wait to see what else they release!

B”H

One Brief Thought on the Recent Eternal Functional Subordination Kerfuffle

I’ve typed plenty on the debate over eternal functional subordination over the years. Much of what I’ve said can be found in book reviews. Some can be found in dedicated posts to one point of the discussion or another. I’ll leave it to interested readers to search my blog and find all that I’ve said. But I want to repeat something since I keep reading the word “Arian” being used with reference to those who affirm some kind of eternal functional subordination, or eternal authority-submission structure, or eternal asymmetrical order of relation, etc.

If it’s “eternal” then it ain’t “Arian.” It’s really that simple. Arians believed the Son to be a created being. Plain and simple. Yes, he was created “before” time (wrap your head around that one) but the Father existed “before” that. No one who believes that the Son has from all eternity been obedient or submitted to the Father is an Arian because they all believe that for as long as their has been a Father to obey/submit to, there has been a Son who obeys/submits.

That’s my spiel. And a huge thanks to Seumas Macdonald for his roundup of posts on the recent discussion. It saved me a lot of time and energy!

B”H

The New Gnosticism

My pastor called me up last night and asked me to remind him why I had a problem with the sentiment that we are spirits who have souls and live in bodies. I answered that it’s gnostic at its core and it’s just not what we see in Scripture.

If we go back to the beginning it says that God formed man from the dust of the earth. Notice how it leads with that. Body first. Then he breathed the breath of life into this being and he became a living soul. He didn’t create a disembodied spirit and then make a body for it.

The whole man is body, soul, and spirit (I’m tripartite kind of a dude). Man is not fully man devoid of any one of these elements. Having a body is part of being human. Think about it like this: Could God have saved us apart from the Incarnation? Sure. He’s God, he can do whatever he wants. And yet the eternal Son took humanity upon himself in order to live righteously, suffer for our sins, die as an atoning sacrifice, and rise bodily in order to defeat death. Jesus’ body was essential to his mission.

B”H

Moses or God?

At about 6:20 in the above video Brant Pitre says that the feeding of the multitude account in the Gospels would remind first century Jewish readers of Moses. I’m not denying that but he said, “If you’re a first century Jew and you have a prophet who takes out a great crowd into the wilderness and feeds them with bread, who’s that gonna make you think of?”

I can see why Moses might be the connection that someone makes, but why not think of God instead? It was “the LORD, the God of Israel [who said]: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness'” (Exod 5:1 cf. 7:16). It was the LORD who parted the Red Sea so that Israel could pass through on dry land (Exod 14:21) into the desert. It was the LORD who rained down bread from heaven (Exod 16:4).

So yes, Moses was a type of Christ, I agree. And it is easy to make the association with Moses. But I think it’s just as easy to make the association with the LORD, and perhaps even more appropriate. As Sigurd Grindheim pointed out in a couple of books (reviewed here & here) a few years back, Jews certainly had messianic expectations, but they were primarily waiting for God to come into his kingdom.

B”H

Do Christians and Jews Worship the Same God?

Earlier today on Twitter Mike Aubrey offered a friendly pushback to my post about Christians and Muslims worshipping the same God. I’ve just learned that a gentleman named Gavin on a blog called Otagosh has offered the same pushback. Basically, they’ve both responded that if Christians and Muslims don’t worship the same God then neither do Christians and Jews.

My response is to ask, which Jews? I have zero qualms about saying that Jews who have rejected Jesus as Messiah and deny the Trinity don’t worship the same God as Christians. But not all Jews fall into this group. Christianity was originally a Jewish movement. It’s founder is a Jew. It’s earliest adherents were Jews. It’s Scriptures were written by Jews.

But the early Jews who accepted Jesus as Messiah and wrote about the unique relationship shared between Father, Son, and Spirit were opposed by other Jews. An anti-Jesus Jewish movement grew in the same soil as this pro-Jesus Jewish movement. Both movements grew alongside one another and one became Christianity while the other retained the moniker of Judaism.

My point is, there are Messianic Jews, Jews for Jesus, Jewish Christians, and a host of other Jews who do indeed worship the same God that the Gentiles who have been grafted into Israel’s covenant worship. The Church is the “one new man” composed of Jew and Gentile alike, united in its worship of the one true God. But then there are plenty of Jews who don’t worship this God and we shouldn’t be afraid to say so.

On the flip side, I’m not familiar with any Muslims for Jesus or Muslim Christians. A denial of basic Christian tenets is foundational to their belief and worship of Allah. Their Scriptures say quite plainly that they don’t worship the Son or even believe him to be Son. Ours says that a denial of Jesus as Son is a denial of his Father as well, hence, I stand by my original answer to the question and add a qualified answer when switching the terms.

B”H

Christ Absent and Present: A Study in Pauline Christology

Orr, Peter. Christ Absent and Present: A Study in Pauline Christology. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament. Second series 354. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014. Pp. x + 259. Paper. € 79.00.

With thanks to Mohr Siebeck for this review copy!

Christ Absent and Present: A Study in Pauline Christology is a revised version of Peter Orr’s (New Testament Lecturer at Moore Theological College in Newtown NSW, Australia) doctoral dissertation written under the supervision of Francis Watson at the University of Durham. In this study Orr seeks to demonstrate that “the striking simultaneity of [Christ’s] presence and absence is not a minor incoherence in an unimportant aspect of Paul’s Christology but actually illuminates some important aspects of Paul’s understanding of the exalted Christ that too often are overlooked” (1).

So often overlooked, in fact, that Chris Tilling seems to be the lone scholar who has noted and examined the theme in any depth in recent history. As such Orr is unable to present a status quaestionis on the subject and opts rather to examine Albert Schweitzer and Ernst Käsemann’s respective conceptions of the exalted Christ as an “entry point” to his own thesis (chapter 2). For Schweitzer Christ is exclusively located in heaven while believers are joined to him in a mystical union. Käsemann on the other hand understands Christ to be present in believers and the world through the medium of the Spirit. Orr notes that their different understandings result from complexity in Paul himself, but neither attends to all that Paul says, especially with respect to Christ’s absence.

Chapters 3-5 examine the absence of Christ, the nature of his exalted bodily, and his bodily absence respectively. Orr effectively shows that Paul, while speaking of believers as being “in Christ,” believes Christ to be absent in some sense. He does so by examining Paul’s statement concerning his desire to depart and be with Christ which is far better than remaining in the flesh (Phil 1:21-26) and his comments on the Lord’s parousia (1 Thes 4:15-17).

Orr shows that Paul believed Christ to possess a discrete human body after his exaltation and that the nature of this body differs from that of other humans. He locates Christ at the right hand of God in heaven. Orr ties together the topics of chapters 3-4 and concludes that the sense in which Christ is absent according to Paul is bodily through his examination of 2 Corinthians 5:6-8, which speaks to Christ’s bodily absence, and Philippians 3:20-21, which speaks to his bodily return.

Chapters 6-8 turn to Christ’s presence. In chapter 6 Orr highlights what he has termed the “epiphanic presence” of Christ. Here he looks at texts in 2 Corinthians that present Christ “more as an object to which the senses respond” (117). So, for example, Paul can refer to himself as the “aroma” of Christ that goes up before God (2 Cor 2:14-17), or the Corinthians as the “letter” of Christ (2 Cor 3:1-3), or Christ’s presence being mediated through the Spirit (2 Cor 3:4-17). The “exalted Christ is made manifest in his glory” (143) in 2 Cor 3:18 while God’s glory is revealed when Christ’s “face” is seen through the proclamation of the gospel (2 Cor 4:1-6) or his life manifested in the body of believers (2 Cor 4:10).

Chapter 7 looks at Christ’s “dynamic presence,” which has him as the subject of activity even though the activity is mediated through some other means. So, for example, Paul can say that it is Christ who has accomplished the work that he’s done through him in Romans 15:18-19 or respond to the Corinthians demand for proof that Christ is speaking through him in 2 Corinthians 13:1-4. But Christ can also work through impersonal means such as sickness and death as is the case when he judges the Corinthians for their improper practices concerning the Lord’s Supper.

Chapter 8 is concerned with Christ’s “bodily presence,” which Orr understands as a presence mediated through (not as, contra Dunn et al.) the Spirit to the individual and corporate bodies of Christ. He argues that Paul does not believe Christ to be embodied in either the individual believer, the ecclesial body, or the Eucharistic bread (either physically or spiritually), which would erode the absence of Christ. Chapter 9 recaps the arguments of the previous chapters.

In all Orr’s study is a welcome addition to the ever growing field of Pauline studies. He should be congratulated for his careful study of this neglected topic but one must ask why it has been so neglected in the first place. Orr’s conclusion that “there is a fundamental continuity between the ‘historical’ Jesus and the exalted Christ” (222) is hardly earth shattering and could have been maintained aside from a focus on this particular theme. When Tilling examined the absence and presence of Christ it stood as one piece of a much larger pattern that told us something of Paul’s Christology, but left as a single piece it’s difficult to see its significance. 

I’m also a bit dubious on Orr’s appeal to Christ’s “epiphanic presence.” He takes language that seems almost certainly metaphorical and turns it into a readymade category for discerning Christ as being somehow passively present. I also think that his denial of some sort of Real Presence in the Eucharistic bread is based on a somewhat circular argument in which it has to first be assumed that for Paul Christ is only localized in heaven. With this understanding in place we must then look for ways to explain away indications of bodily presence elsewhere in Paul.

When Orr argues against some sort of bodily or spiritual presence in the Eucharistic bread he focuses on the κοινωνία language that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 10 but I think he neglects the impact of Paul’s comments in 11:27 (his focus in chapter 11 is on the judgment that Christ performs) that to eat and drink in an unworthy manner makes the partaker guilty of sinning against the body and blood of Christ. For Paul the bread and cup seem to be indistinguishable from the body and blood. Nevertheless, I can commend Orr for his study and respect it even though his conclusions on certain issues differ from my own.

B”H