Monday, August 27, 2007

Book Review: Fee’s Pauline Christology Part 9

For the series outline, click here.

Chapter 15: ‘Jesus: Jewish Messiah and exalted Lord’

This important chapter gathers a lot of material together, data that is, Fee argues, ‘the absolute heart of Pauline Christology’ (558). Essentially Fee asserts that the ‘Name’ Christ has inherited is none other than the substitute name for God in the Septuagint, kurios. Important here is Fee’s analysis of 1 Cor 8:6, a matter he takes as hermeneutically significant for Paul’s use of the title ‘kurios’ elsewhere in the canonical Pauline corpus. Three further subsections maintain the christological significance of Jesus the Lord in terms of the risen Lord as eschatological judge, prayer to the risen Lord and the sharing of divine prerogatives between Christ and God. The material in this chapter demands ‘that we either give up ... monotheism ... or find a way to include the Lord Jesus Christ within the divine identity of the one God’ (559).

Taking his point of departure from Paul’s usage of Ps 110:1 and the apostle’s understanding of Christ’s lordship in a messianic eschatological frame, he notes that the title ‘kurios’ is 1) never used as a reference to God but exclusively of Christ, and 2) that the title is ‘used predominantly of Christ’s present reign and anticipated coming, rarely of his earthly life’ (561). This is so, Fee argues, because it is the title Paul uses to include Christ in the divine identity (562). This is seen in the ‘name above every name’ language in three important passages which indicate this name is the substitute name for God. Turning once again to 1 Cor 8:6, Fee argues that in countering Corinthian gnosis:
‘Paul first accepts the correctness of the basic theological presupposition [of the Corinthian ‘strong’], “There is only one God”. However, he vehemently rejects what they are doing with it, ultimately for two reasons: such an action on the part of the “knowing ones” plays havoc with the other believers for whom Christ died but who cannot make these fine distinctions; moreover, they have misunderstood the demonic nature of idolatry’ (563).
Fee’s exegesis makes much of both 1 Cor 8:6 and 10:26 concluding that Paul’s argument ‘not only presuppositionally places Christ the Lord as the preexistent agent of creation, but also sees him as the Lord of Ps 24:1, to whom the whole of creation belongs’ (564).

The second key passage is Phil 2:10-11. Fee concludes that:
‘[T]he risen Christ is not Yahweh, who is always referred to by Paul as qeos (God); rather, the preexistent Son of God returns to receive the honor of having bestowed on him the substitute name for God, which then becomes a title for Christ as “Lord”’ (564).
In this passage, as with so many others, ‘[i]n Paul’s repeated citations and intertextual use of the Septuagint he consistently identifies the kurios = Yahweh of the Septuagint with the risen Lord Jesus Christ’ (565). This point is then traced through Rom 10:9-13 and 1 Cor 1:2.

This sets the scene for the understanding of the christological assuming of roles that traditionally belonged to God alone. This is seen in the Lord Jesus as eschatological judge, the offering of prayers to the risen Lord, and Christ’s sharing of divine prerogatives with the Father. Of importance are the following points: In terms of eschatology, Fee argues that:

‘Paul applies to the Lord, Jesus, the language of the psalms that refers to Yahweh. Christ is not Yahweh; but as the exalted Lord, he is understood by Paul to assume the role of Yahweh at his coming’ (570).
Similarly, in relation to 2 Thess 1:7-8 Fee concludes:

‘Thus, as before, the risen Lord is not identified as Yahweh’; rather, by his having had “the Name” bestowed on him, he assumes Yahweh’s divine roles when he comes as judge’ (571).
What Fee is doing here is not denying Christ is included in Yahweh’s identity or denying that he is ‘God’, as Fee asserts elsewhere. Rather he claims that Paul’s intertextual usage of the Septuagint predicates full divinity to Christ without having to call him God as such (cf. 573). This intertextual usage is seen to included the material in Paul which speaks of boasting in the Lord, having the mind of the Lord, plus the ‘Lord be with you’ and ‘the Lord is near’ language. The impressive list of divine prerogatives which Christ shares with God in the Pauline corpus is then listed by Fee: Christian existence in Christ/God, the grace of the Lord/of God, the peace of the Lord/of God, walking worthy of God/of the Lord, the divine presence at the parousia, the Lord/God who strengthens believers, the Word of the Lord/of God, the faithfulness of the Lord/of God, the Gospel of the Lord Jesus/of God, the glory of the Lord/of God, etc.

Finally, in terms of the Spirit of the Lord language, Fee claims:

‘Moreover, however one is finally to articulate the relationship between the one God and the one Lord [in terms of the Spirit], this kind of thing can be said by Paul only because believed that the incarnate Son and now exalted Lord was eternally and thus fully equal with the Father’ (584).
While he doesn’t develop this insight in much depth, he asserts that in this second strand of Paul’s primary categories for understanding Christ, ‘the emphasis is altogether upon the exalted Christ’s relationship to us and to the world’ (530).

In conclusion, Fee argues that Christ’s receiving of ‘the Name’, not Yahweh but the replacement divine name, allows Paul to ‘include the Son in the divine identity in a complete way, but without absolute identification (merging the two into one) and without the Son “usurping” the role of God the Father’ (585).

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At 8/28/2007 12:34 AM, Blogger Jason Pratt said...

Great series of summaries so far, Chris, btw.

Speaking as a western orthodox theologian (even though not a professional one):

I wonder if St. Paul discerned, or was led anyway to word things in such a way, that the begetting, surrendering death, and resurrection of the 2nd Person during the Incarnation would functionally parallel the operations of the Son from all eternity in relation to the Father: the two Persons, in their most fundamental interpersonal relationships, being the active eternal self-generation of God, the singular unity of substance. (This relationship would of course be distinguished from the procession of the Spirit, which doesn't have anything specifically to do with the self-existence of God per se. The 2nd Person is begotten, analogically speaking; the 3rd Person is not begotten but proceeds. It may be noted that this implies the filioque, which is why I say I am _western_ orthodoxy. {g})

This would explain a puzzling mystery as to how the Son could be _completed_, Incarnate, through this process; without tacitly schisming the two natures of Christ (human and divine) nor simply conflating them, nor denying but still being able to affirm the divinity of Christ within the historical timeframe involved _for_ this process to be completed.

The Son continually surrenders to the Father as the highest of deaths, in order for the circuit of self-existence to be eternally always-actively _complete_--but the completion requires the 1st Person to continue the giving of life to the 2nd Person, too. (The distinctions continue, as well as the unity of substance in self-existence.)

When the Son becomes Incarnate, then, I can see how it would be necessary (as C. S. Lewis, incidentally, would agree, following other theologians I expect through Christian history), for the Son to live a life of renunciation to the Father as a matter of historical process, even if the humility and death and resurrection didn't have to be stained (and so illustrative as an archetypal example of) sin against God.

i.e., if the Son didn't submit in humility to death during the Incarnation, and be raised again to life by the Father, the Son would not be acting _as_ the Son in history at all!--not most fundamentally as the Son. This would be a further difference between the Incarnation and a manifestation of God in other regards, such as the OT occasionally recounts--even though the manifestations, being the action of God, would of course be of the 2nd, not the 1st Person. (Plenty of people see YHWH in the OT, but "no one has seen the Father"--only the Son can do that. Even so, the Son is the express revelation of the Father, and does as the Father does, so that we can know the Father by knowing the Son--and the Spirit Who proceeds from them to us, bringing us the Father and the Son. Where one Person is in operation, all three Persons are in operation.)

As an action in history (at least in this history of our nature), the begetting, submitting in death, and raising to life, would only have to be done once, even though in God's own eternal ('eonian', age-transcending) self-existence it happens as an eternally constant and consistent action: like a dynamo at a rate of infinite speed. But it _would_ happen once, whether the world was fallen or unfallen; and in terms of the historical process, Christ would not be completed as Christ, even though still divine at all times, until the Resurrection and Ascension to the Father.

But the _Son's_ portion (as the 2nd Person) would be completed with the final submission to death, including natural death (thus keeping the unity of the two natures of Christ). After that, the Father must raise Him; the Son must continue trusting the Father to do so, and so the human nature of Christ is also assumed into the full divine roll of the Son: 'now' 'from all eternity' (to coin a phrase.)

Thus all things were not only made in the Son, not only exist and have their being and cohere together in the Son, but _in Christ_: the human nature assumed by the Son in the Incarnation ascends to the timeless evernow of God's own self-existent reality and so participates in the actions of the Son 'from all eternity' (as our perspective would understand it). The Lamb is slain _from_ the foundation of the world--and also _as_ the foundation of the world.

(Yay!--metaphysics am fun! {s!})

Anyway, thanks for the summary; I think I learned a bit more useful information from it! {bow!}

Jason Pratt
Cry of Justice

At 8/28/2007 4:15 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Wow! When I read Fee I think the same things... (said with tongue firmly in cheek) =)~


As always, nice summary. Thanks for making it easier for me to act like I've read the whole thing through! ;)

At 8/29/2007 1:58 PM, Blogger J. B. Hood said...


You should do humanity a favor and translate (maybe with Jim West?) your summary into German. God knows Fee's Christology will never cross the Rhine, as it were...but you could do it, my friend, in small part!

At 8/31/2007 1:15 AM, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

I keep wondering how Fee interprets 1Co. 15:28, "When all things are subjected to [God], then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all."

I am inclined to make that a starting point for the discussion of Christ's relationship with God. It describes their relationship in eternity. The consummation of salvation history arrives when the Son is made subject to God, in order that God may be all in all.

There's an obvious correlation here with Fee's observation that Paul does not call Jesus "God" (but rather distinguishes the one Lord from the one God, though Fee evidently glosses over that).

Evangelicals typically accept that Jesus was subordinate to God during the period of the incarnation, but they claim equality between Jesus and God in heaven, both before and after the incarnation. Fee apparently follows this standard interpretation.

What, then, of 1Co. 15:28? Doesn't it indicate precisely that Jesus is eternally subordinate to God? Isn't it therefore an error to describe Jesus as God's equal? The use of the word "equal" is a grave step beyond what the New Testament teaches, in my view.

At 8/31/2007 3:04 PM, Blogger Jason Pratt said...

I think Fee (per Chris' summary anyway) does address the Lord/God distinction, Q. That was done not only in the summarized chapter but in previous ones. Fee's conclusion is that Paul considers 'Lord' to be the title for 'God', but wants to emphasize both the Son's distinction as a Person from the Father _and_ the Son's identification with the same 'God' the Father is. Therefore Paul routinely assigns the divine names between Persons.

As to how an orthodox Christian considers 1 Cor 15:28 ontologically--actually I did that in my first comment here in this thread, at some length, and also back in one of the universalism discussions.

So, be the discussions right or wrong (from Fee or otherwise), it isn't like they _haven't_ been discussed recently. Even very recently. {s}


At 9/02/2007 1:52 AM, Anonymous TJ said...

I'm still waiting for the Küng-interview you promised almost a year ago.

At 9/03/2007 2:21 AM, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...


I presume you're referring to statements such as,

As an action in history (at least in this history of our nature), the begetting, submitting in death, and raising to life, would only have to be done once, even though in God's own eternal ('eonian', age-transcending) self-existence it happens as an eternally constant and consistent action: like a dynamo at a rate of infinite speed.

I don't mean this as an insult, but metaphysical castle-in-the-air spinning of that sort causes my eyes to roll back in my head. Probably I'm just an ignorant blockhead, but I find it utterly unpersuasive as a justification of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.

I understand your argument to mean that Jesus was, in fact, only subordinate to the Father during the incarnation, but that epoch of submission is eternally present in God's "ever-now". Therefore Paul isn't really saying that Jesus will be subject to God in eternity, it's just a nod to Jesus' subjection long ago (from our finite perspective). But really, Jesus is equal to God (as Fee maintains) despite the clear statement of 1Co. 15:28.

In my view, what you're really doing is flat out denying what Paul says, while dressing it up in fancy philosophical talk. Honestly, I don't mean that as an insult — it's just my visceral response to your comment.

Personally, I prefer to work with the text of scripture. I don't believe Paul ever says that Jesus is equal to God. Your argument is just another instance of "orthodox" Christians going beyond what scripture says, even if they have to explain away certain biblical texts to do so.

At 9/03/2007 2:33 AM, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

I should add that Fee doesn't, to my knowledge, employ the kind of metaphysical speculative language that you're using. You're coming from a very different place than he is.

Fee has written a commentary on 1 Corinthians. Does anyone own it? What does he say about 1Co. 15:28?

At 9/05/2007 4:31 PM, Blogger Jason Pratt said...


{{Probably I'm just an ignorant blockhead, but I find it utterly unpersuasive as a justification of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.}}

I’m sorry, I thought you were asking how Fee addresses the Lord/God distinction (which I pointed out he did--and not in the quote from my metaphysics you referenced); and also how an orthodox Christian considers 1 Cor 15:28 (which the excerpt you gave from the metaphysics is some example of).

I didn’t realize you were asking for a justification of orthodox trinitarianism. I thought you were asking for a commentary on how an orthodox theologian would (or could) think of 1 Cor 15:28. Therefore I pointed to my first comment, which does in fact feature thoughts from a deeply orthodox theologian on the relationship of the Son to the Father while maintaining a unity of substance. I also pointed to one of the recent universalism threads where the same theologian (me {s}) talked specifically about 1 Cor 15:28 and surrounding verses, mostly in reference to (and advocation of) universalism but grounded in (Western) orthodox trinitarian theology. (I make the ‘Western’ distinction because, as you may know, universalism is more prevalent as a doctrine in Eastern Orthodoxy but the filioque, which I accept and strongly promote, including in the discussions I referenced, is a characteristic of Western Orthodoxy.)

Had I realized you were asking for a justification of the doctrine, though, I wouldn’t have pointed you to meditations done in light of the doctrine. Naturally those are going to look like cloud-castle spinning, because they were written to and for readers who already accept the doctrine and don’t need it to be established. They are, however, illustrative of application of the doctrine in regard to 1 Cor 15 (which is what I thought you were asking about.)

In any case, and keeping in mind I wasn’t making an argument there: no, I accept that the Son is subordinate to the Father at the level of God’s own ultimate existence, too. The willing subordination is exceedingly important, not only for the existence of creation (and for its redemption insofar as it needs redeeming), but (per positive aseity) for the continuing active existence of God Himself (all three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

It’s a subtle distinction, but a crucially important one. For what it’s worth, I do agree with (and was also talking about) the importance of the Incarnation being a reality in God’s “ever-now” eternal present. It goes beyond any other historical fact--after all, any other historical fact could with fairness also be considered to be eternally present in God’s “ever-now”--because the union of the two natures means that the human as well as the divine nature of Christ actively participates in all the actions of the Son Himself, from all eternity. The sacrifice involved in this is nothing new for the Son, however: He is ever and always doing this, both in regard to the Father and for the sake of creation’s existence itself.

Thus I do affirm the sacrificial (and not merely pro forma) subordination of the Son to the Father from all eternity. Indeed, that’s a key part of why I believe St. Paul is talking about universal salvation as a goal of God in 1 Cor 15.

Again, I’m not trying to justify the doctrine--not that I think it’s wrong to try to justify it, only that I’d have to start waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back at far more basic metaphysical analysis (such as ‘is there any point in bothering to even try thinking about such things at all’) and slowly working forward through dozens and dozens of points before getting to the kind of meditation I was talking about in my first comment. (That’s why I don’t blame you for calling it “castle-in-the-air spinning”; naturally it would look like that, and some theologians do try to start with the doctrines all together in place from the first.)

I’m currently doing a very partial series on orthodox metaphysics for the Christian Cadre journal, including argumentative justification of points (outside a scriptural authority frame, too). I think I’m up to part 18 now, not counting a prologue which very incompletely summarizes several hundred pages of analysis leading to where I began the series. Not all the justifications are there, because of the missing chapters, but I’ll be going back to do previous sections of chapters eventually. (I decided to start where I did, so that my fellow Cadrists would be better reassured about where I was going to end up, in doing the series as a whole. Also, it had become topically relevant in several ways at the time I began the series.)

{{Honestly, I don't mean that as an insult — it's just my visceral response to your comment.}}

I’m actually a bit flattered you would call it “fancy philosophical talk”. {g!}

{{Personally, I prefer to work with the text of scripture. I don't believe Paul ever says that Jesus is equal to God.}}

Which brings us back to Fee’s analysis about the use of ‘Lord’. Where Fee demonstrates that St. Paul is working with an OT usage of ‘kyrios’ as a title of _the_ God. By applying this title to Jesus, Paul is therefore identifying Jesus with the Lord God of the OT (identity of substance, in orthodox parlance). At the same time, Paul (almost?) always restricts the name/titles of Lord and God to Son and Father respectively; which Fee argues is intended to be a clear distinction of Persons.

Obviously, you agree with Fee about Paul’s nominal titular usage habit being an intention of clear distinction of Persons. Your dispute, therefore, should be with Fee’s conclusions about Paul’s ‘kyrios’ usage hearkening back to OT ‘kyrios’ usage. I haven’t heard you complaining about that (specifically) yet, but I haven’t read all the other thread commentaries either.

Since you agree with Fee (whether you realized it or not) about the distinction of Persons in Paul’s titular usage, though, then you’ll have to target his conclusion of Paul’s identification of ‘kyrios’ with ‘ho theos’ in OT usage, in order to avoid a conclusion of Paul teaching (per orthodoxy) a distinction of Persons in a unity of Substance.

{{I should add that Fee doesn't, to my knowledge, employ the kind of metaphysical speculative language that you're using.}}

That’s true, which is why when (briefly) answering your question about Fee earlier, I didn’t refer to such things. Nor did I refer to them now when (less briefly) answering your question about Fee again, this time in more detail.

Jason Pratt


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