Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Bultmann on NT Christology

'What is Christology, then? It is not the theoretical exponent of practical piety*. It is not speculation and teaching about the divinity of Christ. Rather, it is proclamation, address. It is the "teaching" that through Christ our righteousness is won, that he is crucified and risen on our behalf' (Rudolf Bultmann, Glauben und Verstehen, 1.260, "Die Christologie des Neuen Testaments")

For Bultmann, New Testament Christology is first and foremost proclamation of the Christ event (that proclamation itself caught up in this event as Christ is present in the Word). It is essentially the work of divine love and judgement in Jesus, that God is involved and met in this Jesus (who is himself the event of revelation). New Testament Christology thus boils down to the proclamation of the activity of God in Christ as he justifies sinners. The second level of Christology is faith's response to this proclamation, namely the explication of faith's understanding of its new self in light of the divine address (Anrede). This means that New Testament Christology is not an idea, it is not about the religious personality of Christ, not about metaphysical speculation over Christ as a heavenly being, nor an exponent of Christ-devotion. Christology is the divine address, the proclamation of the event of Christ as it is accepted by faith.

What is more, and something sure to get the Evangelical in plenty of us squirming, the early merely Christians used, Bultmann argues, contingent mythical and mystical categories to express this Christology (such as Christ's preexistence as a heavenly being, Jesus as 'Messiah' etc.), but these were only Jewish (or later Jewish-Hellenistic**)-bound ways of expressing the truth concerning Jesus, namely that God is met in this Jesus. As Jewish language and manners of thinking, they are not binding on modern people, who need to find different ways of proclaiming and reflecting in faith on the Christ-event.

While all of this is very clever, I tend to think that Bultmann has perpetuated the problematic (though understandable) dissolution of Christology into soteriology, and I'm pretty sure he overstretches the appropriateness of the significance of 'proclamation'. This is not to mention the huge problem of pretending to sift an eternal truth from its original form (hence Hart's searing rhetoric in my post a couple of days ago). I would also argue that his argumentation cannot account for the nature of Christology as it is found in Paul's letters - a decisive problem for me. Yet Bultmann's critique of the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule and liberal Protestantism in this essay is witheringly powerful, and his scope of intellectual vision is simply a delight to take in.

BTW, I intend to show in my doctoral work that there is another way of thinking about NT Christology, particularly of the Pauline variety, and a correspondingly fruitful way of thinking about Christology today. But that is a story for another day.

*this in contradistinction to the claims of the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule with which Bultmann had an interesting relation (cf. Sinn, Christologie und Existenz).
** Bultmann adopted the historical development scheme famously promoted by W. Bousset, a model that modern scholarship has all but entirely rejected. Cullmann was the first to raise his finger up and ask what this model did with 1 Cor 16:22. Hengel firmly hit the nail into its overdue coffin.


Friday, September 21, 2007

Book Review: Fee’s Pauline Christology Part 11

For the series outline, click here.

We are now at the end of my review of Fee's Pauline Christology and I am two minds as to how to end it. I have written a lengthy paper critiquing numerous aspects of Fee's work, much of which will find its way into my doctoral work, and I thought it may be better to end on a positive note on the blog.

What say thee? Shall I post some of my negative thoughts? If I do I will limit it to a mater that was discussed during the series, namely Fee's claims regarding pre-existence.

Until then, let me finish with a flurry of honest praise!

First off, Fee's Pauline Christology is quite simply the best work to have ever been written on Pauline Christology. This is not only because it is the first modern scholarly work to be dedicated to this subject, but also because of Fee's exegetical insightfulness as well as some of his methodological choices. For example, Fee avoids the mistake of Kramer and others of focusing so much on the origins of Paul's Christology that Paul's own Christology itself is neglected (cf. the discussion on 531, for example). Furthermore, Fee examines a broad range of material that finally gathers together much christological evidence only treated separately in other studies. This is not to mention his numerous original exegetical insights, especially those involving Paul's apparent intertextual usage of the Greek Bible, his masterful analysis of Phil 2:6-11 and Fee's impressive case against a 'Wisdom Christology' in Paul. His analysis convincingly shows why it is unlikely that Paul ever called Christ 'God' and his treatment of Adam Christology is a model of balance. As with almost all of Fee's work, his exegesis is generally fair and very clear. It is easy to follow. He is additionally aware of possible misunderstandings of his exegesis by North American evangelicals, and so seeks to locate his proposals carefully in the biblical narrative (e.g. with reference to the messianic overtones to 'Son of God' language – this section in chapter 14 is simply splendid –, as well as with the 'new creation' language). On top of this, I find Fee's conclusions generally persuasive in terms of the divine-Christology debate. It is an enormously helpful and insightful volume, one with which every student of Paul will need to become familiar.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Book Review: Fee’s Pauline Christology Part 10

For the series outline, click here.

Chapter 16: ‘Christ and the Spirit: Paul as a proto-Trinitarian’

Fee has two aims in this final short chapter. First is an examination of the christological implications of ‘the varied statements that conjoin Spirit with Christ (and the Father) in the economy of salvation’ (586). Second, Fee will attempt to plot:

‘... where Paul fits into the trajectory that caused that caused these early, thoroughgoing monotheists to speak of Christ and the Spirit and their relationship to God the Father in such a way that finally resulted in the Trinitarian resolutions of the early fourth century’ (586).
Fee’s claim in a nutshell is that ‘Paul held to a kind of proto-Trinitarian view of God, even though he never comes close to explaining how a strict monotheist could talk about God in this triadic way’ (586).

After overviewing the evidence for the personhood of the Spirit in the Pauline corpus, a matter he has treated in considerable depth elsewhere (in God’s Empowering Presence), Fee argues that Paul understood the Spirit as distinct from the Father and the Son. The Spirit relates to Christ by mediating the presence of the Risen One. Given Paul’s affirmations of his monotheism this leads to Fee’s claim:

‘[T]hat Paul was at least proto-Trinitarian: the believer knows and experiences the one God as Father, Son, and Spirit, and when dealing with Christ and the Spirit, one is dealing with God every bit as much as when one is dealing with the Father’ (592).
Hence there is something of an inevitability of speaking of God later in church history at least in terms of the ‘economic Trinity’ in light of Paul’s letters.

Appendixes: In the appendixes Fee first provides a vigorous attack against the association of Christ with lady Wisdom, as is fashionable in much scholarship, and second, lists ‘Paul’s use of kurios for Christ in citations and echoes from the Septuagint’.

Thus ends my overview of Fee's arguments. Before I post some short reflections, what where your impressions of his work?

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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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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Book Review: Fee’s Pauline Christology Part 8

For the series outline, click here.

Chapter 14: 'Jesus: Jewish Messiah and Son of God'.

Fee maintains that Paul's 'Son of God Christology' is best tied to messianic themes explicated through an analysis of the basic narrative of Judaism in the scriptures. Christ is the Davidic Son of God. Furthermore, in this context Fee also argues that for Paul Christ is also the eschatological king, and the pre-existent (and thus) eternal Son. Indeed, this is the first of two of Paul's 'primary categories for understanding the person of Christ', namely that 'the risen Jesus was none other than the preexistent Son of God, who came present among us to redeem' (530).

After detailing how the Jewish story lends specifically messianic import to Paul's 'Son of God' language, in a key passage Fee writes: 'But that history [read: scriptural story] ... does not explain how he [Paul] came also to understand Christ as the eternal Son of God; so this is taken up at the end of this chapter, with the emphasis on his understanding of Christ as the preexistent (thus eternal) Son of God' (531). Key to his understanding of the Son of God as eternal is the association of Christ with 'the Father' in 1 Cor 8:6, as well as in Col 1:15-16. Later in the chapter he explains in full that 1 Cor 8:6 is an explicit spelling out of the pre-existence of the eternal Son of God (552). In terms of the 'Son of God' language, '[i]t is still rooted in Jewish messianism; but because of Paul's conviction of the Son's preexistence, the language is also used to refer to his prior existence as God before he became one with us in his incarnation' (544 – for this use of God with reference to Christ, cf. also p. 529). Both tensions are held together in Col 1:13-15. Further developing his perception of Paul's understanding of Christ as the pre-existent, eternal Son of God, Fee naturally turns to Phil 2:6-8. He writes:

'It was the One who was eternally in the form of God, and thus equal with God and fully divine, whose humble obedience to his Father in his incarnation led to his death on a cross ... This understanding of salvation – we have become God's children through redemption by God's Son – is what lies behind Paul's utter devotion to Christ the Son' (547).

In an interesting note Fee chides Kim for missing the 'relational aspect of this [Son of God] christological perspective' (548 n. 27). Fee means by this the relationship between Father and Son. Indeed, the echoes of the Abraham and Isaac story from Gen 22 in Eph and Col 'push us beyond a merely positional understanding of the eternal Son of God to a relational one ... And even though Paul himself does not emphasize the relational aspect of the Son to the Father, the language itself pushes us to think in these terms' (550). While on the subject of relationship, Fee moves his discussion on to Gal 2:20, 'to the very personal, and very rare, way Paul expresses his own relationship to the Son of God' (550). Picking up the relation between Father and Son, Fee continues to detail the nature of this relation to creation: 'If the Father is the source and goal of all things, the Son is the divine agent of all things' (552). But what is the origin of this pre-existent Son of God Christology? While Fee provides a couple of potential reasons, he admits that we cannot be sure, but whatever is believed about questions of origin, 'Son of God Christology is not peripheral to Paul's theological enterprise but rather is an essential part of it' (554).

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Book Review: Fee’s Pauline Christology Part 7

For the series outline, click here.

Chapter 13: 'Jesus as second Adam'.

While tying his findings into the broader Pauline theme of new creation, this chapter primarily asserts the humanity of Christ in terms of Adam and eikon language. In the latter, Fee isolates a twin emphasis: 'first, that the eternal Son of God perfectly bears the divine image and, second, that he did so in his own identity with us in our humanity' (521). And while there is an Adam Christology in Paul, 'in terms of actual language and echoes from Gen 1-2, it is limited to two kinds of passages: first, explicit contrasts between Christ and Adam ... and, second, where the incarnate Christ is seen as the true bearer of the divine image' (523). Fee once again affirms, under the heading 'the Pauline Emphasis – A Truly Human Divine Savior', that:

'Paul nowhere establishes a Christology as such; rather, because for the most part he is dealing with issues in his churches that need correcting – and need good "theology" as the way of doing so – his references to Christ are either soteriological in their focus or put emphasis upon his present reign as Lord' (523-24)

The next two chapters gather the Pauline material under what Fee considers to be 'the two primary christological emphases that emerge regularly in the corpus and that arguably hold the keys to Paul's answer to the question "Who is Christ?"' (482). The two emphases are Christ as the messianic/eternal Son of God and Christ as the messianic exalted 'Lord'.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Book Review: Fee’s Pauline Christology Part 6

For the series outline, click here.

Chapter 12: 'Christ: preexistent and incarnate Savior'.

This chapter is essentially a defence of Paul's presuppositional understanding of the pre-existence of Christ, an understanding that evidences a thematic coherence in the numerous contingent circumstances of his letters. He argues for 'Paul's understanding of Christ as preexistent, since it is otherwise nearly impossible to account for such Christ devotion by an avid monotheist unless his understanding of the one God now included the Son of God in the divine identity' (481).

He first turns to material in Paul's argument in 1 Cor 8:1-11:1. Paul includes Jesus in the divine identity in 8:6 'since the one God of the Jews was regularly identified vis-à-vis all other "gods"' (503). However, this is presuppositional 'since nothing christological is at stake here' (504). Naturally, his argument examines Phil 2:6-8 noting that pre-existence must be assumed for a number of reasons, not least because '[o]ne who is already only and merely human does not "become human"!' (507). In light of these explicit statements of pre-existence, the 'sending passages' must be read, he urges. Thus 'Christ's preexistence is the predicate of the whole sentence', Gal 4:4-7 (509-10), as well as assumed in Rom 8:3-4 (510). What is the importance if the incarnation of the pre-existent Christ for Paul? 'The first and most obvious point to make is that Paul clearly understood Christ the Savior himself to be divine; he was not simply a divine agent' (511). Furthermore, and this is a key claim:

'[I]t is surely this greater presupposed reality that accounts in large measure for Paul's Christ devotion ... To be sure, Paul speaks only rarely of "the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20); but the very fact that in this case he identifies Christ as "the Son of God" suggests that what overwhelms Paul about such love is not simply Christ's death on his behalf. What lies behind such language is the overwhelming sense that the pre-existent, and therefore divine, Son of God is the one who by incarnation as well as by crucifixion "died for me"' (512).

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Book Review: Fee’s Pauline Christology Part 5

For the series outline, click here.

Part 2: Fee's Synthesis

The second part of the book attempts a christological synthesis of the matter analysed in the first part, with a view to understanding Paul's Christology also as it relates to his theology. He wants to synthesise the many disparate parts of Paul's Christology detailed in Part 1, and to do this he thematically gathers the relevant material in the following chapters.

Chapter 11: 'Christ, the divine Savior'. Fee is persuaded that 'to keep faith with the apostle himself, the beginning point will have to be Christ as Savior' (481). This chapter includes examination of Christ's role in salvation plus a short look at the place of 'Christ devotion' in Paul. The former is tied to Christ's pre-existence to emphasise christological significance. The latter is interesting enough to detail in more depth - even though it only fills a few pages in Fee's book. He argues: 'This "Christ devotion" in Paul's theology takes two forms: personal devotion to Christ himself and devotion in the sense of the community's offering worship to Christ as Lord – both are full of christological presuppositions' (488).

First, Christ as object of personal devotion. For Paul, having grown up in a devout Diaspora home, Paul would have known by rote the first commandment. Despite the fact that the language of the first commandment is lacking, at least so Fee claims, Paul gives this devotion now to Christ, especially 'whenever he speaks longingly of his and his church's eschatological future' (488). Fee's concrete arguments to support this 'personal devotion' are as follows: i) Paul's letters are thoroughly christocentric. This claim is developed such that Fee claims:

'In Paul's radically changed worldview, everything is done in relation to Christ. The church exists "in Christ", and everything that believers do is "for Christ", "by Christ", "through Christ", and "for Christ's sake"' (489)

These more generalised formulations find explicit expression in the following: in Paul's language concerning the benefit of single life (cf. 1 Cor 7:32-35) and in the boasting in and knowing Christ language (Phil 3). Importantly, Fee notes:

'The christological significance of this can scarcely be gainsaid, since these words are written by one whose religious heritage includes the Psalter, where this kind of devotion is offered exclusively to Yahweh' (489).

It is also finds expression in Paul's longing to be with Christ in God's final eschatological future (489-90). Finally, Fee notes the significance of the christological grace benedictions in this context.

Second, Christ as object of worship. Fee notes three expressions of such 'worship' of Christ in the Pauline corpus. i) the Lord's Table which is 'the Christian version of a meal in honor of a deity' (491). This is then tied to the association of this meal with the Passover meal, and the divine judgments against those who dishonour the deity at this meal. Fee concludes that everything about the Lord's Supper material especially in 1 Cor 11 'assumes and asserts the highest kind of Christology; and all of this in direct relationship with Christ as divine Savior' (492). ii) Singing hymns to and about Christ. Fee supports this claim with reference to material in Eph and Col, concluding that 'Christ often assumes the dual role of being sung to and sung about – precisely as in the Psalter, whose hymns are both addressed to and inform about God' (493). iii) Prayer addressed to Christ. Drawing upon material in 1 and 2 Thess, 1 Cor 16:22 and 2 Cor 12:8-10 Fee notes: 'such devotion to Christ is in many ways more telling theologically than actual "theological statements" themselves' (494 – here he approving notes Hurtado that theology surely arises out devotion to Christ, in n. 29). What has this to do with Christology as Fee defines it? '[T]he worship is both because of what he [Christ] did for us and especially because of who he is as divine Savior.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Book Review: Fee’s Pauline Christology Part 4

For the series outline, click here.

The next section examines Jesus as the kurios of Septuagint passages cited or alluded to in 1 Cor. This involves analysis of 1:2, 31; 2:16; 10:19-22 and 26. While the exegesis varies in persuasiveness, particularly powerful is the association of 1:2 with Gen 12:8, Joel 2:32 (LXX 3.5) plus verses in Deuteronomy, the Psalms and the Prophetic writings. He concludes: 'God's people are still distinguished as those who "call on the name of the Lord"; but the Lord on whom they call is Christ himself' (129). 1:31 is fruitfully read in light of Jer 9:23 LXX:

'The christological implication of such a claim is striking indeed, since the context in Jeremiah has to do with Yahweh's absolute claim to loyalty over all other gods. That Lord, now Jesus Christ, is the one in whom the Corinthians are to boast' (130)

10:20 is then read with Deut 32:17 and 10:22 with Deut 32:21. He concludes:

'Just as Israel made the Lord = Yahweh jealous by sacrificing to "no god" demons, so the Corinthians, by attendance at pagan feasts, are sharing in what is demonic and thus making jealous their Lord = Christ, in whose death and resurrection they participate when they eat and drink at his table' (133).

The next section attends to Kurios Jesus in terms of divine prerogatives. This involves analysis of 'grace' language in 1:3 and 16:23, noting the interchange between God and Lord on this issue (134-35). He also notes the adoption of a Yahweh phrase from the OT, namely 'the day of the Lord' in 1:8, language which Paul now attributes to Christ. 1:10 and 5:3-4 uses the 'In the name of the Lord' formula.

'The point, of course, is that he uses "the name of o kurios", which in the Septuagint is the Divine Name for Yahweh. Here "the name of the Lord" has been transferred altogether to Christ' (135).

In relation to 5:4: 'What is significant christologically is that a judgment pronounced in the Lord's name belongs uniquely to Yahweh, the God of Israel; for Paul, it belongs equally to Christ Jesus' (135). 1:1, 17 and the sent/commissioned by Christ language is fruitfully read in terms of Isa 6:8, and 'the Lord of glory' in 2:8 reflects, Fee maintains, OT themes, such as the king of Glory in Ps 24. Included in this section is analysis of such language in 1 Cor as 'the Lord has Given/Assigned (3:5; 7:17; 12:4), the Lord judges (4:4-5; 11:32), 'if the Lord wills/permits' (4:19; 16:7), 'the power of the Lord Jesus' in 5:4, striving to please the Lord in 7:32, the 'command of the Lord' in 7:10, 12, 25; 9:14 and14:36-37 and the being under Christ's law in 9:21. With Fee's examination of this passage:

'[W]e come to the end of Paul's attribution to Christ as kurios a large number of exact phrases or otherwise divine prerogatives that in the OT belong to God alone, not to angles or to human beings. Although several, or any one, of them might seem incidental and relatively unimportant, their cumulative affect is considerable'. (142, my italics).

Before finishing this extensive chapter, Fee addresses certain texts in 1 Cor that imply subordination. He asserts:

'Finally, we need to examine carefully the two other texts in this letter [besides 15:28 examine elsewhere] that specifically suggest the Son to be in a subordinate relationship to the Father: 1 Cor 3:23; 11:3. And one must be especially careful here because the issue of "being" is simply not part of Paul's epistolary discourse; his concern is always with the role or function of the Son in the divine plan of redemption' (142 italics mine).

In relation to 3:23 ('Christ is of God') he argues that 'such statements as these reflect functional subordination and have to do with Christ's function as Savior, not with his being as such' (142). Further: 'God is the source and goal of everything, both creation and redemption, while Christ is the divine agent of creation and redemption. In this sense, "Christ is of God"' (143). In relation to 11:3 and God as the 'head' of Christ, he denies a subordination/submission relationship between husband and wife in this context, and argues that '[a]lthough one cannot be certain here, most likely it was a useful metaphor to express something of a chronology of "salvation history" (147).

In conclusion to this important chapter, Fee makes five points that he believes his exegesis has demonstrated: 1) The important christological themes found in this letter are as follows: 'the exalted Christ as messianic King and Son; Christ as "the Lord" of ever so many Septuagint texts where "the Lord" is Yahweh; Christ's sharing with the Father a great many divine prerogatives' (147). 2) He has found clear christological pre-existence statements. 3) 1 Cor affirms a divine economy, not ontological, subordination of the Son to the Father. 4) Christ's humanity is clearly affirmed. 5) These points are never a point of argumentation in Paul, as such, but assumed. Finally, and 6):

'the most challenging matter of all remains: the danger of analysis without adequate appreciation for the absolute centrality of Christ for Paul, an analysis of what Paul believed about Christ by way of what he says about his Lord that fails to comprehend and communicate his utter and total devotion to Christ—a devotion that a good Jew could give only to his God ... And at the end of the day, however one handles the language of Paul's express statements about Christ, there is no genuine Christology that does not account for Paul's utter devotion to and longing for Christ, which finds expression here and in all of his letters' (148).

In the following posts we turn to Fee's synthesis section.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

The Review of Fee’s Pauline Christology

My review of Gordon D. Fee's Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Study (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson, 2007)

I'll update this post with the appropriate links each time.

Part 1: Fee's introduction

The analysis section (longer posts)

Part 2: Fee's analysis of Christology in 1 Thess

Part 3: Fee's analysis of Christology in 1 Cor (A)

Part 4: Fee's analysis of Christology in 1 Cor (B)

The synthesis section (shorter posts)

Part 5: Fee's Chapter 11: 'Christ, the divine Savior'

Part 6: Fee's Chapter 12: 'Christ: preexistent and incarnate Savior'

Part 7: Fee's Chapter 13: 'Jesus as second Adam'

Part 8: Fee's Chapter 14: 'Jesus: Jewish Messiah and Son of God'

Part 9: Fee's Chapter 15: 'Jesus: Jewish Messiah and exalted Lord'

Part 10: Fee's Finally, Chapter 16: 'Christ and the Spirit: Paul as a proto-Trinitarian'

Part 11: An assessment (sort of)

Or click here to see them all on one page.

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Book Review: Fee’s Pauline Christology Part 3

Christology in 1 Corinthians

In his introduction to this, the largest of his chapters in part 1, Fee, albeit tentatively, suggests that 1 Corinthians evidences 'an early crisis in Christology' (84). To pursue this case he notes the following: In 8:1-11:1 'Paul's initial response to [the problems in Corinth in relation to food sacrificed to idols] ... is to broaden their understanding of the "one God" so as to include the "one Lord", whose death for the person with the "weak conscience" is being brushed aside' (84-84). Much will hang on his understanding of 1 Cor 8-11:1 as shall be seen. Second, in relation to the Lord's Supper he notes that 'the failures and differences within the community are reflected in their dishonoring Christ himself at the meal in his honour' (cf. 11:20) (85). He then notes 16:22, the anathema and the Maranatha.

Before he turns to his main examination of specific texts, he somewhat out of the blue writes: 'Indeed, it is Paul's utter devotion to Christ that must catch our attention, since it is the devotion that a devout Jew could give only to his God' (86). Finally turning to the texts in more depth he first examines material under the heading: 'Christ: Preexistent Lord and Agent of Creation'. Importantly he claims: 'The proper starting point for examining the Christology of this letter is 1 Cor 8:6, which could well serve as the starting point for any discussion of Pauline Christology' (88).

To allow Fee to summarise his own course of argumentation in this chapter, from here the data to be examined are grouped under three heads:

'(1) texts that pick up on the theme of Christ's preexistence; (2) texts that reflect a "Son of God" Christology with roots in Jewish messianism; (3) texts that reflect the kurios Christology that dominates the Thessalonian correspondence. At the same time, we will look at the issue of Wisdom Christology, Adam Christology, and Spirit Christology as these are argued from various texts ... We will conclude by examining two miscellaneous texts (3:23; 11:3) that do not easily fit these three major categories' (94).

Christ as pre-existent with Israel. Naturally Fee examines the import of 10:4 and notes: 'It is precisely the presence of Christ in Israel's story that will make all of this [argument] work as a warning to the Corinthians' (94). Furthermore, he rather convincingly provides reason that 10:4 is not about pre-existent Wisdom at all (96-7). There is a great discussion on the textual variant in relation to 10:9, and the Christ/Lord matter. Arguing that 'Christ' is the original, he concludes:

'Paul has no qualms in pointing out that the "Lord" whom they are putting to the test is the same Christ whom Israel tested in the desert and that the Israelites were overthrown because of it. It is the presuppositional nature of this assertion that is so striking, since Christ's preexistence is what makes such an argument possible at all' (98).

Second, Jesus as Messianic/Eternal Son of God. Fee wants to show that 'the Son's role as the Jewish Messiah, Israel's hoped-for eschatological king' is evident in 1 Cor to a great extent. I.e. Christ is not just the 'eternal Son of the Father' (cf. 99). To make this claim he examines numerous texts. In light of 1 Cor 1:13-2:16, Fee argues that vv. 18-25 are such that Christ should best be translated as Messiah.

This leads to an excurses on the Crucified Messiah and Jewish Wisdom in which he torpedoes the idea of Wisdom Christology on p. 102-6. In relation to 1 Cor 1:30 and 2:7 Fee similarly waxes against the influence of 'Wisdom Christology'. With all of this Fee is asserting that such texts do not lend to Wisdom Christology, but rather to a messianic understanding of Paul's use 'Christ'. Such messianic overtones Fee finds in a lengthy examination of 1 Cor 15:23-28. Naturally Fee is obliged to address the apparently subordinationist Christology in vv. 27-28. Fee responds:

'Although it could easily be argued that this implies some form of "eternal subordination" of the Son to the Father, it is unlikely that Paul is thinking in terms of Christ's person here, but rather of his role in salvation history' (113).

In the next subsection, Fee addresses the meaning of Jesus as Second Adam in 1 Cor. He essentially battles a Spirit-Christology, the amalgamation of Spirit with Christ in 1 Cor, and affirms the notion of Christ as the image of God.

However, Paul's primary way of speaking of Christ in 1 Cor is with the title kurios. The next, and substantial, section examines Paul's understanding of Jesus as kurios in numerous passages in 1 Cor. First, he asserts that 1 Cor 16:22 is 'one of the most significant uses of this title in the entire corpus' (120). Accepting the covenantal context of the verse (120 n. 93) he writes:

'It is therefore of more passing interest that both of the contrasting uses of anathema in this letter focuses on a possible attitude toward the lordship of Christian this early Christian community. And thus in each case Paul both asserts that lordship and urges love for the Lord as absolutely basic to Christian existence. This carries its own christological weight. Elsewhere Paul can speak of "loving God"...; only here does he speak of loving Christ. The fact that Paul can make such an interchange is in itself a noteworthy christological moment' (121)

Turning to 1 Cor 5:6-8; 10:16-17; and 11:17-34 – the Eucharist meal texts – Fee notes that 'meals in honor of a deity were part of the entire ancient Near Eastern world, including Israel' (122). He adds:

'What seems certain, the, on the basis of the passing reference in 5:7, is that Paul and the early church understood this meal as a replacement of the Passover meal, so that Christ the Lord has assumed the role of honoree that in Judaism had for centuries belonged to Yahweh alone and that in surrounding cultures belonged to the various "gods" and "lords" of the pagan cults' (123).

Fee then notes, in relation to 1 Cor 12:3, the significance of confessing the name of the Lord by the Spirit: 'The devotion that was once the special province of Yahweh alone is now to be directed toward Christ himself: the Lord is Jesus' (124). Hence 'this confession presupposes not just Paul's high Christology but that of the entire early church' (124).

Further, in 1 Cor 12:4-6 Fee widens his perspective onto what he calls 'the Divine Triad':

'Paul simultaneously includes the Spirit and the Lord within the divine identity, while placing their work within the larger context of God the Father. Our present concern is to point out the considerable christological implications of such a text. In this letter in particular, where Christ's preexistence is explicitly put forth as presuppositional to our present understanding of God (8:6), this passage assumes this reality, just as it does of the Spirit ... A high Christology is simply presupposed in such texts' (125)

Finishing this section on Jesus as kurios, Fee examines 1 Cor 9:1 and Paul's encounter with the risen Lord. He concludes that the words 'Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?' 'serves for us as the primary key to our understanding Paul's passion for the gospel and his utter devotion to Christ' (127).

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Book Review: Fee’s Pauline Christology Part 2

The second part of my review of Gordon D. Fee's Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Study (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson, 2007).

Part 1: Fee's Analysis

After the introduction the book is divided into two main parts. The first is an exegetical analysis of the Christology of the various Pauline letters. This study works through the letters in chronological arrangement and includes all of the canonically Pauline letters, namely also the disputed 2 Thessalonians, Colossians, Ephesians, and even the Pastoral Epistles. The order of Fee's study is as follows: 1 Thess, 2 Thess, 1 Cor, 2 Cor, Gal, Rom, Col (and Phil), Eph, Phil, 1 Tim, Titus and 2 Tim. Given that Fee's study in this section is rather repetitive, to obtain a flavour of the sort of analysis Fee pursues it will only be necessary to overview in more depth a couple of these chapter. Below is an overview of his treatment of Christology in 1 Thess and the next post looks at his analysis of 1 Corinthians, the former as he there sets forth his programme and the latter as it is the most extensive of the chapters in this section.

Fee's analysis of Christology in 1 Thessalonians

In the introduction, Fee claims that:

'The Christology that presents itself in these letters is especially noteworthy, first of all because there is not a self-consciously christological moment in either of them. That is, there is no passage where Paul is deliberately trying to set forth a Christ as divine (or human, for that matter) or to explain the nature of his divinity' (32)

But, he continues, a 'remarkably high Christology ... [is] presupposed at every turn in the most off-handed of ways ... [including] statements that by their very nature would seem to put considerable pressure on ... monotheism' (33). To flesh these claims out, Fee examines first Jesus as messianic/eternal Son of God.

He argues that with the first mention of the title Son in the NT, 'the presuppositional beginning point for this title is Jewish messianism' (40). But there is also a double sense: the Son is reigning as Jewish Messiah, but also as the eternal Son. He asks: 'But would this double sense have been available to the Thessalonians? Most likely so' (40). Why? These Christians knew their bible. 'One may therefore also assume that they themselves had already been instructed in the (now) double sense of Jesus as Son of God' (41).

Turning to an analysis of Jesus as the kurios of Septuagint Yahweh Texts, Fee claims that the title was used presumably in deliberate contradistinction from Caesar as kurios, and notes that the title is never employed (apart from in certain citations from the LXX), to refer to God. God is Father or Qeos. He continues:

'This usage in 1 Thessalonians can be conveniently packaged under two headings: (1) the intertextual use of the Septuagint's kurios, where the Tetragammaton (YHWH) has been so translated but where the kurios of those texts now refers to Christ; (2) texts where Christ as kurios shares in the divine purpose and activities with God the Father, especially where prayer is freely offered to Christ as it would be to God the Father' (42).

These general comments are followed by examination of numerous passages: First, 1 Thess 3:13, which he examines in light of Zach 14:5: 'Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him'; 'And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints'. Fee concludes: 'the future coming of Yahweh is now to be understood as the future coming of "our Lord Jesus' (44). The LXX text is too similar to be an accident. He next examines 1 Thess 4:16 ('For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel's call and with the sound of God's trumpet, will descend from heaven') in light of Ps 46:6 (LXX): 'God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet'. Once again the significance of speaking of the Lord Jesus in light of the Lord Yahweh of the LXX text is noted.

This leads into a section that notes other kurios phrases and language in 1 Thess that echo Septuagint usage, namely: 'The word of the Lord', 'I charge you by the Lord' (1 Thess 5:27 and Gen 24:3), 'The day of the Lord' (1 Thess 5:2 and Joel 1:15, 2:1), 'The Lord as avenger' (1 Thess 4:6 [Fee powerfully contradicts those who challenge if Paul really means 'Christ' by this 'Lord' - 47 n. 50]; Ps 93:1 LXX), and 'the Lord our Hope' (1 Thess 1:3; Ps 31:24; 33:22).

Finally, Fee devotes a section to analyse the texts in 1 Thess in which he examines how God and the kurios share in divine purposes and activities. First, the Church exists in God and Christ (1 Thess 1:1), God and Christ being joined by the same preposition. Importantly, he notes: 'The church exists simultaneously in relationship to the heavenly pair' (49). Demonstrating the importance of Fee's understanding of the hermeneutical significance of Paul's thinking as it is expressed in 1 Cor 8:6, he argues that the designations 'God' and 'Lord' are to be understood in terms of the Shema. In an important section Fee examines Paul's understanding here of the Divine Presence at the Parousia:

'In the OT the divine Presence is closely associated with the divine Glory, as the interchange of these terms regarding tabernacle and temple makes certain. For Paul the final goal of everything is to be at last in the divine Presence, now shared equally by Father and Son' (51).

The final subsection examines the material in 1 Thess that demonstrates that Christ the Lord was invoked in prayer. This is clear from the Grace Benediction of 1 Thess 5:28 (which would be universally recognised as a prayer-benediction were only God involved - cf. 52), and the important passage, 1 Thess 3:11-13. He notes that Paul can pray to both God, then the Lord.

'Here is a strict monotheist praying with ease to both the Father and the Son, focusing first on the one and then the other, and without a sense that his monotheism is being stretched or is in some kind of danger' (54).

In conclusion, Fee notes that clear distinctions have always been kept, in 1 Thess, between God and Lord Jesus. However, and second, and citing Fee at more length:

'[P]recisely because Christ as the messianic Son of God is also seen as the present reigning Lord in heaven, Paul can speak of either God or Christ in ways that reflect their shared purposes and activities. At the same time, however, he feels quite free to pray to both together or to one or the other, depending on the perceived need and situation. And Paul can do this as a thoroughly monotheistic Jew, for whom the living and true God is the one and only God over all pagan idolatries ... it requires us to expand our own understanding of the identity of the one God, which can embrace both Father and Son while still being only one God' (77-78).

Fee thus speaks here of a 'christological modification of this monotheism', stating that '[t]he one God has a Son who, as the exalted Lord, shares the divine identity and the divine prerogatives' (78).

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Book review: Fee’s Pauline Christology Pt 1.

A review of Gordon D. Fee's Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Study (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson, 2007)

(My sincere thanks to the kind folk at Hendrickson for a review copy)

Believe it or not, this impressive volume is the first serious scholarly attempt to grapple with Pauline Christology and so fills something of a surprising void in scholarship. It is thus a delight to review this major event in Pauline scholarship on my blog.

Fee's introduction

His important introduction sets forth his program, and will thus here be overviewed with necessary detail. He first defines his understanding of a study of Christology as a study of the person, not the work, of Christ. While he admits that Paul didn't divide matters like this, he insists that the approach that has sought to bridge the two, narrative Christology, fails to deal with Paul's christological presuppositions. He notes his appreciation of this approach in that his study will not be dominated by titles but still wants to 'look at Christology on its own right and not to have it overladen with soteriology' (2 n. 2). Noting further difficulties with his approach, he asserts that: 'Our christological task is to try to tease out what Paul himself understood presuppositionally about Christ, and to do so on the basis of his explicit and incidental references to Christ' (3-4). He further notes that 'we are seldom reading Paul's argued Christology, but rather his assumed Christology' (4). 'Our best hope for getting it right, as it were, is to focus on those kinds of statements that are repeated throughout the corpus in a variety of ways' (4). Hence, Fee wants his study to be primarily exegetical, as a narrative Christology can overlook what does not fit the prior construction of the narrative. But this is not simply another study of so-called christological titles; he also wants to respect 'the grammar of the theological discourse' as L. Keck has urged (5). This leads to his definition of Christology: 'So Christology in this study has to do with Paul's understanding of the person of Christ, as it emerges in his letters both in explicit statements about Christ and in other statements full of shared assumptions between him and his readers' (5). By Paul here, he means the canonical Paul. This usage of all of the canonical 'Pauline' letters will safeguard, he argues, from the circular reasoning involved in authenticity claims.

However, Fee is also clear about the problems involved in a study of Pauline Christology, namely the theological difficulty of asserting a high-Christology in light of Paul's monotheism. Particularly noteworthy, in this context, is his following claim:

'[T]he attempt to extract Christology from Paul's letters apart from soteriology is like asking a devout Jew of Paul's era to talk about God in the abstract, without mentioning his mighty deeds of creation and redemption. Although one theoretically may theologize on the character and "person" of God on the basis of the revelation to Moses on Sinai ..., a Jewish person of Paul's era would hardly imagine doing so. What can be known and said about God is embedded in the story in such a way that God's person can never be abstracted out of the story' (8).

Furthermore, whatever else can be said in Paul one cannot so easily separate his Christology from his theology. Christology is, in other words, a focused theological concern (9). He concludes his approach:

'At issue in this book is the singular concern to investigate the Pauline data regarding the person of Christ in terms of whom Paul understood him to be and how he viewed the relationship between Christ, as the Son of God, and the one God, as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ' (8).

Rather surprisingly he continues to define a 'high' and a 'low' Christology entirely in terms of the question of pre-existence (9). In light of this he continues:

The first concern is to offer a close examination of the texts in the Pauline corpus that mention Christ ... Here the evidence seems conclusive that Paul belongs on the "high Christology" end of the spectrum.' (10)

It becomes clear that the question of pre-existence is one that will occupy much of Fee's analysis. Following this, Fee proceeds to detail what questions have busied scholars in the last century, namely the question of origins (Kramer, Bousset), titles (Cullmann), Wisdom Christology (Hengel), pre-existence (Dunn), conversion experience and Wisdom (Kim), and the divine identity and worship of Christ (Bauckham and Hurtado). Fee stated that he particularly wants to 'follow in the train' of Hurtado and Bauckham (15).

Fee then notes what he considers to be the basic matters of Pauline Christology. To do this he overviews the significance of three texts, 1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:15-17 and Phil 2:6-11 and asserts that 'these three primary christological texts have embedded in them all the key elements of that Christology' (20).

He completes this extensive introduction by analysing his claim that Paul knew and used the Septuagint in his letters, a matter of considerable importance as Fee hangs much of his christological claims on the kurios = Adonai = Yahweh logic in Paul's use of the Greek translation of Israel's scriptures. He asserts: 'Paul and his churches show evidence that a text very much like the Septuagint was in use in the Jewish Diaspora' (21 n. 48). Would Paul's readers have been aware of this usage? If Luke-Acts is anything to go by, one would surely expect familiarity with the Jewish scriptures amongst the Gentile Christian populace.

All of this sets the groundwork for his exegetical section. The final section is a synthesis of themes uncovered in the exegetical section.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Fee’s change of mind

I posted twice concerning Fatehi's christological reading of 2 Cor 3:16-18 and forgot to mention my source! Fatehi's work to which I referred is his utterly brilliant WUNT monograph, The Spirit's Relation to the Risen Lord in Paul (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000). This will probably sound like an exaggeration, but I honestly think it is one of the most important and smoothly argued monographs relating to Pauline Christology to have been written in modern times. In this post I briefly detail why Fee has changed his mind on the 2 Cor 3:16-18 matter:

While Fee's earlier publications maintained, together with the then emerging scholarly consensus, that the kurios should not be understood as christological, in his recent (2007) and brilliant work on Pauline Christology Fee has to an extent retracted his earlier exegesis in favour of a greater appreciation of the christological reading. Why? While still asserting the Pauline rabbinic interpretation of 3:16 in 3:17, and while still maintaining the estin is an exegetical significant, Fee nevertheless appears to allow for multiple references of the kurios in these verses. '"The Lord" in the Exodus passage refers to the work of the Spirit ... And the Spirit, of course, is "the Spirit of the Lord" = Christ' (178). In other words, Paul reworks the LXX text 'to make it refer simultaneously to the work of the Spirit and Christ' (177). Important for Fee is the identity of the Lord in the phrase 'the Spirit of the Lord' in 3:17. While in his previous work he argued the Lord was 'the Father', he rejects this reading, independent of Fatehi, because of three factors. '(1) Paul regularly appropriates the Septuagint's kurios = Yahweh as referring to Christ; (2) Paul consistently uses kurios in all other passages to refer to Christ; and (3) in concluding the present argument, Paul ... explicitly says that he preaches ... "Jesus Christ as Lord"' (179).

Personally, I find Fatehi's arguments a good deal more persuasive and important, but it is still good to know that Fee is on one's own side!

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Fatehi and Christology in 2 Cor 3:16-18 Part 2 of 2

See the first part here, in which I summarised Fatehi's argument for a christological reading of 2 Cor 3:16-18 based upon contextual issues. This post summarises the second and final phase of his argument.

(B) First, 'from a discourse point of view, it seems that from 14b onwards Paul has already begun to apply his text to the contemporary situation of the Jews' (296). In other words, 3:16 is not a citation from Exodus which is then exegetically explained in 3:17. It is 'already an applied text ... in which case kurios could hardly be taken as an undefined term to be explained by Paul in 17a' (297 – and he notes that the examples Belleville uses are different from 3:16-17 as the boundaries between text and interpretation in those she cites are relatively intact. Not so with Paul here.) This means that in 3:17 Paul is explaining 'not the "kurois" of a cited text ..., but the kurios to whom the Israelites turn according to his application of the text in v. 16' (297-98). The anaphoric function of the article in 3:17 is thus more general than those who reject a christological reading would allow.

Second, Fatehi pursues an analysis of the significance of the repeated particle de, something that accords well with the more general understanding of the anaphoric article. In sum, 'there is no reason to take 2 Corinthians 3:17a as Paul's exegetical comments in a word from a cited text. What Paul does in 17a is basically the same as what he does in 17b ... i.e. [he is] developing his argument by building upon what he has said in his previous statement' (299). o` de. ku,rioj is simply not a comment on a cited text, and the two other instances often cited in favour of Belleville's argument (Gal 4:21-30; 1 Cor 10:4) rather affirm, Fatehi argues, the developmental de marker usage.

Thirdly, Fatehi buries the often-cited argument that the estin is an exegetical significant in 3:17a. In other words, the supposed citation and exegetical comment procedure of 3:16-17 that is maintained to deny a christological reading simply cannot carry the day, and the contextual features outlined by Fatehi (see the previous post) are decisive.

Note: Many argue that Paul identifies Christ with the 'glory' and image of the Lord in 3:18, but not with the Lord himself (the early Fee, Thrall etc.). However, Fatehi argues that this distinction is too subtle that Paul could expect his readers to pick up on it. Furthermore, Paul speaks of the glory of Christ in 4:4 which is itself evidence that 'glory' and 'image' were not clearly isolated entities separate from the Lord, at least not within this argument.

Fatehi has made a strong case for the christological reading of 2 Cor 3:16-18, raising serious objections against the modern case for a non-christological interpretation. At present I happen to think he is correct and have gathered a number of arguments in favour of Fatehi's position, which I may share here at some stage if anyone is interested!

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Christology and Jehovah Witnesses

Two Jehovah Witnesses knocked on my door yesterday and we spent an hour in heated debate. I wanted to focus on what I consider to be the most problematic element of their teaching, their unorthodox Christology. I argued that the NT has elements of both a subordinationist and a divine Christology, that the Watchtower only accepts the subordinationist and then applies a logical-wringer across the scriptures to suppress the divine and maintain a one sided view. When I got the usual speech of Jesus' subordination to the Father but I simply replied with an 'amen'! However, and lining themselves up for real trouble, they maintained that Jesus was never worshiped or prayed to in the NT, as part of their suppression strategy. I pointed out, among other passages, Stephen's prayer to Jesus as he was stoned ('While they were stoning Stephen, he called upon and prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit"' Acts 7:59), the worship of the Lamb on the throne in Rev ('"To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!" The four living creatures said, "Amen", and the elders fell down and worshipped' Rev 5:13-14), the Maranatha of 1 Cor 16:22 etc., and time and time again I sought to show how they immediately attempted to apply this logical wringer to suppress the obvious. For Stephen, for example, the talkative one suggested that this is no different than if he were drowning and called out to me for help, no different than talking to me in this room. 'But Jesus is in heaven' I cried! 'If I were in heaven and you called to me for help or talked to me then that would be prayer too'!

But it all, of course, fell on deaf ears which was a lesson in itself. I find it hard to resist speaking about Jesus and Christology with those who want to, but with those such as JWs, and other such sects along with many Fundamentalists, there is simply no exchange or dialogue. I said to them as they left - they asked if we wanted to meet again - that I honestly want to convert them to orthodox Christian faith, so I leave it up to them. Please do pray for these two and that my (sometimes blunt) words may have good effect.

Theoretically I think we should be willing and ready to speak to all about our faith, but I have quite a bit of experience with JWs and the discussions, while they may have sown the odd seed of doubt in their hearts, didn't do much more than that. Is it a waste of time? Next time they come should I send them off? What do you do?

(Artwork: http://www.cartoonstock.com/lowres/amc0023l.jpg)


Friday, April 13, 2007

Fatehi and Christology in 2 Cor 3:16-18 Part 1 of 2

I noted in a previous post my christological understanding of 2 Cor 3:16-18 and was delighted to receive some immediate feedback from a few readers, especially Sean here. However, I am well aware that my own perspective runs against the tide of most modern commentators. To be sure, it is only in the last 20 years or so that this consensus has developed and for most of the twentieth century the scholarly world identified the kurios of 3:16 as Christ. However, this was often maintained in service of a wider scheme which sought to identify Christ and the spirit in Paul in such a way as to undermine trinitarian presuppositions in Paul (Hermann) and to have the apostle fit into a developmental scheme of Christology especially as it related to Religionsgeschichtliche Schule assumptions (Deismann, Gunkel, Bousset).

The modern consensus, which has insisted that the kurios in 3:16 is not christological at all, must be seen against this background to which it reacted. It has been maintained by arguing that 1) 3:16 is a loose citation from the Exod 34 narrative, and as such is referring to YHWH, that 2) 3:17 is thus an interpretive comment on the 'Lord' of the previous verse such that Paul reads the Lord pneumatologically (e.g. Belleville, Turner, Fee, Thrall, Harris etc.)

However, the older view need not be identified with the concerns of the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule and a more nuanced understanding of the identity between Spirit and risen Lord in Paul is provided by Mehrdad Fatehi. This is important as there are good reasons to accept the older consensus. In this post and the next I summarise Fatehi's argument for a christological reading of 2 Cor 3:16-18. I happen to think that he is totally on the money and that his argument can even be strengthened.

His case is twofold, relating to both (A) the contextual matters and (B) the alleged exegetical comment of 3:17 on 3:16.

(A) He notes the contextual evidence in 3:3 that makes it clear that 'it is Christ who is the new covenant counterpart of the Yahweh of the Old Testament' (290). In other words, the Lord in 3:16 cannot simply be understood as YHWH because it is based on a Pentateuchal text. Furthermore, a broader analysis of the logic of the entire passage, especially as it relates to the meaning of the telos as not 'end' but 'goal' or 'purpose', leads Fatehi to suggest that:

'[I]t seems to make good sense to take "the Lord" whose glory the Christians behold with unveiled face to be the same telos who was hidden from the Israelites by the veil. And it seems that this is to a great extent what Paul actually affirm in 4:3f. What is veiled from the unbelievers in the latter passage is the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God. This implies that what the believers behold with unveiled face is the glory of the same Lord' (292). Ergo, the reasoning would appear to suggest, the Lord of 3:16 is christological'.

After establishing that 3:14 is best read as 'The same veil remains; unlifted, because it is in Christ it is abolished', Fatehi asserts that the subject of katargeitai (abolished) would 'most probably be the veil rather that the old covenant' (293). Hence, '[i]n the context, from v. 13 down to v. 18, the problem which is under focus in the discourse is the veil rather than the old covenant itself' (293). However, if this is so, 'Paul has clearly expressed, just two verses before v. 16, the turning point in the situation of the Jews and the removal of the veil with reference to Christ [evn Cristw/ katargei/tai]' (294 italics mine). This link between 3:16 and 3:14 is made all the plausible given that 3:15 and 3:16 are simply further elaborations on 3:14.

Finally, he strongly maintains that 4:1-6 is more consistent with a christological interpretation of 3:16-18. First, in 4:4 it is the gospel of the glory of Christ that is veiled from unbelievers. Second, 3:18 speaks of 'being transformed into the same image' as the glory of the Lord that is beheld. In 4:4 the image is defined as Christ. Third, Fatehi notes that the gospel preached by Paul is that 'Jesus Christ is Lord' (4:5). This means that 'the two motifs of Christ's glory and his status as Lord are clearly associated in Paul's mind when writing this passage' (294).

These contextual arguments lead Fatehi to argue that a reading of kurios in 3:17 that is not as he maintains must make its case in such a way that makes a christological reading 'in no way compatible with taking kurios to stand for the risen Lord'. Only then would a christological reading be overturned. This has been done, as noted above, by asserting that 3:17 is an exegetical comment on the loose citation from Exod 34:34 in 3:16. But this argument simply doesn't manage to overwhelm the christological implications of the context. To support this claim he makes three points to which I turn in the next post.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Christology in 2 Cor 3:16-18?

A standing debate with my supervisor, Max Turner, concerns 2 Cor 3:16-18. I understand the repeated kurios christologically, he doesn’t (nor does his other research student, and my friend, Volker Rabens). Now Max ‘has-probably-forgotten-more-than-I-have-ever-remembered’ Turner is certainly not the person I want to cross exegetical swords with but I am at least encouraged that my second supervisor (and ex-research student of Max) Mehrdad Fatehi (and author of my favourite WUNT title ever), has published an excellent case for the older christological consensus view against the modern emerging consensus which reads 3:17 as an exegetical comment on a loose citation from Exodus in 3:16.

However, reading Fee’s new work, Pauline Christology, I stumbled upon an encouraging piece of information. Fee, along with Max, was one of the major scholars to support the ‘emerging consensus’ that denied a christological reading of these verses in 2 Cor 3. Turning to his work on 2 Cor 3:16-18 I was thrilled to discover that Fee has now changed his mind! Yes, Max, Volker, its sackcloth and ashes time! Repent and see the light! The ‘Lord’ of 2 Cor 3:16-18, so says Fee, has a christological referent! (I always knew I was right, but some people have to learn the hard way I guess)

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Review of How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God?

The following review will shortly appear in the journal Theology. Given that I only had 500 words, I did not try to present my own critique of Hurtado’s main arguments. I am writing a doctorate to do that.

You can purchase this helpful and readable book from the Eerdmans webpage here.

How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God?: Historical Questions about Earliest Devotion to Jesus by Larry W. Hurtado (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2005. 234 pages, pbk. £10.99/ $20.00)

When it comes to the question of early Christology and how Jesus came to be treated as divine, Hurtado is one of, if not the, world’s leading scholar. This book, based upon his 2004 Deichmann lectures (chapters one through four, titled ‘Issues and Approaches’) and earlier journal publications (chapters five through eight, titled ‘Definitions and Defense’), is offered as a compact presentation, for the general reader, of the issues involved.

The deliberately provocative title indicates that Hurtado is addressing the historical reasons that account for how Jesus came to be treated as divine. He doesn’t mean to imply that a historical study of these questions negates matters of theological truth, he is simply engaging with the issues as a historian. His own angle of approach into this field has focused upon early Christian devotion to Jesus, one which places his own thesis in a unique place on the map of modern scholarship in relation to early Christology (chapter one). For Hurtado, numerous early Christian practices indicate that Jesus was treated as divine, not next to the one God of Israel, or in such a way as to replace this God, but rather precisely as an expression of the will of God (chapter two). Indeed, it was this very devotion that strengthened and sustained the early Christians through all manner of persecution (chapter three). Hurtado then analyses the important passage, Philippians 2:6-11, and argues that the original context for this material was to defend devotion to Christ ‘for those whose religious outlook and world of reference were shaped by Jewish biblical traditions’ (chapter four, p. 106).

However, does such Christ-devotion imply that the early Christians couldn’t have been monotheists, as some have suggested? In response, Hurtado argues that it is the self-confessing monotheistic literature of Greco-Roman Jewish religion, inductively read, which should answer this question. One should not seek to impose a later definition of monotheism back on to the texts (chapter five). And did this homage of Jesus exist in Jesus’ own lifetime? Something like it did, Hurtado argues, but it was considerably developed in the early Church (chapter six). Some scholars have criticised Hurtado’s thesis for suggesting that the evidence for Christ-devotion really amounts to treating Jesus as divine, for this would have prompted serious opposition from fellow Jews for which there is no evidence. Hurtado responds by simply maintaining that such opposition did indeed exist (chapter seven). However, if Hurtado’s arguments thus far are correct, how can one account for the early development of full blown Christ-devotion? Hurtado points to the significance of early Christian revelatory religious experiences (chapter eight). Finally, two appendices are included which relate to the original lecture series and the university of Ben-Gurion.

This volume is a crisp and lucid overview of many of the important issues relating to early devotion to Jesus and the implications of this for Christology. Highly recommended.

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