Christ in St. Paul’s Epistles

The Christology presented in the letters of St. Paul is particularly important to an understanding of the viewpoint of the New Testament as a whole, in that St. Paul’s epistles are the earliest documents, the first written, that discuss who Christ is.  Though obviously these letters were written after the events described in the gospels and, in most cases, the events described in the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul’s written exhortations to the nascent Christian communities which he had established precede the setting down of the gospel accounts in writing.  If there was indeed some sort of ‘development’ of the understanding or the idea of Christ, from a ‘lower’ to a ‘higher’ Christology, one would expect to find in…

Christ in the Gospels

Several weeks ago, a series of articles discussed how Christ can be seen, and was understood within Second Temple Judaism in the Old Testament.  A companion series discussing how Christ is seen in the New Testament may seem counter-intuitive due to its apparently obvious nature.  This is particularly true of Christ in the gospels, which are quite obviously entirely about our Lord Jesus Christ.  However, the core of that previous series was developing the way in which Second Temple Judaism had come, through careful attention to the text of the Hebrew Bible, to see God as a godhead of two or more persons even before the incarnation of Christ.  This then provided those to whom Christ came with the means…

Shepherds of Israel

There is a common misunderstanding of the origins of clerical orders within the Church.  It is argued that the Christians of the apostolic era, including the apostles themselves, believed that Christ would certainly return within their own lifetime.  It is only when that clearly did not occur, when the apostles, or at least most of them, had died, that the concept of the church came into being, as well as varied understandings, which evolved over time, as to how the newly constituted church ought be governed.  It is thought that these structures were deeply influenced by the prevailing culture at the time, most especially Roman culture, as the church, by this time, was primarily Gentile.  This narrative has been put…

Being and Doing: On Rebellion

The relationship between the truths of the Christian faith, and the Christian way of life, has fallen into great disrepair in modern times.  At its core, the Protestant Reformation was focused on this relationship.  In the contemporary world, our idea of faith itself has become anemic.  One is a Christian if they believe that certain propositions are true.  This reduces the last judgment to a true/false test, in which correct answers gain one eternal life.  This misunderstanding then generates a whole series of debates regarding exactly which propositions, and how many, are absolutely required for salvation, or to be a Christian, and which ones and how many can be held in disagreement.  In those areas where it has been decided…

Man as the Image of God in Reverse

That human persons are created in the image of God is explicit from the first pages of the scriptures (Gen 1:27).  As a concept, removed from its particular purpose in the Genesis narrative, this fact has become the subject of a seemingly endless series of speculations as to exactly what this means.  In contemporary theology, this most often takes the form of seeking to identify ‘the image of God’ in man with some characteristic or characteristics of human person.  So it is proposed that rationality, or language, or freedom, for example, are the substantial meaning of God’s image.  All of these speculations, and this approach as a whole, have severe difficulties.  On one hand, as we advance in our knowledge…

The Spirit of God in the Old Testament

This week serves as a sort of epilogue to the recent series on Christ in the Old Testament.  These previous posts discussed the reality that Second Temple Judaism, through a close reading of the Hebrew scriptures, had developed the idea that there is a second hypostasis of Yahweh, the God of Israel.  The terminology for this within the Jewish world was to speak of the ‘Two Powers in Heaven’.  The identity and origin of this second hypostasis was the subject of much debate and conjecture in Jewish literature.  The New Testament authors clearly identify the second person of the Godhead as Jesus Christ, incarnate in their day.  In response to this core argument of the Christian proclamation, the Jewish community…

God’s Body

One feature of the Orthodox Jewish synagogue service is the hymn sung near its dismissal which repeatedly affirms that ‘God does not have a body’.  This particular hymn was added in the fourth or fifth century as a direct response to, and rejection of, Christianity.  On the surface, far removed as we are from the issues in the early debate between the nascent Christian and Rabbinical Jewish communities, we might assume that this is aimed at a rejection of the Christian doctrine of the incarnation.  In reality, however, the primary field of debate in that era was over the correct interpretation of the Hebrew scriptures which would become the Christian Old Testament.  The repeated reaffirmation that the Jewish believer ought…

The Son of Man

The title ‘Son of Man’ is best known by most readers of the scriptures as the title which Christ most often applies to himself in all four of the Gospels, a rare thread running through all four with utter consistency.  In fact, other than references to the Old Testament and a single instance in the Acts of the Apostles, this title occurs in the New Testament only as a form of self-reference by Christ.  When Christ uses this term, however, he is drawing on an Old Testament tradition which was already by that time well-defined.  Further, from this Old Testament tradition, the idea of a particular divine figure had formed within Second Temple Judaism, and many of Christ’s references are…

God the Word

Famously, the prologue of the first chapter of St. John’s Gospel speaks of the Logos, who has existed eternally with God from the beginning, and is God.  It became extremely common to read these statements in the prologue philosophically.  To read them as an attempt by St. John to philosophically represent the deity of Jesus Christ in relationship to the God of Israel as a Jewish monotheist.  Philo of Alexandria’s mention, as a Jewish Middle Platonist, of the divine Logos as an emanation of the one true God is seen as either a parallel or a precursor by this view.  Others looked to the idea of the logos in Stoic philosophy.  This line of thought has so permeated patristic studies…

The Angel of the Lord

There is within the Christian world, even among Orthodox Christian writers and scholars, a certain presupposed narrative regarding the ‘development’ of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity within Christianity.  It is presupposed that the people of the Old Testament were Unitarian monotheists, that they believed that only one God existed, and that that God was a single person.  It is then presupposed that through his teaching and deeds, culminating in his resurrection and ascension into heaven, early Christians came to believe that Jesus is also divine in some sense.  The development of Christian belief over the next several centuries is then seen in evolutionary terms, in which early ‘low’ Christology in which Christ is seen to be divine, but not…