I had a great conversation recently with “Sam I am” on his podcast and video cast. It had to do with my book The Divine Christ: Paul, the Lord Jesus, and the Scriptures of Israel (Baker Academic, 2018), and other things. The book has been out a couple of years and is gaining ground. Sam did a wonderful job shepherding the show; and while we might find some areas over which we disagree, he was not disagreeable. If you are interested in Christology, please pass this along!
To hear and see the conversation on YouTube click here.
I found a podcast series which may interest you. Matt & Matt cohost this series which describes itself as “conversations on current biblical scholarship.” The reason I found it is because a friend, Chris Tilling, was a guest on their podcast recently to discuss a topic I have interest in: New Testament Divine Christology.
If you’ve followed this blog, you know I’ve highlighted Chris’ book Paul’s Divine Christology on a couple of occasions. Chris is on to an important and overlooked feature of early Christology.
In the podcast Matt & Matt do a good job in laying out the contours of where current Christological discussions have gone over the past 20-30 years. Chris is well-versed in “the state of the question.” If you’re interested in whether the earlies followers of Jesus regarded him as divine, then you will want to take some time and listen to Chris’ take on things.
Charles Gieschen, professor and dean at Concordia Theological Seminary (Indiana), has written what I regard to be a significant article. I’d like for people to know about it. It is in a refereed journal entitled Vigiliae Christianae 57 (2003): 115-158. The title of the article is “The Divine Name in Ante-Nicene Christology.” His thesis is this: many references or allusions to the “name” of Jesus in early Christianity should be understood as signifying that Jesus possesses the Divine Name, the holy, unspeakable name of Israel’s God (YHWH), often called the Tetragrammaton. The “name” of Jesus in these contexts does not refer to the name given to him on the eighth day by his parents. Gieschen spends a good deal of time in the New Testament but he also considers such extra-canonical texts as 1 Clement, the Ascension of Isaiah, the Odes of Solomon, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Gospel of Thomas, the Acts of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, among others.
Clearly, I think Charles is onto something. He cites favorably my own book Old Testament Yahweh Texts in Paul’s Christology, WUNT (Tubingen, 1992), that showed how Paul, the earliest Christian theologian, took Scriptural texts containing the Divine Name and applied them to Jesus. The name “Jesus” was a common name in its day, even if it is unusual in English-speaking circles. It is a transliteration through Greek, into Latin, into English of the Hebrew name “Joshua.” I’ve been to many a baseball game where players from Latin American countries were named “Jesus” (pronounced Hay-soos).
When Paul says that “at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus the Messiah is Lord . . .” (Phil 2:9-11), it seems clear that the Greek genitive should be rendered possessively “the name that belongs to Jesus.” And what name belongs to Jesus? Gieschen argues, and I think he is correct, the covenant name of God revealed to Moses at Sinai (YHWH).
Gieschen concludes his study asking why a Divine Name Christology fades in the next Christian centuries. He gives two reasons. First, as the Jesus movement became more and more Gentile, knowledge of the Divine Name is no longer determinative for how Christ followers assess his significance. This begins to happen even among Greek-speaking Christians who read Kyrios as the standard translation/ rendering of the Divine Name in Hebrew biblical texts. Knowledge of the Divine Name traditions began to fade. Second, it seems that heretical groups in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD are those who utilize and keep the Divine Name Christology in tact. The “orthodox,” in responding negatively to the “heretics,” set aside their teaching which associated Jesus so clearly with the Divine Name.
To cite one example:
“One single name is not uttered in the world, the name that the Father gave the Son, the name above all things: the name of the Father.” (Gospel of Philip II.54.5-8)
If Gieschen is correct, the heretics kept alive a neglected aspect of early Christology.
Chris Tilling’s important book Paul’s Divine Christology has been published in America by Eerdmans. I paid nearly $100 for it 2 years ago. Now you can get it on Amazon or through Eerdman’s for $25 or so. I recommend it highly if you have interest in how early Christians thought about and assessed the significance of Jesus. Here are excerpts from an earlier post that laid out the thesis of the book.
About 18 months ago I purchased a copy of Chris Tilling’s book Paul’s Divine Christology (WUNT 2.323; Tuebingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012). Because I was busy writing and traveling, I had not had a chance to do anything more than browse it. This summer I’ve had a chance to sit down with mechanical pencil and highlighter in hand.
Chris is part of a new generation of scholars interested in the historical development of early Christianity. Born in 1975, Chris studied at the University of St. Andrews and completed his PhD at the London School of Theology. Although I don’t know exactly where he is teaching now, he has served as a tutor in New Testament at St. Mellitus College in London.
I don’t intend to do a full review of the book here but simply to alert you to a book which I—and many others—regard as an important contribution to the field. I’ll engage him more fully in a new book I’m working on tentatively entitled An Early High Christology: Paul, Jesus, and the Scriptures of Israel. That one, God willing, will be published in 2017.
Paul’s Divine Christology is Tilling’s contribution to a debate which has been going on over the last 30 years regarding whether Paul’s Christology can properly be described as “divine,” in what sense, and how it came to be. Tilling answers the question in the affirmative: Paul’s Christology is indeed a divine Christology. Other scholars (Gordon Fee, Larry Hurtado, Richard Bauckham, and I) have been arguing a similar point. Assuming the work of others on this topic (Cullmann, Hengel, and Moule, for example), each of us has offered something unique to the discussion. Tilling does a good job in setting the table, working through the primary and secondary sources, and offering a new pattern of data which had been noticed (by C. F. D. Moule) but not fully described.
A phrase which carefully summarizes Tilling’s approach is this: “the Christ-relation is Paul’s divine-Christology expressed as relationship” (p. 3). For those who have dabbled in Paul you realize that Christ-relation language is significant so significant that some scholars regard the center of Paul’s theology to be “participation in Christ,” a shorthand way of describing the many ways in which the Christ-believers stand in relationship to and participate in the life of Christ. Christ’s relation to his people stands in direct continuity with YHWH’s relation to his people Israel. To put it another way, when Paul speaks about the relation between Christ-believers and the risen Jesus, he used the same language and themes found in second temple Jewish texts to speak of Israel’s relation to YHWH. Tilling consistently says the data forms a pattern which Paul himself would have recognized. In Tilling’s own words:
[I]t will be maintained that this pattern of Christ-relation language in Paul is only that which a Jew used to express the relation between Israel/the individual Jew and YHWH. No other figure of any kind, apart from YHWH, was related to in the same way, with the same pattern of language, not even the various exalted human and angelic intermediary figures in the literature of Second Temple Judaism that occasionally receive worship and are described in very exalted terms. (p. 73, italics original)
In brief, I think Tilling is on to something important which scholars have noticed but frankly neglected.
I wrote the article “Christology” for Oxford Bibliography On-line. When I revise the article—which I have been asked to do recently—I will be sure to include Tilling’s book. It is one of the most important books on Paul’s Christology written in the last few decades. If you’re interested in these matters, go out and buy your own copy of Tilling’s book. If that is not possible, borrow a copy from your local library. Even if the library does not have it, most will have some sort of interlibrary loan program.