I have been talking about some of the textual variants in the Gospel of Mark, and I want to discuss the very first one in the Gospel, whether Mark 1:1 calls Jesus the “Son of God” or not.  But to make sense of what I want to say about that matter, I need to provide some background that at first sight may not seem all that relevant.  But it’s highly relevant.  It has to do with how some early Christians understood Jesus not to be innately the Son of God, but the Son of God because God “adopted” him, the man Jesus, to be his son at some point of his life.  I’ve covered that issue before on the blog, and so this is a blast from the past:


For some posts now I have been talking about “docetic” Christologies in the early church – views of Christ that said he was so much divine that he was not really a human – and about how these influenced proto-orthodox scribes who changed their texts of scripture in order to show that, by contrast, Christ really was a flesh and blood human being.   I would now like to shift to the other end of the theological spectrum to discuss Christological views that insisted on the contrary that Christ was fully human, so much so that he was not actually, by nature, divine.

Sometimes these Christologies are called “adoptionistic,” because in them Christ is portrayed not as a divine being who pre-existed before being born of a virgin, but as fully and completely and utterly human, a very righteous man who was born like everyone else and who was by nature like everyone else, but because of his special devotion to God was “adopted” by God to be his son and, as the one who had been adopted, was called by God to perform a special task, to die for the sake of others.  Christ did so, and afterward God rewarded him by raising him from the dead.

It can be argued – in fact, I would indeed argue – that some such view was the very earliest understanding of Jesus in evidence in the New Testament writings, and even more than that, that this was the original Christology, held by Jesus’ own followers immediately upon their “realization” that he had been raised from the dead.  For the original disciples of Jesus, it was at the resurrection that Jesus became the Son of God.

Later – but well before the New Testament books were written – some Christians…

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