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More on the Philippians Christ-Poem

COMMENT: This ‘rhythmic structure’ just does not work in Greek. The first ‘stanza’ with three ‘lines’: Who, although he was in the form of God Did not regard equality with God Something to be grasped after; In Greek the ‘third line’ is only one word and it appears in the middle of the ‘second line’, after only the first word of the so-called second line. There are a few different views of the structure, but they all must be based on the Greek text.   RESPONSE AND FURTHER COMMENT: That’s exactly right – you make a good point. For my translation I arranged the poem in three stanzas of three lines each; but in Greek it’s different. But even there there are still three stanzas of three lines each, but because of the grammatical difference, it works differently. In Greek it’s like this for the first part of the poem:   FOR THE REST OF THIS POST, log in as a Member. Click here for membership options. If you don't belong yet, JOIN!!! ὃς [...]

The Pre-pauline “Poem” in Philippians 2

In my most recent post on Christology I began to speak about the “incarnation” Christology found famously in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, 2:6-11.  There are a lot of other things I want to say about this passage, all of them relevant to the issues I’ve been discussing.  The first and most important thing is that it has been widely recognized by scholars for a very long time that this passage is something that Paul appears to be quoting, that it is not simply part of the prose letter.  Moreover, it is frequently called (probably wrongly) a “hymn” (that’s probably wrong because – as I’ve been told by an expert in the field of ancient music, it doesn’t actually scan as music).   But in any event, it is highly structured in a balanced fashion and thus seems to be more like a poem than like prose.  The reasons for thinking that Paul is quoting rather than composing it are pretty compelling, and I will get to them eventually.  For now I want to point out [...]

Incarnation Christology, Angels, and Paul

In my posts on Christology so far I have argued that different Christians in the early decades of the Christian movement maintained that Jesus had been exalted to a divine status at some point of his existence – at his resurrection, at his baptism, at his birth. I have called this a christology from below, or an “exaltation” christology; it is sometimes called a low christology because it understands Jesus to have started out as a human (down here with us) and to have been raised to a divine status. In this view he was not God from eternity past or a pre-existent being. He was a human being who was taken up to the level of divinity at some point (or, in the case of the Virgin Birth, that he came into existence at a point in time as a person who was partially human partially divine). But there was another kind of Christology which was also very early – earlier, in fact, than our earliest surviving Christian writer, Paul. This is the view [...]

An Important and Relevant Textual Variant in Luke 2

I’d like to address the issue of early Christology from a slightly different angle in this post. So far I have talked about how an “exaltation” Christology, in which Jesus, the man, is made the Son of God at some point of his existence can be found in various parts of the New Testament (Rom 1:3-4; speeches in Acts), and how different early Christians located that exaltation to different moments in Jesus’ existence (resurrection, baptism, birth, pre-existence). As it turns out, this view of Christology relates to an important textual variant in the Gospel of Luke. So, by way of background for anyone new to this kind of discussion. We don’t have the original copy of Luke’s Gospel (or of any other NT book) (or, actually, of any book at all from the ancient world!). What we have are copies made from copies made from copies that were made from copies. We have thousands of copies of the NT from the centuries before the invention of printing. And these thousands of copies have hundreds of [...]

Pushing Back the Exaltation

It has taken me a while to get to this stage with respect to my discussion of exaltation Christologies. At first I thought that the point I’m going to make in this current post would be my very first post – and then I realized I needed to provide background, and then background for the background, and then background for the background for the background and so on. So it’s been a number of posts. And to make sense of this one, you really need to read the others. Sorry ‘bout that, but these things ain’t easy….. My contention is a fairly non-controversial one among critical scholars of the New Testament and early Christianity. When the disciples came to believe in the resurrection, they thought that God had exalted Jesus to a unique, divine status. This is the oldest Christology there was. It is attested in such places as the pre-Pauline fragment in Rom. 1:3-4 and in several places, pre-Lukan, incorporated in the speeches of Acts. FOR THE REST OF THIS POST, log in as [...]

Exaltation Christology in the Speeches in Acts

In this post I return to the topic of early Christology. To review what I’ve covered so far: I have indicated that early on in the Christian tradition there were two types of Christology, one of which I have called “exaltation” Christology (I have not mentioned yet the other type); this is sometimes called a “low” Christology or a Christology from below. This is the view that Jesus started out as a human, nothing more, but came to be exalted by God to become his Son, the Lord. This view, I have argued, can be found in fragments of creeds and confessions that were later quoted by authors of the New Testament, so that in terms of raw chronology, they were formulated well *before* the New Testament was written. And I isolated Romans 1:3-4 as just one such case, where Paul quotes a confession that indicates that whereas Jesus was the human messiah from David’s seed, he became the “son of God in power” at the resurrection. This is not exactly Paul’s own view, but [...]

2020-04-17T13:36:34-04:00February 11th, 2013|Acts of the Apostles, Early Christian Doctrine|

Exaltation Christology in an Early Creed

So far in this series of posts dealing with How Jesus Became God, I have maintained that in the very early years of Christianity, soon after the disciples came to believe in the resurrection, there were two forms of Christology that emerged. And I have discussed only one of these two forms, one that considered Jesus to be a full flesh and blood human being(as he considered himself!), and nothing more than a man, until at some point God exalted him and made him his son, the ruler of all, the messiah, the Lord. I am calling this kind of “low” Christology (low because it stresses that Jesus started out as a human and not divine) a Christology “from below” or an “exaltation” Christology. I have also argued that this kind of Christology can be found in some of the earliest materials in the New Testament, that in fact it is imbedded in quotations of earlier pre-literary sources found in various writings of the NT. In my previous post I talked about how scholars have [...]

The Earliest Christology

When I earlier said that I thought my older view of the development of Christology was problematic, in that I had been imagining a more or less straight line of development from low to high Christology, I did not mean to say (as I may have mistakenly been understood as saying) that I have now given up the idea of a line of development.  What I’ve given up on is the idea that there was basically ONE form of Christology that developed from low to high.  I now think that all Christologies ultimately go back to TWO different forms, that originated separately from each other, with one being earlier than the other, and both developing separately from each other, until they were finally fused together. I realize I’m more or less giving away my book at this point, but I’ll just sketch out the basic idea and leave its full exposition for the print version. Here I’ll say something about the oldest Christology, as I understand it.  This was what I earlier called a “low” [...]

2020-04-03T18:49:26-04:00February 6th, 2013|Book Discussions, Early Christian Doctrine, Historical Jesus|

How Jesus Became God: More Questions

In yesterday’s post I began to explain some of the problems that I had started to have with my original way of imagining this book, How Jesus Became God  (I give the original prospectus in the three posts preceding that one).  The problem I mentioned yesterday was a big one: I came to think that the proposal did not take into account fully enough the variety of Christological expressions that one finds at the same time in early Christianity, but seemed to assume that there was some kind of straight line, linear progression from a low Christology to a high one. To some extent I still think that there was a progression.  It is clear, at any rate, that the Christology embraced at the Council of Nicea was MUCH “higher” than the one found in the Gospel of Mark.   You’d have to be blind not to see the difference.  But something has to account for the fact that in our earliest source – Paul – we appear to get some kind of high Christology already, [...]

How Jesus Became God: My Change of Direction

Over the course of my last three posts I have indicated what my original idea was for the book How Jesus Became God.    When I first started writing the proposal for the book (as you have seen it) I had planned to write it with Oxford University Press.  But about three or four years ago I made a career decision.   At that point I had published three trade books with HarperOne (an imprint of Harper Collins, the branch that publishes in religious studies).  All three of them had made it onto the New York Times Bestseller list.   That had never happened to me before.  A lot of that is luck, but it takes a *ton* of work from the publisher to make it even possible.   I think Oxford is an absolutely terrific press.  In my opinion they are absolutely among the best press in the world at publishing scholarly monographs and *are* the best at publishing college level textbooks in religious studies.  But they are not as geared toward trade books.  With Harper, on the [...]

How Jesus Became God: The “Original” Idea, Part 2

This is the second installment of the thread.  For those who didn’t read the first installment from yesterday’s post, I repeat the introduction I gave to it there (though this post will make better sense if you read that one first): *** Several people have asked about the book I’m working on this term, How Jesus Became God, in particular in relation to what I mentioned in my earlier post, how I’ve learned a lot doing my research and changed my views on important issues related to the  book.  Explaining all that is a bit complicated, and I thought one good way to do it would be to show what I had *originally* planned to do with this book when I first proposed it to a publisher maybe seven or eight years ago, and then explain how the book now will be different, both in the way I’ll set it up and in what I think now about the topic. So for this post and the next two I will reproduce my original book proposal.  [...]

2020-04-03T19:01:02-04:00February 1st, 2013|Book Discussions, Early Christian Doctrine|
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