I have been trying to show that one of the oldest understandings of Christ in the early Christian movement — in fact, *the* earliest in my view (and many other scholars), even though later it came to be declared a “heresy” — is that Jesus started out as a human, nothing more, but came to be exalted by God to become his Son, the Lord.
I have long called this particular understanding of Christ an “exaltation” Christology: God exalted Christ to become a divine being. It stands in contrast with a view that I have not dealt with yet, the one that became the dominant one eventually (but which arose later), and “incarnation” Christology, which stated that Christ was a divine being who became human (not a human who became divine), a view best known, in the NT, from the Gospel of John. (Exaltation Christologies are often understood to be “low” because they locate Christ originally here on earth among us mortals; incarnation christologies are correspondingly “high” because in them Christ originally came from heaven with God).
I have argued that an exaltation Christology can be found in very early 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. In my previous post 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 it’s close enough that he can quote the confession.
The idea that at the resurrection God exalted Jesus to a new, divine status can be found in other pre-literary fragments quoted by New Testament authors. That is especially the case with the book of Acts. Scholars have long realized that the speeches in Acts are not the speeches that the apostles themselves would have delivered. Whatever Peter may actually have said on the Day of Pentecost (as in Acts 2), no one was taking notes so that Luke would be able to reconstruct it accurately 50 years later when he wrote his account. Where did the speech come from then? Luke made it up.
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