Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God— Part Twenty Six

On p. 675, Wright suggests that the reference in the Christ hymn in Col. 1 to Christ being both the beginning and the image would send the knowledgable reader back to Gen.1. The question is, were there such readers in the Colossian congregation? On p. 676 Wright insists on the stronger reading of the text of 2 Cor.5.16-19- ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not merely ‘through Christ’ but in Christ, because Paul included Christ within the divine identity, expressed in Colossians as ‘the fullness of deity dwelt in him bodily’. The Col. 1 text expresses both creational and eschatological monotheism. Christ is the head over both realms and his intent is the redemption of creation, not rescue of humans from creation.

There is an extended exposition on 2 Cor. 3-4, and Tom takes time to unpack the differences between what is said about Moses and the people of God then(God would not show his face to Moses, and Moses had to cover his face when he appeared to the people because of their hard-heartedness– they could not bear the Shekinah) and what is said of Jesus and the people of God now (the people of God now have their hearts transformed and therefore they can look at the glory of God in the face of Jesus). In other words, 2 Cor. 3-4 is talking about the final eschatological theophany in the person of Jesus. He has returned to God’s people. Once again, the point to be made is that wisdom Christology is all about painting Jesus as an expression of God, the divine identity. It is not about painting him as Israel, the people of God who need redeeming, as does the world. He is “redrawing the monotheism of divine identity around Jesus” (p. 680).

One of the more problematic aspects of Tom’s exposition of a text like Phil. 2.5-11, particularly the second half, is he wants to have his cake and eat it too. By this I mean he thinks that the exaltation of Christ to the right hand of God and the giving him of God’s glory with universal acclamation and predication of Isaiah 45-46 allows this to also be about God’s eschatological return as well. While that latter theme is in second Isaiah alright, it does not necessarily crop up in Phil. 2. Exaltation Christology is not the same as parousia Christology. And the real problem is that while it is true sometimes that more of the OT context is alluded to when Paul cites this or that text, it is not always the case that one can take for granted that the larger OT context is in play. And this is a problem not only in Wright’s work but also in some cases with Hays and Wagner as well. This is a yes and no proposition— sometimes the large OT context is assumed and is important for understanding the point in the NT, sometimes it is not. As the NT says “this requires critical discernment”.

On p. 686 we see again Wright’s attempt to suggest that an Adamic story lies in the first half of background in Phil. 2.5-11. I have given my reasons elsewhere in my Philippians commentary for why I find this unconvincing. Adam does not pre-exist, and he does not choose to become human, and he does not limit himself in order to do so, and frankly it is not Adam to whom the snake says ‘you can become as gods’ so we do not know that Adam desired god-like status. Part of the problem here is the misinterpretation of the word ‘morphe’ which is badly translated by the word ‘form’. A much better translation is ‘nature’ because what the word means is an outward manifestation of what a person already is— not merely what he appears to be or would like to be. Jesus did not take on the mere ‘form’ of a servant, he was indeed a servant, and indeed claims that his purpose in coming was to serve (Mk. 10.45). Furthermore, there is nothing in the first half of this Christ hymn about Christ or Adam exercising sovereignty over creation. The ruler of creation theme is absent.

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