Names: Jesus shares the names of God.
Deeds: Jesus shares in the deeds that God does.
Seat: Jesus shares the seat of God’s throne. [p. 23]
Daniel Kirk just recently discussed the subject of sitting on the divine throne and receiving worship, and so I’ll defer to him. The main thing I will highlight is that what we find is Jesus doing various things God is said to do, receiving honor and titles that are God’s, yet at the same time also depicted as sent by God and doing God’s will. Is there any better way of making sense of the data than the concept of agency, which affirms (to quote the famous Rabbinic maxim) that “the one sent is like the one who sent him”? Simply speaking about “divinity” or “identity” as though such terminology is unambiguous doesn’t clarify things. But pointing out that we have Jesus treated as what we might call an extension of the divine identity, and yet also treated as a separate, subordinate person, seems to fit better within an agency model than in others.
The book itself seems to clearly be a work of apologetics rather than scholarship. From Matt’s description, the authors make claims such as that the name Jesus, meaning “Jehovah saves,” identifies Jesus as Jehovah. Clearly if that sort of principle is applied most of the characters in the Bible are divine, since their names have theophoric elements.
For those interested in Christology, Jimmy Dunn’s book on the question of whether the first Christians worshipped Jesus is presented on the SPCK web site, and is listed as due out this month in the UK, although it looks like it still won’t be out for a couple of months yet in the US.
Of course, whether in terms of the Spirit’s activity in the life of Jesus as depicted in all the canonical Gospels, or the “becoming flesh” of the Word in John, there is language used that extends the “essence” of God into the sphere of Jesus’ human life. For me, the interesting question is why such statements are unlikely to be considered adequate by most conservative Christians. Most if not indeed all of the New Testament evidence fits best within the framework of ancient Jewish concepts of agency, and texts like John which develop these ideas in distinctive ways also leave a great many questions unanswered. Among the most interesting, I think, is what the relationship is between the pre-existent Logos and the pre-existent Messianic Son of Man in that author’s thinking. This makes it challenging to figure out whether and to what extent by the end of the New Testament period, the human agent had been identified with or as a divine agent, and in what sense. It is precisely those loose ends that would drive the church’s Christological thought and debates in the centuries that followed – and indeed until today.
On a not unrelated topic, Luke Johns has an amusing post on how to distinguish between metaphorical and literal statements in the Bible.