Engaging Josh Jipp’s Christ is King, Chapter 4: King and Kingdom, Part 1

Engaging Josh Jipp’s Christ is King, Chapter 4: King and Kingdom, Part 1 January 3, 2016

5130ey-BqRL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_In this fourth installment of the series of posts engaging with Josh Jipp’s recent book Christ Is King: Paul’s Royal Ideology, we consider Josh’s fourth chapter “King and Kingdom: Sharing in the Rule of Christ the King” where he relates ancient kingship ideology to the perennially difficult and elusive topic of participation in Christ.

In writing up this post, it became too long, so I’ve broken it up into two parts. The first is a summation of the argument of the chapter. The second will offer six critical observations and questions for Josh’s response.

Josh heads the chapter with a quotation from 2 Tim. 2:8, 11-12a that seems little noticed by Pauline scholars –this absence is surely because of the tendency to ignore the so-called Pastorals. Still, even if Paul did not pen these words, the Davidic element is at the heart of the gospel his circle preached. The words:

Remember Messiah Jesus, raised from the dead, from the seed for David, according to my gospel . . . The saying is faithful—for if we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also rule together with him.

The contents of these verses capture the argument of the chapter: Jesus’ identity as Israel’s Davidic Messiah can explain, to a large extent, the logic of Paul’s participation and incorporation themes.

The chapter is expansive and detailed and I cannot attempt to engage with most of it here. It seems on every one of the 71 pages there is something with which to interact. The chapter has essentially four parts. It begins with a look again at the Christ hymns of Colossians and Philippians—discussed in chapter 3—in order to show that Paul applies the kingship discourse established in these hymns in the rest of the letter. Josh’s argument is two-fold. First, he wishes to show that the panegyrics are resources for Paul to “socialize his churches into a realm where Christ alone is supremely sovereign and invested with divine lordship over the cosmos”. Second, he wants to demonstrate that Paul uses the claims in the hymns through the letters insisting that the churches do not only “benefit from but are even participants in Christ’s sovereign rule” (148).

Having established these two points, in the rest of the three parts of the chapter Josh seeks to address the question of connection: what was Paul’s warrant (historical-religiously) for the move from asserting Jesus’ kingship, on the one hand, to speaking of Christians actually participating in it on the other? While one answer to the question is in the negative: there isn’t one; Paul is completely innovative. A more historically reasonable position is to assume some historical-religious context for the move, of which Paul would then creatively apply to his Gentile churches. The latter is what Josh believes and he seeks, rightly in my view, to establish in the chapter.

Josh clearly states his argument:

In what follows I argue that the primary root for understanding Paul’s participatory discourse is the notion of Israel’s King as simultaneously both the son of God who shares God’s throne, participates in divine kingship, and shares God’s πνεύμα, and the embodied representative of his people who enables the people to share in the rule of the divine King. This provides the grammar and logic for Paul’s ability to conceptualize his church’s participation in the Royal narrative and identity of Christ . . . Paul charts for Jesus a clear and recognizable identity and narrative as Israel’s royal Messiah, then he maps this royal trajectory onto the Messiah’s people (149-50).

In the two major remaining parts of the chapter, Josh studies Israel’s kingship ideology that emerged out of the Davidic promise tradition (1 Sam. 7; 1 Chron. 17; LXX Psa. 2, 88, 109) and developed through the second temple period in some circles (e.g., Pss. Sol. Qumran, 1 Enoch). This ideology asserted something in two directions. First, the king shares God’s divine kinship; second, the king represents the people over which he rules. The latter is more specific. The people’s pattern of life was determined by the king; more specific still, the covenant faithfulness of the people (or lack there of) was determined by the king’s. In Josh’s words, “Through David and his dynasty, the promise of Abraham that he will have a ‘great name,’ that through him all nations will be blessed, and that Israel will have peace from their enemies in the land, will come to fruition. As the elected bearer of God’s promises, the health and success of the entire nation  [now – since the Davidic promise]] is wrapped up with the life and destiny of their Davidic king” (161). Josh sums up the significance of the ideology this way:

The Davidic King is uniquely positioned as one who simultaneously participates in divine kingship as God’s elected firstborn son whose rule is an earthly manifestation and extension of God’s royal rule and as Israel’s royal representative who is tasked with bestowing God’s righteous and peaceful rule over God’s people. This royal identity allows the king to mediate God’s presence, rule, and benefits to God’s people. Through the faithful and righteous King, the people are able to receive the glorious inheritance of the land, peace and prosperity, protection from their enemies, and divine so ship and an encounter with God’s presence. In short, Israel’s king mediates and manifests the kingdom of God (165).

In the second major part of the chapter, Josh addresses Paul’s letter to the Romans where he attempts to demonstrate that Paul’s participation theme is rooted in this described kingship ideology. There is a final short part (fourth part) in which Josh provides brief discussions of passages in Ephesians and 1 Corinthians that corroborates his conclusions in Romans.

This has been my favorite chapter thus far and represents a significant contribution both in its convincing argument for the significance of Davidic Messianism for Paul’s theologizing generally and for the meaning of Paul’s participatory theology particularly; and while the argument that the origin of “in Christ” is to be found in Jesus’ Messianic identity is not new, Josh’s discussion in this chapter represents the most detailed, rigorous and convincing presentation of argument to date. I can imagine Tom Wright’s smile after reading this chapter!

In the next post, I’ll offer six critical observations and questions about the chapter.

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