Bauckham and the Vague, Confusing Terminology of Divine Identity

Bauckham and the Vague, Confusing Terminology of Divine Identity July 12, 2011

Nick Norelli mentioned my name in connection with a discussion of Richard Bauckham’s use of the phrase “divine identity” in relation to early Christology. As I have said before, I do think that Bauckham’s terminology is unhelpfully vague, and until he defines it more clearly it cannot even be assessed in terms of its applicability to the New Testament sources. Is it identity of the sort a family has, including those adopted into it? Is it identity of the sort a single individual has? Is it something else?

What do you understand Bauckham to mean by the term, and if you find it particularly helpful or unhelpful, perhaps you could mention why in a comment?

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  • John Tancock (JT)

    I do find the phrase helpful. In attempting in any few sentences to communicate what the Nt says about ‘God’ or even in attempting to help modern day Arians or socinians to change thier stance, finding the correct form of words is important. Perhaps Divine identity’ is like ‘ousia’. I don’t think Bauckham is using it in any way as ‘by adoption’ though.

  • John Tancock (JT)

    I do find the phrase helpful. In attempting in any few sentences to communicate what the Nt says about ‘God’ or even in attempting to help modern day Arians or socinians to change thier stance, finding the correct form of words is important. Perhaps Divine identity’ is like ‘ousia’. I don’t think Bauckham is using it in any way as ‘by adoption’ though.

  • I don’t think Bauckham means adoption, but the problem is that what he does mean is not clear. Is he simply trying to say “shared ousia” in a different way? Is he trying to avoid the language of essence and focus on function? And why does he not view the sharing of the divine name with the angel Yahoel as a comparable instance of sharing divine identity? There are a great many issues that need to be addressed before we can even begin to assess the accuracy and usefulness of the term for Biblical studies, in my opinion.

  • I don’t think Bauckham means adoption, but the problem is that what he does mean is not clear. Is he simply trying to say “shared ousia” in a different way? Is he trying to avoid the language of essence and focus on function? And why does he not view the sharing of the divine name with the angel Yahoel as a comparable instance of sharing divine identity? There are a great many issues that need to be addressed before we can even begin to assess the accuracy and usefulness of the term for Biblical studies, in my opinion.