Jesus: Not God in New Testament Christologies

Jesus: Not God in New Testament Christologies January 12, 2015

Here are links to three interesting posts related to New Testament Christology. In each case, the evidence suggests that the New Testament authors in question did not identify Jesus as identical to, part of, or “included in the divine identity” of the one God of Jewish monotheism.

First, Andrew Perriman made the case that Hebrews does not depict Jesus as “the builder of the house” and thus God in Hebrews 3:3-4.

Second, Chris Tilling quoted N. T. Wright on the language in Romans 1:4, which suggests that Jesus was “appointed son of God with power” through the resurrection. Wright makes the case that the word used must indicate a mere revealing of a status Jesus already had. And in one sense, this may be correct. Paul uses the Aramaic word abba, indicating his familiarity with Jesus’ use of the word. And so Paul could not be suggesting that Jesus was appointed as son of God for the first time through the resurrection. But we must also take seriously the language Paul uses elsewhere, indicating that, after the crucifixion, God “super-exalted” Jesus and bestowed upon him the divine name (Philippians 2:6-11). And so it is best to understand Romans 1:4 to be indicating that Jesus, one who had a relationship of obedient sonship to God even earlier, is appointed to an exalted status, much like one might expect in a case of human sonship when the heir comes of age. And so the language in Romans 1:4, whether it is a traditional creedal statement or not, fits the exaltationist Christology that Paul articulates elsewhere.

Third, here is Dale Tuggy explaining why he does not think that the Gospel of John depicts Jesus as God (read more on his blog):

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  • ChuckQueen101

    James, thanks for the links. I recently posted a sermon that touches on this at Faith Forward http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithforward/2015/01/where-is-god-a-sermon-on-why-its-not-necessary-to-believe-that-jesus-is-god/

    • I saw that, and apologize for having neglected to include it in this post!

  • Michael Wilson

    James, I’ve recently finished Scott Brown’s book, “Mark’s Other Gospel”
    http://www.amazon.com/Mark-2019s-Other-Gospel-Controversial-Christianity/dp/0889204616
    I recommend for its arguments relating to Secret Mark’s authentisity, and he makes an intersting case for it being the product of canonical Mark’s author. Where it relates to this post is his theory that in addition to the Marken text, there was a body of oral teaching that gave deeper meaning to the material in secret Mark, meaning perhaps closer to the thinking in John. I found this interesting as I’ve wondered if some material in Mark that I thought was only mistakenly taken as having a high Christology, like “why do you call me good?only God is good?” may have been understood to be a veild reference to Jesus proximity to God. And I notice his answer to the priest regarding whether he is the messiah, I am, and you will see…, resembles John’s I Am statements and explains why it is blasphemy to the priest; not because he is saying scum like him could be messiah, but there is the hidden meaning that Jesus is the nsme of God. What do you think? You should look into Brown’s book if uou haven’t already.

    • Andrew Dowling

      Wow, talk about speculation city . . .

      • Michael Wilson

        Yes, hence the terms “wondered” “found this interesting” “may have”. Thanks for catching that, I like to know I can effectively communicate.

        • Andrew Dowling

          Whoa just commenting on Brown’s thesis; don’t take it personally.

          • Michael Wilson

            Sorry, thought it was aimed at me, please accept my appology. You’ve read the book? Perhaps later we can discuss it.

          • Andrew Dowling

            I’ve read articles by Brown but not his book. I used to be agnostic on “Secret Mark” but as time as gone on I view it most plausible it’s a well-done forgery, either of antiquity or modern origin. Like Casey’s argument for Mark having Aramaic roots and being in the 40s, I find the arguments for a this longer Mark having accompanied the Mark we all know requiring a selective literalism that I find exceedingly wanting.

            I mean, it was known well enough for Clement to write a letter about it, but we have literally ZERO mention of it anywhere else? When we have tons of texts from the 2nd through 6th centuries bashing a number “heretical texts” and ideas(unlike the proposed Q, which would have been discarded after the 1st century) . .this quasi-Gnostic work managed to be so secret/special as to evade detection?

            I think writing an entire book on the intricacies of a theology based on a couple of (alleged) paragraphs is a textbook example of academia, particularly in the humanities/social sciences, often falling to the pressures of showcasing a “new perspective/paradigm” over common sense.

          • It would not be unique in being an ancient text not mentioned in any extant text but recovered in the modern era. And if we look at some of the fragmentary Gospels of which we have literally only snippets from the trash heaps at Oxyrhynchus, it is clear that there are many works that we for all intents and purposes don’t know existed.

          • Andrew Dowling

            But those were (as far as we can tell) fairly orthodox texts with limited audiences. A text purporting to be an expanded Mark with Gnostic tendencies . .not mentioned by any of the anti-heretical writings of later centuries? Possible but unlikely IMO.

          • The Gospel of Mary was unknown until discovered in the modern era, unless I am mistaken. I am pretty sure that some of the Nag Hammadi texts were also not previously known from mentions by ancient authors.

          • Andrew Dowling

            Gospel of Mary is a good counter-example, I will grant you.

          • Michael Wilson

            I was agnostic to, actually I thought it was a hoax. But I have seen a lot of new evidence that I thought cleared Smith of fraud. I doubt it was an earlier concoction, I don’t know why monks 2 or 3 hundred years ago would write this, and so I took seriously the prospect of Secret Mark being, as Smith believed, a later expansion of Mark by a different author. How ever, my doubts about its genuineness made me hesitant to accept as Crossan does that it is the original Mark.

          • Andrew Dowling

            If the Clementine letter is real, I’m also more persuaded of it being either a 2nd century Gnostic expansion of Mark than the “original’ Mark. At the most, “maybe” I could buy Koester and Cameron’s contention of an original now lost “proto-Mark” of which were derived the now canonical Mark and the Gnostic “Secret” Mark. I do believe in a proto-Luke so I shouldn’t be hypocrtiicial.

            But why would monks do it? We’re talking about guys who spent their entire lives ruminating on ancient texts and scriptures (a lot of time to ponder questions like “so what was up with that naked youth in Mark?”). If anyone had the time to concoct a forgery, it was some monk sipping some mead in the abbey. Look at the Shroud of Turin for example . . not a text, but someone put in an amazing amount of time and skill to produce that. In an age where religion dominated everyday life, I think a lot is possible.

            That said, I will give Brown credit for exposing some of the weaker arguments of forgery; Neusner’s claims of course came from personal beef than substantial evidence, and Carlson’s claim of seeing a “forger’s tremor” was laughable.

          • Michael Wilson

            He explains that we shouldn’t expect any mention of Secret Mark because it only existed in manuscript at Alexandria and among a small sect in Asia minor. After becoming associated with heretic sects, the one copy was either dispised or simply allowed to rot away.

    • I’m not persuaded that “I am” (a very common word/phrase in any language) in Mark alludes to the divine name. And I think that even in John, the opponents of Jesus are depicted as having misunderstood him to be claiming to be God, as opposed to him claiming to be the one with whom God has shared the divine name.

      I’ve yet to read Brown’s book but am meaning to!

      • Michael Wilson

        I’m not persuaded either. It may be awhile before I can investigate this idea further. But I am open to the idea that Mark’s christology* and John’s are much closer than the accepted conventional wisdom states. I think it answers some questions and is supported by reliable evidence.

  • marv-n

    The Father is True God and the Son was also True God….. all came from the Father were True, no Fakes…..

    • This is an oddly-worded comment and so I am not sure what you mean. But if I have understood correctly, I wonder how you explain the fact that, in John 17:3, Jesus is depicted as calling the Father the only “true God.”

  • John MacDonald

    I think Mark thought of Jesus as a prophet, not as God. In Mark 6:4-5 Jesus affirmed that a prophet is without honor in his home town, and in view of that reality, He
    could not perform any miracles in Nazareth except for healing a few sick people. This wouldn’t make sense if Jesus was anything more than a prophet, so I doubt Mark thought of Jesus as God.