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Tim Henderson has now posted his summary of Martin Hengel’s essay, “Hymns and Christology.”
Tim Henderson has posted his summary of the next essay in Martin Hengel’s Between Jesus and Paul: “‘Christos’ in Paul.”
Ben Myers calls them “grammatical rules.” They sound more like theses to me. Whatever they are, they succinctly describe the limits (i.e., the boundaries) of how Christians can speak properly about the mystery of the Incarnation. I commend them to you.
1. Not to speak of Christ in any way that sidelines his human experience.Jesus Christ is truly human.
2. Not to speak of Jesus in any way that sidelines the divine depth beneath his human experience. Jesus Christ is truly God.
3. Not to divide Christ’s divinity and humanity, or to give the impression that he sometimes functions as God and sometimes as a human. Jesus Christ is divine and human in one person.
4. Not to give the impression that Christ’s divinity is fully contained within his humanity, or that his divinity is limited by his human experience. The human nature of Jesus is assumed by the person of the eternal Word.
5. Not to divide redemption from creation, or to give the impression that Christ invades a world that is alien to him. Human beings were created after the pattern of the same eternal Image that has become incarnate in Jesus.
6. Not to divide Christ’s person and work, or to give the impression that Christ is merely the instrument by which God achieves salvation. Salvation is a person: Jesus Christ.
7. Not to divide Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, or to give the impression that he achieves salvation at just one moment of his career. The total life-journey of Jesus Christ – from his birth, to his ministry of teaching and healing, to his death and resurrection – is the saving event.
8. Not to speak of Christ’s death as a mere preliminary stage on the way to resurrection. Jesus Christ is the Priest whose death abolishes the power of sin and death. He is the humble God.
9. Not to speak of Christ’s resurrection as a mere reversal of his death.Jesus Christ is the King whose resurrection exalts and glorifies human nature. He is the deified human.
10. Not to speak of Christ in any way that implies that he is absent, or to give the impression that the church’s task is to make Christ present. Jesus Christ is the Prophet who reveals himself. He is present always and everywhere as the divine-human light of the world.
11. Not to divide Christ from Israel’s history, or to give the impression that the New Testament abolishes the Old. As Prophet, Priest and King, Jesus Christ is the surpassing fulfilment of Israel’s messianic hopes.
12. Not to speak of Christ as if he were relevant only to some people in some cultures and circumstances. Jesus Christ is present to all people, in all times and places, as their divine-human Prophet, Priest and King. The church trusts and proclaims, but never possesses, this Messiah.
Larry Hurtado is wondering why the Deists’ theological assumption about what constitutes a valid starting point for Christology should continue to carry the day, even among traditional believers?
Now the interesting bit is that this (originally Deist) argument was wildly successful, at least in setting the terms of the ensuing theological and scholarly debate. That is, even those (e.g., advocates of traditional Christian faith) who opposed the Deists’ conclusions accepted their terms for the debate that followed (right down to our day): Jesus’ own teaching about himself was the criterion of legitimacy for any claims about him.
So, what you have is a fundamentally theological issue becoming the shared assumption for a great deal of subsequent historical investigation. And the result, as I’ve said, was a great deal of mischief: Christian apologists producing contorted historical arguments trying to pump up maximally what might be attributed to Jesus, and critics of traditional Christian faith…contending that these claims were invalidated by the evident historical events/process through which they had emerged.