Christology


Christology and NTI purchased Christology and the New Testament by Christopher Tuckett a couple of years ago, but just finally got around to reading it recently.

This book takes a look at the subject of Christology, but from a purely Biblical perspective (no post-apostolic theological development or creedal affirmations are considered).  Tuckett, who teaches NT at the University of Oxford, looks at how each NT author presents Jesus, particularly through – but not limited to – their ascription of various titles to Jesus.  While Tuckett is liberal in his theological conclusions (and it’s not even clear that he is a confessing Christian), his presentation of the Biblical data is quite good.  He has a great way of bringing out the Christological emphasis of the different NT authors/books.

If you are looking for a good introduction to NT Biblical Christology, this is a good resource.

The four gospels contain a lot of Jesus’ teachings on a variety of topics.  What do you consider to be the most important things Jesus taught or did?  I’m not looking for generalities such as “His moral teachings,” but specifics such as “Jesus’ teaching that we are to love our enemies as found in Mt 5:43-44.”

 

Oneness Pentecostals (OPs) have always struggled to explain the duality of activity and consciousness we see portrayed in Scripture between the Father and Son.  The Father is doing one thing, while the Son is doing another; the Father knows all things, while the Son knows only what the Father reveals to Him; the Father is prayed to, while the Son prays.  How can this distinction of activity and consciousness be explained other than in terms of multiple persons?  Admittedly, that would be the most obvious and natural explanation.  And yet, because we are persuaded that the Biblical affirmation of monotheism extends both to God’s essence and God’s person, OPs have sought an alternative explanation that is Biblically and philosophically sound.

The standard way of explaining the distinction of activity/consciousness between the Father and Son is to appeal to a duality of natures.  The human nature of Jesus is said to do X, while the divine nature of Jesus (the Father) is said to do Y.  On this account, Jesus’ prayers can be explained as the human nature praying to the divine nature.  What I find interesting about this explanation is that it simply swaps the word “person” for “nature.”  What Trinitarians refer to as “two persons,” we refer to as “two natures.”  Functionally speaking, the two phrases are equivalent, for both admit the presence and distinction of two metaphysically distinct entities.  On the Trinitarian view, there are two metaphysically distinct persons in communion with one another, whereas on the OP view, there are two metaphysically distinct natures in communion with one another.  The only substantive difference is that on the Trinitarian view both entities are divine, whereas in the OP view one is divine and one is human.

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The Bible begins with one of the most famous proclamations of all time: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).  Theologians have historically understood “in the beginning” to refer to the very beginning of time itself.  It was the boundary between timeless eternity and temporality. 

Fast forward to the first century A.D.  John opens his gospel about Jesus Christ with these words: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”  The resemblance to Genesis is unmistakable.  Both Moses and John begin their work with “in the beginning,” and both speak of the creative word of God. 

The question arises as to whether John is using “in the beginning” in the same way as Moses.  For Moses it referred to the beginning of time and creation, but that’s how John is using it, then to say the Word was “in the beginning” seems to imply that the Word was not eternal, but a created entity who began to exist concomitantly with the created realm.  Clearly this cannot be the correct interpretation because John 1:1 identifies the Word as being God (whom we know is eternal, and thus existed “prior to” the universe), and John 1:3 identifies the Word as the uncreated creator.  Why, then, would John say the Word was “in the beginning?”  Why not say Jesus was “before the beginning” or “before the ages?”  What is your take on the matter?

I have devised a test to quickly determine whether someone holds to a Nestorian Christology.  Ask, “What would have happened to Jesus’ body if the Spirit would have departed from it prior to Jesus’ death on the cross?”  If they answer that Jesus would have continued to live and function, they hold to a Nestorian Christology.  Here’s why:

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Reinventing Jesus: How Contemporary Skeptics Miss the Real Jesus and Mislead Popular Culture, by Daniel Wallace, M. James Sawyer, and J. Ed Komoszewski

I have not enjoyed reading a book this much since I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Reinventing Jesus was released as a response to some of the claims made in The DaVinci Code (TDC), but unlike most of the other books released debunking TDC, this one deals with some of the more substantive issues raised by TDC with very little reference to the book itself.

Reinventing Jesus is divided into five sections:

1. Oral transmission of the Jesus story prior to the Gospels
2. The transmission and preservation of the NT text
3. How the NT canon was formed
4. What the early church thought about Jesu
5. Christianity is not an eclectic form of Greek mystery religions

Sections 2-3 are worth the price of the book. Daniel Wallace wrote the section on the NT text. He is one of the few NT textual critics in the world, so his personal insights are invaluable. James Sawyer wrote on the formation of the canon, a subject he has written about elsewhere.

The book is meant to be an introductory look at the issues. Often that means an intellectually watered down manuscript. Not this one. It is not lacking in intellectual vigor. No matter what your level of understanding, you will learn something from this book. The material is informative, and presented in a logical, clear manner. I give it five stars! Do yourself a favor and read it.

Beyond Death, by Gary Habermas and J.P. Moreland

This book is a comprehensive examination of the afterlife. The book begins with an examination of traditional arguments for the afterlife, showing both their strengths and weaknesses. It goes on to argue for the existence of the soul, as well as explore the nature of the soul.

The centerpiece of their case rests on near-death experiences. They detail many documented cases, as well as speak of the ongoing research in this area. This section is worth the cost of the book.

They also address the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, reincarnation, and explore the nature of our existence beyond death.

The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities, by Darrel Bock

This book is an introductory look at the so-called lost Gospels some scholars claim challenge the very notion of Christian orthodoxy. The “new school” maintains that the early church held to a diverse set of beliefs, and those who call “orthodox” did not become orthodox until the third century via political maneuvering. The Missing Gospels attempts to show that the new school interpretation of Christian history is mistaken.

Bock contrasts the Gnostic materials with the Biblical and post-apostolic writings of the Fathers on four key ideas: (1) God and creation; (2) the person of Jesus as human and divine; (3) salvation; (4) the purpose of Jesus’ life and death. He concludes that the Gnostic materials present a radically different picture of Christianity than orthodoxy.

I would recommend this book for anyone interested in better familiarizing themselves with the Gnostic materials, as well as providing an answer to those who claim Gnosticism was one of a variety of original Christianities.

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