Saturday, August 25, 2007

Jewish-Christian Christology and Jewish-Christian Gospels

Every weekend I try to take home one to two journal articles to read. This weekend it has been:

Peter Balla, "Does Acts 2:36 Represent an Adoptionist Christology?" EJTh 2 (1996): 137-42.

Andrew Gregory, "Jewish-Christian Gospels," ExpTim 118 (2007): 521-29.

A few things come up for mention:

1. Adoptionism.

Does Acts 2.36 and Rom. 1.3-4 teach that Jesus only became the Son at his resurrection? Balla clearly thinks not since he finds enough evidence that Luke already believed that Jesus was the Messiah and Son prior to the resurrection. For Luke the term "made" (epoieesen) means "made known" rather than "made into existence". But was the same view held by the early church? Well, that depends on what one thinks of the speeches in Luke-Acts (see Martin Dibelius, F.F. Bruce, Marion Soabards, and Colin Hemer on that one). I tend to think that Luke has represented fairly accurately the kerygma of the early church, he certainly doesn't Paulinze the other Apostles, despite the fact that Paul is his hero. Early Christian exegesis of Psalms 2 and 110 was not necessarily taken in an adoptionist direction, but focused on (a) public nature of God's work in vindicating and enthroning Jesus, and (b) the kingly nature of Jesus' reign from the Father's side. On Romans 1.3-4, where Jesus is "designated (horizo) the Son of God in power by resurrection from the dead" is not the refering the conferal of sonship not otherwise possessed, but the translation of his sonship to a new eschatological function that he did not previous discharge (see commentaries by Dunn and Moo).

I find it interesting that certain scholars (I think perhaps of Dunn in Unity and Diversity in the NT as one example but I'll have to check), argues that later Jewish Christology was adoptionistic (e.g. the Ebionites) and their christology was censured as heretical, and yet (so it goes), it was the same christology of the early church. If Balla's analysis is right, that assumption needs to be questioned. Mention should also be given to Richard Longenecker's book The Christology of early Jewish Christianity which is worth consulting.

2. Jewish Christian Gospels.

Andrew Gregory is a rising star at Oxford (he has red hair too which obviously counts in his favour). I'm awaiting his work on Jewish Christian Gospels which will be a good read no doubt. Anyone willing to amass together all the quotations of the Jewish Christian Gospels from the Church Fathers and try to make sense of them deserve a medal. I tried making a list once and got confused, dizzy, and bored, so I gave up. His Expository Times article is a good preview of what is to come.

One good thing that Gregory does is that he contests the view that there were three Jewish Christian Gospels: (a) The Gospel according to the Hebrews; (b) the Gospel of the Nazoraeans; and (c) The Gospel of the Ebionites. There are several issues here. First, the Gospel of the Ebionites is known only from Epiphanius and what he has to say on the topic does not always leave us with great confidence that he knows what he's talking about. Second, one or more of these Jewish Christian Gospels may be no more than a Hebrew version of Matthew with textual omissions (i.e. the virgin birth) and textual additions that were noted by the Church Fathers. This latter view may explain the Gospel of Nazoraeans. The number of Jewish Christian Gospels would be a wonderful Ph.D topic for some brave soul.


Celucien L. Joseph said...


I will take the challenge to write a dissertation on that topic; with one condition--you will supervise me throughout the writing process:)

Michael F. Bird said...

Sure thing mate!