Saturday, September 13, 2008
The Earliest Christology was also the Highest
I remember reading a quote some time ago from George Caird (his NT Theology I think) that the earliest christology was among the highest in the NT. To back that up is this quote from Richard Bauckham:
"The early Christian movement, very consciously using this Jewish theological framework, created a kind of christological monotheism by understanding Jesus to be included in the unique identity of the one God of Israel. Probably the earliest expression of this to which we have access - and it was certainly in use very early in the first Christian community's history - was the understanding of Jesus' exaltation in terms of Psalm 110:1. Jesus, seated on the cosmic throne of God in heaven as the one who will achieve the eschatological lordship of God and in whom the unique sovereignty of the one God will be acknowledged by all, is included in the unique rule of God over all things, and is thus placed unambigously on the divine side of the absolute distinction that separates the only sovereign One from all creation. God's rule over all things defines who God is: it cannot be delegated as a mere function to a creature. Thus the earliest christology was already in nuce the highest christology. All that remained was to work through consistently what it could mean for Jesus to belong integrally to the unique identity of the one God. Early Christian interest was primarily in soteriology and eschatology, the concerns of the Gospel, and so in the New Testament it is primarily as sharing or implementing God's eschatological lordship that Jesus is understood to belong to the identity of God. But early Christian reflection could not consistently leave it at that. Jewish eschatological monotheism was founded in creational monotheism. If Jesus was integral to the identity of God, he must have been so eternally. To include Jesus also in the unique creative activity of God and in the uniquely divine eternity was a necessary corollary of his inclusion in the eschatological identity of God. This was the early Christians' Jewish way of preserving monotheism against the ditheism that any kind of adoptionist Christology was bound to involve. Not by adding Jesus to the unique identity of the God of Israel, but only by including Jesus in that unique identity, could monotheism be maintained. This applies also to the worship of Jesus, which certainly began in Palestinian Jewish Christianity. This expressed the inclusion of Jesus in the unique identity of the sole Creator of all things and sole Sovereign over all things."