Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Creating Jesus 15: On to Antioch

We are not done with our discussion of early Christology and its development. What we have covered so far is what appears to have been the earliest Christological paradigm. It certainly isn't Nicene! In fact, we are a long way from Nicaea. I am willing to post my thoughts on the subject up to Nicaea, but that is a long haul. So let's concentrate on the foundational biblical materials and the first layer of paradigms.

You can imagine that certain questions must have arisen almost immediately in regard to the Jerusalem paradigm and the exaltation of Jesus as the YHWH Angel. Everytime the community would read or listen to stories from their scriptures about the YHWH Angel, they must have wondered how these stories about the Angel were connected to Jesus. It is impossible for me to determine who first raised these questions, but what I do know is that their answers were already known to Paul at the time he became a primary leader and missionary of the Antiochean church. So the Antiochean Christians were definitely discussing it, and had even developed liturgies based on their answers. It is a dominant paradigm in western Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, and becomes the dominant meta-paradigm in Rome and the West. It is not unknown to some of the sources associated with Jerusalem, so whatever was going on, it was communicated between Jerusalem and Antioch.

What was the reasoning? It probably went something like this: if Jesus had been exalted at his death, becoming the YHWH Angel, he must have been the YHWH Angel in scriptures like Gen 16:7, 22:15, Ex 3:2-14, 23:20-21 too. This means that Jesus must have existed as the YHWH Angel before his earthly advent. So it must be that this YHWH Angel descended from heaven and somehow embodied Jesus at Jesus' conception or birth.

This is what the much-debated Phil hymn is all about (2:5-7). Jesus had been in the form of God and did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. This is a reference to the YHWH Angel who is God's manifestation or equivalent. This divine being empties himself and is born in the likeness of men.

Next time we will discuss the virgin birth.


Frank McCoy said...

Note that, to resolve a crisis centered in Antioch over whether Gentile followers of Jesus need to obey Mosaic Law, James is pictured by Luke in Acts 15:15-18 as invoking Amos 9:11-12--with it interpreted to mean that Jesus is the fallen tent of David who has arisen. If there is any historicity to this, it strongly suggests that (1) the followers of Jesus took this passage to be a proof text that Jesus has arisen from the dead and that (2) the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem and Antioch shared a common Davidic Christology.
They undoubtedly combined it with other Christologies, and one of them might have been a developing angel of Yahweh Christology (although I am more inclined to see a developing Logos/Memra Christology), but it appears that the Davidic Christology was the foundational Christology, going back to Jesus. After all, the wording of the titulus (found, with variations, in all four canonical gospels)clearly implies that Pilate found Jesus guilty of claiming to be the King of the Jews.
Also, we need to take into account the latest issue of JBL, where Matthew V. Novenson thusly concludes his paper, "The Jewish Messiahs, the Pauline Christ, and the Gentile Question" (p. 373), "In fact, these two quintessially Pauline features, the proclamation of a Christos and the mission to the Gentiles, turn out to interpret one another; Paul feels himself compelled to bring Gentiles into the ekklesia of God because he believes that Jesus is the root of Jesse, the son of David, the Christos who rises to rule the Gentiles."
Because Paul apparently became the chief missionary of the Antioch group, this suggests that the outreach to Gentiles there was fundamentally driven by a Davidic Christology.
Frank McCoy
BA History Univ of MN

Jim Deardorff said...

Reading Ex 3:2-4, I would conclude that the angel of YHWH is to be equated with God itself/himself, namely with YHWH.

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PAULYR said...

As you are getting ready to discuss place of virgin birth in origin of christology, please give proper credit to historical Mary, mother of Jesus. She is mentioned, as you know, in various layers of tradition in Gospels and Acts and so may be presumed to have had continuing influence on this teaching among first Christians.

Anonymous said...

Dr DeC, I'd just like to drop you a note to say thank you for this series. Those of us who aren't early church scholars don't get access to this kind of scholarship in its raw form. Thank you for your persistence with acade-blogging. I always find your postings fascinating and thought-provoking.

geoffhudson.blogspot.com said...

There was no mission to Gentiles.