(how to tell the biblical story in a way that makes a difference)

Tweaking Richard Bauckham on Jesus and the God of Israel

In his valuable book Jesus and the God of Israel: God Crucified and Other Studies on the New Testament’s Christology of Divine Identity Richard Bauckham argues that the unique identity of God in scripture is characterized in two ways: he is the particular God of Israel, known to them as YHWH, who brought them out of Egypt and revealed himself to Moses as “YHWH, YHWH, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness…” (Ex. 34:6); and he is God in relation to all reality, he is creator and sovereign ruler of all things. These two categories remain for the most part distinct, but they come together in Deutero-Isaiah “with special combined significance in Israel’s eschatological expectation”:

In the future, when God will fulfil his promises to his own people, showing himself to be finally and definitively the gracious God they have known in their history from the exodus onwards, God will at the same time demonstrate his deity to the nations, implementing his sovereignty as Creator and Ruler of all things in establishing his universal kingdom kingdom, making his name known universally, becoming known to all as the God Israel has known. (8)

Jewish monotheism and intermediaries

Bauckham then suggests that two types of “intermediary” figure are associated with God in Second Temple Judaism: on the one hand, “principal angels and exalted patriarchs”, such as Michael in the Qumran literature, Yahoel in the Apocalypse of Abraham, Moses in the work of Ezekiel the Tragedian, or the Son of Man in Parables of Enoch; and on the other, “personifications or hypostatizations of aspects of God himself, such as his Spirit, his Word and his Wisdom” (14).

The first category consists of “created beings”. They do not share in the divine identity, though Bauckham notes the important exception of the Son of Man in Parables of Enoch, who “will in the future, at the eschatological day of judgement, be placed by God on God’s own throne to exercise judgement on God’s behalf” (16).

The figures that form the second category are not created beings (16-17). They are part of the divine identity: “they express God, his mind and his will in relation to the world”. Most significantly, both the Word and the Wisdom of God “take part in the work of creation, sometimes with distinguishable roles, sometimes interchangeably”. Bauckham concludes from this that Jewish writers were able to “envisage some form of real distinction within the unique identity of the one God”.

Jesus and the identity of God

Bauckham then goes on to argue that this account of Jewish monotheism provides the key to understanding how the New Testament includes Jesus in the unique divine identity.

First, the early Christians understood Jesus—as a human being—to have been exalted after his death to the throne of God to exercise or share in “God’s unique sovereignty over the whole cosmos”. This is unprecedented in Second Temple Judaism, but it “leads to all the other exalted christological claims of the New Testament texts”. Bauckham characterizes this as “christological and eschatological monotheism”:

Jesus is seen as the one who exercises God’s eschatological sovereignty over all things, with a view to the coming of God’s kingdom and the universal acknowledgement of God’s unique deity. Jesus is included, we might say, in the eschatological identity of God. (26).

Secondly, the early Christians included Jesus in the unique divine identity not only eschatologically but also protologically, because for Jewish monotheism the future completion of God’s purposes could not be separated from his creative activity:

The participation of Christ in the creative work of God is necessary, in Jewish monotheistic terms, to complete the otherwise incomplete inclusion of him in the divine identity. (26)

So Jesus is the one “through whom are all things”, by whom “all things were created” (1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16; cf. Jn. 1:1-5; Heb. 1:2-3, 10-12; Rev. 3:14).

The overall argument can be summarized as follows:

Some tweaks

This arrangement of the data seems to me to be broadly correct. There are two Old Testament stories told about Jesus in the New Testament, one having to do with the transfer of divine sovereignty to him, the other with his participation in an act of divine creation. The first story, as Bauckham acknowledges, is by far the more important of the two, but the creation story is used by John, Paul, the writer of Hebrews, and John the author of Revelation. The argument, however, I think, needs tweaking.

1. For Bauckham the coming of God’s kingdom and the universal acknowledgment of the sovereignty of Israel’s God are still in the future. I think that the concrete fulfilment of this eschatological expectation has to be understood historically as the moment when the nations of the greek-Roman world confessed that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Deutero-Isaiah envisages the knowledge of YHWH reaching beyond the borders of Israel within the course of history as a direct consequence of God’s judgment of Israel.

2. Bauckham confuses the general assertion of divine sovereignty over the world with the prospect of a future or eschatological sovereignty. The rule of Jesus at the right hand of the Father always has a future orientation. It is not retrojected to include history prior to the resurrection. Psalm 110:1, which Bauckham rightly says was crucial for the development of the idea that Jesus shared in the unique divine sovereignty, places the Lord (kyrios, not YHWH) at the right hand of God to rule in the midst of his enemies. In the story of God and his people Jesus comes to rule at a certain moment and will rule from that moment until all his enemies are defeated, the last enemy being death. His participation in the exercise of divine rule is only eschatological.

3. If Psalm 110:1 is as important for the early development of a high christology as Bauckham thinks, the differentiation between YHWH and ʾdoni surely works against simply conflating the identity of Jesus as “Lord” with the identity of YHWH. In such texts as Isaiah 45:22-23 and Joel 2:32 it is YHWH who is kyrios, but Psalm 110:1 gives the necessary rationale for the transfer of sovereignty from YHWH to his Son or servant. Daniel 7:13-27 is used in the New Testament to the same effect: God gives kingdom, etc., to the figure who represents the suffering saints of the Most High.

4. The “participation” of Jesus in the unique divine sovereignty is much more like that of Enoch’s Son of Man than Bauckham allows. This figure, as Bauckham says, will participate in the unique divine sovereignty only on a future day of judgment—”therefore his inclusion in the divine identity remains equivocal” (16). But Jesus, too, is exalted to the right hand of the Father for the sake of a future judgment and rule over the nations (cf. Acts 10:42; 17:30-31; 2 Tim. 4:1). Bauckham makes much of the significance of Psalm 110:1 for shaping the belief in the participation of Jesus in the sovereignty of God but conveniently overlooks the influence of Daniel 7:13-14, even though Jesus connects the two passages in his response to the high priest at his trial: “you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mk. 14:62).

5. Bauckham regards the exaltation of Jesus to the right hand of God as a “recognition of his inclusion in the unique divine identity” (21). This is more than the texts say. The texts only say that the exalted Jesus participates in the rule of YHWH. Jesus is given sovereignty (cf. Phil. 2:9), the right to rule on God’s behalf, because he suffered and died, and he will in the end give that sovereignty back to God when it is no longer necessary for the faithful servant who overcame death to reign (1 Cor. 15:24-28). Even if we allow that sharing the throne of God implies or entails sharing in the identity of God, it has reference to a state of affairs that begins with the resurrection.

6. Significantly, as Bauckham notes, there is no reference to Psalm 110:1 in the Johannine literature (21). The synoptic Gospels tell the story of how Jesus became Lord, the one to whom authority would be given, as a vindication of his suffering, to judge and rule over the nations. John’s Gospel has little interest in the apocalyptic narrative that dominates the synoptics and Acts; it tells instead the story of how the Wisdom of God became flesh. The synoptics are much more congenial to historians; John is the preferred Gospel of theologians. In Colossians 1:15-20 and Hebrews 1, however, the two stories converge in rather complex ways: Jesus is both firstborn of every creature and firstborn from the dead; the Son who has sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high is the one through whom God created all things. It seems to me that understanding this convergence will be the key to understanding how the New Testament speaks of Jesus as God.

Image of Jesus and the God of Israel: God Crucified and Other Studies on the New Testament's Christology of Divine Identity

On Amazon (US):

Richard Bauckham
Eerdmans (2008), Paperback, 336 pages, $36.00



Well, I am still very much under the impression that however you think the New Testament portrays Jesus, it does not portray Him as the second person of the Trinity as we have known that belief. From what you have said about the Trinity in the past, and from what you have said about the first chapter of John, it seems to me that is all too obvious.

To be convinced that you believe otherwise, you are going to have to make some definite and convincing statements. Otherwise that is the only conclusion that I can draw.

…it does not portray Him as the second person of the Trinity as we have known that belief…

The New Testament does not portray Jesus as “the second person of the Trinity”. The question is whether the narratives and arguments that define Jesus in the New Testament can reasonably be translated into the idiom of Trinitarian belief. I would be happy to say that the fathers were right to translate things as they did, but I am interested in recovering what has got lost in translation.

I truly don’t understand how you could say that the Father’s were right to translate things as they did–if you don’t believe it is there in the NT.

I know I have asked the same or similar question before. But I am trying to get at something that really wasn’t clarified for me the first time around.

Trinitarianism belongs to Systematic or Dogmatic Theology. This is a distinctly different project to Biblical Theology, upon which it depends. Biblical Theology (for practical purposes, The Bible) could be said to contain theological componets which might be argued, or “translated,” into Trinitarianism. Trinitarianism is the assembly of those components, but it is not those components. Trinitarianism may be retrofitted to Biblical Theology only in the tentative sense of being implicit therein.

On this reckoning, one who is not a Systematic Theologian, or otherwise analytical thinker, may not put together the pieces. Had they not heard of the Trinity, it might not occur to them. But this doesn’t mean they can’t affirm from the New Testament witness that in the beginning Jesus was “with God” and also “was God.” It doesn’t mean that they can’t believe that the Holy Spirit is God himself. Whatever beliefs are salvific, it seems intuitively correct that one can learn of them straightforwardly in the Bible and humbly affirm them, without having to undertake a logical jigsaw puzzle.

In the absence of understanding, one is not automatically tacitly denying Trinitarianism if they are not found to be affirming it. Perhaps thinking of proto-Trinitarianism could help in this regard. Biblical Theology arguably contains a tension regarding divinity, which is only explicitly resolved outside the Bible.

Thanks, Peter. Your comments are helpful. The main point I would make in response is that there is a risk of diminishing what the New Testament is actually trying to say if we reduce its affirmations to “proto-Trinitarianism”. I don’t object to the term in principle—or the idea that trinitarianism is implicit in the New Testament. But what I think the theologians are missing—because they are trained to think theologically and retrospectively rather than historically and prospectively—is the point of the central apocalyptic narrative by which the lordship of Jesus is established. The central affirmation of the New Testament, as I read it, is not that Jesus is God but that Jesus has been given authority to act on behalf of God as judge and ruler of the nations. That is not a denial of trinitarianism. It is an affirmation of apocalypticism.

<i>I don’t object to the term in principle—or the idea that trinitarianism is implicit in the New Testament.</i>

But unless my memory fails me completely, you have said in the past that the doctrine of the trinity as we know it is not found in the NT. That it is <i>perhaps hinted</i> at in the NT that Jesus is God (which of course is necessary to the doctrine of the Trinity as we know it) and that if we are to retain the doctrine of the Trinty, it will probably have to be on eschatological grounds–Jesus was exalted to be Lord after the resurrection–rather then on ontological grounds.

So it would appear that you have either changed your mind since making those statements, or when you say that the idea of trinitarianism is implicit in the New Testament, you are not using the term trinitarianism in the same way that I and others that comment here are using it.

Andrew, a few weeks ago I ran across this old blog post by Daniel Kirk that I think is quite relevant to what you are saying. Here is a brief excerpt:

And now I’m going to say something that I know will raise the hackles of so many of my good friends–who will, no doubt, fill the comments with quotes and indications about why I’m wrong. So be it. Enlighten me!

What Wright is pointing out is one sliver of a larger problem with “the church” as a guide to reading Jesus: when the church cared about Jesus as a Jewish man it gave us the Synoptic Gospels, when this became irrelevant and/or an embarrassment, it gave us the rule of faith.

The significance of Jesus’ humanity, according to the creeds, is that it allows God to die. And this is, of course, a tremendously important component in Christian theology.

But the silence of the creeds on the life of Jesus is more than telling. Questions of ontology so consumed the energies of early Christological debates, and the church fathers so quickly became Gentiles, that the story of Jesus as told in the Synoptics was essentially irrelevant for fundamental Christian belief–as irrelevant as the story of Israel itself.

The Christology of the church is not a careful reflection on, and integration of, the entirety of the NT canon. It is a reflection of the church’s prioritization of John in the midst of debates that pressed for clarity on Jesus’ ontology. But these debates ensued without a concomitant realization that the “ontology” of the Gospels is a storied ontology about, first and foremost, a first century Jewish man. This is why there remains a massive amount of work to be done, integrating a more robust human christology into the faith of the church.

I’m sure you are already aware of Kirk’s work and have read this before, but for those who are not the whole blog post and the comments are well worth a read.


This is one of the best reviews I’ve read on Bauckham’s book. You did a splendid job. I agree with everything you say. The challenge with Bauckham is to keep track of the gradual slippery slopes he employs. You did and well done.

I agree with you especially re. the “divine identity” issue. This phrase is too vague to be philosophically decisive. It does not specify whether ontological, referential or functional identity is intended. What we do have are normative uses of titles and activities denoting functional and referential identity and nothing else. In the Testament of Abraham Abel is said to be sitting on God’s throne, judging. Divine identity there? Equality to the Son of Man? Functionally, yes.

I agree fully with your assessment of Ps. 110:1. I’m writing a paper on the text with some more information around the ancient universal understanding of the identity of the second lord. I’ll send it on. That text is the contextualiser of the Shema and it was also used as such. The Sovereignty of Yahweh is ensured and the rightful position as shaliach or apostle of God is specified.

Shown to be not-Yahweh and not-Most High in the NT, (1 Cor. 11:3, 2 Cor. 1:3, Php. 2:11) Jesus nevertheless acts on God’s behalf. Hallelujah!

Jaco, that’s not quite what I was saying. At least, we have to do something with the wisdom-creation side of the equation. And can we please not re-run the long debates that we have had already?

Your wishes will be respected, Andrew. The Wisdom-creation side of the equation can be understood in two ways: Jesus as the one who was the initiative for creation and the one in whom God’s Wisdom is collectively seen and/or the one through whom a New Creation is brought about as the actual and original plan for mankind.

Just my thoughts…

Yes, I’ve wondered about the argument that Jesus is the beginning of a new creation. I can’t help feeling that it would have been flagged less ambiguously, though.

I forgot to add,

You might want to have a look at McGrath’s take on the vagueness of Bauckham’s neologism here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2009/08/review-of-richard-bauckham-jesus-and-the-god-of-israel.html.

And an eschatological understanding of the Johannine prologue here: http://www.academia.edu/3288395/John_1_Jesus_Creator_of_an_old_creation_or_of_a_new_one and here: http://www.academia.edu/2905451/Manifestation_or_Incarnation

<i>It seems to me that understanding this convergence will be the key to understanding how the New Testament speaks of Jesus as God.</i>

It will be interesting to see what you do with that when you get to it.

(BTW, the italics icon is still not working for me. Don’t know if the html tags I am using work on this blog or not. Guess we will see.)

I may be misreading you, and Bauckham (not having read the book yet), but a cursory glance at the post suggests to me that much of the argument revolves around the meaning of the words ‘identity’ (as in conflation or otherwise of Jesus with YHWH’s identity), and ‘rule’ (as in when Jesus began to rule following his resurrection).

In the former, despite recourse to interesting but for a variety of reasons inconclusive 1st century/post-exilic precedents, it seems to me that a trinitarian explanation of Jesus reflects best how he is presented in the NT literature. He is neither a created being like the others cited, nor a hypostasization of God.

In the latter, I’d be surprised if Bauckham didn’t believe that Jesus’s rule began immediately following his resurrrection, albeit with a consummation at the final judgment. It’s more a question of what that rule looked like, or in what it consisted, which seems to me to be the issue.

As Jaco pointed out, James McGrath has a good review of the book which highlights some of hte confusion surrounding the notion of identity.

Dragging myself backwards through the hedge, as it were, McGrath’s review is worth reading in its entirety in conjunction with your post, and at some point, when I get round to reading the book, both will no doubt cast light on Bauckham for me. Thanks pointing it out.

On another matter, following the links to the two other posts in the same comment by Jaco, is Andrew Perry a hypostasization of Andrew Perriman?

Hahaha! Good one…

In the review of ‘Jesus and the God of Israel’ etc/Bauckham, McGrath mentions figures such as Yahoel, Metatron and the investiture of Moses to illustrate the appointment of individuals who carry attributes of YHWH without being YHWH himself.

There has never been a developed argument on this website to reinforce a parallel with Jesus, but I wonder if it points up some problems in citing the non-canonical literature to interpret literature within the canon.

Some of the problems are obvious, such as when the non-canonical literature is dated later than the canon. Another is the extent to which the non-canonical literature was ever widely accepted or even widely known. A further difficulty is whether the non-canonical literature really accords with what we reasonably understand of the canonical literature itself. Are there really any examples of such YHWH identified figures in the canon?

All of this has a bearing on who we understand Jesus to be, and in the debate about his divinity, it’s not simply a theological or dogmatic debate, but as I keep pointing out, influences our understanding of the entire narrative in which he is such a key player.

Hi Peter

I think in our engagements I have made reference to various of these sources along with identical canonical parallels (cp. Ex. 7:1, 23:21, Zech. 1:2). Not only the pseudepigrapha, but also the Jewish apocrypha contain parallels (cp. Esdras 5:43-56). The rabbinical principle of shelichut confirms to what extent this cultural norm was engrained in the Jews’ minds.

Can the non-canonical texts can be regarded authoritative? If these texts were instrumental in shaping theological worldviews, yes. Since we see allusions and striking parallels to both the apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, certain influence from Philo in GJohn and Hebrews as well as comparable traditions from Qumran, I don’t think responsible scholarship would ignore these culture-shaping texts.

I’m not sure you’ve proved your assertion by the texts you have quoted (Zecharaiah 1:2/). There’s a big ‘if’ in your second paragraph. I’m mainly thinking OT, but also question Greek influence in Hebrews.

Hi Peter

If you look at the first verse we see that the word of Yahweh came to Zechariah, verse two and nineteen have the angel of Yahweh doing the talking/interaction, while in verse 20 Yahweh shows Zechariah carpenters. It is as if the three referents - word of Yahweh, angel of Yahweh and Yahweh Himself - are used interchangeably. A reductionistic approach would be to simply numerically identify the three and condemn all who disagree with you. From a scholarly responsible perspective the concept of agency which employs functional and referential identity warrants such a usage and that was also how the ancient Jews understood it. This principle is applied to Jesus identically. The one sent/apostle/emissary/ambassador/agent/representative/shaliach (Heb. 3:1) is as good as the One doing the sending.

Yes, that “if” is a big one. But if the conditional is satisfied, the result would be irreversibly compelling.

If texts were instrumental in shaping theological worldviews, then they can be regard as authoritative? I cannot think of any text that, to some degree, has NOT shaped theological worldviews. Therefore, all texts, to some degree, are authoritative. What is the problem with the conclusion?

Authority is not the product of influence. X’s ability to influence does not make X authoritative. Canonical authority is derived from the nature of its contents. Those contents are authoritative because they are God’s word, not because they influence people. This is the fallacy of false cause. Influence does not cause authority any more than hunger causes food.

This entire discussion is wrought with problems, not the least of which is the assumption that we have a firm understanding of supposed norms related to second temple Jewish intepretive paradigms. There were three major schools and we simply can’t be sure about the contolling influence. To imply norms or that the “Jewish” mind had something engrained in it is folly.Which Jewish mind are you talking about? From which school? There was hardly agreement on these issues during this time. Yet you and Andrew speak as if we have a set of well-established, uncontrovertible facts about a state of affairs that remain exceptionally vague even at this time.

These views are extreme, unfounded assumptions based on conjecture and speculation coupled with the smallest of facts.The dogmatic pronouncement of the death of orthodoxy and establishment of a dogmatic construct rests upon the weakest of foundations.


You ask: “What is the problem with the conclusion?”

The answer is the premise; you say: “I cannot think of any text that, to some degree, has NOT shaped theological worldviews.”

I’m pretty sure one wouldn’t have to think too very hard to actually come up with some texts that have nothing to do with theological worldviews, ancient or modern. I don’t think you are trying very hard. In other words, it seems you are stretching the possible meanings of what people are saying about the sources used to compare “Jewish thought” to biblical texts and their significance for us. I don’t know you but I’m pretty sure I’d understand your thought best in the context of the matrix of contemporary “orthodoxy.” As you suggest, that wouldn’t make my understanding of your thinking authoritative, but it would make it a more accurate conjecture. So, who is being more dogmatic and absolutist in this blog conversation?

Is it my imagination or does everyone ignore context when interpreting these days? This is quite humerous. We protend to be able to arrive at ancient Jewish interpretive paradigms at a high enough confidence level not only to make dogmatic assertions in our theology, but with enough confidence to turn 2,000 years of historic orthodoxy on its head based on data that can barely qualify as speculative in most cases. Yet, we can’t even consider context when interpreting texts written in the moment. Beautiful!

With all due respect, Ed, I think it is your imagination. Not too many people are making dogmatic assertions in theology based on arriving at speculations regarding ancient Jewish paradigms. Most dogmatism comes from “traditional-orthodox” understandings or from more philosophically derived perspectives, rather than from historical-textual-biblical theologizing.

Richard, I realize this is what you want people to believe. But it is frankly imipossible to dislodge one dogmatism without replacing it with another one. This thread is quite dogmatic that orthodoxy has had it wrong all along. I have no issue with confidence or dogmatism so long as it has the appropriate foundation. The views espoused by liberals and the EC are entirely lacking such a foundation. You cannot vanquish absolutes: you can only replace them. It is the nature of reality.

It is sheer arrogance to suggest that so many have been so wrong for so long, without at least providing sound argumentation based on sound principles of interpretation and exegesis. I see neither in this thread. What I see is NOT exegesis at all, and the interpretive paradigm is so subjective and slippery one cannot get a firm grip on it if their life depended on it. So many of these hypotheses that are floating about borne from a sliver of what we think we know about second temple Judiasm couple with what we want to be true concerning traditional orthdoxy. We read things like, well, we could read this text like this or like that. Therefore, orthodoxy must have it wrong. The problem with the approach is that it is built off a skeptical framework. It begins with skepticism and oddly, it moves into some bizzare dogmatic system that asserts at minimum that orthodoxy is wrong and of this it is sure, but it is not sure about much else. Such thinking is utterly absurd. Be sure that orthodoxy is wrong, absolutely sure, before making such baseless suggestions about interpretive paradigms.

You need to go back and explain “I and the Father are One.” Explain Thomas. Explain why Jews thought Jesus was claiming divinity. Explain how Jesus shared glory with the Father before the world even began. Explain why the Hebrews writer affirmed that even God called Jesus God. Explain why Isa. 9 prophecies that Jesus name would be called the Mighty God and Eternal Father. Explain why John 1:18 calls Jesus the only begotten or unique God. Looks like you have quite a lot of explaining to do. Explain why the Jesus was worshipped from the very beginning. No Jew would have ever thought about worshipping a man! Not one who was devoted to God!


We could use a little logic in these argument.

Jesus is the Word.

The Word is God.

Therefore, Jesus is God.

You say…The word is actually logic.

Jesus is Logic.

Logic is God.

Therefore, Jesus is God.

Is the argument valid? Yes, it employs a valid hypothetical syllogism.

Are the premises true? Jesus is the Word and this is undeniable. The Word is God. This is clearly undeniable. Here is a an argument then that is not only valid, but sound. As such, the final proposition, flowing naturally from the major and minor premises is true. It does not matter if you want to say Logos is logic or if you accept that John was talking about the Christ. Either way, Jesus is the subject and He is affirmed from the very start to be God.


Will the objection be that logic does not apply to God? Hence, leaving us with an irrational version of Christianity. Time will tell.

Your unstated premise is that you can theologize apart from theological perspectives. You cannot even get started without some theolgoical perspective about which you must be dogmatic if you hope to arrive at anything more than nonsense. In other words, knowledge has a foundation somewhere. The last time I checked, one does not build the roof of the house and then lay the foundation.

This whole enterprise revolves around the dogmatic assumption that the Jews occupy the same special place they did before. John’s gospel, written after the destruction of the Temple points us up to the fact that allegiance to Jesus has replaced ethnicity as the determining factor of the people of God. This is what was being pointed to all along in the Older Scriptures. Is there a future for ethnic Israel? I firmly believe there is. The Messiah will return a second time, the nation will be saved, and the reign of peace will be installed to continue eternally.

Great post with clear presentation and incisive analysis. It seems that the same kind of critique you present in relation to Bauckham’s understanding of the development and biblical contextualization of Jesus’ incorporation in the divine identity of YHWH might be helpful in relation to others as well. I think you have responded to Hurtado’s work previously (a reminder of where we might find that would be appreciated). Currently Scot McKnight has a brief foray into the fray on his blog regarding Jesus and the Shema adaptation by Paul here:




McKnight seems to turn the biblical scheme of things on its head by asserting that God the Father is Elohim and Jesus is YHWH in 1 Corinthians 8:4-6.

I’d be interested in your (and others here) response to his presentation if you have the time.

All the well-wishing in the world will not transform John’s gospel into a gospel about the Widsom of God. No one could ever read John honestly (to borrow your term) and draw such conclusions. Only with an agenda firmly clasped between my fingers could I ever enter John’s writing, interact with it, and exit it thinking his main theme was the wisdom of God incarnate.

John is clearly concerned to lift Christ to the loftiest levels. Your views fail to explain how all things were created and held together by Christ. They fail to account for the kenosis in any meaningful way. They amount to the integration of a hermeneutic that led its adherents to reject Christ as Messiah even though that same hermeneutic did think Christ asserted divinity.

The exaltation of Jesus Christ, the God-Man, followed the kenosis, the adding to the Divine nature, a human one. God descended down to the lower parts of the earth, became a servant, became a man, accomplished His redemtive purpose, and was exatled back to the place from whence He came. It isn’t that hard to reconcile the language when your theology is internally consistent and comports with all that Scripture teaches.

Ed, I agree that John is concerned to lift Christ to the loftiest levels, and given the language of John 1:1-14 it seems pretty clear to me (and to many scholars) that he uses Jewish wisdom ideas to do so. He does not use the apocalyptic narrative that dominates the synoptic gospels. There is a fundamental literary-theological difference between John and the synoptics, and I think this is an important part of the explanation.

There is no “kenosis” in the New Testament, in the sense that you understand it, to account for. It is a theological figment.

I’ve made the point before—you have a habit of forgetting or overlooking much of the response that I have patiently made to you—that the Jew’s rejection of Jesus does not disqualify a fundamentally Jewish reading of the New Testament. Paul’s hermeneutic no doubt differed from that of his opponents in the synagogues or the Judaizing apostles from Jerusalem, but it was still a Jewish hermeneutic, operating within a Jewish worldview, in a largely diaspora Jewish cultural context, developing a Jewish narrative about the God of Israel.


Your argument that Paul’s interpretation was Jewish because Paul was Jewish is fallacious. John’s writings are clearly different from the synoptics. No one is disputing that. What is disputed is your non-traditional, unorthodox, radically minority view that John’s theme was the Wisdom of God. I believe your conclusions are drawn from decisions you made prior to John. In other words, your theological commitments drive your hermeneutical decisions about John.

Your description of the kenosis as a theological figment isn’t an argument. I think it describes what you want it to be. No exegetical process I have ever encountered has the power to relegate the kenosis to the realm of make-belief. The manner in which you treat the text is Phil. 2:5-11 can hardly be described as exegesis.

Your remarks about the Jewishness of Christian hermeneutics continue to ignore the possibility that the narrow Jewish intererpretation of Scripture had to be radically changed in order to see the truth and that this is the best explanation for why the majority in all the major schools rejected Christ while so few, mostly uneducated, were able to see the truth. Paul’s hermeneutic did not change prior to his conversion. He did not study the arguments of his opponents and “get it.” He only “got it” after something supernatural occurred. What I am arguing, Andrew, is that no naturalistic interpretive method, be it Jewish or otherwise, is capable of arrive at the truth of the Messiah or the truth that Jesus is God. These truths belong to the realm of the supernatural and they require supernatural help in order to understand them rightly.

You have still not answered my question regarding the murder of Jesus. Did the first century Jews kill Jesus because they understood Him to claim divinity? If they understood Him to be making this claim, we need not search any further for how the Church could have understood that as well. It seems to me that it is VERY clear that the first century Jewish leaders understood that Jesus was claiming to be God. They used this claim to charge Him with blasphemy and killed Him for it. Isaiah 9:6-7 unambiguously tells us that the Son will be called the Mighty God, the Eternal Father.

You have still not answered my question regarding the murder of Jesus. Did the first century Jews kill Jesus because they understood Him to claim divinity? If they understood Him to be making this claim, we need not search any further for how the Church could have understood that as well. It seems to me that it is VERY clear that the first century Jewish leaders understood that Jesus was claiming to be God.

Given all that you’ve said about the Jews getting everything wrong, why should we trust their judgment that Jesus claimed divinity? Perhaps they misunderstood him in the same way that they misunderstood the scriptures.

As it is, Caiaphas states that Jesus deserved death because he claimed to be the Christ, the Son of God—that is Israel’s king—and that Caiaphas himself would see “the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mk. 14:62). That is not a claim to divinity. It is a claim to be the Son of Man—vindicated Israel—and the “Lord” who is given authority by YHWH to rule at his right hand (cf. Ps. 110:1).

What remains to be shown, Andrew, is how the claim to be “The” Son of the Living God rose to the level of blasphemy, punishable by death. That is your case to prove. My understanding is that Caiaphas interpreted Jesus claim to be one of divinity, hence, balspheming God.

Again in Luke, the Sanhedrin questioned Jesus asking Him directly if was the Son of God. And He affirmed their understanding of His claim. Once more, they charged Him with blasphemy.

John tells us that the Jews informed Pilate that Jesus had broken their law of blasphemy by claiming to be the Son of God.

All this is puzzling if Jesus were merely claiming to be the Messiah. Certainly such a claim does not rise to the level of blasphemy. Yet the Jews were convinced of Jesus’ blasphemy and the every gospel writer informs us that the charge was tied to Jesus’ claim to be THE Son of God. In John 5:18 we are informed that the claim that God was His OWN Father was a claim to divinity. The connection is undeniable.

In John 10:30, Jesus’ claim to be one with God ἐγὼ καὶ ὁ πατὴρ ἕν ἐσμεν, was a claim to be literally, essential God. The Jews understood this perfectly and took up stones to stone Him for the crime of blasphemy. How is it that these Jews interpreted Jesus’ own words to be claims of divinity, but you, appealing to the same method(s) (which one I am not sure) arrive at precisely a perfectly contradictory interpretation, using the same method nonetheless.

John 20:29-31 could not possibly be recorded for any other reason than to punctuate the truth that Jesus Christ is God. Thomas’ claim was not met with correction, but rather rebuke for requiring signs to believe that Jesus was in fact His Lord AND His God. The connection between Jesus being “THE Son of God” and God are clearly linked together. It is for this purpose that John’s project came to be from the start.

Hey Ed,

Since it can easily be shown that people were stoned to death for proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah it isn’t necessary to prove some level of certainty about blasphemy “laws” regarding claims of “divinity” in order to get the penalty of death. Your understanding about Caiaphas’ interpretation of Jesus’ claims about himself may be exaggerated, however common it may be. The interpretation you affirm is not explicitly in the text.

As suggested by Andrew already, there is no good reason to believe that those who sought to kill Jesus would be the most accurate interpreters of his statements. The only New Testament text (I can think of) that presents an opponent of Jesus as being a revealer of truth is the one where Caiaphas says that Jesus should die so the nation would be saved; and he didn’t understand what he was saying according to the text.

Jesus does clearly claim to be one with His Father. However, in that same text He also prays that all of His followers would also be one with His Father, and with them both, using the exact same terminology! The oneness of Father and Son in this text hence does not prove the essential godness of Jesus, no matter how many church fathers used the text to establish Jesus’ philosophically conceived divinity.

And yes, Thomas does proclaim Jesus as his Lord and God. The question still remains, at least to me and others, in what sense That particular resurrected human is to be understood as God. I believe in Jesus’ divinity, and in Him as my God, but I prefer not to use specious arguments to prove how or why.

Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. (fascinating)

Since it can easily be shown that people were stoned to death for proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah it isn’t necessary to prove some level of certainty about blasphemy “laws” regarding claims of “divinity” in order to get the penalty of death. Your understanding about Caiaphas’ interpretation of Jesus’ claims about himself may be exaggerated, however common it may be. The interpretation you affirm is not explicitly in the text.

The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” This seems explicit enough for the disinterested reader from just about any perspective. They clearly believed Jesus claimed divinity. And they clearly wanted to stone Him for it.

For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. Once again, this is explicit enough for the disinterested reader. The Jews were making a connection that your method claims we would not make if we used their method. Utter folly!

The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.” Every single account of Jesus’ trial all say the same thing. The ruling powers of Judaism linked Jesus’ claims to be THE Son of God to be claims of equality rising to the level of blasphemy. Every gospel records this account. It is equally clear from their language that Jesus statement was more than enough proof and the idea is that we need nothing more than His own words. In other words, the council was clearly in agreement.

Jesus does clearly claim to be one with His Father. However, in that same text He also prays that all of His followers would also be one with His Father, and with them both, using the exact same terminology! The oneness of Father and Son in this text hence does not prove the essential godness of Jesus, no matter how many church fathers used the text to establish Jesus’ philosophically conceived divinity.

I see nothing in Scripture where Jesus prays that we would be one with God. I see where Jesus prays that we would be one with another. John 17 does not contain the phrase you seek. eimi eis is never used of man and God. We are described as in God, in Christ, in the body, one with each other etc, but NEVER one with God. More should be said about this little phrase that nearly God Christ stoned to death.

And yes, Thomas does proclaim Jesus as his Lord and God. The question still remains, at least to me and others, in what sense That particular resurrected human is to be understood as God. I believe in Jesus’ divinity, and in Him as my God, but I prefer not to use specious arguments to prove how or why.

Specious? Can you show the argument to be specious or merely offer more of the same kind of subjective conjecture I see on this thread? Jesus never corrected Thomas, but rather said, you FINALLY believe the truth but you had to see. Blessed are those who believe this without seeing. John wrote this at the very climax of his gospel. To call it specious is not an argument. It is a statement that even a child can make. To show it specious is something I w0uld like to see.

You are dismissive of Jesus’ trials all linking his claim to blasphemy. And that link is reinforced and strengthened in John on two additional occasions. You dismiss Jesus’ claim to be one with God by falsely stating that He prayed for us to be one with God. He did not. This claim was a claim of divinity clearly recognized by the Jewish leaders and they almost stoned Him for it. You casually dismiss Thomas great confession, strategically placed by John just before his stated purpose for writing his gospel from the start. You ignore Jesus prayer that He had a glory with the Father that He shared with Him even before the world began and that it was the VERY SAME glory He would have with Him after His resurrection.

Simply and utterly amazing. Andrew talks about reading the text honestly in his book. There is no honesty in the assertions I read in this thread. The idea of letting the text speak for itself simply does not exist on this topic any ways. And there seems to be no limits to which people will go to resist believing as Thomas did, that Jesus was both his Lord and his God.

This paper was published in Theology Today recently. Finally some robust, no-nonsense criticism of Bauckham’s logically inferior proposal of “divine identity.” Dodo-proposals deserve extinction, in my opinion…