Who was/is Jesus?

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Who was/is Jesus? If we read the New Testament as historical narrative—rather than through later theological grids—the dominant story by a country mile is the one about the man who was marked out at birth, and by his birth, as Israel’s future saviour and king, who was chosen and anointed by Israel’s God to bring a powerful end-of-the-age message to Israel regarding the coming decisive intervention of God in the affairs of his people for better and for worse, who was fiercely opposed by the political-religious establishment in Jerusalem and put to death, who was raised from the dead, who was given supreme authority to rule as Israel’s king in the midst of his enemies throughout the coming ages, and who was eventually to be confessed as Lord by the nations of the Greek-Roman world.

Woven into this thoroughly coherent eschatological narrative is a secondary plot line, according to which the primal Wisdom or Word of God found embodiment and expression in Israel’s revolutionary Messiah: “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14). This “incarnational” argument, for which we are almost entirely dependent on John, became the foundation stone for the Trinitarian model that the Church Fathers quite reasonably developed over the next two or three centuries.

But in my view, if we are to read the New Testament aright, this cannot be allowed to obscure the primary political character of the story about Jesus. In a further attempt to prevent that happening, here are some of the main pieces of evidence for the basic contention that Jesus was given the authority to act as prophet, Messiah, judge and king, though really it comes down to the whole New Testament story told as a continuation of Israel’s story. If you’re concerned that this way of thinking about Jesus has no personal relevance for you, you could try reading this.

  1. The infancy narratives present Jesus not as God incarnate but as the descendant of David “who will shepherd my people Israel” (Matt. 2:6). “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lk. 1:32–33).
  2. If the language of the accounts of Jesus’ baptism is meant to recall Isaiah 42:1, as I think most commentators would accept, then Jesus is portrayed as the servant of YHWH who has been chosen and anointed with the Spirit in order to fulfil YHWH’s purposes.
  3. Satan’s offer of the kingdoms of the world to Jesus suggests that the authority to rule over the nations has to be given to Jesus, either by Satan or by God: “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will” (Lk. 4:6).
  4. Luke has Jesus read out Isaiah 61:1-2 to the same effect (Lk. 4:16-21). He identifies himself with the prophet who has been given the Spirit of God, anointed by YHWH, to proclaim on YHWH’s behalf good news to the poor in Israel, liberty to captive Israel, the year of YHWH’s favour towards his people and judgment against his enemies.
  5. The centurion in Capernaum seems to think that both he and Jesus are “under authority” (Matt. 8:9; Lk. 7:8).
  6. After the healing of the paralytic, the crowds glorify God, “who had given such authority to men” (Matt. 9:8). Matthew does not appear to think that this contradicts Jesus’ own statement: “that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Matt 9:6). Daniel’s son of man figure does not have authority by right or before the crisis described in the latter half of the book; he receives it following judgment against the beasts (Dan. 7:9-14).
  7. The consistent identification of Jesus with Daniel’s “one like a son of man” can only mean that he is given the authority to rule as a result of faithful suffering—and will come with the clouds of heaven, at some point in the future, to exercise that authority with respect to Israel, the nations and his disciples (cf. Matt. 10:23; 13:41; 16:27-28; 19:28; 24:27-30; 24:39, 44; 25:31; 26:64; and so on).
  8. After the resurrection Jesus says to the disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18). You can’t ask for a clearer statement than that. We read in Daniel that “the God of heaven has authority in the kingdom of humans and he will give it to whomever he desires” (Dan 4:28 LXX; cf. 4:17). God will take the kingdom from Nebuchadnezzar and give it to another. This corresponds precisely to the New Testament narrative: God has supreme authority in heaven and earth, but he takes it away from the kings and rulers of Israel and the nations and gives it to his Son.
  9. The assumption underlying the conversation between Jesus and the chief priests, et al., in the temple about his authority is that the authority to act as he did had been given to him: “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” (Mk. 11:27-33).
  10. In Luke’s version of the parable of the talents, the nobleman, who is presumably to be identified with Jesus, “went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return” (Lk. 19:12). Jesus will receive the kingdom, the authority to judge and rule over Israel and the nations, after his, and he will return to vindicate his faithful disciples.
  11. The Father has given Jesus “authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man” (Jn. 5:27). He is the Son of Man because he suffers at the hands of apostate Israel in collusion with an aggressive pagan empire. This is another unequivocal statement that Jesus is given the authority, which YHWH would otherwise have reserved for himself, to act as eschatological judge.
  12. Jesus expressly denies that he is speaking on his own authority. “The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true” (Jn. 7:17-18; cf. 12:49; 14:10). He does nothing on his own authority but speaks as the Father taught him (Jn. 8:28).
  13. Jesus asks the Father to “glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh” (Jn. 17:1–2).
  14. Jesus says, “I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment (entolēn) I have received from my Father” (John 10:18).
  15. On the day of Pentecost Peter says, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36). He cites Psalm 110:1: “The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool” (Acts 2:34–35)—arguably the most influential Old Testament text for the interpretation of Jesus’ resurrection. The Lord who is YHWH installs the Lord or ᐣadon who is greater than David at his right hand to rule in the midst of his enemies throughout the coming ages.
  16. Later Peter says that “the God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Saviour” (Acts 5:30–31).
  17. Peter tells Cornelius that God sent the word to Israel through Jesus, having anointed him with the Holy Spirit and power. Jesus healed the sick and cast out demons not because he was God but because “God was with him” (Acts 10:36-38).
  18. The difference between David and Jesus is not that Jesus was YHWH and David wasn’t but that God raised Jesus from the dead and installed him as his king forever, after the order of Melchizedek (Acts 2:22-38; 13:37; cf. Heb. 5:5-6)
  19. Paul tells the men of Athens that the God of Israel has fixed a day on which he will judge the pagan world “by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).
  20. Paul’s “gospel” was that Jesus “was determined Son of God in power… by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4).
  21. Christ is given authority to rule in the midst of his enemies, in accordance with Psalm 110:1, until the last enemy is destroyed. Then he must give that authority back to God (1 Cor. 15:24-28). The authority to rule is not a permanent possession.
  22. The “name which is above every name” (in my view “Lord”, but this is debatable) is “graciously bestowed” (echarisato) on Jesus, in order that he might be confessed as Lord by the nations of the ancient pagan world (Phil. 2:9-11).
  23. The story about Jesus in Ephesians is that God raised him from the dead, seated him at his right hand above all rule and authority, and (again referencing Psalm 110:1) “put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church” (Eph. 1:20-23). Pre-eminence and authority are not things that Jesus has of necessity, because he is the eternal Son, but are given to him after the resurrection.
  24. According to Hebrews, Jesus was “appointed” or “made” the “heir of all things; he “became” superior to the angels; he “inherited” a more excellent name; he is the king who was “begotten” on the day of his resurrection, who was made a son, who was brought into the oikoumenē as “firstborn”; he was made to sit at the right hand of God in accordance with Psalm 110:1; all things were subjected to him, and he was crowned with glory and honour “because of the suffering of death” (Heb. 1:1-2:9).
  25. Although Jesus was a son, he “learned obedience through what he suffered” and was, for that reason, “designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 5:10) .
  26. For the author of Revelation, Jesus is the Son of Man, who suffered, died, was raised from the dead, and was given “glory and dominion for ever and ever”; he is “ruler of kings on earth”. Because he died and rose to new life, he has “the keys of Death and Hades” (Rev. 1:4-7, 17-18).
  27. The living creatures and twenty-four elders fall before the throne of God in heaven and declare that God is worthy because he created all things. When they fall before the Lamb, they sing a new song—here is the christological novelty: Jesus is worthy to open the scroll of eschatological judgment because he conquered death, because he was the Lamb that was slain (Rev. 4:9-11; 5:5-14). Jesus is given the authority to judge both Israel and the nations not because he is identified with YHWH but because he has earned the right to open the scroll.
peter wilkinson | Wed, 08/30/2017 - 13:24 | Permalink

Since this is part of a (slight) ongoing conversation here, I just add the following observations, but with the caveat that yes indeed, Jesus was delegated his mission, a delegation which has never been in question. It’s the nature of the delegation which is in question: from whom, and to whom in particular.

1. The infancy (ie birth) narratives present Jesus as both a descendant of David, shepherd to Israel, recipient of the throne of David, and God incarnate — as the Matthew narrative in chapter 1, and verse 18 in particular, implies, and also the Luke narrative and 1:35 also implies. It was a birth brought about by the power of the Holy Spirit without human agency. If you don’t accept the literal truth of the narratives, the theological truth is clear. Joseph did not need to be ashamed and put Mary away, which he obviously would otherwise have done, as the child was not his.

2. The language of the accounts of Jesus’s baptisms does recall Isaiah 42:1, adding the unique relationship (not just a messianic title) of the Father to the Son, which goes much further than Isaiah 42:1, and is a unique characteristic of the gospels in their presentation of Jesus. The baptism accounts do not say that, henceforwards, a great deal which was appropriately attributed to YHWH would now be attributed to Jesus and him alone.

3. As God incarnate, Jesus was uniquely qualified to defeat Satan and to rule the nations as king, for which there was (and is) no other human candidate, and for which he did not need to cooperate on Satan’s terms.

4. Jesus reads out Isaiah 61:1-2 in the synagogue, but enrages the congregation by failing to read 2b, and proclaiming only grace. Further, he enrages the congregation by implying that God’s favour will come not to Israel but to the Gentiles, as it did in the incidents relating to Elijah and Elisha in Luke 4:25-27. In Luke 4:22, the words “bore witness” more appropriately and correctly mean “testify against”, in view of the subsequent flow of the narrative. In other words, Jesus was not at all like the servant which Isaiah 42:1 would have led us to expect. 

5. The centurion recognised that the authority of Jesus was derived from being, like himself, under authority. Yes, the authority of God the Father, to whom Jesus had willingly submitted himself as God the Son. Once again, it is the Gentiles whom Jesus says will come to be joined with the patriarchs at the eschatological feast, not ‘the subjects of the kingdom’ — Matthew 8:11, thus once again changing the anticipated OT narrative. 

6. The Pharisees are given the unusual honour of correctly perceiving what was and was not due to Jesus in Mark’s version of the healing of the paralytic (which you avoid mentioning) — “He’s blaspheming. Who can forgive sins but God alone?” That Jesus then forgives sins and heals the man proves the point.

7. Jesus’s self identification as ‘son of man’ is both like and unlike the Daniel 7 prophecy. In Daniel, where by the way there is considerable ambiguity over whether the figure is singular or corporate, and Jesus takes the singular identity, the son of man as corporate Israel represents the future vindication of Israel. There is no such vindication of Israel through suffering worked out by Jesus, but there is a vindication through suffering of Jesus himself, through whom a benefit to the Gentiles is given, not to Israel alone. Again, the OT narrative is substantially changed (though Isaiah hints at this), and the question of the difference between Jesus and any other OT proto-messianic figure arises. The clues of divinity are actaully in the wording of the Daniel 7 prophecy itself, when you compare closely Daniel’s vision and his interpretation of it.

8. If LXX Daniel 4:28 (Daniel 4:17) is echoed in Matthew 28:18, it’s hardly a clear echo of the passages, and anyway, I’m not sure what it is meant to prove, as God (the Father) equally is said to have given Jesus (the Son) this authority on the grounds of what Jesus submitted himself to as man, and which the gospels equally present.

9. Of course the chief priests et al asked “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” They had not given him the authority, so who had? They already had the answer: nobody. They missed the other answer: God. The logic does not then prove that Jesus was a purely human emissary of God. It simply raises further questions, which by now have been raised throughout Mark and the other gospels, about who Jesus was, and which they each in their own way answer: God incarnate.

10. As far as Jesus’s identity is concerned, the point is similar to the response made to 8.

11. Once again, the issue of Jesus having a delegated authority is never in question. The question is: authority delegated to whom?

12. The passages cited from John, as well as the consistent testimony of John’s gospel, is that Jesus had a unique relationship of communion and intimacy with God paralleled by no one. It raises the question of Jesus’s identity which John explicitly answers: he was claiming to be God — eg John 8:58-59.

13. Responded to by previous responses to delegated authority.

14. See 13. and previous responses.

15. See 14, 13, and previous responses. The passage also raises the ‘Lord’ argument, in which ‘Lord’ (Kurios) is also an identification with YHWH.

16. Answered by previous responses. Jesus voluntarily submitted himself to God the Father.

17. Answered by previous responses.

18. The difference between David and Jesus suggested by these and other NT references to Psalm 110:1 neither proves nor disproves that Jesus was human, divine, or both. The use of the passage does raise the question, again, of the nature and identity of Jesus as messiah, which is not adequately answered by any purely human non-divine alternative in the line of OT antecedents. In the light of what we see elsewhere about Jesus, it is logical to assume a divine identity to the Psalm 110 figure.

19. Answered by previous responses.

20. The Romans 1 passage, suggests something rather more than that Jesus was the (purely human) messiah. Verses 3 & 4 have a parallelism: on the one side the flesh (human nature) — a descendant of David; on the other side the divine — Spirit of holiness), Son of God, made explicit by the final Kurios/YHWH association, Jesus Christ our Lord. But I’m not going to the wire over this interpretation.

21. I think this is a misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:24-28, around which a misinterpretation of v.28 revolves. It cannot mean that Jesus was not subject to God before “the end”, which is what your interpretation makes it mean. Neither does “He must reign until …” mean, “He must reign until … and then he ceases to reign in any shape or form”. “Until” is necessarily ambiguous. What the passage is saying is that Jesus reigns in order to bring until “everything under his feet” — ie until no part of the created world and its inhabitants are not under his rule. What will that look like? God will be “all in all”. Paul is speaking initially in the biblical language of metaphor, but now it should be plainly obvious that the commonly accepted meanings of metaphor, as far as Israel’s future narrative are conjectured, have changed hugely from their commonly accepted OT counterparts.

22. We’ll be arguing about Philippians 2:9-11 until the cows come home. I don’t know of anyone who comes close to your interpretation this passage.

23. You present a revisionist view of Ephesians which, at the very least, is not mainstream.

24. The main purpose of Hebrews is to contrast Jesus as High Priest with OT High Priesthood — in that it provides the effective and heavenly, ie divine, fufilment and reality of those things for which the Levitical priesthood and sacrificial system were in a temple which was simply “a type and shadow of what is in heaven” — 8:5. The letter is not in itself a systematic proof of the divinity or otherwise of Jesus. Nevertheless, from chapter 1, it is clear that Jesus is presented as like no other person, and has attributes which make his divine identity difficult to avoid, eg he is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his (God’s) being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” — 1:3; he is superior to the angels; all the things which chapter 1 then goes on to attribute to Jesus are things which ordinarily would be attributed to God alone, and in this context Psalm 110:1 is mentioned. The warning in 2:1 seems very apt, not only to them, but to us.

25. Hebrews 5:8 is as much an argument for the incarnation as it is for a purely human messiah. Jesus learned obedience through suffering in the way we often do, and which he did not need to do, but voluntarily chose to do as part of his identification with us.

26. Having the keys to death and Hades raises the question of the divine identity of Jesus, since no human candidate, OT or otherwise, exists or has existed who qualifies to hold them.

27. I’m glad you have conceded a christological novelty; so there was something which was not anticipated by the OT or its narrative after all! However, Revelation equally presents Jesus as having a divine status. He shares a throne with God — Revelation 5:6, 5:13; “every creature in heaven and on earth gives “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb … praise and honour and glory and power for ever and ever!”

Who do you think they thought Jesus was?

All of this is to respond to your texts and arguments about the identity of Jesus which you say confirm a non-divine Jesus who was accepted as such by 1st century Christian adherents, in the setting of a supposed OT narrative of Israel which did not require a divine messianic figure. I counter each text and argument, but this has not even begun to look at other texts, passages and conclusions drawn from the gospel narratives (and letters) which point us in a different direction — to a fully human/divine messiah for Israel and the world. However, in responding to your texts and proofs, I have provided some alternative texts and proofs which are a start to such an enterprise.

@peter wilkinson:

Hi Peter…

6. The Pharisees are given the unusual honour of correctly perceiving what was and was not due to Jesus in Mark’s version of the healing of the paralytic (which you avoid mentioning) — “He’s blaspheming. Who can forgive sins but God alone?” That Jesus then forgives sins and heals the man proves the point.

Following your logic above… what then can be concluded from Jesus’ words here…

Jn 20:23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Who can forgive sins but God alone? That the disciples then forgive sins and heal many provokes an interesting point to ponder… were the disciples likewise divine? Cf. Jn 17:22-23, 26


According to Guthrie/New Bible Commentary:

The promise was given here to the whole group of disciples (the verb is plural). Although it is not in human power to forgive sins, the preaching of the gospel proclaims such forgiveness. The verbs are in the passive which suggests it is God who is acting. Those who do not respond to the preaching of the gospel are left in their sins (Gk. ‘are retained’, which the NIV translates as ‘not forgiven’). With this promise, cf. Mt.16:18-19; 18:18-19.

Whatever you think, it’s one of those passages about the meaning of which there is debate.

@peter wilkinson:

1. In my view, the infancy narratives do not present Jesus as God incarnate, or even imply that much. Matthew and Luke only say that Jesus was conceived by the power or activity of the Holy Spirit. John presents Jesus as the Word of God made flesh, but that thought is absent from the Synoptics. (As I always say, this is not an argument against Trinitarianism; it is an argument for grasping the primary historical-political orientation of the New Testament.)

2. At most the Father-Son relationship is that of the God as Father to the king as his Son or that of God as Father to Israel as his Son. The Old Testament fully accounts for the language of Jesus’ baptism. He is presented as the servant/son who will fulfil the purposes of YHWH. I did not claim that the baptism accounts say that “a great deal which was appropriately attributed to YHWH would now be attributed to Jesus and him alone”.

3. The texts do not say that Jesus was God incarnate. It’s nonsense to say that there was no human candidate to rule the nations as king. The whole biblical narrative points to the expectation that God would establish the throne of David—that is, a human dynasty—for ever.

4. “Marvelled” (thaumazō in Luke tends to be positive, so I’m not sure it’s right to read emarturoun negatively. But whether or not Jesus fulfilled Jewish expectations regarding God’s anointed servant has no bearing on the present question.

5. Nowhere in the Gospels are we told Jesus relinquished divine authority. That’s a figment of the theological imagination. Not even in Philippians 2:6-8 do we have that idea. Again, the inclusion of Gentiles, if that’s what’s intended here, has no bearing.

6. Perhaps on the premise that Jesus is viewed by Matthew as God incarnate, but that premise has not been established, merely assumed. Otherwise, particularly in view of the reference to the “son of man”, that Jesus proceeds to forgive the man’s sins is better explained by the fact that he has been given the authority to do so.

7. I really don’t understand why you keep harping on about the Gentiles. I see no “clues” to divinity in Daniel 7.

8. See #5.

9. No one gives the “other answer”.

10. See #5.

11. The authority is delegated to Jesus. Kind of obvious.

12. How the eschatological and protological narratives about Jesus intersect in John’s Gospel needs careful examination. See #1.

15. Whether kyrios “is also an identification with YHWH” is precisely the point at issue. It cannot be assumed. You are offering presumptions, “clues” and inferences. The black and white textual evidence is overwhelmingly that authority is given to the human servant/Son of YHWH.

16. See #5.

18. It’s not logical at all. Jesus’ messianic identity is fully accounted for by the argument that YHWH gave to David’s ᐣadon the exceptional right to rule at his right hand. Your argument relies on a theological inference that is simply not demonstrable from what is actually written.

21. Ah, the “biblical language of metaphor”! How convenient. That’s how people have always demythologised biblical eschatological language. The temporal argument is difficult to escape: “Then… when… after… until… last… When… then….” Paul seems to state pretty clearly that at the end, when the last enemy has been destroyed, Jesus will “hand over” rule to God the Father and will become subjected to him.

22. “Graciously bestowed” means “graciously bestowed”.

23. I was simply reading what Paul says in the passage. I don’t see what’s revisionist about it.

24. Notice that the writer says that Jesus “became (genomenos) much greater (comparative)” and inherited a “superior” name” Heb. 1:4). These are statements about a particular moment (exaltation to the right hand of God”) and they are comparative, not absolute.

25. It doesn’t say what you are making it say.

26. To my mind this misses the whole point of the New Testament, which is that the authority was given exceptionally to Jesus.

27. The novelty is the point made in #26. Revelation 5 does not place the Lamb on the throne. If you read the passage, you will see that the Lamb is standing before the throne.

@Andrew Perriman:

Thanks for your response. I’m honoured that you have provided responses at such length. I confess to an uneasiness about creating such a lengthy comment in the first place, in total breach of internet etiquette. Nevertheless, I continue to fly in the face of decorum with further responses. I rather frequently think you have missed the point I was making, a solecism which I have also frequently been accused of.

1. If the birth narratives mean only what you say, then whose child was Jesus, since he wasn’t Joseph’s child? This has little to do with whether you are pro or anti Trinitarian, it’s just reading the texts. The verses cited provide what is obviously the answer: Matthew 1:18, 1:20, 1:23 (in the last of which, whatever Isaiah may have meant, Matthew clearly differentiates his meaning, ie ‘virgin’ rather than ‘young woman’, and is therefore justified in also differentiating his meaning from Isaiah over the name of the child, ie here was “God with us” - literally).

2. Most people who read the gospels are struck by the intimate relationship Jesus had with God, which is described in terms of a Father-Son relationship. To say this simply describes the God-King or God-Israel relationship is extremely limited.

3. A careful reading of the texts does suggest that because Jesus was like no other person, and exercised an authority, not least over Satan, which had been granted to no other person, then God incarnate is a reading which makes sense of the whole.

4. Whether or not Jesus fulfilled people’s expectations of God’s anointed servant has a huge bearing on the present question, since your whole argument rests on the supposed ‘reading forward’ of OT-based expectations. Many of these expectations Jesus spectacularly exploded, not least in this incident in Luke 4. The whole passage only makes sense if emarturoun means “testified against”, rather than “all spoke well of him” (as ESV, NRSV, NIV wrongly, in my view, have it). Jesus did not satisfy his hearers’ desire for divine vengeance (against their enemies), and especially enraged them by applying the Jubilee Year favour to the Gentiles, not Jews.

5. I didn’t say Jesus relinquished divine authority, neither here nor in #8, #10, #15 or #16.

6. Mark and Luke say Who can forgive sins except God alone? Jesus forgives sins. It seems clear, especially in the light of the gospels as retrospectively interpreted accounts, which is what the gospel authors, who believed in Jesus as God incarnate, were providing.

7. I hope the harp sounds angelic. The question from Daniel 7 is, who was vindicated? Jesus takes the singular identity of son of man, and it was he, not Israel or the Jews, who was vindicated. The next question is, who benefited? Not Israel, and few Jews, but overwhelmingly in the NT the Gentiles. In other words, the OT narrative is substantially changed. We are not provided with a continuous OT narrative line. Jesus changed the terms of the story, how it turned out, and who he was. There are clues to the divinity of the son of man in Daniel 7, when you compare the terms that are applied to ‘the son of man’ in 7:13 with the same terms applied to ‘the Most High’ in 7:27.

8. See #5.

9. “No one gives the “other answer”.” — But that’s exactly what I said. Read the rest of the comment.

10. See #5.

11. Misses the point — the whole point, in fact, that I am making, which you seem determined to miss. 

12. John is clear eg John 8:58-59 — Jesus was identifying himself with God, and not merely saying he was the fulfilled wisdom figure and that he had a God-given right to claim divine authority which had previously belonged to YHWH alone. John also develops Jesus’s intimate relationship with God even more fully than the synoptic gospels.

15. Again, misses the point, which I set out in my introduction to this response.

16. See #5.

18. But your answer simply begs the question (ie assumes the answer without proving or demonstrating it). If Jesus was placed at God’s right hand, what did that mean in terms of how it was prefigured in the gospel narratives, and how a heavenly status after his death and resurrection, in which all susbequent attention is on him not YHWH, reconfigures the Psalm 110:1-2 metaphor (which is, of course, what Psalm 110:1-2 is — ie metaphor. We’re not talking literal language here!). When Jesus took Psalm 110:1-2 to refute the Pharisees in Matthew 22:41-45, he was firstly playing fast and loose with the Psalm (by interpreting it as David speaking, rather than being about David — ‘A psalm of David’); and secondly raising the much larger question of the identity of the messiah (David’s son but much greater than David) without providing any answers. You seem able to bypass these questions by providing answers which Jesus himself called into question.

21. I don’t think you understand the use of language here (1 Corinthians 15:24-28). When the passage talks of ‘handing over the kingdom to God the Father’, and ‘he must reign until he has put all his enemies being put under his feet’, and ‘the last enemy is death’,  it is applying terms appropriate to ancient rule and warfare to things which cannot literally be described in such a way. Jesus doesn’t literally ‘put all his enemies under his feet’. It’s metaphor. Jesus only clearly identifies one enemy, which is death, ie not a person. The other enemies are not so much people as power systems. We are in the realm of metaphor. The same applies to “the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him”, which if taken literally as you suggest, doesn’t make sense. Was Jesus not subject to God before his/God’s enemies were defeated?

22. Are you talking about Philippians 2:9-11? If so, see the introductory paragraph to my initial comment. It’s a non issue.

23. There is nothing in Ephesians which can be said to remotely resemble what you say Paul makes it mean.

24. That Jesus ‘became’ much greater than the angels (Hebrews 1:4) points to the use of the Psalm from which the thought is taken in Hebrews 2:7, where Jesus is the fulfilment of Psalm 8:4-6. The language is of Jesus’s identification with us. “The Son had to share our humanity, to suffer and to die, so that we might share in his glory” (New Bible Commentary — Peterson). If you shut your eyes to what God says in 1:8 especially (“But about the Son he says: ‘Your throne O God will last forever and ever”, and also says in 1:10 of Jesus as the creator of the world who will outlast created things, then you might be able to force your interpretation onto the description of the relationship between Jesus and the angels in 1 & 2.

25. Your comment is just assertion.

26. Yes; “exceptionally” is entirely the question under discussion.

27. Revelation 5:6 says that Jesus was in the middle — µέσῳ — of the throne, where he is also in the middle of the four creatures who surround the throne, and likewise in the middle (µέσῳ) of the elders who also surround the throne. The meaning is the same as the verbal form of mesoō in John 7:14 — the middle of the feast, and as a prefix in “the middle wall” — mesostoichon — in Ephesians 2:14. When prefixed to ouranēma in Revelation 8:13, 14:6 and 19:17, it means “in the midst of”, but this is an extension of the meaning rather than the meaning given to the figure “in the middle of the throne”. The four creatures and the twenty-four elders then “fell down” before the Lamb, with harps (of worship) and bowls (of prayers), and in 5:9 sing a hymn of praise to him. These voices are joined by “thousands upon thousands” of angels in 5:11, also singing a hymn of praise to the Lamb, and without so much as a Revelation 19:10 (“Do not worship me … . Worship God!”) in sight! 

I don’t see how you can still say that Jesus was only a human albeit exceptional figure in the NT scriptures which describe him. Just how exceptional was he? This is the heart of my question. Who was Jesus? It is the question most people who have considered him are still prompted to ask. I don’t think it is tenable from these passages to say he is a human emissary alone. But apparently some still do!

@peter wilkinson:

27. Aune favours the view that “the Lamb would be standing in close proximity to the throne”, pointing out that in the next verse the Lamb goes forward to take the scroll “from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne” (Rev. 5:7); ‘ἐν μέσῳ can also refer to a position within an area occupied by other objects and mean “among, with”’. Also we have in Revelation 4:6: “And en mesōi of the throne and at the side (kuklōi) of the throne [are] four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind….” The phrasing is awkward, but if the Lamb was seated on the throne, then so were the four living creatures. Seems unlikely. The living creatures are equivalent to Isaiah’s seraphim:

And it happened in the year that King Ozias died that I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and raised up, and the house was full of his glory. And seraphin stood around (kuklōi) him; the one had six wings and the one had six wings, and with two they covered their face, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And they cried out one to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Sabaoth; the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Is. 6:1–3 LXX)

Chris Wooldridge | Mon, 09/11/2017 - 13:05 | Permalink

Andrew, have you interested much with the work of Richard Hays? His work on the gospels and letters of Paul has demonstrated that they teach a high christology. I recently finished his “Reading Backwards” (a summary of his work on the gospels) which I would very much recommend regarding this issue, at least as a starting point for discussion and reflection.