Angels from the realms of glory, wing your flight o’er all the earth…

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1. Leon Morris is cleverer than I am. I just don’t see how “with God and was God” can be impersonal.

2. I think you’ve missed my point, which was about the absence of any explicit authorisation given to Jesus to calm the storm. What did you think I was referring to?

3. Actually, I think the association of Isaiah 42:1 with Jesus’s baptism needs to be qualified. Jesus is not called as a servant but an unusually honoured Son. He is not cast in the role of a servant, but continues to enjoy this unique relationship. Also, the sense of the baptism as a commissioning is qualified by the fact that the voice from heaven declares God to be “well pleased” with the Son before he has done anything! In other words, it is an affirmation of a relationship before it is a commissioning.

Also it needs to be asked if Jesus did not need to be baptised (according to John), in what sense then was his baptism a commissioning?

With reference to “the finger of God”, the Holy Spirit and the casting out of demons: Jesus’s question in Matthew 12:27 seems laden with irony. The point may have been precisely that neither the Pharisees nor anyone else at that time did cast out demons. This doesn’t contradict your point, but it does highlight the possibility that demon expulsion by Jesus was at that time something unique, and therefore casts Jesus in a unique light.

4. You may think John cannot be used to interpret the synoptics. I think that’s probably what John was doing. He certainly seems to have known about material in the synoptics. It is perfectly valid to read all four gospels horizontally. Who has said this is not permitted?

5. It nowhere says that Jesus received his teaching from God in the way that Moses received his from God to deliver to Israel. The absence of such mediation is a striking dissimilarity with Moses being given the law for Israel.

6. I think you are missing the point. The striking feature of the passages you quote is that Jesus calls people to himself, not YHWH. He is the bread of life. He will lose none that the Father sends to him, but He will raise them up on the last day. He will give eternal life to those who look to him and raise them up on the last day. No one has seen the Father except himself. He is the living bread that has come down from heaven. Those who eat his flesh and drink his blood have eternal life. He goes even further in the raising of Lazarus: “I am the resurrection and the life”.

Which leads me to a wider point. Historical criticism, whilst an essential tool for Bible study, can make claims for itself that are very reductionist. Is the purported meaning of a text in historical context the only meaning of a text? Does a text only have meaning for that time in a particular historical context?

With your own approach, I suggest that a similar reductionism is at work, which is evident in this discussion we have been having. It has stripped away something that is otherwise very striking about Jesus: that he does not fit comfortably into a strictly historical context or limited understanding of who he was. That is why people still follow him today. The very things that are so striking about Jesus in the passages we have been looking at, his unique claims, unique relationship with the Father, his claims to divine prerogatives which go far beyond anything that can be said to have been granted by virtue of any baptismal “commissioning”, are the very things which seem to be not really worthy of notice in your understanding of him. The NT is largely a historical document for you and historical criticism as a “metacriticism”.

I think that’s more or less what the more overarching claims of historical criticism have always been saying. Trust the academics for the real meaning of the scriptures. As an academic myself, I too may fall into that trap. I just think that the more striking features of the scriptures, and of Jesus in particular, are those which are not confined within the curtailment of meaning locked into historical context.

I certainly think there is a historical logic to the approach you have been taking, but it comes at the cost, I believe, of filtering out those aspects of the story which will not be contained within the confines of the logic. To me, these are the most striking aspects of the story, and are those which have drawn people to Jesus throughout the centuries.

Jesus is, in the end, a deeply perplexing figure as he evades containment in all the systems within which we have tried to contain him - not least some of the evangelical systems. Yet he continues to draw all kinds of people with a unique appeal, and the claims that are made for his effect on people are staggering. Until these questions are adequately addressed, I don’t think we will have begun to explain him.