August 24, 2012 by Jason Hood
Exposure to biblical scholarship and its conclusions often shocks laity and pastors. But one sometimes encounters shocking scholarly errors that plague evangelical pews as well.
Few things are more shocking in the academy than the dismissal (or more subtly, the downplaying) of Paul’s belief that Jesus was the Messiah. Craig Blomberg addresses the tendency to treat Christ as more or less Jesus’ last name, a problem that looms as large at the scholarly level as it is in local congregations: “There is no unambiguous evidence to demonstrate that ‘Christ’ in any of its 531 New Testament uses ever ‘degenerated’ into a mere second name for Jesus.”
John Collins observes that, thanks to the ecumenical movement and politically correct approaches to scholarship, “. . . we have the astonishing claim that Paul, the earliest Christian writer, did not regard Jesus as the Messiah . . . Jesus is called Christos, anointed, the Greek equivalent of messiah, 270 times in the Pauline corpus. If this is not ample testimony that Paul regarded Jesus as messiah, then words have no meaning.” Collins acknowledges that there is room for debate on the significance of Jesus’ Messiahship for Paul, but the basic idea should never have been in doubt.
In his summary of recent decades of scholarship on Paul in the English language, N. T. Wright similarly pushes back: “Jesus’ Messiahship has been a sleeping element in Pauline studies so long that many scholars seem not to know what to do with it if it was proved. But proved it can be, and major revolutions must follow.”
In a footnote to that sentence Wright cites the newly published dissertation (via Oxford University Press) of my friend Matt Novenson, who was recently appointed Lecturer in New Testament and Christian Origins at the University of Edinburgh. My dissertation is about the same price; Matt’s is far more important and truly worth some attention.
 “The Messiah in the NT,” in Israel’s Messiah in the Bible and the DSS, ed. Richard Hess and M. Daniel Carroll R (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 141, emphasis original.
 The Scepter and the Star, 2, emphasis mine.
 ExpT 123.8 (2012), 374.
August 20, 2012 by Jason Hood
As popular as it now is in some circles to deny that believers experience any judgment whatsoever, the New Testament (including Jesus in the gospels, Paul in Acts and his letters, and elsewhere in the NT) and early Christianity are crystal clear that Christian eschatology includes the judgment of our actions at the feet of Jesus.
Judgment of all is placed at Jesus’ feet in a variety of NT texts and the earliest creeds of orthodoxy, which include a comprehensive reference to the judgment of “the quick and the dead.” James proves the point when he warns of stricter judgment for Christian teachers (3:1).
Many wish to exempt Christians from all scrutiny on the basis of texts such as Paul’s insistence that “there is therefore now no condemnation for all who are in Jesus the Messiah” (Rom 8:1). But in context Paul is not teaching that there’s no critical analysis of our actions, words, and thoughts, or no consequences for misdeeds, but that Christians are saved from a judgment of death (7:9-10, 24).
There are a number of valuable things lost when we neglect, deny, or downplay this teaching:
- The NT regularly uses final judgment as a motivation for action and a warning against disobedience and carelessness.
- The notion that the Lord’s judgment alleviates our vengeance in the present surely applies to wrongs—however heinous, malicious, or mild—perpetrated by believers.
- For biblical writers, judgment testifies to God’s impartiality.
- In the historical creeds and the NT sources, judgment from Jesus is a matter of Christology, such that to deny this fact constitutes a dethroning of Jesus, a Christological error verging on heresy. Jesus shares Yahweh’s position as the Judge of the world, before whom every knee will bow.
January 31, 2012 by Matthew Mason
This isn’t the most refined illustration; it popped into my mind as I was teaching a lesson on the person of Christ this morning, but I think it works (though it needs room for an already-not yet eschatology and the gift of the Spirit). For its full effect, however, it relies on the British version of the game of Chutes and Ladders—Snakes and Ladders.
God’s goal in creation was always that humanity, in dependence on his grace and obedience to his word, should advance, with all creation, from square 1 (immaturity) to square 100 (maturity, glory)—”Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion”. However (and here’s why our version of the game matters!), the snake got Adam, and he slid, not just back to square one, but off the board completely (and here’s where the illustration stretches, or maybe breaks!).
The Word became flesh, as the Last Adam, not to put us back to square one. Salvation doesn’t take us back to Eden. The end is better than the beginning. Jesus’ obedience and death does get us back on the board, but because of his resurrection, not at square one, but at 100, the goal of the game. He fulfilled Adam’s role and atoned for Adam’s sin advance us to full, glorified, mature humanity.0 Comments
December 29, 2011 by Gerald Hiestand
Following up on this post, here’s George R. Beasley-Murray’s comments on John 4:46-5:47:
The evangelist reveals to us a Christ who on one hand can neither utter a word nor perform an act without the Father’s direction, and enabling. On the other hand, by virtue of that direction and enabling, preforms the works of God, including the ultimate works of raising humanity for life in the perfected kingdom of God and for judgment. The properties of the concept of Jesus as the Son of the Father are seen here with clarity. As the Son he owes his Father total obedience, but as the Son he is one with the Father. The paradox runs through the gospel and appears most starkly expressed in the utterances of 14:28 and 10:30: “The Father is greater than I”; “I and the Father are one” (Word Biblical Commentary, 79).
I’ve no idea where Beasley-Murray lands on the gender debates, but the framework he offers here is consistent with the way complementarians approach Christology.0 Comments
August 3, 2011 by Matthew Mason
Magrassi again, this time summarizing the patristic teaching on the relationship between God’s Word – the second person of the Trinity in eternity and incarnate – and God’s word in Scripture.
In recapitulating the divine plan Christ also recapitulates and sums up the Word that creates its course and sheds light on its meaning. The “many words” become forever “the one Word.” In the past God’s Word was fragmented into many human words. It rang out in many ways, all of them partial, through the hearts and mouths of many sacred writers (Heb 1:1-2). To be sure, God in his mystery speaks but one eternal Word in his permanent act of begetting the Logos: “God has spoken only once.” But as heard by humans, it is manifold… But the time comes for the Word to return to its original unity, when the Word of God pitches his tent among us…
At that moment, all the previous words scattered in the Bible through centuries of waiting are gathered into him. They are illuminated, they reveal their ultimate meaning, and they find their center of unity in him. Indeed they always contained the one Word who was expressing himself and secretly directing all things in view of his final appearance. This one word, which now rings out on the lips of Christ, is (as Origen would say) “the Word that concludes and abbreviates.” It condenses all of the Scripture into a “summary that brings salvation.” It is the “shortest Word” in which all the light is concentrated, in which we can clearly perceive “the very marrow of Scripture.” But while human language in striving for brevity often becomes obscure, here it is the opposite: the divine Word, when abbreviated, becomes supremely clear.
In condensing all things into Christ, Scripture is not impoverished. Instead its soul is revealed, its innermost recesses are opened and it is transfigured…
But the “shortest Word” adds to its luminous density an astonishing concreteness. The message cannot be separated from the person, and that Person is the incarnate Word. At first, the Word was only “audible,” but now it is also “visible and tangible.” No longer is it “written and silent” but “incarnate and living.” (Praying the Bible, 48-50)
July 22, 2011 by Jason Hood
“Jesus taught them as one having authority and not as their scribes.” (Matt 7:29)
The scribes in this era held that authority was derived from tradition going all the way back to Moses. So the Jerusalem Talmud (Pesachim 6.1.33a) portrays Hillel making pronouncements on a topic all day without earning the affirmation of other rabbis–that is, until he cited previous rabbis who had personally passed these opinions on to him.
The Babylonian Talmud (Bava Metzi’a 58b-59a) tells of a debate between Rabbis Eliezer and Joshua. Eliezer was able to produce multiple miracles, yet he still lost the debate. Tradition, not spiritual power, was the trump card.
The issue for the Rabbis was not “Who has miracles?” but “Who has Moses?”
This may sound naive, but consider the value from the rabbinic perspective. If I’m a scribe, I never have to stake a claim on my own authority (I am humble); I support tradition (I am faithful, not an innovator); and I have a ready-made answer to many of my most pressing question, “What do I believe/do about ________?” (I have security and consistency).
All good and well, unless that authority figure taught that authority was not his alone. And Moses said, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen . . . . Whoever will not listen to my words that he speaks in my name, I will hold him accountable.” (Deut 18:15, 19; see Acts 3:22-23, 7:37)0 Comments
July 20, 2011 by Jason Hood
A few quotes from Calvin’s Institutes on sacraments and salvation, spawned by an old conversation with pastoral friends on union with Christ and a new conversation with an educated lay leader who is struggling with the human side of Christology.
Godly souls can gather great assurance and delight from this Sacrament; in it they have a witness of our growth into one body with Christ such that whatever is his may be called ours.
We cannot be condemned for our sins, from whose guilt he has absolved us, since he willed to take them upon himself as if they were his own. This is the wonderful exchange which, out of his measureless benevolence, he has made with us:
becoming Son of man with us, he has made us sons of God with him;
by his descent to earth, he has prepared an ascent to heaven for us;
by taking on our mortality, he has conferred his immortality upon us;
accepting our weakness, he has strengthened us by his power;
receiving our poverty unto himself, he has transferred his wealth to us;
taking the weight of our iniquity upon himself (which oppressed us), he has clothed us with his righteousness.
First of all, we are taught from the Scriptures that Christ is from the beginning that life-giving Word of the Father, the spring and source of life, from which all things have always received their capacity to live.
‘I am’ he says, ‘the bread of life come down from heaven. And the bread which I shall give is my flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.’ By these words he teaches not ony that he is life since he is the eternal Word of God, who came down from heaven to us, but also that by coming down he poured that power upon the flesh which he took in order that from it participation in life might flow unto us.
Accordingly, he shows that in his humanity there also swells fullness of life, so that whoever has partaken of his flesh and blood may at the same time enjoy participation in life.
May 20, 2011 by Matthew Mason
There is nonetheless something noteworthy about summing up the work of Christ in terms of the redemption of our nature through Christ as the new and Second Adam. On this view, the Son of God did not merely come on a divine rescue mission, to do a job that one other could do, and then return back again to where he was before. He is not the superhero who appears in the nick of time to rescue us, but who then disappears from view once the job is completed. Rather, the one who redeemed us by his blood is also the New Adam, the new head of a restored human race. Here the atonement accomplished on the Cross is embedded with the Adam-Christ narrative. It is by taking up our humanity and redeeming it in himself that the Son accomplishes our salvation. And the consequence of this is that we are enabled to be joined to him, and through the Spirit to be transformed progressively into his image. Christ himself as the Second Adam becomes the locus of what we are to become as “sons of God.”
For this reason the Fathers tend to interpret all the main events of the life of Christ as contributing to the renewal of our nature in Christ himself. By being born of Mary in our humanity, the Son of God assumes our nature in order to effect the restoration of that nature. At his baptism, the incarnate Son receives the Holy Spirit, not only for his own unique mission as Messiah, but also as a representative reception of the Spirit for the human race, providing for the Spirit a fitting temple for his dwelling. By resisting the devil both in the wilderness and in Gethsemane, the New Adam conquers where the Old Adam failed, and by his obedience wins the victory over Satan. By offering himself as the perfect sacrifice for sin, the Son takes our punishment upon himself, cleanses our nature from the stain of Adam’s sin and inaugurates the new humanity. And by his resurrection and ascension, he raises up our nature to new life, and opens up the way for “many sons” (Heb 2:10) to be joined to their heavenly Father (Eph 2:6). Daniel A. Keating, Deification and Grace (Naples, FL: Sapientia Press, 2007), 25
March 3, 2011 by Matthew Mason
There’s much more to be said, not least from the Farewell Discourse, but some thoughts on Jesus and the Spirit in John, basically plagiarizing Sinclair Ferguson.
Jesus is the one to whom the Father gave the Spirit without measure (Jn 3:34), the one on whom the Spirit rests (1:34).
Therefore, he is the one who, following his glorification, will give the water of the Spirit to all who come to him (Jn 7:37ff; I agree with Ferguson, and Carson, that it makes best sense to read v. 38 Christologically – Jesus is the one from whom the rivers of living water flow.) This seems to be another way of saying that he is the one whom the Father granted life in himself (5:26) and who can thus give life to all men in creation (1:4) and salvation (passim).
When God withdraws his Spirit, we die and return to dust (cf. Ps 104:29f). Thus, when Jesus takes our death upon himself he thirsts (Jn 19:28). Having completed his work, water then pours from his side to demonstrate that because his work of atonement is finished the life-giving gift of the Spirit is now his to give.
Therefore, when Jesus appears to his disciples on Resurrection evening, he shows his hands and side, the tokens that demonstrate that the Spirit is his to give, before breathing on them that they may receive the Spirit (Jn 20:19-23). Just as the Son breathed on Adam’s lifeless body to give him the breath of life (Gen 2:7), so now he breathes on his disciples to bring New Creation by the Spirit.
In Pauline terms, the first Adam was of the dust, a living being, the last Adam, the man of heaven, in his resurrection has become life-giving Spirit.2 Comments
February 24, 2011 by Matthew Mason
In the Parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard (Luke 20:9-18), Jesus retells the story of Israel as it climaxes in his own rejection at the hands of Israel’s leaders. But, in the immediate context, and in the context of Luke as a whole, he does so in a way that shows how Israel’s history, but also Jesus’ own history, recapitulates the history of Adam in contrasting ways.
The parable tells Israel’s history using the OT trope of Israel as a vineyard (Isa 5; Ps 80). It’s a story of sin and rebellion, the story of the tenants’ rejection of God’s servants, the prophets, climaxing in the looming murder of God’s beloved Son and heir. It’s obviously the history of Israel, but in its context it also echoes Genesis 1-3.
First echo (noting the horticultural parallels): in the vineyard, the leaders of Israel (‘tenants’), recapitulate the sin of Adam in the garden. Desiring to claim the inheritance for themselves, without reference to the heir, they seek to become like God, to usurp his rights as owner. Adam in the garden was son and heir, but he too played the usurper, desiring to achieve his inheritance of wise kingly rule and authority (knowledge of good and evil, cf. 1 Ki. 3:9) without reference to his Father, rather than receiving it as a gift.
Second echo: Jesus’ description of himself as beloved Son (v.13) takes us back to his baptism (3:22). This also seems to be the point of his question concerning John’s baptism, which immediately precedes this parable (20:3). By what authority does Jesus cleanse the Temple, and begin to teach in it (19:45-48; 20:1-2)? By the authority of his Father, whose house it is (2:49—“my Father’s house”), and whose Son he is, as his baptism at the hands of John proclaims. But as Son of God, Jesus is, among other things (the true Israel—Exod. 4:22; the true Davidic King—Ps. 2) the True Adam (3:23, 38). If Israel is like Adam in sin, Jesus is the true, righteous Adam.
Third echo: in the very next pericope, when those sent by the scribes seek to trap Jesus with the question about giving taxes to Caesar, Jesus’ response centers round the question of image-bearing. A denarius bore Caesar’s image (eikwn, cf. Gen 1:26f LXX) and so was rightly given to Caesar. What should be given to God is what is God’s (v. 25), that is to say, the thing that bears his image and likeness. But, like Adam, the scribes bear the image of the self-giving God falsely, stealing and seeking their own honor rather than his (20:45-47). And this in comparison to the widow, who bore God’s image rightly, giving all her money to God, her very muchness (cf. Deut. 6:5), her very self (21:1-4).
But (fourth echo) not only are they sons of Adam in his sin, the spies of the scribes and chief priests are seeds of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). They come to Jesus, the true Adam, the true Son, and seek to destroy him, bringing him down to death, through craftiness (20:23; cf. Gen. 3:1). However, faced with the serpent, Jesus, unlike Adam, is a wise and perceptive Son. Like Solomon, this Son of David (cf. vv. 41-44—which means he’s the Son of God (Ps. 2:7) and Son of Adam, cf. Ps 80:17; Ps. 8:4) demonstrates kingly knowledge of good and evil. Therefore, unlike the first Adam, he knows how to answer the crafty tempter. And so, even though he will be killed, he will be raised to inherit the fullness of Adam’s kingly authority and role, he will reign at God’s right hand until all his enemies are made his footstool (v. 42, quoting Ps. 110:1; cf., again, Ps 8). The deceitful seed of the serpent will bruise his heal, the serpentine tenants will kill the beloved Son. But the seed of the woman will be raised as the Stone who will stone his enemies, crushing their heads (vv. 17-18) under his feet, the Stone who will break down every noble stone on the corrupt temple until not one stands on another (21:5-6), becoming the Cornerstone of a New Temple, a new Edenic sanctuary, restoring the sons and daughters of Adam to their fellowship with God.0 Comments