Yesterday, Bible and Interpretation posted an article by Michael Kok entitled, “Critical Questions for the Early High Christology Club.” After interacting with the ideas of Larry Hurtado, Richard Bauckham, and others, Kok raises three questions:
(1) First, is there a concern to date a “high Christology” as close as possible to the founding of the “Christian” movement?
(2) Second, having been formulated in reaction to the parallelomania of the “history of religions school” (religionsgeschichtliche Schule), does the exclusive focus on the Jewish matrix of the Christ followers serve to insulate them from influences from the Greco-Roman world?
(3) Third, is there a risk of depicting ancient “Christianity” as monolithic, assuming that a divine Christology was the definitive feature of all Christ associations?
Here is his closing paragraph:
In the end, we must resist the tendency to treat the textual representations of Christian beliefs and praxis in the New Testament and other Christian literature as univocal. We must be rigorously historical in contextualizing which group was putting forward what claim about Jesus and what function did the claim serve in their symbolic universe and social formation. It is perfectly valid to inquire about the theological truthfulness of various canonical and creedal declarations about the person of Christ within confessional communities. The tools of the historian’s trade are not sufficient to engage such questions. They are only fit to investigate the individuals or groups who found a given Christology persuasive in a specific historical and social context.
Today, Larry Hurtado has responded to Kok’s questions blow-by-blow. This could develop into something interesting. I’m wondering if (read: hoping) others will weigh in.
Today was the final day of the semester and we finished watching our sixth and final film, Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Jesus Christ Superstar (1973). This was the only musical (actually, “rock opera”) we watched and it was my first time watching the film all the way through. I was surprised to find that, unlike most musicals, there was no dialogue in between musical numbers. The dialogue throughout the entire movie consisted of sung lyrics. Though there are appearances and songs by Mary Magdalene and Simon Peter, it was interesting to see the lyrical dialogue and dramatic tension revolve primarily around the relationship between Jesus and Judas Iscariot. The entire conflict is seen through the eyes of a clearly troubled Judas. Halfway through the film I found myself thinking about other presentations of Judas’s role in the Jesus story including The Passover Plot and the Gospel of Judas. The next time I teach this course I will probably include those readings along with the module for this film.
As I have mentioned throughout this series of posts, we began the semester with an exercise we called, “Problematizing Chalcedon.” We wanted to help students think through the complicated matters associated with the human/divine relationship that is such a key component to orthodox expressions of Christian doctrine. I thought this film, more than the others, beautifully captured that concern in the lyrics to Mary Magdalene’s big number, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” (which Judas reprises near the end as he expresses regret for betraying Jesus). The next time I teach this course, I may have students reflect on the lyrics to this song (see clip below) and have them write an essay on how this song takes seriously the Chalcedonian tension.
Last week I ran across the title of a book that was too interesting not to order. The book in question was Sanghee M. Ahn’s monograph, The Christological Witness Function of the Old Testament Characters in the Gospel of John (Paternoster Biblical Monograph Series; Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2014). I am interested in characters, Christology, the Old Testament, and the Gospel of John, so I immediately realized, “here’s a book with everything!” Here is a description of the book, Ahn’s revised dissertation:
This book investigates the narrative function of the Old Testament characters in the Gospel of John. The intriguing thesis is that the Hebrew characters in John’s narrative uniformly function as a witness for the messianic identity of Jesus. The Jewish scriptural traditions (Hebrew and intertestamental ones) are compared to shed light on John’s indebtedness for its formation of his Christology. A compelling argument ensues that informs our understanding, not only of the Gospel itself, but also of Jesus Christ revealed in the Gospel.
Earlier this week the good people at Wipf and Stock sent along an exam copy for me to peruse. It remains to be seen if this book really has “everything.” I have only just begun to read, but the one thing I can say right away is that this book is extremely well researched. It looks to me as though Ahn has read practically everything directly and/or indirectly related to his subject matter in English, German, and French. I wouldn’t be surprised if over half the word count for this book was found in the footnotes! The bibliography alone spans 60 pages! I look forward to saying more about this book in due course. Congratulations to Professor Ahn on the publication of his monograph!