Christology and Methodology

by caseybedell

Does the Old Testament foreshadow a high Christology?  Was Israel expecting a divine Messiah?  These are a couple of the questions I am hoping to tackle in my thesis.  If postmetaphysical theology has taught us anything it is that we are to build our Christology not upon the metaphysics of Aristotle and subsequent Greek philosophy, but upon the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.  Yet I realize that any methodology wanting to be completely Scriptural, that is, seeking to avoid all metaphysical speculation, is not without serious challenges.  Biblical fidelity requires phenomonological self-awareness in its grasp for the “pure”.  So one needs nuance and must be willing to move forward in a non-reactionary, non-captive, yet catholic way. A good methodology can appreciate and learn from the past while still moving forward.

Adolph von Harnack, for example,  governed by historical concerns and convinced he could uncover the true essence of Christianity, sought to find a Christology that was rid of all Hellenized influence.  Yet this Hellenization thesis he advocated was ultimately dubbed a complete failure (James Barr, et al.) In fact, Stephen Long, contra Harnack, speaks of the Christianization of Hellenism rather than the hellenizing of Christianity.[1] Yet Harnack’s impulse was a good one, just built on a very bad foundation.

So if the Hellenization thesis taught us anything, according to its failure, it is that Greek and Hebraic thought are not two realities that can be clearly parsed, but rather were the inevitable (providentially guided) coalescing of two worlds, each challenging and informing the other, whether that be for good or for ill.

In the end, a truly biblical Christology must allow for two things. One, a belief in the incarnation, even if the OT does not provide the clear typico-prophetic patterns to go to back to and say, aha, this is what this was saying all along (though I think the fact of YHWH’s coming in an unexpected way is clearly seen throughout the OT). Second, allow for the OT to govern our Christology, not only typologically and prophetically, but also, historically and socio-politically.  Docetism still lingers in the background if we fail to situate Jesus in his actual first-century context, born of woman, born under the law.

Currently though, for me, the burden of constructing a high Christology from the Old Testament is that particular titles in their original context (especially Son of God) seem to have an adoptionistic overtone, similar to those found in the ANE (king, son, servant, etc.).  How do you get from this adoption formula to a non-adoptionistic Christology?

My thesis is going to try to push through some of this stuff by using Psalm 2 and to see how it was used in the subsequent literature of the OT (Isaiah for example), Second Temple Judaism, and the NT.


[1] pg. 183 of Speaking of God… D. Stephen Long

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