Monday, August 20, 2007

Book Review: Fee’s Pauline Christology Part 7

For the series outline, click here.

Chapter 13: 'Jesus as second Adam'.

While tying his findings into the broader Pauline theme of new creation, this chapter primarily asserts the humanity of Christ in terms of Adam and eikon language. In the latter, Fee isolates a twin emphasis: 'first, that the eternal Son of God perfectly bears the divine image and, second, that he did so in his own identity with us in our humanity' (521). And while there is an Adam Christology in Paul, 'in terms of actual language and echoes from Gen 1-2, it is limited to two kinds of passages: first, explicit contrasts between Christ and Adam ... and, second, where the incarnate Christ is seen as the true bearer of the divine image' (523). Fee once again affirms, under the heading 'the Pauline Emphasis – A Truly Human Divine Savior', that:

'Paul nowhere establishes a Christology as such; rather, because for the most part he is dealing with issues in his churches that need correcting – and need good "theology" as the way of doing so – his references to Christ are either soteriological in their focus or put emphasis upon his present reign as Lord' (523-24)

The next two chapters gather the Pauline material under what Fee considers to be 'the two primary christological emphases that emerge regularly in the corpus and that arguably hold the keys to Paul's answer to the question "Who is Christ?"' (482). The two emphases are Christ as the messianic/eternal Son of God and Christ as the messianic exalted 'Lord'.

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At 8/20/2007 3:06 PM, Anonymous Danny Zacharias said...

That is a beautiful self-portrait Chris.

At 8/20/2007 10:50 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Danny, did you notice Adam has a Belly button here? That's heresy isn't it?

At 8/20/2007 10:50 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi David, nice to hear from you.
I'll ponder your comment a little more before I try to interact. Just one point:

You wrote: "Is Paul really concerned with proving that Christ was human 'like us'?"

I'm pretty sure Fee would agree with your negative answer. For Fee, Paul's Christology is presuppositional, not stated, it is to be found in the pressupositions of Paul's arguments, not the arguments themeselves. Of course, in relation to this the whole question of Fee's definition of Christology is another issue worth debating (person as opposed to work), but now I'm side tracking!

As I said, I'll ponder your thoughts - my own reaction every now and then was 'yes, but ...' but I need to check if that instinct is misinformed before I expose your heresy ;-)

At 8/20/2007 11:12 PM, Anonymous Shane said...

On another tangent (related to your other posts), one of the arguments of creation scientists is that Paul's christology assumes a literal Adam. I am of the view that Paul probably did believe in a literal Adam, but that I can come to a different conclusion to him on that matter, and still agree with the thrust of his argument - that in Christ is to be found the solution to the problem of sin (identified symbolically with Adam).

Two questions 1)do you agree, and 2) as a self-proclaimed evangelical, is it acceptable for you to disagree with Paul at certain points (or to hold different beliefs)?

At 8/21/2007 1:17 AM, Anonymous steph said...

God is a woman - that is why Adam has a tummy button.

At 8/22/2007 1:33 PM, Anonymous ntWrong said...

… second, where the incarnate Christ is seen as the true bearer of the divine image.

Here I go, dragging Dunn into the dialogue again.

Dunn argues (as I'm sure you know) that the famous hymn in Php. 2 is an instance of Adam christology — that this is the lens through which that much-contested passage is properly understood.

It serves Dunn's broader argument that Paul doesn't present Jesus as preexistent, contra the usual interpretation of his epistles. Jesus was no more preexistent for Paul than Adam was: i.e., perhaps as an idea in the mind of God, but not literally preexistent.

The challenge in Php. 2 comes with the opening phrase, "who was found in the form (morphe) of God". Was Adam in the form of God? Yes, in the sense that he was created in the likeness of God according to Gen. 1 and, as Paul says elsewhere, he bore the glory (doxa) of God.

And so Dunn argues that "morphe theou" should be understood not as literal, preexistent divinity, but in a weaker sense: that Jesus, like Adam, was found in the likeness (bearing the image) of God.

If we grant Dunn's interpretation of the opening phrase, the rest of the passage follows very neatly as a recapitulation of Adam, except that Christ humbled himself even unto death whereas Adam snatched at the opportunity to become like God.

Hence I quoted Fee at the beginning of my comment: "… second, where the incarnate Christ is seen as the true bearer of the divine image". That is, Php. 2 may be understood as an instance of Adam christology, according to Fee's own criteria, thereby undermining Fee's argument that Paul testifies to Jesus' preexistence.

I'm not sure that morphe will bear the meaning that Dunn ascribes to it; I lack the expertise to make such a judgement. But Dunn does offer some texts in an attempt to show that morphe is a near synonym for "image" and "likeness" elsewhere. As ever, I think it's a position that must be responded to with a substantive argument, rather than dismissed reflexively.

At 8/22/2007 7:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"the rest of the passage follows very neatly as a recapitulation of Adam"


I think there is still too much left unexplained on that reading. Paul has Christ move from the form(image) of God to a form of nothingness, the form(image?) of a servant. These are clearly contrasts and show a time progression or movement that doesn't apply to Adam. And note Christ "makes HIMSELF" nothing. This is not descriptive of an earthly human choice to submit to God's will similar to Adam's, but a description of becoming a human or at least taking on the "likeness" (v7, Rom 8:3) or "appearance" (v8) of man. It is a primordial choice, pre-existence. It fits perfectly with the 2 Cor 8:9 picture of the "rich" one who became poor for our sakes, and (contra Tilling) the "sent" Son of Rom 8 and Gal 4.

It is precisely this difference of nature (not their similarity) between Adam and the "man from heaven" as Paul calls him in 1 Cor 15 that is significant for Paul. This is what I was clumsily pointing out in response to Chris. The Last Adam (not the "second" or, god forbid, "True" Adam a la Wright) delivers us from the "likeness" of Adam to the "likeness of the man from heaven" (1 Cor 15:49). The spiritual likeness to God which the Son shares in his spiritual body outside the flesh of Adam is the image of the "invisible" God. We do not have this image yet except in deposit form as the Spirit within us while we wait to throw off the flesh.

Because of this I don't think you would catch Paul saying Adam was the "image of God". Paul is uncomfortable enough having the true image of God be a human. He is something more that that makes an "appearance" in the "likeness" of man. He dies like a human, but is effective precisely because he is more than the "flesh". Thus he is not to be understood "according to the flesh" (2 Cor 5).

The contrast with Adam is not just ethical as in Romans 5, but a contrast of bodily substances. This is why I said the conclusion to any Adam Christology surely can not be that "yes, Christ was human like us". Paul is very nearly screaming the opposite.

David Wilkerson

At 8/22/2007 11:59 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Stephen, I think Fee's section on the Philippians hymn was one of his best parts of the book. His exegesis examined Dunn's claims in depth, and I felt Fee was basically on top of the argument there. My summary was all too brief of Fee at this point.

David, thanks for your comments. I recently wrote a 20,000 word critique of Fee's work, much of which will no probably make it into my doctorate after a few reworks. You comments are promoting me to post the part of that paper that relate to Fee's claims about pre-existence. It is not that I claim pre-existence is definetly not to be read in light of the sending passages, but rather that it these passages do not explicitly make this claim (as Fee writes) - and I thus find his claims a little exaggerated. But not just here, also in relation to a few verses in Rom 8 and 1 Cor 1.

A question while I chew on your thoughts: What do you make of the potential Adam overtones in the Phil 'hymn'? Present or absent?

At 8/23/2007 12:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I would say there are no overtones of Adam. Of course Paul's thinking of a "man" who "obeys" God and shares in "death" is informed by a certain implicit view of Adam's disimilar role (Romans 5). But it is not explicit here (and definitely not according to your exacting standard of explicitness :) that is, I don't think Paul is referring to Adam being in the image(morphe) of God.

David Wilkerson

At 8/23/2007 12:39 PM, Anonymous ntWrong said...

(1) I didn't intend to depict Bultmann as a bogeyman. I just think the gnostic redeemer myth is a (clever, learned) fantasy — also extrabiblical; also post-pauline, though I neglected to say as much in my earlier comment — and therefore it's the wrong choice of paradigm for interpreting Php. 2.

Did I say anything that would constitute an ad hominem attack? If so, mea culpa. I intended to critique only Bultmann's interpretive framework, not the man himself.

(2) Regarding my use of the synoptics —
I take your point. However, it's also worth remembering that Paul didn't write the hymn, he is merely quoting it (which adds another layer of complexity to its interpretation).

I believe that traditions about Jesus were in circulation when Paul was writing his letters. We can certainly see (from the Gospels and Acts) that texts like Psalm 110:1 and Isaiah 53 were being taken up by the Church and developed as interpretive lenses for understanding the events of Christ's life.

I'm suggesting that this hymn is an example of a similar activity, using a different scriptural model: depicting the events of Jesus' life as a recapitulation of Adam's history, but with a happier ending.

Who wrote it, we'll never know. Insofar as the terminology is uncharacteristic of Paul (e.g. morphe, which appears only here in the NT), it was unlikely to have been composed by Paul or under his direct influence. Maybe it was written by someone in one of his churches, after he had introduced the concept of Adam christology, and after he had moved on to another place?

(3) I'm aware that my interpretation is relatively static compared to Bultmann's. In my interpretation, several lines are essentially different ways of saying the same thing: Jesus didn't act in his own self-interest, but humbled himself to obey God and serve others. In Bultmann's more dynamic interpretation, each line of the hymn constitutes another step downward in Jesus' descent (self-emptying).

The question is whether my interpretation shows too little movement from one line to the next, or whether Bultmann is overinterpreting the text. And part of my defense would be to remind you that this is a hymn. It isn't a theological treatise (though we tend to treat it as such): it's a worshipful meditation on the salvation wrought by Christ.

If the lines evoke the same marvelous truth multiple times in different words — I think that fits with its function as a hymn.

It is this particular concrete choice which Paul is asking the Phillipians to imitate.

Paul is asking the Philippians to put one another's interests ahead of their own — which is precisely how I interpret the hymn. Our mistake is to press its meaning into a tale of Jesus' preexistence and incarnation, which takes us far beyond Paul's intent in quoting the hymn.

(4) Re Paul's interest in the earthly Jesus —

Paul is not after simply a "good Adam" who gets it right, setting the example for right living.

Again, I disagree with Bultmann on this point. Paul's emphasis is on the crucifixion / resurrection as salvific, no question. But a close reading of his letters demonstrates that he frequently alludes to the ethical teaching of Jesus in ways that closely parallel the text of the (later) synoptic Gospels. In other words, Paul wasn't as ignorant of, or as disinterested in, the historical Jesus and his ethical teaching as Bultmann supposed.

In any event, Paul didn't write this hymn; some other devout Christian did. And Paul takes it up for the very narrow purpose of exhorting the Philippians to put one another's interests ahead of their own.


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