Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Christological confusions

Richard Carrier writes:
Thus, there were two systems of vocabulary in antiquity, and when translating from Jewish to pagan thought-concepts, Jesus would have been understood as a god from the beginning–just not the God, a hugely important distinction, even for pagans. Christians would not consider Jesus to be the God until well into the second century (at the earliest); but they already considered him a god from its earliest recorded time, if we use pagan but not Jewish vernacular.
For example, Paul slips into pagan vernacular when he calls Satan a god (2 Corinthians 4:4); obviously if Satan could be called a god, so could Jesus, who was his celestial superior.
James McGrath writes:
I'm not sure that there is anything that needs to be said by me in response, since he clearly is hedging on whether the earliest Jewish Christians thought that Jesus was a God, accepts what is perhaps the clearest example of a scholarly consensus that reflects bias resulting from religious conviction (the view that Jesus was considered a pre-existent divine person by Paul)
For what it is worth, I think that Carrier’s argument crashes immediately and i) mistakes Paul’s divine-Christology with the use of the word theos, and ii) fails to recognise the structure of Paul’s Christ-language which patterns the same in terms of Israel-YHWH-relation language.

On the other hand, if I understand McGrath correctly, I believe he too mistakenly thinks a Pauline divine-Christology is engendered by religious bias rather than serious historical and exegetical work. I tend to think almost the opposite can be true, namely that non-divine christological construals of Pauline theology demonstrate strong ideological motivation, usually bound to the legitimisation of critiques of theologically conservative paradigms (and I say this as one sympathetic to such critical concerns, but they often lead to the obscurification of Pauline theology at this point).

While on the matter, Géza Vermes’ new book, Christian Beginnings, has – let’s not beat around the bush - an absolutely terrible section in chapter 4, “The Status of Christ in the Pauline Religion”. It doesn’t engage with crucial scholarship, and trots out fallacy and imprecision. The rest of his book might be wonderful, I didn’t read any further!


At 9/11/2012 8:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, I didn't understand much of this post. Perhaps I'm not the only one.

At 9/14/2012 11:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, you're not the only one.

In a few years time, Chrisendom will be as opaque as Hegel.

At 9/15/2012 5:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "new" Testament is, at its core, an independent tradition. Christianity separated itself from Judaism, and became something else. Unfortunately in making that separation, the Jewish converts to Christianity maintained a claim on the holy books of Judaism, and they even claimed to be the new "true Israel", and thus established a principle of cultural superiority that, eventually gave rise to all the horrors of anti-Semitism that Jewish people have been made to suffer for centuries.

Such is, among efforts made on the basis of the absurd presumption of cultural superiority, a negative result of the institutionalization and Nationalism of exoteric Christianity. Added to that absurd presumption of cultural superiority was, eventually, all of the inherently self-deluding and self-corrupting association with political and social power, when Christianity became established as an "official" State-"religion', with the military power of Rome as its base.

And of course that absurd self-proclaimed religious and cultural superiority was extended to include all other faith traditions and their various cultural expressions. Such an attitude is of course still very much alive today. Indeed it is still being dramatized all over the planet.

And, dare I say it, also informs the contents and purpose of your blog and most/all of the people that you associate with.

At 9/18/2012 2:05 AM, Blogger VC said...

If you are interested in the dicotomy between the Jewish followers of Jesus and the Gentiles you might be interested in a recently published book by Lawrence Goudge - Cover Up: How the Church Silenced Jesus's True Heirs. In this book Goudge proposes that the Jewish followers of Jesus preserved the beliefs and practices of the original apostles: Peter, James and John. Therefore, the true heretics were those who created the new religion of the dying God (anathema to Peter James and John). Cover-Up: How the Church Silenced Jesus's True Heirs exposes the church's hypocrisy in first silencing those who truly followed Jesus and then exterminating them, just as they did the Cathars.  I just learned of a new book – Cover Up: How the Church Silenced Jesus's True Heirs by Lawrence Goudge. I found it here http://tinyurl.com/69cazll. Let me know what you think of it.


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