In my previous post looking at Wesley Hill’s introduction to Paul and the Trinity, I made an argument that there are two types of explanations that are occurring between God and Jesus in the NT, including Paul. There is the ‘metaphysical’ explanation of God about Jesus, then there is the ‘epistemic’ explanation of Jesus about God. One can refer to this as a form of bi-directionality. Hill originally argues for bi-directionality. However, for Hill, the central concern is about “identity” and “relations” rather than “explanations.” Hill writes:
These divine actions are inscribed, so to speak, into the identity of Jesus. The actions of God denoted by the verbs of sending, giving up, raising, and exalting Jesus indicate that the identity of Jesus is to be understood as inseparable from the purpose and action of God in and through him.1
In chapter 2, Hill look at Romans 4.24, Romans 8.11, and Galatians 1.1 to connect God’s identity as the one who raised Jesus from the dead. What Hill seems to suggest is that Jesus is
While I am sympathetic
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God,because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (NRSV)
There seems to be a chiasmus to this passage, where the first frames refer to the belief that some Corinthians had (v. 12 and v. 19). Then, vs. 13-14 and 16-18 express the inherent link between Christ’s resurrection and the general resurrection. Then, at the center is Paul’s statement about the testimonies mentioned in 15.3-8: that God raised Christ. At stake here is not that Paul has spoken falsely about Christ. Rather, it is what Paul has said about God that is at stake: Paul’s speech about God is to be construed as misleading if the denial of the general resurrection is true.
The implicit assumption of Paul is this: what happens in Christ is not understood as a statement about Christ’s relation to God, but rather
I would suggest that at the center of the resurrection event is a bidirectional explanation: God as the explanation of Jesus’s resurrection then provides
Now, certainly Jesus’ resurrection is also connected to His status as Lord as in Romans 1.4, Romans 10.9 and Philippians 2.6-11. However, the language of Lordship ultimately pertains to Jesus’ relationship to people. Romans 10.9 is an expression of salvation of the people though calling out to Jesus as Lord. Philippians 2.6-11 similarly speaks of the nations confessing Jesus as Lord. I would say this is also implied in Romans 1.4 as Paul then express from this that he has an apostleship to bring Gentiles into obedience through faith. To be called κύριος, just as God was referred to as κύριος as a the Septuagint translation of Tetragrammaton, was to state that Jesus relationship with the people is like that of God’s with Israel.2
However, while this might imply some sense of
However, this can be sufficiently explained by various forms of Christology that would deny Jesus’ divinity, such as Arianism? What is the basis for Jesus and God being identifiable with each other in such a way that excludes these other forms of
In 1 Corinthians 1.30, Jesus is referred to as God’s Wisdom, which likely echoes Proverbs 8.22-36 and from which almost any Gentile or heavily Hellenized Jew would hear echoes of the philosophical Logos that structures the world. Then, Paul states the basis for Apollo, himself, and others to teach God’s Wisdom is that they themselves have the mind of Christ in 1 Corinthians 2.16. But, this role is not accomplished by the mere imitation of Christ, although Paul refers to that in 1 Corinthians 11.1. Rather, they must be also taught discourses by the Spirit, who makes
That Jesus equality with God is connected with this epistemic function
In other words, a bi-directional relationship and shared identity between God and Christ is the explanation for Christ a) being the one who explains God and b) forms the community of God’s People. However, it is Jesus’ epistemic function to explain God and His authority to lead and direct God’s people that takes primacy in the NT. Statements about Jesus’ equality with God are implied and expressed in a few places in Paul (as previously discussed) and the NT (most notably John 1.1-18 and 20.28), but this emerges from an understanding of Jesus’s roles as God’s Wisdom and as Lord rather than being expressed in them.
While Arianism could theoretically explain many of these matters, there is defeater that makes the Arian explanation implausible for the NT discourses: if Jesus equality with God is an explanation for these two roles, why then did the NT’s explanation not establish that Jesus in his pre-existent form was specially created for this role to maintain the distinction through appeals to Middle Platonism, which envisioned a distinctive separation between God and world that necessitate intermediaries? If the equality of Jesus with God emerges as an explanation for who Jesus is and what He does, then the NT writers would not have selected the language of wisdom and Logos, which bears echoes of Stoic theology/cosmology where there is no distinction between God and Logos. It seems certainly odd that the NT writers would have selected language Stoic terms and conventions, even as they refashioned
- Hill, Wesley. Paul and the Trinity: Persons, Relations, and the Pauline Letters (p. 79). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.
- See Chris Tilling’s Paul’s Divine Christology.
- As an aside, it is this notion of the faithfulness to God leading to Jesus being the one who is to be faithful to God’s People that undergirds Hebrews.
- We see this demonstrated in Matthew 28.18.