Tuesday, March 14, 2017

2 Corinthian 5:19

The following is an exchange between myself and an esteemed colleague in response to my emphasis in The Historical Jesus and the Christ of Faith: Marcus Borg and N. T. Wright in Critical Dialogue, wherein I identify 2 Corinthians 5:19 as my hermeneutical framework for situations discussions on the relationship between the historical Jesus and the Christ of Faith. The discussion can be accessed here: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!msg/confessing-christ/Hz6CUgkfeec/bHPAyGrEBgAJ.  Information about  my book can be accessed here http://wipfandstock.com/the-historical-jesus-and-the-christ-of-faith.html and here https://www.amazon.com/Historical-Jesus-Christ-Faith-Critical/dp/1532603282/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1489520883&sr=1-1&refinements=p_27%3AGeorge+Demetrion

George, how is your suggestion that we start at 2 Cor 5 and go back different than what Wright has done?  I thought that he was taking Second Temple Judaism as the pre history to Jesus’s death and resurrection to understand the incarnation, so that the incarnation was not rooted in the Christ of faith but in the Old Testament. I think your question of depending too much on history is valid but I think Wright is close on history. Help me here if you get this post.  Herb

Herb, you raise an important point in inferring that my hermeneutical reliance on 2 Corinthians 5:19 (God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself) is synonymous with Wright's depiction of Jesus in which, through living out his messianic calling, he was enacting what Paul describes.  On that, there are a few things to consider:

·  On Wright's interpretation that's what Jesus of Nazareth viewed as the ultimate outcome of his path to Jerusalem in which his nearer term objective was to usher in the Jeremiah's new covenant as the true king of the Jews.  While different from other messianic claims within Second Temple Judaism, taken on its own terms, it is part of the micro-history of that era, and as such, can be completely explained within its historical context through the third person perspective of the modern historian 2000 years later.  Recall the brief quote that Wright offers, which we I recently highlighted, in which, I argue, there is nothing intrinsically transcendent about it, as it can be read as pure historical description, even as it is a critical part of the story of revelation that finds its apotheosis in the prologue of John:

“[Jesus] would carry out Israel’s task: and, having pronounced Israel’s impending judgment in the form of the wrath of Rome which would turn out to be the wrath of God, he would go ahead of her and take that judgment on himself, drinking the cup of God’s wrath so that his people might not drink it. In his crucifixion, therefore, Jesus identified fully (if paradoxically) with the aspirations of his people, dying as ‘the king of the Jews’, the representative of the people of God, accomplishing for Israel (and hence the world) what neither the world nor Israel could accomplish for themselves.”

·  There are many descriptions about how the Jesus of history became viewed as the Christ of faith through the interpretation of the church in the struggle for meaning as Christianity spread during the first few centuries of the common era. Gabe traces this in his insightful analysis of Edward Schilibeeckx's, Jesus: An Experiment in  Christology.  This story of how the Jesus of history became the Christ of faith is a staple narrative of the Jesus Seminar, which clearly marks Borg's understanding. This trajectory of how the church increasingly clarified its understanding of Jesus Christ as the incarnation of God and the Second Person of the Trinity is an essential part of the story in understanding how God, himself became revealed in Christ as "the express image of his person" (Heb 1:3). Yet left at that level we are still dealing, in principle, with pure historical third person description and not revelation.

·  My selection of 2 Corinthians 5:19 is to place the emphasis where Paul places it, on the revelation of Christ, in which the proclaimer (of the Kingdom of God) became the proclaimed.  I include an extended discussion of this in footnote # 33, pp. 33-40 of my book, to which I refer you. Keeping the entirety of the New Testament in mind, the Pauline passage allows full scope for all that Wright contends--that Jesus viewed himself as the Jewish messiah, who viewed the impact of his actions as having ultimate worldwide implications (as pervasive in the description of the Servant in Second Isaiah) while having its immediate impact in bringing ancient Jewish history to its covenental fulfillment--while allowing full scope to the highest Christological claims within the NT as found in John 1:1-18 and 17, Colossians 1:15-20 and in the carious high priest depictions in Hebrews. When these texts are taken into consideration, the most exalted claims about Christ can be integrated with pre-resurrection depictions in the Synoptics that provide an incarnational vision of Christ that has become universal in scope both through the impetus of the church through the centuries, as well as through the indelible work of revelation, itself. 

·  The 2 Cor 5:19 passage is meant to give scope to both of these dimensions, in which history and revelation play their roles. This is not radically dissimilar to Wright, but I place more emphasis on the starting point of revelation, where he places considerably more emphasis on history than do I.  I suggest that a fourth quest for the historical Jesus could start here, which would allow historians, theologians, and biblical scholars to take a more fluid approach on the relationship between history and faith in deepening our knowledge of the life of Jesus of Nazareth and the vision of the incarnate Christ within the context of its Trinitarian enfolding.  Such is obviously ongoing work which builds a great deal on what has already been accomplished.

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