Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
May 9th, 2014 by Joel Watts

Getting High on Kyrios Christology

Cover of "How High"

“naughty fun” describes christology debates, right?

I’ve missed the conversation eloquently summarized by James McGrath here, How High is Kyrios Christology?.

Maybe we should move away from the dichotomy of high/low and instead create better terms. Critical scholars will generally agree that the Trinitarian Christology is not present in Paul, although many would argue that a high christology is.

Again, maybe better terms are needed. Is Jesus first pictured as a man given/awarded/adopted into a high place next to God? This is still pretty high if by low you think of Jesus as only a prophet or good teacher.

What if Jesus is God made man and only a man? Sure this is high Christology as well since, again, it doesn’t include Jesus as always only a man.

There are dilemmas here, but I have to wonder if part of the issue is not deciding what high and low means but having only two real choices to choose from.

For my part, I have come to believe that rather than a low Christology at the start, the death of Jesus presents us a rather high Christology even by the victim. While others things were codified later, such as “Messiah,” I believe Jesus must have thought of himself as something rather high before his death, with the verification to his disciples made in his resurrection.1 What would this high Christology look like? Maybe Jesus didn’t think of himself as YWHW, but it is quite possible Jesus believed of himself as divine in some sense.

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  1. Granted, we cannot prove the resurrection, only that people believed it happened.
Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).


3 Responses to “Getting High on Kyrios Christology”
  1. Since all these various texts seem to be moving targets (old, redacted, new), it is hard to know for sure what is valid. But I still like Bart Ehrman’s book “Lost Christianities”, because it shows how much diversity there was. Note to Joel – what I say doesn’t mean I am an Adoptionist, just that I find it very interesting. Ehrman’s book, “…in the oldest witnesses to Luke’s Gospel, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you” (Luke 3:23).” At Jesus’ baptism. I rather like the Ebonites perhaps having the Gospel of the Nazareans, a version of The Gospel of Matthew, but not including the 1st two chapters about the virgin birth. And the Ebionites having John the Baptist eating pancakes instead of locust, since they didn’t believe in sacrifice, and were probably vegetarians. They had Jesus being born human, but made God’s son at baptism, and were still be out Jews. Then there were the Theodotians, who “maintained that Jesus was a “mere man,” born of the sexual union of Joseph and Mary, but chosen by God at his baptism to be the savior of the world. Theodotus acquired quite a following in Rome, especially, as it turns out, among intellectuals who knew their secular logic, mathematics, and philosophy, and applied them to their theological perspectives.”
    So they sound like early Gentiles trying to bridge the “gap” (excuse the term, which is rather volatile), between right wing and left wing theological stances. And gee, no virgin birth and maybe no trinity, but still resurrection.

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