On Tuesday, December 2, I presented a paper (well, more like led a discussion) on Christology in the New Testament at our Cambridge NT graduate seminar.
“Christology” is a term used to describe how the Bible (or later Christian writings) portray the person, character, and significance of Jesus Christ.
It basically amounts to this:
All you need to know about NT Christology boiled down to one page! Pretty simple, huh?
In our Cambridge NT graduate seminar, we are trying out a new format in which various students can provide broad, graduate-level overviews of their respective fields to supplement the times when one of us presents a “formal” research paper. I was the guinea pig, and I decided to give a comprehensive portrait of where the current research lies and where it is headed in the area of New Testament Christology.
When one discusses “Christology,” many Christians tend to think in terms of things like the Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed, or other statements of the early church that set forth our common belief in the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ (God taking on human flesh), the union of divinity and humanity in the one person of Christ, the shared essence of the Son with the Father, and so forth. This is what we might call “post-Nicene” or credal Christology.
Before we get to that point in history, however, there is a stage of Christological reflection that naturally goes all the way back to the New Testament documents themselves, on which these later credal formulations are built. This sub-focus on Christology specifically analyzes the various aspects of Christology as they come to us in the writings of Paul, Luke, Matthew, John, and so forth. It is usually denoted “New Testament Christology” (not necessarily to suggest that post-Nicene Christology is un-NT, but simply to clarify that we aren’t dealing with later, more “mature” formulations in ecumenical councils, but rather the Christological data as passed down to us in the original sources).
My presentation attempts to give a summary of this area of research along a handful of dimensions:
- Origins of Christology: Where did the apostles “get” their ideas about Jesus, and how did that unfold over time? Was it “evolutionary” (from one plant to another) or “developmental” (from seed to sapling of the same plant)?
- Methods of Accessing Christology: When we turn to the NT texts, how do we go about determining any given writing’s or author’s Christological ideas (and how they complement or differ from others)?
- Major Approaches to Christology: How have various scholars approached NT Christology? Such lenses include the study of titles (Christ, Lord, Son of God, etc.), divine intermediaries (“Wisdom,” “Logos,” angels, exalted humans), Jewish messianic expectations, Jesus’ own self-awareness as reflected in his recorded teachings, and much more.
- Categories of Christologies: How do various forms of Christology fit together? What elements of Christological reflection are “low” (emphasizing Jesus’ humanity) and “high” (emphasizing his divinity) or somewhere in between?
The resources coming out of the seminar are as follows:
- Audio recording of our seminar (part 1) (part 2)
- Schematic of my understanding of the broad landscape of Christology
- Bibliography of major works on Christology