Bock

Point 7 Paul, the Intermediary Son, Wisdom and Logos Sept 28

Just back from speaking at the Religious Newswriters in San Antonio, who were great hosts.

We pick up with point 7. Here it is:

Just back from speaking at the Religious Newswriters in San Antonio, who were great hosts.

We pick up with point 7. Here it is:

7) Paul’s Christ shares many features with these deities. The prominent philosophical-religious concept of the age was the intermediary Son, a spiritual channel between the ultimate transcendent God and humanity. Such intermediary concepts as the Greek Logos and Jewish Wisdom were models for Paul’s heavenly Christ.

Other than some exaggeration ("the" prominent philosophical-religious concept…was the intermediary Son), this point does recognize that there was a conceptual backdrop to some of the ideas tied to Jesus. The reason I speak of exaggeration is that Doherty can only cite Plato, a handful of Old Testament texts and the work of Philo for the prominent concept. However the concept of Plato that led to a discussion of demiurges is not a singular figure and so hardly qualified for the category of an intermediary Son described by Doherty. Now the Logos/Wisdom backdrop that Doherty menitions is at work. However it is a Jewish figure and reference that is in the background, rooted in the Old Testament. This is the idea of the personified wisdom of God, pictured metaphorically as a woman in Proverbs 8, a companion of God at the creation as this creation took place through God’s wisdom and will. The New Testament does describe Jesus with the terms of wisdom and logos, but not so much as the intermediary, but as a partner in creation and life (See Hebrews 1:3; Col. 1:15-20; 1 Cor 1:24; 2 Cor 4:4; 1 Cor 8:6, texts that Doherty correctly names). Doherty’s error comes when the claim is made that this reference involves a heavenly figure not tied to an earthly figure at all. The author of Hebrews notes the human Jesus 2:14 (which qualifies him to be a representative High Priest in the rest of Hebrews, see 2:9 and 3:1). Colossians 1:22 describes what Jesus reconciled in the body of his flesh (obviously looking to his real suffering on earth). What Doherty portrays as an either/or is a both/and.

9 Comments

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    Craig

    intermediary
    Dr. Bock,

    I’m really enjoying this series and the subsequent debates.

    If memory serves me right Bauchham argues simarily that the Jewish intermediary catergory is in and of itself insufficient to account for the early Christian Christology. I seem to remember his Anchor Bible Dictionary entry on the workship of Jesus addressing this, but I might be mistaken and instead thinking of his book God Crucified, or perhaps both deal with the topic, I’ll have to double check when I get home. Regardless of my memory, are there any significant nuances between what you’re arguing and what Bauckham is arguing?

    -Craig

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      bock

      Intermediary dlb

      Craig:

       

      Yes, Bauckham is less confident of the significance of this Jewish background than I am. The two ideas are not the same. My point is that "room" for the kind of thing Christians proclaimed is seen in the types of background that is present here. The ideas do not match, because Jesus has unique honor and position, but the idea of some type of personification of God being at work was a part of a segment of Judaism in the first century. The step to an intimately related figure is a short one.

       

      dlb

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    Craig

    Intermediary
    Dr. Bock,

    I was skimming through Bauckham’s “God Crucified” last night and I think I may have misrepresented his views somewhat. Bauckham divides the intermediary category in two, the first being principal angels and exalted patriarchs, and the second being the personification categories, i.e. Spirit, Word, Wisdom. The first category, which I’ll call intermediary figures, he thinks the Jewish literature “univocally excludes” from the identity of God, I think that would also rule out any ideas of greek demiurges or 2nd order Gods against Doherty, whereas the second category Bauckham thinks the literature univocally includes within the identity of God.

    With that clarification in mind, it sounds like you and Richard are very close in thinking that treating Jesus as an intermediary figure, a 2nd order god of Jewish or Greek origins, is mistaken given the way that Wisdom and Word are included within the indentity of God, or perhaps closer in line with the way you’re describing it, Wisdom and Word are personified ways of talking about God’s activity in the world. As you say, it’s a short step to an intimately related figure when the New Testament writters describe Jesus in terms of Wisdom and Word.

    • Avatar

      bock

      Intermediary Part 2 dlb

      Thanks for the clarification. What I said in my first post applied to figures of exaltation in my view as well. However, one can see that the distance between the two categories is not great and movement between the categories might be possible.

       

      dlb

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    Anonymous

    Dismantle the personified
    Dismantle the personified wisdom/logos modes of thought and expressions that were used/applied in the NT to conceptualize (Distort ) the person of the historical Jesus and his relationship to the God he worshipped, and you have a human Jewish prophet that performed miracles by God Almighty.

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    Anonymous

    A sect of misguided Jews
    A sect of misguided Jews during NT times erroneously interpreted the OT personifications of God’s attribute – Word/Wisdom – as a distinct self conscious ‘person’ manifested in a huamn Jesus. God’s attributes never subsisted as ‘persons’.The erroneous transition of belief from personification to ‘person’ of God’s attribute prepared the distorted Christological interpretation of Jesus as God incarnate reflected in the NT.

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      bock

      Personified and misguided dlb

      These comments look parallel to me so I take them together. The point about personification not being seen as a distinct person in the Hebrew Scriptures is correct. However, the claim that this imagery was a misread of the Christians is incorrect. What Christians were claiming is that Jesus was the manifestation in a visible way of an act of the unseen God by one who makes him visible (See John 1:14-18). Thus the claim developed the imagery of Judaism; it did not mistakenly read it in a wrong way. If Jesus were merely a human being used by God, then why did he call himself Son of Man as his favorite self designation, a figure for divine authority, since the figure rides the clouds like deity?

       

      dlb

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    Anonymous

    Jesus/wisdom/logos
    When i discovered that the authors of the New Testament were conceptualizing Jesus in exactly the same language or personified imagery as we find in the broader philosophical world, both Greek and Jewish, I realized that in reading the New Testament and imagining the New Testament writers as being inspired to a view of ‘God’s begotten Son’, these authors are merely drawing on the prominent ideas of speculative ancient Judaism and the deeper ancient heritage infused with Hellenic though, which lay behind their distorted perception and interpretation of Jesus.

    “If Jesus were merely a human being used by God, then why did he call himself Son of Man as his favorite self designation, a figure for divine authority, since the figure rides the clouds like deity? ”

    You advance with the postulation that Jesus made these proclaimations in the first place.

    The diverse Christologies derived from the NT reflect more what the alledged/professed follower believed about Jesus, not what Jesus perceived about his own self perception.

    It behoves me why Christians continue to worship a ‘Jesus’ that is a product of speculative and conjecture philosophies that prepared the very foundations of their christological beliefs.

    What would jesus look like without these conceptual wisdom/logos interpretations?

    I believe, if you remove these human innovations, speculative Jewish/greek philosophical conceptualizations that were erroneously applied to interpret the identity of Jesus, you will indeed recognize the true historical Jesus as the mighty Prophet and messenger of God Almighty.

  • Avatar

    bock

    Jesus/wisdom/logos dlb

    Anonymous (it would be nice to have a name):

    I wish I could accept that your premise is correct. Alas, it is not so simple. Let’s start with Son of Man. This expression is one the gospels only have on Jesus’ lips. It does not show up in church confessions in the epistles, because the church did not use this title of Jesus. How is it that Jesus’ favorite self designation is a church creation and yet it NEVER shows up as a title confessed by the church in places where the church is explaining Jesus in its descriptions of him in its doctrinal sections?

    There is some key conceptual background to Jesus. Most of it comes from the Hebrew Scripture or from Second Temple literature, but it also is combined with testimony, even from sources rooted in Jesus’ opponents, that he did unusual things (See Josephus, Antiquities 18.63-64, where his description os the Jesus did "paradoxcal things"). In other words, there is indication in the materials we have that reflects a combination of sayings and actions that is not simply to be dismissed as church creation that Jesus did present himself as the hub of divine activity and promise. The one option Jesus does not permit is that he is merely one prophet among many. Nothing in the various strands of tradition that feed into the gospels allows that conclusion. Anything else is a Jesus we create.

    dlb