From: george murphy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Mon Dec 30 2002 - 20:33:33 EST
Peter Ruest wrote:
> George Murphy wrote:
> > The trouble with the statement that "the Bible is a human
>document" is that it's
> > usually assumed tacitly - both by "liberals" and "conservatives"
>- that that would mean
> > that it _wasn't_ "a divine document." The church would have been
>much better off if it
> > had realized from the beginning the close parallel between our
> > scripture and christology. Jesus is fully human - and as a fully
>human being he is the
> > Word of God. The Bible is a collection of human documents,
>subject to all the vagaries
> > of human authorship. And as a human document it is the witness
>to the Word of God.
> > It is no accident that some liberals who one-sidedly
>emphasize the human
> > character of scripture also have trouble with the credal
>statement that Christ is "true
> > God of true God." And it is also no accident that some
>conservatives who one-sidedly
> > emphasize that the Bible is the Word of God think of Christ as
>God just temporarily
> > dressed up as a human.
> > Shalom,
> > George
> The close parallel between scripture and christology is
> very important. Just as Jesus is "fully human and fully divine", so is
> scripture. But what does "fully human and fully divine" mean? Certainly,
> Jesus being "fully human" does not mean that during his earthly life he
> was "nothing but" human! Jesus did empty himself, but (according to
> Phil. 2) in the sense of not using any divine power, or any other
> privilege beyond what the poorest humans had, for _his own_ benefit.
No, he is not "nothing but" human - but also not "nothing
but" divine. & the latter
has a more subtle but no less dangerous temptation than the former.
Denial of the divinity of
Christ is usually fairly obvious. But it's possible to make a formal
& good faith affirmation
of his humanity while in fact making that humanity simply a temporary
disguise for God. The
uproar among some Christians a few years ago over the film "The Last
Temptation of Christ",
with its idea that Christ really was tempted, is illustrative of this.
If Christ was fully human then he lived under the conditions
of other 1st century Jews
in Palestine, participating in the common cultural assumptions about
for the hope of Israel, &c. This doesn't mean that he couldn't - as
human - have transcended
some of those beliefs, but it means that, e.g., we can't say that
Genesis was written by Moses
simply because Jesus, _en passant_, affirmed that traditional Jewish
view. & to the extent
that Jesus did transcend traditional views (e.g., about the role of
women), it cannot have
been because the divine mind simply supplied him with the right answers.
Kenosis is not the same as krypsis, concealment. The latter
means that Christ simply
didn't use certain powers during his state of humiliation. The
former means that he actually
gave them up. There are problems with kenotic christology but some
are traceable to the
assumption that God must work from a standpoint of strength as we
normally understand it -
i.e., that God had to hold on to his power. But that is what I
Cor.1:25, II Cor.12:9, & the
theology of the cross in general, deny.
> But he certainly kept exercising his divine power where this was shown
> him by the Father to be appropriate in the pursuance of his task, like
> raising the dead, healing the sick, casting out demons, changing water
> into wine, walking on the surface of the lake, stilling the storm, etc.
He retained the power to command legions of angels. He knew what was in
> men's hearts, what they thought, etc. He uttered many prophecies
> concerning the near to very far future. He knew of the many prophecies
> in "all the scriptures ... concerning himself" - prophecies none of his
> contemporaries recognized as such. With a power that astonished and
> scared all his contemporaries and silenced their leading theologians,
> the carpenter expounded the true meaning of the Scriptures they had
> missed - no one ever taught like that.
There was indeed a severe kenosis, but we must not overextend it above
> what Scripture teaches us. He did share our human nature completely, but
> not to the complete exclusion of his divinity. This is underscored by
> the virgin birth and by his sinlessness.
> Can we conclude that Jesus didn't know anything his contemporaries
> didn't know? I doubt very much that this conclusion would be correct,
> although I would agree that during his human life he didn't know
> everything God knows. But where exactly is the line? We don't know.
More to the point, a natural reading of several passages
indicates that there were things
that he _didn't_ know.
> Similarly with Scripture: the conclusion that none of the biblical
> authors could write anything not known by his contemporaries would be
> claiming too much. God is free to reveal himself in ways he deems
> appropriate. We know that Jesus spoke to his contemporaries in a way
> they could understand if they wanted to. But we believe - in the same
> words - he also speaks to us in a way we can understand (without being
> experts of Ancient Near Eastern specialties). To exclusively apply
> rulers external to the bible to decide what is meant by the text, and
> what the writer "could not know", and what is incorrect, or what is
> "ancient mythology" is _not_ proper hermeneutics for a text which is not
> only "fully human", but also "fully divine". I think the proper respect
> for God requires a corresponding respect for God's Word (both Jesus and
> Scripture - and I would add Creation), which can only be met by a
> readiness to try to harmonize aspects which appear contradictory at
> first sight.
The full humanity of Christ means, first, that he was _born_:
(not "virgin birth") does not change that. He was subject to all the
weaknesses to which we
are subject. That is what "became flesh" means. He got tired &
hungry & thirsty, didn't know
some things, & could suffer & die - & did that as God Incarnate.
In the same way (I am just quoting myself) the Bible is a
collection of human
documents, subject to all the vagaries of human authorship. As a
human document it is the
witness to the Word of God. Since it is the human witness inspired
by the Spirit, it can be
called God's Word. But the fact that it is in that sense divine does
not mean that it cannot
properly be studied by all the techniques that are used to study
other ancient literature.
That would be like saying that the divinity of Christ requires that
the normal rules of human
physiology didn't apply to Jesus.
George L. Murphy
"The Science-Theology Interface"
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