What does Christ, Christology mean in the Bible?


Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Christ, Christology
Jesus Christ is the central figure whom the Old Testament foreshadows and the New Testament proclaims as prophecy become fact. It is accordingly of first importance to understand the biblical portrayal of the Messiah (Heb. masiah [1]; Gk. Christos [2], from chrio [3], to anoint), whom God has anointed to redeem his people and creation.
A key passage that summarizes the risen Christ's own interpretation of his completed messiahship is the Emmaus saying of Luke 24:25-27 : "'How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?' And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself." In Luke's abbreviated account abstracted from a longer and more detailed story circulated among eyewitnesses in the early church, Jesus claims the Old Testament as prelude to his role as the Christ/Messiah, highlighting his redemptive suffering and triumphal glorification. He attests the continuity of the old and the new and invites his followers to see "in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." Jesus also promises that his disciples will receive the gift of reliable remembrance and accurate interpretation ("All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you" John 14:25-26 ; 15:26-27 ).
Old Testament Images of Christ . In the Old Testament anointing with oil was associated with the Lord's appointing a person to the office of priest, king, or prophet to save and preserve Israel. To fill the priestly office Moses was directed by the Lord to anoint Aaron and his sons: "anoint them and ordain them. Consecrate them so that they may serve me as priests" (Exodus 28:41 ). For the kingly office Samuel anointed Saul and said, "Has not the Lord anointed you leader over his inheritance?" (1 Samuel 10:1 ). After Saul's failure, the Lord commanded Samuel to anoint David: "So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power" (1 Samuel 16:13 ). King and priest were anointed together at the formal installation of Solomon as king and Zadok as priest (Matthew 21:28-31 ). Of Solomon, the Chronicler remarks, "The Lord highly exalted Solomon in the sight of all Israel and bestowed on him royal splendor such as no king over Israel ever had before" (1 Chronicles 29:25 ). These texts underscore several composite characteristics of the messianic figure. As king, he is appointed by the Lord and in being separated for service receives the powerful Spirit of the Lord, reigns over the people of the Lord, and serves them by delivering them from the hand of their enemies (cf. Psalm 2:1-12 ). As priest, he is clothed with salvation for the joy of the saints as he atones for the people's sins (cf. Psalm 132:16 ). These typological offices notably describe Jesus' royal messiahship, which inaugurates the saving reign of God by the anointing of the Spirit and the invasion of satanic territory. They also describe his priestly office in atoning for the sins of the people by his suffering as the final and perfect sacrifice, accompanied by majesty and glory. These are the themes Jesus encapsulates in his Emmaus address.
The prophets, too, were anointed, and Jesus fulfills their role as the superior messianic prophet. To Elijah God gives the command, "and anoint Elisha ... to succeed as prophet" (1 Kings 19:16 b). God says of his anointed prophets, "Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm" (Psalm 105:15 ). In the prophetic literature Isaiah foresees the coming of a royal servant figure who will embody the true Israel and gather to himself not only sinful Israel but will be a light to the nations of the Gentiles as well. He will be a despised servant ruler before whom kings and princes will prostrate themselves (Isaiah 49:5-7 ), a figure who will take prey from the mighty (vv. 24-25) as Jesus will invade demonic strongholds and plunder Satan's goods (Matthew 12:28-29 ). The messianic servant will make himself an offering for sin and make many to be accounted righteous; he will bear their iniquities and so be glorified and divide the spoil with the strong because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors (Isaiah 53 ). Jesus as anointed Messiah embodies these royal and priestly functions and consciously sets his vision on fulfilling Old Testament suffering and glorification typologies in the cross and resurrection (Matthew 16:21 ). At the failure of the princely and priestly shepherd of Israel Ezekiel prophesies that the Lord God himself will come as shepherd: "As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep... I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice" (34:12,15-16). Jesus similarly uses the personal pronoun "I" in claiming to fulfill Ezekiel's prophecy: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (John 10:11 ). Daniel foresees one like a Son of man who receives from the Ancient of Days authority, glory, and sovereign power and an everlasting dominion that will never pass away (Daniel 7:13-14 ). Jesus claims to be the Son of man who has authority as Lord of the Sabbath and of the endtimes (Matthew 12:3-7 ; 16:21-28 ). Haggai foretells the glorious overthrow of the kingdoms of the nations with their chariots and riders by the victorious servant king anointed by the Lord of hosts (2:21-23); Jesus claims to be the victorious king of the kingdom of God who is binding Satan by the power of the Spirit (Matthew 12:28-29 ). Zechariah foresees the coming victorious king, humble and riding on an ass, whose dominion will be from sea to sea, who will set the captives free by the blood of the covenant (9:9-11); Jesus fulfills the prophecy with his ministry of passion and promise of final redemption and judgment (Matthew 21:1-46 ; 24:27-31 ; 26:26-29 ).
Images of Christ in the Gospels . Jesus evinces a characteristic eschatological power that reveals his messianic self-understanding: in him the reign of God is personified; he is acting as the anointed agent in a powerful invasion to rescue Satan's prisoners, one by one.
The parables of the kingdom shed further light on Jesus' Christology of inaugurated eschatology, since a true metaphor is more than a sign because it bears the reality to which it refers. The following sayings describe Jesus' messianic understanding as he sees the power of God at work in his own ministry and in those who accept him. In the parable of the children in the marketplace (Matthew 11:16-19 ) Jesus declares with authority his right to invite outcasts to open table fellowship, thereby going beyond nationalist and ethnic interests to include all who will eat with this friend of tax collectors and sinners (implicitly fulfilling the vision of Isaiah 49:5-13 ). In the twin parables of the treasure hidden in a field and the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:44-46 ) Jesus describes the surprise and joy of discovering and acquiring great treasure, implying that the saving reign of God is present to be discovered and acquired. Only one who is supremely confident that he is anointed to speak with divine authority could make such a radical announcement. Astounding is Jesus' announcement that forgiveness of sins is present in response to himself, and still more startling is that lost Gentile sinners (including Jews who have made themselves like Gentiles) are forgiven and welcomed into table fellowship. In the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32 ) the reprobate who has become like a Gentile is forgiven and restored to the father's table, in reversal of traditional theology that the son was "dead."
We need to ask what opinion Jesus must have had of himself to speak as he did against the traditional viewpoint of religious authority. Jesus exhibits a decisive Christology that exceeds the messianic views of Judaism. Jesus appears to speak as the voice of God in announcing the inauguration of the eschatological time when the unforgivable sinner is forgiven. No other explanation can satisfactorily account for the phenomenon (the rejecting Pharisees, on the other hand, see Jesus as demonically possessed and heretically mad, Matthew 12:24 ). The parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin (Luke 15:3-10 ) bear out the same theme of searching, finding, and rejoicing that characterizes Jesus' inauguration of the messianic time of salvation, as do the parables of the great supper (Matthew 22:1-14 ; Luke 14:16-24 ) and the unjust steward (Luke 16:1-9 ), which emphasize the importance of immediate decision. So also the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16 ), the two sons (1 Chronicles 29:22 ), and the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14 a), which note that preconceived ideas may blind one to the present challenge. The good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37 ), the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:23-35 ), the tower builder and the king going to war (Luke 14:28-32 ) describe the necessary response to the challenge; the friend at midnight (or importunate friend, Luke 11:5-8 ) and the unjust judge (the importuned judge, Luke 18:1-8 ) underscore the importance of confidence in God in the present messianic moment and of "pestering" God with petitions.
The critical consensus of those sayings that imply Jesus' messianic self-understanding also includes his appeal to discipleship, typical of which is Luke 9:62 : "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." Scholars note "the radical nature of the demand, " in view of which it should be asked what sort of person would make such a claim except one who is certain of his divine calling and the presence of God's reign in his ministry. While the idiom of entering the kingdom of God is found in both Judaism and the early church, Jesus' attitude toward riches and the kingdom is more radical than that of the rabbis. Jesus says, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! ... It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Mark 10:23 b, 25 ). The saying would lead one to conclude that the challenge of the proclamation arises from the intention of Jesus the proclaimer. In making such an absolute demand of his hearers, Jesus implies that he considers himself absolutely worth following. This is borne out in the unusual saying of Luke 9:60 , "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God"; and the exhortation of Matthew 7:13 a (cf. Luke 13:24 ), "Enter through the narrow gate ... , " which underscores the radical nature of Jesus' demand and points to his sense of messianic confidence. A similar point is made in the saying in Luke 14:11 , "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted, " which implies that only one who is conscious of speaking with the authority of God can announce that all must and will be in accordance with the values of God.
The sayings of Jesus agreed on by a consensus of scholars as historically authentic continue with three attitude utterances. In Mark 10:15 , "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it, " Jesus presents the unforgettable image that one must bring to the announcement of the messianic activity of God the ready trust and instinctive obedience of a child. The originality of Jesus is implicit in the saying and can come only from one who is convinced that he has the authority to challenge traditional ways of thinking. Jesus' use of the personal pronoun "I" in the formula "I tell you the truth" lends additional weight not only to the demand but to the view that Jesus is indwelling the saying with an intentional authority as he understands himself to have the right to make demands that only God has the right to make. Matthew 5:39b-41 also substitutes unusual teaching for the traditional Jewish understanding of the messianic age: "If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles." In this excerpt from Jesus' larger manual for mission in the Sermon on the Mount he is presenting the proper attitude of discipleship in the inaugurated age of evangelization when the disciples, following the example of their Messiah, place themselves at the disposal of sinners to bring them to salvation. Jesus does not emphasize personal rights or prudential self-interest but mission servanthood in this messianic endtime. The daring that motivates Jesus to contrast the present with the past and to place himself in authority over Moses indicates that he is speaking with divine authority. He claims to supersede the teachings of Moses by the formula, "You have heard that it was said ... But I tell you, " ( Matthew 5:21-22,27-28,31-32,33-34,38-39,43-44 ) as he presses to the intent of the Law in preparing the disciples for the mission of the messianic age.
Yet another of the contrasts generally accepted as genuine is Jesus' saying, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44 ). This mandate for mission implies that Jesus consciously mediates messianic love in his word of forgiveness and table fellowship with sinners. Internal attitudes are emphasized more intensely by Jesus in the new messianic time than they were in the Old Testament typologies: "Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him 'unclean'" (Mark 7:15 ). This saying goes against the grain of rabbinic and sectarian Judaism by insisting that it is one's own attitudes and behavior, not external practices relating to foods, which defile a person. It is one of the most remarkable statements of Jesus and is coherent with Jesus' attitude and behavior toward tax collectors and sinners. When the saying is placed in the context of Jesus' inaugurated kingdom proclamation, one sees that the kingly Messiah requires a new attitude and conversion of thought in regard to himself. There is no longer clean and unclean according to the old typologies of food and ethnic priorities, but equality between Jew and Gentile through the far-reaching forgiveness of the Messiah that brings inner transformation. By forgiving sinners and by fellowshiping with them in joyous feasting Jesus personifies the kingly messianic activity of God. Thus the petition in the Lord's Prayer, "Forgive us our sins, as we ourselves herewith forgive everyone who has sinned against us" implies not only the presence of forgiveness in Jesus the Messiah but acknowledges that his disciples are to carry on the messianic mission by sharing the good news of forgiveness with others.
The texts examined above imply the present work of the Messiah. A number of "consensus" passages also imply confidence in the future dimension of the Messiah's inaugurated work. The parable of the sower (Mark 4:3-9 ) contrasts the small amount of seed and the bountiful harvest. Forgiveness and table fellowship, like the seed, are planted and taking root and anticipate rich blessings to come as the fruition of Jesus' messianic work. Only one who is supremely self-confident about what is coming to pass through his present words and Acts, and about what will be brought to fruition in the future, could utter such sayings as those of the mustard seed (Mark 4:30-32 ), the leaven (Matthew 13:33 ), the seed growing of itself (Mark 4:26-29 ), the petition "your kingdom come" (Matthew 6:10 ), and the prophecy "I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, IsaActs and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 8:11 ). What is remarkable about all these sayings is the implied declaration of small beginnings, big endings. Already seeds are being sown and are taking root, bread is rising, the reign of God is inaugurated, the banquet has already begun as converted sinners begin to feast at the gracious Messiah's table, and all will be brought to fulfillment at the end of the age.
Jesus claims that in his ministry both the prophetic and wisdom traditions of the Old Testament are superseded: "and now one greater than Jonah is here ... , now one greater than Solomon is here" (Matthew 12:41-42 ). He says to his hearers, "But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it" (Matthew 13:17 ). Jesus sees himself as the Messiah who inaugurates the reign of God and phases out the old era of the prophets represented by John the Baptist. In a passage that is distinctly messianic, John the Baptist, hearing in prison what Christ was doing, inquires of Jesus through his disciples, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" (Matthew 11:2-3 ). Jesus presents as evidence his works of miracles and preaching and remarks, "I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it" (Matthew 11:11-12 ). The new and forceful arrival of the redemptive reign of God is embodied in the ministry of Jesus, who binds Satan and plunders his stronghold, releasing his prisoners: "But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless his first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house" (Matthew 12:28-29 ). In these declarations of messianic intention Jesus shows that he is conscious of being the stronger man who, with the Father and the Spirit, is despoiling satanic power and redeeming prisoners from spiritual bondage.
Peter is inspired by the Father to utter an affirmation of Jesus' messiahship: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16 ). In this confession Jesus is affirmed as divine through the title "Son of the living God" and as the Christ who fulfills the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. Jesus then discloses that he is the suffering Messiah whose work will culminate in his death and resurrection (Matthew 16:21 ), countermanding Peter's objections that stem from the traditional view of messiahship as something tied to ethnic and nationalistic aspirations. The older typology is condemned as obsolete, and even as demonic ("Get behind me, Satan!"), now that Christ has come in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Matthew 16:22-23 ). Yet, while Jesus has inaugurated the messianic age and his mission is unfolding, the time is not yet ripe for a full declaration of his identity until he has completed his redemptive work. Hence the significance of the messianic secret voiced in Matthew 16:20 . When his role as Christ draws to fulfillment during the final days in Jerusalem, he increasingly claims the space of the religious leaders by exegeting them into silence (Matthew 22:41-46 ). To the Pharisees he puts t
Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Christ, Christology
In studying ‘Christology’ the object is to ascertain what were the opinions, convictions, or dogmas regarding the Person of Christ which were held by particular authorities or by the Christian Church as a whole at any particular time. In the period now under review ‘dogmas’ do not enter into consideration, seeing that the Apostolic Age does not furnish any instance of common opinion enforced by authority, which is what ‘dogma’ consists in. On the other hand, the limits of our period are set not by the ‘Age of the Apostles’ strictly understood, but by the documents which form our NT, even though some of them may be held to proceed from a generation subsequent to that of the apostles.
It has been usual to divide the subject into pre-Pauline and Pauline (with post-Pauline) Christology; and the division only does justice to the great place occupied by St. Paul in the interpretation of Christian experience and the correlation of Christian thought. But the classification is open to a two-fold objection. In the first place, it tends unduly to depreciate the importance, indeed the normative value, of Christian experience and reflexion anterior to St. Paul; and, in the second place, by grouping the other forms of Christology as ‘post-Pauline’ or ‘sub-Pauline,’ it assumes or alleges a relation of dependence between them and the Christology of the Apostle; whereas the fact of this relation and the measure of it are parts of the whole problem, and call for careful investigation. It is preferable, therefore, to consider first primitive Christology, and then sub-primitive Christology, without assuming any continuous line of development.
I. The Christology of the primitive community
1. Sources.-The material for the study of this period is far from copious, and its value has been much disputed. Yet its importance is so great that it demands careful examination. The possible sources may be classified under three heads: (1) the Acts of the Apostles, especially the earlier half; (2) certain statements and allusions in St. Paul’s Epistles as to views held in common by himself and the primitive Christian community; and (3) certain elements in the Synoptic Gospels, in which, it has been suggested, we find reflected the Christological idea of a later generation. We shall take these in the reverse order.
(1) The Synoptic Gospels.-Here it is not proposed to make any use of what some claim to recognize as ‘secondary’ material in the Synoptic Gospels. Firstly, even if the presence of such material be admitted as a possibility, there is the greatest uncertainty as to its amount and its distribution. While there has undoubtedly been a tendency in some critical writers to exaggerate the influence of later theology on the Synoptic record, it is also quite possible that the criteria to which they appeal may need to be revised. Neither the absolute nor the relative dates of the NT documents have been ascertained with sufficient certainty, nor yet has the inner history of the period been realized with sufficient precision, to make the discrimination of such material anything but very precarious. But, secondly, even if there were much more certainty than there is as to the Synoptic material which is really secondary in character, it would be of little use for our purpose, seeing that the criterion by which it is distinguished is precisely its harmony with the views of a later period; and on that account it cannot be expected to yield any new and positive information as to the opinion held in the period to which ex hypothesi it belongs.
(2) The Epistles of St. Paul.-These provide at least valuable confirmation of what may be otherwise ascertained as to the opinion held by the primitive community, portly through direct statement by the Apostle as to what was the gospel he had ‘received,’ and partly through inference which may be made from his own views, as to that out of which they had developed. But beyond this we cannot go. The Epistle of James, even if its date be early, would add nothing to our knowledge of the primitive Christology. The First Epistle of Peter, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Apocalypse all represent a stage in some degree in advance of the common basis from which they started; and the Johannine Gospel and Epistles embody the results of still longer experience and deeper analysis.
(3) The Acts of the Apostles.-There remains, as the chief source of material for constructing the pre-Pauline Christology, the Book of Acts, more especially the first eleven chapters. Not many years ago it would have been difficult to justify at the bar of scholarly opinion the use of this document as a trustworthy source. No book was so seriously discredited as a historical source by the representatives of the ‘Tübingen theory.’ Now, however, that the governing historical principle of that theory has been shown to be untenable, and the conclusions based upon it have been either abandoned or seriously modified, the way has been opened for a reconsideration of the Acts as to both its date and its historical value. In the opinion of most competent scholars, the authorship may now be restored to St. Luke and the date placed within the first century, some assigning it to the nineties, some to the eighties. Quite recently a strong case has been made out by Harnack for the still older view that it was written in the sixties before the death of St. Paul.
But what is more important for our purpose than the possible revision of the date is the abandonment of the charge of history-making for party (or eirenical) purposes, and the recognition that St. Luke was not simply an echo of St. Paul (see Jülicher, Introd. to NT, Eng. translation , 1904, p. 437; J. Moffatt, Introd. to Literature of the New Testament (Moffatt)., 1911, p. 301). In particular there is an increasing disposition to acknowledge that in the speeches of the earlier chapters we have the thought of the primitive community preserved and reproduced with singular fidelity. The admission of Schmiedel in his article on the Acts (Encyclopaedia Biblica i. 48) is significant:
‘A representation of Jesus so simple, and in such exact agreement with the impression left by the most genuine passages of the first three gospels, is nowhere else to be found to the whole NT. It is hardly possible not to believe that this Christology of the speeches of Peter must have come from a primitive source.’
In the Acts of the Apostles moat of the material is contained in the five speeches of Peter and the speech of Stephen, those of Peter being (a) on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14 ff.); (b) in Solomon’s portico (Acts 3:12 ff.); (c) the first before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:8 ff.); (d) the second before the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:29 ff.); and (e) the short speech at Joppa (Acts 10:34 ff.). When we proceed to collect and classify the relevant statements in this part of the Acts, we find that they point to the following conclusions (i.) The Christians of the early days identified Jesus with the Messiah. (ii.) They appealed for confirmation of this conviction to the fact that God had ‘raised him from the dead’; and also that He had been ‘exalted’ by, and to, the right hand of God, the Resurrection and Exaltation marking a decisive moment in the Messiahship. (iii.) At the same time they referred back behind the Resurrection to facts and characteristics of His earthly ministry. (iv.) In spite of the dignity and authority to which they believed Him raised, they consistently referred to Him in terms of humanity, as to one who had been, while upon earth, a man among men. (v.) They promptly began to attach to Him certain OT titles and types, some of which had already been recognized as Messianic, others possibly not; e.g. ‘Son of Man,’ ‘Servant of God,’ ‘Leader of Salvation,’ ‘Saviour,’ ‘Judge,’ and ‘Lord.’ (vi.) They connected the death of Jesus, on the one hand, very definitely with the determined purpose of God; and, on the other, with the blotting out of sin. And for these reasons this Jeans was the subject of the ‘good news’ (Acts 5:42), the object of faith (Acts 9:42; Acts 11:17), and the cause of faith in men (Acts 3:16).
(i.) The first point hardly requires to be illustrated. Not only the speeches but the narrative as a whole bear witness to the fact that the ‘disciples,’ to use St. Luke’s word, identified Jesus who had died but risen again with the Messiah of Jewish expectation. This was indeed the one point which at the outset distinguished them from the other Jews in Jerusalem. Other grounds of distinction, ultimately leading to separation, were doubtless latent in their minds-recollections of the Master’s teaching, of His attitude to the Law and the ritual of the Temple. But in the meantime ‘the disciples’ are found haunting the Temple and observing the formal hours of prayer; St. Peter proudly claims that no unclean or forbidden food has passed his lips (Acts 10:14), and, thirty years later, St. James can assure St. Paul that all the thousands of Jewish Christians in Jerusalem are ‘zealous of the law’ (Acts 21:20). But with an enthusiasm which no scorn could quench, a determination which neither threats nor imprisonment could weaken, they proclaimed to high and low their conviction that the Jesus they had known was the Messiah. It is one of the water-marks of the primitive character of St. Luke’s narrative that he everywhere shows his consciousness that this is the meaning of χριστός. He never employs it as a proper name. His name for our Saviour is either ‘Jesus’ or ‘the Lord’; and χριστός when it stands alone always means ‘Messiah.’ This is specially significant in passages where ‘Christ’ and ‘Jesus’ occur together, in apposition; e.g. Acts 3:20, ‘that he may send the Messiah who has been before appointed-Jesus’; Acts 5:42; Acts 17:3; Acts 18:5; Acts 18:28, ‘shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.’ The completeness with which this fact is attested must not blind us, however, to two uncertainties, which immediately arise. The first may be stated thus: What did the disciples understand by the Messiah? What character, rôle, or function did they assign to Him? And the second thus: At what point did they understand Him to have entered on His Messiah-ship? They identified Jesus with the Messiah of Jewish expectation; but did that mean that He had been (and was still, and was to return as) Messiah, or that the Messiahship was a dignity conferred on Him after death and at the Resurrection? The answer to these questions follows on the examination of the other elements in the primitive conviction.
(ii.) That conviction rested upon, and appealed to, the Resurrection as the conclusive proof of the Messiahship of Jesus. But the Resurrection was uniformly connected with the Exaltation to the right hand of God, or with its equivalent-the participation of Jesus in the Divine ‘glory.’ In each of St. Peter’s recorded speeches these two factors are significantly combined (Acts 2:32-33; Acts 3:13; Acts 7:55; Acts 10:40; Acts 10:42). The Resurrection is thus regarded as the externally visible side of a great transaction which has its true significance in the Exaltation of Jesus to Messianic rank and honour in heaven; it was a public declaration of His station; the man whom they had seen crucified now occupied the place of dignity and authority which prophecy and apocalyptic had assigned to the Messiah. God had now ‘made him both Lord and Christ’ (Acts 2:36). The word ‘Lord’ (κύριος), like ‘Christ,’ is probably used as an official title; but in any case the phrase witnesses to the belief that the Resurrection and Exaltation had marked a decisive moment in the Messiahship of Jesus.
(iii.) At the same time, St. Peter is careful to emphasize on more than one occasion the ministry which had preceded the Crucifixion and Resurrection. He marks the limits of that ministry (Acts 1:21-22) in accordance with those set by the Gospels. In his first speech (Acts 2:22 ff.) he describes its character-‘Jesus the Nazaraean (cf. Acts 3:6; Acts 4:10; Acts 6:14; Acts 22:8; Acts 24:5 and Acts 26:9), a man approved of God unto you by mighty works and signs and wonders, which God did by him in the midst of you, even as ye yourselves know.’ And specially in the address preceding the baptism of Cornelius (Acts 10:36 ff.), St. Peter, having begun with words which make echoes of Messianic passages in Isaiah (Isaiah 52:7; cf. Nahum 1:15), proceeds to remind his hearers of something already familiar to them-the ministry of ‘Jesus the one from Nazareth,’ which began from Galilee after the baptism proclaimed by John. Him God had anointed with the Holy Spirit, and He had gone about doing deeds of kindness and healing all who were tyrannized by the devil. Of all that He had done also in Judaea and Jerusalem (as well as of the Resurrection) St. Peter and his comrades were appointed to bear witness. The only epithets applied to Jesus which might throw light on the impression He had made are ‘holy’ and ‘righteous’ (Acts 3:14; Acts 4:27; 161845072853 Acts 7:52; [2]). The ascription of the characteristic ‘righteous’ is probably due to a reminiscence of a description already traditional for the Messiah (cf. En, 38.2, 46.3, 53.6), and the collocation of ‘holy’ and ‘servant’ may have a similar origin; but inacts Acts 3:14, where both epithets are applied to the historical Jesus, the contrast drawn in the following paragraph with the ‘murderer’ for whom the Jews had asked suggests that the words at the same time connote the consciousness that they fitly describe the character of Jesus.
(iv.) This Jesus, whether He be referred to in the days of His flesh or in His present Exaltation at the right hand of God, is consistently represented in terms of humanity. It cannot be said that any special stress is laid on His human nature. The time had not yet come when it was necessary to emphasize His true manhood over against Docetic or Gnostic tendencies. If some slight emphasis is to be detected, it is due rather to wonder that One to whom so much honour is assigned, through whom so much is expected, was One with whom the disciples had been on familiar terms. This is suggested by the frequency with which the simple name ‘Jesus’ is used (three times as often as the title ‘Christ’), by the reiterated designation ‘Jesus the Nazaraean,’ and by the emphatic demonstration which occurs more than once-‘This Jesus did God raise up’ (Acts 2:32; cf. Acts 2:36). It is ‘Jesus’ whom Stephen sees standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55), and ‘Jesus’ who speaks to Saul from heaven. It was in the fact that St. Peter and St. John had been companions of ‘Jesus’ that the members of the Sanhedrin found some explanation of their boldness and powers of speech (Acts 4:13). It was in the name of ‘Jesus’ that they taught (Acts 4:18), and in the same name that they wrought miracles. The miracles of Jesus Himself were not ascribed to His independent initiative; they were wonders which ‘God did by him’ (Acts 2:22); and the explanation of His power which is given elsewhere (Acts 10:38) is that God had anointed Him with the Holy Ghost, and that God ‘was with him’ (Acts 10:38). For God had ‘raised him up’ in the sense in which He ‘raised up’ prophets of old, and ‘sent him to bless’ His people in turning away every one of them from their iniquities (Acts 3:26). In all this we see the tokens of a very early form of Christology; one, moreover, which would be very difficult to account for either as the invention or as the recollection of a later generation.
(v.) But this is not a complete account of the Christological phenomena of these chapters. There are numerous indications that from the very outset the minds of some at least of the disciples were at work on the material provided for them by (a) their recollection of what Jesus had been, said, and done; (b) the facts of His Crucifixion and Resurrection; and (c) the promises and predictions of the OT, together possibly with some of the language of the apocalypses. The result of this reflexion is seen in the ascription to Jesus as Messiah of certain important titles and functions which indicate more precisely the relation in which He stands towards God or the function He discharges towards men. In his speech on the day of Pentecost St. Peter was ready with a quotation from Psalms 16, and an exegetical interpretation of it which was sufficiently in accord with contemporary methods of exegesis to commend it to his hearers. Not long after, we find him making the definite general statement that God had fulfilled the things which He foreshowed ‘by the mouth of all his prophets that his Christ should suffer’ (Acts 3:18; cf. also Acts 3:24; Acts 10:43). We are justified, therefore, in looking to the writings of the prophets for the sources of phrases and ideas now connected with Jesus as the risen Messiah.
(α) The Servant of God.-That is undoubtedly the source of the striking description, τὸν παῖδα αὐτοῦ (sc. θεοῦ), which occurs twice in St. Peter’s second speech (Acts 3:13; Acts 3:26) and twice (τὸν ἅγιον παῖδά σου) in the prayer of thanksgiving (Acts 4:27; Acts 4:30). The rendering familiar to English ears through the Authorized Version translates παῖδα by ‘Son’ in the first two passages, by ‘child’ in the last two. But according to the view now generally held it is the alternative meaning of παῖς which is here intended, viz. ‘servant’; and we have in the phrase a deliberate echo of the language of Deutero-Isaiah concerning the ‘Servant of the Lord.’ Such a usage, in the first place, is a further indication of the primitive character of St. Luke’s material. It is found elsewhere only in Clement, the Didache, and the Martyrdom of Polycarp. It is an early Messianic title for our Lord which is not repeated in the later books of the NT (see further A. Harnack, Date of Acts and Synoptic Gospels, Eng. translation , 1911, p. 106; History of Dogma, Eng. translation , i. [3] 185, note 4).
Further, the application of this title to Jesus is very significant, whether it is traced to independent reflexion on the part of the apostles, or whether it be due to appreciation on their part of the same factor in the consciousness and in the utterances of Jesus. Its effect was to link on to the traditional conception of the Messiah a series of ideas of quite a different character, including humility, submission, vicarious suffering and death. The importance of this identification is illustrated by the exposition of Isaiah 53:7 given by Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:35 ‘beginning from this scripture he preached unto him Jesus’); and the same interpretation probably underlies St. Paul’s statement, ‘Christ … died for our sins according to the scriptures.’
(β) Prince and Saviour.-The same OT context is probably the source of another striking designation, ἀρχηγὸν καὶ σωτῆρα. ‘Him did God exalt unto his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour’ (Acts 5:31; cf. Acts 3:15 ‘ye slew the Prince of life’; and Hebrews 2:10 ‘the author (prince, or captain) of their salvation’; also 12 author and finisher’ [4]). The variety in the renderings reflects an ambiguity in the word ἀρχηγός. It describes one who both inaugurates and controls; and the ἀρχηγός τῆς ζωῆς at once inaugurates and controls the Messianic experience of salvation here described as ζωή. There is thus a close parallelism between the two phrases ‘Prince of life’ and ‘Prince and Saviour’; and when they are taken together, and weighed with the context in which the first is found, their connexion with the language of Isaiah becomes plain, e.g. Isaiah 60:16 ἐγὼ Κύριος ὁ σώζων σε, and Isaiah 55:4 ἰδοὺ μαρτύριον ἐν ἔθνεσιν ἔδωκα αὐτὸν, ἄρχοντα καὶ προστἀσσοντα τοῖς ἔθνεσιν. The ‘sufferings of the Christ’ had been foretold ‘by the mouth of all the prophets’; and the same prophecies, to the study of which the apostles had been led by His death, supplied forms for the expression of their faith in Him.
(γ) Son of Man.-This title for Jesus occurs once only-in the account of the martyrdom of Stephen (
Holman Bible Dictionary - Christ, Christology
“Christ” is the English rendering of the Greek Christos , meaning “anointed.” See Messiah which translates the corresponding Hebrew term mashiach , the anointed one.
Old Testament and Jewish Background See Messiah .
Various groups of individuals in the Old Testament were recipients of a ceremony involving anointing with oil. Notable examples were priests (
Exodus 29:7 ) and kings in Israel from the time of Saul onward (1 Samuel 10-16 ). The appellation, “the Lord's anointed” came to be used to mean the king of Israel, (1 Samuel 24:6 , 1 Samuel 24:10 ). The psalmist looked forward to an ideal anointed king who may or may not have been already seen dimly portrayed in the contemporary Israelite kings (Psalm 2:2 ; Psalm 18:50 ; Mark 1:14-154 ; Psalm 132:10 , Psalm 132:17 ). A good illustration of what anointing implied is seen in Psalm 105:15 ( 1 Chronicles 16:22 ) where the term “anointed” (here used in the plural) refers to the Hebrew patriarchs as those set apart for God's service and called to be His representatives. An unusual occurrence of this idea is in Isaiah 45:1 where “his anointed” refers to Cyrus the Persian ruler whom God appointed to serve Him.
The failure of the Hebrew monarchy, certified by the Babylonian Exile (587-538 B.C.), paved the way for the emergence of a messianic hope. The prospect entailed a coming deliverer, usually of the Davidic family but also with priestly connections, who would restore the kingdom to Israel and be a kingly figure. Such a prophetic figure is not actually called the Messiah in the Old Testament. The Song of Solomon, written in the period 70-40 B.C. by a Pharisee, gives the first positive identification of the coming redeemer of Israel with one whom the Lord anoints as His Messiah. The prayer runs: “See, O Lord, and raise up for them their king, the Son of David [1] their king is the Lord's anointed” (Song of Song of Solomon 17:21 ,Song of Song of Solomon 17:32 ; compare Song of Song of Solomon 18:7 ). This usage, however, is exceptional. The scarcity of allusions to the Messiah before the New Testament period is probably to be explained by the fact that Israel's hope took on various shapes. Often it was God Himself who was expected to visit the nation in deliverance; sometimes it was His angel or messenger who would herald the onset of the new age (Malachi 3:1-2 ; Malachi 4:5-6 ). The term “Messiah,” where it is found, relates to a human figure who, as a member of David's family, would usher in the restored kingdom and promote Israel's interests in the world, usually implying a triumph over Israel's enemies in a war of liberation (Song of Solomon), or in the creation of a purified people (as in the hope entertained by the sect of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran).
Jesus as the Christ in the Gospels The first three Gospels give less prominence to the title “Christ” (the Messiah) than we might have expected. Jesus never openly paraded His Messiahship, nor did He overtly claim to be the Messiah in the sense of announcing an aspiration to be Israel's warrior king. Yet He did claim to be the One in whom the kingdom of God was present (1618450728_61 ; Luke 11:20 ). His parables enunciated both the arrival of the kingdom and its character, setting a pattern for living for those who would enter God's realm as His children (Matthew 13:1 ; Mark 4:1 ). His mighty acts in healing the sick and casting out demons were demonstrations of the power and presence of God at work in His ministry (Luke 5:17 ). His teaching on prayer was based on the awareness He had of God as His Father in an intimate sense, calling him “Abba,” my dear Father, which is a nursery word used of an earthly parent by Jewish children (Mark 14:36 ; Luke 10:21-22 ; Luke 11:2 ). See Luke 24:19-21 ; Luke 13:32-35 ) and His sacrifice there on the cross (Mark 8:31-32 ; Mark 9:31 ; Mark 10:32-34 ). Only in this way, Jesus knew, could God's kingdom come and God's will be done by His anointed Servant and Son (Luke 4:16-19 ).
For this reason—that God's redemption of Israel would take place only by the suffering of the Messiah—Jesus took a reserved and critical attitude to the title “Christ.” When Peter confessed “Thou art the Christ” (Mark 8:29 ), Jesus' response was guarded: not denying it, but distancing Himself from the political and social connotations which a nationalist Judaism had accepted as commonplace in the expected Deliverer. (See Mark 10:35-45 ; Luke 9:51 ; Acts 1:6 for the evidence that even the disciples entertained such a hope.) At the trial Jesus was interrogated on this point. The balance of the evidence points in the direction that He still maintained a reserve ( Matthew 26:63-64 ; Luke 22:67-68 ), with the same reluctance to be identified with a worldly messiah-king evident, too, in the interview with Pilate (Mark 15:2 : “Art thou the King of the Jews?” asked Pilate. “Thou sayest it,” Jesus replied; but the answer is probably noncommittal meaning, “It is your word, not mine”). At all events, Jesus was sentenced to death on the trumped-up charge of being a messianic claimant and a rival to the emperor in Rome (Mark 15:26 ,Mark 15:26,15:32 ). The Gospels make it clear that there was no direct and supportable evidence that Jesus so claimed to be such a figure. Instead, He consistently viewed His life and mission as fulfilling the role of the “Son of man” (a title drawn from Daniel 7:13-14 where it stands for God's Representative on earth who suffers out of loyalty to the truth and is at length rewarded by being promoted to share the throne of God) and God's chosen Servant, a pattern for ministry which Jesus evidently found in Isaiah's servant songs ( Isaiah 42:1-4 ; Isaiah 49:5-7 ; Isaiah 52:13-53:12 ). If this is the correct background to Jesus' self-awareness, both of His relationship to God and to His mission, it helps to explain how He looked confidently beyond defeat and death to His vindication by God in the resurrection. Whatever destiny of suffering and rejection by His people awaited Him, He saw, like Isaiah's servant, that God would bring Him ot of death to newness of life. Also, the significance Jesus attached to His death as an atoning sacrifice in such sayings as Mark 10:45 ; Mark 14:24 requires some such background as the vicarious sacrifice of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53:5 ,Isaiah 53:5,53:10 to give it coherent meaning.
In the apostolic church this understanding of Jesus' life and ministry was given clearer definition (Acts 2:22-36 ; Acts 8:26-40 ), and in the hands of the New Testament theologians such as Paul (Romans 3:24-26 ) and the author of Hebrews (Romans 8-10 ) the conviction regarding the person, work, and glory of Jesus Christ is clearly articulated. At this point we have entered the realm of Christology, the teaching about the person of Jesus Christ.
Christology: Methods Any approach to Christology (that is, the teaching on Christ's person as both a figure of history and the object of the church's worship) must face the issue of methodology. Specifically, this means that a choice has to be considered whether the interpreter will begin with creedal formulations that confess that Jesus Christ is “true God” and “true man,” and then work backward to the way this teaching arose in the early church and the New Testament. This method is called seeking Christology “from above.” The alternative approach, called by modern scholars a Christology “from below,” begins with the factual data of the historical and theological records of the New Testament Scriptures, and from there it proceeds to trace the way the church's understanding of the Lord developed until the creeds were framed. Another way of putting this choice—which we shall stress is not so momentous as it appears, since both methods add up to the same conclusion—is to ask whether New Testament Christology is ontological (that is, concerned with Christ's transcendent role in relation to God, the world, and the church) or primarily functional. The latter term means that the New Testament writers were concerned mainly to relate the person of Jesus Christ to His achievement as Savior and Lord and to set this in the context of His earthly ministry.
The two methods do seem to proceed from different starting points. The first one asks, “Who is Christ and how is He related to God?” The second raises the questions, “What did Jesus do in His human life, and how did it come about that the church accorded Him titles of divinity?” At a practical level we can see that the choice is one which can be put in personal terms. Is Jesus rightly called the Son of God because He saves me? This is the standpoint of functional Christology. Or is it true that He saves me because He is the Son of God? That is the language of ontological Christology. Yet the two approaches reach the same goal in the end, we believe. As methods, they are different. In what follows we adopt the approach of “Christology from below” on the ground that this method more adequately respects the way the New Testament teaching has come to us and so can be seen in the pages of the New Testament. We do not deny that there are ontological overtones, in such places as John 1:1-18 ; Philippians 2:6-11 ; and Hebrews 1:1-4 . They are implicit rather than explicit. One of the exciting discoveries in recent scholarship has been to see how even the indirect evidence of the Gospels and Epistles witnesses to the truth enshrined in the creeds, and provides the “raw materials” out of which the later church built its confession, “Thou art the King of glory, O Christ. Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father” (The Te Deum of the fifth century liturgy).
The Course of New Testament Christology In accordance with our chosen approach, it becomes possible to plot the path that the New Testament writers took as they formulated their understanding of the person and work of Christ in response to situations that arose among the first Christian congregations.
The early believers in Jerusalem were Jews who had come to faith in Jesus as Messiah and risen Lord (Acts 2:32-36 ). Their appreciation of who Jesus was took its point of departure from the conviction that, with His resurrection and exaltation, the new age of God's triumph, described in the Old Testament and the intertestamental writings, had indeed dawned, and the Old Testament Scriptures (notably Psalm 110:1 ) had been fulfilled. The cross had also to be explained, since Jesus' death at the hands of the of the Roman political powers stood in direct and obvious contradiction to all that pious Jews believed about the Messiah, God's expected Deliverer of His people and a glorious Figure. The crux is seen in Deuteronomy 21:23 which prescribed that anyone hanging on a tree died under God's curse (the verse is quoted in Galatians 3:13 ) A rationale was found in two ways: it came by asserting (1) that Jesus' rejection was already foreseen in the Old Testament, notably Psalm 118:22 ; Isaiah 53:1 , and that His implicit claims to be the Messenger and embodiment of God's kingdom revealed only human unbelief; and (2) that at the resurrection God had reversed this verdict, vindicated His Son, and installed Him in the place of honor and power. The first Christological statement therefore was based on the fact of two stages in Jesus' existence: He was the Son of David in His human descent, and since the resurrection He is known as the Son of God with power and alive in the Spirit (Romans 1:3-4 ). The implicit messianic claims of His earthly life were made overt since His exaltation, and the hiddenness of His true being was revealed in glory. The proof of the new age He inaugurated was seen in the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:16-21 , quoting Joel 2:28 ).
At a practical level this way of seeing Jesus' life and resurrection gave these believers a personal relationship with Jesus as a present reality. He did not appear as a simple figure of the past, however recent. Hence the first Christian prayer of which we have any record is “Maranatha” (meaning “our Lord, come”) addressed to the risen Lord and placing Him on a par with Yahweh, Israel's covenant God (1 Corinthians 16:22 ; Romans 10:9-13 ; compare Acts 7:55-56 ,Acts 7:55-56,7:59 ) as worthy of worship. This is the startling novelty of what the resurrection and enthronement of Jesus meant.
Further meditation on Old Testament Scripture gave a clue to Jesus' secret identity and explained His use of the mysterious title “Son of man.” Drawn from Daniel 7:13-18 , the Son of man title is one of authority and dignity, two ideas that the resurrection of Jesus confirmed (Acts 7:56 ). The church preserved this teaching on the Son of man from Jesus' lips and set it in the framework of His earthly life to accomplish several objectives: (1) to show how Jesus was misunderstood and rejected as a messianic pretender, since “Son of man” spoke of God's kingdom and made Him a sharer of the divine throne; (2) to indicate how Jesus brought in a new age in which God's revelation was not tied to the law of Moses but was universalized for all people. The “Son of man” in Daniel 7:22 , Daniel 7:27 is the head of a worldwide kingdom, far outstripping the narrow confines of Jewish hopes; and (3) to find a missionary impulse which led these believers, notably under the leadership of Stephen and his followers, to reach out to non-Jews ( Acts 7:59-8:1 ; Acts 11:19-21 ; Acts 13:1-3 ).
Such a mission brought the church into the world of Greek religion in the setting of Greco-Roman society. The most relevant title in this religious milieu was “Lord,” a title used of gods and goddesses in the mystery religions which were partly oriental, partly Greco-Roman. More significantly, “Lord” was an appellation of honor and divinity that came to be associated with emperor worship and applied to the Roman Caesar. Both areas proved fertile ground for the application to Jesus of the commonest New Testament Christological title, Lord. It was already in use as the name of Yahweh in the Greek Bible of the Old Testament, and it now was applied to the exalted Christ. It became useful as establishing a meeting point between Christians and pagans who were familiar with the deities of their religious world (1 Corinthians 8:5-6 ). Later, the term “Lord” became the touchstone for marking off Christian allegiance to Jesus when the Roman authorities required that homage should be paid to the emperor as divine (as in the setting of the Book of Revelation in the 90's A.D., when the Emperor Domitian proclaimed himself “lord and god.” (See Revelation 17:14 .)
The final step in New Testament Christology was taken in the churches whose life we see reflected in the Letter to the Hebrews and the Johannine writings. The author of Hebrews sets out to prove the finality of Christ's revelation as Son of God (Hebrews 1:1-4 ) and great “high priest” (Hebrews 5:5 ; Hebrews 7:1-9:28 ). John's writings are clearest in their ascription to Jesus of the names Logos (Word) and (only) God. (See John 1:1 ,John 1:1,1:14 ,John 1:14,1:18 ; John 20:28 , along with the claims of Jesus registered in the affirmations of “I AM,” recalling Exodus 3:14 ; Isaiah 45:5 ; Isaiah 46:9 ; compare John 8:24 ; John 10:30 ,John 10:30,10:33 .) John's indebtedness is evidently to the Old Testament and intertestamental or early Jewish wisdom teaching where “wisdom” and “word” (often linked with the Mosaic law) are treated as mediators in God's act of creating the world (Proverbs 8:1 ) and as a preexistent revelation of God (in the early Jewish book The Wisdom of Solomon , written in the second century B.C.). John boldly claimed both roles for Jesus of Nazareth (John 1:3 ,John 1:3,1:18 ; John 14:6 ,John 14:6,14:9 ). He set the earthly life of Jesus against the backdrop of His eternal Being as one with the Father and the visible glory of the unseen God, thus superseding the law of Moses (John 1:17 ; compare John 5:46-47 ) and the claims of the Roman emperor (John 20:28 : “My Lord and my God”).
Yet even these most explicit statements, along with other teachings in Paul (Philippians 2:6 ; Colossians 1:15 ; Titus 2:13 ; possibly Romans 9:5 ) and Hebrews (Hebrews 1:1-4 ) never compromised the belief in the unity of God, an inheritance the Christians took from their Jewish ancestry as a cardinal element of Old Testament monotheism (belief in one God in a world of many gods). Nor did they lend countenance to the view that Jesus was a rival deity in competition with His Father (John 14:28 ; 1 Corinthians 11:3 ; Philippians 2:9-11 ). God the Father is always regarded as the Fount of deity; Jesus is His Son in a unique way, but He is never confounded with Him. The worship of the church is properly directed to God who has revealed Himself once-for-all and uniquely in the Son whom He loves (Colossians 1:13 ), and who mirrors the perfect expression of the divine nature (2 Corinthians 4:4-6 ). How to relate the two sides to Jesus' person—the human and the divine—is not explained in the New Testament; and the writers there bequeath a rich legacy to the later church which formed the substance of the Christological debates leading to the Council of Chalcedon in A.D. 451. There it was decreed and expressed that Christ's two natures are united in one Person, and this belief has remained the centralist position of the church ever since. See Messiah ; Son of God ; Lord .
Ralph P. Martin

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