Jewish Christian Literature and High Christology

In the earliest days, Christianity was entirely Jewish, yet by the end of the first century the majority of the church was Gentile, and by the end of the second century only a minority of Christians were converts from Judaism. There is little doubt a book like Hebrews is Jewish Christian based on its focus on the Law and use of the Old Testament. On the other hand, the writings of the second century apologists are almost entirely Gentile because of their use of philosophical categories to argue for the truth of Christianity. In a previous post I survey Donald Hagner’s description of Jewish Christianity and Raymond Brown’s four categories of Jewish Christianity. I also looked briefly at Jacob Neusner’s suggestion Jewish Christianity was a myth. Neusner said “Judaisms and Christianities never meet anywhere. That is because at no point do Judaism, defined by Torah, and Christianity, defined by the Bible, intersect.” I think they do (go read that earlier post)and the Jewish Christian literature (Especially Hebrews and James) is evidence of that.

But most books are not as easy to categorize as Hebrews or James, so the following several posts will develop a set of criteria which may indicate a book is more or less representative of Jewish Christianity. I will start with the Christology of Jewish Christian literature.

JesusIt is often assumed “high Christology” means a book is “less Jewish” and ought to be dated as late as possible. High Christology refers to the belief that Jesus was in some sense divine. Low Christology is the belief that Jesus was only a human, or was human specially appointed by God. The general assumption is the belief Jesus is God and part of the Trinity developed over several hundred years, not finally taking shape until the fourth century. There is some truth to this since the claims the gospels make about Jesus could be read either way: Jesus is a human, but he also seems to claim some divine prerogatives which imply he was “more than just a human.”

This “low develops into the high” Christology can be seen in the New Testament. For example, Mark’s Gospel is the earliest of the four and does not contain any birth narrative. Jesus is the suffering servant who tries to keep messianic expectations to a minimum. Matthew and Luke include birth stories which expand Jesus’ origins to include a divine miracle (the virgin birth) and the fulfillment of prophecy. John’s Gospel was the last written and describes Jesus as the Word of God who was with God at creation, and is in fact God (John 1:1-3).

The main reason a low Christology is assumed to be “more Jewish” is the importance of monotheism in Second Temple period Judaism. If a Jewish teacher like Jesus announced he was The God of the Hebrew Bible in the flesh, he would have likely been immediately stoned for blasphemy. In Mark 2 Jesus claims to be able to forgive sin and he is accused (at least in thought) of blasphemy.

I had some reservations since Paul (a Jewish Christian) has a remarkably high Christology at a fairly early date (Phil 2:5-11). This particular example is important since it appears as though Paul is recalling a well-known tradition, implying this example of “high Christology” is earlier than the letter of Philippians. Martin Hengel, for example associates high Christology with the early church, commenting that a high Christology “grew entirely out of Jewish soil” and any “pagan influences have been suspected in the origins of Christianity were mediated without exception by Judaism” (“Early Christianity,” 2–3). Richard Bauckham also concluded “the earliest Christology was already the highest Christology” (God Crucified, viii, also see here).

There are some examples of Jewish Christian letters which do not have a robust Christology (James barely mentions Jesus). But Hebrews cannot be described as a “low Christology” but certainly represents Jewish Christianity. How might a writer’s view of who Jesus be influenced by whether they are Jewish or Gentile?

40 thoughts on “Jewish Christian Literature and High Christology

  1. The latest wave of Pauline studies headed by Nanos, Fredriksen, Elliot, et al. argue that the designations “Christian” and “church” are completely anachronistic translations within their first century context. “Messianic-Jew” seems to be their preferred term, though it’s academics in progress and the arguments about what “Jew” and “Judaism” even mean within the first century are far from settled. See their latest round of essays in Paul Within Judaism: Restoring the First-Century Context to the Apostle, Fortress Press, 2015.

    As far as High Christology goes, Daniel Boyarin argues in The Jewish Gospels (New Press, 2012) that all the elements for a “High Christology” through interpretations of Son of Man (a divine titular designation) existed by the time of the birth of Jesus, so it’s not unreasonable to accept that Paul, or even Jesus (and, I suspect, Mark as well), had a fully developed “High Christology”. So, Hengel may be right, but off by a century or more. Boyarin also argues that that this development suggests “Judaism” was more polytheistic in the first century than is assumed and that the formulation of Father, Son and Holy Spirt, came from within “Judaism” itself, and not the Greeks, and was present within Jewish messianic/apocalyptic thinking by the time of Jesus. Fredriksen also points out that Paul fully accepted the polytheistic world of the Greeks and Romans, but that their gods all took a knee to the Christ. I suppose the point is, the first century world was (still) far more rich and complex than we yet understand, as reflected in books like James and Hebrews, no doubt.

    (Paula Fredriksen’s tome on Paul and paganism is due from Yale sometime in 2016.)

    I’m looking forward to your future posts.

    • Thanks for these comments and references! Tho I have little time for book-length reading lately, I’ve noted these and the upcoming Fredricksen one… her work on Jesus becoming Christ (exact title escapes me at the moment) was excellent.

      • Howard, I agree: Reading takes dedication and some financial resources depending on the what’s in your local libraries, which is why a book of essays like Paul within Judaism is a welcome respite. It’s a box of chocolates you can consume at your leisure. Also, if you go to YouTube and search a scholar’s name, often times you’ll come across a wealth of lecture material that you can download and watch at your leisure. Here’s a couple of worthwhile talks by Fredriksen:

  2. Reflecting some of what “robwaltoon” says above, we just have too little of the literature (and knowledge of the thinking) of the 1st century to see very clearly how things developed. (The claimed “history” of Acts is very sketchy, selective and often unreliable, the little that it does seek to explain.)

    What is clear, but often not recognized, is that there were many strains of thinking, many “faith communities” all developing rapidly at the same time… and the following of many “messiahs” both before and after the Jerusalem fall in 70. With that, no settled views from varying “OT” descriptions or “predictions” of Messiah, so that sincere Jews could and did readily project out a messiah of their preference.

    On another 1st century issue, we still, even after the Nag Hammadi texts were discovered, have no clear understanding of the roots and early development of the many strains of Gnosticism – “Christian” and otherwise. Thus, while Paul does evidence an early high Christology, he also evidences a number of pretty important parallels with Gnostic thought, especially if Eph. and Col. are included in his corpus. And as to Gnostic origins, it won’t do to just presume it was a corruption of Christian dogma, as Evangelicals often do.

    I’ll reference my comment in the just-prior post introducing “Jewish Christian Literature”. There I develop a bit a case that amounts to this: Even presuming an early and Jewish high Christology does not require that the same people based that on evidences for a bodily Resurrection and “empty tomb”, or necessarily had such a belief. In fact, the NT evidence indicates otherwise.

  3. Hebrews certainly does have high Christology throughout. And though the author never mentioned himself and the original title of the book is surrounded in speculation, i think in this case that your question is important. Hebrews is written to people who are Jews. At least one reason has convinced me of this after reading the chapters in LTTC. First though, I have gathered over the past few years that some/many/I’m not sure how many Jewish Pharisees around the time of Jesus believed in the Law and all that, but took it farther to what I would almost label as mysticism. With all the Apocalypse stories and the other Rabbinical literature and the general preoccupation with angels following suit, all the talk about angels in Hebrews 1 catches my eye. Why would the author choose to point out to his audience that Jesus is higher than specifically the angels and everything else? That must have held some special meaning to the audience. Hebrews provides so much for our understanding of who Jesus is. And at the very least, I can say I know that Jesus is higher than angels.

  4. Having read the post on What exactly is Jewish Christian Lit and High Christology and after reviewing book reviews of that of Raymond Brown, Jacob Neusner, amongst others that were viewed, along with reading Jobes text and reviewing what we had discussed in class over Jewish Christian Lit and the Pauline Letters, it is easy for me to assume the many variations of where the book of Hebrews might have been located as according to the authors and what the term “High Christology” means to us as humans. I will first start out with our views of Christology, when we first review the articles posted on “Reading Acts” we understand that having a “High Christology” means that we have a full understanding of who God is as 3 persons- The Godhead, The Spirit, and The Son. We know of this if we just refer to the sections of the Bible that mention the Godhead: Deuteronomy 6:4, Romans 1:9, 20, Acts 17:29, and Colossians 2:9 all speak of the Godhead in divine nature. We also know that he is both fully human and divine from what we read about from Jobes (p. 24, Letters of the Church). Jobes tells us how Hebrews clearly explains why Christ had to be fully human and divine in order to bring God’s redemptive plan to its culmination. “Sometimes, the author says, as Christians we fail to recognize that he too, struggled with many of the same things we face,” which is why it is important to establish a “High Christology” mindset when dealing with such a controversial topic. Having a “Low Christology” mindset would only mean that we would only view him as someone appointed by God to finish what was left to be vacant. Of course, if we viewed Christ in this way we would only understand he would suffer the same way humans do, but would be missing a piece of what is led to be believed as the most important part of understanding the Christian faith. Because of the suffering Christ took upon his shoulders to save us from our sins, it is the part we would miss if we only kept to our secular viewpoints and, in turn, destroy the biblical foundation on which the Christian faith is built.
    Assuming that we all understand the difference between the Christology’s, I will now attempt to defer where the Book of Hebrews (the main source for Christology in the New Testament as it underscores its significance of Jesus Christ in the 3 persons as seen above) might have been written. Hebrews having been associated with much of the Jewish is it easy to assume that Jerusalem has earned a proper place in history as it associates itself more with a Jewish population but as we read throughout Jobes book in chapter one, we see that there is also other places in mind where scholars believe that the book of Hebrews might have been written and to whom it might be written for.
    For example, we are told from Jobes that the book of Hebrews might have also been heavily influenced by the Romans and since the Apostle Paul is claimed to be the writer of this section of the Bible and was claimed to be a Roman citizen at one point during this period (see Acts 22:28) so it is possible to assume that Hebrews was written for other people other than the Jews themselves and, in fact, could just be a general guideline for all of his people instead of aimed at one specific group Jewish Christian or not. This topic leads me to ask some questions which need more time to evaluate which is something I can only gain from The Bible as my main source to get information.
    I look forward to answering your future posts.

  5. I believe that many of the reasons that the these types of books are not all directly taking a Christian stand point is because much of the Christian culture of that time came from a previously Jewish life. As you said in class on Monday, I believe you were talking of Brown’s 4 sub-groups, different groups of people would have kept on living parts of their Jewish heritage even though they did not “have to” anymore because of the New Covenant under Christ. People would hold on to the things that they know, and are comfortable with, and as a new Christian teacher whoever was writing these books, whether we know the author or not, had to engage this group of people still living in their old ways knowing that they were still engaging in their old traditions. In my opinion, I believe that not directly mentioning Christ was a shot at warming them up to the idea that the Messiah had come, and that things were going to change because of it.

  6. I thought it was really interesting that Paul had a high Christology early on which wasn’t normal. I think it’s interesting that he does in particular because of his conversion story. It seems that many of the other apostles were “eased” into their faith in Jesus. It took many years for them to develop their faith and to finally realize who Jesus really is. Paul however, had his faith knocked into him in a matter of days and went from one extreme, persecution, to the other, having a high Christology. I thought it was interesting that this shock may have played a role in a higher Christology. I also never really thought much about how Christology developed over time but it’s interesting to think about and makes a lot of sense as well. It seems that at least one Jewish Christian book has a high Christology, indicating that there had to have been some mix of Judaism and Christianity. Hebrews does speak of the angels worshipping Jesus and that He is the son of God, it does seem out of place compared to some of the books.

  7. I find it somewhat ridiculous that one would think that Christianity and Judaism never intersect. I would absolutely agree that the books of Hebrews and James especially are very much about Jewish traditions and Faith. I think right away about Hebrews 11, which uses historical figures such as Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, and some very obscure ones such as Enoch, Barak and Jephthah. These names would be irrelevant to gentiles, who would have no experience with the Old Testament like we do. It is obvious that it is meant for Jews. However, as you mentioned earlier, there are also many cases in Hebrews that reflect a high Christology. Therefore it is fairly obvious to me that it is important to take more criteria into account than just Christology when defining a Jewish-Christian Letter

  8. Jewish-Christian lit is the main point I see. It was written to Jews who believe Jesus was the Messiah and truly fulfilled the prophecies. Hebrews is a great example of this. Hebrews refers to the Old Testament saints in chapter eleven as mosesvk pointed out, but it also has a very high Christology as yourself and benjabeast have pointed out. They are trying to remain Jewish and incorporate Jesus into their beliefs. Since mono-theism was a significant part of Jewish beliefs they would have to indicate the Christ was truly God. If Christ was God they needed to worship and raise him up to be on the same level as God thus creating a very high level of Christology. I would assume they needed to make it clear that Jesus was God in order to be different than the rest of the world believing in polytheism.

    • It would be a stupid reason to make Jesus into God because the rest of the world believed in multiple gods, also because that Jesus has less similarities or equalities with the main God than other pagan gods have with their main god. Those inequalities with God and the multiple sayings of God and of Christ Jesus should make it clear for Christians that Jesus never claimed to be God neither that he is God.

  9. As you have mentioned above Hebrews has many mentions of Christ unlike some of the books included in the Jewish-Christian category. Hebrews is well known for the passage that addresses Jesus as our High Priest who appealed to God for our sins, I feel that the writer of Hebrews must have had a view of High Christology sense He addresses on more than one occasion Jesus approaching God as the atone for our sins, and the fact that His sacrifice was the one to end all need for sacrifices; Christ would have to have had some divine nature in order to raise from the dead and be the final sacrifice needed. Hebrews 2:17 says that “For this reason He had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest, in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” Christ was already divine and the author of Hebrews is aware of that.

  10. It is really cool to see that Paul had such a high Christology, which was unusual for his time. In my opinion, this points to the fact that Paul was unafraid of consequences, and only sought to share the complete truth about Christ. Even though saying these things was deemed blasphemous, and put his life in danger, he was more than willing to lay it out there and trust in God. Perhaps the sudden and dramatic experience that Paul had with Christ factored into this fearlessness. If God could do what he did to Paul on the Damascus road, surely Paul believes that Jesus is the true God, and surely God has the power over Paul’s life.

  11. Hebrews is a book packed full of Christology from beginning to end. This book was written towards the audience of Jews. It is important to point out and remember that in Hebrews, the author pointed to Jesus. The book of Hebrews circles around the fact that Jesus is God and that God is in control of everything. When reading this blog, a key component that stuck out to me was that high Christology infers that Jesus was in some sense divine and that low Christology infers that Jesus was only human. Both high and low Christology need to be combined in order to truly understand Jesus. Both Hebrews and James tend to be more Jewish faith and traditions and reflect more of a high Christology. In remembering this, one must acknowledge that it was written to Jews who believed in fulfilled prophecies and that Jesus was the Messiah.

  12. Nowhere ever Jesus claimed to be God. He always was very clear that he was the sent one from God, who is higher than him and Without Him he could do nothing.

  13. For starters, Gentiles and Jews did not get along at the start. Gentiles were not accepted, and therefore, the writers would not have known Jesus well. True Jews, much like the disciples got to see Jesus on a daily basis, would be able to write based on experiences with Jesus. Jews at this time knew Jesus well, they could study him by following after what he said and taught, or just frankly by listening to him when he spoke. Gentiles on the other hand, were separated from the Jews, and it wasn’t until the time of Paul that Jews and Gentiles were even being treated to the same accord. Gentiles knew about Jesus, and I am sure they learned about him, but It must’ve been much harder to actually follow him and follow after his life.

  14. Surprisingly, the topic of low and high Christology and how they are important to how Christ is both a perfect, sufficient sacrifice and a relatable human was not mentioned by P. Long. The importance of low and high Christology is obvious enough for Christ is a perfect atoning sacrifice for us. But He is also fully human and thus extremely relatable to us, something that previous to Christ was even more difficult to grasp. However, P. Long does make it clear that low Christology in this sense contains to the belief Jesus was only a man appointed by God and not referring to Christ’s humanity.
    Previously to P. Long’s blog post, I had never fully understood the aspect that the Jews considered Jesus claiming to be God broke the aspect of monotheism within Judaism. Certainly, I recognize that God is three in one but that is merely because of the time and space I live in. further along within the Church, the apostolic fathers theologically battled and thought through the concept of the trinity. However, previous to that theological battle, the trinity was a concept unknown within Judaism. Logically when I think of prophecies within the Old Testament for the messiah, I merely assumed the Jews knew the messiah would be in human form and not necessarily in a higher form. In further study, passages such as Genesis 12:3 and Isaiah 7:14, both prophecies hitting towards the messiah’s humanity, reveal that Jews should have recognized God’s coming in human form. I do not understand why the Jewish leaders were not expecting a human form of God, that truly is an aspect I never fully dug into and considered.

  15. It is interesting to note that the first Christians were Jews who converted to Christianity. But since Jesus commanded to his disciples to make disciples of all nations, Christianity became more and more displayed in people other than Jews until we came to present times. The Jews are and were steeped in tradition and so many of them could not accept that Jesus was who he said he was. The Jews believed/believe that for anyone to claim that they are God is worthy of stoning to death. Many Jews are on the opposite spectrum of Christians when it comes to Christology. Many Jews think that Jesus was a good person but that he was just a man and not divine at all. Many Christians on the other hand see Jesus as divine. So when it comes to the authors of the first four books of the New Testament it is easy to see why some of the authors have a tendency to not portray Jesus as divine as clearly as the other books. For example Mark does not have Jesus’ birth in his gospel. Why is that ? Perhaps it is because he was still so used to Jewish tradition that he could not bring himself to state the fact that Jesus’ birth was divine. We all know that how we are raised and the things we experience are unique to us and our perspective. So in the New Testament alone whether an author of one of the books was Jewish or gentile more than likely affected how high or low in Christology their book was.

  16. I believe that part of the reason there is so much Christology within the book of Hebrews is because the customs and times were beginning to change. The Jewish customs and practices were what the people were used but being adapted. The book of Hebrews would ultimately first be received by Jews therefore, needed to be in relation to them. The book makes general correlations with the intended audience so that the audience may better understand the points trying to be made. In the post you mentioned the difference between a high and low Christology. “High Christology refers to the belief that Jesus was in some sense divine. Low Christology is the belief that Jesus was only a human or was human specially appointed by God.” Both high and low Christology are necessary for understanding Jesus and who He was. I believe that Hebrews was intended to introduce both high and low Christology and the importance for both. In the first chapter of Hebrews it discusses how Jesus is fully God and fully human. This is where the we can see an example of both high and low Christology being presented.

    • I do agree with you here. There is so much christology in the book of Hebrews and this christology refers to the belief that Jesus was in some sense divine.The one thing that is different is that the Jews don’t believe that Jesus was the Son of God. They were and still are very grounded into what they believe and yet they still wait for the Messiah to come. My initial thought was that Gentiles might have had an easier time accepting Christ’s divinity and upon accepting him as God simply because they would not have had the historical perspective that the Jews did of Yahweh. Jobes says, “Biblical faith can claim a confidence beyond one’s own experience because it rests in the character of God, of which there is nothing more certain and constant” (2011).

  17. As we know from learning and reading the new testament, we see that Jews and Christians were mostly the same but towards the of the first century most of the church was made up of gentiles. I find this to be interesting as today we learn about the Jews by the culture and beliefs that they have, and we also learn through our similarities of beliefs. The one thing that is different is that the Jews don’t believe that Jesus was the Son of God. They were and still are very grounded into what they believe and yet they still wait for the Messiah to come. I think that they were taught this and need to have every sign of the actual messiah that they missed him because he was different than what they thought he would be. As we read through parts of the new testament preferably the 4 main gospels, we see that some books have certain stories and others don’t. it is made up of the authors beliefs and what he thought was true. But in the same way we are able to notice these difference’s and from there learn more about the person that Jesus was and who we are to strive to be like. Everybody has their own thought processes and what they believe and that is what makes Christianity so interesting as we have the ability to learn through others and the thought processes that they might have in discovering Jesus

  18. The heritage of a writer will always affect their perspective and understanding of a specific topic. These separating or different worldviews are what causes differences between things like low Christology and high Christology or approaches to how to explain Jesus. The question at hand is, ‘what differs between a Jewish understanding of Jesus and a Gentile’s understanding of Jesus and what are their influences?’
    A Jewish writer would need to make a very specific case for monotheism especially if he was writing to other Jews trying to explain who Jesus was. It seems that early Jewish writers probably would have had a low Christology due to this emphasis or would at least have to be very careful in explaining who Jesus was and how He was divine. As you said, it would have been blasphemy and worthy of death. An example of this would be the book of Hebrews. The author seems to be Jewish writing to a Jewish audience. He does a thorough examination of Jesus and His relation to the Law and Jewish history to help Jew understand and be encouraged.
    A Gentile writer would have almost the opposite problem. Romans had a polytheistic culture. The author, if a Gentile, would have to make a case for Jesus being the only true God. This Greco-Roman culture was also saturated with Neoplatonism (Jobes, 25). This plea to dualist philosophers can be recognized in the Gospel of John when John describes Jesus as the ‘word’ or logos (1:1). John connected platonic teaching with the gospel to help Neo-Platonists understand it better. Even in most of the Pauline letters, due to his audience, Paul rarely writes about Jewish history. There are a few instances but not many.
    Both ultimately are searching to explain something that is, at this time, indescribable. Someone who is fully human and fully divine does not seem to make sense, but for the sake of everything, it must be true. Both Jews and Gentiles came from different perspectives to try to describe the same thing. As theology has progressed, I believe we have grown into such a greater understanding than the early church fathers, but I also believe a lot has been lost and can be relearned from their writings as well. Humans are broke creatures and even though we get some things correct we need to constantly be checking ourselves. Theology should always be constantly reformed and made better.

  19. I believe that a true follower of Jesus Christ, a true born-again believer (being a Jew or Gentile) he or she will have a high Christology from the get go and it would not be developed over time. As a true Christian, one comes to faith by way of repentance of sins and a recognition of salvation in Jesus Christ (God) who came to earth as a man to die in our place for our sins and conquered sin and death as the perfect Godman, coming back to life after taking our punishment and the wrath of the Father. By His Grace and work one is justified and by His Grace we are to live our lives to God’s glory. I believe as both Hengel and Bauckham conclude that high Christology was from the very earliest.
    Now, a non-believer or a Jew lost in the law and his past would of course have a low Christology basing his life and beliefs in works of righteousness that he would do. A Jew would have much more difficulty in recognizing Jesus as Christ because his zeal is towards his religion and that is what Paul stated in Romans 9 and 10. Hebrews is a book written towards the Hebrew people to see and recognize Jesus as superior to all that was the Jewish religion. Jesus is superior so put your faith in Him and not in what are the rudiments of the law.

    • Regan,
      I agree with you! I think that a born again Christian would start with a high Christology. As a true Christian, it is important that we see Christ’s superiority. But having both high and low Christology is important in knowing who Jesus is because he was both God and man. He was superior, divine, yet He was also human who got hungry as we do, got thirsty as we do, and was tempted as we do. But focusing more on Jesus’ superiority rather than his humanity is the way to go.

      • My initial thought was that Gentiles might have had an easier time accepting Christ’s divinity and upon accepting him as God simply because they would not have had the historical perspective that the Jews did of Yahweh. In my mind, it would have been easier to jump from having no faith or understanding of who God is and the role he plays in my life to hearing and accepting him as Savior; rather than having to be consciously aware of the historical role of monotheism and the radical shift that Jesus brought when he fulfilled the role of Messiah and Son of God.
        An individuals cultural background would not only influence their Christology but their understanding of faith and how it is evident in their lives. Jobes says, “Biblical faith can claim a confidence beyond one’s own experience because it rests in the character of God, of which there is nothing more certain and constant” (2011). Everyone’s Christology is directly related to their faith; for Jewish converts, having a high Christology seemed almost counter to their traditional faith because it made Jesus as man equal with God and was considered blasphemy (as noted in the original post). Hebrews 11 gives a clear definition of faith and connects back to a Jewish understanding of faith by reflecting on ways that their faith was exercised. While the Jews had to reevaluate their own faith and redefine it based upon the revelation of Jesus Christ, Gentiles had to begin their faith journey and learn what it means to be both a follower of Jesus Christ and a child of God.

  20. I believe that during the early few centuries of the church and the rise of Christianity, there would be a difference between the Christology of a Jew and a Gentile. While there maybe some truth to the rational idea that anyone coming to faith in Jesus Christ would automatically have a high Christology of Jesus, I believe there is good evidence of many competing views of the Christology of Jesus. Starting with the various heresies that deal with the Christology of Jesus. Arianism was one of the first heresies put forth by an early church father named Arius which stated that Jesus was a man and not fully God. This is an extremely low Christological view and the other church fathers rightly deemed this as a heresy. However, heresy goes both ways as another early belief called Docetism held that Jesus only appeared to be a man, that he wasn’t actually a man and was only God. While this is a very high Christological view, it is still a heresy. Arianism and Docetism were not the only heresies during the early years of Christianity and were certainly not the only ones dealing with Christology. Others such as Gnosticism, Apollinarianism, Eutychianism, Nestorianism, and many others all challenge one aspect of the Christology of Jesus. With the reality of these heresies arising it appears to me that believers may not have all started with a high Christology, but may have needed to correct their views as they grew in their faith.

    Today I believe that most everyone who comes to faith in Jesus as their savior, has a high Christology since Christianity has been around for 2000 years now and all the heresies about Jesus have already been stated and then dealt with by now. If someone is going to believe in Jesus, they will almost by default have a high Christology. I also believe that anyone regardless of their ethnicity, age, or upbringing, if they have studied the scriptures correctly for an extended amount of time, will arrive at a high level of Christology since the Bible makes it clear that Jesus is fully God, equal to the father, and is eternal. Without wanting to dive too deep into the plethora of verses that display Jesus’ deity here is a list of a few, John 1:1-14, John 8:58, Philippians 2:5-6, Hebrews 1:1-4, etc.

  21. Christology is something that naturally is seen throughout the New Testament because it is a necessary aspect of Christian theology. Christian belief hinges on the idea that Jesus was in fact God, because if he wasn’t, then he would not have been able to atone for everyone’s sin for all time. This is reflected in the early writings of the church fathers, who helped define the way we view Christology today.
    When looking at the Christology found within different letters and Gospels in the New Testament, I believe that the time in which they were written impacts how much they focus on the Christological aspect of their faith. Jobes hints at this idea a little bit in her book, but never fully states it. In her introduction, she discusses how some of the earlier books have a lower Christology, whereas some of the later ones have a higher Christology. This makes sense as some of the first authors would have written when Christianity was still fairly new, and to be Jewish and to claim Jesus was God could get you killed. Whereas authors like John wrote later in church history, where more Jewish Christians would accept the idea of calling Jesus God. This is a possible explanation for how Christology developed throughout the New Testament.

  22. I thought it was interesting that Paul had a Christology far to early which to my understanding kinda not normal. In my opinion I think it’s cool and interesting that he does because of his crossover story he told. What I was reading it took years for them to have faith and to see that Jesus is the one! Paul already had christ early and that was great for him. Christology is great for the world and I feel that everyone needs that in there life to become the best version of theyself

  23. I tend to think that the emphasis on high christology in Hebrews is because it is so contrary to what the Jewish culture expected. Up until the resurrection of Christ, had any person claimed to be what Jesus claimed to be this would have been seen as blasphemy to the Jewish people. This can be seen in John 8:48-59, John 10:30 – 39, and Matthew 26:64 -66 where Jesus is accused of blasphemy. To the Jewish people the idea of a man being both God and man would be a serious diversion from what they had traditionally thought to be acceptable. To the gentiles on the other hand their world view would not be so seriously challenged by the idea of a man being a god. This would be especially true in the roman empire where the very leader of the nation claimed to be the son of god (Jobes p.9). Perhaps the writer of Hebrews recognized that this notion would be a struggle to their audience and chose to focus on high christology to help with this potential confusion specifically.

  24. Christianity was entirely for the Jews. This did not take long as they did not acknowledge this, by the end of the first century the majority of the church was Gentiles. To say less by the end of the second century, only a minority of Christians were converts from the Judaism. so much Christology within the book of Hebrews is because the customs and times were beginning to change. The Jewish customs and practices were what the people were used but being adapted. The book of Hebrews would ultimately first be received by Jews therefore, needed to be in relation to them. The book makes general correlations with the intended audience so that the audience may better understand the points trying to be made. As we know from learning and reading the new testament, we see that Jews and Christians were mostly the same but towards the of the first century most of the church was made up of gentiles. I find this to be interesting as today we learn about the Jews by the culture and beliefs that they have, and we also learn through our similarities of beliefs. The one thing that is different is that the Jews don’t believe that Jesus was the Son of God. They were and still are very grounded into what they believe and yet they still wait for the Messiah to come. My initial thought was that Gentiles might have had an easier time accepting Christ’s divinity and upon accepting him as God simply because they would not have had the historical perspective that the Jews did of Yahweh. Jobes says, “Biblical faith can claim a confidence beyond one’s own experience because it rests in the character of God, of which there is nothing more certain and constant”

  25. As a believer of Jesus Christ, I believe that over time Christology will be developed and that it will be high at the beginning. Personally, I believe that in order to become a follower of God you have to recognize that you need to repent your sins and recognize what Jesus Christ has done for you. If you just believe to say that you believe that isn’t being a follower of Jesus. In order to have a high Christology you need to show God that you are making an effort and doing what we are called to do which is praising God whether it is through worship songs, prayer, journaling, memorizing Bible verses, reading the Bible, etc. God has sacrificed his life for us and He deserves all the honor and glory because it should have been us up on that cross.
    With that being said, our world is not perfect, there is sin that happens and over time we have and will continue to gain a better understanding of the early church and what the Jews and Gentiles believed. It isn’t theology if it isn’t constantly being updated and made better for others (whether believers of not) to understand.

  26. A writer’s view of who Jesus was impacts their writing entirely. If one man is in the high Christology category, they will write Jesus as the divine son of God. An example of a writer with high Christology is John the Apostle. In the book of John, he describes Jesus as being the Son of God multiple times. A specific example is in John 3:16 when he writes that, “God sent his one and only son…” Low Christology can be seen in an example of the Jewish writings that believe Jesus was only human. The book of Mark describes Jesus continually with human characteristics and focuses on his human nature. The views of the writer may be influenced by whether they’re Jewish or Gentile because one believes heavily on Christ being divine, and the other believing heavily on Christ being human. John was a Jew but he himself walked with Christ and saw the miracles and then providing him with the knowledge of Christ as divine making him have a high Christology. As a people group each side traditionally believed in Christ as divine or human. This is the same if you are influenced by anything. Say there are two writers both writing about President Biden (No I am not equating Jesus to Biden by any means this is just an example). If one writer believes Biden is a good president and the next does not, their writings would be entirely different. The first would write highly about him stating the good things he has done, the next would write negatively and likely put more emphasis on the negative. Now with the idea of Jesus being divine or not, it would drastically affect how a writer describes them. Since one believed He was divine and the other did not, this impacts the way that they are able to portray Him as a man, and as the Son of God.
    It’s very interesting to think about how Christology has developed and changed over time. I find it interesting how early traditional Jews held strong to the fact that Jesus was a man. In one person’s response they noted that it would be hard to grasp the concept of Jesus as divine because the whole world believed in other gods so they would not believe the fact that a living man on the planet could be of divine origin. That point fascinated me and really makes me think more on this and where theology will be in years to come. I found it very interesting that it developed over time as Jesus interacted with people and they became more open to the idea that He was divine and the Son of God.

  27. I believe that the writer’s view of Jesus would be completely different based on whether they were Jewish or Gentle. I think this because if the writer were Jewish they would have been living in the old covenant and practicing the Law, this would make it very difficult for them to let go of these practices and have faith that Jesus had come to fulfill the prophecy and allow them to be part of the new covenant. WIth this the writer would have been empathetic to the Jewish culture and would write emphasizing the fact that Jesus released all who believe in Him from the requirements of the old covenant. With that being said, if the writer was a Gentile they may not have as much understanding and appreciation for the sacrifice made by Jesus. They would not have been following the old covenant, and may not have a full understanding of what Jesus did and why what He did had to be done. This would affect their writing too. They may not emphasize the importance of Jesus removing the requirements and allowing believers to worship freely and without the importance of ritual.

  28. Christians were Jewish back in the early days, near the end of the first century, the church became Gentile. Near to the second century, some Christians were converted from Judaism. I wondered how this happened and why it happened? I do know that the Christianity was for the Jews. When the church became Gentiles, I think they knew what was best for them. Upon reading about the Christinaity, it sounds to me they want to change religion and want to believe something different. There is so much in Christology that it starts off with Hebrews that is related to the Jews. This book helps the audience to understand the points they are making. We learn from reading the New Testament of how the Jews and Christians are similar in the first century until the church was made up from the Gentiles. I believe Paul set high Christology of trying to make his people, church, or audience understand the Jewish and Chrisitanity with the similarity and differences. There is so much to learn about this topic that I do not know whether to agree or disagree or ask questions with the how’s and why’s. I think it does not matter if it is a Jew or Gentile that is influenced by who Jesus is. I think the Jews did not believe who Jesus was and they sent him to the cross. This is the way Christology is being explained in the New Testament.

  29. Blog Post

    In your blog, the question was how does the writer’s view of Jesus be influenced whether they are Jewish or Gentile, and in this, you made the point that high Christology meaning and assuming that the book is less Jewish, and High Christology refers to the belief that Jesus was appointed by God. In Peter the Gentiles were non-Jews who believed in false God’s and this is why the holy spirit appointed Paul and Barnabas to do work with the Gentiles to become followers of Jesus. In this, if you are writing as a Gentile, you may not understand directly why Jesus died for our sins, or why he became that of human nature because of the fact that the Gentiles learned about God later than Jewish people. This could influence their writings simply off of the fact that they were just getting to know God, and what he did, but if the writer were to be Jewish, they would understand the old testament law and covenant, in which they would be practicing, thus would mean that their writings would be more complex and more devoted to the life of Christ rather than Gentiles. In today’s world we want to be a part of that High Christology P Long talks about, and there are steps within this that we have to do, like repent, pray and go through the bible to know more information about Jesus and why he did the things he was meant to do.

  30. Hebrews makes it clear that an understanding of the Old Testament Jewish Law plays a huge role in understanding who Jesus is. The study of Christology makes it very clear that Christianity and Judaism intersect. The book of Hebrews which has high Christology has a major theme “of the high priesthood of Jesus Christ who is himself the final atoning sacrifice” (Jobes, 17). When Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for our sins, and rose again three days later our sins were permanently washed away. Jesus ended the Law and started a new law, one that is written on the heart (Hebrews 10:16; Jeremiah 31:33).

  31. This idea of Christology is something that can be plainly seen clearly throughout the New Testament. It was a core belief of the church as it was born and unfolded in the New Testament. But hows does one who is Gentile or Jew see Jesus? Upon examining the Jewish viewpoint in this context, there is something here that is important to consider. Jews did not believe Jesus was in fact the son of God. They were very much caught up in the old covenant, stuck in their old ways. Maybe Gentiles had an easier time accepting this idea of Christology and Jesus being the Son of God because they were newer to the faith and not stuck in their old ways like the Jews were. The time that these letters were written also must be considered when you look at the impact on the people of the time and just how much they focus on Christology. We find some of these letters featuring varying levels of Christology and varying levels of complexity and simplicity. Later in church history, Jewish believers would come around to the idea of Jesus being the son of God. Thus, it points further to the idea of the timing of the writing of these books to be extremely significant when considering how Christology is presented.

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