Christology and the Historical Jesus -- By: Klyne R. Snodgrass

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 07:1 (NA 1997)
Article: Christology and the Historical Jesus
Author: Klyne R. Snodgrass


Christology and the Historical Jesus

Klyne R. Snodgrass

North Park Theological Seminary

Gerald O’Collins. Christology: A Biblical, Historical, and Systematic Study of Jesus. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995, 333 pp.; $14.95.

The work of Gerald O’Collins on Jesus and the resurrection has resulted in several publications over the past two decades. The present work functions somewhat as a summary discussion and covers a wide range of issues. This is not a technical work, but rather one that would be particularly suitable as a text in a seminary level course in Christology. The author avoids extensive footnotes, but, on the other hand, provides helpful introductory notes to the most important books on the various subjects he treats.

Unlike many other works that seek to offer a comprehensive study of Christology, the author provides a relatively balanced treatment of his three areas. After an introductory chapter, five chapters focus on the Old and New Testament texts and themes (including an assessment of Jesus’ self-understanding), three on christological discussions in Church history, and five on issues of systematic theology. This last section is viewed as the heart of the book (p. 153). The author emphasizes three central ideas for understanding Christology: the resurrection, love, and presence. Despite the assertion that the resurrection is the interpretive key for Christology (pp. 15-16), the resurrection does not receive much attention after the treatment of the biblical material. (No doubt, this is partly due to the shift caused by the nature of the christological controversies in the Church.) The author provides a wide-ranging analysis that touches on topics from the Virgin Birth to redemption and has as a primary purpose the substantiation of belief (p. 16).

Not many scholars would attempt to provide an overview of biblical, historical, and systematic issues pertaining to Christology. By necessity the author is selective in the subjects he treats, but the result is an unusual, interesting discussion of Christology. As much as anything, this treatment reveals the enormous difference between biblical and traditional systematic theology. One has only to read the author’s analysis of the Old and New Testaments and his survey

of historical and systematic theology to be struck by the shifts in method and tone. Discussion of the two natures of Christ seems strange next to an investigation of the meaning of “Son of Man.”

Generally the conclusions reached are in line with traditional Church teaching. Against Bultmann and other “minimalists,” and despite occasional retrojection by the Synoptic Evangeli...

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