Creed And Theology: Reflections On Colossians -- By: William L. Lane

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 21:3 (Sep 1978)
Article: Creed And Theology: Reflections On Colossians
Author: William L. Lane

Creed And Theology: Reflections On Colossians

William L. Lane*

Contemporary scholarship has stressed both unity and diversity in the documents of the NT. The source of the unity has been located in a common commitment to the apostolic tradition of the words and deeds of Jesus to which the several church centers were heirs.1 Whatever differences Paul may have had with the Jerusalem apostles or the leadership of the Jerusalem Church, he insists that the message he preached was identical with the gospel proclaimed by those who had been authorized by Jesus to bear witness to him at the time of his resurrection (1 Cor 15:1–4, 11). Allowing for the particular expression characteristic of Paul or of any one of the Jerusalem apostles, there can be recognized in the early preaching a common core of redemptive truth on which all agreed. On the basis of 1 Cor 15:3–4 it can be said that this core was creedal in character and represented an irreducible minimum to which all the churches gave assent. It furnished the substance of preaching and teaching and was celebrated in confession of faith and hymns when the church gathered for worship.

If the source of the unity of the NT can be traced to the single factor of apostolic tradition, the rich diversity in theological expression and conception evident in the several documents reflects other factors. These include the individuality of the several writers, the specific situations addressed and the search for a more adequate mode of expression to convey the significance of Jesus Christ and redemption, as well as the presence of opponents and of distortions of the gospel that had to be exposed and countered. Without attempting to explore the dynamics of diversity within the documents of the NT, we can confidently affirm the fact of diversity.2

The presence of diversity is a sufficient indicator that within the NT there is no groping for a theological synthesis. It seems probable that the first serious attempt to achieve a doctrinal synthesis for the Church came in the third century when the Alexandrian fathers formulated the gospel in the categories of Greek philosophical thought.3 Their achievement was impressive. From that time forward, a Greek imprint can be traced in virtually all Christian theology. The adoption of Greek categories of thought to express the gospel in preference to the Semitic categories of thought that were normative for Jesus and the early Jerusalem Church had far-reaching theological ramifications. But the NT its...

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