The Development Of Christology In The Early Church -- By: I. Howard Marshall

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 018:1 (NA 1967)
Article: The Development Of Christology In The Early Church
Author: I. Howard Marshall

The Development Of Christology In The Early Church

I. Howard Marshall

Even if theology (in the strictest sense of that word as ‘thought about God’) cannot be reduced without remainder to christology,1 there is no doubt that the doctrine of the person of Jesus is of central importance in Christian thought. Traditional dogmatics have been based on the belief that the New Testament as a whole bears witness to the divine nature of Jesus as the Son of God. A full defence of this belief was provided in 1958 by Dr. V. Taylor. The conclusions of his survey of the New Testament writers were as follows: ‘All the Gospels affirm the divine Sonship of Jesus . . . . Although the designation “the Son of God” does not belong to the vocabulary of the Acts, its religious values appear in the manner in which He is described . . . . The Son of God in Paul appears as a supramundane being standing in the closest metaphysical relationship to God . . . . In the mind of (John) Christ is the divine Son of God in a relationship which is fully ethical and spiritual, but also one of being and nature.’2 This doctrine of the person of Jesus is not peculiar to the writers of the New Testament, but is to be traced back to an earlier period. Even if the term ‘Son’ is found only rarely in the primitive preaching, its meaning was expressed in the use of the title of ‘Lord’. ‘We must accept the testimony of our sources that it is the Lordship of Christ to which prominence was given, and infer that the idea is far richer in Christological meaning than the name “Lord” might itself suggest.’3 This view is confirmed by the fact that the idea of divine Sonship goes back to Jesus Himself: ‘Within the limitations of the human life of Jesus

His consciousness of Sonship was gained through the knowledge that God was His Father, mediated by prayer and communion with Him in a process of growth and development which begins before the opening of the historic ministry and is consummated in decisive experiences of revelation and intuition. It is upon this historical foundation that Christological thinking must build.’4

Taylor’s view would seem to be that an understanding of the person of Jesus as the Son of God in a real or essential sense5 is to be found (1) in the mind of Jesus and (2) in the thought of the early church,6 and (3) that this understanding can f...

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