Image And Incarnation In Pauline Christology - A Search For Origins -- By: Douglas R. de Lacey

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 30:1 (NA 1979)
Article: Image And Incarnation In Pauline Christology - A Search For Origins
Author: Douglas R. de Lacey


Image And Incarnation In Pauline Christology - A Search For Origins

Douglas R. de Lacey

The Tyndale New Testament Lecture, 1976

In contemporary discussions of christology, it has become fashionable to lay the emphasis on the real and complete humanity of Jesus: so much so that, in the words of one recent Study, ‘It is indeed a constant astonishment that the first serious heresy that the church had to face was that of docetism’.1 But perhaps this astonishment indicates our own failure to grasp the true nature of the earliest Stages of christological development. What is surely remarkable is that from its earliest days, as it would appear,2 the church regarded the man from Nazareth as worshipful. Two thousand years of custom have perhaps-dulled our sense of wonder at this; but it would surely have been otherwise for a first-century Jew who was told that he ought to worship a Galilean artisan as he worshipped Yahweh. Small wonder, perhaps, if one early attempt to comprehend this led to docetism - a christian equivalent to pagan theophanies such as in the tale of Philemon and Baucis.3

In this lecture, my concern is to discuss how one particular early christian - the apostle Paul - came to grapple with the problem of understanding how a man could be worshipful. There are already many excellent studies in New Testament christology, which discuss with a wealth of detail the various titles used to express the church’s belief in her Lord. But while there are still many problems as yet unsolved even on this level, I believe that we now have enough material to go behind this discussion to what, it seems to me, is the more fundamental question in christology: how this basic christian belief came to expression in the first place. And it is encouraging to discover other recent authors urging this same task.4

My thesis, then, is this: that Paul was well aware of what we might loosely call the problem of the incarnation, namely, that a man should be worshipped as God; and that we can see in his writings evidences of how he came to accept and understand it - but that to do so we must move beyond a discussion of the titles which he ascribes to Jesus. In other words, I believe that we can institute a quest for the historic Christ, a bridge over that chasm which seems to have developed in contemporary thought between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith. It may be worth at this point summarizing those key points of Paul’s christology for whi...

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