Monday, June 8, 2009

Bauckham's "Jesus and the God of Israel," Chapter 1C (God Crucified)

This is the third part of my reading of Bauckham's first chapter of Jesus and the God of Israel. I have one more part on Bauckham's assessment of continuities and novelties between the NT and Second Temple literature.

You can see my earlier posts as following:
Chapter 1A (monotheism)
Chapter 1B (christological monotheism)

For this week, however, we will discuss the theme of “God Crucified and Divine Identity Revealed in Jesus"

I must say at the outset that this has been the most interesting part of Bauckham's analysis thus far--perhaps because this is where he finally gets into the textual nitty gritty and generally avoids the over-generalizing that is so prevalent throughout the rest of the chapter.

The next move in Bauckham’s argument is the shift from thinking of a preexistent Christ to the earthly Jesus and the repercussions of a suffering Jesus who shares in the unique divine identity. In this section he asserts that all NT Christology is high Christology and the NT lays out this Christology “carefully, deliberately, consistently, and comprehensively” (32). But, I would note from my previous objections that it was not consistently comprehensive, that he skates over or ignores a great deal of texts that do not presuppose preexistence, for example.

Bauckham claims the NT turns divine identity on its head:

“For the early Christians, the inclusion of the exalted Jesus in the divine identity meant that Jesus who lived a truly and fully human life from conception to death, also belonged to the unique divine identity” (33).

Indeed this is a radical move for early Christians and transforms our conception of the divine. Bauckham calls this, “Jesus as revelation of God”: not what the relationship of Jesus to God says about Jesus, but what it says about God.

A major portion of his argument is given to early Christians’ readings of Second Isaiah, which was used to incorporate earthly life and death of Jesus into God’s identity. He calls this process “theologically creative exegesis,” a phrase I am beginning to like, to eschew exegesis vs. eisegesis discussions (33). He argues that behind many NT texts lies an integrated early Christian reading of Second Isaiah as a whole; so, when one portion of the text is invoked, such as Isaiah 53, the whole of 40-55 is implied as a prophecy of a new Exodus leading to the salvation of the nations. Second Isaiah is also particularly important because it includes the classic statement of monotheism (“I am God, and there is no other,” etc.) and adds an eschatological (or at least future-oriented) touch. It is in the context of God’s uniqueness and his eschatological acts of salvation in Second Isaiah that the early Christians read the enigmatic Servant of the LORD who suffers humiliation and death and subsequently is exalted (Isaiah 52-3). The witness, humiliation, and exaltation of the servant becomes the way God recasts his glory and his deity to the world in an eschatological salvation event.

Key in this theologically creative reading is Is. 52:13 (no surprises here) combined with the intertexts of Is. 6:1 and 57:15. The combination of רום and נשא found in these passages are rather rare in the Hebrew Bible as a whole, so its triple occurrence here is noteworthy. He writes that these three passages were brought together, invoking gezera shawa throughout NT texts. For example, John 12:38-41 brings Is. 52:13 and Isaiah 6 together in an image of the servant and the throne. Once these are connected, it is a short step to that other passage so often cited in the NT: Ps. 110:1. So, Is. 52:13 and Ps. 110:1 are brought together in Acts 2:33 and 5:31. Similarly, Is. 57:15 and Ps. 110:1 are brought together in Heb. 1:3. So, we have three texts so far with overlapping exegetical combinations.

This is all leading to a discussion of Philippians, Revelation, and John, which will be the key texts for the remaining discussion. He notes that his points about each text has been promoted before by different scholars, but it is the convergence that matters.

Phil. 2:6-11 bring the issue of sovereignty and the divine name (Lord) together. He aligns Phil. 2:10-11 with Is. 45:22-23: the “I am God and there is no other” passage. His conclusion of these correspondences is that “precisely Duetero-Isaianic monotheism is fulfilled in the revelation of Jesus’ participation in the divine entity.”

The Revelation discussion is a bit more dispersed throughout the text. He notes that both God (1:8; 21:6) and Christ (1:17; 22:13) are the beginning and end (cf. 2:8), mentioned, interestingly enough, at the beginning and end of the text itself. This, he claims, is modeled off of Is. 44:6 and 48:12 (again, monotheism passages), with the implication that the allusion includes Christ protologically and eschatologically in the divine identity of Deutero-Isaianic monotheism.

I think Deutero-Isaiah is stricter in its “monotheism” than most of ancient Jewish texts from the exile to the destruction of the temple in 70 CE (which is counter Bauckham, who sees greater consistency in strictness throughout this period). I tend to think it is important, but unrepresentative. Having said that, it is significant that the earliest Christian authors (though not all of them) selected the strictest theological statements in the Hebrew Bible and were able to include Jesus in the theological framework of these texts.

For John, Bauckham unites the “I am” statements to the אני הוא expressions, which are translated as “I am” in the LXX. In this case, this expression occurs seven times: once in Deuteronomy and six times in Second Isaiah. It is passé to invoke Exod. 3:14 among Johannine scholars these days? Nonetheless, אני הוא becomes a succinct way to invoke divine identity. The Deut. 32:39 passage in fact reads, “There is no God besides me.”

In short, Bauckham has brought out the importance of Deutero-Isaiah for three NT texts, but in quite different ways (that do not necessarily converge—does this really constitute an integrated reading?).

Next Bauckham turns to the task of humiliation and exaltation, again using Philippians, Revelation, and John.

Here Bauckham lays out a fuller exposition of Philippians, drawing out information that probably should have been introduced when he first discussed the text. Firstly, he assumes that Paul composed it—it is not a pre-Pauline hymn. Although his position at this point does not ultimately matter for his final observations. Secondly, he thinks the passage speaks of a preexistent Christ and then incarnation against the view that it is a human and subsequently exalted Christ (which, I think, is clearly the case in the synoptics, for example). Thirdly, he thinks it has absolutely nothing to do with Adam speculation, and that this is a red herring in scholarship. Fourthly, he translates verse 6b as “he did not think equality with God something to be used for his own advantage.” So, it is not a matter of attaining or retaining equality; the point is Jesus’ attitude towards his position of equality. Finally, “form of God” and “form of a servant” refer to appearance: splendor of divine glory in heaven versus human form on earth. He gives a helpful summation of his positions on p. 42 (but it is really too lengthy to quote).

He presents, for several pages, how the passage closely exegetes Is. 53:12 + 45:22-3 + 52:13-14: “Paul is reading Deutero-Isaiah to mean that the career of the Servant of the Lord, his suffering, humiliation, death and exaltation, is the way in which the sovereignty of the one true God comes to be acknowledged by all the nations” (43). It is because he is humiliated and suffers that he becomes exalted. Indeed, he is exalted to the highest place (v. 9); that is, the divine throne. In his exegesis of Deutero-Isaiah, Paul in Philippians is not concerned with ontology, about how the infinite makes itself finite, but with status: the glory of heaven of the divine court to human servitude to the point of death on a cross, the ultimate humiliation. In Bauckham’s formulation of Paul, “only the Servant can also be the Lord” (45).

Turning again to Revelation, he discusses chapters 4 (on the throne) and 5 (worship). Chapter 5 presents the worship of the slaughtered lamb. He suggests that the latent Passover imagery also invokes Is. 53:7. When this occurs, sacrificial death becomes as much a part of the divine identity as much as enthronement does—the bloody lamb on the throne vividly depicts this!

Finally, John once again. He argues that John reads Is. 52:13 as a summary statement of everything that follows in Isaiah: servant is exalted and glorified through humiliation and suffering. Terminology of “lift up” and “glorify” both simultaneously to the cross and exaltation. So, while Paul, for example, sees exaltation as subsequent to humiliation, John sees them as simultaneous: humiliation of cross is exaltation.

The language of lifting up occurs in 3:14-15, 8:28, and 12:32-4. It is doubled imagery: literally as crucifixion and figuratively as Jesus’ divine status as sovereign over the cosmos. The cross is already an exaltation, a lifting up. I, for one, particularly enjoyed reading this section of Bauckham’s analysis.

The combination of lifting up and “I am he” statements in 8:28 brings the two sets of sayings together into a subtle theological relationship:

“When Jesus is lifted up, exalted in his humiliation on the cross, then the unique divine identity (‘I am he’) will be revealed for all who can see” (47).

“…the cross reveals the divine identity of Jesus (8:28), such that all people are drawn to him (12:32) for salvation (3:14-5)” (47).

The language of glorification occurs in 12:23 and 15:31-2. Just as humiliation of the cross is an exaltation, so is the shame of it an “honor” or “glorification.” He also notes that the glory is the visible representation of God in Is. 40:3. This Isaianic passage gives an eschatological and universalizing association with the glory. One should note, however, that “glory” as the visible representation of God is quite common in the Bible, particularly in the Pentateuch (Moses asks to see God’s Glory, the Glory fills the Tabernacle, etc.) and in Ezekiel (particularly Ezekiel 1, but also in the Temple Tour in 40-48). Glory, therefore, is an important aspect of divinity, but it does not specifically recall Isaiah, and, in fact, is more prevalent in these other sources.

Between the language of lifting up and glorifying, there is an intensification of the Philippians perspective: Philippians is successive (glorification because of humiliation) and John is simultaneous (humiliation is glorification).

Jesus’ humiliation and exaltation are not a mere illustration of divine identity, but, in NT exegesis, become intrinsic to divine identity.

No comments: