An Introduction to New Testament Christology

By Chilton, Bruce | Interpretation, July 1996 | Go to article overview
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An Introduction to New Testament Christology


Chilton, Bruce, Interpretation


BROWN HAS WRITTEN this volume principally for lay believers, although he also kept reflective skeptics in mind (p. vi). With a minimum of technicality, he undertakes to think through two related topics: ( 1 ) Jesus' self-awareness of his relation to God; and (2) the evaluation of Jesus within the New Testament (and subsequent Christian tradition).

Part I sketches the significance of the question, and characterizes approaches that are placed on a spectrum between liberal and conservative. Brown records the triumph of what he styles "scholarly (moderate) conservatism" in the mainstream of scholarship: Jesus himself is held to have had a christology, implicit or explicit, which is consistent with the theology of the early church (pp. 14-5). Brown locates himself as part of that movement, and decides that "it is better in an introductory book like this to treat significant texts and alert readers to what the import would be if Jesus actually said or did this, even though I may have to report that there is a good chance that a particular text reflects later insight" (p. 24; cf. p. 102). That model is recommended because Brown understands that Christian tradition unfolds in the manner of an interpretation of a given: Jesus as the church's Lord. Accordingly, Brown moves easily and masterfully through passages which are held to manifest Jesus' self-awareness, especially in his attitude and relationship to the kingdom of God. (By way of sympathetic supplement, reference may be made to my work with J. I. H. McDonald, Jesus and the Ethics of the Kingdom.) The conclusion reached is that, in Jesus' understanding, "God was acting not only through him but in him" (p. 101), although the christology involved was not quite explicit (p. 102).

Brown goes on to assess subsequent theological developments by means of a treatment of "christological moments"such as the Parousia, the Resurrection, the birth-which are analyzed as vehicles of christology.

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