The Christ Is Jesus: Metamorphosis, Possession, and Johannine Christology

The Christ Is Jesus: Metamorphosis, Possession, and Johannine Christology

The Christ Is Jesus: Metamorphosis, Possession, and Johannine Christology

The Christ Is Jesus: Metamorphosis, Possession, and Johannine Christology


This book examines the divine-human union of Jesus Christ in the Gospel and the Epistles of John in light of ancient Mediterranean models of how gods were believed to appear on earth. While the two primary models, metamorphosis and possession, are found by the author to be more complex than has been previously acknowledged, the book argues that the possession model provides the basis for the Johannine contribution to incarnation, which Kinlaw terms the indwelling" model. This Johannine model adapts the concept of the temporary possession of a human being by a god to a model of permanent possession, thus making clear to that ancient audience how the divine and human can coexist in the person of Jesus. Paperback edition is available from the Society of Biblical Literature ("


When a god comes onto the stage of human history and moves among human beings, how is that entry into human history conceptualized? In this dissertation, I propose to examine the Christology of the Fourth Gospel and the Johannine Epistles in its ancient Mediterranean context. The relationship between the divine and human in Christ is a key issue of the Gospel, and it is also the main source of contention between the authors and their opponents in the Epistles. Despite the many efforts to explicate the Christology of these writings, little consideration has been given to how the audience’s knowledge of models concerning the union of divine beings with humans would affect its understanding that Christology. A methodology that illuminates the cultural expectations that the original audience brings to the text will help to elucidate the Christology as well.


Christology in the Johannine literature, especially in the Fourth Gospel, has not suffered from lack of attention. Paul Anderson helpfully divides the academic study of Johannine Christology into five broaddivisions, with no less than thirteen sub-categories. For the specific interests of this dissertation, two of these sub-categories are particularly important: (1) the History of Religions approach, and (2)

For the purposes of this dissertation, the designations “Johannine literature” and “Johannine writings” will not include Revelation.

Paul Anderson, The Christology of the Fourth Gospel: Its Unity and Disunity in the Light of John 6 (Tübingen: Mohr, 1996; repr., Valley Forge, Pa.: Trinity Press, 1996), 17–32. Anderson’s five divisions are: (1) comprehensive overviews; (2) text-centered approaches; (3) theological-christological approaches; (4) literary-christological approaches, and (5) historical-christological approaches.

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