Hurtado: God in NT Theology (1)

I’ve been reading stuff on Christology at the moment for a course I’m teaching at IBI.

Following the post on Bauckham’s ‘divine identity’ proposal, another key author in this area is Larry Hurtado

He published another book related to Christology in December 2010 called God in New Testament Theology. Building on his earlier work on the origins of NT Christology, he takes a step back in this book to look at how “God” is understood and talked of in the NT.

I’m going to do some posts on what he says over the next few days. His bigger question here is :

What new or distinctive contribution does the NT make towards an understanding of God?

Hurtado’s particular interest is how an OT understanding of “God” is developed or reconfigured in light of Jesus and of the Spirit – he devotes a chapter to each – but more of that in later posts.

Hurtado notes the curious neglect of the study of “God” in NT theology and surveys recent works (1990s on) that have gone some way to rectify this oversight.This post is related to just some of what he says in this chapter. Some interesting quotes and observations include:

“God in Pauline Writings”

Neil Richardson (1994) asked how much Paul’s language and understanding of God changed after his conversion to Christ? On the one hand Paul is deeply and profoundly theocentric – but on the other hand this very theocentric outlook was intimately linked to his powerful experience of Jesus as the climatic revelation of God. Thus Paul is both theocentric and Christocentric. There is a “vital interdependence” between Paul’s ‘Christ language’ and his ‘God language’. Richardson says,

If it is true that Paul uses God language in order to interpret and ‘define’ Christ, it is also true that language about Christ also in turn redefines the identity of God.

This is very close to what Gordon Fee concludes in his massive and excellent Pauline Christology, a book I have reviewed here.

Similarly Francis Watson (arguing against Jimmy Dunn) …

Paul’s texts everywhere assert or assume a distinctively Christian view of God … traditional God-language is relocated within a framework in which the word “God” is misunderstood and misused if it is not always and everywhere accompanied by reference to Jesus and his Spirit.

He also says that “Jesus is integral to God’s own identity.”

Jesus and God in John’s Gospel

Hurtado judges that the most important recent work on the “God” in the Gospel of John is by Marianne Meye Thompson (2001). She says that Jesus’ significance is explained wholly in connection with “God the Father” and that “God” is identified emphatically with Jesus.

… terms for God, as well the whole understanding of God, must now be delineated with respect to Jesus.

God and Jesus are, in other words, inseparable, in the sense that it is in Jesus’ role and status that the very nature and character of God is revealed in a new and climatic way.

A Question:

We’ve spent a lot of time on this blog talking about ‘the Gospel’ being all about Jesus being God’s promised King in whom redemption of Israel and the world comes. How do ‘Christology’ and ‘Gospel’ reinforce and inform each other ? In other words, how does who Jesus is relate to the good news of what God has done in Christ?

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