Arius and Adam

Regular readers will know that my research interests right now swirl around the Christology of the Synoptic Gospels: who are we to understand this Jesus to be? What sorts of parallels do we find in early Judaism? If Jesus does certain things that seem to be restricted to God in the OT, what does that mean about his identity in the Gospels? If the NT writers apply YHWH texts to Jesus, are they calling him God?

A couple friends like to rib me, only partially joking, about my “Arian” project. You remember Arius? He’s the one who argued against Jesus’ identity with God: there was a time, Arius claimed, when the logos was not.

Preexistent? Yes. God himself? No.

Arius is deemed a heretic because he wrongly puts together the pieces about Jesus as heavenly being.

It is this kind of argument (though not this argument directly) that Richard Bauckham’s book, God Crucified was meant to curtail: the way that the NT writers identify Jesus with God does not have precedent in Judaism’s treatment of other heavenly beings.

In my work, I am not arguing that Arius was a better reader of the NT, and that heavenly but non-divine Christology typifies the Synoptic Gospels. This would be an argument against what the church teaches concerning Jesus’ divinity.

Instead, I am arguing that the Synoptic Gospels do not address the question of Jesus’ ministry on earth as one of a divine being at all. They neither to confirm or deny.
What we find in them is another aspect of the church’s theology of Jesus. The Gospels are not the place to go for understanding the nature of Jesus’ divinity. However, they are treasure troves of indications about what it means for Jesus to be human, to be the Adam figure who recapitulates humanity’s primal purposes upon the earth.

Irenaeus is the church father most closely associated with this understanding of the function of Jesus’ humanity: it is not something to apologize for (ah well, he had to be human, but the really cool thing is that he’s God!); nor is it simply negative, as though Jesus simply had to be human so he could die for our sins.

Jesus is human, and has to be human, because this was God’s plan from the beginning: that humanity would come, serve, and rule upon the earth in the name of God. Jesus has to be human because there is a human quest that needs to be fulfilled, a human vocation that must be answered–or else God’s project will come to naught.

Is my project Arian? No, it is Adamic. It is a plea to discover afresh what we too often pass by because we seem to think that true theological value is found only in the presence of God upon the earth.

No, there is more: an untapped vein of Christological gold to be discovered in the work of the Human One.

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