Friday, April 02, 2010
Richard Bauckham on ontological, functional, and Trinitarian Christology
"The distinction commonly made between "functional" and "ontic" Christology has been, broadly, between early Christology in a Jewish context and patristic Christology which applied Greek philosophical categories of divine nature to Christ. Even when ontic Christology is seen to begin well within the confines of the New Testament, it is seen as the beginnings of the patristic attribution of divine nature to Christ. The assumption usually is that, whereas first-century Jewish monotheists could attribute divine "functions" to Jesus without difficulty since this would not infringe Jewish monotheism, they could not easily attribute divine "nature" to him without raising difficult issues for monotheism with which only later Trinitarian developments could cope (successfully or not). However, this is to misconstrue Jewish monotheism in Hellenistic terms as though it were primarily concerned with what divinity is-divine nature-rather than who YHWH, the unique God, is-divine identity. The whole category of divine identity and Jesus' inclusion in it has been fundamentally obscured by the alternative of "functional" and "ontic," understood to mean that either Christology speaks simply of what Jesus does or else it speaks of his divine nature. Once the category of divine identity replaces those of function and nature as the primary and comprehensive category for understanding both Jewish monotheism and early Christology, we can see that the New Testament's lack of concern with the divine nature of Christ is by no means an indication of a merely functional Christology. We can see that, throughout the New Testament texts, there is a clear and deliberate use of these characteristics of the unique divine identity to include Jesus in that identity. Once we have rid ourselves of the prejudice that high Christology must speak of Christ's divine nature, we can see the obvious fact that the Christology of divine identity common to the whole New Testament is the highest Christology of all. It identifies Jesus as intrinsic to who God is.
-Jesus and the God of Israel, p. 31