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Exploring the Christian Way of Life - The Identity of Jesus - Origen

Next we examine Origen who was probably the greatest theologian the church saw in the first few centuries, if not all of the way to Aquinas. Christology was one of a few areas where Origen came under fire after his death. The criticism leveled against him was unfair in many ways. We will attempt to sketch out the main contours of his understanding of the Son in what follows covering pre-existence, the relationship of Son to Father, and the nature and purposes of the incarnation.

For Origen, the Son is the eternal image of God, which entailed a preservation of the ‘unity of nature and substance.’[1] There never was a time when he was not with the Father and their unity did not override their individuality.[2] But, while Origen did see distinctions, and even a degree of subordination in the Son,[3] he did not see subordination ever entailing that there were cross purposes between Son and Father. Their wills were a unity, but they were not the same.[4] For example, Origen clearly sees th…

Exploring the Christian Way of Life - The Identity of Jesus - Church History (Pre-Reformation) - Irenaeus

Starting from Irenaeus, Christology, in some respects, moves on. A big part of this would have been due to the “gnostic” controversies. It became increasingly important to clarify the relationship between Father and Son and to minimize their distinctiveness, while still maintaining Jesus’ full humanity. From this point on, clashes over heresy about the nature of Christ and discussions related to Trinitarian theology dominate Christological discussion to the point that the original emphasis on Jesus’ Messianic identity fades to the background.[1] Maintaining the affirmation that Jesus was both human and divine was critical for Irenaeus and those after him because they saw that as the necessary grounds of salvation.[2]

Of particular interest to Irenaeus was the baptism of Jesus. What happened when he received the Spirit?[3] It was not the means by which the Word entered Jesus. He was not merely human before that point.[4] Rather it was a divinization of the human nature of Jesus, a nat…

Exploring the Christian Way of Life - The Identity of Jesus - Church History (Pre-Reformation) - Justin Martyr

Justin expounded his Messianic Christology most extensively in his Dialogue with Trypho, so that is the natural place for us to focus our discussion. In the middle of the second century there apparently was still Jewish-Christian dialogue[1] concerning the beliefs of Christians, though they clearly are two separate groups appearing to have separate identities. Much of the discussion continued to focus on Jesus, and who exactly he was.

For Justin, the divinity of the Messiah and his identity as Jesus was something that one should be able to gather from a straight forward reading of the Old Testament. The Old Testament theophanies require the existence of another divine being other than God the Father. The Father was transcendent and did not appear in space and time (e.g, Dialogue 60.2).[2] He acted through divine agents on earth, chiefly his Son, whom he had begotten before as a rational, revelatory power, though clearly lacking transcendence. His role was to reveal the Father’s will.[…

Exploring the Christian Way of Life - The Identity of Jesus - Church History (Pre-Reformation) - Introduction and 2 Clement

As we noted at the end of our last paper, we start to see Christology develop in a different direction in the Gospel of John. The gospel is roughly contemporary with Revelation, which still seems to have a clear Messianic Christology. Towards the end of the first century, we are clearly seeing divergent Christologies.[1] There probably was diversity in belief even earlier, but no documentation of it has survived. Certainly in the second century, the diversity of beliefs increased and is better documented. Our goal in this paper is not to track down each variant belief and understand how it came to be. Instead we will focus on key figures and documents in the history of the church. We want to wrestle with the great minds of the church as they wrestled with the identity of Jesus. Specifically, we want to focus on how they developed what we found to be the key New Testament insight, that Jesus is the divine king. This will be our general methodological approach, to hear from our experts.…