Book Review – “A Man Attested by God” by Daniel Kirk (part 8 – “Son of God” in Matthew)

Thanks for stopping by my blog! I have been thoroughly enjoying Daniel Kirk’ssaintmatthew.JPG newest book, A Man Attested by God: The Human Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels. Overall his thesis is proving to be extremely persuasive as well as a welcome addition to the many scholarly voices on Christology these days. Today I will discuss the section entitled “Son of God in Matthew,” which is the final section in the second chapter. As per my custom, I will summarize and review Kirk’s arguments in bullet points while adding a few comments and observations of my own in italics.

  • Son of God for Matthew’s implied readers – Kirk rightly notes that those who read and obey the teachings of Jesus contained within Matthew’ Gospel may authentically regard God as their heavenly Father, thus making them sons (and daughters) of God. In other words, the father-son terminology is not reserved for Jesus alone but is used of the Church which seeks to follow the words of Jesus as outlined by Matthew. How can the title “son of God” be a persuasive reference for divinity or even the divine side of the later doctrine of the two natures?
  • Hosea 11:1 – The first reference to Jesus’ sonship is in a citation from Hosea 11:1 used in reference to Jesus leaving Egypt as a child. The phrase “Out of Egypt I have called my son” originally referred to God’s election and rescue of the nation of Israel during the Exodus event. In Matthew, however, Jesus is the fulfilment (dare I say, embodiment) of Israel, and Exod 4:22-23 clearly regards Israel is son of God. Jesus is thus regarded typologically as the new Israel (son of God), a nod to Exodus’s title used of the nation in regard to their election.
  • Baptism – Matthew, like Mark and Luke, places heavy emphasis on Jesus’ baptism where he is identified (and anointed) as the messianic son of God. Jesus submits himself to John’s baptism in solidarity with the rest of Israel. Kirk sees in this narrative hints that Matthew may even by pointing to Jesus as the new Isaac, drawing attention particularly to the language of “my beloved son” from Gen 22:2, 12. I still think more can be made out of the baptism/anointing of Jesus as the messianic son of God, an event alluded to later in the Gospel (21:25) in order to answer a question about Jesus’ self-understood authority to enact prophetic signs of judgment in the temple. If son of God is a messianic (kingly) title then the baptism allowed others to hear the voice from heaven designate Jesus as the kingly son of God, one who because he is the king possesses legitimate authority over the temple (cf 2 Sam 7:13).
  • Johannine bolt from the sky – The reference in 10:22 to Jesus full knowledge of the Father is not due to, according to Kirk, ontological unity with the Father or Jesus’ supposed preexistence in heaven. Nothing in the text indicates a coequal or omniscient relationship between the Father and Jesus ( esp. 24:36 discussed below). Rather, it is best understood in light of Israel’s kings and prophets sometimes regarded to possess exclusive divine knowledge. Kirk helpfully notes that there is a major narrative emphasis in Matthew regarding the people’s ability to recognize God’s authorized agents. He offers examples drawn from his research in the first chapter of the book regarding idealized human figures who were admitted into heavenly/sacred space: Moses (Heb 8:5), Isaiah (Isa 6), and Zechariah (Zech 3). This further indicates that Matthew regards Jesus as the authentic revealer of the Father, thereby making the words of Jesus important for Matthew’s readers to faithfully observe and retain.
  • Peter’s confession – The chief apostle gets an A+ for correctly answering the question regarding Jesus’ identity as revealed in Matthew. Peter declares that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God (redacting and further clarifying the remark made in Mark’s Gospel). Again, both “Christ” and “son of God” are parallel titles (cf Psa 2:2, 7). Jesus further notes that the Father in heaven has revealed this information to Peter. If the Father revealed this information to Peter, it should be sufficient christological information. No further revelatory data is required, such as Jesus being the second member of the so-called triune godhead.
  • Jesus walks on water – It is often suggested that Jesus walking on water, claiming ego eimi, and receiving worship as the son of God points to a divine status. Kirk rightly notes that Psa 89:25 regards the Davidic king as genuinely empowered by God to calm the seas of chaos (just as Moses and Joshua split the waters). Kirk also notes that Peter also walked on water, and this does not make him divine. The claim by Jesus to ego eimi is a simple affirmative phrase “it is I” and nothing more in the text of Matthew indicates that it should be read any other way. As for Jesus being worshipped, this is reminiscent of David the human king being given prostration from the people in 1 Chron 29:20. I also suspect that Jesus possessing authority over the created realm makes him out to be an Adam figure, as Adam was given authority and kingship over the created realm in Gen 1:27-28. This authority is explicitly mentioned at the end of the Gospel, where God gives authority to Jesus (28:18). Admittedly, Adam is not a key figure in Mathew as he is in Luke, but he seems to be an example of Kirk’s idealized human figures relevant for this particular account.
  • No one knows the day nor the hour – Kirk also notes the important passage in Matt 24:36 where Jesus admits that he does not possess knowledge of the moment of his second coming. Even as the empowered and authorized revealer of the Father, Jesus nevertheless bears limitations to what he knows. The Father clearly possesses knowledge and understanding above the son of God. It should also be noted that Matthew redacts Mark and adds the adjective “alone” to the Greek text, further clarifying that only the Father possesses this knowledge.

After summarizing the data presented by Matthew, Kirk offers a quotable observation worthy of sharing:

Even where we might see Matthew’s Jesus pushing us to recognize aspects of idealized human Christology not fully enunciated or depicted in Mark, we nevertheless find ourselves dealing with a human Jesus and not, yet, incarnate God” (p. 258)

Tomorrow I will begin to work through chapter 3 wherein the “Son of Man” is the focus in the three Synoptic Gospels. Let me know in the comments below what you think of Kirk’s reconstruction of “Son of God” in the Gospel of Matthew. Thanks for stopping by!

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Book Review – “A Man Attested by God” (part 3 – Kings in Worship and Rule)

godtomanIn this third post wherein I provide my review and thoughts on Daniel Kirk’s A Man Attested by God: The Human Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels I will focus on the section entitled “Kings in Worship and Rule.” In this part of the book Kirk lays out the evidence demonstrating that the Israelite king was regularly represented as the idealized human being, one who embodies God’s rule upon the earth.

Many texts are discussed in this section, so I will offer a brief summary of his arguments and accompany them with a few thoughts of my own:

  • David in Historical Texts (Scripture) – The Davidic dynasty is understood as kingdavid God’s son on earth per 2 Sam 7:14 (cf. Psa 2:7). 2 Samuel’s reworking in 1 Chronicles 17:11-14 signifies that the Davidic kingdom is also the kingdom of God, indicating that the human ruler is the one through whom God is/will be enacting his sovereignty.
  • Psalm 45 – The Davidic king here (likely Solomon in my opinion) is called “God,” although there is another God above him (“your God has anointed you”). Both Yahweh and the Israelite king can rightfully be called “God.” This language evoke the similar terms used of Moses, the prophet who functioned as God to Pharaoh. Psalm 45 is significant because this is the text which the author of Hebrews uses to call Jesus “God” (Heb 1:8), and this author includes in his citation the part of the human king having a God above him.
  • Psalm 72 – Kirk notes that the tsi’im in 72:9 (71:9 MT) are better rendered as animal desert dwellers, therefore indicating that animals will bow down in prostration to this idealized human king. This recalls the language of Adam in Gen 1:26-28 where the idealized human ruled over the animals as God’s viceroy. Kirk also notes that the name of this idealized king is petitioned to flourish “before the sun” (72:17), a statement used to describe the notional preexistence of the Messiah’s name in Rabbinic Judaism. Since the phrase “before” (liphnai) can be temporal as well as spatial, this very well may be a reference to preexistence of God’s idealized king’s name before the sun was created.
  • Psalm 89 – Another major psalm echoing the promised of 2 Samuel 7’s Davidic covenant. Particularly of interest is that the anointed Davidic king will possess the ability to control the sea and the waves, and the waters in Judaic thought are usually regarded as personifications of the chaotic evil. God, who generally reserves the ability to control nature, extends this function unto the Davidic king, the son of God.
  • Solomon’s Throne and Worship in 1 Chronicles – Both David and Yahweh are kingsolomonworshiped, being the recipients of a single verb in 1 Chron 29:20. In 1 Chron 29:23 Solomon sits on the throne of Yahweh, indicating that Yahweh has invested his personal rule and throne upon the earth so that the human king can function as his embodied representative. The Israelite king, therefore, is the visible presence of Yahweh.
  • Isaiah 9:6-7 – The idealized king, likely originally referring to Hezekiah, is called “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father.” He will also function as the human embodiment of Yahweh, the divine warrior ushering in the peaceful reign of God. Elijah was a “father” to Elisha (2 Kings 2:12).
  • Ezekiel 34 – Long after King David has died, the restoration of the kingdom envisions the restoration of the Davidic dynasty. This idealized king will function as the shepherd of the people (34:23), sharing in the responsibilities of shepherding which Yahweh himself will perform (34:11-16). In other words, the restored Davidic king will share in the functions of Yahweh as the idealized human ruler.
  • Micah 5 – This promised ruler, whose origins extend “from days of old” (miyamai olam), reach back to the ancient Davidic family (not back to eternity). God will bestow upon this ruler his strength and glory. More striking is the indication that God’s own name will be shared with this promised Davidic king (Micah 5:4; 5:3 MT). This is no different from Yahweh extending his throne down to earth upon which Solomon was to rule as the human king in 1 Chronicles.
  • Zechariah 12 – Yahweh, functioning as the divine warrior, is spoken of in conjunction with the idealized human king. Zechariah 12:8 importantly notes that the house (dynasty) of David will be “like God” (c’elohim), further overlapping the functions of the idealized human ruler and Israel’s God.
  • Psalms of Solomon – Chapter 17 of this work regards the idealized Davidic king playing the role of God on earth, particularly over Israel. Kirk quotes John Collins who remarks that, “The kingship of God… is implemented though human kingship.” There are other echoes in the Psalms of Solomon where the idealized king’s mission to rule over the Gentiles seems to be deliberately drawing upon Psa 2:7-9, where the human Son of God will smash the nations with a rod of iron. Furthermore, Kirk points out that while Isa 66:18 says that Yahweh knows the thoughts of the people, Psalms of Solomon 17:25 says that the human Davidic king is the one who now possesses this prerogative. The fact that the promised Messiah could be spoken of as possessing the ability to know the thoughts of humans has massive implications upon similar texts in John’s Gospel and Rev 2:23.
  • Animal Visions of 1 Enoch – In the midst of a vision of sheep, a champion arises to sit on the throne for the Lord (90:9). This enthroned ruler is thus playing the role of God as both king and judge of the people (90:20).
  • Qumran References to the Idealized King – 4Q246 notes how God will wage war on behalf of the human king (who is called “son of God”). 4QFlor states that the idealized king will function as the agent of deliverance for God, drawing upon the prophecy of Amos 9:11, itself a promised of the restored Davidic dynasty. 4Q521, which has precipitated a 4q521plethora of interpretations by scholars (about which Kirk shows awareness), notes how the God’s anointed one will be obeyed/listened to by the heavens and the earth. This recalls the primordial Adam image who functioned as the crowning achievement of the original creation, ruling over everything God had created.

Kirk has demonstrated that the images describing the Israelite kings (primarily David and Solomon) as idealized rulers in whom God embodies his attributes and sovereignty can abundantly be observed in both the Hebrew Bible and in a variety of texts in Second Temple Judaism. Combined with the case which Kirk has already established regarding the images of Adam, Moses, and prophets like Elijah, these Israelite kings provide fertile soil out of which the Synoptic evangelists can grow their depiction of Jesus as the idealized human being. This first chapter of the book is proving to be a solid reconstruction of how Judaism’s strict monotheism could incorporate these human figures as mortal “embodiments” of Israel’s God, carrying out his rule and purposes.

Stay tuned for further updates on A Man Attested by God.

 

A Recent Series of Reviews of My Book “The Son of God: Three Views of the Identity of Jesus”

coverOver at the Its in the Text blog, Shaun Rufener has been posting through his reading of my latest book The Son of God: Three Views of the Identity of JesusShaun regularly posts quality material and I’m sure that he would appreciate it if you took a gander at what he has been up to lately. He has a keen mind for details and attempts to look for the simplest explanations, supported with history and context. Thus far he has offered five posts of the book (with more to come, I hope).

I will provide the links to them below:

 

post #1  post #2  post #3  post #4  post #5

If you haven’t purchased the book yet, head on over to Amazon.com or Wipf and Stock’s website and grab yourself a copy! I assure you that it will stimulate you intellectually regarding the nature of the debate on Jesus as the Son of God in current theological discussions.

Trinities.org Interviews the Co-authors of “The Son of God: Three Views of the Identity of Jesus” (part 1 – Trinitarian)

Over at the Trinities.org podcast, Dale Tuggy has begun to release his interviews with the three authors of my newest volume The Son of God: Three Views of the Identity of JesusIn this week’s episode, Tuggy interviews the proponent of the Trinitarian perspective – Dr. Lee Irons.

 

You can access the video here:

 

Lee Irons offers what he feel is the ‘correct’ understanding of the eternal Son of God as taught properly in the doctrine of the Trinity. He also responds to a few of my critiques (and a few of Dale Tuggy’s as well). What do you think of the presentation?

Be sure to look forward to next week’s podcast where Dale Tuggy will interview the second contributor of the book. His interview with me will air on the following week.

Subscribe for further updates!

Newly released: “The Son of God: Three Views of the Identity of Jesus”

coverI am excited to announce that my second book has finally been released. In this book, Charles Lee Irons, Danny Dixon, and I present opposing arguments in regard to the identity of Jesus. The three views expressed in this volume are: the Trinitarian perspective (the Son of God always existed as the second person of the Trinity), the Arian perspective (the Son of God literally preexisted as a created being, but is distinct from God), and the Socinian perspective (the Son of God is the human Messiah who preexisted strictly in the mind and plans of God).

There is actually no other book which approaches the subject of Christology in this manner, that is, by allowing three different interpreters to civilly engage each other in a scholarly manner (similar to a debate).

The volume can be purchased directly from Wipf and Stock here, but we hope that it will soon be available on Amazon.com.

 

Review of Bart Ehrman’s ‘How Jesus Became God’ (part 5 – Rom. 1:3-4)

Those who have the book will notice that I have moved from chs. 2 and 3 on into ch. 6. I am not haphazardly skipping over the two chapters on what historians can and cannot know about the resurrection (chs. 4 and 5). I simply wish to interact with the more christological aspects of this book. Much of my theological and graduate training has been in the area of christology, so I am attracted to such discussions. My philosopher and history buff friends are, arguably, more apt to interact with chs. 4-5.

Ehrman’s sixth chapter is entitled ‘The Beginning of Christology.’ He starts his inquiry by looking into the pre-Pauline traditions (hymns and creeds) preserved within the texts of the New Testament. The first of these pre-Pauline traditions discussed by Ehrman is the creedal statement preserved in Rom. 1:1-4. The text reads as follows (my translation):

1. Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, marked out for the gospel of God

2. which was previously promised through His prophets in the holy scriptures

3. concerning His son, begotten out of David seed, according to the flesh

4. marked out as son of God in power according the the spirit of holiness from the resurrection of the dead, Jesus Christ our lord

Within this pre-Pauline creed is an abundance of Jewish messianic theology. Firstly, the “promise coming from the prophets in the holy writings” indicates that the early believers found, in Jesus, a christological identity which conformed to the expectations of their heritage. They could look at the prophets within the Hebrew Bible and check off, in a sense, the qualifications of the office designated ‘Messiah,’ based on what they came to believe and preach about Jesus’ person.

One of these qualifications is my second point: Jesus is the human descendant of David. Ehrman is familiar with 2 Sam. 7:12-14, where God promises the monarch David, through the prophet Nathan, that the royal line will endure forever. The descendant of David, according to 2 Sam. 7:14, will be called God’s sonWe also learn from that verse that God will be his FatherI stress the tense in both of these propositions because it is popular in modern theologies about Jesus and God to say that there was never a time when the Son didn’t  exist, which presumes that God was always a Father in relation to that very eternal Son. 2 Sam. 7:14 says otherwise. God will be his Father and the descendant of David will be His son. The Chronicler in 1 Chron. 17:11-14 makes sure that this reference is not confused for Solomon, strongly suggesting a messianic reading of that promise during the composition of the book of Chronicles.

We also know from the Qumran texts that the title Son of David was understood in Jewish circles messianically. In an important text in the Dead Sea Scrolls called 1QSa 2:11 we even get a sense of Israel’s God’s relationship to the Messiah:

“…when God begets the Messiah”

In some sense I have digressed. Back to 2 Sam. 7:12-14, where this descendant of David will be understood as God’s own son. “Son of God” was a title of the Davidic king, a human descendant from his line. The same can be seen from Psalm 2:7 where the king of Israel is called God’s son.

Why am I stressing these points? Ehrman sees in Rom. 1:3-4 a contrast between the son of David (1:3) and the Son of God (1:4). It is true that Paul contrasts the two. However, the specifics of that contrast are not taken seriously by Ehrman. In Rom. 1:4, Jesus, upon being raised from the dead, is designated son of God in power. It is not the case that Jesus was not the son of God prior to his resurrection, for the messianic office of the son of David was equivalent to being called “son of God” (2 Sam. 7:14; Psalm 2:7). Ehrman is, I think, aware of these points because he writes on p. 222 that, “Jesus was the descendant of David (which was a requisite, of course, for the earthly messiah).” You see there? Ehrman is aware of these “requisites” as he calls them. Those requisites are noted in 2 Sam 7:12-14 (which he quotes on p. 77). Unfortunately, those requisites seem to only matter to the early Christians and Paul, but not for Ehrman, who is trying to ascertain the beliefs of the early Christians and understand this passage in Paul’s epistle to the Romans.

Ehrman needs to be quoted in order to get the true sense of his misunderstanding (or misrepresentation). Ehrman writes on p. 222 that,

“the idea that Jesus was made the Son of God precisely at the moment of his resurrection is also stressed.”

Precisely at the moment of his resurrection? Go back and read Rom. 1:1-3 which talks about God’s gospel, promised beforehand, concerning His son. There! Son of God is there identified as the human descendant of David. Apparently when Paul writes περὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ in Rom. 1:3 this should not be understood as Son of God for Ehrman.

Later Ehrman says,

“Jesus was “appointed” (or “designated” the “Son of God” when he was raised from the dead” (p. 224).

No sir. Jesus was God’s son when he was brought into existence as the seed of David (τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ τοῦ γενομένου ἐκ σπέρματος Δαυὶδ κατὰ σάρκα).

Let me reiterate. There is a difference between Jesus prior to his resurrection and exaltation. Paul says that he is, in Rom. 1:4, designated son of God in power…Jesus Christ our lord. James D.G. Dunn, in his Romans contribution to the Word Biblical Commentary, notes correctly that the emphasis on Jesus being “our lord” is a direct allusion to Psalm 110:1, where Yahweh exalts the human lord (Hebrew adoni) up tho God’s right hand. This reference to Psalm 110:1 is, unfortunately, not mentioned by Ehrman in his treatment of Rom. 1:4, although he does mentions it earlier in this book, showing that he is aware of it. However, if he were to admit that it is in Paul’s mind (or even in the mind of the composers of this pre-Pauline creed) then it would give away his argument which unfairly differentiates the human Messiah (prior to his death, Rom 1:3) and the resurrected exalted lord (Rom. 1:4).

misquoteIn short, Ehrman, conveniently, fails to note three important facts in his interpretation of Rom. 1:1-4. First, he fails to take seriously the fact that the Son of David was understood as the Son of God. Second, he misquotes Paul, leaving out the fact that Jesus was designated Son of God “in power” at the resurrection. Thirdly, Ehrman fails to see (or admit) the reference to Psalm 110:1 at the end of Rom. 1:4, which would mark out that the Son of God in power has, powerfully, been exalted to the position of lordship as described in that psalm. Ehrman has a book called ‘Misquoting Jesus.’ Ironically, Ehrman has now Misquoted Paul.

I expected better from Ehrman. Now it is time for a refill of my Starbucks iced coffee.