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Richard Bauckham on Divine Identity Christology

Richard Bauckham is a respected senior scholar and his major contribution to the study of Christology is his work on the “divine identity.” Bauckham recognizes that philosophical, ontological language about divine essences that characterized fourth century Christian debates about the Trinity would have been unfamiliar to Second Temple Jews. Instead, Second Temple Jews used relational terms to describe God’s distinction from the rest of creation; the God of Israel is the creator and ruler of all things. Inasmuch as no other intermediary figures participated in God’s creation of and absolute rule over the cosmos, they are irrelevant to understanding the origins of Christology. God’s Wisdom and Word are described in this way, but these should either be understood as personified divine attributes or divine hypostases rather than created beings separate from God. Basically, when Jesus is described as the creator and ruler of the cosmos in the New Testament, Jesus has been included in the “divine identity.” You can see a fuller discussion about this thesis by reading this link.

In my forthcoming article for the Journal of the Jesus Movement in its Jewish Setting, I offer some critical reflections about this whole approach and try to test it against the text of the Gospel of Mark. For instance, I think Bauckham underestimates some of the texts that do allow a supreme intermediary agent to be enthroned and share in God’s sovereignty. I do not reject the thesis entirely – I am open to Bauckham’s point about Wisdom and Word and I also find the texts that describe Jesus as the agent through whom the universe was created (John 1:1-3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:15–17; Hebrews 1:2) to be a remarkable development (!) – but I do not think his categories are applicable to Mark’s Gospel. You will have to read the article when it is published to find out why.

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