Re: Low and High Christology
- Bill Bullin,
I am afraid I am not qualified to comment on your theory concerning
word counts, but as for this matter of a progression from a low Christology
to a high one, I am afraid this is a bugbear of mine.
I would personally be suspicious of any theory which tried to
persuade me of a simple progression of ideas in the early church, or in any
other context for that matter. I do not believe that is the way human beings
work. Jimmy Dunn (Professor JDG Dunn, that is) wrote a book about 30 years
ago called "Unity and Diversity in the New Testament", in which he suggested
there was far more diversity in the early church - from one church to
another, or from one region to another - than many readers of the NT would
allow. He boiled down the "common ground" of the NT to a bare minimum
(perhaps too much so, but that is a matter for debate), and suggested that
it would not be an easy task to distinguish orthodoxy from heresy in that
Unfortunately, Dunn does not appear to have seen that this theory
undermines all theories of development of doctrine. If there was this much
diversity in the NT church, surely different areas may well have developed
doctrine more speedily than others. Specifically, high christological ideas
may well have developed more quickly in certain environments than in others.
Therefore the dating of a document according to its Christology is a very
You mention signs of a high Christology in Paul, and reasonably so.
The assumption that the development of Paul's theology can be traced in a
smooth curve from the "early" letters to the "late" ones has led scholars
down too many blind alleys. Galatians tells us that it was 14 years after St
Paul's conversion before he began his missionary activity. Long enough for
his theology to have largely developed before he wrote the first of his
preserved writings. Perceived differences in teaching between the letters
have more to do with the pastoral context into which they were written than
with development in theology.
Although, following Hengel, I date the writing of John late, I see
the publication of the Gospel as the fruit of many years of teaching and
preaching. Thus the ideas and the content of the Gospel may well have been
developed much earlier.
JOHN E STATON