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Re: Low and High Christology

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  • John E Staton
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 16, 2004
      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
      period.
      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
      unsafe practice.
      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.

      Best Wishes
      JOHN E STATON
      jestaton@...
      www.jestaton.org
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