Re: [John_Lit] Wisdom Christology or Logos Christology?
- Dear Frank,
Thank you for your two recent valuable posts with their scrutinising
questions. I am not sure which was written and posted first. Here I will
respond in general terms. Later I will respond to specific points.
On my journey towards resolving the synoptic problem through Mark 4: 10-20,
Josephian typology and the Lord's Prayer, in dialogue with Leonard Maluf,
via the Johnannie Logos and I Corinthians 8:6,we have found ourselves
discussing Philo and Wisdom of Solomon. In this context you raise the issue
of pneumatology and its roots, Johannine and Pauline. Clearly we can
approach this topic experientially, or theologically or historically or
through literature; these are different 'takes' on the same theme but they
are distinctive takes. Compared with the refined methods of others, I liken
the historian and the archaeologist to alley cats; they are always raking
through other people's rubbish tips in order to find delicious scraps. The
historical approach to the origins of both christology and pneumatology are
not to everyone's tastes:
"Scarlett, I was never one to patiently pick up broken fragments and glue
them together and tell myself that the mended whole was as good as new. What
is broken is broken - and I'd rather remember it as it was at its best than
mend it and see the broken places as long as I lived"...He drew a short
breath and said lightly but softly: "My dear, I don't give a damn," Margaret
Mitchell, Gone with the Wind, (1936).
With this 'pneumatological aside', I think we are agreed that our discussion
relates to the first century C.E. not to the second, to Johannine and
Pauline authorial intent and to the dirty work of history. We are also
interested in Wisdom, Logos, the Jesus of history, the Holy Ghost [at
whatever cost I resurrect the term, since 'Spirit' seems to be temporarily
debased by the 'maggots' or 'new demons' of the language debasers, the
advertisers], Philo and the Wisdom of Solomon. As I read you, we seem to be
proffering different models or explanations that may either be competing or,
less probably, overlapping to some extent. Such models, it seems to me, are
set up to relate theories and facts in order to offer the best possible
explanation available, and to gradually refine inevitable approximations
through criticism and adjustment. Deduction works from theories to facts
while induction work from facts to theories. Wright is surely correct when
"The fact that someone has a reason for saying something, or actually an
agenda which is influencing the way they present a case, does not mean ipso
facto that the case is flawed or badly argued, full of rationalisations,
deserving instant dismissal by those who can come without bias. The latter
ideal is, of course, illusory. Let him without an agenda cast the first
N.T. Wright, Climax, (1991), 122.
Competing models frequently rest side by side when they each reach temporary
impasses. Wright and Horsley each offer competing interpretive models of I
Cor. 8:6 and the Corinthian gnosis. Wright, with Dunn (1980), 179, takes the
view that 8:6, while reflecting Hellenistic influence, reflects an
innovation, a Christian understanding of the Shema (p.125). When first
introducing Horsey, Wright states:
"He has argued that we can find the background to Paul's argument - and to
the implicit argument of those he is opposing - in the sort of Hellenistic
Judaism represented by the works of Philo and by the book known as the
Wisdom of Solomon. Leaving aside the question, that he does not address as
to whether the latter work really belongs in the same category as Philo, we
may note first the shape of Horsley's suggestion: that there was in the
first century a well-established Hellenistic Jewish mission in Gentile
territory, which attempted to persuade Gentiles to believe in the one true
God of Judaism, who had made the world by his Wisdom, his SOPHIA. Knowledge
of this one true God was the true GNOSIS, and this gave the knower a wisdom,
a SOPHIA which was identical in fact to the Wisdom, or of the LOGOS, as the
one 'by whom / through whom all things were made'," p.123.
According to Horsley, the Corinthian proto-Gnostic essence lies in the
Jewish Hellenist (Philo and Wisdom of Solomon), monotheistic belief in only
one God and Lord; idols do not represent real gods so eating idol-meat is
not a problem, this realisation endows the believer with Wisdom, the Sophia
from the beginning. Paul represents an alternative and Palestinian
eschatological approach to idols; they are demons.
Wright speaks for Horsely and most when he states, in relation to 8:6:
"There are two suggestions that can safely be set aside from the beginning.
The first is that there was, in the ancient world in general at this time
and in Corinth not least, a fully blown Gnosticism of the sort we find in
the (much later) Nag Hammadi texts. Paul, on this view, is combating
Gnosticism but sailing quite close to its prevailing wind in his own
theology. This view still finds support from time to time, but it has now
been massively undermined, as we see in the work (for instance) of Hengel.
The second is that Paul was faced in Corinth with the so-called 'Judaizing'
movement that faced him in Galatia." Wright, Climax, (1991), 123.
Wright acknowledges the strengths in Horsley's case, namely that it pursues
a proto-Gnostic rather than a Gnostic explanation and it illuminates the
issue of idols and monotheism. But he finds difficulties with the account,
as I do. These are:
(a) The case for two distinct approaches to idols is assumed rather than
made and it appears to be based on an artificial dichotomy between
Palestinian Judaism and Jewish-Hellenism, and on an artificial dichotomy
between Wisdom and Eschatology.
(b) It does not account for Paul's emphasis on the love of God.
(c) It does not explain 'the extremely interesting usage of [THEOS] and
[kurios] in vs. 6;
(d) It leaves the argument as a whole loose and untidy, with the suggestion
of non sequiters still in the air.
I entirely share Wright's reservations concerning Horsley's model; the
uncritical grouping of Philo and Wisdom together; the false dichotomy
between Palestinian Judaism and Hellenistic Judaism; the false dichotomy
between wisdom and eschatology
and the loose and untidy rather than elegant historical and interpretive
account. To his credit Horsley pursues the nature of the Corinthian
proto-Gnosticism but ultimately he fails to convince. Neither pursue the
role of the Alexandrian, Apollos and neither deal sufficiently with the
mysterious document, Wisdom of Solomon. Wright offers a more elegant
solution. My starting point is as an alley cat rummaging in the dustbin for
delicious scraps. I consider that I may have found one in Wright's footnote
n.26 on p. 130. Along with other scraps I admit I may be making quite a
meal of it. 'Time tries all things". Essentially I am arguing that the
origins of New Testament christology lie in a ( to us) counter-intuitive,
counter - logical and pre-Christian way of interpreting divine names, key
words and concepts and letter counts (including words like Chokmah and
Logos) and that this is at the heart of proto Gnosticism or the Apostolic
Gnosis. The easy slide from authorial intentionality into mere speculation
played a major part in the development of full-blown Gnosticism; its
slippery nature made it immensely difficult to combat. While St Irenaeus
guarded the front door, Mithraism with its sinister military overtones,
started climbing through the back window. This model argues for a
frustratingly smooth glide between ( to us) apparently disparate concepts
such as LOGOS, WISDOM, DABAR, LORD and YHWH, NAME, PARAKLETOS, BRANCH and
Your own model is well set out when you state:
"As an alternative hypothesis, I propose that the Johannine Jesus and the
Johannine Spirit arose out of a system of thought positing two divine
intermediaries between God and mankind. In particular, I propose that they
arose out of Philonic thought, in which there are two divine intermediaries,
the Logos and Wisdom, between God and mankind.
"In Philonic thought, there is a broad overlap between these two divine
figures, yet,while there are still a few passages where he appears to equate
them, he generally treats them as being two distinct divine beings. Further,
he does, like the author of the Wisdom of Solomon, equate the Spirit with
"So in terms of this hypothesis, the Johannine Jesus is a logos figure and
the Johannine Spirit is a Wisdom figure, making them (as, IMO, the author of
John intended) two distinct divine beings with broadly overlapping common
My position is that the Wisdom of Solomon played a much greater role in the
origins of Christianity than has so far been acknowledged (unless it was a
retrospective reflection which I doubt), possibly at two levels: (a) in
informing the christology and pneumatology of certain sections of the
primitive Jesus Movement and (b) in influencing Jesus' own christology; here
I am much less certain and there is the genuine problem of how Jesus may
have accessed a Greek document, presumably a scroll, David Trapero offers
some interesting thoughts. On the other hand there is the genuine difficulty
of how the early church may have accessed the Philonic Corpus before 55 CE,
which you addressed very helpfully in a thread a month or so ago.
I have painted with a broad brush here. Your detailed questions in both
posts deserve detailed responses as soon as possible, before I move on to
your points 4 and 6-11.
I have also resisted the temptation to respond to James McGrath's
fascinating contribution on the role and nature of historical inquiry and
the role of the historian as a believer; here the Moderator is my spiritual
advisor, I shall not want...". I would however want to round off with one
hopefully audacious rather than arrogant comment, and then Francis
Thompson's poem: "In No Strange Land" with one adaptation through the loss
of one letter, because, ultimately I consider the division of history,
theology and spirituality to be a dangerously false positivistic hangover
from the enlightenment, that no longer holds in our post Newtonian atomic
and cosmological world where matter, time and beginnings are invisible to
all but the mathematician, the lover of literature, the artist and the poet.
Here is the audacious comment: Virtually all branches of Christianity and
other faiths have their mystical elements: Ikons in the East;
Transubstantiation in Roman Catholicism; the divine spark in Quakerism; the
infallibility of the Scriptures in fundamentalism; Wardrobes and Rings for
C. S. Lewis and J. R. Tolkein; The Day of Atonement Ritual in the Holy of
Holies for Jews; the mysticism of Jacob's ladder, meditation on the purple
cord or the merkavah wheels for others; perhaps the Carpet Pages for the
readers of the Lindisfarne Gospelbook; art, music, mathematics, the creation
for others. It seems to me that the great arrogance of post-enlightenment
historical scholarship is the way it has marched across the pages of the New
Testament text, like some grand Imperial exorcist, casting out the
miraculous with sound and fury, where ever it is found. It seems to me that
there is a place for the audacious still small voice of an historian in a
post post-enlightenment, post Marxist, post capitalist post modern world to
say, stop, listen, and ask what are we doing here, this too is data that the
historians must consider, despite the inadequacy of our tools. I am not
arguing either that the water in Cana must have turned to wine, nor that we
are dealing with mere theological allegory: I am saying, look, it seems to
me that in some way we are being asked to consider a Wardrobe door between
earth and heaven, a transformation, an Ikon, a spark from a parallel
universe, a ladder moment between here and there. In our ignorance and
inadequacy let us not either bin it or 'pedestal' it, which amounts to the
same thing. This, it seems to me is essential to the Johannine Cosmic
Covenant so beautifully portrayed by scholars like Robert Murray, Norbert
Lohfink S.J. and, from the scientific perspective, by John Haught. The flow
of this strand seems to me to be the poetic prologue of Genesis 1;
Trito-Isaiah, Qoholeth, Wisdom of Solomon, and the Johannine literature
including the Apocalypse. There are, of course other strands as students of
the synoptic gospels would no doubt wish to point out when they pause from
squabbling over solutions to the synoptic problem!
O Word invisible, we view thee,
O Word intangible we touch thee,
O Word unknowable we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!
Does the fish soar to find the ocean,
The eagle plunge to find the air -
That we ask of the stars in motion
If they have rumour of thee there?
Not where the wheeling systems darken,
And our benumbed conceiving soars! -
The drift of pinions, would we hearken,
Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors.
But, when so sad thou canst not sadder,
Cry - and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob's ladder
Pitched betwixed Heaven and Charing Cross.
Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,
Cry - clinging heaven by the hems.
And lo, Christ walking on the water
Not on Gennesareth, but Thames!
Francis Thompson [slightly adapted with apologies], (1959-1907).
Bill Bullin, Private Student,east Sussex).