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Re: [John_Lit] Wisdom Christology or Logos Christology?

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  • Bill Bullin
    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
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 14, 2004
      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
      he states:

      "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

      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).
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