Messianic High Christology
New Testament Variants of Second Temple Judaism
Imprint: Baylor University Press
244 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: September 2021
The depiction of Christ as divine is often assumed to be the categorical difference between early Jewish messianism and New Testament Christology. Despite the prolific accomplishments of recent scholarship on Second Temple messianism and on the origin and development of "high" Christology, research has largely treated these as two separate lines of inquiry. As an unintended result, earliest Christianity appears not as an organic outgrowth of ancient Judaism, but as something of an anomaly. Ruben A. Bühner calls this line of thinking into question in Messianic High Christology.
Through a curated set of exegetical comparisons, each between a christological text and one or two messianic texts, Bühner reveals to what extent Second Temple messianism is indeed the primary context for the high Christologies of the New Testament: most New Testament concepts of Christ's divinity are to be understood precisely as part of contemporary discourse within early Jewish messianism. While early understandings of Christ are not simply identical with some other Jewish messianic expectations, they should be understood as deliberate developments in acceptance of and in dialogue with the wider Jewish discourse produced by some Jewish subgroups. As Bühner argues, it was not until the second and subsequent centuries that Jews as well as non-Jewish followers of Christ began to consider the divinity of the messiah as the decisive criterion by which to distinguish between what later would develop into two separate religions.
With Messianic High Christology, Bühner brings the New Testament Christologies closer to their first-century Jewish context. In doing so, he augments our understanding of the correlation between early devotion to Christ and early Jewish thought and practice more broadly, and challenges current historical reconstructions.
1 The Exaltation of Christ: Philippians 2:6-11 and Messianic Exaltation Texts
2 The Heavenly Christ: Mark 14:61-65 and Celestial Messianic Figures
3 The Virginal Conception of Christ: Luke 1:26-38, Divine Sonship, and Miraculous Births
4 Christ the Enthroned Lamb: Revelation 4-5 and the Son of Man Seated on the Throne of Glory
5 Christ the Divine Word: John's Prologue and the Destructive Power of Messiah's Utterance
6 Paths Not Taken: Angelic Messianism and Angelomorphic Christology
7 High Christology: A Contested Variant of Second Temple Messianism
Research on early Christology has often been hamstrung by dogmatic, binary categories (God or not God?). But in his excellent Messianic High Christology, Ruben Bühner demonstrates how many 'high,' superhuman, even divine categories were available within the rich tradition of ancient Jewish messianism. Reading Bühner, we get an idea of how New Testament Christologies might have sounded to people living before the resolutions of Nicaea and Constantinople. An outstanding contribution to the early high Christology debates.~Matthew Novenson, Senior Lecturer in New Testament and Christian Origins, University of Edinburgh
There is a resistance among scholars of both Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity to acknowledge that some traditions within the complex mix of Jewish Messianism that was present before the time of Jesus included characteristics of a divine messiah. Ruben Bühner not only identifies examples in Second Temple Jewish messianic texts but also demonstrates how some New Testament writers expressed their understanding of Jesus as divine in a manner similar to these already existing strands of Jewish Messianism. The result is an important contribution to the integrative study of Jewish Messianism and early (high) Christology.~Charles A. Gieschen, Professor of Exegetical Theology, Concordia Theological Seminary
Dr. Bühner presents a hermeneutically reflective, comprehensive, and thorough examination of Early Christian and Ancient Jewish literature. He offers indispensable analyses of the development of important areas of New Testament Christology.~Michael Tilly, Professor of New Testament and Head of the Institute for Ancient Judaism and the History of Hellenistic Religions, University of Tübingen
Ruben Bühner offers a fresh perspective on Christology in the New Testament. By closely comparing early Christian and Jewish beliefs, Bühner makes a strong case for understanding various Christologies in the New Testament as part of Second Temple messianic discourse. Thereby the study will make an important contribution to the discussion of the ‘Parting of the Ways’ of Judaism and Christianity. This book will be of great interest for students of Early Judaism and the New Testament.~Cecilia Wassén, Associate Professor, Department of Theology, Uppsala University