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I appreciate good and challenging writings about the Holy Spirit, even past the oft times debates I can get in on continuationism vs cessationism. I also appreciate some of the foundations of the narrative-historical perspectives of a writer like Andrew Perriman.
Thus, I was interested in Perriman's recent thoughts on the "conception" accounts of Jesus by the Holy Spirit and what that all meant within the first century Jewish context as related back to the Hebrew Scripture and teachings.
Perriman is doing a longer series well worth reading, but the first article on Jesus' conception by the Spirit is here. I really look forward to some thoughts on his article.
As a side note: 1) Please don't insist that Perriman does not believe in the incarnation or hypostatic union. 2) Please try and steer clear of snarky comments simply because it is engaging in a fresh way with an "already settled matter of the church".
Joanne said: Can you give me bullet points?
It has to do with CMP question:Could Jesus Have Gotten a Math Problem Wrong
I'd say 'yes' because of a conviction that Michael denies in his post: To Err is Human
Augustine commented on the way in which he grew in understanding.
“When they (my elders) named some object, and accordingly moved towards something, I saw this and I grasped that the thing was called by the sound they uttered when they meant to point it out. Their intention was shown by their body movements, as it were the natural language of all peoples: the expressions of the face, the play of the eyes, the movement of other parts of the body, and the tone of voice which expresses our state of mind in seeking, having, rejecting or avoiding something. Thus, as I heard word repeatedly used in their proper places in various sentences, I gradually learned to understand what objects they signified; and after I had trained my mouth to form these signs, I used them to express my own desires.”
One can imagine the young Augustine learning that the Latin equivalent of ‘Momma’ referred not to objects that supported, held or fed him (that perception lasted perhaps a week or so), or to all human beings, or to all women (this one lingered for a while, perhaps), this particular woman only when she was in a jovial mood, but to that dear woman at all times.
Is this process with its accompanying errors and gradual clarification a result of the fall? Does orthodoxy really require that the referent of any word be instantly grasped without misunderstanding by uncorrupted children?
Char attributes the stumbling way that the young Augustine grew in wisdom, per se, to corruption. She then goes on to quote various people on the evils of corruption.
I attribute the stumbling way that finite and ignorant human beings grow in wisdom, per se, to being a finite and ignorant human being.
We agree that corruption is bad. We disagree about whether mistaken conceptions are a result of the fall or a part of being human.
Thanks Phil, that does help.
It's interesting to imagine about how things must be when there is a great gap of silence in the scriptures concerning that topic -- in this case, what it was like for Jesus to be born and grow up. The reason why it's interesting is because of our understanding of Jesus' origins and nature -- utterly unlike our own, if we take Mary's virginity and the hovering Spirit as the ingredients of Jesus' conception.
If Jesus was conceived in the ordinary way, if His nature is no different than ours, then it's not really interesting any more. If we add that He started out completely human, but was filled with the Spirit from birth, or before, maybe even, (ergo, just like John the Baptist) ... not all that interesting. Nobody puzzles and argues over John the Baptist's childhood (that I know of).
Even with the Hebrews claim that Jesus is 'without sin' it still isn't that interesting, because it still leaves Him as an ordinary human being, like Adam was. There was a time when Adam was without sin, too, we presume, since Paul says Adam brought in the sin. So there was a time when sin wasn't "in."
Why do we care how He grew up? We can tell the difference between sin (rebelling against God, His ways, His commands, etc) and ineptitude. So being without sin is not the same as being ept in all ways. After all, if Isaiah really was prophesying about Jesus, then He probably was a plain man. Being plain isn't sinful. You don't have to be a 'ten' to be perfect, according to scripture.
The only reason it matters is because of Jesus' nature, fully God as well as fully man. And the only reason the councils got there is because of what the Bible has to say on the matter. And the people who wrote the New Testament (except for maybe Hebrews, but I think Hebrews too) all knew Jesus personally.
It seems a little too contrived to me to say that Matthew suspended his belief in Jesus' divinity in order to write his gospel from the perspective of someone who didn't know that. Or to say Luke, who hung out with Paul and even wrote his gospel while he was hanging out with Paul, would write his gospel from the perspective that Jesus wasn't actually also God Himself.
I think that when reading the new testament, the whole thing has to be taken at once, each informing all the other parts, because these guys all knew and taught the same things from the very beginning. It's not like the time gap that existed in the Old Testament (there was some overlap for some of the books, but mostly we're looking at centuries between).
What the apostles knew and understood came in stages, and they readily admit that in the gospels. But it seems a little too artful to suggest that they wrote their gospels with the idea of pretending not to know what they knew so that it could read like Jesus was an ordinary guy, just a remarkably Spirit-filled one. The new testament writers were all contemporaries of each other, they all shared their knowledge and teaching, and I presume they all held each other accountable to be consistent.
Joanne, no one is suggesting that the evangelists are pretending they didn't know something.
I'm suggesting that what they wished to stress, apparently isn't what we believe must be stressed. The central message of the synoptics is not Jesus is God, but rather the man Jesus is Lord of creation.
okay, am listening to that. That would be to counteract, in their day, possibly, the gnostic love for the spiritual over and above the physical. It would be in conjunction with Paul's emphasis on the physical resurrection, another emphasis on the physical.
That doesn't meant their description of Jesus' conception was anything different than what it appears to be -- mystical and supernatural. I'm still having trouble with that. All the language that I pointed out in exhaustive detail (so I don't blame you a bit if you got bored and skipped it) seems to be pointing to this very goal -- of questioning Mary's virginity and the Spirit's miracle.
Why do that? It's not necessary.
Since I don't read Greek, I can't speak to that. But I do read English, and I've read maybe twelve English translations of this passage. They all read more or less the same way. Mary's a virgin. The Spirit is involved in some mysterious, not-explained way. Bam, she's pregnant. Joseph is perturbed until the angel splains the whole thing. Then he protects her virginity, even though they get married.
That's wihtout any nicene creed, or apostles' creed, or Hebrews or anything else. This is the very unvarnished read of this passage.
Truly. If the first people who read this passage were not scholars (and they weren't, most of them) how else do you suppose they would hear that?
And the virgin birth was indicative of what- according to the passage?
I can go along with you on that, that the virgin, Holy Spirit-conceived, miraculous birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God and also God the Son, in Matthew's passage, and in Luke's passage, points to the King of Kings in a way never conceived of before and yet still also the way previously conceived.
And I think that's the kicker, at least for me. To bring out the nuance of the passage is right, good and helpful. To try to gut the passage of its other meanings because those meanings don't serve the commentator's purpose, is not good, or helpful.
And in this case, the way the actual blog read, it sounded to me like the writer was desiring very much to get rid of the nuance in the gospels that Jesus is God, and that He came as both man and God.
I have read what you are talking about in the context of the whole understanding of the new testatment's teaching on Jesus' nature, and that has been helpful to me, broadening my view of the Lord and helping me to connect with Him as a real man, a very human man -- perhaps the quintessentially human man. And also to grasp something of His Jewishness, the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets. That's exhilarating.
But not at the expense of His divinity
Certainly not. We don't have to choose.
Sometimes I think our theological reflections cause us to miss what the text is saying. For example, attempting to be faithful to Chalcedon's insistence that his natures not be confused, we read the calming of the storm as proof of his divinity, and his death on the cross as proof of his humanity.
But I think scripture's point is the opposite. According to the evangelists, Christ was able to tame the storm because he was the second Adam; and according to Paul's letter to the Philippians, Christ's death on the cross was the reason that it was appropriate to give him the name that- according to Isaiah- is reserved for YHWH alone.
"Christ was able to tame the storm because he was the second Adam" To quote the Areopagus, I would like to hear more from you on this.
Unless you *like* your own FB comments you're not a true narcissist, you're a wannabe.
.... But there's only room for one narcissist around here and that spot already belongs to me.
So you all better remember. It's not all about you. It's about ME.
What happened to the bloggy fellow? Or did Phil step in on his behalf? Seems like it would be easier if he were willing to speak for himself.
It took a few days for him to be granted access, and someone -- Scott? -- mentioned that he's currently at a conference, so he may not have much time to play here.
What happened to the bloggy fellow? Or did Phil step in on his behalf? Seems like it would be easier if he were willing to speak for himself.
Never got to my number three yesterday, which is regarding his analysis of the text. I am clearly no expert on "narrative theology" and what it is intended to be. It purports to be something different, or more, than "biblical theology." And I do appreciate the attention to the text--and to its antecedents and references--and the unwillingness to "read into" it from extraneous sources.
I agree that in the synoptics in particular we have a central focus on the man Jesus Christ. I agree that the term "Son of God" arises from the OT as a title for the Davidic king. The "Son of Man" arises from Daniel and indicates a glorious personage, though I am not prepared to say that this is a non-divine person. Indeed he is introduced in Daniel as "one like a son of man." And he also has an "everlasting dominion."
Whether the Jewish scholars saw this personage as divine is not really the point. This is prophecy, and the full import of its meaning can be known only after fulfillment. The prophets themselves "inquir[ed] what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories." (1 Peter 1:11 ESV)
We do learn, with the coming of Christ, that He is God and He is man. Andrew asks about my "reading this back into the birth narratives." I deny that I am reading anything in. We know that it is true, that Christ is God incarnate. And this being true, was true at the annunciation. So if we are tempted to read nothing more in the angel's words than that Christ was to be an exalted (mere) human, we are going to be making a crucial mistake in our understanding of the angel's import.
Whatever one can say about the understanding of the term "Son of God" in the Judaism of that day, we also need to understand that Matthew was an apostle and walked with Jesus during His earthly ministry. We have no excuse for starting from the premise that he was a Christologically-naive writer. His exposition of Christ as God incarnate may be far more subtle than others, John in particular, but I think that it is there. And we are not justified in ignoring the indications, or attributing them to some kind of exalted mere human, just because we cannot fully make the case from Matthew alone.
If we suppose these works to be fiction we may--indeed must--isolate them from one another. To take a very mundane example, if in analyzing the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight series of films, I mix in some data from Tim Burton's Batman films, I am committing an error. Though these treat the same character, the creative universes are different. This is not what is happening between the synoptics and John. Everything that happened in the gospel of John did historically happen within the experience of Matthew, and he would be privy to all the same information as John. We must understand that Matthew knew Jesus to be God incarnate. Knowing that, he chose, not to ignore it, but to keep Christ's humanity at the forefront.
And this is very appropriate, because I agree that what Christ was doing, almost without exception (?) He did as human, human anointed with the Spirit of God. Thus, He was indeed the Second Person of the Trinity, but His works were done not directly in this capacity, but through the anointing with the Third Person of the Trinity. This is an astonishing thing, to be sure. And I agree with Phil that the calming of the storm and such demonstrated His being the perfect man, the Last Adam, all that man ought to be, in perfect obedience to the Father and effecting the Father's works through Human intermediary.
None of this negates in the least that He is also personally divine.
So, even though we might suppose a lesser meaning for the angel's words: "that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit." And the earlier narration "found to be with child from the Holy Spirit." From a writer who must have been fully cognisant of Christ's divinity, we cannot extract that sense from it (so far are we from reading it in.) Indeed, I think Matthew brings it to the front in his comment on Isaiah 7:14: "which means, God with us."
It is true that the OT refers to the Davidic king as God's son, but with the NT we see that this is prophetic, as is the Israelite kingship itself, and explodes with new meaning with the New Testament writings. It does reflect the king of Israel, but goes beyond this. Things are attributed to this "Son of God," and this "King of Israel" that would never be said of any mere human king. This is a Man unlike any man that had every lived.
That we have an understanding of the Trinity already, even before the later formulations, is evident in passages such as Christ's baptism in Matt. 3:16-17 in which the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are simultaneously manifest. The words from heaven indicate rather more than a mere exalted human.
If this were not clear, I cannot see how we can understand otherwise when we come to Matt. 28:
"baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19 ESV)
True, we do not have all the history of theological formulation here, but those arise in very large measure out of a true understanding of just what this phrase indicates to us. Here, clearly, is the "Son" listed as--literally--the second person, between one undisputably divine Person, the Father, and the very Spirit of God. To see in this phrase, God the Son, and not merely the exalted human son of God who is the anointed one, is I think the correct way to read this text.
In addition, we have statements from non-Jews, indeed non humans as to His being "Son of God." Satan's statements in chapter 4, the demons in Matt. 8:29.
At any rate, I think the data rather indicates the divinity of Christ is an underlying concept in the gospel of Matthew, though not the predominant emphasis. This is very different from finding it absent.