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though slain, is yet King of kings, and Lord of lords, and as the Word of God.
And as Philo had said of “the Word,” that he is the "first begotten Son of God," and "the likeness of God, by which the universe was created," so, in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Colossians, verses 15, 16, the Son “is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation, for in him were all things created.”
Now, doubtless, there were many churches in Asia Minor and elsewhere whose members were taught to regard as genuine and apostolic the Epistles known as Paul's, or most of them, and of these members some would be most attracted by one portion of the Pauline doctrine, and some by another; and when the controversy respecting the Jewish law had died out, it would come to be believed by all as a matter of course, that Paul had always been in accord with the other apostles. Pfleiderer thinks the Acts was certainly written by a Pauline Christian who thus believed. Among these Churches there would be a minority of Hebrew parentage (Hellenist Jews), who were doctrinally assimilated to the Church in which they and their parents had been reared.
Let us, then, fix our attention on one of these Christians of Hebrew parentage (say of Asia Minor, for example), taught to regard as apostolic and worthy of great reverence (though not as Holy Scripture, for only the Old Testament was, in the early years of the second century, so regarded) the Epistles published as Paul's, whether genuine or not; also the Epistle to the Hebrews, and likewise the Apocalypse.
He has not only been educated in Pauline Christianity, but without any knowledge of an antagonism between it and the Judaic Christianism of the older Apostles.
He has not "known (Jesus) after the flesh," but has always been trained to regard him as the Christ; as a spiritual Lord; as quite a superhuman being, higher than all angels; as having existed in heaven before his birth on earth ; as having existed, indeed, before all other created things and beings; as having been present at the creation, God having, by him, made the worlds.
The mind of this our Pauline Christian of Hebrew extraction is of no common order. He is studious, thoughtful, and of a philosophic tendency; he may even have studied Plato; he is perhaps likely to have studied Philo, though, to have produced the fourth Gospel, it is surely sufficient that he should have well known the Old Testament and the already written Christian writings; he is almost certain to have read the book of Wisdom ;-but, of course, his chief studies have been in the Canonical Scriptures, which were to Paul, as well as to the Jew-Christians, the great fount of divine wisdom.
Having been taught, then, that God created all things by Christ Jesus, does he regard the Scriptures as, by implication, denying this when he reads,*
Ps. xxxiii. 6.
“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made”? Nay, but he regards it as a full confirmation, since he has learnt from John * that the Christ, the Son of God, is also his Word.
And when he reads in Prov. iii. 19 that “The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth ; by understanding hath he established the heavens," he stumbleth not, for he has already learned from Paul that Christ is both the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Hence, whatever wondrous things are spoken of "the Word of God," or of the Divine Wisdom, are regarded by our philosophizing Christian as predicated also of the Son. Thus, in Prov. viii. 22–30, where Wisdom personified says of herself, “ The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.
.. When he prepared the heavens, I was there . . . when he appointed
... the foundations of the earth : then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.” All this, then, is true of the Incarnate Wisdom, the Word, the Logos.
So likewise that grand description in the book of Wisdom:I“For Wisdom ... is the worker of all things
having all power. ... she passeth and goeth through all things by reason of her pureness. For she is the breath of the power of God, a pure influence flowing from the glory of the Almighty ... for she is the brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted * Rev. xix. 13. * i Cor. i. 24.
Wisd. vii. 22-27.
mirror of the power of God, and the image of his goodness. And being but one, she can do all things; ... she maketh all things new : and in all ages entering into holy souls, she maketh them friends of God, and prophets."
Hence it is this Wisdom, the Son of God, by whom men come to God, for not only by wisdom do “kings reign and princes decree justice," but as “there is a spirit in man and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth him understanding,” so the Son, therefore, is that light that lighteth every man coming into the world. *
Our inheritor of Paul's Christology, then, feeding on the ideas above expressed, and revolving them in his mind, finds that he firmly holds as truth revealed from God that the Christ is divine in essence, and not human merely, for before he appeared on earth, yea, even in the very beginning of things, before the earth was, he proceeded forth and came from God.
And whether or not our “ Christian Philosopher ” was acquainted with the works of Philo, and read there that the “Word” is “a second God,” who “may be called God of us imperfect beings,” he will probably, with the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, acknowledge that the “God” who in the forty-fifth Psalm is spoken of as, for his love of righteousness, exalted above his fellows, is no other than the Christ, and that, therefore, the title “God” may, though of course in a subordinate sense, be applied to him.
John i. 9.
For if even the Scripture, “which cannot be broken,” calls them gods to whom the Word of God came, how much more worthy of the name is he whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world ? *
And so, with or without the works of Philo, from the Hebrew Scriptures and the apostolic writings, our Pauline Christian, even by the close of the first quarter of the second century of our era, might well have attained to a Christology which he could tersely express thus: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ... All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that hath been made. . . . And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth.”
For some others, who held a similar opinion of the identity of the Christ with the Logos, held also that the manifestation in the flesh was not real, that the Christ became incarnate only in appearance, consequently that the death of Jesus on the cross was only a semblance; and we may presume they deemed themselves followers of Paul notwithstanding, as they could still reckon themselves crucified with Christ, buried with him (in baptism) and risen again in spirit to newness of life ; and the identification of the believer with Christ might seem to these persons (the Docetists)
* See John x. 34-36, quoting Ps. Ixxxii. 6, “I have said, Ye are gods,” etc.