Does Jesus Claim to be the Messiah?

Here is a 5 minute video with Dr.s Walter Kaiser, Michael Brown, and Darrell Bock (all contributors to The Gospel According to Isaiah 53) discussing whether Jesus claimed to be the Messiah foretold in Isaiah 53.

About the book:

Publisher’s Description: The Gospel According to Isaiah 53 presents the redemptive work of the Messiah to the Jewish community, exploring issues of atonement and redemption in light of Isaiah chapter 53. It is clear that Jesus fulfills the specifications of the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. This book has many potential uses in its presentation of the gospel for Jewish people. Pastors who study it will find unparalleled help in preparing Bible studies and sermons, so that their listeners will become better equipped to tell Jewish people about Jesus. It will be beneficial as supplemental reading for classes on Isaiah, the Prophets, and Jewish evangelism. And believers will be trained to share Isaiah 53 with Jewish friends and family.

Jesus the “Prize-fighter”?

I know some who read my blog don’t care for pastor-scholar Greg Boyd (who I don’t always agree with though I’d like to meet some time) – but he has a recent post confronting Mark Driscoll’s view of Jesus as a violent (and I imagine UFC type) “prize fighter.”  Boyd notes Discoll’s comments were from “a few years ago” so I don’t know if Driscoll has changed his perspective (probably not?) but he is quoted as having stated the following:

“In Revelation, Jesus is a prize-fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is the guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.” (You can find the original interview here). 

Well, now.  So Jesus is the lead fighter for the UFC franchise?  🙂  Along with Boyd, I am not surprised Driscoll has this perception of our Lord Jesus Christ – Driscoll wants to be a man’s man an seems to consistently present the need for men to be tough guys wild at heart who go out to conquer life (and a spouse) and get good jobs and have lots of kids, and consistently puts down other images of how Jesus might be portrayed and puts down men who do not or may not be able to live up to his standards of manhood. 

Frankly, this perception of Jesus by Driscoll it is a blantant text book case of imposing, if not transposing, one’s own personal  theology and cultural ideology on to the biblical text.  I cannot say that Boyd is not doing the same with is own pacafism but I find what Boyd is presenting significantly closer to the biblical presentation of Jesus than what Driscoll puts forth.  This isn’t to say that Driscoll isn’t a good pastor or Bible teacher or anything like that.  I just happen to think how he presents it is going the wrong direction. 

Pastor Boyd writes:

I frankly have trouble understanding how a follower of Jesus could find himself unable to worship a guy he could “beat up” when he already crucified him. I also fail to see what is so worshipful about someone carrying a sword with “a commitment make someone bleed.”  But this aside, I’m not at all surprised Driscoll believes the book of Revelation portrays Jesus as a “prize fighter.”  This violent picture of Jesus, rooted in a literalistic interpretation of Revelation, is very common among conservative Christians, made especially popular by the remarkably violent Left Behind series…..

The most unfortunate aspect of this misreading, as Driscoll’s comment graphically reveals, is that the “prize fighter” portrait of Jesus easily subverts the Jesus of the Gospels who out of love chooses to die for enemies rather than use his power against them and who commands his followers to do the same (see e.g. Mt 5:43-45; Lk 6:27-36)…..

The more significant point Boyd makes that I wanted to highlight here is this one (the bold is my emphasis of the important point being made:

At any rate, if we interpret Revelation according to its genre and in its original historical context, and if we pay close attention to the ingenious way John uses traditional symbolism, it becomes clear that John is taking traditional Old Testament and Apocalyptic violent imagery and turning it on its head.  Yes, there is an aggressive war, and yes there is bloodshed. But its a war in which the Lamb and his followers are victorious because they fight the devil and Babylon (representing all  governmental systems) by faithfully laying down their lives for the sake of truth (”the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony”), not by being “prize fighters” with “a commitment to make someone bleed.”

That’s the whole thing about following Jesus isn’t it?   He takes so many things in our world and in our lives and turns them up side down – up is down, down is up, leading is serving; instead of hating show love; instead of holding grudges, forgive; instead of agression, submit and so on.  A life of discipleship to Jesus is downward path not an upward one – it is a life of serving others and sacrificial living not asserting the self and so on. 

Well, the post is a good read and has a good list of books on the Revelation to add to your Amazon wish list for future reference!

HT: Dave Black

T. F. Torrance on John 1:14

From his Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ (IVP, 2008), 61:

(ii) The meaning of ‘flesh’

“The Word was made flesh’ – but what is meant by flesh? John means that the Word fully participates in human nature and existence, for he became man in becoming flesh, true man and real man.  He was so truly man in the midst of mankind that it was not easy to recognize him as other than man or to distinguish him from other men.  He came to his own and his own received him not.  He became a particular man, Jesus, who stands among other men unsurpassed but unrecognized.  That is the way he became flesh, by becoming one particular man.  And yet this is the creator of all mankind, now himself become a man.

He has a lot more to say about John 1:14, and it is heavy! You might want to get the book!  😉

my top books of 2009

since its the end of the year and we all like to and try to read as much as we can here are the one ones I read that had an impact on my in different ways.  please know too that beacause I am a pastor my reading will not be limited specifically to biblical studies or theology. 

Eugene Peterson’s Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness (Eerdmans, 1994). 

David Alan Black’s Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek: A Survey of Basic Concepts and Applications, 2nd ed (Baker Academic, 2000). 

Howard Snyder’s The Community of the King, Revised Ed. (IVP, 2004).

Micheal Wittmer’s Heaven is a Place on Earth: Why Everything you do Matters to God (Zondervan, 2004). 

Jerry Cook and Stanley Baldwin’s Love, Forgiveness, Acceptance: Equipping the Chruch to be Truly Christian in a Non-Christian World (Regal Books, 1979) (reprinted, 2009). 

Anderw Purves’s Reconstructing Pastoral Theology: A Christological Foundation (WJK, 2004). 

T. F. Torrance’s Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ (IVP: 2008).

Tony Merida, Faithful Preaching: Declaring Scripture with Responsibility, Passion, and Authenticity (B&H Academic, 2009).

T. F. Torrance on the task of Christology

Beginning in chapter one of his book Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ (pages 1-2) it reads:

christ31Our task in christology is to yield the obedience of our mind to what is given, which is God’s self revelation in its objective reality, Jesus Christ.  A primary and basic fact which we discover here is this: that the object of our knowledge gives itself to us to be apprehended.  It does that within our mundane exisitence, within our worldly history and all its contingency, but it does that also beyond the limits of previous expereince and ordinary thought, beyond the range of what is regarded by human standards as empirically possible.  Thus, when we encounter God in Jesus Christ, the truth comes to us in its own authority and self sufficiency.  It comes into our experience and into the midst of our knowlege as a novum, a new reality which we cannot incorporate into the series of other objects, or simply assimilate to what we already know….

And yet Jesus Christ gives himself to be known as the object of our experience and knowledge, within our history and within our human existence – but when we know him there, we know him in terms of himself.  We know him out of pure grace as one who gives himself to us and freely discloses himself to us.  We cannot earn knowledge of Christ, we cannot achieve it, or build up to it.  We have no capacity or power in ourselves giving us the ability to have mastery over this fact.  In the very act of our knowing Christ he is the master, we are the mastered.  He manifests himself and gives himself to us by his own power and agency, by his Holy Spirit, and in the very act of knowing him we ascribe all the possiblity of our knowing him to Christ alone, and none of it to ourselves.

But let us note: it is only when we actually know Christ, know him as our personal saviour and Lord, that we know that we have not chosen him but that he has chosen us; that it is not in virtue of our own capacity to give ourselves the power to know him; that it is not in virtue of our own power or our own capacity that he gives us to know him, but in virtue of his power to reveal himself to us and to enable us to know him; that is, faith itself is the gift of God.  Or let me put that in another way; when we know God in Christ, we do not congratulate ourselves on our own powers of intuition or discovery, and pat ourselves on the back because we have been able to see that there is more in Jesus than meets the eye, that God is there himself.  No, we do the exact opposite: we acknowledge that in knowing God in Christ, we do so not by our own power, but by the power of God.

C.S. Lewis on the Divinity of Christ

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a good moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic-on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg-or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great moral teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” 

C. S. Lewis – Mere Christianity

The blood of Jesus explained

Be forewarned: not all will agree with what follows.

So one may hear this term a lot or one like it: the blood of Jesus, the blood of Christ, the shed blood of Jesus, the blood, etc.  What does this term mean?  What is it’s significance? Does it mean he bled like one does after cutting one’s finger?  Is that all he had to do to redeem mankind form sin?  Cut his finger and shed a little blood? 

Here is what I shared in my recent sermon on the blood of Jesus:

What do we mean by the shed blood of Jesus?  While he did bleed and shed blood was needed for the forgiveness of sins, the term “the blood of Jesus” is a reference to the violent sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross for the sins of humanity (that’s you and me and everybody else).  It is not the blood itself that saves because Jesus had normal human blood as we all do.  There is no magical power in the blood itself but rather it plays a symbolic role in that by Jesus shedding his blood, as a sinless man, through his violent sacrificial death on the cross, so that the wrath of God towards sin and sinful man is both averted and the penalty for our sin is wiped out.  We are set free from sin and its hold on our lives, our sins are forgiven, we are reconciled to God and given access to him because of the blood of Christ, or his death on the cross.  

It can be a challenging topic to talk about but In the Bible, Blood plays a significant role throughout both the Old and New Testaments and in the life of God’s people.  From Genesis chapter 3 on, blood is shed because of sin.  Because life is in the blood – when life is taken blood is required to make restitution for the life taken.  Blood is used to establish a covenant between God and man.  In this case it becomes the blood of the covenant.  In Leviticus 14 God ordained that blood be used for ritual cleansing.  Blood is used to purify parts of the tabernacle in the book of Exodus to designate them holy to the Lord.  Blood is required for the payment of sin – in a sin offering an animal’s blood is shed and it is offered up as a sacrifice.  In this sense the life of the animal is offered up in substitution for the person making the sacrifice.  When blood is shed it does not mean simply cutting a hand so one bleeds.  When blood is shed it often refers to a violent death or taking of life.   Blood is needed to pay for sin.  It’s either our blood or the blood of another, usually an animal.  In Old Testament times, animal sacrifices were sufficient for a person’s sin offering.  But in the New Testament, we find out that in reality, it was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.  Our own blood was needed to pay for our own sins but we could not do that and God knew it.  So, Jesus Christ came to give his life in our place so that we might live. 

Thank God for the shed blood of Jesus on the cross!  

New Books

The final two books from my Amazon gift card came in the mail – well they came Saturday but I had to wait until now to get them!  It was a long rough weekend!

Rob Bowman and Ed Komoszewski. Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ.  Kregel Publications, 2007. 

Abraham Heschel.  The Prophets.  Hendrickson Publishers, two volumes in one, first Hendrickson Publication, 2007

They look like they are going to be good reads!  

New Book: Aspects of the Atonement

Well the first of books I selected for my birthday Amazon gift card arrived today.  

I. Howard Marshall’s Aspects of the Atonement: Cross and Resurrection in the Reconciling of God and Humanity. Authentic Media, 2007, Paternoster, 2008. 137 pages. 

Product Description

The Christian understanding of the meaning of the death of Jesus Christ and its relationship to the salvation of sinful humanity is currently the subject of intense debate and criticism. In the first two chapters Howard Marshall discusses the nature of the human plight in relation to the judgment of God and then offers a nuanced defense of the doctrine of the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ for sinners. The third chapter examines the place of the resurrection of Christ as an integral part of the process whereby sinners are put in the right with God. In the final chapter Marshall argues that in our communication of the gospel today the New Testament concept of reconciliation may be the most comprehensive and apt expression of the lasting significance of the death of Christ. The papers are expanded versions of the 2006 series of Chuen King Lectures given in the Chinese University of Hong Kong.  (bold italics mine)

I know there was a flurry of debate in the last year (or so) on the blogshpere and among bibliobloggers over various aspects of the Atonement with most folks critiquing the long held Penal-Substitutionary-Atonement (PSA) theory, which many are abandoning (or have long since abandoned) for the currently more popular Christus Victor (CV) theory of the Atonement.  As I understand it, the Bishop of Durham has lead the way in this new exodus.  

I decided to get Marshall’s book so I could learn from a premier NT scholar on the Atonement and see what I can learn from it.  It is a thin book (137 pages-Amazon is wrong on this) so it should not take too long to read and I trust it will be a blessing. 

The Chapters are as follows: 

  1. The Penalty of Sin – this chapter discusses issues of judgement, wrath, and punishment interating with Henri Blocher and Alan Mann.  He also confronts Steve Chalke’s claims of “cosmic child abuse.”
  2. The Substitutionary Death of Jesus – this chapter discusses the nature of the atonement and interacts with P. T. Forsyth.  
  3. “Raised for our Justification” – this chapter discusses the place of (and theology of) the resurrection in the atonement seeking to contribute to this infrequently discussed but important topic interacting with Richard Gaffin and M. D. Hooker.
  4. Reconciliation: It’s Centrality and Relevance – this chapter discusses the issue of reconciliation in light of the atonement interacting with Peter Stuhlmacher and Ralph P. Martin.  

I really look forward to the read and will review as able.  

Book Review: The Way of Jesus Christ

Moltmann, Jürgen. The Way of Jesus Christ: Christology in Messianic Dimensions. Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1993. 388 pgs.

The Way of Jesus Christ is a highly creative theological work by German scholar and theologian Jürgen Moltmann. In this work Moltmann seeks to present a messianic Christology that reflects a messianic faith. Additionally, he seeks to highlight the links between Judaism and Christianity from that perspective. At the same time, Moltmann blends in perspectives taken from Liberation and Feminists theologies with a few twists of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox thought. All this blended together creates what Moltmann believes is an effective interpretation of the person and work of Jesus Christ.

There are many issues to consider in Moltmann’s book. Early in the work, Moltmann expresses concerns regarding the nature of such creeds as Nicaea and Chalcedon. It seems that he respects the decisions of these councils but wants to somehow move beyond them. The title chosen for the work `The Way of Jesus Christ’ elicits how he wants to portray Christ; “This shows that I am trying to think of Christ no longer statically, as one person in two natures or as a historical personality. I am trying to grasp him dynamically, in the forward movement of God’s history with the world. What I wanted was not an eternal Christology for heaven, but a Christology for men and women who are on the way in the conflicts of history” (xii).

For the traditionalist, this may seem at first a bit threatening but the reader should be careful not to miss the broader issues Moltmann is discussing. In essence, he is seeking “a new interpretation of Christ which will be relevant for the present day” (xv). For Moltmann, this new interpretation seems to lie in an “eschatological framework of messianic hope and apocalyptic expectations” (xv). Because the subject can be complex he breaks it up by presenting what he sees as “the historical mission of Christ in the framework of the messianic hope in history; the sufferings of Christ against the horizon of apocalyptic expectation; and the resurrection of Christ in the light of eschatological vision of the new creation of all things” (xv).

In the first chapter, Moltmann discusses messianic perspectives from Jewish and Christian points of view. In discussing Jesus as the Messiah he notes Judaism’s inability to accept Jesus as messiah due to its understanding of redemption. Quoting Martin Buber, “We know more deeply, more truly, that world history has not been turned upside down to its very foundations; that the world has not yet been redeemed. We sense its unredeemedness” (28). The Jewish people see redemption as the perfecting of creation and the ultimate fulfillment of the kingdom of God. Thus, for the Jews, when Messiah comes the world will be redeemed (29). Yet, Christians believe redemption is taking place in the spiritual realm and in what is invisible; that is, in the hearts of people. In an attempt to bring the two faiths together, Moltmann wants to recapture Jesus as messiah in an “eschatologically anticipatory and provisional way” (32-33) that reflects the whole of God’s salvation both visibly and invisibly.

In discussing `the messianic mission of Christ,’ (73) Moltmann presents some challenging views on the person of Jesus Christ. To understand these views it helps to keep in mind that Moltmann sees Christology as being found not in theological reflection per se, but rather in what he calls “Christo-praxis” (41). “Christo-praxis” is type of Christian ethic that involves a life of discipleship in which people learn who Jesus is through living with and among the poor, sick and oppressed (43). For Moltmann, the mission of Christ is a social mission (100). Jesus came “to bring good news to the poor; to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor” (Isa. 61:1-2). A life of discipleship according to Moltmann will reflect the life of Christ.

It seems then in light of Christo-praxis, Moltmann is not seeking to deal with issues surrounding the two natures of Christ, but rather issues surrounding why Christ came and what he set out to accomplish as Israel’s Messiah. Whereas the traditionalist sees importance in the historicity of the major events of Christ’s life such his virgin birth and resurrection from the dead, Moltmann seems more interested in seeking the higher meaning of these events in the light of the Jesus’ messianic mission.

In considering the virgin birth Moltmann does not see it “as one of the pillars that sustains the New Testament faith in Christ” (79). Instead, Moltmann believes the importance of the virgin birth narratives lie not in the biological facts but in the confession of Jesus as messianic Son of God and “to point at the very beginning of his life to the divine origin of his person” (82). Thus, the overall purpose of the accounts of the virgin birth of Christ is not the historicity of the event but rather to show that Jesus is the divine Son of God and that in Jesus’ becoming human the whole of humanity will be healed (85).

In considering the resurrection, Moltmann is less concerned with the historicity of the event and more concerned with its theological implications. Moltmann asserts the event of Christ’s resurrection from the tomb is not historically ascertainable because there are no witnesses of him leaving the tomb (243). Moltmann interprets the resurrection as an eschatological event that represents the “creative act of God” (241) in restoring the creation to its original state. In placing hope in the resurrection one is placing hope in the future act of God in overcoming the problem of death in the world and the hope of a new creation in which death and mortality will be vanquished (214), and in the perspective of Judaism all things will be made new and the world will finally be redeemed.

There are many strong points in Moltmann’s work `The Way of Jesus Christ.’ However, there are weak points as well. For the traditionalist, the weak points lie in the unwillingness of Moltmann to anchor his theology in the historicity of the major events of Christ’s life, e.g. the virgin birth, healings and miracles, and the resurrection. Moltmann’s theology could be more readily welcomed, if from the start, he noted the presuppositions and intentions of his work. If one pays attention, it seems he is not concerned with historicity but with relevancy. But the danger with relevancy is that without historicity there is no solid ground on which to base one’s theology, particularly Christology.

The strengths of Motlmann’s theology lie in his highly creative blending of various theological viewpoints to come up with an effective and relevant theology on the person and work of Christ. By choosing not to begin with the framework the Nicaean or Chalcedonian creeds, but moving forward from them, he is forcing the traditionalist and liberal Christian alike to “think outside the box” in terms of what it means to be a Christian in today’s post-modern, post-Christian world. His emphasis on the need for Christology to be reflected in “praxis” and discipleship highlights the need for Christians to come down from their intellectual platforms and get their hands dirty by making the gospel relevant and practical in the modern world. While controversial in many respects, Moltmann’s work provides many challenges to the Church and will remain relevant for years to come.