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The Incarnation

(Text as at 18/12/2010 19:58:05)

(For earlier versions of this Note, see the table at the end)

If I had become human, how would I have made it clear to everyone I was God?

This is interesting for a number of reasons. I’ve always found something rather odd about the bald “Jesus is God” approach (where the “is” is the “is” of identity), and I’m not sure the doctrine of the Trinity makes logical or metaphysical sense (after all, the doctrine was developed and made explicit in Aristotelian philosophical jargon that few philosophers would use for other purposes). John says “the Word” was God (OK), and the Word became flesh (OK – but what does this mean, what degree of accommodation to humanity is required … this has always been a matter of great dispute, and who the heretics are is not something we (in the absence of ecclesiastical authority) can say for certain). It’s Thomas who (appears to) make it explicit that Jesus is God, appearing to equate Jesus with both YHWH (“my Lord”) and Elohim (“my God”) - and presumably John shares this view, as no-one contradicts Thomas; there’s also the usual interpretation of the “I am” passages. But I’ve always thought that speculation on the constitution of the deity ought to have a big “keep out” sign attached to it, so worries on this count don’t feature highly on my list of concerns. This is just the sort of area one would expect to be confused about.

I would expect that some sort of miracles would be a necessary form of authentication, and I’m happy that these would be of the prophesied variety. (Sylvia agrees). What I’ve not been happy about is that the prophesies (to me) don’t seem to be in the Berean spirit (ie. if we “consider to whom spoken, … what goeth before and what commeth after, and all that, we’d accuse the NT writers of wrenching Scripture out of context). Which, of course, the Jews do accuse the NT writers of doing.

Islam, which denies Jesus deity though accepts him as a prophet and expects his return, has obviously phoney miracles attributed to Jesus (eg. Speaking in the cradle, converting model birds made from mud into living ones). Presumably these were “pious frauds” then current in the Christian community that Muhammad encountered. The Biblical miracles attributed to Jesus are on the whole much more plausible, in that they are useful and non-destructive (Sylvia agrees). The only odd one that immediately springs to mind is “Legion” – casting out demons into swine - though maybe if the thought of pigs as revoltingly unclean beasts came more readily to mind, it wouldn’t seem so odd.

There’s an interesting parallel between Islamic responses to Christian complaints (about alleged Scripture abuse) and Christian responses to Jewish complaints. Islam accuses both Christians and Jews of “adulterating the Scriptures” (where there is a disagreement between the Koran and the Bible). The early Christians adopted the same approach with respect to the Jews (ie. where a quotation seems a bit squiffy, “the original text” was in agreement). However, an extant (rather than conjecturally reconstructed) inerrant (or at least reliable) OT text was later seen as an important part of the authentication of Christian claims, so this line was dropped in favour of taking a “sensus plenior” approach – the OT text had a surface reading and also a deeper spiritual significance that the inspired NT writers could see. It seems to me that there’s a more natural interpretation. Popular Christianity in the 7th century was replete with nonsense, some of which Muhammad picked up and took as “Gospel”. Similarly, in the first century, pious Jews had lots a whacky exegetical techniques for reading issues of their own day into the Scriptures (the pesher approach (Wikipedia: Pesher)) and the NT writers followed suit.

Be all this as it may, I suppose the fundamental question is whether we should find Jesus’ miracles surprising. I’d say probably not (Sylvia agrees), though I’m glad that the fanciful ones (Jesus walking on a sunbeam, turning naughty children into pigs, or saying “I’m the Messiah, you know” from the cradle) didn’t find their way into the NT. Such miracles would be doubly implausible (ie. not just on general principles).

I suppose also, I might have been a bit more explicit – even if public announcements would have led to a prompt stoning, I might have explained maters in some detail to my inner circle, but Jesus just seems to have left clues (or what were taken to be clues when recollected later).

(Sylvia’s Response1)

Printable Versions:

Table of the Previous 3 Versions of this Note:

Date Length Title
31/08/2007 10:17:46 4367 The Incarnation
30/08/2007 21:20:10 3601 The Incarnation
28/08/2007 14:51:22 24 The Incarnation

Note last updated Reference for this Topic Parent Topic
18/12/2010 19:58:05 565 (The Incarnation) Thinking God's Thoughts After Him. T1

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The Incarnation. S1        

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