Skip to main content

Christ but not Jesus?

In response to an earlier post on Christian preaching of the Old Testament Bob MacDonald makes the intriguing suggestion that perhaps not all NT references to Christ refer exclusively to Jesus.  I have to be honest I find this highly problematic on a number of fronts, but wasn't sure which particular texts Bob might have in mind.  When pressed he suggests Col 1:24, "in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is the church."  To me the reference to "affliction" (θλῖψις) unmistakably invokes Jesus' passion.  In the gospels this word is usually used of eschatalogical tribulation, not Jesus' suffering per se, but in Paul's letters it is mainly used to talk about suffering caused by external circumstances, e.g. Rom 5:3, 1 Cor 7:28, 1 Thess 1:6.  Not only that but in Colossians it is a particular suffering for Christ's body the church.  (This idea of the church as Christ's body frequently causes confusion, but it is simply a possesive genitive, the body corporate that belongs to Christ.)  Now in Paul's thinking who suffered for the sake of the church's salvation? Was it a nebulous formless cosmic "Christ" or was it the human Jesus, the Christ, who suffered and died "in his fleshly body . . . so as to present [the church] holy and blameless and irreproachable before him."(Col 1:23)? 

Now none of this solves the problem of what Paul finds lacking in Christ's sufferings, or how his suffering helps complete it, but that is a topic for another post.  Suffice to say I'm not convinved that the NT ever talks about Christ with out exclusively intending to denote Jesus.


  1. you make a good lexical point. I look forward to your thoughts on the other problems...
    "None of thsi solves the problem of what Paul finds lacking in Christ's sufferings..."

  2. nebulous and formless - reminds me of tohu vebohu which is where we read that the Spirit of God broods. Perhaps when we say 'Christ' or 'truths' about Christ in our various confessions, we fail to remember how 'God is Spirit' - and thus fail to see how it is 'the Anointing' that makes us in God's image. It is not a nebulous and formless Christ - but a nebulous and formless us which is the subject of the specific brooding of this Spirit.

  3. Thanks Justin and Bob.
    @ Bob, yes but even the Spirit finds concrete form as the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of the slain and resurrected historical messiah of God's people. I For Paul the concrete realisation of the Spirit's presence (e.g. Gal 5, 1 Cor 12-14, Rom 12-14) is really not something that is fuzzy and vague but hard evidence of Christ's redeeming work.

  4. Jonathon - 'yes but' is a response I recognize. It shows a failure to listen - hear O Israel the Lord our God, the Lord is one. - the hearing is the hard part.

  5. Tov - ani zaqen - pardon my being so blunt. I am not in search of answers as much as I want to refine the questions. My perception is that no one has the 'answer' right - or we would not be so at each other's throats.

    Generic citations of whole chapters of Paul are not helpful. I will continue to think of the issues over the next 6 months. I am still immersed in TNK - but today I visited some Christian shrines in Israel at En Kerem - so perhaps I am being called back into some NT work.

  6. Sorry Bob, I thought you wanted to discuss the issue, I didn't realise that you weren't interested in evidence. My mistake.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Sorry about this - clearly a false start - and no finish possible in a short time. - I cannot pursue this further at the moment.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Why Dr Charles Stanley is not a biblical preacher

Unusually for me I was watching the tele early on Sunday morning and I caught an episode of Dr Charles Stanley preaching on his television program. Now I know this guy has come under some criticism for his personal life, and that is not unimportant, but it is also not something i can comment on, not knowing the facts. His preaching is however something I can comment on, at least the one sermon I did watch.

He started off by reading 2 Timothy 1:3-7. Which is a passage from the Bible, so far so good. He then spent the next 30 minutes or so talking about his mum and what a great example of a Christian mother she was. Now nothing he said or suggested was wrong, but none of it actually came from scripture, least of all the scripture he read from at the beginning. It was a lovely talk on how Stanley's mother raised him as a Christian despite considerable difficulties and it contained many useful nuggets of advice on raising Christian kids. All very nice, it might have made a nice…

The false link between suicide and mental illness

One characteristic of human society is the tendency to keep doing something over and over again despite it not working. One example would be our approach to incarcerating criminals to punish them instead of rehabilitating them, compounding their trauma and making it harder for them to live productive law-abiding lives when they get out. But this is the "common-sense" approach, the intuitive human response to the failings of others, punish them and they wont dare do it again. It has never worked, ever, but let's keep doing it. Secular society is screwed because it cannot comprehend that its vision is blurred by sin and therefore knee-jerk, common sense solutions are usually destructive and counter-productive.

So it is with our response to suicide. To kill yourself must be the response of the weak minded and sick - so the thinking goes - so to combat rising suicide we treat individuals medically. Yet suicide is a perfectly rational response to a world as broken as ours and…

The Addictive Power of End Times Speculation

The mighty Rhett Snell has picked up his blog again (I wonder how long he'll last this time), check out his theory on why people get so into annoyingly unbiblical end times nonsense.

I think that where codes-and-calendars end times theology is dangerous, is that it can give a sense of false growth. We read a theory online, or hear it from some bible teacher, and we come to think that we have mastered an area of our faith. A bit like levelling up in a computer game, or Popeye after he’s eaten some spinach. At worst, we begin to believe that we’ve taken a step that other Christians have not; that we’ve entered an elite class of Christianity.