Christian Humanist Profiles 56: Paul’s Divine Christology

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In the early second century, Pliny, the governor of the Roman province of Pontus and Bithynia, wrote a letter to his emperor, Trajan, about Christians who “were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a deity.” But when did early Christians begin to believe in the deity of Jesus Christ? For Orthodox Christians, this is the apostolic faith delivered to the saints; for modern critics, it is the faith developed by the saints, the end-result of generations of theologizing, having little to do with the original meaning of the apostolic New Testament writings. On one matter, the Orthodox and critics today agree, at least in common practice: that the debate over Christ’s deity is mainly fought on the narrow ground a handful of New Testament texts—passages like the Gospel of John’s prologue or the paeans to Christ in Colossians 1 and Philippians 2. Chris Tilling argues that this focus is too narrow: that, in fact, some of the earliest writings of the New Testament canon, the Pauline epistles, reveal throughout Paul’s firm belief in Christ’s deity in the ways he talks about the Christian believers’ relationship to their Lord, Jesus Christ. In this episode of Christian Humanist Profiles, David Grubbs interviews Dr. Chris Tilling, Senior Lecturer in New Testament Studies at St. Mellitus College in London and visiting lecturer at King’s College London and author of Paul’s Divine Christology (Eerdmans, 2015).

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