Jesus in the Apocalypse of John: Names

This post is part of an ongoing series examining the Christology of the Apocalypse of John.

Greek New Testament PageNew Testament Studies has long been concerned with understanding the theological implications of early Christian titles for Jesus.[1] Before examining the names applied to Jesus in the Apocalypse, a word of caution should be offered about these titles, for they are often “more strange and complicated than we assume they are.”[2] Yet the names given in Revelation are not so complicated that they are beyond providing insight into who early Christians perceived Jesus to be.[3] While much has been made about the names which are not applied to Jesus in Revelation—most notably his human titles, “Wisdom”, and “God”[4]—the concern here is with names John felt comfortable ascribing to Jesus and what those names indicate. Further, although there are a wide variety of titles utilized in Revelation—including “Son of God” (2:18), “beginning of God’s creation” (3:14), “the Amen” (3:14), “lion from the tribe of Judah, root of David” (5:5), and “Word [λόγος] of God” (19:13)[5]—this section examines four of Revelation’s most prominent designations: Son of Man, the Name, Alpha and Omega, and Lord (κύριος). Continue reading

Jesus in the Apocalypse of John: Four Views on Revelation

This post is part of an ongoing series examining the Christology of the Apocalypse of John.

RevelationAny interpretation of Revelation must, as a matter of primary hermeneutic importance, address the topic of how to deal with the whole of the Apocalypse of John. As demonstrated Steven Gregg’s masterful work, Revelation: Four Views, throughout Christian history there have been four major ways to read the Apocalypse:[1] the historicist, futurist, idealist (or spiritualist), and preterist views. Continue reading

Jesus in the Apocalypse of John: A Christological Lacuna

This post is part of an ongoing series examining the Christology of the Apocalypse of John.

God, Sistine ChapelWhile early Christological studies have rightly moved toward an “Early High” standard, the edges of this model remain underdeveloped, especially the Christology of the Apocalypse of John.[1] This tendency begins with Bousset’s effectively neglect of Revelation, an influence which has trickled down into contemporary examinations of early Christology. For example, Robert M. Grant’s classic treatment, The Early Christian Doctrine of God, only references Revelation three times in its entirety, each time in a footnote.[2] Gregory K. Beale’s voluminous tome, The Book of Revelation, also neglects a summary of Christology, despite the fact that numerous christological insights are noted in the commentary section.[3] Likewise, I. Howard Marshall relegates Revelation’s input to marginalia and footnotes.[4] Continue reading

Jesus in the Apocalypse of John: Introduction

JesusAfter nearly 2,000 years, the study of Christology—the study of the person, nature, and role of Jesus[1]—continues as a popular, relevant, and important realm of theological inquiry. Indeed, it would not be an overstatement to say that Christology forms the economic basis for all truly orthodox Christian theology.[2] Studies of the history of Christology—especially the Christology of the earliest followers of Jesus and those who composed the writings now included in the New Testament—have become particularly important in recent decades, as the streams of Roman Catholic ressourcement, Orthodox Ιερά Παράδοση, and Protestant ad fontes merge into greater emphasis on the early Church. Continue reading

Christology in “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”

Christian Worship“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is a popular Christmas hymn written by an anonymous Latin author in the twelfth century and translated into English in 1851 by John Mason Neale. The hymn contains nine verses, all of which contain statements about Christ. The name “Jesus” and title “Christ” do not actually appear in the hymn; however a plethora of other titles are used to refer to the coming to Israel. This is quite clearly a hymn of Advent and Christmas, as it is written as if in the distant past, reflecting an Old Testament view of things (as we shall see with the names and titles used below), a view that welcomes the coming of the messiah to Israel. The refrain, “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee , O Israel” demonstrates the position of Christ as coming savior of Israel, the messiah figure of the Old Testament prophets. Continue reading

Wilderness in the Apostolic Fathers

wilderness-of-judeaIn “The Wilderness Narrative in the Apostolic Fathers,” Clayton Jefford outlines the references to wilderness traditions and narratives set in Israel’s wilderness found in the writings of the Apostolic Fathers. His central contention is that the uncertainty of the ancient Israelite motif of wilderness wandering appealed little to non-Jewish, second-generation Christians who were more interested in identity formation than wilderness theology. Jefford begins by tracing three major New Testament associations with wilderness: 1) that true prophets receive revelation in a wilderness context; 2) that God’s self-revelation to Israel occurred in the wilderness; and 3) that the wilderness exists as a threatening presence. He then examines references to the wilderness in 1 Clement 43 and 53, arguing that both scenes are tied to the issue of “correct governance and civility within the structure of the church.” (162) Clement’s larger purposes, therefore, led him to visit these particular passages and draw on the example of Moses. Continue reading

God Made Man (Part II)

major-roman-cities-mapBetween the Council of Nicaea (325 AD) and the Council of Chalcedon (451 AD), many controversies erupted from the Alexandrian and Antiochene positions on the person of Christ.[16] The Council of Constantinople (381 AD) condemned the belief of Apollinarius that Christ only had one will, that of the divine.[17] While the Church believed that Christ had a divine will, there was too much scriptural and philosophical support for the position that Christ had a human will as well. How else can one explain Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane, “Not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42), and other verses that seem to indicate that Christ had a human will? For God to be the redeemer of man, He needed to include full humanity as Irenaeus and Tertullian had emphasized years before.[18] Continue reading

God Made Man (Part I)

jesus_catacombC. S. Lewis once said that if the incarnation happened, “it was the central event in the history of the earth.” What is the incarnation? And why has it been such an important area of theological consideration since the earliest days of Christianity? The term ‘incarnation’ may be defined as “a person who embodies in the flesh a deity, spirit, or quality.”[1] For the Christian tradition, the man who has been understood as deified has been Jesus of Nazareth; but the Christian claim of Jesus as God, not merely as one who embodied God, historically presented a plethora of questions to the early Christian theologians.

In determining what the incarnation means for Christians, the Early Church Fathers sought to determine more concerning the person Jesus. Maurice Wiles writes that “the heart of Christian faith is the person of Christ and what God has done in him.”[2] The orthodox Christian Church has always professed monotheism based upon the Jewish tradition and the scriptures.[3] Given this monotheistic belief however, the early Church viewed Jesus not as a simple messenger of God, but worshiped Him as the Son of God.[4] This is especially evident in the writing’s of Irenaeus, who refers to Jesus as “the Word, the Son of God.” [5] Continue reading

Book Review: Understanding the Times (Myers and Noebel)

Understanding the Times (Myers and Noebel)Every so often a book comes along and truly rewrites the paradigms of a field. Some twenty-five years ago, David Noebel penned such a book, titled Understanding the Times. In this 900-page tome Noebel outlined the clash between competing worldviews – ways of viewing and interpreting the world – which were occurring throughout in the late 20th century. The original edition of UTT was one of the most popular and influential books ever on culture and worldviews from a Christian perspective, transforming how many people understand the battle of ideas taking place in our times. But the contours of major worldviews have changed since 1991 and the world has changed along with them. To address this new worldviews context, Jeff Myers, in conjunction with David Noebel, undertook a substantial revision of Noebel’s classic work, now called Understanding the Times: A Survey of Competing Worldviews (Manitou Springs, CO: Summit Ministries and Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2015. 510pp.). Continue reading

Method and Historical Theology: Conclusions

This post is part of an ongoing series reflecting on the appropriate approach to and method for historical theology.

Method and Historical TheologyThe perspective I have been outlining in this series does not to suggest that those who are not Christians cannot participate in historical truth, but rather the acknowledgement that wherever truth may be found is belongs to the Creator. Accordingly, all truly valuable work—be it academic scholarship, gardening, blacksmithing, or preaching—must stand in accordance with theological truth and be governed by it. The oft repeated dictum that theology involves “faith seeking understanding” is vital for this type of endeavor, for it reminds us that, although we make claims to the truth, the Truth is ultimately beyond our human capacities to fully understand. Conclusions, then, are necessarily tentative in the sense that the full Truth will only someday be revealed to us. Christians live in the tension of “already” and “not yet,” that Christ has come, but that He will come again in glory. Continue reading