Monday, March 05, 2007

LEARNING TO QUESTION

I have become seriously interested in Biblical scholarship since my sophomore year of college. I've had the amazing blessing of studying under one of the top New Testament scholars in the country. But what's so great about Biblical scholarship is the inclination to question the scriptures, while still holding them to be authoritative.

Many people are scare of questions - many are scared of the potential answers. I used to be scared of these answers myself, until I was forced to answer the questions, and then I found my faith had changed and had grown - not diminished. A different faith is not a worse faith.

I have a different faith from when I began dipping into the historical-critical research of the Bible. And this is not a bad thing; I believe my faith is strong because of my Biblical research and studies. Still, some writing of historical-critical questions as "liberal."

If understanding the Bible the way its writers intended means that I'm 'liberal,' so be it.

So, I've been researching the concept of "Son of God" in the NT. "Son of God" usually means king. This is no doubt how it is meant in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus is seen as the Messiah (the one who is sent my God to inaugurate his plan on the earth), and the ideal King (son of David = Son of God).

In Matthew's Gospel, Son of God means a king. Kings were thought to have a special channel to God - it's the whole rule by divine right thing. Kings were God's representatives on the earth. This is how Jesus is seen - as Son of God.

Of course this leads to the question of whether or not Jesus, then, was the physical Son of God, as most Christians would contend. This is not a dangerous question; but a serious one. Christians have struggled with this since the dawn of Christianity. Mainstream Christianity has settled on a Trinitarian doctrine that includes an understanding of Jesus as the physical Son of God. But this isn't the meaning of the title Son of God in Matthew.

So, are we taking our understanding of Jesus from scripture? Or are we just believing what we've been told?

Let's look at John's gospel for a further answer. John clearly understands Jesus to be God incarnate. He understands Jesus to be literally God in the flesh. Mainstream Christian understanding of Jesus in the Trinity is consistent with John's view of Jesus.

So, do these two view contradict each other? Not exactly; here's why... Matthew, the "Jewish" gospel, cannot have an understanding of God as procreative because of its blasphemous nature. Blasphemy, after all, was the crime that Jesus was brought to trail on. Matthew, very delicately, handles Jesus' relationship to God as Father. But YHWH incarnate? Matthew doesn't go as far as John because of the potential blasphemous nature of such claims. I believe this is done out of respect for YHWH, not fear of prosecution, however.

The two do not contradict each other; they just have a different understanding of Jesus. Matthew sees Jesus in terms of the ideal King (Son of God). John sees Jesus in terms of God incarnate. Neither is wrong; both are right.

There is a Biblical basis for the traditional Christian belief of Jesus as God incarnate.

But we have also learned that we cannot use "Son of God" in Matthew to defend a belief that Jesus was the literal, physical son of God. To do so would miss the mark of the writer's point.

Learning to question is not a bad thing; it furthers our understanding of scripture and we pick up on what the writers of the Bible originally meant.

3 comments:

tony said...

sounds like you did your research!

Allen said...

I think it's obvious Cruz... "Son of God" means the son of God... duh...

haha

Anonymous said...

are you saying that Matthew doesn't believe that Jesus is the physical son of God or are you saying that he chooses not to put that characteristic up front because he was trying to respect his Jewish audience? Because there is a big difference isn't there? Couldn't Matthew just be highlighting a characteristic of Jesus, His Perfect Kingship, versus saying that he is NOT God's son but a King, or one with direct line to God... cause that would be a big difference to me... your "traditional" friend, Hicks