Jesus And Christ, Ctd
A reader writes:
Your reader says Paul is is "clear as anything you could want," but then he he cites only example from Paul. The same passage (Philippians 2) was cited by another reader, and I agree that the verses are likely to be some sort of early Christian hymn. However, I don't think it means what people want it to mean.
If one tried to discover a consistent position of the biblical authors (both Old and New Testaments) on the question of divinity, the closest would be the principle of "agency." God's earthly representatives were considered "God," not because they were actually God by nature, but because they were acting on his behalf. It is the point Jesus made when he was questioned about claiming to be God in John 10. We don't think that way today, but it was a rather typical way of looking at things when the bible was written.
Back to Philippians, here is a quote about the passage from scholar William M. Wachtel:
"It suggests that Christ as a Man on earth was functioning in the status, rank, or position of God. Amazing thought! But there had been a famous historical precedent for this. When God called Moses to be his agent to bring Israel out of Egypt, he told him, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet” (Exo. 7:1). The Hebrew text is even more startling, because the word “like” is not there at all. Rather, God declares to Moses, “I have given you [to be] Elohim to Pharaoh.” Earlier, God had said that Moses would be “Elohim” to Aaron (4:16). This means that Moses functioned in some ways as though he were God on earth; he was the appointed leader to act for God and as possessing the authority God had conferred on him by designating him to bear Yahweh’s own title, Elohim!"
Those who claim that worshipping Jesus as a member of the Godhead went back to the first Christians also have to account for Jesus' brother James, who was the head of the earliest Jesus movement according to a host of non-Canonical and biblical sources. James was a respected Jewish figure and leading figure in the Jerusalem temple for several decades at the same time he was leader of the early church. His murder caused the Jews to send a delegation to Rome in protest.
If James had been a Trinitarian, there isn't the slightest chance that he would have been able to co-exist peacefully within the temple.
(Painting: The Baptism of Jesus by Fra Angelico.)