Wednesday, July 26, 2017


The priesthood and Mass founded on a High Christology:

The priesthood and the Mass warped by a low Christology:

The quest for the historical Jesus, or as some scholars would say, the "real" Jesus intentionally finds its bitter conclusion in a "low" Christology.

Kevin Kim shows us the differences in low and high Christology as it concerns Scripture alone, which is a Protestant concept, but an important tool in studying Scripture, especially for those who are the of Sola Scriptura tradition:

high and low Christology
"The term christology is analogous to theology: it refers to ordered discourse about the Christ.* Who was Jesus? Was he truly the son of God, or just a particularly talented teacher? Did Jesus even exist? What does it mean when Christians declare that Jesus is the Christ? What is the significance of the crucifixion and resurrection events? What scriptural, historical, philosophical, and psychological arguments can be made regarding who this Christ was? Christology deals with all these matters.

Two other terms are in common use among biblical scholars:  low christology and high Christology,sometimes also called low, ascending christology and high, descending christology. These terms refer, in the main, to the attitudes taken by the New Testament writers toward Jesus's role and significance: low christology emphasizes Jesus' humanity; high christology emphasizes Jesus divinity, his cosmic nature.

I thought it might be appropriate to focus on these varying christologies for a moment. One of my favorite approaches to this topic is to ask people to compare the four gospel accounts at the moment of Jesus' death on the cross. In each case, what are Jesus' final utterances?

Mark is, according to most biblical scholarship, the first of the four gospels (Matthew was written later). How does Mark portray Jesus' final moments?

Mark 15:33-37

When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.

Let's move on to Matthew.

Matthew 27:45-50

From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.”

Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last.

Now Luke:

Luke 23:44-46

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.

Finally, the Fourth Gospel:

John 19:28-30

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Note that, in Mark and Matthew, Jesus' final utterance is a scream-- this coming after a lorn cry of abandonment. Mark and Matthew's depiction of Jesus constitutes a low christology: the emphasis, here, is on Jesus' humanity. Luke, meanwhile, seems to offer us a slightly loftier perspective, but it's in John's gospel that we see a radical shift to high christology: John's version of Jesus proclaims, "It is finished" (some render this as "It is accomplished."). That's the sort of utterance you'd hear from someone who has orchestrated events to turn out as they did. This gospel moment, then, is an example of high christology: Jesus is exalted in death.

None of this is to say that Mark and Matthew are entirely low-christological works, or that John is entirely high-christological. I chose the above passages because they illustrate, quite clearly, what the terms mean. The exercise for the budding biblical scholar is to see whether he or she can spot high- and low-christological moments throughout each respective gospel, and to form an opinion, after doing such research, as to which gospels lean more one way or the other. (You can probably guess which way John leans!)" 

My commentary: However, liberal Protestants of the Enlightenment period wanted to discover the true Jesus of history, not influenced by conflating the Gospels into one single "Life of Christ" but rather tearing each Gospel apart, showing discrepancies and how a more primitive understanding of Jesus might show the "real Jesus" For example, although there is a high Christology in Mark's Gospel from the readers' point of view, the apostles themselves are ignorant of the divinity of Christ, which these scholars would say is the actual nugget of truth, that the apostles would not have seen Jesus as divine during His historical or public ministry. This then would be the basis of the real Jesus stripped of post resurrection theology, doctrine and dogma.

Albert Kalthoff (1850–1906), in the chapter "Was There An Historical Jesus?" of his 1904 work, How Christianity arose. New contributions to the Christ-problem (published in English 1907 as The rise of Christianity) wrote, "A Son of God, Lord of the World, born of a virgin, and rising again after death, and the son of a small builder with revolutionary notions, are two totally different beings. If one was the historical Jesus, the other certainly was not. The real question of the historicity of Jesus is not merely whether there ever was a Jesus among the numerous claimants of a Messiahship in Judea, but whether we are to recognise the historical character of this Jesus in the Gospels, and whether he is to be regarded as the founder of Christianity."[30]


John Nolan said...

I don't know what your second photograph depicts, but it doesn't appear to be a Mass. Those gathered round the table (which is too long for a modernist 'altar') are predominately female.

Some sort of prayer service with singing?

rcg said...

It seems that, to some extent, the HC method needs to assume the ancient Hebrews were idiots or semi literate. That is a bad assumption. Alternatively it seems to always assume we are going to understand something that they could not. Again, a bad assumption. The Hebrews may have been technologically strapped, but they were not fools or stupid. They devoted considerable effort to *successfully* creating technologies for their lives. Yet they didn't apply that technique to explain away the very mystery that defined their race. These texts are not uneven but are trying keep us from foolishly chasing some misleading and irrelevant path of reason to satisfy our small human minds.

The authors of the Gospels wrote consistently with the perspective of their lives. Re-read the first verses of the Gospels and the death of Christ is consistent with how they started.

Anonymous said...

Gee I wonder which Christology Pope Francis believes in?