RBL: Questioning Covenant Theology and Divinity

Two RBL reviews for brief discussion.

McGinn, Sheila E., ed.
Celebrating Romans: Template for Pauline Theology: Essays in Honor of Robert Jewett
Review by Julia Fogg

One thing in Fogg’s review caught my eye. Apparently James Dunn is challenging ideas of covenant theology in Paul, arguing that “promise theology” better describes Paul’s thought. Very interesting. I wonder how compatible this “promise theology” is with Philip Esler’s ideas. (I think Esler is correct in refuting Wright’s ideas about covenant theology.)

Neyrey, Jerome H.
Render to God: New Testament Understandings of the Divine.
Review by John Mason
(There’s another review by Richard Edwards, posted back in May.)

Neyrey is one of the oldest members of the Context Group, and from Edwards’ review, we see that he follows many scholars in arguing that Jesus isn’t equated with God until John and Hebrews. He frames the discussion in terms of patrons, clients, and benefactors. Thus in Mark, Jesus is the faithful client, God the patron; in Matthew, Jesus is again the client, God again the patron but even more so a benefactor — “the relationship with God is based not on performance but on God’s applied mercy”; in Luke the relationship between God and humanity extends beyond that of patron-client, since God is humanity’s benefactor who continually cares for people; in Paul Jesus is no longer a client, rather “an elevated conduit of God’s mercy”, with the apostle serving the role of a broker. In John, Jesus is finally equal to God; and in Hebrews, he is even more clearly God, enjoying the deity’s primary characteristics. Jesus is thus either client, conduit, or patron (deity), depending on the writer.

But Philip Esler, another Context Group member, follows Richard Bauckham’s view that Jesus is seen as divine in all the NT sources, that high Christology happened more as a “big bang” than evolution. It will be interesting to see more debate about this, especially when Bauckham completes his two-volume project on Christology.

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