March 5, 2022

The Ontology of Jesus Christ: A Lament for Modernity

The widespread effort in modern biblical scholarship to downplay the ontological and metaphysical claims of the New Testament terms, and thus their Trinitarian and Christological implications, is particularly frustrating and damaging to orthodoxy, in the academy and the church.

Take, for instance, Jesus’s self-referential uses of ἥκω (“I have come”) and of ἐγώ εἰμι (“I am”) in John’s Gospel. The first “denotes the coming of the deity to men” in the Greek world (Schneider), while the second explicates the Hebrew Tetragrammaton. Both invariably reveal Jesus is the eternal God.

However, because of the downgrade in modern commentary on John in particular, as seen for instance in the highly influential New Testament Theology of Rudolf Bultmann, scholars are checked in their full-throated affirmation and inhibited from a deep appreciation of Christ as God.

Instead, the modern commentaries focus upon the function of Jesus rather than the ontology and metaphysics of Jesus. Let us be clear: Jesus was pursued to death by the Israelite religious leaders precisely because of his ontological claims, his theological self-identification.

And if Jesus was willing to state his deity so clearly, then his followers must state his deity clearly, not merely as a datum but as a thoroughgoing identification.

Christ does not merely function as the means to our salvation. Christ is God, the theological end of salvation!

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