2014-12-12

A Scholarly Biblioblog Doing it Right: Diglotting

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by Neil Godfrey

IesusDeus1Kevin Brown of the Diglotting blog posts about some very interesting books. One of these is Iesus Deus: The Early Christian Depiction of Jesus as a Mediterranean God which, being available on Kindle, meant I splurged on the spot and now have it waiting impatiently on my desktop to be read. But investigating this book led me to another by the same author, M. David Litwa. (An initial appeal of Litwa, by the way, lies in his being a historian and teacher of Greek rather than a theologian.) That other title is We Are Being Transformed: Deification in Paul’s Soteriology. I may read this one first though it’s only available on a database at the university where I work.

Here is part of Litwa’s conclusion to that book (and one of the big reasons I am keen to read it):

The argument of this book has been that aspects of Pauline soteriology fit the basic pattern of deification in the Greco-Roman world. I defined this basic pattern as sharing in the divine qualities which are constitutive of (a particular) divine identity.

In chapter 1, I narrowed these qualities down to two: immortality and power.

In chapter 2, I tried to show that (1) deification was a pervasive and multi-faceted idea in the Greco-Roman world, and (2) that it sometimes featured human beings as assimilated to specific Gods.

It was the burden of chapter 3 to show that deification (so defined) was not an idea foreign to the Judaism of Paul’s time. The Greek Bible already recognizes immortality as constitutive of deity (Gen 3:20; Ps 81 [82] :6), and calls Israelite kings “God” (Ps 44[45]:7) and “son of God” (Ps 2:7) as vice-regents of God. At the center of Jewish thought, there was thus always an analogy between theomorphic human beings and an anthropomorphic deity (Gen 1:26; Ezek 1:26-28). In Paul, this analogy was centered on Christ, the divine Messiah and image of God (2 Cor 4:4) to whom believers assimilate to regain their theomorphic status. Nevertheless their “theomorphicity” went far beyond what was imagined for original humanity. It involved sharing in Christ’s divine immortality ׳ and universal rule. These are the qualities, I argued, which constitute the divine identity of Christ.

Sharing in Christ’s immortality means sharing in the incorruptible corporeality of Christ’s divine (pneumatic) body (chapters 4-5).

Sharing in Christ’s rule means taking part in the universal dominion specifically meant for the divine Messiah (God’s begotten Son [Ps 2:7]) and creator of the cosmos [1 Cor 8:6]) (chapter 6).

In chapter 7, I argued that sharing in Christ’s divine identity also has a moral component. Pauline conformation to Christ is a form of assimilation to God. It is a process of gaining Christ’s virtues, which are just as constitutive of his divine identity as immortality and power.

Finally, in chapter 8, I proposed that the category of deification did not conflict with first-century Jewish monotheism, since summodeistic forms of monotheism allow other beings to share in divinity. The Creator’s transcendent status (chapter 9) is also not an objection to deification because it was never asserted that Pauline Christians completely overlapped with God the Father’s distinctive essence or shared his power to create physical worlds.

The God who shares his divinity through Christ remains the “one” (i. e., all-powerful, sole-ruling) God who duly receives all worship and honor.

Formatting and bolding are mine.

Another post on Diglotting that attracted my very favourable attention was: Reason #24 Why I Dislike Evangelicalism.

Here’s part of his Kevin’s intro:

Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ and Timothy Keller’s The Reason for God  are two very popular books to have come out over the years. These books are supposedly aimed at convincing skeptics of the veracity of Christianity, yet while these books may help you successfully argue against people who hang out in the high-school cafeteria, don’t look to them for help against any serious skeptic over the age of eighteen. Why? Because these books are filled with falsehoods, sloppy logic, and inexcusable arguments. Of course, the average evangelical (who is the real audience that these books are aimed at) probably won’t see the glaring deficiencies in these books, but actual skeptics should easily be able to see them.

Lovely to see this from a theologian. The Hurtados and McGraths and co take up too much space. The genuinely liberal approach all too rarely comes through on the bigger biblioblogs. (His take on Keller is far more to the point than my posts were. “Why waste your time, Neil?” is what Kevin Brown is saying.

I’ll have to look out for the other 23 reasons on Diglotting.

7 Comments

  • Mark Erickson
    2014-12-13 03:47:58 UTC - 03:47 | Permalink

    My g-ds, he reads more than you, Neil!
    PS, the last link has a coding error.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2014-12-13 05:25:04 UTC - 05:25 | Permalink

      I must admit I do admire him — especially his discipline to blog such overviews on each book he reads. The link was an error — removed it, thanks.

  • Vinny
    2014-12-13 19:32:41 UTC - 19:32 | Permalink

    I have enjoyed Kevin’s blog as well, although the title of your blog has a whiff of damning with faint praise, given the blogs to which you compare it. I might call it “A Biblioblog Done Right.”

    • Neil Godfrey
      2014-12-13 21:43:45 UTC - 21:43 | Permalink

      Ouch. You’re probably right. I may change the title. Thx.

  • Sili
    2014-12-14 21:59:13 UTC - 21:59 | Permalink

    Christ, what an insufferably prissy commenter he has.

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  • James D. Williams
    2014-12-19 23:04:22 UTC - 23:04 | Permalink

    I suspect the “assimilation” may have been interpreted (by some few, back then) as sharing in the phenomenon of self-awareness.[…which today many “doctors of the law” will tell you is “anecdotal”, like dreams, and back pain.]
    Thus, “Before Abraham, I was.” might have been seen as a statement about a timeless shared commonality, not a statement of personal Divinity.

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