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Understanding the Humanity of Jesus

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August 24, 2010 Tags: Christ & New Creation

Today's video features N.T. Wright. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of BioLogos. You can read more about what we believe here.

In this new addition to our Conversations series, BioLogos senior fellow Pete Enns asks N.T. Wright to respond to questions that have come to BioLogos via Twitter, email, and its blog. The first question for Wright is as follows:

Q: What do you think is the biggest misunderstanding that western 21st century evangelicals have about Jesus and how does it stunt their understanding and witness?

A: Wright offers that one of the most common misconceptions is the idea that because Jesus is divine therefore he couldn’t have had any questions about his life or his vocation—or he that couldn’t have meant it when he wondered if there could have been another way in Gethsemane. One of the key things to remember, says Wright, is that in the great formulations of faith in the early church, the humanity of Jesus is every bit as important as his divinity. That isn’t a “clever balancing act,” he notes, rather it is a very profound insight on the part of the early church. The divinity of Jesus isn’t an abstract thing—instead, it is very much entwined with his humanity. The lack of recognition of the human aspect of Jesus, however, is something that much of evangelical understanding has a hard time with and that ultimately prohibits one from actually engaging with what the Gospels are all about.

Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.

N.T. Wright is a leading biblical scholar, former Bishop of Durham in the Church of England, and current Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, University of St Andrews. He studied for the ministry at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, and was ordained at Merton College, Oxford. Wright holds a Doctor of Divinity from Oxford University in addition to several honorary doctorates. Wright has also written over fifty books, including the multi-volume work Christian Origins and the Question of God and his two most recent books Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters and How God Became King.

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Bilbo - #27256

August 27th 2010

Jon:  “Grass for the livestock, wheat and olives for the people” does not necessarily imply “meat for nobody”.

Not necessarily.  I think Isaiah and the flood story make it clear that “meat for nobody” was implied. 

Jon:  what do you do with livestock if you’re a naked vegetarian?

Milk it.  Shear it.

Jon:  Good thinking. Give a man a job to finish, and if he botches it up there’s a good case for sacking him and binning his work. If the work (and worker) barely survive, it’s good reason for the work to fear and dread the worker thereafter.

I didn’t write the flood story.  The idea seems to be that the world has gone bad, largely because of human sin.  You have suggested that we were supposed to subdue the wildness of creation, but never bothered to explain what that means.  What does it mean?

Takashi Kojima - #27442

August 29th 2010

I think the take about NTW’s point of Jesus’ humanity is that it’s the very locus of Israel’s God ultimately and decisively revealing Who he truly and faithfully is. The passion and resurrection of Jesus as Israel’s Messiah and thus Messiah’s humanity represents the focal point of God’s redemptive work of all creation, including humanity.

I guess Western discussion of “balancing act” of divinity and humanity does not unlock what the Gospels depict Jesus as God’s chosen Son and Servant. The issue of sinfulness or normal human failings as part of Jesus’ humanity is a bit misleading emphasis as to understanding how the Gospels depict Jesus’ struggle with his vocation (Israel’s Messiah).

Concerning the point about “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani”  #26801 and the following discussions, I refer to the recent Larry Hurtado’s blog entry, http://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2010/08/20/a-new-take-on-jesus-cry-from-the-cross/

Jon Garvey - #27472

August 29th 2010

@Bilbo - #27256

Bilbo - you’ve milked the cow, but milk isn’t a vegetable, so do you use it for washing? You’ve sheared the sheep, but do you knit buckets with it? A related question is why Abel needs to keep flocks in order to provide milk and clothes for 4 people. One or two sheep would do, and that’s hardly a full-time job - unless he was more than usually generous in his sacrifices.

As for Isaiah, I thought I’d already established that if you take it to mean no carnivores either in Eden or in the age to come, you also have to accept human death in Eden and the age to come, because both are included in his vision.

As for the flood story, it’s tedious to repeat that animals were not given permission to eat meat. You speculate, off the top of your head, that animals were allowed meat because the top man was allowed. Apart from being an extremely slim basis for explaining the whole pattern of creation as we find it, you now also have to explain why animals don’t share the prohibition on eating blood.

Jon Garvey - #27473

August 29th 2010

(...) You also asked whether I think animal death will be in the new creation. It’s not relevant to the issue under discussion of whether it existed in the past. It would be the same as arguing that because Jesus said there would be no marriage in the age to come, that Adam and Eve must have been celibate.

Scripture does not tell us the detail of the new age (eye hath not seen, etc), and science is not qualified to make a judgement. So what would my opinion be worth?

Nevertheless we have only seen one instance of the nature of the new creation, and that is the resurrection body of Jesus. I would have thought his example to be pardigmatic, as it is from him that the whole of the new creation springs.

Tell me, did the risen Jesus eat meat, or not?

Jon Garvey - #27475

August 29th 2010

“You have suggested that we were supposed to subdue the wildness of creation, but never bothered to explain what that means.  What does it mean?”

Failed to answer this - sorry. And I still won’t, because Scripture doesn’t say - but the fact that it speaks of “subduing” necessarily implies something un-subdued. Since there is nothing that says the present creation is intrinsically different since the fall (except with regard to man’s problems with it), we can say without too much imagination that it would include rendering earth more useful by cultivation, irrigation etc - the things that man does anyway, only with pure motive and unsullied wisdom.

But who can tell whether (as mythologied in C S Lewis’s “Perelandra”) man as ruler might not have taught the beasts to be more wise, the elements to rage less dangerously and all kinds of unimaginable things that might, even, have resulted in just the kind of world you would like it to have been at first. But I can’t say this would actually have been a desirable goal, since unfortunately, because of the fall, I like Adam have been excluded from the garden and live in the land of sin. I’d like beer and music in the new age - but quite possibly that’s an unworthy desire.

JMFK - #27604

August 30th 2010

Bilbo @ #27255: “The forceful taking of life that is not willing to give it up is evil in and of itself… You haven’t responded to my Scriptural references.”

You haven’t responded to mine (#26959 above):

“The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God.” - Psalm 104:21

“Can you hunt prey for the lion…? Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God…?” - Job 38:39-41

“Is it by your command that the eagle mounts up and makes its nest on high? From there it spies the prey…Its young ones suck up blood; and where the slain are, there it is.” - Job 39:26-30

“Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook? Lay hands on it…you will not do it again!...Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine!...Around its teeth there is terror…it is king over all that are proud.” - Job 41:1-34

“O Lord, how manifold are your works…the earth is full of your creatures…When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.” - Psalm 104:24-30

These (and others) specifically credit God as the author of predation and the creator of predators, so I guess you think the writers worshiped Yahweh as the author of evil.

JMFK - #27605

August 30th 2010

Cont. from #27604:


I place these above passages against your broad inferences from verses in Genesis that do not address the topic of predation and animal death directly.

As for your Isaiah references, IMO Jon Garvey has responded well. I have nothing to add.

In Romans 1:20-22, the Gentiles are guilty and foolish for not worshiping and giving thanks to God for the creation that they can plainly see, which obviously includes predation and other “non-ideal” phenomena (as the Hebrews did in Psalm 104, Job 41, and Psalm 148). If such things are inherently evil, then the Gentiles might be forgiven for getting the wrong impression about God from his creation, but Paul says they are without excuse.

Most Gentile worldviews have seen nature as full of “natural evil” because of the human struggle to survive east of Eden, but the OT sees that struggle as the result of the human-caused breakdown in the creative partnership between God, Man, and Nature. I am convinced that the unique revelation via the Hebrews - their original Evangel - was the proclamation that Yahweh is the good author of the creation that we actually see and experience.

My approach is to look into the Scripture and see that it credits and worships God for

JMFK - #27606

August 30th 2010

Cont. from #27605


Sorry for the cutoff at the end there.

My approach is to look into the Scripture and see that it credits and worships God for all that goes on in nature (apart from human evil), including predation, storms, tectonics, and animal death, and to conclude thereby that they cannot be evil because the Scripture says God is their author.

Your approach is to start with the premise that such things are inherently evil (along with the rest of Gentile worldviews), and conclude that therefore God cannot be their author - in spite of specific Biblical evidence to the contrary - or that they must be God’s judgemental response to sin.

In the book of Job, God chastises Job’s comforters - who have argued that God must have done all these things in response to sin - because they have not spoken of him what is right.

Sam - #27645

August 31st 2010

Regarding Christologies in the Gospel:

Besides the fact that diversity in presentation does not imply tension much less contradiction, there are excellent arguments to the effect that the synoptics have much higher Christologies than some biblical scholars have been willing to grant.

A very impressive case in this regard is made by Simon Gathercole, Professor of New Testament at Cambridge University, in “The Preexistent Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.”

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