Who was Jesus of Nazareth? For hundreds of years, Christians have answered that he is God’s Son, fully God, and also fully man. The classic formulation is found in the Nicene Creed (325 CE), which affirms that he is “of the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.” The creed goes on to explain that he “came down and was incarnate and was made man.”
However, the language of the Nicene Creed is not the language of the Bible. Words such as “essence” and “substance” appear to owe more to Greek philosophers than to the fishermen who were among the first followers of Jesus.
The task of this book is to explain what the first three canonical Gospels teach us about who Jesus is. Even the subtitle of this book, the Christology of the Synoptic Gospels, shows the difficulty in undertaking this task without being influenced by the church’s theological tradition. The word “Christology” does not occur in the Bible; it is the kind of word one would use for something that is the object of study, not a word one would use with respect to a person one knows well (whether by acquaintance or reputation). The evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, did not write “Christologies”–they wrote Jesus biographies. Such biographies will, of course, tell us a lot about what the authors believed about what kind of person Jesus was, but to explore those beliefs we need to use a rigorous method.
“‘Messiah’ as an eschatological figure that is understood as a fulfillment of God’s promise to David” (Page 2)
“There is no evidence that Jews in the first century believed the Messiah would be equal to God” (Page 19)
“the king’s ‘divinity’ has to do with his function as ruler on God’s behalf.” (Page 4)
This book is an ideal choice for serious students of the gospels or the life of Jesus. It is well organized, clearly written, and easily intelligible without being simplistic. Dr. Grindheim is abreast of the latest scholarship and interacts with it appreciatively, but takes his own carefully argued approach to the presentation in the synoptic gospels of Jesus’ relationship to God. The result is a book that introduces students to the basic issues in the field, and, at the same time, provides interesting and throught-provoking reading.
—Frank Thielman, Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School, USA
In this exceptionally rich, informative and rewarding study, Sigurd Grindheim explores the Christology of the Synoptic Gospels by first focusing on contemporary Jewish eschatological expectations. This sets the stage for the study of the individual Synoptics with a focus on their distinctive Christologies. The whole discussion is set fully in the first-century theological context by frequent reference to non-canonical literature. An ideal textbook for courses on the Synoptic Gospels.
—Donald A. Hagner, George Eldon Ladd Professor Emeritus of New Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary, USA
In this careful work, Dr. Grindheim has provided a refreshing study on the relationship between Christ and God the Father. Paying close attention to both the historical background of the various christological titles as well as the narrative contexts in which they are situated, he has demonstrated how the christological confessions articulated in the Nicene Creed find their roots in the earliest gospel witnesses. This will serve as a clear, informed, and reliable guide for those entering the field of New Testament Christology.
—Dr. David W. Pao, Professor of New Testament and Chair of the New Testament Department, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, USA
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