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     Early Christology: The Interpretation of Jesus

Early Christology: The Interpretation of Jesus

1. The question of crucial importance for the churches of the late first century was that of understanding Jesus in and through the events of his ministry. Though in a variety of particular forms, the Christology of incarnation dominated the literature of the end of the first century and the beginning of the second. Ignatius, the bishop of Antioch, for whom Jesus the Christ is to be understood as "our God" (Ephesians 3.2), polemicizes against Docetism, the view that the fleshly. bodily side of Jesus is mere "appearance", but insists that Christ was truly born, truly suffered, and was truly crucified (Smyrnaeans 1-2). For Ignatius, there are two dimensions of the person of Christ. In Jesus, spirit and flesh, divine and human , are at one. "There is only one physician - of flesh, yet spiritual, born yet unbegotten, God enfleshed, genuine life in the midst of death, sprung from Mary as well as God" (Ephesians 7.2).

2. Christologies of this incarnational form are evidences in other writings from other sectors of the church. The document called 1 Clement, a letter from the Roman congregation to that at Corinth uses the language of the biblical book of Hebrews to portray Jesus as the reflection of God's splendor, the "mirror" of "God's... transcendent face" (1 Clement 36) and the "scepter of God's majesty" (1 Clement 16.2). A somewhat later writing from Rome, The Shepherd of Hermas, combines the idea of "the holy pre-existent Spirit which created the whole creation" (Similitudes 5.6) with the picture of Jesus as the suffering and exalted servant.

Sources utilized in these pages may include:
  • Everett Ferguson's: Backgrounds of Early Christianity
  • Walker's: History of Christianity (out of print)

    (These links will take you to book detail pages at

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