Monday, 17 September 2012

Adam or Divine Christology in Paul? Chris Tilling takes on Dunn, Casey etc

I will never forget that rainy afternoon in Durham, England, when I, together with Nijay Gupta and two other students helped clear Prof James Dunn's loft. Prof Dunn needed a few students to help him remove the boxes stored in his loft, as he was preparing to sell his house and relocate to the south of England where his daughter lives. After we finished clearing the loft of all the dusty boxes, we had a nice cup of coffee in the kitchen, each having the chance to ask Prof Dunn a few questions. One of my questions went something like this: "Professor Dunn, which of the books you have written, do you regard as the most controversial?" Prof Dunn's answer? Christology in the Making. An Inquiry into the Origins of the Doctrine of the Incarnation, first published in 1980. I agreed with him, in part, because I analysed parts of his book for  an essay on the pre-existence of Christ in Paul's letters for one of the modules for my MTh at the University of Pretoria. Agree or disagree, anyone working on the pre-existence of Christ in Paul, has to engage with Dunn's book. 
With this in mind, I was delighted to see Chris Tilling's 2012 WUNT monograph: Paul's Divine Christology arriving here at Tyndale House this morning. Tilling dialogues extensively with the big names when it comes to Pauline Christology. They include the likes of Bauckham, Dunn, Fee, Garland, Harris, Hurtado, Martin, Schnabel, Schrage, Thiselton, Thrall, Waaler and Wright.

Here are a few bits and pieces of Dunn's interpretation of Philippians 2:6-11 compared with Tilling, as well as a short excerpt of the latter's findings to wet your appetite:

Dunn: "It may ... be that the pre-existence-incarnation interpretation of Phil. 2.6-11 etc. owes more to the Gnostic redeemer myth than it does to Phil. 2.6-11 properly understood as an expression of first generation Adam christology - one way of outbidding and countering the appeal of the Gnostic systems. How much truth is contained in the last comment is hard to discern. What we can say with more confidence is that the reading of these passages with the presupposition of a pre-existent heavenly redeemer resulted in a critical shift in Adam christology - a shift from christology of death and resurrection to a christology of incarnation - and not only in christology, but also in the concept of redemption which goes with it ... it is certainly arguable that all these subsequent developments are the consequence in part at least of losing sight of the original meaning and intention of the Adam christology" (James D. G. Dunn, Christology in the Making. An Inquiry into the Origins of the Doctrine of the Incarnation [SCM Press: London, 1989 2nd ed.], p. 128).

Tilling: "... if the passage [Phil. 2.6-11] was used as a hymn in the corporate worship of the early church ... then the singing of this 'hymn' about Christ would have constituted a feature of the 'corporate devotional practise of early Christians'. Dunn's rejoinder that the 'hymn' is 'not addressed to Christ, but gives[s] praise to God for Christ' would be more realistic if the biblical Psalms were always addressed to God and did not sing about God, which is, of course, regularly not the case. Besides, it is far from obvious that Philippians 2:10-11 must be addressed only to God, not Christ, especially as it is at the name of Jesus that every knee bends" (p. 127).

Excerpt of Tilling's findings: "... Pauline Christ-relation is a divine-Christology expressed as relationship. In light of this way of constructing and contending for a Pauline divine-Christology, the claims of Dunn, Casey and others who deny a Pauline divine-Christology were critically examined, and it was maintained that none of the arguments hitherto employed can  carry weight. For example ... Dunn's notion that Paul's 'christological reserve' only slipped into high Christology occasionally, are seen to crumble under the weight of data concerning the Pauline Christ-relation, Paul's divine-Christology. This way of dealing with the data in terms of the divine-Christology debate arguably has certain strenghts. To name a few: not only does it build on undeveloped lines of thought in Fee's work, but it constructively engages with the Christ-devotion emphasis in Hurtado, and the relational notion of identity in Bauckham" (p. 256).


Chris Tilling said...

Just saw this, thanks so much for the plug and I love the picture!

Frederik Mulder said...

I had a nice chat with Prof Steve Walton here at Tyndale House about your monograph. Well done Chris!