Christology in the Making: An Inquiry into the Origins of the Doctrine of the Incarnation
- Author: James D. G. Dunn
- ISBN 10: 033400215X
- ISBN 13: 9780334002154
- Published: 1989
- Pages: 494
- Language: English
- Format: PDF
- Price: $29.98
In a period when popular studies can easily oversimplify the issues and evidence, Dr Dunn here attempts to clarify in rich detail the beginnings of the full Christian belief in Christ as the Son of God and incarnate Word. What would it have meant to first-century ears that Jesus was called ‘Son of God’? How and when did the first-century Christians begin to think of Christ as pre-existent? What claims were being made for Christ when he was called ‘the Son of Man’, ‘the last Adam’? Was Jesus considered to be an angel, an archangel, or angel of the presence, either before or after his time on earth? How would the ancient world have conceived the difference between inspiration and incarnation?
Dr Dunn illuminates the first-century context of meaning of key titles and passages within the New Testament. He shows that there is a danger both of reading too much into such statements and of failing to appreciate the distinctiveness of the early Christian claims concerning Christ. He demonstrates a strong probability that it was Christian attempts to express the significance of Christ which expanded and broke through the contemporary categories of religious thought at several points. He brings to clear expression the importance of the fact that Jesus was hailed both as last Adam and as God’s Wisdom, both as spirit inspired and as Word incarnate. He exposed the tension within first-century Christian understanding of God and Christ which came to subsequent expression in the doctrine of the Trinity, demonstrating also how talk of Christ as ‘God incarnate’ is better grounded in the New Testament and its ‘context of meaning’ than talk of Christ in terms of ‘the myth of heavenly or divine being come to earth’.
This second edition contains a new extended introduction which sets the book in the context of the author’s own writing and the discussion of which it is a part.
Most helpful reviews
By S. Pompa
Christology in the Making is one of the best-researched books I have ever seen. Dr Dunn is rightly one of the foremost scholars of our times, and the vast majority of his conclusions, while sometimes overly cautious, are brilliant.
Before I get into my critique of the book, let me first defend Jimmy Dunn the man. Too many people accuse him of being “liberal” and “unorthodox”. Dunn is trying to tell us what he thinks *Paul* believed about Jesus, and not necessarily what he personally thinks of Him. Dunn loves Jesus Christ dearly, and that has certainly come out in his writings. He is simply trying to avoid putting his personal theology in his books; something that other scholars would do well to imitate.
This book will give a person all the information they need to know about early Christology. He walks you through–on a very detailed path–all the titles and descriptions of Christ that have made people believe Christ to be a preexistent being, and then puts those titles back into context. How would “Son of God” have been understood in Jesus’ time? How would preexistence have been understood? These are all questions brilliantly answered by Dunn. What is interesting is that I came away from this book MORE convinced of Jesus’ divinity and LESS that Christ was a preexisting entity. While Dunn clearly states in the introduction that he is not writing an apologia defending orthodox Christianity, this is precisely what he does, but far more brilliantly and comprehensively (and historically accurate!) than more popular authors (like Josh McDowell).
I only gave it 3 out of 5 stars because there are times that hhe is overly cautious and unclear. After drawing conclusions, it would be nice if he could have speculated a little about the results of the implications; in other words, if Paul identified Christ with Sophia, what did that mean in terms of how Paul viewed the man Jesus? I also gave it 3 out of 5 stars because of his treatment of Phil. 2:5-11. For, say, while criticizing some scholars for choosing one meaning of morphe and running with it, he essentially does the same thing with the phrase “becoming in the likeness of men”, an awkward translation, to say the least. Also, while disagreeing with J Murphy-O’Connor’s analysis of I Cor. 8:6, he only states that he is wrong, and does not get into specific points as to *why* he is wrong. This can give the impression that Dunn *wants* Murphy-O’Connor to be wrong.
One should also be aware that in his equally necessary Theology of Paul the Apostle, his views on preexistence appear to have soften somewhat. Therefore, it’s a good idea to buy both.
In any event, if you are looking into the origin of the Incarnation, and of course, the divinity of Christ, and if you are willing to learn a lot of information, buy this book and check out his claims for yourself. You will most definitely never read the New Testament the same way again, and you will appreciate Christ all the more by understanding him vis a vis the first Christians.
What Think Ye of Christ?
“Christology” is not just the study of Christ, but typically refers to beliefs of Jesus and to what extent he was divine. ‘High Christology’ being mostly divine and a ‘low Christology’ being mostly man. Despite what you have been taught in Sunday School the debate over who Jesus was and to what extent is he divine has gone on since the first century. Here Dunn compiles all the arguments for a variety of ‘titles’ attributed to Jesus and examines each one in detail. Rather than giving one particular theological point, he discusses the issues debated by the different scholars giving the reader a clear understanding on each of the titles. If you enjoy studying religion and christianity, this book is a must.
A Valuable Contribution to the Study of Christology
By Stephen Triesch
“Christology” is the attempt to describe the nature and mission of Jesus by studying the documents of the New Testament and their relationship to the Hebrew Bible as well as the apocryphal and non-canonical literature of Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity.
Dunn examines in detail the various titles of Jesus – Son of Man, Son of God, Messiah, the Logos, God incarnate, etc. – and shows how these concepts were most likely understood at the time they were first used. He describes the history of these terms in Jewish thought, and traces how these terms evolved during the formative years of Christianity.
Dunn generally leans towards the idea that the earliest Christian tradition viewed Jesus as a human being specially chosen by God for a unique role in the salvation of the Jewish people and – secondarily – of all people. Yet, somewhat inconsistently, at the end he claims that the late development of “high Christology” – of Jesus viewed as the divine second person of the Holy Trinity – is an acceptable and logical development of the earlier view of Jesus as a divinely chosen human being.
That is my only quibble with a book that otherwise exhibits sound scholarship and reasoned argument. Perhaps most of us moderns – Dunn included – are infected with the Hegelian idea that whatever happens in the world – if it involves major historical trends and Ideas – somehow enjoys Divine blessing, even if it seemingly contradicts our understandings of the Divine Will. But I digress . . . as a thorough exploration of the progression and development of the Christian understanding of the nature and role of Jesus, this book is a “must have.”
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