Friday, 4 August 2017

Lord Jesus Christ, S2 Part 4: Jesus as Lord or Jesus as LORD? (2)

YESTERDAY WE STARTED TO ASK if early Christians called their Jesus "Lord" or "LORD"? There were and are no quick, univocal answers - there never can be. Maybe the question is, in fact, the wrong one to be asking.

First, we recapped on the special translation of Yahweh as Kyrios without the article by the first wave of Alexandrian Greek translators. Second, we presented multiple lines of evidence that Paul was aware of this particularity. Third, we agreed with Hurtado's presentation that at that time there was a wide range of meanings and social implications behind Kyrios. Fourth, I pondered the importance of the underdeveloped idea of semantics, of such pivotal importance in answering even the binitarian question we asked in Series 1, Part 9: What does Hurtado mean by "binitarian"?, and fifth, we realised that Hurtado's 2003 account was unlikely to factor in important innovations of Jesus' own Kyrios-ship, some of which I presented. This poised me to be careful as I prepared to read on into the Jewish world and layers of meaning that Hurtado correctly beckons us to travel, careful of overreaching the divine implications of using kyrios even in a Jewish or Aramaic-speaking context.

Most typically, Jesus' lordship is really actually quite unique with respect to Yahweh and Adonai in the Torah (with whom he does indeed seem to also overlap despite their clear distinctions), as there is this huge fresh emphasis of Jesus being our Lord. On the look out for reconfigurations and mutations? There's one right there - our Lord was seen as exalted to the right hand of (his and our) God to reign, which as Hurtado consistently points out means including our Lord in our Jewish cultus. But careful, this is not because Jews typically gave worship to "our Lord" or "my Lord". Quite the contrary, that would have been a really unusual way for a Jew to describe their god.

Hurtado points out that the usage of "Lord" must have gone right back to the Aramaic-speaking origins of the movement seems right, as in Paul's epistles he teaches gentile Greek-speaking Christian converts two Aramaic terms: maranatha (our Lord comes) and the delightful Abba (Daddy/Father). Hurtado's conclusion, however, seems to play a little strongly to the numbering of these Aramaic expressions, saying: It is very interesting that Paul passed on to his Greek-speaking converts these two Aramaic prayer-expressions used by Jewish Christians to address both God and Jesus, which, taken together, reflect a "binitarian" devotional pattern. (p. 111). Sorry, but I'm not sure it does - first and foremost, I'd need to be reassured that if we had a third Aramaic saying passed onto Paul that this would not upset the binitarian concept too much. Hurtado's generally great hypothesis of early binitarian worship doesn't need unnecessary argumentation like this, in my view. Secondly, I'm still not clear quite what Hurtado's point is exactly about the earliest Aramaic-speaking followers crying out Maranatha? Remember, it is not simply: Come Lord! It is rather, may our Lord come! Something which is difficult to tie down too firmly to an Aramaic-Jewish understanding of the One True God, even if that seems to be the semantic association Hurtado requires. Let's see.

Since both Jesus is called Kyrios so frequently by Paul and God is so often called Kyrios as well in the Greek translation used by Paul, Hurtado now wants to extensively reference Pauline usage of Kyrios as evidence of the binitarian worship pattern central to his thesis. Since the question of anarthrous usage has arisen more strongly since the writing of LJC, introducing an important indicator of usage, I propose now to note by each if the article is present (arthrous) or absent (anarthrous) and how closely Jesus is associated to the usage of Kyrios there.

Hurtado begins with Paul's usage of Kyrios as applied to Israel's god.

  • Romans 4:8 (Ps. 323:1-2), anarthrous. Context: God. Jesus not in view.
  • Romans 9:28-29 (Isa. 28:22), anarthrous and anarthrous. Context: God. Jesus not in view.
  • Romans 10:16 (Isa. 53:1), vocative (i.e. irrelevant) and context: God. Jesus not in view.
  • Romnas 11:34 (Isa. 40:13), anarthrous. Context: God. Jesus not in view.
  • Romans 15:11 (Ps. 117:1), arthrous (accusative, so fairly irrelevant): God. Jesus not directly in view (God is the designated receptor of praise ordained from gentiles via the Jews generous acceptance of them as Christ had accepted those Jews)
  • 1 Corinthians 3:20 (Ps. 94:11), anarthrous. Context: God. Jesus not in view.
  • 2 Corinthians 6:17-18 (Isa. 52:11; 2 Sam. 7:14), anarthrous and anarthrous. Context: God. Jesus not in view.

Clearly indeed, anarthrous usage of Kyrios for God was firmly in Paul's thinking in the appropriate Greek cases (especially nominative and genitive).

Let's see how the next passages he cites square up, for they contain usages like my 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 study of where Paul seems to be talking about God and referring to him as Kyrios (Lord), without being direct citations from the Septuagint Scriptures:
  • Romans 11:3 (1 Kings 19:10), vocative (i.e. irrelevant), however, this could easily be a shortened citation of 1 Kings 19:9-10, for just prior to the citation, Kyrios is mentioned twice, one of these in a case that the Septuagint translators often opted to make anarthrous in the pattern we have described).
  • Romans 12:19 (Deut. 32:35). Here Hurtado is pointing to Paul's addition of λέγει κύριος (says [the] LORD). This is not just a common way to prefix a citation of Yahweh by Old Testament prophets, it is littered with it. Since my own study so far has been limited to Psalms and Ezekiel, I can affirm with near certainty that λέγει κύριος is used no less than 203 times by the translator of Ezekiel, all of which anarthrously. 
  • 1 Corinthians 14:21 (Isa. 28:11). The precise same remark as Romans 12:19. λέγει κύριος is the standard prophetic sign-off.

Now things get interesting, when Jesus comes into view, as Hurtado will now show us:
  • Romans 10:13 (Joel 2:32). Absolutely right, this is an astonishing application of the Old Testament Kyrios name to Jesus. However, read in context, Paul likely thought that the conferred lordship would have been clear.... if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.". If a worship pattern can be "binitarian", then so can a salvation plan. So in context, God raised this Lord - our Lord - back to life so that now in the same way that his people had called upon God's name, they should now do so in reference to his appointed son and heir (see Heb 1:4).
  • 1 Corinthians 1:31 (Jer. 9:23-24). Couple or remarks are needed here. The Jeremiah citation is not identical to the citation used by Paul to the Corinthians, although the correspondence seems easily strong enough to make it the agreed reference point. Secondly, unlike the previous passage of clear conferred lordship, here the context in 1 Corinthians is all about God and his wisdom. It almost seems that in order to avoid confusion in this section, Paul explicitly leaves out any mention of the Lord Jesus whatsoever. From verse 18 through to the end of the chapter (which includes the citation Hurtado is referring to: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord"), "God" is mentioned intensively, a dozen times by name (theos). Jesus Christ is also frequently referred to, this crazy wisdom of God, but Lord is not mentioned here apart from the citation, so it is much less clear to me than in Hurtado's first example that the "great transferral" of lordship is certainly implied here.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:26 (Ps. 24:1), however, is a good example, although maybe still not quite as great as the crown jewel of Romans 10:13. Here Paul mentions simply Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, "The Earth is the Lord's, and everything in it". Who would have thought a 2000-year-old meat-market issue would raise a significant a theological question millennia later? Isn't humanity great? This "throwaway" comment of Paul's is utterly undeveloped, since he simply continues to the next socially awkward scenario for the Christian of his time, being invited for a meal containing the aforementioned meat. The theme of food eating, however, and the wider context here of 1 Corinthians is important in instructing us how to deal with this passage. Famously, two chapters previous to Hurtado's current focus point, in the face of the confusing array of gods and lords in Corinth, Paul has reaffirmed Jewish Christian monotheism: "There is one God the Father" (1 Cor. 8:6) while adding (and we could say having to add) "There is one Lord, Jesus Christ". Prior to the Christian mutations of Jewish theology, God was LORD (and God). Because he was anarthrously LORD, he wasn't really LORD of anything very much, it was pretty obvious: the entire universe. So the first wave of Alexandrian translators just called him LORD. The second and subsequent waves did later introduce some "of"s, but they were isolated instances outside the first-translated Pentateuch - esp. "LORD of hosts"). Here, some scholars (including N. T. Wright, I believe, but also Hurtado, LJC see p. 114) want to assert that in Chapter 8 Paul is "splitting the Shema" of Deut. 6:4 Hear, O Israel: [The] LORD our God, [the] LORD is one." Can that be right? I doubt it. The deciphering seems too motivated and distant from this same old context of eating meat sacrificed to idols that is occupying whole chapters of the Corinthian epistle. And there's a bunch of pagan gods to satisfy in different cultic ways and another bunch of human lords who are ensuring everything is going on smoothly in the city and to whom people show obeisance. Ultimately, I guess we can't know which "Lord" Paul is referring to here in 10:26, the most likely one seems to me Yahweh, simply "God", although I admit the 8:6 reference involvement of Christ as the creating logos of God could also be in view.
  • 2 Corinthians 10:17 (Jer. 9:23-24). This is obviously the same citation Hurtado pointed us to two bullets earlier in 1 Corinthians 1:31 where I expressed dubiousness. Here I feel more open, while also spotting a clear and natural distinction between God and Christ: The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised for ever, know that I am not lying (11:31). So the distinction of two individuals is as clear as can be possible and is close to our target text. But here in 2 Cor. 10 we have some of the key conferral language we need to understand "kyrios-ship" to be reread, as it were, in order to avoid thinking that the earliest readers might have been confused. 2 Cor. 10:13 states: We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you. 14 We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. 15 Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, 16 so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in someone else’s territory. 17 But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.Paul certainly seems to think he is quoting Jeremiah, but as already mentioned above, that is not at all how Jeremiah goes in the Greek version critics are trying to reconstruct to this day (see here for example as an institution and the NETS project). If you do turn to Jeremiah 9:23-24, you have something like: 

This is what [the] LORD says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this:
        that they have the understanding to know me,
      that I am [the] LORD, who exercises kindness,
            justice and righteousness on earth,
              for in these I delight,”
            declares [the] LORD.
              While I think there is more to be said about these limits, spheres, "fields" (in other translations) as helpful semantic levers to help people understand how a responsibility might be conferred upon another, personally, with such textual complexity involved and the clear Jesus/God distinctions of the following chapter firmly in place, I would really rather have preferred Hurtado to have excluded this example entirely. On the other hand, I suppose I represent a small percentage of readers to actually go checking the references he makes (and I certainly won't be doing that systematically - it just seemed necessary given the direction he wanted to take Paul's usage of Kyrios and the research I had already committed some time into on the Septuagint).

              For the reasons already cited, we won't bogged down in the next two passages next described by Hurtado as harder to discern whether the Kyrios reference is to Jesus or God, although I will give my view that for Romans 14:11, the referral is simply to God, although usual caveats on the translation Paul was using, and 1 Cor 2:16, which is also a reference to an alternative Greek translation (again!) used by Paul to refer to the mind of God, but which is now accessible by this wonderful mediatory mind of Christ.

              Hurtado now moves his readers onto what seem to him clearly conferred instances of Kyrios-ship, if I could put it that way, let's see if we can find his examples as clear as he thinks:
              1. 1 Corinthians 10:21 - Jesus's table is "the Lord's table" (τραπέζης Κυρίου) which is pretty darned close to Mal 1:7 and 12 (τράπεζα κυρίου). 
              2. 1 Corinthians 10:22 (note, very next verse) - can't see the match Hurtado's seeing with Deut. 32:21, sorry.
              3. 2 Corinthians 3:16 (the veil of [the] Lord/LORD) - as readers are probably aware, I have found this passage (2 Corinthians 3:16-18) quite striking and have blogged about it before to introduce the hypothesis that it could be Yahweh who is the referent here (see link below to The Lord is the Spirit.... WHAT? New thoughts on 2 Corinthians 3:16-18). Were we not "made in his image" (Gen 1:27)? Christ may well be the perfect human divine image bearer, but I believe we could be looking here, especially with all the strong anarthrous usage around the half-dozen kyrios instances in this passage, at God directly, not using Kyrios to refer to "our Lord Jesus Christ". I might be wrong, but that's still how I see the evidence, contra Hurtado (and most scholarship probably). Hurtado's correct reference of it echoing Exodus 34:34, however, does not mention that specifically the wording of the presence of the LORD is not repeated by Paul, but that's pretty irrelevant.
              4. 1 Thessalonians 3:13 (Zech. 14:5) - this is a fantastic overlap of firstly "then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him" in Zechariah, then for Paul, who opens with the clear distinction of God and Jesus with "may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you".... by going on to say "may he [=the Lord Jesus] strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones." I love it. This comparison I feel encapsulates so well where I stand, which I think might be close to Hurtado's own position, that God and Jesus are utterly distinct for Paul and the early Christian church, and yet there is this great and unforeseen transferral of divine prerogatives to the Messiah. Wonderful stuff. Let's see if the next Thessalonians passage is as good.
              5. 1 Thessalonians 4:6: "the Lord [Jesus] will punish men for all such sins" with Hurtado providing Psalm 94:2 as an example of this divine prerogative of punishment (or rather avengement), although it is an approximate reference and not, I think, altogether convincing as the hermeneutic basis for Paul's application. Here, I'd like to point out also verses 7-8, immediately following this startling and divine attribution of judgement to the Lord Jesus in 1 Thessalonians 4: "For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit". Christ as divine judge against impurity is best understood in the light of this addition: the gift from God of his *Holy* Spirit enables us to proceed and live those holy lives to which we are called. This is not a binitarian passage - it is trinitarian to its core and is found in arguably the earliest surviving Christian texts of 1 Thessalonians.
              In footnote 277, Hurtado provides a few more examples that I won't exhaust us with here. But it would be lapse of me to not mention the most important text of all in this strong-distinction-yet-association scenario Hurtado is now helping us picture: Philippians 2:10-11: "which appropriates Isaiah 45:23-25 (originally proclaiming a universal submission to God) to portray the eschatological acclamation of Jesus as Kyrios "to the glory of God the Father". These applications of Old Testament Kyrios passages to Jesus connote and presuppose the conviction that in some profound way he is directly and uniquely associated with God. (p.112) I quite agree, even if I do not find Kyrios matching quite as neatly as Hurtado seems to find in the examples he gives, and also would not want to assume that it was this early and explosive exaltation of Christ that caused the first aramaic-speaking groups to refer to their master as Kyrios. 

              It is more likely, in my view, that Kyrios was applied to Jesus during his ministry as a biblical teacher or apocalyptic preacher by his groups of disciples first (as we might expect also John the Baptist to have been), arthrously, possessively. Subsequent to the revelatory experiences of Christ's resurrection and exaltation to God's right hand, that familiarity with calling Christ our Lord combined with familiarity of the title and God's name of LORD helped ensure what kind or level of exaltation and power Christ would be so quickly ascribed (Hurtado notes also the likely earliness also of the Christ poem cited by Paul in Philippians 2).

              All of this allows us nonetheless to agree with Hurtado and Larry Kreitzer that these two Kyrios figures rightly describe a "conceptual overlap between God and Christ" in Paul. Throw in Paul's double insistence from 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 that: "the Lord is the Spirit", then I would want to expand that conceptual overlap further to include the Holy Spirit.

              Thank you for reading through what has been a complex point here on Paul and his use of Kyrios. I'd love to hear back from you if you think this has helped you, confused you, if there are things I should be looking at that I have missed (especially with respect to my interpretation of Hurtado's points). Blessings.

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