Creating Jesus 13: The Jerusalem Paradigm

We now have all the pieces of the earliest christological musings in place, and we can talk about the first paradigm as it was developed by the first Christian Jews in Jerusalem. All that has gone on before in the twelve previous posts should not be taken to be linear development - i.e. first this happened, then that happened. Rather these strands of tradition came together in complexes that brought with them a number of associations and connections that become attached to Jesus simply because they were part of the complex.

There is a chicken and egg effect here. The first Christian Jews turn to these Jewish tradition complexes to understand Jesus' death, explain the visions they said they were having of the afterlife Jesus, and to reflect upon and remember his life. Then these complexes haul along associations that then serve to reinterpret who Jesus was, and so the reframing of a Jewish rabbi with messianic leanings as the Mosaic messianic Prophet, the Righteous One, the resurrected martyr, the exalted Angel YHWH-KAVOD who can intercede on our behalf formed in the teachings of the foundational movement.

What happens, as far as I can tell, is that the christology which forms gets tied to the soteriological teachings of the group. They go hand in hand. In the case of the Jerusalem paradigm, what you end up with is the christological teaching that Jesus was a complete human being born to human parents. Mary and Joseph are understood to be his biological parents (just as Matthew's and Luke's genealogies relate and the Ebionites later taught). At his baptism, the Holy Spirit descended, and it took up residence in him, possessing him as it did all the prophets of old. As God's Prophet, Jesus called people to repentance, taught people how to interpret correctly and follow the Laws so that they could live righteously and be prepared for the coming of God's judgment. Ultimately he was rejected. He suffered a terrible death as was foretold in the scripture, a death that atoned for the past sins of Israel. The Holy Spirit left him at his death. But because he was a righteous man and faithful to God, God rewarded him with resurrection from the dead, transforming him into an angelic body and exalting him to God's right hand as the principal YHWH Angel, vested with the powerful Name and enthroned. In this capacity, he will return to judge the living and the dead.

As a result of this teaching, the doctrine of the second coming was born, as well as the divinization of Jesus. Jesus was not divine during his lifetime, any more than any other prophet. He was a human being possessed by the Holy Spirit, exalted to divinity after his death.

In the next post, I will take up how this christology affected the group's soteriology and ritual practice. Then on to Antioch!