Pre-existence of the Son in Paul?

Mark Goodacre’s latest NT Podcast fairly and succinctly argues that Paul did believe in the pre-existence of Jesus the Son of God. However, while scholars tend to agree that the attribution of a full-blown notion of pre-existence to Christ is found in the later Johannine literature, there is far less consensus with respect to Paul. Indeed, with the greater interest in all things christological in recent years, the denial of a Pauline doctrine of pre-existence by Kuschel and others has become something of a flashpoint in contemporary discussions of Pauline Christology.

Moreover, this division is compounded because the historical question of what exactly the ‘pre-existence of Christ’ connotes, elicits no simple answer. For example, at one end of the spectrum, Kuschel and Dunn (who must be major conversations partners in this discussion) argue that only an ‘ideal’ pre-existence is attributed to Christ by Paul; something similar to the ‘pre-existence’ of Wisdom or of the Torah in later rabbinic thought. However, while this ‘ideal’ pre-existence is essentially the same as divine foreknowledge or predestination, it is in stark contrast to the traditional Christian view of Christ’s ‘real’ pre-existence: the belief that the one subsequently known as Jesus Christ somehow had a personal history with God prior to his human life. In fact, its denial has prompted several robust responses for it seems to stab at the very heart of the Christian doctrines of Christ’s deity, incarnation and his redemptive actions, in which the pre-existent Son embarks from heaven on a mission to rescue fallen humanity. Just as sheer indulgence, I’m going to blog some musings this week on the focal points in the debate – those texts which garner the most support for a Pauline doctrine of real pre-existence, namely: Phil 2:6-8; 1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:15-17; Gal 4:4; Rom 8:3; 1 Cor 10:4, 9.

Series Link.


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2 Responses to “Pre-existence of the Son in Paul?”

  1. Week in Review: 10.29.10 « Near Emmaus Says:

    […] Jonathan Brown addresses the pre-existence of Christ in Phil. 2 and 1 Cor. […]

  2. Pre-existence of the Son of God in Paul? Series Link « Introspective Cogitations Says:

    […] Introduction; Phil 2; 1 Cor 8; Col 1; Gal 4/Rom 8; 1 Cor 10; Conclusion. […]

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