Episode: It is sometimes claimed that Jesus became God for the earliest Christians on the basis of Roman models of human divinization or apotheosis. Did the earliest Christians really promote Jesus to divinity in such a fashion? What’s the evidence? And was the Roman model itself a ready-made pattern, or was it contested too? Seneca the Younger composed a biting political satire called the Pumpkinification of Claudius. Seneca’s purpose was to poke fun at the idea that emperors could become gods upon death. To steal a line from J. D. G. Dunn, this episode is all about Christology in the Making! Join the conversation as OnScript host Matthew Bates hosts Michael Bird.
Guest: Michael F. Bird is a biblical scholar, theologian, and university lecturer. Mike grew up in Brisbane before joining the Army and serving as a paratrooper, intelligence operator, and then chaplain’s assistant. During his time in the military he came to faith from a non-Christian background. After completing his Ph.D at the University of Queensland, Mike taught New Testament at the Highland Theological College in Scotland and Brisbane School of Theology in Australia. In 2013 he joined the faculty at Ridley as lecturer in Theology in 2013. Michael is the co-editor of the New Covenant Commentary Series, an associate editor for Zondervan’s The Story of God Bible Commentary, and an elected member of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas (the international society of New Testament scholars). He also runs a popular blog, Euangelion. Michael has written or edited numerous books, including The Saving Righteousness of God, Introducing Paul, and Evangelical Theology. The book under discussion today, Jesus the Eternal Son, will surely be regarded as one of his finest contributions to scholarship and the church.
Book: Michael F. Bird, Jesus the Eternal Son: Answering Adoptionist Christology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2017). Publisher’s description (abridged): Adoptionism—the idea that Jesus is portrayed in the Bible as a human figure who was adopted as God’s son at his baptism or resurrection—has been commonly accepted in much recent scholarship as the earliest explanation of Jesus’s divine status. Engaging critically with Bart Ehrman, James Dunn, and other scholars, Bird demonstrates that a full-fledged adoptionist Christology did not emerge until the late second century.
The OnScript Quip (our review): It is embarrassing. The emperor in question–early adoptionist christology–was installed by previous generations of scholarship. Recently Bart Ehrman and others have tried to cover the emperor’s immodesty by updating the adoptionist thesis. But Michael Bird shows that the adoptionist explanation has revealing holes. Bird’s timely and important new book exposes the truly naked state of affairs. Jesus is the eternal Son, not the adopted Son of God. — Matthew W. Bates, Quincy University, OnScript