2Cor 5:19 Exegetical Challange

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C. S. Bartholomew
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2Cor 5:19 Exegetical Challange

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2Cor 5:19 ὡς ὅτι θεὸς ἦν ἐν Χριστῷ κόσμον καταλλάσσων ἑαυτῷ, μὴ λογιζόμενος αὐτοῖς τὰ παραπτώματα αὐτῶν, καὶ θέμενος ἐν ἡμῖν τὸν λόγον τῆς καταλλαγῆς.

Late last night I was listening to Michael Bird[1] talking about Christology in Mark's Gospel in dialogue with Bart Ehrman. This morning was back working on 2Cor looking at "θεὸς ἦν ἐν Χριστῷ κόσμον καταλλάσσων ἑαυτῷ" and wondering about how many ways this could be understood or misunderstood. For example, assume you haven't been reading Paul a lot, the expression "θεὸς ἦν ἐν Χριστῷ[2] looks truly ambiguous. If your thinking about early Christology, you might find a certain reading of "θεὸς ἦν ἐν Χριστῷ appealing.

So the challenge is how could we (mis)read this passage in a manner where it could be used as exegetical evidence for this debate between Ehrman, Bird & Gathercole?


[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtkeNuCwinc

skip to min 37 and listen to Bird.

[2]"The meaning of ἐν Χριστῷ in this example is more than a little perplexing," Constantine R. Campbell, Paul and Union with Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study, Harper Collins, 2015.
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Re: 2Cor 5:19 Exegetical Challange

Post by jeidsath »

I'll throw out my best shot for the English so that others can correct.

2Cor 5:19 ὡς ὅτι θεὸς ἦν ἐν Χριστῷ κόσμον καταλλάσσων ἑαυτῷ, μὴ λογιζόμενος αὐτοῖς τὰ παραπτώματα αὐτῶν, καὶ θέμενος ἐν ἡμῖν τὸν λόγον τῆς καταλλαγῆς.

Thus because God was by means of Christ reconciling the world to himself, not reckoning the falling-asides of theirs, and placing in us the word of reconciliation.

I suppose that could also be "by means of a messiah," but Paul uses Christ like a proper name. I suppose that the theological landmine is reading "ἐν Χριστῷ" as "in Christ" -- ie., God was doing this inside of Christ?
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Re: 2Cor 5:19 Exegetical Challange

Post by Markos »

2 Cor 5:19a: ὡς ὅτι Θεὸς ἦν ἐν Χριστῷ κόσμον καταλλάσσων ἑαυτῷ,
ὡς ὅτι Θεὸς ἦν ἐν ἑαυτῷ, καταλλάσσων κόσμον Χριστῷ.

How that God was in Himself, (that is, the Holy Ghost) reconciling a world (that is, this present evil world) to Christ.

I don't think Paul himself would have a problem with this sort of reading.
Last edited by Markos on Tue Aug 23, 2016 7:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 2Cor 5:19 Exegetical Challange

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jeidsath wrote:I'll throw out my best shot for the English so that others can correct.

2Cor 5:19 ὡς ὅτι θεὸς ἦν ἐν Χριστῷ κόσμον καταλλάσσων ἑαυτῷ, μὴ λογιζόμενος αὐτοῖς τὰ παραπτώματα αὐτῶν, καὶ θέμενος ἐν ἡμῖν τὸν λόγον τῆς καταλλαγῆς.

Thus because God was by means of Christ reconciling the world to himself, not reckoning the falling-asides of theirs, and placing in us the word of reconciliation.

I suppose that could also be "by means of a messiah," but Paul uses Christ like a proper name. I suppose that the theological landmine is reading "ἐν Χριστῷ" as "in Christ" -- ie., God was doing this inside of Christ?
Looks Good, you read the context and saw θεοῦ τοῦ καταλλάξαντος ἡμᾶς ἑαυτῷ διὰ Χριστοῦ

2Cor 5:18
τὰ δὲ πάντα ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ καταλλάξαντος ἡμᾶς ἑαυτῷ διὰ Χριστοῦ καὶ δόντος ἡμῖν τὴν διακονίαν τῆς καταλλαγῆς,

But someone who wanted to argue christology from this passage might come up with some means of avoiding the context. That's what was floating in my mind after listening to M. Bird and S. Gathercole talk about early high christology, I was thinking of what sort of spin I could put on θεὸς ἦν ἐν Χριστῷ, playing on the ambiguity of ἐν Χριστῷ, intentionally misreading it. Where could we go with it to support early high christology (Gathercole, The Preexistent Son).
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Re: 2Cor 5:19 Exegetical Challange

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Markos wrote:
2 Cor 5:19a: ὡς ὅτι Θεὸς ἦν ἐν Χριστῷ κόσμον καταλλάσσων ἑαυτῷ,
ὡς ὅτι Θεὸς ἦν ἐν ἑαυτῷ, καταλλάσσων κόσμον Χριστῷ.

How that God was in Himself, (that is, the Holy Ghost) reconciling a world (that is, this present evil world) to Christ.

I don't think Paul himself would have a problem with this sort of reading.

Yes, that is very close to what I was thinking, actually I had not formulated the idea in any concrete way, just thinking about John the Baptist's statement that he was to identify the one who was coming by the Spirit coming and remaining. The exegetical detail ἐν Χριστῷ is read differently from what you will find in most commentaries.
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Re: 2Cor 5:19 Exegetical Challange

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2 Cor 5:19a: ὡς ὅτι Θεὸς ἦν ἐν Χριστῷ κόσμον καταλλάσσων ἑαυτῷ

This has been controversial for a long time and the best summary statement I could find was from P. E. Hughes 2Cor NICNT 1962. I found it plagiarized on the web and have attempted to reconstruct the original with only a change in format to make it more understandable. The words and syntax are all from the original.
There has never been unanimity as to how the opening clause of this verse should be understood. It may be taken to mean either

(i) That "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself" (Origen, Ambrose, Ambrosiaster, Herveius, Erasmus, Luther, Clavin, Beza, Bengel, Bachmann, Allo, etc.) or

(ii) That "in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself" (Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophlyact, Estius, Meyer, Alford, Olshausen, Hodge, Denney, Plummer, Strachan, Filsom, R.S.V. mg, etc.).

[ ... ] *snip*

Of the alternatives mentioned above, the former would convey the interpretation that in reconciling the world to Himself God the Father was not only acting through Christ, as an instrument (see previous v.), but was also in Him, united with Him in being and act. God-in-action on our behalf is essentially God-in-Christ. The unanimity of Father and Son flows from their eternal unity (Jn. 10: 30), and on the fact that Christ acting for us is no less than God acting for us hangs the whole efficacy and security of our salvation. “It is”, says Allo, “this presence of God in Christ, in the man Jesus, which gives to the sacrifice of the cross its infinite value; the doctrine of redemption depends on that of the hypostatic union, a doctrine with which these verses are impregnated”.

P. E. Hughes, 2nd Cor, NICNT, Eerdmans 1962, pp. 207-208.
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Re: 2Cor 5:19 Exegetical Challange

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Over the weekend I picked up Murray J Harris' magnum opus again from ILL, this time from College of the Ozarks, Point Lookout Missouri. Reading Harris' treatment of 2Cor 5:19 several times I discovered that he finds one thing wrong with the reading represent by NASB, a missing comma:

SBLGNT 2Cor 5:19 ὡς ὅτι θεὸς ἦν ἐν Χριστῷ κόσμον καταλλάσσων ἑαυτῷ, μὴ λογιζόμενος αὐτοῖς τὰ παραπτώματα αὐτῶν, καὶ θέμενος ἐν ἡμῖν τὸν λόγον τῆς καταλλαγῆς.

NASB 2Cor 5:19 ... God was in Christ[,] reconciling the world to Himself ...

This reading is favored by Harris for a list of reasons, expressed within a chain of exegetical moves concerning which I have a few reservations. It isn't the conclusion that bothers me it is how we get there. Those blessed by Google will be able to read some of it (page 440 excluded) by searching on

"periphrastic imperfect construction is infrequent in the Pauline corpus" [1]

I quote this snip-it because it represents a style of exegetical reasoning that is common in the school of exegesis under consideration. Would welcome comments from others who have read Harris. What do you think about this line of reasoning?


[1] Second Epistle to the Corinthians, Murray J. Harris, Eerdmans 2005, p. 441.
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Re: 2Cor 5:19 Exegetical Challange

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Does no-one hold that there's no telling just what Paul meant? or that the distinction between "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself" and "in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself" would have been meaningless to him?

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Re: 2Cor 5:19 Exegetical Challange

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mwh wrote:Does no-one hold that there's no telling just what Paul meant? or that the distinction between "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself" and "in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself" would have been meaningless to him?
sure, so called "post-modernism" did a lot of that, but that's very end-of-the-20th-century stuff. Jack B. Rogers[1] is dead. Robert A. J. Gagnon buried him.

Nobody doing serious biblical studies these days pays any attention to epistemological nihilism, it isn't even interesting anymore. The guy I knew in 1979-80 was into all that ended up in a mental institution. I am sure you could find someone reading a paper somewhere that was still doing this sort of stuff but the mainstream biblical studies projects are ignoring that line of reasoning about language. It is totally self defeating if your making a living by teaching language and exegesis. Who would attend a class taught by someone like that? These people have to "sell" their courses to very cynical students who are taking out loans to pay tuition.

[1]Jack B. Rogers former prof, Fuller Pasadena, San Francisco Theological Seminary.
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Re: 2Cor 5:19 Exegetical Challange

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This implies that exegetics is simply a matter of fashion. Which helps explain how it manages to perpetuate itself, however fatuously. Questions that were “interesting” a few years ago are no longer so. One biblical scholar “buries” another. And will no doubt be buried in turn by another. Don’t you see how silly this is?

My question went deeper. Much of the “exegetical” enterprise proceeds on the basis of theological niceties that took shape only later. That’s methodologically unsound. Surely at least some of those engaged in the exegesis industry must be aware of that.

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Re: 2Cor 5:19 Exegetical Challange

Post by jeidsath »

C. S. Bartholomew wrote:Looks Good, you read the context and saw θεοῦ τοῦ καταλλάξαντος ἡμᾶς ἑαυτῷ διὰ Χριστοῦ

2Cor 5:18
τὰ δὲ πάντα ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ καταλλάξαντος ἡμᾶς ἑαυτῷ διὰ Χριστοῦ καὶ δόντος ἡμῖν τὴν διακονίαν τῆς καταλλαγῆς,
Thank you, but I didn't actually read the context. I thought that the idea of God being inside of Jesus, or anybody, wasn't the sort of thing that Paul would say. Now that you point it out though, I think that the context does seem to support this reading.
mwh wrote:Does no-one hold that there's no telling just what Paul meant? or that the distinction between "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself" and "in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself" would have been meaningless to him?
Maybe we can't know precisely what Paul thought, but I think that he would have drawn meaningful distinctions between the possible meanings.

1) instrumental -- God using Christ (LSJ A.III)
2) of form -- God "in the form of Christ" (LSJ A.I.10)
3) of place -- God "inside the body of Christ," physically inside of him, possessing him or motivating him or somesuch (LSJ A.I.3)

There can be no productive discussion around number two so I won't say anything about it. I think that three is not something that the historical Paul would have thought or said. I could just barely believe it in the Synoptic Gospels (where it would be bizarre, but not impossible given all the possession going on). It would fit John like a glove, having some sort of mystical meaning (or non-meaning) there. But I don't see it in Paul.
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Re: 2Cor 5:19 Exegetical Challange

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mwh wrote:This implies that exegetics is simply a matter of fashion. Which helps explain how it manages to perpetuate itself, however fatuously. Questions that were “interesting” a few years ago are no longer so. One biblical scholar “buries” another. And will no doubt be buried in turn by another. Don’t you see how silly this is?
Nothing silly about it. Exegetical schools of thought, frameworks, whatever you want to call it, they come and go. On July 30, 1976 I was sitting in John Feinberg's first graduate course in soteriology, he was still writing his dissertation on the problem of evil for a Phd in philosophy at Univ. Chicago. On 07/30/76 he stood up at the lectern and started the class with an announcement: "
Rudolf Bultmann died today and now he knows the truth." John Feinberg July 30, 1976
Butlmann is dead. In 1979 I. Howard Marshall published a commentary on Luke in the Eerdmans NIGTC series. My chief complaint about this commentary was inordinate amount of space allocated to responding to Butlmann. My generation didn't particularly want to read about it. I remember Ken Litwak starting firestorm on b-greek in the late 90s when he said he wasn't going to waste time in Phd dissertation talking about Butlmann. The moderators were people from the Butlmann era and they all got in a big huff over it. Drove him off the forum for a while but now he is back. I did the same thing. Posted one day saying I had seen several works of Butlmann at Half-Price books going for a $1.00 per volume and no one was buying them.

I just looked at the index in George H. Guthrie 2Cor BECNT Baker Academic 2015. Butlmann is cited 5 times, four of these are buried in footnotes. There is no discussion of Butlmann's exegetical hermenutical framework, zero. Nothing. By comparison the citations to Murray J. Harris fills an entire column in the index. I suspect Butlmann was included just to cover the bases. No intention to actually interact with his ideas which are totally out of style and have been for eons. It was stylish to be a post-Butlmannian something like 50-60 years ago.

In 1994 the first commenatry in the BECNT series Baker Academic was published. Darrell L. Bock, Luke two volumes. I had a library copy from SPU permanently checked out. Got into discussion with Stephan Carlson on b-greek about it. My chief complaint was the space wasted on interacting with Jesus Seminar. My prediction was it would give the work a short shelf life. 20 years out nobody was going to be the least bit interested in the Jesus Seminar. Stephan Carlson said he was reading Bock because he was interacting with Crossan, Funk, Koester and all the others. So here we are over twenty years out. Walk up to a 20 something New Testament graduate student and try to start a conversation about the Jesus Seminar.

enough examples.
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Re: 2Cor 5:19 Exegetical Challange

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jeidsath wrote: I thought that the idea of God being inside of Jesus, or anybody, wasn't the sort of thing that Paul would say. Now that you point it out though, I think that the context does seem to support this reading.
Depends on how you understand Paul's christology and style of argument. Harris[1] doesn't see anything un-Pauline with the theological implications of God was in Christ.

NASB 2Cor 5:19 ... God was in Christ[,] reconciling the world to Himself ...

I am assuming Harris is agreeing with P. E. Hughes but I could be overlooking something.
There has never been unanimity as to how the opening clause of this verse should be understood. It may be taken to mean either

(i) That "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself" (Origen, Ambrose, Ambrosiaster, Herveius, Erasmus, Luther, Clavin, Beza, Bengel, Bachmann, Allo, etc.) or

(ii) That "in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself" (Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophlyact, Estius, Meyer, Alford, Olshausen, Hodge, Denney, Plummer, Strachan, Filsom, R.S.V. mg, etc.).

[ ... ] *snip*

Of the alternatives mentioned above, the former would convey the interpretation that in reconciling the world to Himself God the Father was not only acting through Christ, as an instrument (see previous v.), but was also in Him, united with Him in being and act. God-in-action on our behalf is essentially God-in-Christ. The unanimity of Father and Son flows from their eternal unity (Jn. 10: 30), and on the fact that Christ acting for us is no less than God acting for us hangs the whole efficacy and security of our salvation. “It is”, says Allo, “this presence of God in Christ, in the man Jesus, which gives to the sacrifice of the cross its infinite value; the doctrine of redemption depends on that of the hypostatic union, a doctrine with which these verses are impregnated”.

P. E. Hughes, 2nd Cor, NICNT, Eerdmans 1962, pp. 207-208.

[1]certainly in Oakland you should be able to google book Harris, search string:
"periphrastic imperfect construction is infrequent in the Pauline corpus"

POSTSCRIPT

I am not a Paul aficionado. Have suffered through two graduate level courses on Romans and endless lectures/sermons on his epistles. But haven't really done serious exegesis.
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Re: 2Cor 5:19 Exegetical Challange

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In style, out of style. So biblical exegetics is merely a matter of fashion, like women’s hats or men’s beards. And you answer my question “Don’t you see how silly this is?” You don’t.

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Re: 2Cor 5:19 Exegetical Challange

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2 Cor 5:19a: ὡς ὅτι Θεὸς ἦν ἐν Χριστῷ...
Θεὸς ἦν ἐν Χριστῷ.
Θεὸς ἐγένετο ἐν Χριστῷ.
Θεὸς ἐγένετο διὰ Χριστοῦ.
Θεὸς ἐγένετο ἄνθρωπος διὰ Χριστοῦ.
σὰρξ ἐγένετο Θεὸς ἐν Χριστῷ.
πνεῦμα ὑπάρξας, Θεὸς ἦν ἐν Χριστῷ γενόμενος ἄνθρωπος. ἐσκήνωσε δ' ἐν ἡμῖν.

Θεὸς ἦν ἐν Χριστῷ...
οὐ μανθάνω γράφειν, ἀλλὰ γράφω τοῦ μαθεῖν.

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