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Gordon Fee’s Pauline Christology: Part 3

July 11, 2012

Gordon Fee, Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Study (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson, 2007).

Fee continues his synthesis in chapter 12: “Christ: Preexistent and Incarnate Savior”.

The goal of this chapter is to display that, “Paul believed Christ to be the pre-existent Son of God, who had become incarnate in order to redeem” (500). Fee sections the relevant texts under three headings and emphasises that while Paul doesn’t directly argue for Christ’s pre-existence and incarnation he instead argues on the basis of his belief in these things. Fee argues that this also reveals that his readers shared Paul’s beliefs. Fee is particularly on the offense against Dunn throughout this chapter and many of the footnotes are devoted to engaging with his views.

The first section is devoted to Christ being shown as the agent of creation and redemption in 1 Cor 8:6, Col 1:15-20, and Col 2:9. In 1 Corinthians 8:6 Paul identifies Christ with Yahweh of the Shema and thereby attributes Him with pre-existence and divinity. Including Colossians 1:15-20, both of these passages identify Christ as the originator and goal of creation.

Next, Fee examines texts that show Christ as “impoverished” redeemer, using metaphoric language to describe what Christ underwent in His incarnation. In 2 Cor 8:9 and Phil 2:6-8, we find metaphors such as “he became poor” and “made himself nothing…being born in the likeness of men”, and in 2 Tim 1:9-10 we see grace that was given to us “in Christ Jesus before the ages began” being “manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus”, a type of language all requiring pre-existence and incarnation in order for it to work.

The third section “The Son as the ‘Sent One’”, Fee argues must be read in light of the clear statements in the first and the implications of the second; these texts do not require pre-existence, but they do imply it in light of these prior passages. Galatians 4:4-7 is considered first and two points are argued in favour of pre-existence: the sending of Christ in verse 4 is the same as the Spirit in verse 6, secondly the emphasis on Christ’s being born of a woman (v4) presupposes pre-existence. Romans 8:3-4 and 1 Timothy 1:15; 2:5; 3:16 are both examined in a similar way.

Fee then concludes that this data leads us to the certainty that Paul believed Jesus’ pre-existence to mean that He was deity who came in the flesh, “in Christ, one who was truly God was living a truly human life” (512).

Read the other parts of this review.

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