Jesus as a person and a reflection of the concept of Christianity has long been discussed and analyzed by scholars and historians, given the nature of his being and what he represented in life and in the stories pertaining to him in religious doctrines. The principle characteristics of what comprised Jesus as a figure for worship formed the basis for the field of study within Christianity known as Christology. Christology mostly focuses on the Gospels and the various epistles that are told throughout the New Testament. The relationship between Jesus and God as the Father are some of the more primary points of emphasis that are correlated in the study of Christology. (Scaer, 1989) The study itself is concerned mostly with the various attributes of the ministry of Jesus, as well as the teachings and acts that he committed and the role that he plays overall in the salvation of his followers. As such, many of the concepts pertaining to Christology directly reflect the tenants and basis of the formation of Christianity itself, and is synonymous with many of the attributes of the history of Christianity.
One of the ideas upon which Christology is formulated is the concept of the pre-existence of Christ as a being and a deity. Paul the Apostle viewed the idea prominently and thematically, the worship of Christ is associated with what came to be known as Christophanies prior to the existence of the being Jesus Christ. Paul argued that there were many beings in the Old Testament and in Biblical scripture prior to the birth of Jesus Christ that asserted his presence and the correlation to God himself. (Kraus, 2004) In this regard, Paul believed that there were many manifestations that arose throughout the Bible that alluded to incarnations of Jesus Christ. One particular instance of this is the notable “Angel of the Lord” that manifests itself in the Old Testament, in which an angel appeared many times to help further the actions and wills of God. (Kraus, 2004) Paul believed that this sort of figure and the manifestation of a being of God’s will and devices further solidified the concept of Jesus as an entity before the conception of the human incarnation of the being.
Given this particular correlative device and the way that many theologians have hypothesized upon the existence and prevalence of Jesus Christ and how this connects directly to precepts and ideas formed within the church. Following the Apostolic Age, the churches that were in place in the early years of Christianity’s mass inception were often associated with debates on many issues contained within the church and upon defining the basis through which the religion would be handled and orchestrated. (Kraus, 2004) Christology thus became a primary focus of these discussions and reflection upon what constituted the nature of Christianity itself. There were seven definitive ecumenical councils that deliberated on the state of Christianity and what defined the attributes of the religion and each of these councils and discussions addressed issues pertaining to Christology. Many of the issues that were constantly discussed pertained to the nature of Jesus Christ and what defined him as a being, and whether or not this involved one nature or two definitive natures– his human self and the divine association and correlation with God.
By the 13th century, Thomas Aquinas set forth and provided the first detailed and systemic approach to Christology, effectively resolving many of the issues within the discussions of Christ himself. In his understanding, Christ was a symbol of perfection and a definitive being associated with the more perfect and pure characteristics of humanity itself. (Matera, 1999) This in turn led to a development of Christ as a symbol of tenderness and genuine care, embodying a living entity representative of love and peace. Modern Christology developed as such, in a way that continued to present Jesus Christ as an emblematic being of God, and synonymous with God himself. Karl Rahner stated that “God became man and that God-made-man is the individual Jesus Christ.” (Rahner, 2002) This in itself helped to resolve many of the previous debates and issues pertaining to what defined Jesus Christ, and provided a solid framework for the assessment of Jesus as an extension of God’s will and his desire to aid and guide man.
Many of the concepts pertaining to Christology directly reflect the tenants and basis of the formation of Christianity itself, and is synonymous with many of the attributes of the history of Christianity. Throughout the course of recorded Christian history, the concept of what defines Jesus has been discussed and analyzed by many great thinkers and scholars and the renditions of defining Jesus’ role have developed several times, accordingly. Principally, Jesus has become associated with a sense of love and tenderness, a manifestation of a being that was devised by God to represent himself in a way that humans could relate to, and in turn understand. This concept devised the basis of Christology and helped to supplant the importance of Jesus as a figure. As such, this in turn also led to the developments of Christology as a practice and a source of reference for many individuals within Christianity and theologists interested in understanding the role that Jesus played. Christology in its earliest renditions helped to create the framework for how Christians would approach the idea of God and what would define the characteristics of this being in general, as well as what attributes defined him and the religion based upon his role in reflection to God’s work.
- Kraus, C. Norman. Jesus Christ Our Lord: Christology from a Disciple’s Perspective. Wipf & Stock Publishers. 2004. p. 288.
- Matera, Frank J. New Testament Christology. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. 1999. p.46.
- Rahner, Karl Symbols of Jesus: A Christology of Symbolic Engagement. Cambridge University Press. 2002. p. 11.
- Scaer, David P. Christology Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics Vol. VI. The Luther Academy, 1989. p. 318.