Using Acts 2-3 and Colossians 1-2 as test cases, this article will explore the character of Christological development through the first generation of Christianity. This article will compare and contrast the Christology of Acts 2 to the Christology of Colossians 1-2, then ask wow it is that faithful Jewish monotheists could accept Paul’s conception of such a high Christology? How might the ‘Colossian heresy’ have contributed to the development of a higher Christology?
What we believe about Jesus, and the story of Jesus that we tell to others, is crucial because Jesus is the centre of our faith – the Christ of Christianity – and because in western culture, Jesus is often undermined or dismissed. The question that Jesus asked Peter in Matthew 16, v15 is asked of us today: who do we say that He is?
The difference in the Jesus portrayed in Peter’s speech in Acts 2 and the ‘Christ hymn’ of Colossians 1 indicates dramatic Christological development: from a man sent and raised from the dead by God to the image of the invisible God, in whom all things are created and reconciled. Scholars have sought to explain why and how this was possible within the context of Jewish monotheism.
This essay will assert firstly that the focus of Jewish belief on the identity of God, rather than an ontological framework of nature or essence allowed Christianity to develop from within Jewish monotheism. Secondly, it will be argued that the distinctiveness of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, and Christian revelation such as that experienced by Paul, enabled the early church to see in Jesus the unexpected answer to their messianic expectations. The essay will then consider the context of the Christ hymn, arguing that as an encouragement to the Colossian church to stand firm against those questioning Jesus it is a reminder to us today of the need to know who He is and to not be swayed.
Acts, chapter 2
Acts is believed to have been written by Luke in AD.62 and records a selected history of the early Church following Jesus’ resurrection. Peter’s speech in chapter 2 draws on Joel, Daniel and the Psalms to justify the use of the titles Lord and Messiah in relation to Jesus by showing the scriptural precedents for Jesus fulfilling Messianic expectations.
In showing Jesus to be the Messiah the speeches in chapter 2 and chapter 10 emphasise Jesus’ relationship with the Father. Jesus has been anointed by the Father (10:38), God has attested Jesus to us through wonders and signs that He did in mankind’s midst (Acts 2:22-23), raised Jesus up (2:24 and 32; 10:40), exalted him to His right hand and sent the promise of the Holy Spirit (2:33).