Don Lewis’ Christian History course has been helpful in my understanding of the Christology of the earliest Christians. Here is his basic interpretive matrix: 1) the earliest Christians were fiercely and uncompromisingly monotheistic; 2) they believed that God intervened in human history; 3) this intervention in human history culminated in the incarnation: God became flesh—and this was human flesh, a human being; 4) the incarnation was that of Jesus Christ; 5) God continues to dwell with his people through the Holy Spirit. Whatever your view of Jesus, it must fit into this five-fold matrix if it is to fit into the theological parameters of the primitive Church.
This interpretive matrix falls short of the exactitudes of Chalcedonian Trinitarianism, but provides the basis for its later development. Thus, Gordon Fee can rightly refer to Paul’s “latent” Trinitarianism. This matrix also marks the parameters for Divine Identity in the Gospels. For example, the fierce monotheism of the earliest Christians bars various theories that Jesus was some sort of subordinate deity. Also, the emphasis on the reality of the incarnation bars theories which would claim that Jesus was less than God or less than man.
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