Where was Jesus?

Ramsay MacMullen discusses the Christianizing of the Roman Empire and looks at what was taught in face to face encounters between Christians and pagans. He says:
“…monotheism, to begin with. That was taught, and God was compared, in familiar fashion, to a monarch with his companies of servants about him; and contrast was drawn between Him and mere imitations, the daimones that passed for gods by animating idols and so forth. Word was spread of divine wrath and punishments, the more readily imagined through being leveled at evildoers resurrected in the flesh; while immortal delights were also known to await the blessed. The very stark blacks and whites of this whole crude picture of Christianity, and the very unsteady focus on the role of Jesus, are most striking.”
In a footnote to this paragraph, MacMullen says:
“…on Jesus in the theology being presented, [see] the curious paragraph in Athenag., Leg. 10, with really no explanation of Jesus’ role; his entire absence in Minucius Felix (striking at 29.6) and in Theophilus, Ad Autol. (striking at 1.12, 2.9, and 2.22); and his total unimportance for the one recent convert whose theology we can actually form some idea of, namely, Constantine. See Kraft (1955) 60 and passim and Frend (1952) 153.”
The passage MacMullen refers to in Athenagoras is here and it is terrible as regards mentioning Jesus – the central figure of the universe and the Church. The Minucius Felix passage is here and is also a disaster when it comes to Jesus the Messiah. I haven’t read the works in question, so I’m taking MacMullen’s word for it, but it is painful to see these presentations of Christianity as a philosophy that really didn’t need to focus much on Jesus.

Ramsay MacMullen discusses the Christianizing of the Roman Empire and looks at what was taught in face to face encounters between Christians and pagans. He says:

…monotheism, to begin with. That was taught, and God was compared, in familiar fashion, to a monarch with his companies of servants about him; and contrast was drawn between Him and mere imitations, the daimones that passed for gods by animating idols and so forth. Word was spread of divine wrath and punishments, the more readily imagined through being leveled at evildoers resurrected in the flesh; while immortal delights were also known to await the blessed. The very stark blacks and whites of this whole crude picture of Christianity, and the very unsteady focus on the role of Jesus, are most striking.

In a footnote to this paragraph, MacMullen says:

…on Jesus in the theology being presented, [see] the curious paragraph in Athenag., Leg. 10, with really no explanation of Jesus’ role; his entire absence in Minucius Felix (striking at 29.6) and in Theophilus, Ad Autol. (striking at 1.12, 2.9, and 2.22); and his total unimportance for the one recent convert whose theology we can actually form some idea of, namely, Constantine. See Kraft (1955) 60 and passim and Frend (1952) 153.

The passage MacMullen refers to in Athenagoras is here and it is terrible as regards mentioning Jesus – the central figure of the universe and the Church. The Minucius Felix passage is here and is also a disaster when it comes to Jesus the Messiah. I haven’t read the works in question, so I’m taking MacMullen’s word for it, but it is painful to see these presentations of Christianity as a philosophy that really didn’t need to focus much on Jesus.

Jordan on Salvation

James Jordan writes about Romans and N.T. Wright:

For me at least, the so-called “Old Testament” is very clear about individual salvation by faith alone. That’s exactly what the first of the Ten Words commands: “I did it all; you didn’t do anything; I’m your God, now put all your trust in Me and in no other gods.”

But historically, the Church has tended to despise the so-called OT, evening inventing the phrase “Old Testament” to describe it, as if the seamless Word of God is really two separate books (a notion not found in the Bible itself). Hence, it is as if the so-called NT has to start all over again.

And, since the Reformation, Paul has to start all over again. Paul has to say again what has already been said countless times in the Torah, in the Psalms, and in the Prophets. God through Ezekiel, for instance, repeatedly tells us that each person stands as an individual before the judgment seat.

I just think that this is a goofy assumption to bring to the Pauline writings and to the “NT” in general. The Bible is not a Tibetan prayer-wheel that just goes round and round over the same ideas in book after book. (It’s preachers who do that, preaching their pet ideas over and over regardless of what the text in front of them says.)

My point is that I’m not bothered if someone says that Romans is not about how to get saved. Frankly, I don’t expect Romans to be about that. If that’s what Paul wanted to say, all he needed to do was point to Exodus 20. Similarly, if “works of the law” means “earning salvation,” once again all Paul needed to do was point to Exodus 20.

I don’t need N.T. Wright to tell me this. I learned it 25 years ago in seminary. I’ve operated with it for all my ministry.

Of course, none of the above actually deals with the question of what Paul is doing in Romans. Maybe he is largely concerned with individual salvation in Romans. Maybe he’s not. My own opinion is that the book is largely about the resurrection of the human race, which was ripped in half (and hence slain) in Genesis 17, and which is reunited in the resurrection of Jesus. But there’s more in the book than that, obviously.