CHRISTOLOGY

Jesus’ messiahship was immediately understood by the newborn church as going beyond the dimension of the Messiah foretold by Jewish tradition the Lord’s anointed, Cristo,j, Christ in the sense that, though in his real humanity he could suffer and die, he was also revealed in that transcendence by which he was considered a partaker in the same reality as the Son of God, himself God Paul, John, Hebrews by which the world was not only redeemed but also created. From this conviction two questions arose: if Christ is God, how is his divinity reconciled with that of God the Father, given the traditional monotheism inherited from Judaism? And how are the divine and human dimensions reconciled in his person? These questions were ignored only by certain groups of radical Jewish Christians who, in the light of traditional messianism, considered Christ a mere man endowed with particular divine charisms, the true prophet ps.-Clementine.

Called Ebionites, they were already considered heretics in the 2nd c. Other circles, strongly influenced by Jewish Christianity, tried to express Christ’s transcendence by depicting him and the Holy Spirit in angelic form, sometimes with the traditional traits of the archangels Michael and Gabriel. We should note, however, that in fact the word angel has an essentially concrete value and designates a supernatural being who manifests himself. But the nature of this supernatural being is not determined by the word itself, but by the context. The term angel represents the Semitic form of the designation of Christ and the Holy Spirit as spiritual substances, persons’ J. Danilou, La teologia del giudeo-cristianesimo, 217.

In these contexts, in which as a rule Christ tended not to be defined as Son of God in the strict sense, he was, in fact, though closely associated with the Father’s transcendence, made into a divine being of lower rank. In circles in which Jewish influence mingled with that of Hellenism, Christ’s transcendence could be presented through the concept of spirit pneuma, understood not just in the Stoic sense of a divine substrate or substance in which Father, Son and Holy Spirit participated but also as a personal name of Christ qua deus, identified at times with the Holy Spirit Hermas. Finally, in other texts, Christ is considered the real Son of God tout court and the name Logos is sporadically attributed to him ps.-Barnabas, Ignatius. In the late 1st c. and first decades of the 2nd c. all these themes appear, sketched rather than systematically developed, and at times mingled somewhat incoherently Hermas.

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