Keys to a recapitulatory Christology

Ephesians 1:10 says Christ sums up all things in himself, both in heaven and on earth.  Christology, then, recapitulates–or sees the recapitulation–of all things (including Scriptural exegesis) in Christ.

I think this is a lot more helpful than making verses say that Christ earned some legal status and transfered that legal status onto us.  One could argue that I am forcing the biblical text onto a recapitulatory grid.  That’s true, I suppose, but everyone does that and indeed, given what van Til taught us, it’s hard to avoid doing that.

The following verses seek to show that Christ “recapitulated” Israel’s story, Israel’s promises, and Israel’s inheritance.   We receive this, not by having some fictional legal status transfered to us, but in sharing in the body of Christ.  Christ gained these promises and in sharing in his body, which is Christ, we participate in these promises.

There are  hundreds of verses to that point, and I suppose dozens of counter-arguments, and I do not have time to examine either in full detail.   However, I will quote and refer to a Protestant author who has effectively reshaped the debate. Richard Hays has decisively and convincingly argued that Galatians 2:16 should be read as “the faith(fulness) of Jesus Christ” rather than “faith in Jesus Christ.”   While the actual Greek grammar is the subjective genitive (Hays’ reading), I won’t go into the technical details here, but will rather focus on the implications of Hays’ argument.

If Hays is correct, then saying the “faithfulness” of Jesus Christ makes Christ the active agent in salvation.   It means Jesus is doing something.  At this point the Calvinist will say, “Yes, Christ is doing something.  He is obeying the law and transfering that to our account.”   Technically possible, I suppose, but let’s place Christ within the narrative of Israel.   If Hays is correct, then this reading corresponds nicely to Romans 5–the Second Adam.   Jesus is not only acting as another Adam, but he is also acting as another Israel.  He is the faithful Israelite.  He is, in other words, recapitulating Israel’s story (when I do a book review of Hays’ work I will bring out other points).   To follow up on the previous line, Hays placing Jesus in the climax of Israel’s story.

Hays notes in his book that a weakness of traditional Protestant readings of justification and Galatians fail to show how justification and Christology have any real connection.  This is another way of paraphrasing Sanders’ complaint that justification is a side-issue to the real Pauline core:  participation in Christ.   Sanders is wrong, but he is onto something.  Justification is not a side-issue, but it doesn’t fit into the schematic the way Protestants typically make it fit.  When I finish Hays’ work I will bring out this argument.

One final point, if Hays is correct, then this argument makes better sense of baptism.  If Jesus is the True Israelite (indeed, the True Israel itself; cf. Matthew 2:15), and in Christ’ baptism he continued the story of Israel in a new way (or better yet, he recapitulated Israel’s story), then we, too, find ourselves in this saving, healing story if we also participate in Christ.   How do we identify with Christ?  We do so in baptism.   This doesn’t confer “magic salvation” points to us ala some crass construals of “baptismal regeneration.”  Baptism does save, not because of the magic powers of __________, but because it brings us into the locus of salvation:  Christ and his body the Church.

It was always hard to see how the sacraments were important given a hard reading of sola gratia.  If grace alone truly saved (indeed, especially if we were elect from all time), then we really didn’t have to get baptized.  I know, I know, God works through secondary causes.     But that’s just ad hoc theology.  If pressed to the edge, one has to admit that nothing, not even baptism, contributes to our salvation.   Yes, there are appeals to obedience and what not, but remember what sola gratia claims.   Baptism ends up being a fifth wheel.

On the other hand, if Hays’ reading is correct, then baptism, while “salvific,” does not become a “work” that gets me into heaven (the meritorious scheme has since been abandoned.  Merit has no place in narratival ontologies).

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One comment on “Keys to a recapitulatory Christology

  1. Canadian says:

    I love this recapitulation theology in Orthodoxy.
    Also, that verse carries on to say in completion:
    Baptism now saves you…..through the resurrection of Christ.
    If we leave out the raised in Christ part (also seen in Rom. 6) baptism loses its meaning and becomes subject to Protestant revisionary ideas.

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