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Can the Messiahship of Jesus Be Read off Paul's Grammar? Nils Dahl's Criteria 50 Years Later*

  • Matthew V. Novenson (a1)

It is half a century since Nils A. Dahl wrote his important essay ‘Die Messianität Jesu bei Paulus’, in which he determines that χριστός in Paul is effectively a proper name, not a title, on the basis of four negative philological observations: it is never a general term; it is never a predicate of the verb ‘to be’; it never takes a genitive modifier; and it characteristically lacks the definite article. The purpose of this article is to reconsider what each of these observations entails about the messiahship of Jesus. My thesis is that, while all four observations are significant for understanding Paul's thought, they do not constitute proper criteria for assessing the role of the messiahship of Jesus therein.

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1 Dahl, N. A., ‘Die Messianität Jesu bei Paulus’, Studia Paulina in honorem Johannis de Zwaan septuagenarii (Haarlem: Bohn, 1953) 8395; Eng. trans. ‘The Messiahship of Jesus in Paul’, The Crucified Messiah (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1974) 37–47; repr. in Dahl, , Jesus the Christ: The Historical Origins of Christological Doctrine (ed. Juel, D. H.; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991) 1525, here 15–16. My citations follow the English translation and the pagination of the most recent volume.

2 Dahl, ‘Messiahship of Jesus’, 15.

3 Dahl, ‘Messiahship of Jesus’, 15–16.

4 See, e.g., Hengel, M., ‘“Christos” in Paul’, Between Jesus and Paul: Studies in the Earliest History of Christianity (London: SCM, 1983) 6577, here 67: ‘Dahl's four basic philological observations speak for themselves’; also Gaston, L., Paul and the Torah (Vancouver: University of British Columbia, 1987) 67; Wright, N. T., The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology (Edinburgh: T. &. T. Clark, 1991) 41–2; Dunn, J. D. G., The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998) 197–9; Cummins, S. A., ‘Divine Life and Corporate Christology: God, Messiah Jesus, and the Covenant Community in Paul’, The Messiah in the Old and New Testaments (ed. Evans, C. A. and Porter, S. F.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007) 200; Zetterholm, M., ‘Paul and the Missing Messiah’, The Messiah in Early Judaism and Christianity (ed. Zetterholm, M.; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007) 3940, 131 n. 37.

5 Dahl, ‘Messiahship of Jesus’, 15. Likewise Hengel, ‘“Christos” in Paul’, 67: ‘In Paul Χριστός is… always simply the designation for one particular person, i.e. Jesus’.

6 For a classic definition, see Silvestre de Sacy, A. I., Principles of General Grammar (New York: Leavitt, 1834) 24–5: ‘Nouns may be divided into several classes. Some designate beings by the idea of their individual nature, that is to say, in such a manner that this designation is applicable only to a single thing, to a single individual [citing as examples “Paris,” “Rome,” “Alexander,” and “Vespasian”]… These nouns are called proper nouns. Other nouns designate beings by the idea of a nature common to all the individuals of a species [citing as examples “man”, “horse”, and “cat”]… These nouns, applicable to all the individuals of a species, are called appellative nouns’.

7 All translations are my own unless otherwise noted.

8 Dahl also cites Acts 26.23, part of Paul's defense of himself before Festus and Agrippa, where he claims to have preached nothing other than what Moses and the prophets had said, namely: εἰ παθητὸς ὁ χριστός, εἰ πρῶτος ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν φῶς μέλλει καταγγέλλειν τῷ τε λαῷ καὶ τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, ‘the Christ would suffer, be the first of the resurrection of the dead, and proclaim light both to the people and to the Gentiles’. But whether χριστός is actually an appellative here is not entirely clear.

9 This is not simply a factor of the majority-Gentile makeup of the Pauline churches. Even entirely Jewish-Christian churches could conceivably work on the basis of the same shared assumption. In other words, this fact ought not be taken, by itself, as evidence of hellenization.

10 Interpreters, however, too often find Paul ‘downplaying’ or ‘undermining’ things that in fact he is simply not concerned to write about in a given context. For examples of this tendency in the literature, see Chester, A., ‘Messiahs, Mediators and Pauline Christology’, Messiah and Exaltation (WUNT 207; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007) 329–96; Zetterholm, ‘Paul and the Missing Messiah’.

11 Dunn, J. D. G., ‘How Controversial Was Paul's Christology?’, The Christ and the Spirit: Collected Essays of James D. G. Dunn (2 vols.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998) 1.212–88, here 221.

12 Segal, A. F., ‘Paul's Jewish Presuppositions’, The Cambridge Companion to St. Paul (ed. Dunn, J. D. G.; Cambridge: Cambridge University, 2003) 159–72, here 169: ‘Did Paul become messianic because he became a Christian or was messianism a part of his Judaism before his conversion? It seems to me quite improbable that the Pharisees before the Amoraim were devoid of messianism and that Paul found it only when he became a Christian. Paul, then, is again the earliest Pharisaic evidence of the existence of messianic beliefs among the Pharisees, even if that belief was perhaps greatly augmented and quickened by his later Christian faith’.

13 Which is not to say that nothing can be known about his pre-Christian views. But when Paul describes that period, he emphasizes his zeal for the Torah (e.g., Gal 1.13–14: ‘zealous for my ancestral traditions’; Phil 3.4–6: ‘blameless with respect to the righteousness of the Torah’); he never mentions anything about his views of the messiah.

14 Dahl, ‘Messiahship of Jesus’, 15. Likewise Hengel, ‘“Christos” in Paul’, 67: ‘Nowhere is Χριστός a predicate. In contrast to the account of his preaching in Acts, in the letters Paul no longer has to affirm “Jesus is the Messiah”’. See more recently Zetterholm, ‘Paul and the Missing Messiah’, 37: ‘Jesus is never explicitly called “the Messiah,” that is, Paul never uses “Christ” as a predication of Jesus in formulations, such as “Jesus is the Christ”’.

15 MacRae, G. S.J., ‘Messiah and Gospel’, Judaisms and Their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era (ed. Neusner, J. et al. ; Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1987) 169–85, here 172.

16 E.g., at Rom 13.14; 1 Cor 1.23; 10.9; 15.15; 2 Cor 4.5; 5.16; Gal 3.27; Phil 1.15, 17; 3.8, 20.

17 On predicate logic, see Allwood, J. et al. , Logic in Linguistics (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1977) 5895.

18 Dahl grants 1 Cor 10.4 as one of a few ‘places…where the careful reader would detect messianic connotations’ (‘Messiahship of Jesus’, 17). On this verse, see further E. E. Ellis, ‘Χριστός in 1 Corinthians 10.4, 9’, From Jesus to John: Essays on Jesus and the New Testament Christology in Honour of Marinus de Jonge (ed. M. C. de Boer; JSNTSup 84; Sheffield: JSOT, 1993) 168–73.

19 On which see Hays, R. B., Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (New Haven: Yale University, 1989) 85: ‘This exegesis is less perverse than it might appear, depending as it surely does on the linkage of the catchword seed to God's promise to David in 2 Sam. 7:12–14… This [latter] passage treats the singular noun seed not as a collective term, but as a reference to a specific royal successor to David; thus, it bears evidence potential for messianic interpretation’.

20 Hays may be right that Paul's scriptural hermeneutic is more often ecclesiocentric than christocentric (see Hays, Echoes of Scripture, 86 et passim), but as Hays himself has subsequently shown, in not a few passages Paul gives expressly christocentric interpretations of certain scriptural oracles (see Hays, , ‘Christ Prays the Psalms: Israel's Psalter as Matrix of Early Christology’, The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul as Interpreter of Israel's Scripture [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005] 101–18; also Juel, D. H., Messianic Exegesis: Christological Interpretation of the Old Testament in Early Christianity [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988]).

21 The evidence is capably surveyed by MacRae, ‘Messiah and Gospel’.

22 Cf. the refrain τίς ἐστιν οὖτος, ‘Who is this?’ (Mark 4.41; Matt 21.10; Luke 5.21; 7.49; 9.9); also Jesus' prophecy about the latter-day deceivers who will say εἰμι ὁ χριστός, ‘I am the Christ’ (Matt 24.5; cf. Mark 13.21; Matt 24.23: ἰδοὺ ὧδε ὁ χριστός); and the trial narratives, in which Peter's confession reappears word-for-word as a question on the lips of the high priest: σὺ εἶ ὁ χριστός, ‘Are you the Christ?’ (Mark 14.61; Matt 26.63; on which see N. A. Dahl, ‘The Crucified Messiah’, Jesus the Christ, 27–47).

23 Cf. the Samaritan woman's question: οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ χριστός; ‘Is this man the Christ?’ (John 4.9). Likewise, some among the crowds say, οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ χριστός, ‘This man is the Christ’ (John 7.41). The criterion for expulsion from the synagogue is the confession: ἐάν τις αὐτὸν ὁμολογήσῃ χριστόν, ἀποσυνάγωγος γένηται, ‘If anyone should confess him as Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue’ (John 9.22). It is an important Johannine corollary, too, that John the Baptizer is not the Christ (John 1.20; 3.28; cf. 1.25).

24 Cf. the parallel phrases Ἰησοῦς ἐστιν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, ‘Jesus is the son of God’ (1 John 4.15; 5.5); Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθότα, ‘Jesus Christ having come in flesh’ (1 John 4.2); Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἐρχόμενον ἐν σαρκί, ‘Jesus Christ coming in flesh’ (2 John 7). This theme in 1 John is perhaps more related to the messiahship of Jesus than it is to putative proto-Gnosticism in the Johannine community (so rightly Horbury, W., Messianism among Jews and Christians [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 2003] 332, pace Brown, R. E., The Community of the Beloved Disciple [New York: Paulist, 1979]).

25 Albeit always in contexts of discussion with Jews.

26 Again in Acts 17, Saul, now called Paul, declares to the ‘synagogue of the Jews’ at Thessalonica, οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς ὃν ἐγὼ καταγγέλλω ὑμῖν, ‘This Jesus whom I announce to you is the Christ’ (Acts 17.3). Later still, Paul in Corinth, and Apollos in Ephesus, reason with the Jews from the scriptures εἶναι τὸν χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν, ‘that Jesus is the Christ’ (Acts 18.5, 28).

27 See Hengel, ‘“Christos” in Paul’, 67: ‘κύριος Ἰησοῦς and not Ἰησοῦς ὁ χριστός was Paul's basic confession’.

28 A point emphasized by Conzelmann, H. (‘Was glaubte die frühe Christenheit?SThU 25 [1955] 6174 at 64) and Kramer, W. (Christ, Lord, Son of God [London: SCM, 1966] 6584), who draws the form-critical conclusion that the acclamation κύριος Ἰησοῦς was the characteristic ‘homologia’ of the Pauline churches, made possible by their origin on Gentile rather than Jewish ‘soil’.

29 Also 1 Cor 12.3: οὐδεὶς ἐν πνεύματι θεοῦ λαλῶν λέγει· Ἀνάθεμα Ἰησοῦς, καὶ οὐδεὶς δύναται εἰπεῖν· Κύριος Ἰησοῦς, εἰ μὴ ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ, ‘No one speaking in the spirit of God says, “Jesus be anathema,” and no one can say “Jesus is lord” except in the holy spirit’; and Phil 2.11, where God exalts the risen Jesus so that πᾶσα γλῶσσα ἐξομολογήσηται ὅτι κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς εἰς δόξαν θεοῦ πατρός, ‘every tongue might confess that Jesus Christ is lord, to the glory of God the father’.

30 As Zetterholm, ‘Paul and the Missing Messiah’, 51, suggests: ‘To present Jesus as the Messiah of Israel … would have contributed to the continuation of the ethnic confusion that Paul is trying to correct’.

31 The exception is the work of some early twentieth-century Jewish historians who criticize their Christian counterparts for their interest in only those Jewish messiah texts and traditions that closely mirror well-known Christian ones (see, e.g., Klausner, J., The Messianic Idea in Israel [New York: Macmillan, 1955] 3, in response to Drummond, J., The Jewish Messiah [London: Longmans & Green, 1877]).

32 For an early and paradigmatic example, see Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho. In the modern period, cf. the famous comment of Scholem, G., ‘Toward an Understanding of the Messianic Idea in Judaism’, The Messianic Idea in Judaism, and Other Essays on Jewish Spirituality (New York: Schocken, 1977) 1: ‘Any discussion of the problems relating to Messianism is a delicate matter, for it is here that the essential conflict between Judaism and Christianity has developed and continues to exist’.

33 Dahl, ‘Messiahship of Jesus’, 15.

34 Cf. Hengel, ‘“Christos” in Paul’, 67, citing Dahl, ‘Messiahship of Jesus’: ‘In contrast to pre-Christian Old Testament and Jewish tradition it is never governed by a genitive (θεοῦ, κυρίου, etc.) or a possessive pronoun’.

35 See χριστὸς κυρίου (1 Sam 16.6; 24.7 [bis], 11; 26.9, 11, 16, 23; 2 Sam 1.14, 16; 2.5 LXX; 19.22; Lam 4.20; 2 Chron 22.7 LXX), χριστὸς θεοῦ (2 Sam 23.1), χριστὸς αὐτοῦ (1 Sam 2.10; 12.3, 5; Amos 4:13 LXX; Ps 2.2; 20.7 [19.7 LXX]; 28.8 [27.8 LXX]; 89.52 [88.52 LXX]), χριστὸς μου (1 Sam 2.35; Ps 132.17 [131.17 LXX]; Isa 45.1), χριστὸς σου (Pss 84.10 [83.10 LXX]; 89.38, 52 [88.39, 52 LXX]; 132.10 [131.10 LXX]; 2 Chron 6.42; Hab 3.13).

36 See ὁ ἱερεὺς ὁ χριστὸς, ‘anointed priest’ (Lev 4.5, 16; 6.15; cf. 2 Macc 1.10); τὸ ἔλαιον τὸ χριστὸν, ‘anointing oil’ (Lev 21.10, 12).

37 See χριστός, ‘anointed one’ (Dan 9.25, 26).

38 The משיח יהוה is nowhere to be found at Qumran, to cite one significant example.

39 Per scholarly convention, I use ‘Luke’ to refer to the author of Luke–Acts, without thereby making any claim about the identity of that author.

40 See Strauss, M. L., The Davidic Messiah in Luke–Acts: The Promise and Its Fulfillment in Lukan Christology (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1995).

41 Similarly, in Luke Peter confesses Jesus to be τὸν χριστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ, ‘the Christ of God’ (Luke 9.20); cf. the parallels at Mark 8.29 and Matt 16.16, which lack the ‘Christ of God’ formula. Also, in Luke the rulers mock Jesus on the cross saying, ‘Let him save himself, if he is ὁ χριστὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ὁ ἐκλεκτός, the Christ of God, the chosen one’ (Luke 23.35); cf. the parallels at Mark 15.32 and Matt 27.40, which again lack the ‘Christ of God’ formula.

42 The text of the citation in Acts 4.25–26 is identical to the text of Ps 2.1–2 LXX (Rahlfs, A., Psalmi cum Odis [Septuaginta 10; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1979]): ἵνα τί ἐφρύαξαν ἔθνη/ καὶ λαοὶ ἐμελέτησαν κενά/ παρέστησαν οἱ βασιλεῖς τῆς γῆς/ καὶ οἱ ἄρχοντες συνήχθησαν ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ/ κατὰ τοῦ κυρίου καὶ κατὰ τοῦ χριστοῦ αὐτοῦ. Cf. also Peter's first speech in Jerusalem, which uses χριστός with the genitive personal pronoun for God: τὸν χριστὸν αὐτοῦ, ‘his Christ’ (Acts 3.18).

43 See W. Foerster, ‘κύριος’, TDNT 3.1088–94; Capes, D. B., Old Testament Yahweh Texts in Paul's Christology (WUNT 2/47; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1992). In more than a few cases, the referent of the title in context is stubbornly ambiguous, which may be intentional on Paul's part.

44 Schweitzer, A., The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle (New York: Seabury, 1968); and N. T. Wright, ‘The Messiah and the People of God: A Study in Pauline Theology with Particular Reference to the Argument of the Epistle to the Romans’ (Ph.D. diss., University of Oxford, 1980), especially, make a great deal of this latter notion; but clear, substantial evidence for it is slim.

45 Understandably, discussion of this passage has tended to focus on the appositives δύναμιν and σοφίαν rather than on the genitive θεοῦ, especially as they pertain to questions of ‘wisdom christology’. Among the secondary literature, see the early treatment of Davies, W. D., Paul and Rabbinic Judaism: Some Rabbinic Elements in Pauline Theology (London: SPCK, 1948) 147–76, under the heading ‘the old and the new Torah: Christ the wisdom of God’.

46 Genitive constructions aside, also relevant are those places in which God and Christ appear as a pair, especially in the grace wish χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ‘grace and peace to you from God our father and the lord Jesus Christ’ (Rom 1.7; 1 Cor 1.3; 2 Cor 1.2; Gal 1.3; Phil 1.2; Phlm 3; cf. Eph 1.2; 2 Thess 1.2). A similar pairing of Christ and God is evident at 1 Cor 8.6, where Paul confesses εἷς θεὸς ὁ πατὴρ…καὶ εἷς κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστός, ‘one God the father…and one lord Jesus Christ’; likewise Gal 1.1, where Paul's apostleship comes through Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ θεοῦ πατρὸς τοῦ ἐγείραντος αὐτὸν ἐκ νεκρῶν, ‘Jesus Christ and God the father who raised him from the dead’; and also 1 Thess 1.1, the address to τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ Θεσσαλονικέων ἐν θεῷ πατρὶ καὶ κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ, ‘the church of the Thessalonians that is in God the father and the lord Jesus Christ’. In all these cases, Christ is Christ in near relation to God, even if he is not ‘the Christ of God’. Also relevant is ‘son of God’ language in Paul, which is too complicated an issue to be adequately treated here (but see Wright, Climax, 43–4; idem, Paul: In Fresh Perspective [Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005] 48).

47 It is worth noting that, unlike some of his early twenty-first-century interpreters, ‘nowhere does Paul (in Romans or in any other letter) identify God as the “God of Israel”’ (B. R. Gaventa, ‘On the Calling-Into-Being of Israel: Romans 9:6–29’, Between Gospel and Election: Explorations in the Interpretation of Romans 9–11 [ed. Florian Wilk and J. Ross Wagner with the assistance of Frank Schleritt; WUNT; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, forthcoming (2010)] 255–269). This is not to say that the phrase is not apt, just that it is not Paul's way of naming God (but cf. Ἰσραὴλ τοῦ θεοῦ, ‘the Israel of God’, at Gal 6.16).

48 On κεφαλὴ δὲ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ὁ θεός in 1 Cor 11.3, see Martin, D. B., The Corinthian Body (New Haven: Yale University, 1995) 232, who rightly notes that, a mountain of secondary literature notwithstanding, the force of the argument rests not on the precise sense of κεφαλή but rather on the analogies Christ:man :: man:woman :: God:Christ.

49 So especially ὁ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης, ‘the God of peace’ (Rom 15.33; 16.20; Phil 4.9; 1 Thess 5.23); also ὁ θεὸς τῆς ὑπομονῆς καὶ τῆς παρακλήσεως, ‘the God of endurance and of encouragement’ (Rom 15.5); ὁ θεὸς τῆς ἐλπίδος, ‘the God of hope’ (Rom 15.13); and ὁ θεὸς τῆς ἀγάπης καὶ εἰρήνης, ‘the God of love and peace’ (2 Cor 13.11).

50 See Neusner et al., Judaisms and Their Messiahs; Charlesworth, J. H., ed., The Messiah: Developments in Earliest Judaism and Christianity (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992).

51 Dahl, ‘Messiahship of Jesus’, 16; citing the Textus Receptus of 1 Cor 3.11 as the sole later instance of the form, on which see below.

52 Dunn, ‘How Controversial?’ 214–15. My count differs slightly from Dunn's: Of the 269 instances of χριστός in the undisputed Pauline letters, I count 220 (or 82%) that lack the definite article, and 49 (or 18%) that have it.

53 Conzelmann, ‘Was glaubte die frühe Christenheit?’ 65.

54 So Wright, Climax, esp. 43. But more recently he has cautioned, ‘The use of the definite article, in relation to Christos, though important, doesn't get us very far, because Greek uses the article in subtly different ways to English. We must beware of easy but false assumptions at this point’ (Wright, Paul: In Fresh Perspective, 43).

55 For example, J. H. Charlesworth comments, ‘We are usually uncertain that a noun is a title, since the original languages of the documents—notably Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, and Greek—did not clarify when a term should be capitalized in English and in our conceptions, and no morphological or grammatical clue helps us to separate non-titular from titular usages. Some of the pseudepigrapha are preserved solely or primarily in Syriac, which has no clear means to denote the definite article’ (‘The Concept of the Messiah in the Pseudepigrapha’, ANRW 2.19.1:188–218, here 196). In modern English usage, capitalization and the definite article are widely recognized signals that a noun is being used as a title. Capitalization, though, was not for the most part a feature of any of the ancient languages in question, and the definite article in this period is notoriously difficult to handle across languages. Greek has a completely inflected article, Hebrew an uninflected one. Aramaic lacks the definite article but has an emphatic or determined state that exercises the same function. Latin and Syriac lack the article altogether, but exigencies of translation sometimes resulted in the appropriation of other features of those languages to compensate (on the Greek definite article in Syriac translation, see Nöldeke, T., Compendious Syriac Grammar [Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2001] §228).

56 Smyth §1136. If it be objected that χριστός is exceptional because cultic, it is also the case that ‘names of deities omit the article, except when emphatic … or when definite cults are referred to’ (Smyth §1137).

57 Smyth §1140; citing as examples ‘βασιλεύς king of Persia’ and ‘πρυτάνεις the Prytans’.

58 BDF §260: ‘In the case of personal names, the final development of the language has been that in [modern Greek] they take the article as such. In classical, on the contrary, as also in the NT, they do not as such take the article’. In the case of χριστός, BDF read the articular instances as titles and the anarthrous instances as names: ‘Χριστός is properly an appellative = the Messiah, which comes to expression in the Gospels and Acts in the frequent appearance of the article; the Epistles usually (but not always) omit the article’ (§260), following Weiss, B., ‘Der Gebrauch des Artikels bei den Eigennamen’, TSK 86 (1913) 349–89.

59 Excluding instances falling in LXX citations and borderline cases like Satan, Caesar, Israel, and Pharaoh, there are twenty or so instances in which Paul uses articular forms of personal names (namely Adam, Moses, Hosea, Jesus, Cephas, and Stephanas). See Rom 4.9, 13; 8.11; 9.15, 25; 1 Cor 1.16; 9.9; 10.2; 15.22; 2 Cor 4.10, 11; Gal 2.14; 3.8, 14, 29; 6.17; 1 Thess 4.14.

60 Noting, however, the exception at 1 Cor 3.11 (θεμέλιον γὰρ ἄλλον οὐδεὶς δύναται θεῖναι παρὰ τὸν κείμενον, ὅς ἐστιν Ἰησοῦς [ὁ] Χριστός, ‘For no one can lay any other foundation than the one that has been laid, which is Jesus [the] Christ’), where NA27, with all the early papyrus and majuscule witnesses, reads Ἰησοῦς Χριστός, but the majority text has an intervening article (Dahl, ‘Messiahship of Jesus’, 16). This is significant, if only as evidence that a tradent of the text of 1 Corinthians thought that Paul wrote, or ought to have written, an intervening article.

61 But cf. Ἰησοῦς ὁ λεγόμενος χριστός (Matt 1.16; 27.17, 22).

62 Other similar forms include Ἰησοῦς ὁ Ναζαρηνός, ‘Jesus the Nazarene’ (Mark 10.47; Luke 24.19); Ἰησοῦς ὁ Ναζωραῖος, ‘Jesus the Nazarene’ (Matt 26.71; Luke 18.37; John 18.5, 7; Acts 2.22; 6.14; 22.8; 26.9); Ἰησοῦς ὁ Ναζωραῖος ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων, ‘Jesus the Nazarene, the king of the Jews’ (John 19.19); Ἰησοῦς ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων, ‘Jesus the king of the Jews’ (Matt 27.37).

63 Dahl, ‘Messiahship of Jesus’, 16; Kramer, Christ, Lord, Son of God, 206–12.

64 Per the so-called Canon of Apollonius (see Dahl, ‘Messiahship of Jesus’, 16; Kramer, Christ, Lord, Son of God, 207). For an excellent example, see both forms in 1 Cor 6.15: οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι τὰ σώματα ὑμῶν μέλη Χριστοῦ ἐστιν; ἄρας οὖν τὰ μέλη τοῦ Χριστοῦ ποιήσω πόρνης μέλη; ‘Do you not know that your bodies are parts of Christ? Will I therefore take the parts of Christ and make them parts of a prostitute?’ There is a single exception to this rule at Phil 2.30: διὰ τὸ ἔργον Χριστοῦ μέχρι θανάτου ἤγγισεν, ‘He [Epaphroditus] was near death for the sake of the work of Christ’; the majority text has the articular τοῦ Χριστοῦ, which is almost certainly a correction.

65 In the nominative, anarthrous χριστός 40 times, but articular ὁ χριστός 7 times (Rom 9.5; 15.3, 7; 1 Cor 1.13; 10.4; 11.3; 12.12). In the dative, anarthrous χριστῷ 59 times, but articular τῷ χριστῷ 4 times (Rom 14.18; 1 Cor 15.22; 2 Cor 2.14; 11.2). In the accusative, anarthrous χριστόν 24 times, but articular τὸν χριστόν 6 times (1 Cor 10.9; 15.15; 2 Cor 11.3; Phil 1.15, 17; 3.7).

66 The seven instances of nominative χριστός with the definite article but unaccompanied by Ἰησοῦς (namely, Rom 9.5; 15.3, 7; 1 Cor 1.13; 10.4; 11.3; 12.12) have tended to be at the center of the discussion of messiahship in Paul. If interpreters grant any titular uses of χριστός at all, they are usually among these seven texts.

67 As Kramer, Christ, Lord, Son of God, 212, concedes: ‘As time went on Christ came to be regarded increasingly as a proper name, yet in spite of this the article was still used with it here and there. This was possible because the pattern had already been formed, but equally because it was quite possible to use the article with the proper name’.

68 W. Grundmann, ‘χριστός’, TDNT 9.540; also Hengel, ‘“Christos” in Paul’, 69: ‘There is no demonstrable connection in principle between the use of the article and a rudimentary significance as a title’.

69 Dahl, ‘Messiahship of Jesus’, 16.

70 MacRae, ‘Messiah and Gospel’, 172, adding that Dahl is not radical enough in his conclusions (172, 185 n. 3).

71 Gaston, Paul and the Torah, 7. The majority of Pauline interpreters have demurred from Gaston's conclusion, although most actually grant his major premise, that χριστός in Paul is not the title ‘messiah’ but simply a name ‘Christ’.

72 Here I am reminded of R. Morgan's imaginary conversation between Paul and Rudolf Bultmann, in which Paul complains that Bultmann has insisted that he sound just like John (see Morgan, R., ‘Introduction: The Nature of New Testament Theology’, The Nature of New Testament Theology [ed. Morgan, R.; London: SCM, 1973] 49). Paulinists have likewise insisted that Paul sound like Luke in order to be counted as a messianic thinker.

73 And, after all, it is probability, not necessity, that is the proper purview of the historian.

74 Collins, J. J., The Scepter and the Star: The Messiahs of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Ancient Literature (New York: Doubleday, 1995) 2.

75 So rightly Dahl, ‘Messiahship of Jesus’, 17: ‘Only contextual exegesis can decide to what degree the notion of the messiahship is found in a particular passage’.

76 Barr, J., The Semantics of Biblical Language (Oxford: Oxford University, 1961) 269.

77 Barr, Semantics, 270.

78 Novenson, M. V., ‘The Jewish Messiahs, the Pauline Christ, and the Gentile Question’, JBL 128 (2009) 357–74.

79 Hays, ‘Christ Prays the Psalms’.

80 On this point see Schäfer, P., ‘Diversity and Interaction: Messiahs in Early Judaism’, Toward the Millennium: Messianic Expectations from the Bible to Waco (ed. Schäfer, Peter and Cohen, Mark; Leiden: Brill, 1998) 1535; L. T. Stuckenbruck, ‘Messianic Ideas in the Apocalyptic and Related Literature of Early Judaism’, The Messiah in the Old and New Testaments (ed. Evans and Porter) 90–113.

* I am very grateful to Beverly Gaventa, Martha Himmelfarb, and Ross Wagner, who generously read and commented on earlier drafts of this article. The argument is much improved for their feedback, and whatever deficiencies remain are my own responsibility.

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New Testament Studies
  • ISSN: 0028-6885
  • EISSN: 1469-8145
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