Matthias Konradt on Jesus as Son of God by Birth and Son of David by Adoption

In today’s post I will share another key quotation from this year’s BMSEC volume, namely Matthias Konradt‘s book Israel, Church, and the Gentiles in the Gospel of Matthew, which has been translated with great precision and elegance by Kathleen Ess. For my other posts on this book, see here

Since it is nearly Christmas, I have chosen a quotation from Konradt’s discussion of Matthew 1, and since it is rather long, I have decided to forgo my usual grammatical analysis. (For a related post on Romans 1.4, see Chris Tilling/Tom Wright here; cf. also Jens Schröter, From Jesus to the New Testament, p. 233, which compares Rom 1:3-4 and Acts 13.32-34, and Michael Wolter, The Gospel According to Luke, which develops a similar line of argument as Konradt in relation to Luke 1.32).

Israel, Church, and the Gentiles in the Gospel of Matthew (p. 28-29; trans. K. Ess): With the correlation of Jesus’ divine and Davidic heritage that comes to light here—Jesus is, so to speak, the Son of God by birth, and the Son of David by “adoption”—Matthew is to be distinguished from other such correlations found in early Christian texts. In the Jewish-Christian tradition behind Rom 1.3-4, Jesus’ double sonship appears to be fixed in a two-level Christology, in which Jesus’ earthly mission is linked with his status as the Son of David, while his status as the Son of God is connected with his exaltation in the resurrection. Similarly, in conjunction with a quotation from Ps 2.7, Acts 13.33-34 (cf. Acts 13.23) links Jesus the Son of David’s divine sonship with his resurrection. In Ps 2.7 itself, God accepts as his son the king who sits on the throne of David in the sense of an “adoption” procedure (cf. Ps 89.27-28; 2 Sam 7.14). In Matt 1, however, we see an inversion of this process: rather than Jesus the Son of David being adopted as the Son of God, Jesus the Son of God is adopted as the Son of David. The status as Son of God, which expresses Jesus’ unique proximity to and affinity with God, takes precedence and appears as the overarching identity of Jesus. This appears, at first glance, to confirm Kingsbury’s approach. But Matthew does not thereby seek to diminish the value of the status as Son of David. Matthew 1 does not intend to express that Jesus is the Son of God and not just a son of David. Rather, the emphasis here lies on the assertion that Jesus the Son of God is integrated into the history of God’s promises to Israel and first makes his appearance as the Son of David—that is, he first has to fulfill the task that is assigned to him as the messianic Son of David. In other words, with the motif of the Davidic sonship, the fulfillment of the promises of salvation given to Israel emerges already in Matt 1 as a principal aspect of Jesus’ mission. One fundamentally misses the point of Matthew’s conception if the significance of Jesus’ divine sonship is pitted against that of his Davidic sonship. Indeed, already in Matt 1, the two sonships are positively correlated, whereby Matthew, as we have seen, takes up and modifies the Old Testament and Early Jewish tradition. At the same time, the inversion of the process of adoption goes hand in hand with the fact that Jesus’ status as the Son of God encompasses other and more extensive aspects than his Davidic sonship. The second framing text (22.41-46), where Jesus’ two sonships are again made the central theme, suggests this very idea. On the other hand, we must remain mindful of the fact that both titles form one conceptual nexus: behind Jesus’ appearance as Son of David lies his dignity and majesty as the Son of God, and conversely, the earthly ministry of the Son of God is centrally defined by the task assigned to him as the Davidic Messiah.

Israel, Kirche und die Völker im Matthäusevangelium (p. 30): Mit der hier zutage tretenden Zuordnung von Gottes- und Davidssohnschaft Jesu—Jesus is sozusagen von Geburt an Sohn Gottes, während er zum Sohn Davids durch Adoption wird—unterscheidet sich Matthäus von anderen Zuordnungen, die in frühchristlichen Texten griefbar sind. So erscheinen Davids- und Gottessohnschaft Jesu in der Röm 1,3f zugrunde liegenden judenchristlichen Tradition in eine Zweistufenchristologie eingespannt, in der Jesu irdisches Wirken unter dem Vorzeichen seiner Davidssohnschaft steht, während seine Gottessohnschaft mit seiner Erhöhung bei der Auferstehung verbunden erscheint. Ähnlich verknüpft Apg 13,33f im Zusammenhang einer Zitation von Ps 2,7 die Gottessohnschaft des Davidssohns Jesu (vgl. Apg 13,23) mit dessen Auferweckung. Blickt man auf Ps 2,7 selbst, so geht es hier darum, dass Gott den König auf dem Throne Davids im Sinne eines Adoptionsvorgangs als seinen Sohn annimmt (cf. Ps 89, 27f; 2Sam 7,14). In Mt 1 liegt dagegen ein umgekehrter Vorgang vor: Nicht der Davidssohn Jesus wird als Gottesohn adoptiert, sondern der Gottessohn Jesus als Davidssohn. Die Gottessohnschaft, die Jesu einzigartige Nähe zu und Verbundenheit mit Gott zum Ausdruck bringt, geht voran und erscheint als übergreifende Identität Jesu. Dies scheint prima facie Kingsburys Ansatz zu bestätigen. Aber Matthäus sucht damit gerade nicht die Davidssohnschaft abzuwerten. Aussageintention von Mt 1 ist nicht, dass Jesus nicht bloß Daviddsohn, sondern Gottessohn ist. Der Ton liegt hier vielmehr darauf, dass der Gottessohn Jesus in die Verheißungsgeschichte Gottes mit Israel eingestellt wird und zunächst wesentlich als Davidssohn, d.h. in seiner ihm als Davidssohn zukommenden Aufgabe in Erscheinung tritt. Anders gesagt: Mit dem Motiv der Davidssohnschaft lässt schon Mt 1 die Erfüllung der Israel gegebenen Heilsverheißungen als zentrales Moment der Sendung Jesu hervortreten. Man verfehlt Matthäus’ Konzeption grundegend, wenn man die Bedeutung von Davids- und Gottessohnschaft gegeneinander ausspielt. Schon in Mt 1 sind sie vielmehr positiv einander zugeordnet, womit Matthäus, wie gesehen, alttestamentlich-frühjüdische Tradition modifiziert aufnimmt. Davon bleibt unbenommen, dass die Inversion des Adoptionsvorgang damit einhergeht, dass die Gottessohnschaft Jesu noch andere und weiterreichende Aspekte umfasst als die Davidsohnschaft. Der zweite ‘Rahmentext’ 22,41-46, in dem Davids- und Gottessohnschaft Jesu erneut gemeinsam thematisiert werden, deuten ebendies an. Umgekehrt ist aber eben nicht weniger zu beachten, dass beide Titel einen konzeptionellen Zusammenhang bilden: Hinter Jesu Auftreten als Davidsohn steht seine Würde als Gottessohn, und umgekehrt ist das irdische Wirken des Gottessohn zentral durch die ihm als davidischem Messias zukommende Aufgabe bestimmt.

Substantive analysis

I like three things about this quotation. First, I think Konradt convincingly points out that in Matthew Jesus the Son of God is “adopted” as Son of David rather than vice versa. Secondly, I think he effectively shows both the problem with pitting the two sonships against each other and the value of fleshing out the particular associations of each sonship. Finally, while giving proper attention to the distinctive aspects of each sonship, I think Konradt rightly stresses the fact that the two titles belong to one conceptual nexus, so that they must be held together and allowed to mutually inform each other.

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German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! Unfortunately, I have found it increasingly difficult to write a new post each Monday, but I hope to be able to write at least two or three Monday blog posts each month. We’ll see. Best, Wayne.

Volker Rabens, “‘Schon jetzt’ und ‘noch mehr’: Gegenwart und Zukunft des Heils bei Paulus und in seinen Gemeinden” (JBTh 2013)

This post will inaugurate the new category of “German scholars”. The purpose of this category is to introduce junior and senior German scholars and their research to the English speaking world. Each post will consist of (a) my translation of a short passage (ca. 3-7 sentences) that the German author has selected and submitted from one of his or her publications and (b) some biographical-bibliographical information about the scholar in question, which will also be provided by the German author. For my other “German Scholars” posts, see here. For further information on this category, see here.

Today’s “German scholar” is Dr. Volker Rabens of the University of Jena, who is especially well known for his publications on the Spirit in early Christianity and its environment. Indeed, I suspect that a time will come when he may need to be added to Brian LePort’s list of “influential pneumatologists”. Please see here for Dr. Rabens website at the Theologische Fakultät Jena, which includes a picture of him. For his, see here.

I. Translation: Adoption and Pauline Eschatology           

As his passage of choice, Dr. Rabens has submitted the following excerpt from his freshly-minted article “‘Schon jetzt’ und ‘noch mehr’: Gegenwart und Zukunft des Heils bei Paulus und in seinen Gemeinden”, which can be found in Jahrbuch für Biblische Theologie 28 (2013). This volume of JBTh, which is focused on the topic of “Zeit”, includes contributions from many perspectives, including New Testament scholarship, systematic theology, and practical theology (for Rabens essay, see now here)

English Translation (wmc): The motif of adoption, which we have returned to here, allows multiple characteristic features of Pauline eschatology to come to light. υἱοθεσία is a central image/picture for God’s intervention for the liberation of human beings(,) who live under the slavery of the powers. It has a punctiliar aspect, for it marks the entrance into God’s space of salvation, i.e., his family (which is again a ‘local’ aspect of the new age, as became clear in II.1.). But it does not only stand at the beginning of the salvific action of God. Rather, the experience of belonging to the family of God continually changes the believers in their identity and in their being. The Spirit of the Son lives the childship of God in the believers and gives expression to it (Gal 4.6; Rom 8.15). They no longer live under the slavery of the flesh, but due to these new experiences they can win the fight against the temptations of the flesh (Rom 8.12-17; Gal 5.16-18). Finally, adoption as children of God also has a future dimension, for it will only become completely manifest at the end of time (Rom 8.23). In closing we will now take up this future dimension of “time” in Paul in part III.

German version: Das Motiv der Adoption als Kinder Gottes, auf das wir hier zurückgekommen sind, lässt mehrere charakteristische Züge der paulinischen Eschatologie zutage treten. Die υἱοθεσία ist ein zentrales Bild für das Eingreifen Gottes zur Befreiung der Menschen, die unter der Knechtschaft der Mächte leben. Sie hat einen punktuellen Aspekt, denn sie markiert den Eintritt in den Heilsraum Gottes, seine Familie (die wiederum ein ‚lokaler‘ Aspekt des neuen Äons ist, wie in II.1. deutlich wurde). Sie steht aber nicht nur am Beginn des Heilshandeln Gottes. Vielmehr verändert die Erfahrung der Zugehörigkeit zur Familie Gottes kontinuierlich die Gläubigen in ihrer Identität und in ihrem Sein. Der Geist des Sohnes lebt die Gotteskindschaft in den Gläubigen und verleiht ihr Ausdruck (Gal 4,6; Röm 8,15). Sie leben nicht mehr unter der Knechtschaft des Fleisches, sondern können aufgrund dieser neuen Erfahrungen den Kampf gegen die Versuchungen des Fleisches gewinnen (Röm 8,12–17; Gal 5,16–18). Schließlich hat die Adoption als Kinder Gottes auch eine zukünftige Dimension, denn sie wird erst am Ende der Zeit vollkommen offenbar werden (Röm 8,23). Diese zukünftige Dimension von „Zeit“ bei Paulus werden wir nun in Teil III abschließend aufgreifen.

Selective Grammatical Commentary: Rather than writing “who live under the slavery of the powers” I considered writing “living under the slavery of the powers” for the sake of readability, but I think this may slightly shift the sense, which might be problematic. I have added „i.e.” before “his family” for the sake of clarity. I don’t think “intervention” is a particularly good translation for “Eingreifen” but I haven’t found a better one yet. Volker Rabens noted that he discusses Martyn’s language of “invasion” at an earlier point in the essay, but agreed that it would not be a good translation for “Eingreifen” here. I think “punctiliar” is preferable to “punctual” since the latter usually has the meaning of “on time”. I have translated “Heilsraum” as “space of salvation” but “Heilshandeln” as “salvific action”, while recognizing that it might be preferable to translate the former as “salvific space” or the latter as God’s act of salvation for the sake of consistency. I initially translated “Heilsraum” as “sphere of salvation”, but when Volker Rabens alerted me to the fact that “Heilsraum” (arguably) has more personal and “warm” connotations than “Heilssphäre”, I decided to translate it as “space of salvation”, which allowed me to maintain a distinction between “Heilsraum” and “Heilssphäre”. But it could be preferable to retain “sphere” since “space of salvation” sounds a bit awkward. It is very difficult to translate “Gotteskindschaft”, which I have translated with the non-word “childship of God”. Since Volker has presumably chosen it in order to employ gender inclusive language, I don’t think it would be appropriate to render it as “sonship”, though “sonship and daughtership” would be an option (see n. 33 in his article). This whole sentence is very difficult, for which reason I have had to discuss it with Volker Rabens. It is not uncommon to encounter such sentences, for which reason it is invaluable to me if I can have correspondence with the German author of the works I translate. Despite its enigmatic character, we settled on the wooden translation that I have provided, with the acknowledgement that a better translation is probably possible. The translation of “abschließend” is difficult. It sometimes works to translate it as “finally” but I’m not sure if that works well here. I decided to adopt “in closing”, despite the fact that this resulted in the awkward ending “in Paul in part III”. Another option would be to translate “abschließend” more freely with “as a final line of thought”, which could be placed at the end of the sentence. The sentence would then read: In part III we will we will now take up this future dimension of “time” in Paul as a final line of thought. Or, with Judy Redman, one could adopt an even more dynamic translation such as “In the final part of this paper, we will now deal with this ‘future’ dimension of time in Paul.”

II. Biographical-Bibliographical Introduction (as submitted by the author)

I am an enthusiastic Neutestamentler. I enjoy research and lecturing at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena where I currently hold a position as Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter in the New Testament department. The major places in my academic life have been London, Tübingen, Bochum, and now Jena. This means that I’ve come to benefit from the advantages of both Anglo-American and German scholarship on the New Testament, and one of my aims is to foster the dialogue between both traditions (see, e.g., my monograph The Holy Spirit and Ethics in Paul, which has been published both in Germany with Mohr Siebeck as well as in the United States with Fortress Press). My major areas of research are Paul and Pauline theology, early Judaism, Johannine Literature, and I am starting to work on 1 Peter. I have a particular interest in ethics and pneumatology. I am also interested in hermeneutics, particularly in critical methodologies of bringing early Christian ethics into dialogue with contemporary ethics. I enjoy contributing to international conferences, for example to the SBL Annual Meeting, where I am an active member of the steering committee of the “Biblical Ethics” Section.

Addendum: Readers of this blog may also be interested in Dr. Rabens’s PowerPoint on Der Paulinische Sündenbegriff.

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For three interviews with me about the BMSEC series, see here, here, and here.

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German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! In an effort to provide a sense of regularity and predictability for this blog’s readership, I plan on writing a new post each Monday. So hopefully I will ‘see’ you again in a week’s time. Best, Wayne.