Born Before All Time: The Dispute over Christ’s Origin.
This book is published by SCM Press Ltd, London, UK.
Commenting on Philippians 2:6-11 :-
"… present-day exegetes have drawn the radically opposite conclusion that the Philippians hymn does not speak of the pre-existence of Christ at all. Indeed, an increasing number of present-day New Testament scholars with good reason question the premises of exegesis hitherto and cannot see pre-existence, let alone incarnation, in the Philippian hymn."
"Jerome Murphy-O’Connor can therefore draw the basic conclusion:
‘Strophe 1: As the Righteous Man par excellence Christ was the perfect image (eikon) of God. He was totally what God intended man to be. His sinless condition gave him the right to be treated as if he were God, that is, to enjoy the incorruptibility in which Adam was created. This right, however, he did not use to his own advantage, but he gave himself over to the consequences of a mode of existence that was not his by accepting the condition of a slave which involved suffering and death. ...’ "
page 254 ... Kuschel comments on Matthias Rissi's exegesis :-
"So for Rissi ... The sources are neither wisdom reflections on the righteous sufferer nor mythological speculations about a pre-existent divine being, but the messialogy of the book of Isaiah. So vv. 6 and 7 would not be speaking of a pre-existent heavenly being or of incarnation, but solely of the life of Christ on earth. Rissi's conclusion is that 'the Christ as the true man in God's purpose did not let himself be led astray like the first man but remained sinless; however, he did so not as an ideal figure but as a real human being. He fulfils the role of the servant of God in Isa. 53. He is the man Jesus who was exalted because he humbled himself, and at the end will receive eschatological homage from all. This is clearly a Jewish-Christian interpretation of the career of Christ on the basis of a christological interpretation of the Old Testament."
page 254 ... Kuschel quotes Klaus Berger's conclusion :-
"The conclusion is that ‘from this sequence it follows that Phil. 2.6 is primarily concerned with making statements about high status and by no means necessarily concerned with pre-existence. I do not think that it can be proved that this is a statement about incarnation. ...’ "
pages 254-255 ... Kuschel :-
"The Jewish background is enough for understanding this hymn and indeed for providing continuity with Aramaic Jewish Christianity in the proclamation of Christ. So ‘humbling himself,’ ‘emptying himself,’ is not to be understood as the act of a mythological pre-existent heavenly being, but as a qualification of the man Jesus. Like the Son of Man and Son of God of the earliest Aramaic-speaking Jewish-Christian community, he was understood and confessed as a lowly figure and as God's plenipotentiary, as an eschatological representative, as the true human being and definitive messenger."
"What does all this mean for the question of the pre-existence of Christ? To sum up, we can now say that if we take note of the linguistic subtleties, the dynamic of inner movement and the poetic form of the text, this hymn does not contain what numerous interpreters seek and find in it: an independent statement about pre-existence or even a Christology of pre-existence. The text does not provide what Rudolf Schnackenburg once called the 'description of pre-existence'. Quite the contrary. ...
In 1977 the Freiburg exegete Anton Vogtle also came to a similarly sober conclusion: ‘No pre-existence of Christ before the world with an independent significance can be recognized even in Phil. 2. ...’ "
Commenting on whether there is in Paul a notion of pre-existence of Christ in Galatians 4:4 :-
page 274 ... Kuschel quotes James Dunn :-
"Dunn’s concludes: ‘Paul and his readers in writing and reading these words may well have thought only of the man Jesus whose ministry in Palestine was of divine commissioning and whose uniquely intimate relation with God was proved (and enhanced) by his resurrection, despite his rejection by the stewards of Israel’s heritage.’ "
pages 274-275 ... Kuschel quotes Bas van Iersel :-
"Bas van Iersel, too, does not find the arguments for a pre-existence preceding the 'sending' convincing. In a 1982 article he also puts Paul's statement about sending in the tradition of prophecy: ‘It is more likely that the sending of the son must be seen against the background of the prophets whom God sent before that. The idea is that God is no longer satisfied with a prophet, but that he sends his own son who is greater than the prophets. “Does he send him from heaven? This is not mentioned even once, in contrast to what Wisdom 9.10 says about wisdom. There is no mention either of this son having previously been with God — as is the case with wisdom in Wisdom 9.9. On the contrary, the son who is sent was born under the law, i.e. at a moment when the Torah was already in force, and he was born from a woman (Gal. 4.4), and he is sent when the fullness of time comes. What Paul writes about the sending of the son can in no way be understood of a situation preceding the beginning of history, but rather of an event following Jesus’ birth and preceding his resurrection. Sent by God, Jesus as God's own son, revealed more of God and realized more of God's intentions than any other prophet before him, and more, too, than all the his predecessors together.’ "
page 277 ... Kuschel :-
"Thus the talk about the sending of the Son in Paul is a statement of faith by the one who experienced the crucified Christ as the living one. For the apostle, this statement evidently does not presuppose the belief that the one who was sent had a real prior existence with God, was a ‘divine being’. But Paul is quite firmly convinced that the significance of this concrete historical Jesus can never be understood as anything but that he is Son of God—from the beginning of his earthly activity."
Kuschel commenting on whether Paul in Romans 9:5 declares Jesus as God (Yahweh)
"The question whether Paul directly and explicitly described Jesus as “God” (theos) must in all probability be answered in the negative. And so if once again we follow Otto Kuss, ‘… for him (Paul), in contrast to us, “God” always sounds (to put it in contemporary language) like God the Father, in which case the statement “Christ is God” would be simply impossible. So in Rom. 9.5b, too, we have praise of God, not a "christological" statement.’ "
pages 304-305 No pre-existence christology
"All this means that if we take the texts at their word, according to present-day exegetical evidence there is no sign of any unambiguous and explicit statement about pre-existence in the christology outlined by Paul himself; far less can there be any question of a distinctive pre-existence christology as such in his writings. The texts call for sobriety, caution and restraint. There is no trace in them of any 'knowledge of pre-existence' as one of the 'main ideas' in Paul. … the interpretation of Bas van Iersel may be correct here: ‘But of pre-existence and equality of being with God we cannot discover any trace in Paul’s letters. ...’ "
"Paul’s authentic Christology does not recognize any independent statements about a being of Jesus Christ before the world or before time (in direct statements either about ‘being with God’ before appearing on earth or about his own mediation at creation, or even identifying him with God), ..."
"…for Paul, Christ is not a divine heavenly being in the Gnostic mythological sense; he is not a pre-existent divine being who left the heavenly world once again to ascend to God in heaven — as was assumed by Bultmann’s interpretation of Paul. ..."
"As for Paul, so too for Matthew, Jesus is the wisdom of God as a human person and is not as pre-existent as hypostatized wisdom. He is — to put it briefly — ‘wisdom become flesh’, which has to suffer the fate of persecution. ...
Matthew and Luke have their own model for envisaging the divine origin of the Messiah Jesus of Nazareth: he is begotten by the Spirit in a woman. Both agree in reporting that Mary, the mother of Jesus, expected a child which would not be born through intercourse with a male but by the working of the Holy Spirit. So it is Jesus’ being begotten by the Spirit of God in the womb which is the foundation for his divine Sonship in Matthew and Luke ..."
Kuschel commenting on Matthew :-
"Nowhere does the evangelist attribute to Jesus a saying about his heavenly origin or even his real pre-existence, nor does he allow any of the followers of Jesus make such a claim."
Kuschel commenting on Luke :-
"In his fundamental book on The Theology of Saint Luke, as early as 1954 Hans Conzelmann had arrived at the view that in the title ‘Son of God’ in Luke there was ‘no idea of a physical divine nature.’ That was already evident from the fact that ‘the idea of pre-existence is completely lacking; ...
In their commentaries on Luke dating from 1977 and 1982 respectively, the Catholic exegetes Gerhard Schneider and Joseph Fitzmeyer agree in arriving at the conclusion that Luke in fact does not think ‘in terms of a pre-existence of Christ’ (G. Schneider). Fitzmeyer adds: ‘In Lukan theology there is no question of Jesus’ pre-existence or incarnation. ...’ "
"Raymond Brown has rightly drawn attention in this. ... in their christology both Matthew and Luke clearly wanted to stress — while at the same time repudiating both adoptianist ideas and ideas governed by a pre-existence Christology — that Jesus Christ did not just ‘become’ Son of God from a particular age, nor was he Son of God ‘from eternity’; he was Son of God from his birth. In other words, in earthly terms he was ‘always’ Son of God. Jesus’ earthly origin is God's action. ...
The angel does not proclaim to this young Jewish woman the incarnation of the eternal Son of God, but announces that the child she brings into the world 'will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High' [Luke] (1.32)."
"To sum up: for all the uniqueness of the 'Sonship' of Jesus in Luke (twice endorsed by God and finally confessed by Jesus himself), as Joseph Fitzmeyer rightly observed in his 1982 Luke commentary, all this ‘does not yet carry the later connotations of physical and metaphysical sonship or identity of substance associated with the later Nicene or Constantinopolitan creeds.’ ... Hans Conzelmann has convincingly stated that Luke ‘remains with the Christology of the Synoptic tradition, which does not know any pre-existence. ...’ "
Kuschel commenting on John :-
- page 382
"We might ask why the Christian author of the prologue could so easily use this Jewish Logos hymn. ... First, the world is a product of the wisdom of God, and this wisdom was sent from God to human beings in the form of the Torah of God. But secondly, human beings shut themselves off from the divine wisdom and rejected it. ... Was this destiny different with Jesus? Was not he too, who was the one 'sent' by God, rejected and indeed crucified? Thus Jesus' fate was evidently like the fate of wisdom, like the fate of the Logos itself. From this it may be concluded that he [Jesus] is the Logos in person, the wisdom of God in human form. ... We may therefore follow Leonhard Goppelt in seeing the focus of the content of the prologue as this:
‘The logos of the prologue becomes Jesus; Jesus was the logos become flesh, not the logos as such.’ There can be no question here of the pre-existence of the man Jesus, as Barth saw it."
"... what Rudolf Bultmann concluded may still be valid today: ‘Jesus is not presented in literal seriousness as a pre-existent divine being who came in human form to earth to reveal unprecedented secrets. Rather, the mythological terminology is intended to express the absolute and decisive significance of his word.’ "
"Jesus did not proclaim himself ‘God’, but rather was understood by the community after Easter, in the ‘spirit’, as the word of God in person. ...
Secondly, the disciples of Jesus did not claim that Jesus was God either; they, too, did not deify their hero. Nowhere does the Johannine Christ appear as a second God alongside God."
These are but some of the quotes I found in Kuschel's book Born Before All Time.