“What it is, what it was, and what it shall be.”
I am in the habit of dictating notes and ideas into my smartphone, for later action. As I dictated the unattributable quotation above, going from memory, it was natural to use an accent. I was alone at the time, and I sounded ridiculous. I naturally pronounced the words as I’d heard them originally, years ago. Let’s just say the smartphone did not pick up half of the words correctly, because of the off-base sounds I made in using the accent.
At any rate, “what it is” sounds foundational and fixed. Some things just are and need no elaboration. For instance, I had once mistaken a certain professor as “James” when his name is given as simply “Jim.” I was told that he holds such an elevated status in his sphere that he simply “is” — he is not James or James Miller or anything else. He simply is Jim. He simply is.
On a different plane, the words through which God’s “personal name” has been rendered bespeak eternal existence. God simply is, and He used the expression “I am” to try to describe, in human terms, an essential nature, an existence that no human can fully conceive of. My suspicion is that God doesn’t really have a name in the sense that you and I do, but that our human limitations and labellings meant that He needed to present Himself by naming Himself. The approximation for a name would naturally be one that communicated, albeit frailly, His existence. God simply is.
Perhaps in a similar vein, Christianity and Christology are inseparable. One simply is the other; without one the other cannot be. Christianity is no social club and not primarily represented by historical, traditional ties. It is no mere affiliation. (The cultural affiliations are innumerable, yet “belonging” is not what Christianity is, primarily.)
In his book The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years, Paul Barnett has said, “My thesis is that the birth of Christianity and the birth of Christology are inseparable, both as to time and essence. Christianity is Christology.” I am compelled. Are you?
As a group of friends near me prepares to study the earliest canonical letters penned by any New Testament author, it’s exciting to realize just how early the belief in Jesus as Messiah had arisen. Paul did not “make up” Christianity. It already was.
And it shall be.