Jesus as Shaliach

I’m continuing my way through Ben Witherington III’s The Christology of Jesus.

So what did Jesus believe that he was, according to Witherington?  In my reading so far, Witherington is open to the notion that Jesus saw himself as God’s Shaliach, which was an “agent, someone endowed with divine authority and power, the very authority and power of the sender” (page 51).  Witherington refers to Larry Hurtado’s point that early Judaism applied a concept of divine agency to “everything from personified divine attributes, to patriarchs, to special angels” (page 51).  My impression is that Witherington also holds that Jesus viewed himself as pre-existent, for Witherington argues that Jesus thought that he was Wisdom incarnate.

Witherington regards as historical certain Gospel passages in which Jesus nullifies or claims to supersede parts of the Torah, such as the Sabbath and the dietary laws.  Consequently, Witherington concludes that Jesus regarded himself as special.  But Witherington holds that Jesus had reasons for going against the Torah: because Jesus thought that the Kingdom was breaking into human history, bringing a new situation, and because Jesus felt that he had to disregard purity rules in order to reach out to sinners as a spiritual physician and bring them to repentance.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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3 Responses to Jesus as Shaliach

  1. truthceeker says:

    Witherington interprets that Jesus goes against the Torah, but Jesus simply is correcting mis-appropriations of the Torah. Jesus never goes against the dietary laws but is challenging the hand washing traditions. Jesus also does not go against Sabbath but states plainly that the traditions have flip flopped the original intent of Sabbath.


  2. jamesbradfordpate says:

    I don’t know. I think a case can be made for what you’re saying. Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man. At the same time, in Matthew, he compares himself to David and the priests who break the Sabbath. And yet, he tries to argue that his (or more accurately, his disciples’) breaking of the Sabbath is legal.


  3. truthceeker says:

    They “break” the Sabbath but this is due to the traditions which were instituted to create a protective hedge around Torah law. In other words, do even get close to breaking the law so here are all the precautions to follow so as not to ever break the law. Jesus is simply saying that what him and his diciples were doing was not really defined as “work.”


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