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.