Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Professor E.P. Sanders
The question of Paul's relationship to Jesus has been debated variously and vigorously for more than a century. Research on the question seems to have moved along three basic lines: 1. Paul's Christian consciousness in the Spirit was virtually independent of Jesus, which accounts for the paucity of references to Jesus in the Letters; 2. Parallels exist between the Gospels and Paul's letters, which points to Paul's awareness of historical continuity between his work and the life and teaching of Jesus; 3. Paul's conceptuality of Christ required only the fact of Jesus, especially his death, to make his preaching the Gospel.
Whereas the arguments generally have sought to uncover elements of continuity and/or discontinuity between Paul and Jesus, the present discussion investigates the interpretive mode by which Paul conceived of the continuity and change between Jesus of Nazareth and the resurrected Christ of faith.
The particular schematism by which Paul conceived of the relationship and identity between the pre-Easter and post-Easter Christ may be described as "typological".
Typological relationship between prefiguration and fulfilment (type-antitype) can be observed in Paul's letters principally in terms of his understanding of the change from the old aeon to the new under the single plan of God for the world. God intended all along to inaugurate the new aeon by raising Christ from the dead; and the divine intention can be traced in the sacred record of Israel's sojourn under God. Typology understood thus in Paul's letters is readily discerned in arguments that use important figures from Scripture. Three figures in particular are prominent in Paul's letters: Adam who is said to be a type (ᴛυπoς) of Christ (Rom. 5:14; cf. I Cor. 15:20ff; 42ff); Abraham who is presented as a type of one who enters the community of Christ by faith (Rom. 4:1-25; Gal. 3:1-18); Moses who comes across as a type of Christian ministers in the new dispensation of the Spirit (II Cor. 3:1-18; cf. I Cor. 10:1-13). In each case the antitype resides in the post-Easter experience of Christ and the Spirit, except perhaps in the case of Adam where change from the old to the new creation is focused more sharply.
In light of Paul's method of associating his post-Easter experience of Christ with figures of salvation-history in the old aeon, we are in a position to test the probability of a similar typological identity between Christ resurrected and Jesus of Nazareth. The two are not synonymous, but are rather on a typological continuum. Christ according to the flesh is type, of which Christ according to the Spirit is the antitype, or fulfilment (Rom. 1:3f; 8:3; cf. Gal. 4:4-6). The identity between the two spheres of Christ may be sought on other levels, but this typological level demands serious consideration in light of the pattern that exists for figures of Scripture.
Further confirmation of this typological identity between the two spheres of Christ's existence comes from Paul's view of Christian existence in the Spirit in anticipation of the resurrection/transformation at the parousia. Christian life in the Spirit, while still in the flesh, is said to be "guarantee," "seal," and "first fruits" (II Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Rom. 8:23), all terms representative of typological thinking.
This typological schematism, when applied to the pre-Easter Christ according to the flesh, tends to decrease the prominence of the type in favour of the antitypal fulfilment.
Shillington, V. George, "The Figure of Jesus in the Typological Understanding of Paul" (1985). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 1304.