HYMN FRAGMENTS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT: Hellenistic Jewish and Greco- Roman Parallels

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This study investigates the three main images of Christ in the material normally designated as hymnic in the New Testament (Phil 2:6-11, 1 Cor 8:6, Col 1:15-20, John 1:1-18, Heb 1:3-4, 1 Tim 3:16), specifically the images of Christ the pre-existent divinity, Christ the Creator and Christ the Incarnate god. It is the position of the author that the closest literary antecedents for the first two images can be found in the literary world of Hellenistic Jewish wisdom speculation, specifically that subset of Hellenistic Jewish wisdom speculation influenced by Middle Platonic thought and exemplified by the works of Philo of Alexandria. The final image, that of Christ the Incarnate god, finds its’ most compelling literary antecedents in works of Greco-Roman religious thought and philosophy, specifically those myths which deal with gods taking human form and serving as slaves. The image of the god as flesh, a subset of those images which deal with Christ as an incarnate god, however, fails to be easily classified as deriving from either Hellenistic Jewish or Greco-Roman literary images.


“No serious Christological discussion can now afford to ignore the insights of this study. Stepping outside the precinct of Hellenistic Judaism DiPaolo shows how the Jews systematically adapted images borrowed from “pagan” traditions for their own theological purposes. . . . DiPaolo does an admirable job explicating the various paths of borrowing, appropriation and modification of such images. The notion of Christ as a pre-existent and creative divinity, in particular, is shown to derive from an interplay between the Middle-Platonic idea of the Logos and the “Wisdom” of Hellenistic Judaism.” - Prof. G. Dobrov, Loyola University Chicago

DiPaolo clearly explains the various paths of borrowing, appropriating and modifying each of the images presented. For instance, one example of the image of Christ as a pre-existent and creative divinity is clearly shown to derive from an interplay between the Middle-Platonic idea of the Logos and Hokma/ Sophia ("Wisdom") of Hellenistic Judaism. . . . Where this work breaks new ground is in deriving the notion of "god made flesh" from "pagan" traditions, especially Greek myths associated with figures such as Apollo and Herakles, in order to give verbal expression to the early Christian belief in the Incarnation. - Prof. Judith Ryan, University of St Thomas

Table of Contents

1. Are There Hymns in the New Testament
2. Hymnic Elements in the New Testament
3. Jewish Wisdom Speculation and the Hymns
4. The God as Flesh
5. The Appropriated God and the People of the Hymns
Appendix A
Index of Ancient Sources
Index of Modern Authors
Subject Index

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