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tion of His self-effacement for others (éxaploato), rather than obtain it by the assertion of His own right. The temptation of Christ in the desert, where we see Him choosing the path of self-humiliation in preference to that of self-glorification, in order to reach the Messianic supremacy, is perhaps the best commentary we can have on these words. We cannot fathom the depth of them. We cannot understand that act of “self-emptying”; we can only say that it was the analogue, the eternal counterpart, of the spirit of selfannihilation for the interests of His brethren, by which the earthly life of Christ was distinguished, and which had its reward in His exaltation to be supreme in the affections and worship of men. And it seems to be the design of the apostle to enhance our admiration of that spirit, by representing it as the continued manifestation of an eternal act in which the Pre-existent One of His own free will relinquished a glory personal to Himself, in order to enter our state and win the higher glory of being loved and honoured and adored by all on the ground of service rendered to them,
A further insight into the pre-existent life of Christ is afforded in the opening of the Epistle to the Colossians (i. 15–18), where He is designated the First-born of Crea
1 Luther, it is well known, viewed the passage in Phil. ii. as referring to the historical Christ, and many others besides have so understood it. Amongst later writers of this class may be mentioned Schenkel (ChristusBild der Apostel, p. 296), who thinks there is an intended contrast in the words between Christ and the first Adam. The latter, inade in the image or "form" of God, abused his original gift by seeking to reach equality with God (“ye shall be as gods”), through eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and fell under bondage to sin. The Second Adam did not yield to the temptation to pride and self-assertion which His possession of the “ form” of God brought with it, but accomplished His Messianic task by His humble obedience. Beyschlag, in his New Testament Christology, also advocated Luther's view, but in his later work has abandoned it, accepting the interpretation which finds most favour with exegetes, according to which the Pre-incarnate Christ is the subject. But it remains true that it is in the study of the Historical Christ and of His earthly life that we learn what that spirit was that was exemplified in the eternal act of self-emptying.
tion,“ in whom all things were made, things in heaven and things in earth, visible and invisible; whether thrones or principalities or powers, all things were made by Him, and for Him and in Him all things consist.” This passage may be regarded as an expansion of I Cor. viii. 6, to which allusion has been made, and which states that as Christ in His present relation to us is the instrument by whom we reach the end of our being, so He was related to creation itself in a prior state of existence as the instrument by whom it came into being. The object of Paul in amplifying this thought in the striking terms of the passage in the Colossians, is to assist us to understand that supremacy over all powers and intelligences which he claims for Christ in this great Epistle. That supremacy, as we have seen, belongs to Him as Risen and Glorified, and is based on His historic work; but it goes back, he tells us here, to a relation of superiority to, and primacy over all angelic powers that was prior to His incarnation, and was the eternal counterpart of the Supremacy which He now exercises. He is the “First Born of every creature," and owes His Being to a mode of the Divine Activity that places Him in a higher category of existence than that to which others belong. They derived their being from His agency, the Divine Power that called them into existence travelling to its goal through Him. And this constitutes Him at once the Ground of their Being and the Ideal in whom they reach the completeness of their powers. Words could not more emphatically proclaim the truth, that while the relations in which Christ now stands both to men and angels are of grace, flowing from His deed of love on the Cross and conveying blessings that are entirely gracious in their character, they at the same time go back to relations that are of nature, and that are grounded in the original constitution of Christ, making Him the Natural Head of all, so that to believe in Him, to accept Him as our Ideal, and find our life's end in doing His will, is to be true to a relation that lies in creation itself, and that expresses the eternal law of our Being.
We have thus hurriedly passed under review the passages in which the Pre-incarnate life of Christ is spoken of in the Epistles. And the first inquiry which is suggested, and to which we must now address ourselves, is this, What value is to be attached to these statements ? Do they express truth that is literal, or that is symbolic merely ? Are we really to believe on their authority that Christ existed before He appeared on earth ? and are we to take as literal truth the things that are said of Him in that prior life? Or may we regard this language as simply expressing, in the forms of theological thought natural to that age, the profound sense Paul, in common with the other writers of the New Testament, entertained of the Greatness of their Master and His superiority to all others ? Can this doctrine of His Pre-existence be adequately explained by viewing it as the intellectual clothing of their faith in the moral and spiritual supremacy of Christ? If this account of the matter be accepted, then the belief in His Pre-existence must be viewed as an excrescence on the doctrine of Christ, and as forming no part of the Christology which the Church of all time recognises as the expression of its
1 I have not thought it necessary to discuss the question whether the pre-existence asserted in Paul's Epistles is ideal (in the mind of God) or personal, for most are now agreed that it is doing violence to the language of the apostle to understand it in anything else than a personal sense. Beyschlag, who in his former work (Die Christologie des N. T., 1866), which gave such an impulse to the study of this subject, maintained that the pre-existence predicated of Christ is ideal simply, has in his recently published work on N. T. Theology abandoned that opinion, and now explains the apostle's statements about the personal being of Christ in a pre-incarnate condition as an imperfect mode of setting forth the truth that the “temporal appearance of Christ must be traced back to an Eternal Basis."
faith regarding Him. This is the position of a certain school of theologians of the present day; and it is necessary to consider the grounds on which it is defended, and the intellectual tendencies which, in their judgment, account for this belief.
Two sources of influence are mentioned in this connection. The one is the influence of Palestinian theology, with which presumably Paul was familiar, and which ascribed pre-existence in heaven to all objects and persons connected with religion, by way of accounting for their existence and the worth that belonged to them. Moses, the temple, the Sabbath, the law itself, are all spoken of as pre-existent in heaven. It would not surprise us to find that the Messiah, while still an object of hope, is referred to in the literature of the period as existent in heaven, and waiting to be revealed. It is alleged that this is actually the case, and that the notion of the Pre-existent Messiah was a part of the ancient teaching of the synagogue. The evidence of this is indeed not quite conclusive. Modern research into the opinions prevalent among the Jews before the Christian era has done something to clear up this subject; but more has to be done before we can form a confident judgment; we cannot be sure that the passages in the apocalyptic writings that contain this dogma are not Christian interpolations. At the same time, it must be admitted that the conditions were present for the springing up of this idea. Daniel's vision of the Son of Man coming in the clouds of glory suggested His pre-existence to those
1 The Christology of the Jewish Book of Enoch, which belongs in its older portions to the century before Christ, is very striking. The Messiah is spoken of as the Son of Man, who “is waiting in heaven” to be revealed. The section, however, in which this occurs (called the Similitudes) is by many scholars referred to Christian times. See Stanton, The Jewish and the Christian Messiah, page 153; The Jewish Messiah, by Drummond, i. 4. Mr. Charles believes it to be preChristian (Book of Enoch, pp. 29, 30, 107, 108).
who understood it of a personal Messiah. The habit, to which I have alluded, of attributing an existence in heaven to objects and persons to which the religious hopes clung, which arose, as Baldensberger says, “ from the desire, in an age that threatened general dissolution, to place the cherished ideals of the soul beyond the crumbling hand of time, and the changes incident to all things earthly”:1 this predisposed the Christian consciousness to believe that He who was the fulfilment of the Messianic Hope had existed in heaven before He came into this world. Thus, it is said, we may fairly regard the belief as the product of the human mind, borrowing from ideas then in vogue the conception in which it expressed its conviction of the greatness of the Master, translating its faith into language that was supplied by the theological thought of the age.
A second intellectual influence, it is alleged, combined with that just mentioned to bring about the same result, and that was the prevalence even in Jewish circles of religious ideas that were more congenial to Greek philosophy than to the original spirit of the Hebrew religion. The Greek notion of a transcendent Deity, separated from the world of matter, necessitated the conception of an intermediate power, called reason or logos, by which the Creator and the creature were brought together, a conception which played a large part in the system of the Alexandrine Philo. The later Judaism felt the influence of the Greek notion of the absoluteness and transcendence of God, and its theology betrayed the same tendency to rest in some intermediate Being, corresponding to the logos of Greek speculation, as a Bond of intercourse between God and man. This it found in the Old Testament ideas of the creative “Word” of God, and the “Wisdom” of God, and the “Spirit,” or Breath, of the Almighty. In the books of that time we find a religious philosophy that employs these terms no longer as express
1 Dus Selbstbewusstsein Jesu, i. 3.