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Australian Biblical Review


ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 50, 2002

R. J. Bauckham, God Crucified. Monotheism and Christology in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999). Pp. X + 79. Paper $US12.00.

This text is derived from the 1996 Didsbury Lectures given by Richard J. Bauckham at the British Isles Nazarene College in Didsbury, Manchester, in October 1996. It offers a concise version of a promised later study. Bauckham sets his work in the context of current scholarly discussion about the nature of Jewish monotheism in the Second Temple Period and scholarly attempts to find Jewish precedents for early Christology. He argues clearly for a continuity between what he reads as a strong Jewish monotheism in the Second Temple Period and a high Christology from the beginnings of New Testament thought.

Beginning from an emphasis on the identity (in contrast to the nature) of God, Bauckham argues for the singularity of the Jewish god of this period. On the one hand, intermediary figures such as angels are read as distinct from the divine; on the other hand, personifications or hypostatisations, such as divine wisdom, are interpreted as entirely included within the divine identity. Neither is reckoned to indicate Jewish alternatives to, or variations on, monotheism. By reference to early Christian exegesis of Jewish scriptures such as Psalm 110, Bauckham argues for Jesus’ participation in divine sovereignty and his full inclusion in the divine identity. Exploring interpretations of Isaiah 40–55 in Philippians 2:5–11, Revelation, and the Gospel of John, Bauckham argues for a reading of God-crucified as central to the divine identity.

While the focus on divine identity and the androcentrism of the god-language are problematic, the emphasis on “a process of mutual interpretation” (p. 47), where the writers of the Second Testament brought into relationship Jewish scriptures and the history of Jesus, is worthy of further consideration. So, too, is Bauckham’s claim: “it was actually not Jewish but Greek philosophical categories which made it difficult to attribute true and full divinity to Jesus” (p. 78).

Review by
Dr Anne Elvey
Centre for Women’s Studies
School of Political and Social Inquiry
Monash University