Post image for Hebrews 2:9 – Separated by Grace (Part 7)

Hebrews 2:9 – Separated by Grace (Part 7)

by Stephen Hebert on Monday - 12 April 2010

in Biblical Studies, New Testament

Part seven of the series “Hebrews 2:9 – Separated by Grace.”

Irenaeus seems to be fighting the same battle in Book 3 of Adversus haereses. In III.16.9, he lays out the testimony of Paul in an attempt to refute the notion that there is a divine Christ distinct from a human Jesus; he wants to show that they are one and the same:

Christ suffered, and he himself was the Son of God, who died on our behalf, and with his blood he redeemed us at the pre-appointed time . . . he [Paul] proclaimed most plainly that this same one who was apprehended and suffered and shed his blood for us, this is the Christ, this is the Son of God, who also rose again and was taken into heaven.1

And later, in III.17.4, he describes the “heresy”:

They understand Christ to be one, and Jesus another, and they teach that there was not one Christ, but many. And if they say that they are united, again they show that this one underwent suffering, but this one remained impassible; that one ascended to the Pleroma, but the other remained in the intermediate area, and that this one in invisible and unnameable areas feasted and reveled, but this one sat by the Demiurge emptying his power.2

Irenaeus is very concerned with this notion that “heretical” groups are splitting Christ into multiple persons. His tactic is to show how scripture, especially Paul, refutes such a notion. Within this sort of climate, it is not difficult to see how a pious, proto-orthodox scribe, knowing that the christological debate is of great concern, might alter the text to say not that Jesus tasted death χωρὶς θεοῦ (a reading that, according to all intrinsic factors, appears to be genuine), but that he was crucified χάριτι θεοῦ (a reading that is extremely well-attested, but falters when the internal evidence is gathered). Indeed, the former reading could provide ammunition for those who believe that the Divine left Christ, while the latter is a gloss more friendly to Irenaeus and the like.

Footnotes

  1. Rousseau and Louis Doutreleau, Contre Les Hérésies (SC 211; Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1974) 322–25: Christum passum et ipsum esse Filium Dei, qui pro nobis mortuus est et sanguine suo redemit nos in praefinito tempore . . . hunc eundem qui apprehensus et passus est et effudit sanguinem suum pro nobis, hunc Christum, hunc Filium Dei manifestissime adnuntians, qui etiam surrexit et adsumptus est in caelos. (The translation here is my own.)
  2. Ibid., 338-41: Alium autem— Christum et alium Iesum intellegunt, et non unum Christum sed plures fuisse docent; et si unitos eos dixerint, iterum ostendunt hunc quidem participasse passionem, hunc autem impassibilem perseuerasse; et hunc quidem ascendisse in Pleroma, hunc autem in Medietate remansisse; et hunc quidem in inuisibilibus et innominabilibus epulari et oblectari, hunc autem adsidere Demiurgo euacuantem eum virtutem. (The translation again is my own.)

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