Oct 122013
 

ichthusFor some reason, I’ve never seen a simple table of some christological titles as presented in the early Christian writings, even though it would be very handy to have. So I made my own.

I started out including fragmentary and quoted writings, but midway through I decided to put them in a separate table (incomplete). Both the entries and the blanks in the table are meaningful, but those blanks are much less meaningful with a short, fragmentary text. Some texts with substantial fragments, such as the Gospel of Peter, are shown.

I certainly wouldn’t mind if anybody would like to mention some of my errors of omission and other mistakes. Please do. I would be very happy to improve the table.

Further work to be done could be to add more christological titles, to design different arrangements or charts, to note any difficulties of ambiguous interpretation, to integrate data about presumed dates of authorship, to extend this table to the entire Nag Hammadi Library (not just the texts that are part of the Early Christian Writings site), and of course to add the rest of the fragmentary and quoted writings.

Still, I’d like to release this first draft now, below.

Text Jesus? Christ? Lord? Son? Son of God? Son of Man? Savior? God? Word?
Clement of Alexandria Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God Son of Man Savior God Word
Gospel of John Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God Son of Man Savior God Word
Irenaeus of Lyons Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God Son of Man Savior God Word
Hippolytus of Rome Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God Son of Man Savior God Word
Origen Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God Son of Man Savior God Word
Tertullian Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God Son of Man Savior God Word
Ignatius of Antioch Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God Son of Man Savior God
Acts of Peter Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God Son of Man Savior Word
Gospel of Philip Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God Son of Man Savior Word
Acts of the Apostles Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God Son of Man Savior
Gospel of Luke Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God Son of Man Savior
Treatise on the Resurrection Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God Son of Man Savior
Revelation Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God Son of Man Word
Gospel of Mark Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God Son of Man
Gospel of Matthew Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God Son of Man
Epistle of Barnabas Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God not Son of Man
Epistula Apostolorum Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God Savior God
Polycarp Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God Savior God
Acts of Andrew Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God Savior
Acts of Paul Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God Savior
Christian Sibyllines Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God Savior
Martyrdom of Polycarp Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God Savior
Sophia of Jesus Christ Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God Savior
2 Corinthians Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God
Ephesians Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God
Galatians Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God
Gospel of Peter Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God
Hebrews Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God
Romans Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of God
Acts of John Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of Man Savior God Word
Coptic Apocalypse of Peter Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of Man Savior
Melito of Sardis Jesus Christ Lord Son Savior God Word
2 Peter Jesus Christ Lord Son Savior God
Letter of Peter to Philip Jesus Christ Lord Son Savior God
Acts of Peter and the Twelve Jesus Christ Lord Son Savior
Ascension of Isaiah Jesus Christ Lord Son God
1 Clement Jesus Christ Lord Son
1 Corinthians Jesus Christ Lord Son
1 Thessalonians Jesus Christ Lord Son
Colossians Jesus Christ Lord Son
Didache Jesus Christ Lord Son
2 Clement Jesus Christ Lord Savior As of God
2 Timothy Jesus Christ Lord Savior
Philippians Jesus Christ Lord Savior
1 Peter Jesus Christ Lord
1 Timothy Jesus Christ Lord
2 Thessalonians Jesus Christ Lord
Infancy Gospel of Thomas Jesus Christ Lord
James Jesus Christ Lord
Jude Jesus Christ Lord
Philemon Jesus Christ Lord
Justin Martyr Jesus Christ Son Son of God Son of Man Savior Word
1 John Jesus Christ Son Son of God Savior
Melchizedek Jesus Christ Son Son of God Savior
Aristides Jesus Christ Son Son of God
Apocryphon of John Jesus Christ Son Son of Man Savior
Gospel of Truth Jesus Christ Son Savior
2 John Jesus Christ Son
Titus Jesus Christ Savior
Secret James Jesus Lord Son Son of Man Savior
Book of Thomas the Contender Jesus Lord Savior
Gospel of Thomas Jesus Lord
Trimorphic Protennoia Jesus Son Son of God Son of Man
Infancy Gospel of James Jesus Son
Odes of Solomon Christ Lord Son Son of God Son of Man Savior
Dialogue of the Savior Lord Son Son of Man Savior
Gospel of Mary Lord Son Son of Man Savior
Second Apocalypse of James Lord Son
First Apocalypse of James Lord
On the Eighth and Ninth Lord
Eugnostos the Blessed Son Son of God Son of Man Savior
Athenagoras of Athens Son Son of God Son of Man
Epistle to Diognetus Son Son of God Savior God
Shepherd of Hermas Son Son of God
Testaments of the 12 Patriarchs Savior
Tatian’s Address to the Greeks God Word
Theophilus of Antioch Word
3 John
Authoritative Teaching
Coptic Apocalypse of Paul

 

Here is the incomplete table of fragmentary and quoted writings.

Hegesippus Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of Man Savior
Gospel of the Hebrews Jesus Christ Lord Son Son of Man
Preaching of Peter Jesus Christ Lord Son
Egerton Gospel Jesus Christ Lord
Gospel of the Ebionites Jesus Christ Son Son of God
Gospel of the Nazoreans Jesus Lord Son
Fayyum Fragment Jesus
P. Oxy. 1224 Jesus
Traditions of Matthias Lord Son Son of Man Savior
Gospel of the Egyptians Lord
P. Oxy 840 Savior
Quadratus Savior
Apocalypse of Peter

 

A note regarding the “Son” column: the references to “Son of God” and “Son of Man” were also counted as references in this column. Also, references using alternative titles for God, such as “the Most High,” were not counted as “Son of God” references.

There’s some interesting observations you can make right away from the table of complete writings. For example, “Jesus” and “Christ” are highly correlated terms. Further, the term “Christ,” with one possible exception in the Odes of Solomon, never appears in one of these Christian texts without the name “Jesus” also present. One factor behind this may be the way that “Jesus Christ” becomes a title of itself, composed of both parts.

But there is something about the works that do not include either term. These include 3 John (short) and some second century apologists (often assumed to avoid it for reasons of audience and purpose in writing). They also include the Shepherd of Hermas, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, and many texts from the Nag Hammadi Library. The Odes of Solomon, without the term Jesus and with the term Christ often taken as a reference to “the Messiah” as the concept instead of the person, may belong here too. There’s an entire mass of literature that is believed to be Christian (or Gnostic) that doesn’t talk about Jesus Christ by name, even in the texts that actually have dialogues with him exclusively by other names, and that’s interesting. (More texts, such as the Apocryphon of John, could be claimed to this group if some few, simple glosses have been made to them.)

The Gospel of Thomas and the Book of Thomas the Contender avoid the term “Christ.” This is, seemingly, a feature of “Thomasine” belief, if there were such a group. (The Gospel of Thomas also has the lowest christology of all texts if judging by the christological titles, which is undoubtedly one of the features that has attracted modern fascination.)

Some have argued that the term “Savior” belongs to the second century, not the first, and have used this in arguments for the dating of texts, such as the Gospel of Luke. The reference in Philippians 3:20 and some of the texts of less certain date (such as Eugnostos the Blessed and the Odes of Solomon) could contradict this.

I hope you find this table useful. Please do submit any corrections or comments so that I can make it more useful.

Comments

comments

  7 Responses to “A Table of Christological Titles in Early Christian Writings”

  1. Interesting!
    What About : highpriest, king, profet?
    God blessure
    Joop

  2. I am surprised you don’t have “Son” for 1 Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians and the Didache. “Son” does show in these three texts (but I think it is the result of interpolations). I also think “saviour”, among other items in 3:20-21, was interpolated in Philippians. The same for “Christ” & “Lord” (referring to Jesus) in James.
    It is noticeable that “Son” was not included in the mouth of James and Peter in the James & 1 Peter epistles.
    Cordially, Bernard

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