Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Kenosis in the Old Testament

More from chapter five.


By giving his Word of law and gospel to our first parents God begins to speak forth the new narrative of creation.  The new narrative is constituted by the kenosis of the Son and his recapitulation of Adam.  Since God is present and active in his Word, the new narrative of creation is played out in the history of the Old Testament by the giving of the divine Word, within which the Son is present.  Being present in his Word of promise he subjects himself to Israel and humanity, and thereby enters into his kenotic existence.[1]  Similarly, the Son (as our exegetical findings have clearly shown) was the Angel of YHWH and the kavod, who dwelt with Israel in the cult.  In this, he was always present in both Word and sacrament (i.e. the cult).  This self-donating act was a true kenosis, in that in his presence with Israel, the Son subjected himself to the creation through his presence and promise.  As the sin of humanity increased, his grace also increased (Rom 5:20). Ezekiel tells us that in sending Israel into exile, the kavod (the pre-incarnate Son) entered into exile with them (Ezek 10-11- this is also assumed by the kavod's return, predicted in Isa 40).  In other words, as God’s judgment against sin in Israel’s history increased, so too did the depth of the Son’s kenosis.  The final act of divine judgment coincides then with the final and overwhelming act of grace, as the prophets predicted and Christ confirmed (Mal 3:2, Is 61:2, 63, Mt 3, Mk 1, Lk 3).  The Son must finally enter into humanity and thereby also its existence under the law and the condemnation of sin (Gal 4:4).  As von Balthasar again observes:

It is that wrath [the wrath divine retribution against sin] which the Son must face in his Passion.  The fearful, divinely grounded wrath which blazes up throughout the Old Testament and finally consumes faithless Jerusalem in the fire of divine glory (Ezekiel 10, 2), Jesus must bring to its eschatological end.[2] 

Hence, theologians like I. A. Dorner[3] and Wolfhart Pannenberg[4] are in a sense correct to see the Incarnation is the culmination of the process of the two natures coming together into a single theandric subject.  What they are mistaken about is that this does not happen in the life of Christ, who was always a single theandric subject, with no increase or decrease in this reality.  Rather, the history of Israel is the arena for the process of the Word becoming flesh.  The Old Testament is the story of God binding himself to Israel and humanity by his promise of redemption (Gen. 3:15, 15, 17, 22, etc.).  This bond manifests itself in greater and greater degrees, until it culminates in the total identification of the two in the Incarnation.

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