The purpose of this dissertation on the Lordship of
Christ is to present a distillation of the best results of
modern research on the subject.
The author's thesis may be briefly stated. The affirmation, "Kurios Christos," is an expression of the faith of
the most primitive Church. Its source is not to be found in
the "originality of St. Paul," nor in the pre-Pauline Aramaic speaking
circles outside of Jerusalem through the influence of
Greek religions, but is rather to be traced aa near to the
fountainhead of the primitive witness as possible, and is seen
to be derived from the mind, the work, and the person of Jesus.
This is not to say that the Graeco-Roman religions had no
influence on the development of this concept, but rather that
the central core of this affirmation is to be found springing
from the uniqueness of His intentional claim. It Is contended
that Jesus' culture was largely Hebraic, and that He made His
Messianic claim primaril^r within the bounds of this religious
and cultural background. It is, of course, impossible to
maintain a clearly defined boundary between the spheres of
Israel and the outside world, yet it is right to recognize that Hew Testament Christianity is to "be studied in the main
against its Hebraic background.
There is no necessity to give a reason for the study of
Christology, nor to make a claim for its importance; for in
the words of Karl Barth,
. . . Christology, is the touchstone of all knowledge of
God in the Christian sense, the touchstone of all theology.
... At this point everything becomes clear or unclear,
bright or dark. For here we are standing at the centre.
And however high and mysterious and difficult everything
we want to know might seem to us, yet we may also say that
this is just where everything bedomes quite simple, quite
straightforward, quite childlike.
The timeliness of the particularly study is significantly made clear by Visser t'Hooft in the following statement:
At a time when many American Churches realize the need for
a restatement of the social gospel of the twenties and when
the European Churches are at last beginning to discover
their responsibility to the world, it would seem that that
main theme is: The nature of Christ's Kingship and its
implications for the Church and the world.
The vast number of works treating with this subject in one way
or another, which have apneared within the past few years, bear
out the validity of Visser t'Hooft's statement. Actually it
is not going far afield to see in current ecumenical trends and also in the new and revitalized awareness of the unity of
mankind, an increasing consciousness of the unqualified nature
of the Lordship of Christ, as it is seen to be contradicted by
a disunited Church and a divided world. The implications of
the recognition of Christ's Lordship, when it is seen that He
and He alone is the absolute Master of the destiny of man, and
that to accept that Lordship is to reject every other master
or lord who seeks to have exclusive control and power over the
individual, are especially relevant to this day when the trend
is in the direction of centralized government with increased
control over the lives of private citizens. The Church must be
prepared to give new thought to the significance and the absoluteness of our Lord's claim over the lives of men, and this it
The thesis is so organized as to (a) seek first the primary elements which led to the Kurios-beliefj and (b) investigate the extent of Christ's Lordship as represented in the
The argument of the thesis proceeds along the following
Chapter I. There is positive proof that the early community from the very beginning regarded Jesus as the certain
fulfillment of the Jewish Messianic expectation. "Form criticism as well as the study of the speeches of Acts supports the
plain testimony of the Gospels that Jesus was so regarded from
the first days of the church."^ Therefore it is essential to
begin a study of this type with an introduction into the primary elements of Judaism's Messianic expectations, and this is
the purpose of the first chapter. It does not attempt to present a clearly defined picture of these hopes, for stich a thing
never existed, but rather gives a portrayal of the hope for
deliverance in its variety of expressions, with special attention to related Messianic titles.
Chapter II. The hopes of Judaism find fulfillment in
the person of Jesus. The witness to this fact Is found throughout the primary strata of the New Testament where It is discovered that there Is a faith concerning the person of Jesus
which could not be expressed in words signifying less than the
confession, "Christ is Lord." This fulfillment is not in exact
correspondence with the hopes of Judaism, but represents an
original fulfillment which derives from the unique implications
of the ministry, resurrection, and Lordship of Christ. Its
essential core lies In the material which springs from the first
of the Apostolic Age, and can only receive adequate explanation
from the mind and the action of Jesus Himself.
That the early Christian believers and writers, for example
Mark, tried to do was apply to him the highest conceivable
categories, human and divine; but in the end these all
proved inadequate, as the later church discovered; for
Jesus means more, was more, and is more than any of these
categories could convey.
Chapter III. The Lordship of Christ is seen to have
its basis in Jesus' Messianic claim? a claim which He knowingly made by virtue of His conscious filial relationship to
the Father. It was this which He Invited men to "come and see"
for themselves. By virtue of His Sonship, Jesus Is Lord of
Chapter IV. Although the death of Jesus at first
appeared to terminate His messianic claim unconditionally, It
proved to be the "wisdom and power of God" and the prelude to
His Resurrection and establishment at God's right hand. The
Resurrection represents the Divine historical vindication and
the inauguration of Jesus' Lordship claim.
Chapter V. Chapter V deals with the role of the Church
as it is seen to he the Instrument whereby Jesus' Lordship Is
extended, an instrument which He Intentionally established and
of which He is ever the head.
Chapter VI. The ultimately absolute or cosmic signifi¬
cance of Jesus' Lordship, although appearing largely in the
later material of the New Testament, Is the natural and only
conclusion to be derived from the reflection concerning His
significance, if the redemption which He accomplished for man is of final consequence.
In the "body of the work there is a discussion of many
of the views held concerning the related problems. However,
it has not been intended to discover any exclusively correct
schools of thought relating to these problems, but rather to
indicate the strengths of each, and to point out how each
serves to complement the rest, and the whole provides us with
the closest understanding of the Lordship of Christ as set
forth in the New Testament writings.
The critical approach to the historical and literary
problems Involved has been followed, the author believing
that this represents the only wise and correct manner to face
the world In which we live. It is intended that this criticism
should not follow the common Impression of "criticism," which
is that it is both negative and destructive, but rather have
as its true task the goal of finding the most primitive form of
the Church's confession concerning the Christ, a simple affirmation
which may best be expressed in the words, "Christ is Lord,"
After concluding this research, it is the author's firm convic¬
tion that the New Testament writers present a unified witness
to this fact; that there is a convergence of thought on Jesus,
who, as the Messiah long-expected by the Jews, although
"rejected and crucified, is now the risen Lord,
The author's indebtedness to a vast number of scholars
is obvious throughout. Primary recognition is to be given to
Professors John Wick Bowman, William Manson, and James S.
Stewart, whose class lectures and writings have furnished a
large portion of the argument. Only slightly less indebtedness
to the writings of Wilhelm Bousset, Oscar Cullmann, W. D.
Davies, T. . Manson, George Foot Moore, Vincent Taylor, and a
score of others is to be mentioned.