Institution Granting Degree
Dallas Theological Seminary
The working hypothesis of many contemporary New Testament researchers is that the documents with which they are working are the products of a lengthy and involved evolution. It began, of course, with the work and teachings of Jesus, but, the final arrangement and form, officially recognized as the Canon, did not take shape until well into the second century--far removed from the historical Jesus.
The hypothesis which this study seeks to test is as follows. The books of the New Testament are authentic artifacts of the Apostles' respective ministries. They were received, accordingly, by the first century church as inspired of God and authoritative. Along with the Old Testament they formed the Canon of faith and practice. They were not measured by orthodoxy so much as they were the measure of orthodoxy.
One predictable corollary to this is that the early Christian writings should not be characterized so much by creative genius as by a preoccupation with understanding and faithfully elucidating the teachings of the New Testament and eliminating those ideas which contradicted them.
In order to test this hypothesis the Christology of John's Gospel and Epistles is examined in relation to Patristic, Nicean and Chalcedonian Christology. This examination shows that the Gospel and Epistles of John make specific assertions about the person of Christ which persistently influenced early Christian writers and which both provoked and resolved much subsequent discussion.
When John's ideas are placed against attempts to understand the person of Christ in the early centuries of the Christian era there is a remarkable similarity to that which was accepted by the church and that which is observed in his writings. Just as conspicuous is the fact that only those speculations which radically differed with his ideas were considered problematic. This is precisely what one would expect, given the hypothesis at the outset of this study.