Christmas could be called the Feast of the Incarnation. It is indeed the time of celebrating the incarnation of the Son of God–of God truly with us in human flesh. And so it was appropriate to read this during the Days of Christmas and I was richly rewarded.
What Cole sets out to do is outline a biblical theology of the Incarnation. That is, he seeks to uncover the development of the theme of Incarnation from Genesis to Revelation. Along the way, he explores the idea of the creation as God’s palace-temple where he walks with creatures who are priest-kings with him. He explores the “theophanies” of the Old Testament, categorizing the language used of God as “anthropomorphic” (describing God with human features), “anthropopathic” (describing God with human emotions), and “anthropopraxic” (describing God in terms of human actions like walking). He considers the appearances of the “angel of the Lord” and would associate with those who consider these as possible pre-incarnate appearances of the Son of God.
He also explores the Messianic passages of scripture and would argue that while they support the idea of the incarnation, cannot be conclusively argued to foretell this. He reminds us of Paul at this point and that the appearing of God in human flesh in Christ was indeed “mystery”. He also brings in material on “the theory of theories” by Nicholas Wolterstorff to suggest that all the OT material reflects the reality of the Incarnation that we only fully understand in the New.
He then explores the gospel and epistolic material on Incarnation and how these draw on Old Testament materials. He asks with Anselm of Canterbury the question of “why did God become Man?”, answering this from the biblical materials. He concludes with consideration of Revelation and the closing of the circle–a new creation with the Incarnate Lamb ruling a kingdom of priests renewing the garden city of the New Jerusalem. He also reflects on the significance of the Incarnation with some wonderful concluding reflections on the wonder of the Incarnation.
Along the way, he engages some of the speculative questions that have arisen around the doctrine of the incarnation, including whether the Son would have appeared in human flesh even without the fall (a tentative yes), and whether Christ’s human nature was fallen or unfallen (he joins most theologians in history in arguing unfallen).
This is part of the New Studies in Biblical Theology series and lives up to the vision of this series as providing scholarly monographs that at the same time serve the leadership of churches in providing a readable account, in this case, of the theology of the Incarnation.