In the third section of The Son of God:Three Views of the Identity of Jesus, Dustin Smith takes the podium and gives a solid apology for his position. He provides the reader with a brief sketch of his story which was instrumental in shaping his current perspective. He also began by summarizing the conclusions he has drawn as being
“the result of pursuing the question concerning the identity of Jesus”
to which I can intimately relate. p.128
Smith’s argument consisted of examining
“the expectations of the Messiah from the Hebrew Bible” and “how those texts were interpreted in the Second Temple period…the birth of the Messiah…key data from relevant texts…the life and teaching of Jesus, particularly how both Jesus viewed himself and how other viewed him…the importance of the suffering and death of the Messiah…Jesus’ resurrection and exaltation” and “texts which describe the return of Jesus to consummate the kingdom of God upon the earth” p. 128.
At the outset of Irons’s response to Smith’s essay, he began by attempting to place a determinative label on what was presented, “a view called psilanthropism.” Irons defined this for the reader in the footnotes:
“from the Greek words psilis (mere) + anthrõpos (man)” p. 146.
My reasoning for citing this is due to its nature as an archetypal remark often encountered when a “high Christology” is being defended against lower Christological inquiries or persuasions. As I briefly sketched earlier in this series, Irons’s definition of “divine” had to do with ontology; he was tenacious on that point. What becomes a great muddle when describing the “humanity” of Jesus is, regardless whether from the orthodox perspective and the doctrine of two-natures or from a “psilanthropic” one, the questions naturally needing to be answered are, “what does it mean to be human,” and “was Jesus properly in this classification?” Perhaps then, the archaic notion of what is meant by “mere man” can begin to be addressed.
Is this supposed to be a declaration of ontology, that Jesus was more than flesh and blood unlike the rest of humanity, and his cellular composition was on another level or in alternative class? Or, does this mean that Jesus was flesh and blood in his humanity just like all other members of the human race (as orthodoxy itself describes) but was not a mere man in his nature, essential character as well as his relationship to and with God?
If the latter is correct, then in my reading of his discourse, Smith’s opinion regarding Jesus’ identity falls well into this category; Jesus was no “mere” or ordinary man in this way. The discussion is too often textually extraneous, where anything short of divine and full equality with God - in an ontological sense – provides one side of a false dichotomy opposed to a degrading sense of Jesus presented as a “mere man” on the other. Was Moses a “mere” man? Were Adam, David, Abraham, Joshua, Elijah, John B. “mere” men? Smith follows up this dialogue with the following:
“Irons seems to have misunderstood my position by his repeated claim that I supposedly paint Jesus as being ‘a mere man.’ I wish to respond by stating that this designation is an unfair representation of both my Christology and of my initial essay.”
Smith went on to list many characteristics and descriptions which set Jesus in a position of exalted status. p 167-8 This argument often contains a combination of conflicting terminology, therefore when discussing the historical Jesus one must be cognizant that it is not an ontological discussion. Jesus’ role as the ideal human who is greater than any other to ever exist, having become the second Adam, restoring the image, the one who reveals the Father, the king of Israel through whom God is bringing about recreation, having attained first-born status and subsequent inheritance by right, among many others places him wholly outside of mere man. These are all biblical themes woven into the fabric of the Jesus story.