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Similarities Between Shembe And Jesus Of Nazareth Theology Religion Essay

Using the above as a brief introduction it is my task to present to you an understanding of the Doctrine of Christology and therefore it is my major concern that this paper will highlight the following:

Are there similarities between Shembe and Jesus as to who should be the head of the church?

How worship aided the development of Christology:

Biblical References.

Names/Titles of Jesus.

Development of the Doctrine and the various Heresies of Christology.

Messianic phenomenon.


1) Are there similarities between Shembe and Jesus of Nazareth as to who should be the head of the Church?

At first glance I would have to say no. Because just by reading the article in the Mail & Guardian it shows that even though there is a power struggle currently happening as to who should become the head of the Shembe church (Nazareth Baptist church) it is nothing like what happened in the first century. Jesus was divine and He was the Messiah. He had no offspring to inherit the Church. In fact Jesus never came to earth to start a church it happened out of necessity to be able to spread the living Word through His disciples. However if we had to take the Disciples into consideration then this power struggle did exist and it would be relevant. But Christ is still alive and the Church still exists and this places Him at the Head of the Christian Church (Sosibo, 2012).

2) How worship aided the development of Christology:

To be able to understand Christology in full it is necessary to look at worship of Jesus and the way His early followers worshiped Him to the extent of calling Him God. Therefore we need to understand what worship is. Worship is defined as a noun: ‘adoration paid, as to a god” and as a verb “to pay divine honours to”. It is also important that we do not just focus on the formal act of worship e.g. prayer and adoration but that we reflect on the attitudes that led people to calling Jesus divine, taking into consideration what they actually thought about Him and what their experience of Him was. This worship was a very specific language that was used when Jesus was still alive, when He died, when He rose and which is still used today. It was based on actual experiences that they had of Him and that it was not just an after thought when writers were writing the New Testament (France, 1981).

We need to remember that we are not just discussing any kind of worship but the worship of God. It takes place in very specific time frame: the first Century, in a very specific place: Palestine, within a very specific religion: Judaism who had faith in only one God and who lived under severe rules and the Laws of Moses. However at the same time the Hellenistic cultures were scattered throughout Palestine and they worshiped many gods, many heroes and an emperor (France, 1981).

I mention this because it must have been very difficult for the average Jew to say to other Jewish people that he was NOW a follower, a believer and a worshiper of a man called Jesus. Who was born from a virgin woman, who had a trade as a carpenter, who was baptized by John the Baptist and the Holy Spirit! This Jesus had amazing teachings, He spoke with authority, He was able to heal the sick, drive out demons, feed the people, walk on water, calm storms, and He cleared the Temple, all in the name of His Father, God. Not just that but this Jesus was arrested, He was crucified, He died, His body was laid in a tomb, He rose from the dead after three days, He then ascended into Heaven, He sits on the right hand of God the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit to be the comforter to Gods people and He vows that He will return and bring Divine Justice to all. Not just that but His death on the cross represented the ultimate sacrifice for Gods people and His resurrection the salvation for all Gods people meaning that every person in the world would receive His grace to be able to be forgiven and to receive the eternal life that God promises, if they follow, believe and worship Jesus Christ the Son of God, who is = 100% man and = 100% God.

The worship of Jesus took place in all of these events and was reflected in the writings of the New Testament therefore it is imperative that a brief reflection on the scriptures are done to give the reader an insight into the way Jesus was and is to be worshiped as God.

Biblical Reference:

Even though the Church Councils did not necessarily only engage in the New Testament it is vital that some of these scriptures are noted as a foundation for Christology. (John 1:1, 3, 14) it says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” others are (2 Cor. 5:19) “that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christaˆ¦”, (Col. 2:9) “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form”, (Heb.1:2-3) “but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (NIV, 1999).

These writings might not add up to the actual doctrine of Christology but they do endorse the doctrine without actually explaining how the Carpenter Jesus became the pre-existent of the Son of God. The Disciples, Paul and other writers of the New Testament were content with Jesus being both God and man. They HAD what was needed to proclaim and worship Jesus, therefore they were not interested in HOW Jesus came to being (Furness, 1973, p24-5).

Other writings that are of utmost importance: Acts 2:36 – Assurance – Lord and Christ, Philippians 2:8-11 – Exaltation – Every Knee shall bow, Romans 10:8-13 – Belief and Confession, 1 Corinthians 16:22 – Maranatha – O Lord come, Acts 7:59 – Time of Need, 2 Corinthians 12:8 – Pleading with the Lord (Khuzwayo, 2012).


When discussing Christology it is important that the Titles/Names of Jesus Christ are honored as they play a vital role in the worship of God. McGrath and Berkhof both have similar outlooks on the Titles/Names that were used in the New Testament. The following were predominantly used and are in no specific order. 1) Jesus: It has its origin from the Hebrew word ‘to save’ it assigns Christ as the Saviour, 2) Christ: This word means ‘the anointed one’ – Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit and historically this took place when he was conceived and baptized – also when anointed He received His office of prophet, priest and king, 3) Son of Man: This is name that Jesus often used when referring to Himself but was seldom used by man. It shows the humanity of Jesus but also reflects His superhuman character and when Jesus returns He will be bringing the divine judgment, 4) Son of God: This is reflected most in John and the writings of Paul and it shows a relation with Jesus and believers. However the word ‘son’ (huios) is reserved for Jesus and ‘children’ (tekna) are applied to the believers and is in direct relation to God. Jesus is the only begotten Son of God whereas the believers are called son (man and women) of God through adoption, 5) Lord: The social group of that time and His disciples would have used lord as a polite way of addressing Jesus. After Jesus’ resurrection the word Lord had a deeper significance and was used in some cases to appoint Jesus at the head/ruler and owner of the Church, but more significantly make Jesus (Lord) equivalent to the name of God (Berkhof, 1971, p85-6), (McGrath, 2011, p268-272).

3) Development of the Doctrine and the various Heresies of Christology:

As noted before Christology did not just come about. It was in 451 AD that a basic consensus on Christology had been reached at the forth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon. However to get to that point there were major conflicts and it is necessary at this time to discuss these conflicts because they led to heresies that were not acceptable to the Church. The three major conflicts are 1) The denial of the Divinity of Christ, 2) The denial of the Humanity of Christ, and 3) The denial of the Unity of Christ (De Gruchy, 1994, p55-6). Before discussing the conflicts in detail it is very important to note that the Council of Chalcedon was also used to try and unite the Church of the East (Alexandria) and the West (Antioch) but division and the theology was too great and a union never took place. However as we will see below the mainline Church did establish ground rules on the teaching of Christology and in which the concepts of Christology is still used today (Jensen, 2003, p198).

1) The denial of the Divinity of Christ came about because of the following statements within the definition of Chalcedon: ‘the same perfect in Godhead’, ‘truly God’, ‘consubstantial (Homoousios) with the Father in the Godhead’, and ‘begotten from the Father before the ages as regards His Godhead’. The two main heresies that took place were the Ebionite heresy and the Arian heresy. When the denial of the Ebionite heresy took place it was made clear that a heresy is not totally false but seizes portions of the truth at the cost of the full truth (De Gruchy, 1994, p57-8).

The Ebionites were Jewish followers of Jesus. They “believed that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah sent from the Jewish God to the Jewish people in the fulfillment of the Jewish Scripture” (Ehrman, 2003, p100). They did not believe that Jesus was divine or that He pre-existed. They also did not believe that a Virgin woman could conceive Jesus. Jesus was human like any other person and through sexual intercourse between Joseph and Mary was born. God chose and adopted Jesus as His son. Because: a) Jesus kept God’s laws perfectly, b) Jesus was the most righteous man alive, c) God new that Jesus would do whatever He asked. Therefore, Jesus sacrificed Himself not for His own sins but for the sins of the world. God’s promises to the Jews were kept and Holy Scripture fulfilled. God then raised Jesus up and exalted him to heaven (Ehrman, 2003, p99-103).

The Arian heresy had two key players Arius a presbyter of Antioch and Athanasius the archdeacon of Alexandria. Arius believed and took the stand similar to monotheistic principles of the Monarchians. “There is only one unbegotten God, one unoriginated Being, without any beginning of existence” (Berkhof, 1975, p84). He also believed that the Son became incarnate and had a beginning and therefore was adopted by God and became the ‘Son of God’ in view of his future glory which entitled him to be worshiped by men. Whereas Athanasius believed: “While the Father and the Son are of the same divine essence, there is no division or separation in the essential Being of God, and it is wrong to speak of a ‘Theos Deuteros’”(Berkhof, 1975, p85). In AD 325 the Council of Nicea was formed and the following statement was adopted in favour of Athanasius: “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, begotten not made, being of one substance (Homoousios) with the Father aˆ¦” (Berkhof, 1975, p87), (Berkhof, 1975, p84-7).

2) The denial of the Humanity of Christ came about because of the following statements that were defended in the definition of Chalcedon: ‘the same perfect in manhood’, ‘truly man, consisting of a rational soul and body’, ‘consubstantial (Homoousios) with us in manhood’, and ‘because of us and because of our salvation begotten from the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, as regards his manhood’. The two main heresies that denied Jesus’ true humanity were Docetism and Apollinarianism (De Gruchy, 1994, p58-9).

Docetism was the assumption that Christ’s physical body was unreal and when He suffered and died it was all for the sake of appearance. This heresy contradicted everything in the Gospel and was heavily condemned by Ignatius the Bishop of Antioch (Furness, 1973, p26). Apollinarianism believed that Jesus had no soul and its place being supplied by the Word of God. This was a clear statement that Jesus was not fully human. The heretic was Leodicea and his rival was Basil, Bishop of Caesarea (Furness, 1973, p26).

3) The denial of the Unity of Christ came about in the second section of the Chalcedonian definition in which the two natures (divinity and humanity) in one person were defended and related to the following, ‘[Christ] made known in two natures without confusion, without change, without division, without separation’, ‘the difference of the natures being by no means removed because of the union’, and it speaks about ‘one person’, ‘the property of each nature being preserved and coalescing in one Person (prosopon) and one hypostasis’, and ‘not parted or divided into two persons (prosopa), but one and the same Son’. The main heresies were Monophysitism who could not believe in the two natures and were adamant that Christ only had one nature. The second heresy was Nestorianism who did not believe in the unity of the natures (divinity and humanity) in Christ the one person and portrayed Him as only a God-bearing man (De Gruchy, 1994, p60-1). Even though the Monophysitism and Nestorianism were classified as heresies these churches have stood the test of time and are still in existence today in the East and are now classified as Orthodox and are part of the World Council of Churches (Furness, 1973, p28).

Therefore it is regarded that in Chalcedon the basic doctrine of Christology was formulated however the controversies did not end there. Further studies show that Thomas Aquinas, Anselm, Reformers: Calvin and Luther and the modern Kenotic theologians have all put their mark on Christology but the basic definition still remains the same as that of Chalcedon (Furness, 1973, p28-30).

4) Messianic phenomenon:

This relates to the word Messiah (Hebrew) or Christ (Greek) which means the anointed by God. When calling someone Messiah you are directly referring to that person of having been chosen by God either to be a priest, prophet or king, but in most cases it would refer to the King, the Saviour of the Jews in the Old Testament (Campbell, 1987, p44). To many people in the Christian faith this has different meanings. We find that in most African countries this Messiah would refer to Christ the Liberator. This is the one that has been anointed by God to take the people of Africa out of there bondage and give them that which is required by God for fulfillment of their life. For other He would be the Saviour, the Healer or the Mediator (Appiah-Kubi, 1984, p74).



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