A note on “the Lord” in the first century CE

It is clear that the author of the Ode of Solomon no. 2 makes no distinction between the ‘spirit’ of God (that is apperceptible to man) and God Himself. In the first century CE notions of the trinitarian nature of God were still well in the future.

When the incipient Church (probably in the 140s CE) invented the figure of Christ—in the form of Jesus of Nazareth—only then did it become necessary to establish the new God-man’s relationship to the God ‘above.’ Understandably, the Church fell back on the age-old familial relationship: ‘Father’ and ‘Son.’ In fact, ‘Son of God’ has been known since the dawn of history, when deities as well as kings claimed that relationship.

The existence of God ‘the Father’ and now God ‘the Son’ in turn required yet a third divine entity whose original purpose was to link the Father with the Son: the Holy Spirit. Thus, the Holy Spirit comes down into the man Jesus at his baptism, “in the form of a dove” (Mk 1:10). Note that the Ode of Solomon 2 lacks the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is ‘pre-Catholic.’ The proselyte is immediately fused with ‘the Lord’ (lines 7, 8) and has no need of an intermediary or ‘savior.’

Incidentally, in the cited Ode 2 there is a spurious line 8b that mentions a Catholic touch: the “Son” of God. The editor (J. Charlesworth) notes that the line is a later interpolation. This illustrates how careful one must be in examining and interpreting the early Christian textual evidence. Almost all the texts that survive have been ‘edited’ and interpolated by the Church over long centuries. Exceptions are few and far between (e.g. some of the texts from Nag Hammadi).

The first century CE concept of “Lord” was itself a development away from a purely gnostic christology that suddenly invaded Judaism with the teachings of Yeshu ha-Notsri in the first half of I BCE. Yeshu substituted gnosis for the Jewish God. This I have termed Stage 1 christology.

Yeshu was either a theist or an atheist depending on one’s point of view. If one makes ‘gnosis’ into a god, then Yeshu becomes a theist. If one does not, then Yeshu was an atheist. In either case the notion of God was irrelevant—the operative element in Yeshu’s teaching was gnosis.

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