My SBL paper on ‘Deification and Colossians 2.10’ went even better than my justification one.
The thrust of the my interpretation of the passage runs like this: As the embodiment of deity, we can only understand God by looking at Christ. Just as the ‘fullness’ of deity dwells in Christ, believers are ‘filled’ in him. Christ is the content of the filling, and believers therefore embody his narrative of death and life. This experience of death and life with Christ serves as the core of Paul’s soteriology, but it also serves an important role within his response to the Colossian error. This embodiment is past, present, and future and thus shows the continuity in the experience of life in chapter 2 and 3. Thus, this christoformity is at the same time theoformity, or christosis is theosis. Rather than deified elements controlling humans (2.8), Paul’s presents deified believers who experience Christ’s death and life as freed from the control of the rulers and authorities through him (2.10, 15, 20). Though this passage did not play much if any role in patristic discussion of deification, it seems to me it is the clearest evidence of deification in Paul with the important language of ‘deity’ at the centre of the argument.
Even more than my justification paper, this seemed even better received. As with the other paper, I didn’t get any negative responses, only points that would strengthen my paper (or requests to describe how it correlates with other Pauline passages in Eph, Rom, 2 Cor, etc.) In fact, I joked with friends that I think I converted so many people to this reading that if there was a pool in the room we would have been doing baptisms all afternoon. : ) My reading is very sympathetic to one that Mike Gorman offers in his Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul’s Narrative Soteriology, especially in his chapter on Phil 2. Even with our similar readings, his praise of my paper was definitely unexpected, but nonetheless welcome. : ) I fear that I have now peaked in my academic career because how can you ever live up to that kind of praise in the future. Like the other paper, I will definitely clean this one up and get it to a journal in the new year.
I’ll follow up with a third post on the other important aspects of the conference.