In this post, I interview Matthew W. Bates about his recent book, The Birth of the Trinity: Jesus, God, and Spirit in New Testament and Early Christian Interpretation of the Old Testament (Oxford University Press, 2015). Matt received his Ph.D. from Notre Dame, and has served for the past four years as Assistant Professor of Theology at Quincy University in Quincy, Illinois. In addition to his recent book on the Trinity, Matt has written a book on Paul’s method of interpreting Scripture: The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation (Baylor University Press, 2012). He has also written articles for Journal of Biblical Literature, Revue biblique, The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, and The Journal of Theological Studies. Matt has been a good friend since we met at graduate school at Regent College, in Vancouver, B.C.
ML: Matt, thanks for being willing to do this interview with the Theological Miscellany blog.
ML: Matt, I’m glad you pulled yourself together. It looked for a moment like this interview was headed for disaster! OK, what’s the big idea in your book?
ML: Has anyone argued this before?
ML: Prior to your work, what were the common historical data points for plotting the development of belief in the Trinity?
ML: What is the most surprising or significant find of your book?
MB: Personally, I was surprised that the study proved to be so exegetically and theologically generative. The NT is such heavily worked ground that it is unusual to be able to offer an interpretation of a passage that has never before been proposed by another scholar. But numerous novel interpretations of specific biblical passages emerged. I’ll be curious to see how other scholars assess these.
I would identify three things as especially significant: (1) a new historical model for how the doctrine of the Trinity first emerged; (2) the suggestion that “Divine Identity Christology” and other NT Christological models need to take into account NT data showing that Jesus Christ was understood to be a divine person who conversed with other divine persons—i.e., we find what I term a “Christology of Divine Persons” in the NT; (3) when Jesus Christ was regarded as speaking in the OT this wasn’t because our NT authors were reading “typologically” (contra Richard Hays) but rather prosopologically.
Part two is available here.