Over at his blog Blogging Theology, Paul Williams advances an argument that the “christology” of the Qur’an in fact comes closer to what the very earliest Christians believed about Jesus than the patristic affirmation of his divinity. I left the following comment on his blog:
Mr. Williams, because of my ignorance of Islam I cannot comment on the Quranic presentation of Jesus; but I would like to dissent to your claim that the “Christology of the Quran bears a striking resemblance to recent biblical research that has concluded that neither Jesus’ family, nor the apostles, nor his Jewish disciples, believed that Jesus was God. They believed, like Muslims, that Jesus was the Davidic Messiah, but still a human being.” This claim is not supported by the best biblical scholarship, contrary to the idiosyncratic views of Jeffrey Butz, whom you cite.
Butz’s thesis is contradicted by the apostolic practice of worshipping Jesus, as massively documented in the various works of Larry Hurtado (see especially Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity and One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism [new edition]). A high christology emerges quite early in the history of apostolic Christianity. As Richard Bauckham writes in his book Jesus and the God of Israel:
At a very early stage, which is presupposed and reflected in all of the New Testament writings, early Christians understood Jesus to have been exalted after his death to the throne of God in the highest heaven. There, seated with God on God’s throne, Jesus exercises or participates in God’s unique sovereignty over the whole cosmos. This decisive step of understanding a human being to be participating now in the unique divine sovereignty over the cosmos was unprecedented. … It is this radical novelty which leads to all other exalted christological claims of the New Testament texts. But, although a novelty, its meaning depends upon the Jewish monotheistic conceptual context in which the early Christians believed. Because the unique sovereignty of God over all things was precisely one of the two major features which characterized the unique identity of God, in distinction from all other reality, this confession of Jesus reigning on the divine throne was precisely a recognition of his inclusion in the unique divine identity, himself decisively distinguished, as God himself is, from any exalted heavenly servant of God. (pp. 20-21)
Once this incorporation of Jesus into the divine identity occurs, then the patristic doctrine of the Trinity becomes logically inevitable.