Joshua Jipp-Christ is King: Paul’s Royal Ideology [Review]

Joshua Jipp’s Christ is King: Paul’s Royal Ideology was a book I needed to read.

Many of my own kingdom-related studies through the years have been generally limited to the gospels and Old Testament, while Paul’s writings usually play a minimal role because his kingdom references have not seemed as frequent or explicit. This and other factors, like Paul’s distinct style and content, occasionally make one wonder if Paul was on the same page with what Jesus envisioned. Jipp makes an ultimately strong argument that he was, equipped with an ideology whose insights would uniquely and relevantly translate to his Jewish and Gentile audiences as good news.

Jipp begins by stating Paul’s favorite moniker for Jesus—Christ (Messiah)—being more than the proper name we treat it as, is an honorific title carrying connotations rich with royalty. He repeatedly proves this by showing how Israel’s messianic imagery is historically, legally, conceptually, and theologically rooted in the Davidic kingship, thereby elevating the messianic role to the actual work of kings. Following this partial framing of the Messiah as a royal figure, Jipp spends the rest of chapter one exploring the kingship discourse found in Greek and Roman literature and philosophy, proposing Paul was inspired to additionally employ and rework their ideology as the construct that most appropriately depicts Jesus the Messiah as King. The rest of the book examines how specific and significant passages of Paul’s writings express his refracting of these ideologies in the establishing of his royal ideology of Jesus.

In chapter two, Jipp first references the tendency of ancient kings to be viewed as “living laws” or living embodiments of what their deities had declared was right for their people. From there, he focuses upon Moses’ Deuteronomy 17 command to future Israelite kings to record for themselves a copy of the Law they were to read and keep throughout their lives as a model of Torah-obedience. Jipp then discusses how Galatians 5:14 and 6:2 (and Romans 13:8-15:13) is Paul’s depiction of Jesus as “living law”, his life perfectly encapsulating everything God required of the true Israelite and a good Israelite king.

Chapter three’s “King and Hymns” focuses first on the ancient selections of Greek and Roman poetry exalting their kings for great deeds done in honor of their deities, in demonstration of their divine-like character, and as benefactions to the people he ruled over. Jipp then compares this to the content of many royal psalms praising God’s appointed king, whose own righteousness is to reflect God and shapes the righteousness of Israel’s people. Jipp then examines how Colossians 1:15-20 and Philippians 2:6-11 are hymns Paul uses to inculcate within the churches a communal and participatory adoration for Christ the King who has done great deeds and works which proclaim God’s greatness.

Chapter four, “King and Kingdom”, continues the themes of the previous chapter by examining how the great deeds of the king enable his people to share and participate in his rule. Together with the Colossian and Philippian hymns Jipp examines how Romans 1:3-6, as Paul’s gospel thesis, sets a royal trajectory of Jesus’ identity, narrative, humiliation, and resurrection with eschatological implications in which his people have been allowed to share.

In the final chapter, “King and Righteousness”, Jipp explores various Davidic psalms together with Isaiah’s suffering servant songs before attempting to make sense of Paul’s Romans-language of righteousness and justice. He concludes that God’s righteousness is ultimately revealed in the resurrection of the Messiah, whose faith being obedient unto death shows him to be the “righteous one”. This justification comes with eschatological life and destiny in which the Messiah’s people are enabled to share. Jipp clarifies Paul’s distinct language makes the most sense within the royal and political framework of a God sharing kingship with the righteous king who shares his righteousness with his people.

The Kingdom of God has long been the good news that has shaped my life; yet for some time I have desired a deeper appreciation for the inner Christological components of that reality. Joshua Jipp’s book delivers just that. By including detailed references to the ancient literature that may have helped inform Paul’s inspiration, Jipp reminds readers of how context helps illuminate a great many wonderful things. By going to great explanatory lengths to demonstrate the royal vision of Jesus captivating Paul, Jipp brings the readers into an embarrassment of riches that nurtures a far greater appreciation of Paul and his theology than we may have ever known. With these insights added to the Church’s collective thinking, the more blessed will be her participation in the life of the King.

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