Even this early hymn:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
It echoes the sentiment or idea expressed in the Prologue of John. It seems to correspond to:
a) Jesus was a god in heaven with God (the Father)
b) he was man-like coming down to earth to obediently crucifying himself
My original question was how does this - i.e. the path laid out for divine sonship - connect back to the obvious tangible benefits of Christianity viz. civic idealism? I guess I am starting to find my answer. Those who become divine (i.e. following the path to divinity via being crucified, buried and resurrected with Christ) are like the angels and thus enter a community of angels like that in heaven.
But doesn't that mean that even the Marcionites had 'Valentinian-like' notions of a plurality of divinities in heaven? Heaven must have been crowded even for the Marcionites, no?
Moreover it occurs to me also that the beginning of this hymn assumes that nothing changes about Jesus's status after his resurrection. He was equal to god before and after the 'event' of coming down from heaven. His purpose is to display himself (God) crucified. That's the purpose he sets out with. He wants to be what Paul says he displays/portrays in Galatians - Christ crucified.
So his crucifixion is intentional. He intents to have men see God crucified. They have to see the old man crucified in order to take on the new man. Jesus or Christ doesn't need to do this for himself. There's nothing in it for him. He does it because 'in the beginning' it was foretold or decided that a time would come when humanity would receive the grace of this act, they would benefit from the opportunity of the path to divinity being manifest for them through his actions.
But this understanding leaves more questions than answers. Why did the temple have to be destroyed? Why did the Jews have to punish him in order to fulfill the promise? And most importantly who was intended to gain the benefit of seeing God crucified?? I must be biased but it would seem obvious that the Jews are the beneficiaries. Why else have this take place in Judea? Yes Jerusalem and its temple will be destroyed but if 'seeing' Jesus or Christ go through his Passion is the one and only path to salvation (and this 'seeing' transmitted or transcribed in the gospel) clearly the location of Judea means that Jews are going to do the seeing? Are we really serious in arguing that Pilate or the centurion are the only intended targets? Why then aren't Pilate and the centurion part of apostolic circle? The 'apostle' (or apostles) are sent to 'broadcast' the message and they are Jews right?
I can't get over the fact that if you take apart the logic of earliest Christianity it is clearly:
1. a god deliberately crucifying himself
2. to make an example for his chosen people so that they can follow his path
3. and those chosen people are necessarily Jews or Jewish proselytes
Gentiles did not get crucified in large numbers. But, interestingly Jews did in the period of the Jewish War. Did the gospel writer somehow take all the crucified Jews that surrounded Jerusalem in the final days of the war as the first imitatio dei? Yes that would be my suspicion. Even for the Jews of post 70 CE these were 'martyrs.' But Christianity must similarly have co-opted these rebels as martyrs for Christ. My point is that the gospel writer wasn't writing from the perspective of Jesus dying on the cross but also the first martyrs having already established. The gospel begins with the assumption that Christianity has already begun because (a) Jesus died and (b) the first martyrs following his example (perhaps unconsciously) have already been established.
I don't think the first gospel writer or Paul is/are waiting for the imitatio Dei to occur. He/they aren't writing to establish for the first time what was only promised in the example of Christ. The assumption is that (i) Christianity is a Jewish phenomenon and (ii) the perfect society/the kingdom of God/heaven has already been spread out on the world thanks to Jesus dying and his first martyrs already being established. I don't think the first apostle/evangelist is arguing for a dream being realized. God has already made it happen and he's just explaining what is taking place. I don't know if that makes sense but I think it is an important distinction.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote