Dr. James McGrath has let me know of his response to my review of his book, The Only True God, which he has posted on his own blog site:
Interested readers should consult his comments, which he offers as both clarification and defence of some major emphases in his book. (My review is on the “Essays, etc” page of this bog site.) In the spirit of further friendly discussion, I’ll allow myself a few further coments by way of rejoinder.
First, I remain unpersuaded by McGrath’s spin on the objections to Jesus-worship put in the mouth of Trypho in Justin’s Dialogue. McGrath’s view that the only thing Jews found objectionable about reverencing Jesus was that he was a crucified man implies that worship of some more acceptable figure would have been palatable to Jews. But we know very well that Jewish scruples about God’s uniqueness extended to forbidding inappropriate reverence of any figure, even high angels, patriarchal heroes, etc. (as demonstrated in my book, One God, One Lord, and as Bauckham and Stuckenbruck have shown further). The Dialogue has to be read in the context of what we know about such Jewish scruples. So, e.g., in Dialogue 65, I think it’s pretty clear that Trypho is portrayed objecting to the idea that God’s glory is shared with any other figure.
McGrath’s response about the absence in Paul’s letters of a defence of Jesus-devotion seems to me ill-conceived. Sure, “Christianity” began as a movement in 2nd temple Judaism, and through the first several decades Jewish believers remained prominent. Moreover, as Paul’s own behavior indicates, Jewish believers continued to identify themselves as Jews as well as believers in Jesus. All true. All beside the point, which is that Paul’s letters in the main deal with matters internal to the congregations addressed (with the notoriously debated circumstances of Romans a possible exception). We have in Paul’s letters no defence of Jesus’ messianic status either; and yet McGrath insists that this was the big issue for Jews. Reason: Paul’s letters aren’t good sources for whatever arguments were used to try to persuade Jews of the gospel.
On the question of whether Jesus was “worshipped”, McGrath still hasn’t dealt with the whole constellation of reverential/devotional actions set in the cultic context that I offer as both unprecedented and significant. I reiterate my frustration over this. Contra McGrath, there is nothing in the Similitudes of Enoch that provide direct analogies for the specific phenomena that I’ve repeatedly itemized. The “Elect One” is not invoked to form the worship circle. The name of the “Elect One” is not invoked over the body of the elect (e.g., in baptism) as the rite of initiation. There is no ritual confession of the “Elect One” referred to as part of the worship activities of the elect. There is no sacred common meal at which the “Elect One” is the cultic host. We have to deal with specifics, not generalities.
So, with all gratitude for McGrath’s efforts to put across his views with clarity and for his gracious and cordial handling of the discussion, I have to reiterate my criticisms of the substance of his book. I hope that our exchange will be both stimulating and practically useful to others interested in the historical issues and evidence.