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Review of James McGrath’s Book

November 9, 2010

After some unexpected difficulties (including almost losing my copy during my trip to China), I’ve finished reading James McGrath’s recent book, The Only True God:  Early Christian Monotheism in its Jewish Context (2009), and I’ve posted an extended review on the “Essays, etc.” page of this site.  (A somewhat briefer version will be published in Expository Times in a few months.)

Essentially, McGrath contends that the Jesus-devotion reflected in the NT wasn’t a particularly unusual or significant development in comparison with other second-temple Jewish evidence.  As will be clear from my review, I don’t find McGrath’s case adequate or persuasive.  I won’t repeat my discussion in this short posting.  Those interested can read my review (and, of course, should read McGrath’s book too).

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  1. Dear Mr. Hurtado.

    What seems to you the clearest and earliest proof that devotion to Jesus, as reflected in the NT text, was seen as controversial?

    • I’ve surveyed the evidence rather fully in the following essay: “Pre-70 C.E. Jewish Opposition to Christ-Devotion,” Journal of Theological Studies 50(1999), pp. 35-58, which was republished in my book, How on Earth did Jesus Become a God (Eerdmans, 2005), 152-78. (I really must ask those seriously concerned about issues to consult the relevant scholarly publications, which is how scholars present and consider issues.)
      To cite a couple of illustrations here: As Douglas Hare pointed out many years ago, the Gospel of Matthew is replete with references to Jewish opposition to Jesus-devotion, e.g., Mattt 10:16-25, with refs to punishments inflicted “because of me” and “because of my name”. Likewise, in Gospel of John, 9:22; 16:1-4 are commonly taken as reflecting experiences of Christians. There’s more than I can deal with here. See my essay.

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