Jesus-Devotion: Clarifying Some Points
Because of the importance of the questions and the recurrent misjudged responses to my postings on Jesus-devotion in some comments, I thought I’d make this further effort at clarification/correction in a posting. I’ll try to be as brief as clarity will permit.
First and foremost, the kind of research-writing that I do and reflect on this site is an effort to understand in historical terms the emergence and earliest expressions of Jesus-devotion. Some commenters seem to assume incorrectly that I’m trying to advocate a theological position, or declaring my own religious convictions. I have the latter, but that’s not the point in my scholarly work. So, the issues to discuss are what the historical evidence indicates about earliest Jesus-devotion, not what subsequent or contemporary people believe or prefer. Now to the historical issues.
As I read the earliest texts (which are those included in the NT), the rationale stated or implied for Jesus-devotion (especially the constellation of corporate-worship actions involving the exalted Jesus) is that God has resurrrected and glorified Jesus and now orders that Jesus be reverenced (e.g., Philip. 2:9-11; Acts 2:36; John 5:22-23). These texts do not base this Jesus-devotion on the orders or teachings of the historical figure of Jesus (the speeches of Jesus in GJohn are commonly understood by scholars as heavily shaped by the Evangelist and reflecting what he believes to be the post-Jesus revelatory activity of the Spirit-Paraclete). That is, the basis of Jesus-devotion is a claim about God’s action and is profoundly theological in basis but christological in import.
Can I also ask that before making comments readers study carefully what I’ve actually written? It is frustrating to have one’s carefully-crafted statements distorted. So, e.g., I have repeatedly stated that what we have in the NT texts is an inclusion of the risen/exalted (=divinely glorified) Jesus into the worship of the one God, that Jesus is not worshipped as a second god, that he does not take the place of God (the Father), and that categories such as “one substance” and “second person of the godhead” and such are later efforts to try to work out things. Let me say it here yet again: In the earliest texts (and actually in creedal and liturgical traditions subsequently), Jesus is rather consistently reverenced (whether in christological statements or in devotional practice) with reference to God (the Father). So, e.g., Jesus is the Son/Image/Messiah/Word of the one God, sent forth as unique agent of divine purposes, and now exalted by this same God to share in God’s glory and name, and also (here marking an unprecedented move) sharing in the corporate worship given to the one God. But this sharing is not as a rival. Instead, the NT texts present the worship of the one God as now required to be done through and in the name of Jesus for it to be fully valid and adequate.
I’ve tried to underscore here some (not all) points made repeatedly and explained more fully in publications extending over 20 years. Those who can’t be bothered to read books and articles and who insist on engaging complex matters simply in frenzied blog-comments will find me and the issues frustrating. No apologies. They’ll either have to move on in the blogosphere or give the issues the time and care that they require and deserve.
For my latest effort in serious probing of earliest God-discourse, see my new book: God in New Testament Theology (Abingdon Press, 2010). (For UK-based readers, AlbanBooks is running a 20% discount on the book: http://www.albanbooks.com/add/SN0810.pdf)