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“Early High Christology”: Taking up a Dialogue

July 31, 2015

In a commendably professional step, Michael Kok sent me advance notice of a piece in which he addresses briefly the work of several scholars associated with the “early high christology” perspective (sometimes also referred to as “the new religionsgeschichtliche Schule”), and that he subsequently posted on a web site here.  In that piece, he says that he hopes “to open up a dialogue,” and so I offer an initial response here.

My first observation is that I think that Kok has attempted a balanced and (within the limits of his brief posting) essentially fair treatment of recent discussion/debate about the origins of “high Christology” (or, as I prefer to describe my own emphasis, “Jesus-devotion”).  The notes to his piece will guide readers to some key works both “pro” and “con,” and the characterization of various scholars seems to me basically accurate (again, working with the constraints of a brief web-posting, and see my critique in the following paragraphs).  So, I’ll take up his wish for dialogue by briefly addressing a few issues of substance.

One of Kok’s concerns is whether in the recent work that prompts his piece (particularly mine and that of Bauckham) there is “a concern to date a ‘high Christology’ as close as possible to the founding of the “Christian” movement.”  Well, Bauckham can speak for himself (as can others), but, to represent my own stance in the matter, I’ve reached the views that I advocate on the basis of the evidence and the best analysis of it that I can develop, using premises, approaches and arguments that are fully open to scholarly engagement by colleagues of any perspective.  I think that the evidence points to the conclusion that the pattern of Jesus-devotion presumed and reflected already in Paul’s letters was basically shared by, and likely originated among, Jewish circles in the young Jesus-movement based in Roman Judaea, i.e., among the earliest circles and in the earliest “post-Easter” period.  I judge that, I repeat, not out of some concern that it be so, but because that seems to me what a reasonable analysis demands.  (In footnote 9, Kok says that his concern applies more to “apologetic appropriations of the work of the EHCC rather than to its main scholarly proponents,” and I take him at his word.  But his essay addresses the “main scholarly proponents,” in which case his “concern” seems to me a red-herring.)

I will also note again that (unlike the older German Schule) this so-called “new religionsgeschichtliche Schule” includes scholars of various personal and religious stances, such as Jarl Fossum (who was a Jungian but I’m not aware of any particularly Christian theological stance) and Alan Segal (a self-identifying Jewish scholar of ancient religion).[1]  I happen to be a Christian (so, take me to the lions, I guess!), and Bauckham is also.  But I’m also a white male, a North American of mixed British and Spanish ancestry, near-sighted, of centre-left political leaning, a gender-egalitarian, who also likes porridge often for breakfast, gin and tonic or a good whiskey on a Friday afternoon, brought up on country music, and the first in my family history to take a university degree.  So?  The positions I’ve reached and advocate don’t require anybody to share any of these personal features. Let’s discuss substance.

Kok also wonders if the emphasis on the ancient Jewish matrix of earliest circles of Jesus-devotion serves to “insulate them from influences from the Greco-Roman world.”  Well, one could also note that the older work against which I and others have been pushing back was openly concerned to attribute a lot to “oriental” forces, with an inadequate appreciation of the richness of the Roman-era Jewish tradition. But, again, Kok’s statement implicitly imputes a motive, rather than engaging issues.  Any reader of my work, for example, can note that one of the “forces and factors” that I specifically cite is the larger Roman-era religious environment, including emperor-cult (e.g., Lord Jesus Christ, pp. 74-77).  Moreover, as Hengel and others showed, the Jewish matrix of the Jesus-movement was Roman-era Jewish tradition that had been shaped (albeit variously) in response to Persian, then Hellenistic, and then Roman influences for some 300 years or more.  So, I reject any suggestion of an effort to dodge “influences from the Greco-Roman world,” and I simply ask for colleagues to point out specifically what things I’m ignorant of, or incorrectly interpreting.

Kok suggests that “through a process of colonial mimicry, some Jews may have replaced the emperor with Jesus as the sovereign to whom divine honors were due.”  Now that (along with other things) is possible.  But to pose it as a possibility is one heck of a long way from showing it to have been the case.  Do we have evidence of Jewish “mimicry” involving the sort of devotional pattern that we see in earliest Jesus-movement circles, and given to other figures?  The major thrust of my 1988 book, One God, One Lord, was that we have no such evidence.  If I overlooked something, let’s have it.  And are we to imagine (and it is only imagination so far as I can see) that the stoutly Jewish early followers of Jesus would have aped emperor-cult, when, by all indications, it was regarded with utter disdain and horror by Jews who identified strongly with their ancestral tradition?  Or do we imagine that these Jews might have aped emperor-cult unconsciously?  Really?

I’d find this all a good deal less difficult to grasp if we had some comparable examples of other Jewish circles who likewise developed the sort of “dyadic” devotional pattern that we have in our earliest Christian texts.  Otherwise, I think that we have to say that something unusual and innovative went on in the early Jesus-movement.  That doesn’t mean that it was a miracle, or that you have to see it as the had of God.  I’m simply focusing on historical observation, not apologetics.

Kok also worries that there is “a risk of depicting ancient ‘Christianity’ as monolithic, assuming that a divine Christology was the definitive feature of all Christ associations,” and he notes the thematic variety that we have in NT texts in their Christological emphases.  Another red herring, in my view.  To speak for myself again, I don’t claim a “monolithic” early Christian movement.  In fact, in a recent article, I’ve argued that there was rich and “interactive diversity.”[2] There may well have been early circles in which Jesus wasn’t treated as recipient of the sort of cultic devotion that I cite.  But, again, to mention that as possible isn’t the same as demonstrating that it was so.  In any case, my own emphasis isn’t that there weren’t any such circles.  Instead, my point is that, whatever other kinds of Jesus-movement there may have been, the remarkable pattern of Jesus-devotion reflected in Paul’s letters seems to go back to/among the earliest circles.  Maybe there were other circles with a different devotional pattern, but those circles in which such Jesus-devotion was practiced were at least among the earliest.

On some other matters briefly mentioned in Kok’s piece, my only complaint is that he cites this or that critic of my work without noting that I’ve often given an answering argument.  For example, the critique of the term “monotheism” is by far wide of the mark.  In several publications over a couple of decades or more I’ve made it quite clear that “ancient Jewish monotheism” didn’t involve necessarily denying the existence of other “gods,” but that what I mean by the term is the evident cultic exclusivity characteristic of Roman-era Judaism.[3] And, as for James Crossley’s bizarre characterization of my portrayal of earliest Jesus-devotion as “Jewish, but not too Jewish,” well, in my view it says more about the limits of what he means by “Jewish” than it does about what I’ve actually written.

Finally, I endorse completely the exhortations in Kok’s final paragraph, which to my mind essentially echo emphases that I’ve posited for many years: Let’s avoid simplistic and reductionistic conclusions; let’s allow for a rich diversity in early “Christianity”; let’s contextualize early beliefs and practices; and let’s avoid simplistic uses of historical analysis.

[1] For analysis of the theological/cultural agenda of the older Schule: Karsten Lehmkühler, Kultus und Theologie: Dogmatik und Exegese in der religionsgeschichtliche Schule. Forschungen zur systematischen und ökumenischen Theologie, 76 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1996); and Suzanne L. Marchand, German Orientalism in the Age of Empire: Religion, Race, and Scholarship (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), esp. 212-51.

[2] Larry W. Hurtado, “Interactive Diversity: A Proposed Model of Christian Origins.” Journal of Theological Studies 64 (2013): 445-62.

[3] Most recently, Larry W. Hurtado, “‘Ancient Jewish Monotheism’ in the Hellenistic and Roman Periods.” Journal of Ancient Judaism 4, no. 3 (2013): 379-400, which includes a response to (my friend and colleague) Paula Fredriksen’s critique.

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  1. Steve Walach permalink

    Larry —

    Putting aside for a moment the origin of Jesus-devotion within authentic Jewish circles in the young Jesus-movement based in Roman Judaea, what are the likely factors prompting Jesus-devotion among the earliest Gentile converts?

    How likely is it that Paul’s popularity and effectiveness among the so-called “pagan” Greeks and Romans was the result of the way his authoritarian tone paralleled the my-way-or-the-highway cultic worship of various gods as demanded of citizens by the secular authorities in Rome — and previously the authorities in Greek city states?

    The gods of the Roman/Greek era had considerable power — sometimes used vainly or capriciously. The populace of the Roman era had been reared on stories of Zeus immolating blasphemers, Athena helping Odysseus skewer Penelope’s insolent suitors, and Kronos trying to eliminate all rivals by devouring his children.

    However, Paul’s crucified/resurrected Jesus also has power — power that extends into the afterlife and even the post afterlife in the resurrection of the dead. And the punishment Paul claims awaits transgressors is not death, but perhaps something worse — eternal damnation.

    Those Gentiles would have also been familiar with Prometheus, a suffering savior who betrays the gods by graciously giving fire to humans and pays for his beneficence dearly.

    Might not those Gentiles listening to Paul or other missionaries have conflated the exploits of their gods with the powers attributed by Paul to Jesus and the Father? Would the Gentiles have also felt “obligated” and “required” to worship Jesus as well as the Father because of Paul’s passionate testimony of their power and influence over mere mortals?

    (I realize the obligations and requirements imposed upon Jews post-Jesus’s glorification in your view would’ve been very different.)

    Absent a genuine revelatory experience, which Paul claimed for himself but allowed not so much those who followed, weren’t Gentile converts expected to worship, behave and also believe in an uncritical and submissive manner — similar to the demands once required by authorities of Greek and Roman citizens? Wouldn’t Paul’s Christ have been compatible with the pagan deities — in tone if not substance — and therefore a recognizable, familiar and viable “god” for the Gentiles and due requisite worship and obedience?

    These may be completely naive questions already addressed and resolved by scholars many times over, but thanks for considering.

    • Steve: I’ll respond to points posed in your comment in the following:
      –I’m not aware that “secular authorities” “demanded” that citizens worship the various gods of the Roman era. It didn’t occur to anyone not to worship them. They didn’t need any demands placed on them.
      –There’s no connection to Prometheus in early Pauline or other early Christian preaching. Nor is there any appeal to such predecents in earliest texts in justification for the gospel message. In any case, a crucified Jesus was clearly a major obstacle, as reflected, e.g., in Celsus’ critique of Christianity. There’s no indication that gentile converts “conflated” Jesus with the other deities.
      –Paul didn’t prohibit others from revelatory experiences. Where did you get that idea? Indeed, he presumes that they take place regularly (e.g., 1 Cor 14). He didn’t act like some sole-prophet or dictator, and his letters show that (e.g., Galatians, the Corinthian correspondence!!).
      –You have to reckon with the considerable social tension and harassment that early gentile converts received, and then ask why they were willing to suffer this in favour of Christian faith. We still haven’t cracked that one!

  2. For me, the only thing – aside from an apologist’s bona fide miracle – that would account for a dynastic devotion among even former Jewish monotheists, would be the continuing Roman occupation of Jerusalem, beginning 64 BC.

    Though Jewish loyalists famously resisted formal worship of the emperor, the Roman subjugation of The Holy City, the Roman servitude of most Jews, would have, as a practical matter, necessitated some very high level of deference toward many local Roman lords. From this it was a short step to seeing God as having some kind of – albeit problematic – second.

    • Well, “GG”, you only show how inaccurate your grasp is of second-temple Jewish attitudes in making the eruption of Jesus-devotion only “a short step”. Read on!!

  3. Professor Hurtado, may I follow up the discussion between you and James? What I took Crossley (as well as Smith and Arnal) to be saying is that NT scholars often insist that the Jewishness of the early Christ communities precludes outside influences on their central beliefs and practices, yet equally insist that the veneration of Jesus goes above and beyond how any other Jews related to various intermediary figures. It is ultimately unprecedented among Second Temple Jewish and “Pagan” views and requires some other external stimulus (i.e. visions), bracketing what scholars believe caused it, to get them to embrace this novel Christian dyadic devotional pattern. On the other hand, if the Similitudes of Enoch provide something of a parallel, then it is possible that the full dyadic devotional pattern that we see in Paul’s letters goes somewhat beyond contemporary Jewish practices due to the impact of Jesus’ memory in recent history but is still largely in continuity with it. If James McGrath is right that Second Temple Jews could potentially accommodate all sorts of expressions of devotions to other divine figures yet drew the line at sacrificial worship reserved for the deity, perhaps early Christian practices could still fit under the umbrella of Second Temple Judaism(s) as an admittedly distinctive form of it? Alternatively, they could have imitated some of the patterns of the imperial cult (apart from sacrifice to the emperor), though at the conscious level they justified what they were doing as good Jewish practice and regarded the imperial cult as the parody of Christ’s true lordship (I am thinking of the subversiveness of the terms “gospel” or “son of god” against the background of Augustan propaganda). Does that make sense?

    • Mike: Let me clarify one or two things from my perspective. In insisting on the Jewishness of earliest circles of Jesus-devotees, I’m simply recording the data. That’s not a judgment, just a report. Second, I don’t dismiss the possible relevance of “non-Jewish” influences; indeed, that’s one of the four “forces and factors” in my proposed model of earliest developments. That influence is indicated in the strong reaction against “pagan” religious practices that we see in Jewish texts, including earliest Christian texts such as Paul’s letters, but it’s still influence. Certainly, also, we see what seems to be the appropriation of terms that were also used in imperial discourse, e.g., the “deipnon kyriakon” (“Lord’s banquet), “kyriakon” you’ll know meaning “imperial” in Roman discourse. Moreover, the supreme exaltation of Jesus as in Philip 2:9-11 may well have been perceived as a trumping of claims of supreme divine appointment of the Roman emperor.
      But the question I debate is whether ruler-cult etc ACCOUNT for the origins of early Jesus-devotion. I don’t think so. That is, contrary to Bouseet, I don’t think that the evidence justifies the view that the “Jesus cult” originated in order to “market” Jesus to pagans, aping ruler cult or other pagan cult-lords.

      As to Similitudes of Enoch etc., of course 2nd-temple Jews could “accommodate all sorts of expressions” of reverence for “chief agent” figures, as I think I showed at some length waaaay back in my 1988 book, One God, One Lord. (McGrath’s book largely retravels the same territory later.) But if we move from generalities to specifics (which is what we historians should do), we don’t find anything like the robust pattern of devotional practices centred on Jesus regarding these other figures. I’ve itemized (repeatedly!!) the phenomena in question, and McGrath, Dunn, etc. all ignore them, preferring to discuss semantics of “proskynein” or such, or talk about sacrifice (but early Jesus-circles didn’t practice sacrifice to anyone/anything in their gatherings, so where does that get us??). I repeat: The extant data show no parallel or precedent for the constellation of devotional practices in question. In historical terms, earliest Christian devotion is a new mutation.

      Finally, “on a conscious level” (and do you really want to speculate about what was in their unconsciousness???), it’s clear that early believers justified their extraordinary devotional practices involving Jesus on the basis of God’s exaltation of him and requirement that Jesus be so reverenced. They, thus, believed that they were being faithful/obedient to the one God, not deviating from the traditional exclusivity of worship. Their “mutation” or expansion in that “dyadic” direction, they believed, was in response to God’s action and imperative.

  4. “through a process of colonial mimicry, some Jews may have replaced the emperor with Jesus as the sovereign to whom divine honors were due.”

    Problematic, to say the least, given the Gospels emphasize the low birth of Jesus, his penchant for dining with “tax collectors and sinners,” the fact that Galilee is in the middle of nowhere, and his brutal crucifixion.

    Is this not why Paul says that we are “fools for Christ.”

    The Gospels, are, in this sense, ironic.

  5. Jim permalink

    Since the word bizarre is coming up often here, I’m starting to feel comfortable in asking bizarre questions. And since bizarre is my game:

    Is there any way to convincingly show that the pre-Pauline Phil 2.6-11 fragment originated from within a very traditional Jewish community of Jesus followers rather than a hybrid Hellenistic Jewish/Gentile congregation, say in Damascus? Could this latter (theoretical) group be more prone to incorporating a higher level of colonial mimicry into its devotional Jesus worship than the Jerusalem followers?

    Or is there not enough information in Paul’s writings to establish the pattern of the very early Jerusalem community’s devotional practices, and whether they differed significantly from that suggested in the Philippians hymn?

    • Jim: What you suggest for consideration is basically the view that Bousset proffered: That treating Jesus as “cult Lord” couldn’t have commenced in a “proper” Jewish setting (as he imagined it), and so could only have happened in some setting where “pagan” influences were more effective (he proposed Antioch and Damascus). For my own analysis, see my book, Lord Jesus Christ (2003), esp. pp. 155-216 (on “Judean Jewish Christianity”). I give there a case for judging that the origins lie in “authentic” Jewish circles in Roman Judea.

      • Jim permalink

        Thanks for your response. I was just wondering about this subject (not even proposing much of anything) from an armchair potato perspective of early Christianity. And being so comfortable in an armchair, I’m even too lazy to turn pages … so I just now purchased the kindle edition of your “Lord Jesus Christ”.

  6. Jack Dalby permalink

    Professor Hurtado: Thanks for sharing Michael Kok’s article. Your response touches on an important question as to how NT historians approach their topics. For example, let’s imagine a politically “liberal” historian undertaking a biography of Ronald Reagan. This historian is not a fan of the former president. However, after diligent research, our historian concludes that Reagan was actually a decent president. The historian might be surprised by his change of heart, but that new understanding does not impact his foundational belief system. But what about Christian historians researching the historical Jesus? I’ve read a number of works where self identified Christian authors state that their faith will not impact their analysis. But is that realistic? As Christians, by definition, they must believe at least two things: 1) that there is a God and 2) that in some sense, God acted through/with/as Jesus. It’s not just that these beliefs might be true, for a Christian, they must be true. If either creedal belief is false, then the the entire faith system might be called into question. Unlike a political belief, I’m not sure how anyone can leave their core faith identity at the door when they sit down to write about Jesus. As such, how open can Christian scholars be to secular explanations for the early worship of Jesus? My sense is that you are aware of this difficulty. Your gentle chiding of Tom Wright’s over reach in your review of his recent work on St. Paul is a good example. I’m not sure there is a completely satisfying answer to my question, but I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter. Thank you.

    • Jack: It’s true that historical work can have existential effects. One might, e.g., find out that one’s ancestors weren’t all that nice a people, that one’s favorite uncle was a thief and adulterer, or whatever. Certainly, anyone’s notions of what Christian faith involves (whether he/she be an adherent or not) will likely (and should) undergo some changes as a result of historical inquiry, if conducted well. I can’t speak for others, but, for myself, I have to allow that the results of historical inquiry might well require at least a modification, or different understanding of, my faith as a Christian.
      But, as I’ve noted in publications over the years, I don’t hold that the validity of the tradtional Christian practice of treating Jesus as rightful recipient of devotion rests upon Jesus having commanded it, or even having foreseen it. The NT writings instead base the practice on the “post-Easter” conviction that God raised Jesus from death, exalted him, and now requires him to be reverenced. So, “historical JEsus” studies (to my mind) can’t either validate or invalidate that conviction.
      But any honest historian of early Christianity must be prepared to treat historical inquiry with integrity, and that means being able to adjust prior assumptions in light of it.

      • Jack Dalby permalink

        Thank you for a thoughtful answer.

  7. Timothy Knowlton permalink

    Dear Professor Hurtado,

    As someone with a college degree in Philosophy and interested in New Testament and Christian Origins, I appreciate so much your rigorous use and appeal to substance, logic, and historical observation and analysis. After reading your blog for some years now, it seems every post you make, someone comments with use of the argumentum ad hominem fallacy and the red herring fallacy. And you identify and call them out every time. If more students of Biblical Studies gave more effort to learning and applying logic, I believe there would be a better hope at making progress.

    Thank you again for your great work!

  8. Professor Hurtado, I am grateful that you have continued the conversation with this extensive response and I have added a link to it in the comments section of the B & I article.

    Note 9 does address a certain audience that might gravitate towards the EHCC model due to a desire to maximize the continuity from Jesus to Nicaea. I want to encourage them as a fellow Christian (throw me to the lions too!) to not worry about whether a “high Christology” developed early or late and in what texts as if historical development could somehow invalidate the truth of their theological conviction. I take it that you agree so let’s move on to substance.

    I think my questions could apply to Professor Bauckham’s quotes about the “earliest” Christology (how long after Jesus’ lifetime qualifies as the earliest?) that characterized “all” the NT writings as if they were univocal. I insist that Christ is represented as the pre-existent creator in select NT texts; allusions to Ps 110 to show God’s exaltation of Jesus to rule appear frequently but I do not see how this includes him in the divine identity anymore that the “son of man”, Metatron, or Christ’s followers (Rev 3:21) (cf. LJC, 47n.66). I believe that you are on stronger grounds in surveying the devotional practices presupposed in Acts and Paul’s epistles, including pre-Pauline fragments (e.g., Phil 2:6-11), though I may have some reservations following Dunn and McGrath about the degree to which Jesus is worshiped and to what extent Acts is representative of the praxis of the Jerusalem Church or of the author’s contemporaries. I commend this qualification: “Maybe there were other circles with a different devotional pattern, but those circles in which such Jesus-devotion was practiced were at least among the earliest.” I suggested the Synoptic tradition as evidence of difference, though we see post-Easter practices increasingly read back into the Jesus tradition (e.g., Matt 14:63 compared to Mark 6:51-52, Luke’s extended use of kyrios), but I get your response that the Gospels are not theological tractates.

    Regarding analogies, I think I see the line between the veneration of the deity and the deity’s chosen human or cosmic representative (1 Chron 29:20; 1 En. 48:5; 62:6-9) as less clear-cut, but I appreciate your point that Christian devotion practices seems to go beyond what is briefly indicated in these texts. As for the influence of the imperial cult, I accept that you would likely not consider Herod the Great who expanded the Jerusalem Temple on the one hand and built three imperial temples (granted in towns with substantial non-Jewish populations) on the other as an example of Jewish piety. I wonder if there was more diversity on the ground regarding how Jews might have negotiated the tensions between native traditions and imperial propaganda? As pointed out to me by a friend, is the question of whether devout Jews would consciously or unconsciously choose to ape the imperial cult predicated on assigning them maximum individual agency rather than allowing that the cultural exchange between ruling and subjugated peoples of the Empire could be more subtle and complex? I should have added your point that the reaction to the imperial cult in some texts (Revelation, perhaps John) is secondary, though I am persuaded that Paul and Mark supply earlier evidence of re-applying imperial titles and imagery to Jesus.

    Finally, by shining a light on possible ideological factors that enable an academic paradigm to be so successful in a particular time and place does not necessarily invalidate the results of the scholarship anymore than highlighting the Liberal Protestant influences on the former religionsgeschichtliche Schule invalidates their results. I think ideological criticism just tries to take seriously the embeddedness of scholars in a particular historical, social, and cultural context. I look forward to further discussion about this at SBL. 🙂

  9. “And, as for James Crossley’s bizarre characterization of my portrayal of earliest Jesus-devotion as “Jewish, but not too Jewish,” well, in my view it says more about the limits of what he means by “Jewish” than it does about what I’ve actually written.’

    This misses the point, Larry. The point is that contemporary NT scholarship has a tendency to construct Judaism in fairly essentialist terms and to have Christianity or Jesus or Christ-devotion go beyond this construction in some way. I think your view of Christ-devotion does this (you are explicit in saying that Christ-devotion is something new and distinctive in relation to Judaism). Now, historically you may or may not be right (for what it is worth, it seems to me that John’s Gospel constructs Christology in relation to “the Jews” in ways similar to what you suggest) but it is *also* part of a contemporary discourse in scholarship which is strong on the rhetoric concerning Judaism and Jewishness (and this includes me, you, and any number of scholars) alongside the idea of transcending Judaism. There are any number of ways of understanding Christian origins and what interests me is why this frankly undeniable emphasis in scholarship *is* so dominant in contemporary scholarship. But I repeat: this doesn’t necessarily means the (ancient) historical reconstructions are necessarily wrong. That, to my mind, is another question, another debate.

    • James: What is bizarre in your catchy little phrase is that it is a complete misreading/distortion of what I’ve repeatedly emphasized over a few decades now: That what became “Christianity” originated as a novel development within second-temple Jewish tradition. So, how is that “Jewish, but not too Jewish”? Quman seems to be another example. Is that also “Jewish, but not too Jewish”? Why misrepresent what I’ve said?
      The early “post-Easter” Jesus-movement quickly became progressively trans-ethnic in makeup, but there remained a continuing body of Jewish circles at least well into the second century (as witnessed to by, e.g., Justin Martyr in his Dialogue). I really can’t figure out how (or why!) you choose to try to position me with those who in the past have made the simplistic distinction of a “Christianity” over against a monolithic “Judaism”.

      • The phrase I used was “Jewish…but not *that* Jewish” which provides a subtle difference from “too Jewish”. Besides, I stress again that I am working on two different levels here. 1. The level of scholarly discourse in contemporary contexts; 2. The ancient sources in their context. In terms of 1 it is clearly a scholarly tendency to emphasise Jewish context and neither of us are exceptions. I think is clear that you also stress that devotion was unparalleled in early Judaism and something remarkably new. Would that be fair? Now you may be correct historically but let’s leave that for 2. For now I think you are (as many of us are, including most/all notable participants in debates over Christology) part of a clear trend where Jewishness is the foil/context for understanding Christology. This can likewise be said about historical Jesus studies, Pauline studies etc. But we could (and some do) construct these issues in other terms e.g. gender, economics or whatever. So my question is this: why has contemporary scholarship heavily emphasised Jewishness while simultaneously stressing that Xn origins does something especially unique, different, remarkable etc? Why has this sort of discourse become so popular (though not unprecedented) the past 30 years or so? I should add that I much prefer to think of this as a more unconscious scholarly development rather that one of individual motivations. I especially noticed this when I read Bill Arnal’s Symbolic Jesus and realised I was clearly part of some of the trends he saw in scholarship on Jewishness while I was certainly never meaning to be. This allows us to focus on the cultural and historical contexts of scholarship without the too individualistic image of the scholar supposedly seeing their face at the bottom of the well (I wish we’d get rid of that image but we’ll see).

        Now, this does not invalidate 2. As I said, your analysis may well be historically accurate. It may very well be the case that ancient sources construct devotion over against anything known in Jewish sources. What interested me about Mike’s article (among other things) was his stress on discourse and context in his final paragraph (I think this interested you too) and it’s why John’s Gospel is a striking example. In its first-century (ish?) context I think a good case can be made and has been made (by you and others) that John relentlessly uses Jewish sources and constructs some kind of Jewish identity while simultaneously claiming that Christology/devotion is new, shocking, different etc (e.g. John 5; John 10). What sort of historical realities this reflects, I don’t know, but clearly something like what you and others argue *is* grounded in ancient texts. Maybe we could also argue that Qumran does something similar too, as you suggest.

        I think Mike is doing something that I didnt in blurring 1 and 2 and is trying to avoid a claim that his reading of ancient sources necessarily pushes what you’d call something like the remarkable shift from what is known in early Judaism (my wording). That’s fair enough of Mike in the abstract and I guess the real scholarly differences will emerge between you and Mike (and others) when arguing over whether your notion of devotion is as widespread as you’ve suggested.

        I hope these distinctions help clarify things further.

      • James: Thanks for taking the time to write your extended comments, and this one does clarify issues a good bit. In response to your #1, I want to clarify/correct something myself. You persist in portraying me as contrasting early Jesus-devotion with “Judaism”, but that’s not what I’ve every written. To repeat, I’ve portrayed the eruption of Jesus-devotion as a novel and striking development WITHIN second-temple Jewish tradition. It came to be regarded as an unacceptable development, among some (e.g., Saul of Tarsus) rather quickly, but not in any organized manner for some time. When I note novel features, that’s because the data require that judgement: It’s been 35 yrs since I published One God, One Lord, and I haven’t seen a refutation of the basic claim that there is no comparable devotional pattern evidence in other extant Jewish evidence of the time, a pattern involving the constellation of devotional practices that were directed toward Jesus in earliest circles of the Jesus-movement.
        I must underscore that this is NOT a continuation of the sort of use of “Judaism” as a “foil” for the early Jesus-movement that we know characterized much/most NT scholarship for many years (including the old “history of religion” team). For the record, I don’t recall any of my Jewish colleagues accusing me of what you seem to assert.
        As to why the sort of view I espouse is now growing in acceptance, I’d guess that it’s down to making the case well. To be sure, there are historical factors involved in the effort to avoid using ancient Judaism as a foil/contrast, prominent among them, obviously, the horrific history of 20th-century treatment of Jews, and the recognition that scholarly treatments of Judaism were a contributing factor.
        As for your #2, the question isn’t what the GJohn asserts. My argument, for example, rests more heavily on Pauline evidence, and on the Jewish sources themselves. (1) There is no comparable “dyadic” devotional pattern in other extant Jewish sources (and Mike Kok and others agree to this); (2) in ancient Jewish tradition protecting the uniqueness of God was perhaps THE crucial concern, and this was exercised most vigorously in worship practices; so (3) the clear dyadic pattern that we see presumed already in Paul’s letters and which seems to have been shared in Judean circles of the Jesus movement too, must be judged a striking development and in the most neuralgic area of ancient Jewish religious concerns. I hope that I’ve also helped to clarify matters.

      • Timothy Knowlton permalink

        It seems Professor Crossley is committing here what Logician Patrick Hurley calls, the “Straw Man” fallacy: “A fallacy that occurs when the arguer misinterprets an opponent’s position for the purpose of more easily attacking it, demolishes the misinterpreted argument, then proceeds to conclude that the original argument has been demolished”

        Patrick Hurley, A Concise Introduction Logic, 11th Edition, pg.706

        Other Fallacies I’ve observed New Testament Scholars committing:
        That’s just your apologetics, so your conclusions must be false
        That’s just your rhetoric, so your conclusions must be false
        That’s just your ideology, so your conclusions must be false
        That’s just your protective strategy, so your conclusions must be false
        That’s just your bias/subjectivity, so your conclusions must be false (Lonergan’s “Principle of the empty head”)
        Denying objectivity while presupposing it as part of their argument/evidence

        Actually, these fallacies cut both ways, and can be applied to both sides of the debate, labeled on both sides.

      • Patrick:I think you may be a bit simplistic and harsh on Crossley. I don’t think it reduces quite as readily as you propose.

      • Michael permalink

        Hi Pr. Hurtado.

        In your understanding and in reference to’Latreuo’ used in Rev 22:3, is ‘Him’ referring to the worship of both God and The Lamb or to God the Father alone or The Lamb? Furthermore, is Rev 22:3 contexually a future tense setting? In other words, is the verse implying (if Latreuo refers to the Lamb) that the Lamb will be worshipped in the future but is not currently receiving Latrueo? Thanks!

      • Michael: The wording in context is somewhat ambiguous, or at least requires some pondering! My own guess is that “they shall worship him” refers to God. The author, however, approves and urges inclusion of “the Lamb” also as rightful co-recipient of worship in Rev 5. So I think that the author (with some other early Christians) regarded a worship pattern that included Jesus with God as the rightful way to worship God. That is, rightly understood (in the minds of this author and, e.g., Paul), the reverence that was given to Jesus was understood as now required by God, and so as worship of God, the way in which God is now to be worshipped–this “dyadic” pattern.

      • Hugh Scott permalink

        Professor Hurtado,

        I do not know to which comment of one of your readers, or to which reply of your own, I should address this comment of mine, since it applies to practically everything that appears in this discussion.

        My submission is, simply, that every point raised is comprehensively dealt with, and convincingly answered in your favour, in the truly remarkable book, ‘The Jesus Legend – A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition’, by Paul Rhodes Eddy and Gregory A. Boyd (Baker Academic, 2007, pp. 480, pb)..

        This book really is a must-read. In an introductory chapter, on page 14, the authors set out their thesis: “If, with its reports of the supernatural, one is able to remain sincerely open to the possibility [italics] (not merely the ‘logical’ possibility, but the genuine historical possibility) …. that the portrait(s) of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels is historically reliable, then, given an appropriate historical method and the evidence at hand, one is justified (on purely historical grounds) in concluding that the Synoptic portrait(s) of Jesus is quite historically plausible [italics] – in fact, that it is the most historically probable [italics for last 3 words] representation of the actuial Jesus of history”.

        On practically every page I have marked quotable opinions (always rigorously established) by the authors. It is with no simple desire to flatter, but because I have been thoroughly convinced of the case they make, that I quote their acknowledgement in note 14 on page 96: “We find the work of Hurtado to represent one of the most thorough and persuasive lines of thought within the new school [of scholarship in its approach to New Testament origins] and thus depend heavily on his analysis and assessment”. On page 98 Eddy/Boyd say:on one issue: “If the new school’s critique of the old school and its hellenisation thesis is on target – and the evidence certainly suggests that it is – scholars must now explain the rise of the early Christian understanding and worship of the risen Jesus within a first-century – even Palestinian – Jewish context” [the whole of the last sentence, beginning with ‘scholars’, is italicised in the original].

        There is no overall bibliography, but every page is footnoted with a detailed bibliography of works dealing with the precise point in question.

      • Hugh: I’m afraid that the book you mention is really more apologetics than historical scholarship. Apologetics is a noble profession, of course, but it’s not historical analysis. In any case, my posting wasn’t about the reliability of the Synoptic Gospels, but that devotion to Jesus as resurrected/exalted Lord erupted early, and most likely in circles of Jewish believers in Roman Judaea, and that I find it unlikely that ruler-cult prompted it.

  10. Larry Burton permalink

    I always find your writing to be clear and extremely careful. It doesn’t seem to me that you have drawn conclusions without the material to support them. Your analysis is remarkable for for its clarity. That is probably why I enjoy and appreciate your scholarship so much.

  11. I enjoyed his article. I enjoy yours as well. When I read your books on the origins of early Christian worship and the Lord Jesus, I learned quite a bit. Thanks.

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