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New Hurtado Podcasts

August 20, 2015

Dale Tuggy has published two podcasts based on an extended Skype interview about my work on the origins and early development of Jesus-devotion and earliest Christian notions of the relationship of Jesus and God.  The first podcast is here, and the second one here.

Tuggy’s own concerns (and the web site on which these podcasts appear) are focused on contemporary theological questions about how to frame a doctrine of “God”, and he’s particularly worked up over/against what he sees as problems in traditional “Trinitarian” theology.  My own work, however, is focused on the (simpler?) task of trying simply to understand what earliest Jesus-followers thought of him and how he functioned in their religious/devotional life.  So, that I agreed to the interview and podcasts does not imply any position regarding Tuggy’s own focus and stance.  (I also hadn’t realized that his site and interviews would be prefaced with appeals for funds and publicity.  But that’s his business.)

He made a good interviewer, however, and for those who prefer listening to reading, these podcasts might be useful in conveying my views on relevant matters.  (And, of course, there’s also the sheer enjoyment of my dulcet tone of voice!)

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  1. Steve Walach permalink

    Good evening, Larry —

    I spent the better part of this afternoon seeding carrots — a mindless (though pleasant) task — as I listened to both of your interviews — an intellectually demanding (but also pleasant) task, making for an excellent Sunday afternoon.

    Your tone of voice is indeed a dulcet one, and I will keep the sound in mind when reading your responses/corrections, rendering each an even more enjoyable/tolerable experience, I’m sure.

    You mentioned at one point in the second interview that the divine identity of God (YHWH) for Jews was “sovereign and creator” and YHWH was the only god worthy of worship. And if YHWH — whom they were obliged to worship — exalted and glorified Jesus, then 1st Century Jews were required to worship Jesus as well.

    I wonder how that line of thinking squares with a series of statements in Dt. 11: 26, 13:3, 13:7 and 13:14, each of which establishes a similar criterion: that the Hebrews should not follow/worship gods that they “have not experienced.” In my JPS Torah, the commentary elaborates that the Hebrew word for “experienced” sometimes describes an “intellectual apprehension” but also “an intimate, living relationship, see Hosea 13:4.” The JPS commentary also refers to a possible sexual denotation/connotation as in Gen. 4:1, i.e., “Now the man knew his wife …”

    Please be clear that I am not suggesting anything the least bit salacious a la Dan Brown’s book, but Deuteronomy’s successive statements about basing one’s worship on a deeply felt, intimate experience as well as an intellectual understanding seems to set a high bar indeed for Jews worshipping any god other than YHWH, whom they have “experienced” in a deeply felt way.

    These passages in Dt. also indicate that its author was quite sure that the Hebrews under Moses’s leadership had an intimate and meaningful experience of YHWH, which is also quite a declaration. They actually knew their god.

    The syllogism (if that’s the best way to put it) you set forth seems to meet the intellectual requirement of the term “experienced”: Jews worshipped YHWH; YHWH exalted and glorified Jesus; therefore, Jews are obligated/required to worship Jesus.

    However, in what ways did the earliest devotees of Jesus have an “intimate, living relationship” with/of him, similar to the one Deuteronomy assumed they had?

    Thanks for considering, and I look forward to hearing more of your podcasts/interviews.

    • Steve,
      The earliest Christian texts reflect/report experiences in which God speaks in prophetic oracles, the risen/exalted Jesus is experienced with a powerful reality (i.e., he is experienced as a living and powerful figure), etc. Nothing sexual about it. Perhaps some might use the term “mystical” or perhaps “charismatic”, if we’re looking for some phenomenological category.

  2. Just heard you on the first podcast. You speculated that if Paul was asked why Jesus was worshiped, Paul’s answer would be something like, “God raised him, God exalted him and God requires that we worship him”. In contrast to this, you said that Greek notions of essence and person would not have been categories that Paul would have used to describe or understand Jesus’ relationship to Yahweh.

    I was left with the impression that the reconciling of Jewish monotheism with worship of Christ was done simply by God requiring worship of Jesus – a kind of “God said so” reconciliation. Any devotion owed to Jesus was due to him only because of his connection to Yahweh as proclaimed by Yahweh (presumably in 1st century revelation received by Paul and taught by Jesus).

    I felt like that from this perspective, there really wasn’t a resolution of exclusive Yahweh worship with Jesus worship. Of course, maybe this says more about my modern understanding of resolution.

    My question is how would 2nd temple Jewish views of divine plurality – Angel of the Lord, Divine Council, Co-Regent stuff – give us more insight into how Paul would have understood his worship of Jesus? Though you said Greek thought didn’t provide the categories for the earliest Jewish Christians to understand this Yahweh/Jesus relationship, you didn’t seem to make an attempt to unpack categories available to 1st century Jewish Christians that could illuminate the situation – such as OT divine plurality concepts and language.


    • Corby: I’ve addressed what you refer to a number of times, initially (and most fully) in my 1988 book, One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism (3rd edition newly published this month). I contend that the “chief agent” traditions were a factor, but not sufficient to account for the kind of cultic reverence given to JEsus. None of them receives anything equivalent. I recommend my book!

      • Michael permalink

        Dr Hurtado you postulate that earliest Jewish monotheists who adhered to 1st century Jewish monotheism professed in the literal incarnation christology that Paul inherited (phil 2:11) from the earliest jewish followers of Jesus…how do you theologically reconcil the concept of literal incarnation (literal preexistence of The Son before he became the man Jesus) conceptualised in phil 2:11 with 1st century Jewish monotheism?

      • Michael: “Incarnation” isn’t so difficult an idea to accommodate. E.g., the ancient Jewish text known as the “The Prayer of Joseph” seems to describe Jacob as an incarnate angel. See my discussion in my book, One God, One Lord, 64-65. The really more difficult problem is how to reconcile the programmatic place of the exalted Jesus in earliest Jewish circles of believers with their commitment to the one God, especially in worship. That’s the problem I’ve worked on since my 1988 book, and tried to illuminate repeatedly since then. So, perhaps try reading what I’ve written. Perhaps start with One God, One Lord.

  3. Hi Larry,

    I made a comment on Dale Tuggy’s blog and I was hoping that you could confirm (or correct, as needed) my understanding of your view.

    An individual stressed the importance of recognizing that proskuneo is broad in its application, and can be used in both religious and “secular” contexts. I pointed out, correctly I hope, that the use or non-use of words for obeisance/worship isn’t the sole or even the primary basis upon which you conclude that Jesus was worshiped by the early Christians. In my understanding based on your writings, the primary basis was/is the constellation of religious devotional practices that made up the religious life of the early Christians in which Jesus was a central figure (e.g. a sacred meal, hymns to Christ, invocations in the name of Jesus, prayer to and through Jesus, etc). In other words, in your view, these practices could *only* (or at least almost certainly) be considered “worship” in the 1st century setting. Obviously accounts such as those we find in Philippians 2, Hebrews 1, and Revelation are relevant to the question, but the decisive consideration from your perspective is the constellation of devotional practices in which Jesus was reverenced as a central figure along-side God.

    I’m sure that you’ve probably made your position on this clear in your writings and may feel a little exasperated by the request for clarification — and I have read much of your work — but perhaps you’ll forgive one with an imperfect memory!

  4. Bengt Ödman permalink

    You say:
    “My own work, however, is focused on the (simpler?) task of trying simply to understand what earliest Jesus-followers thought of him and how he functioned in their religious/devotional life”

    I’ve been wondering for some time whether the concept of worship is not really what is crucial for understanding the Trinity rather than substances and hypostases. What about this line of argument:
    1. The early Christians worshipped both the Father and the Son.
    2. That which is worshipped is by definition a god.
    3. Thus the Father is a god and the Son is a god.
    Now, assume that, necessarily, worshipping the Father implies worshipping the Son and vice versa.
    This means that they are in effect the same god. Thus monotheism.

    Bengt Ödman

    • In Athanasius’ Oration Against Arians, he makes a point somewhat similar. If you worship Jesus and don’t link him with God (says Athanasius), then you’re a polytheist. So, to avoid that, you must either not worship Jesus, or you must grant that in some way he is directly linked with God, i.e., some kind of Trinitarian idea. But, of course, this is all in light of issues that arose later than the NT writings.

  5. Michael F permalink

    Dr. Hurtado,

    Thank you for taking the time to conduct these interviews, they were very interesting.

    I had a question come to mind as I listened. Is the one God of the Lord Jesus Christ the same one God of the Chrisitan church today?

    It seems like cultic worship is the dividing line for you between creature and Creator, but Jesus both receives worship post resurrection and yet still worships the one God.

    • Michael: I don’t know how to answer your first question. That’s for various Christians and churches to assess.

      • In more recent blogging comments, you seemed on the verge of saying in effect that Jesus was revered because he was simply such an impressive – even explosive – figure in real life.

        At this point in History in fact, many men, leaders, were thought to be gods. Yet humanism and nascent science, and contemporary experience – with particularly the extravagant claim of Julius Caesar to imperial and even godlike status – were all leading many in the time of Jesus to doubt and despise such claims. And even, like Brutus and Judas, to seek the death of those who made them.

      • I can’t think of what you’re referring to. I have repeatedly invoked four “forces & factors” in the eruption of Jesus-devotion. In any case, your comment blurs the very real distinction between attitudes toward deification of humans in the larger Roman world and the attitude of typical Jews. (Also, please: Let’s have names in polite conversation. “GG” doesn’t cut it.)

      • Michael F permalink

        Dr. Hurtado,

        I’d like to suggest that that the one God of the church must be the one God of the Lord Jesus Chriat because, if this were not the case, there would be two gods. Therefore it seems that Jesus is outside of (ie distinct from) the one God, or to use Bauckham’s language, Jesus is not within the divine identity because he (Jesus) himself must worship the divine identity.

      • Michael: You’re engaging in questions about how you want/ought to think theologically today. The focus on this site is how earliest Christians believed and practiced their faith. On the one hand, to judge from the NT, there is a clear distinction between “God” (“the Father” of Jesus) and Jesus. On the other hand, there are also remarkable ways in which Jesus is linked with, or incorporated into, God or God’s actions, attributes, etc. As the application of various “Yahweh texts” to Jesus in Paul (as studied by David Capes). Or as the sharing of the divine name (Philip 2:9-11), and “the glory that I had with you before the world” (John 17:1). And, in my view most remarkable, the incorporation of Jesus into the collective devotional practice of early Christians (as documented repeatedly since my 1988 book, “One God, One Lord”).
        So, it’s not quite the “either/or” simplistic dichotomy that you presume. That’s why Christians struggled with the question for several centuries in the early church.

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