“Jesus Monotheism”: My Review
My review of Jesus Monotheism, by Crispin Fletcher-Louis just appeared in Review of Biblical Literature here. This book is volume 1 of a multi-volume project in which Fletcher-Louis aims to lay out a broad-ranging and programmatic analysis of the emergence of devotion to Jesus in earliest circles of what became Christianity.
This first volume is heavily a “ground clearing” operation in which he both aligns himself with what he calls “the emerging consensus” (that a view and devotional treatment of Jesus as sharing in divine honor and status erupted early and in circles of Jewish believers), and also lodges a critique that he posits as requiring the sort of further work that he offers.
As my review indicates briefly, I don’t find his criticisms of my own work persuasive. I also think that some of his key propositions are dubious (or at least will require much more support). We will have to wait for subsequent volumes to measure adequately his case. But in this initial volume he gives strong hints of where future volumes will take us.
One apparent point of difference is over the sources of the Jesus-devotion reflected already in Paul’s letters. I have posited several “forces and factors,” including particularly powerful experiences of the risen/exalted Jesus that conveyed the conviction that God had raised Jesus from death and given him heavenly glory. From this, I contend, other beliefs quickly emerged, such as the belief that Jesus had, in some way, been “there” with God from creation (“pre-existence”).
Fletcher-Louis, however, seems to hold that in his historical ministry Jesus knew himself to be the pre-existent Son, and that he taught his disciples this idea. They didn’t quite “get” it, however, until after Jesus’ resurrection. But the source of the idea was Jesus himself, in Fletcher-Louis’ view. (As I say, we’ll have to wait for the full laying out of his view in subsequent volumes, so I hope I haven’t misrepresented the basics here.)
Indeed, I get the impression that Fletcher-Louis regards the sayings distinctively ascribed to Jesus in the Gospel of John as fully indicative of Jesus’ actual teachings about himself during his ministry. This might amount to making GJohn superior to the Synoptics as to Jesus’ self-understanding and teaching about his person and purpose. Clearly, Fletcher-Louis’ project involves some major issues.