I'm still reading Larry Hurtado's How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God? Historical Questions about Earliest Devotion to Jesus.
my latest reading, Hurtado argues that the claims by Jewish leaders in
the synoptic Gospels that Jesus was a blasphemer reflects Jewish
concerns about Jewish-Christian claims regarding Jesus. And what were
those claims? On pages 161-162, Hurtado says that, in the Gospel of
Matthew and Luke-Acts, "Jewish Christians of the first few years of the
Christian movement are portrayed as practicing a religious devotion to
Jesus that involves attributing to him powers and a status that are
closely linked to God". On page 168, Hurtado maintains that the
Christological claims of the sort that we find in Mark 14:61-62,
"accompanied by a devotional practice in which the exalted Jesus was
invoked, hymned, and acclaimed in gathered cultic settings", struck
certain Jews as blasphemy. Mark 14:62 says that the Son of Man will sit
on the right hand of power and come in the clouds of heaven.
Hurtado acknowledges that Second Temple Judaism regarded various beings
as principle agents of God----and thereby endowed with God's name or
aspects of God's power----Hurtado maintains that what separates early
Christianity from these trends was that early Christianity actually
worshiped Jesus, whereas Second Temple Judaism did not worship the
principle agents of God.
In my reading so
far, Hurtado has not really provided a lot of evidence that there was
early cultic devotion to Jesus. Perhaps he does so in other things he
has written. As Hurtado notes, there are hymns in New Testament
writings, but I wonder if those hymns reflect acts of worship towards Jesus, or are merely celebrations about
Jesus? I do not have the entire New Testament in my head right now, so
I don't know. I did a search on "Lord Jesus Christ", however, and I
think it's probable that early Christianity emphasized Jesus more than
Second Temple Judaism did the principle agents of God----as Paul blesses
people in Jesus' name, and stresses Jesus in other ways. But I'd like
to see the evidence for early cultic devotion to Jesus fleshed out
more. Perhaps I'd have to consult other works by Hurtado for that,
unless he fleshes out his evidence later in this book.
(UPDATE: On pages 198-199, Hurtado refers to his book, One God, One Lord,
in which he discusses the early Christian reverence towards Jesus and
how that differed from Jewish treatment of God's agents. According to
Hurtado, early Christianity had hymns sung about and to Jesus, prayers
that were to Jesus himself or were in Jesus' name, the use of Jesus'
name in "public cultic actions (i.e., baptisms, exorcisms,
excommunication, etc.), confession of Jesus, the Lord's supper, and
prophecy in the name of Jesus. Hurtado may base this on the New
Testament, for there are some places in the book I'm currently reading
where he cites New Testament passages in arguing that early Christianity
worshiped Jesus within a cult.)
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