Thursday, October 11, 2012

How High Was Early Christology?

I started Larry Hurtado's How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God? Historical Questions about Earliest Devotion to Jesus.

My impression is that Hurtado is arguing that Jesus was regarded as divine within early Christianity early on, and that this initially occurred within Jewish Christianity, which was why Jews persecuted the early Christians.  What is Hurtado's basis for these claims?  In what I have read so far, Hurtado contends that Paul regarded Jesus as divine and indicated in Galatians 1 that his views were the same as Jewish Christians, as well as included in his letter to the Philippians an earlier hymn (the one in Philippians 2) that depicts Jesus as pre-existent and as God.  Regarding Jewish persecution of early Christians, Hurtado notes passages that say that the persecution is on account of Jesus himself (for Jesus' name), and Hurtado takes this to mean that Jews were upset by what the early Christians were saying about Jesus, namely, that Jesus was divine.  And Hurtado refers to the stoning of Paul, which Hurtado interprets in light of the punishment for apostasy/idolatry in Deuteronomy 13:1-11 and 17:2-7.

So why did Jewish Christians conclude early on that Jesus was God, when they lived in a monotheistic culture?  Hurtado's answer is that they received some revelation that Jesus was exalted, perhaps similar to God revealing God's Son to Paul in Galatians 1. Hurtado does not think that the worship of Jesus as God was due to pagan influences, for Judaism and Christianity were anti-paganism.  And Hurtado appears to be skeptical about the claim that the early Christians' worship of Jesus flowed from early Judaism's treatment of wisdom, certain biblical figures, or other intermediaries as principle agents of God, for early Judaism did not worship these entities, but early Christians worshiped Jesus.

How high was the Christology of the early Christians?  I think that the hymn in Philippians 2 is saying that Jesus was pre-existent, but it also appears to maintain that Jesus became God at his ascension.  At the same time, in discussing how other scholars have interacted with the issue of how Jesus came to be worshiped, Hurtado mentions I Corinthians 8:6, which says (in the KJV): "But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him."  That appears to be saying that Jesus was involved in creation.  I do not know how someone like James Dunn----who thought that Paul did not believe that Jesus was pre-existent----handled that passage.  Perhaps he could argue that Paul was talking about Jesus as the agent of the new creation, not the original creation.

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