Joseph Shulam, Christian minister and Hebrew scholar who leads a messianic congregation in Jerusalem, shares how Jesus figures in the Talmud, a collection of rabbinic discussions from the 1st to the 5th centuries AD. He argues the negative reports among the rabbis actually corroborate aspects of the biblical accounts in the Gospels.
This will be the first podcast in a new series I am hosting called THE STONE CHAPEL. If you want information about that, let me know. It will appear soon on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and other platforms.
The novel coronavirus (Covid 19) is wreaking havoc on peoples’ health, the economy and education. Most schools in the USA, if not all, are closed for now. This includes pre-schools, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, colleges, universities, and seminaries. These closings are prudent for now. Schools that haven’t been online or only partially online are having to go fully online. Whatever technical resources they have are stretched thin.
The Lanier Theological Library closes today to the public out of an abundance of caution. We generally have about 30 patrons and visitors today. As people stay home, they want things to do and I have good news. There are some great sources online for research. I found one I want to share with you. There are so many great links and helpful suggestions. Thanks to Dr. Askin for his careful work.
Biblical Took Kit—created by Dr. Lindsey Askin, University of Bristol in support of biblical, theological and near eastern studies https://biblicaltoolkit.wordpress.com
Two of the major influences on Larry Hurtado’s work were a book and a friendship. The book was Alan Segal’s classic Two Powers in Heaven: Early Rabbinic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism (SJLA, 25; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1977). The book has been re-published twice to my knowledge, most recently by Baylor University Press (2012). Segal examined the rabbinic sources about early manifestations of what is called the “two powers” heresy in Judaism. Certain rabbis condemned these “heretics” (minim) who appear to be reverencing two deities, therefore violating one of the basic tenets of Jewish monotheism. Segal’s work is useful for understanding the complex interactions among Jews, Christians and Gnostics in the centuries that followed Jesus’ execution. Some of the Jewish heretics condemned may have been Jewish Christians. But as Hurtado noted, something more than beliefs about Jesus are being challenged; likely it had to do with the Jewish Christian propensity of reverencing Jesus in ways later rabbis deemed blasphemous.
The other influence was the friendship that struck up between Alan and Larry over the next few years. Alan endorsed the first edition of One God, One Lord (1988) and the second (1998). Alan and Larry came from two different worlds, but they became fast and good friends. Alan was a Jewish New Testament scholar from the Northeast. Larry was a Christian New Testament scholar from the Midwest, who loved Canada and his adopted home in the UK. They had much in common and much in difference, but the differences were made sweeter over time as they spent time together at professional meetings and in Larry’s and Shannon’s Edinburgh home.
Both Alan and Larry were founding members of the Early High Christology Club (along with Carey Newman and David Capes). In a future post, I’ll share the founding myth of the club.
In 2007 colleagues conspired to produce a Festchrift in honor of them both (Israel’s God and Rebecca’s Children: Christology and Community in Early Judaism and Christianity, Essays in Honor of Larry W. Hurtado and Alan F. Segal, eds. David B. Capes, April D. DeConick, Helen K. Bond and Troy A. Miller [Waco, TX: Baylor University, 2007]). Each were told they were writing an essay for the other in the others’ Festschrift. They didn’t know it was a joint Festschrift until the reveal in San Diego in 2007. When they realized what was happening, it was a great moment.
When Alan became “unwell” a few years later, we were all glad we had not waited a few years before we honored them with this volume. Carey, Larry and I flew to New York a few weeks before Alan died to visit him in the hospital near his home. As with all good friends, his death left a hole in our lives. We miss Alan, his quirky sense of humor and ability to order food in 21 languages, and now we miss his friend.
Among the early influences on Larry Hurtado were Martin Hengel and his little but substantial book, The Son of God (1976). Hengel’s work presented a direct challenge to those who thought the conviction that Jesus was divine had its start in communities where pagan influences such as “the mystery religions” were prominent. Hengel provided substantial evidence from Jewish sources that the confession, “Jesus is the Son of God,” and “Jesus is Lord,” first arose in Jewish-Christian circles.
Hengel laid out clearly the chronological data, particularly those in the undisputed letters of Paul which were written 20 or so years after Jesus’ execution (50-60 AD). All the historical development schemes proposed by Wilhelm Bousset and his followers cratered in light of the Christological beliefs and practices already expressed in the earliest strata of Christian traditions. In historical terms, Hengel and Hurtado argued that in the earliest decades of the Christian movement, primarily in Jewish circles, Jesus was considered divine and worshiped alongside God the Father.
Hurtado agreed with Hengel on many points but disagreed with Hengel’s claims that most Christological development took place primarily in Greek-speaking Jewish communities in a variety of locals. Hurtado claimed instead that Christ-devotion took place initially in Aramaic-speaking communities of Jewish believers as well. This is not to discount the significance of the Greek-speaking Jews who were responsible for the geographic spread of the movement in the subsequent decades (AD 30-50). By then, however, Christ-devotion was already an established feature of Christian communities.
Richard Bauckham as well was influential in this movement. By drawing attention to worship practices rather than simply beliefs about Jesus, Bauckham showed how remarkable the worship of Jesus alongside God was in an exclusively monotheistic environment. Worship was to be given to God alone, and now (as in Rev 5) the rightful recipients of worship were God and the Lamb. So Hurtado took this as an important aspect of his own work. For him the importance of worship as a historical feature and data point for early believers became a prominent aspect in his arguments about Jesus and God being co-recipients of worship in the early Christian writings.
Johannes Weiss (Earliest Christianity, 2 volumes/ ET 1959), who was a contemporary of Bousset proposed that the cultic reverence due to Jesus commenced among the earliest Jewish believers and constituted “the most significant step of all in the history of the origins of Christianity.”
In the next post, I will consider the friendship and influence of Alan Segal on Larry and his work. Both men were dear friends of mine. Together we were founding members of The Early High Christology Club.