With the death of my friend and mentor, Larry Hurtado, on November 25, 2019, I thought I’d take an occasion to re-read and blog through his classic book, One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism. It has been published in its 3rd edition recently by Bloomsbury T. & T. Clark, as a part of its Cornerstones Series. When I visited Larry in early October, he gave me a copy and signed it “for David, trusted friend, Larry.” With his passing, it is a hallowed possession.
I have spent seven posts blogging through the preface to the 1998 edition. You can read those earlier posts beginning in December 2019. Now I turn my attention to the epilogue of the book, which Larry wrote for the 3rd edition.
Larry’s interest in the questions that eventually became ONE GOD, ONE LORD came together for him not long after he finished his PhD. He felt it was time for a substantial engagement with and against Wilhelm Bousset’s classic book KYRIOS CHRISTOS. There were two overarching contentions in Bousset’s book. First, one of the most significant historical developments of early Christianity was the emergence of the ‘Kyrios-cult,’ that is, the treatment of the risen/exalted Jesus as “the rightful recipient” of worship. Second, Bousset argued that this development did not take place among the first Jewish followers of Jesus in Judea and Jerusalem; instead it happened in places like Antioch and Damascus under the influence of pagan worship where there were gods-a-plenty to be honored. Jesus became just another of those gods. Hurtado agreed with the first conclusion but not the second.
Hurtado thought that advances in knowledge and the availability of many Jewish texts—texts not available to Boussett—had rendered his historical judgments in error. For example, Boussett thought the title “Son of Man” was a common title in second temple Judaism, and thus available for the earliest followers of Jesus to express his significance; it designated an eschatological figure who would appear to bring judgment and redemption to the world. Therefore, the earliest Christians confessed Jesus to be the “Son of Man,” not the Lord (kyrios) because that word was too closely allied with the name of God and pagan gods; it could be thought to oblige worship of Jesus. Kyrios-Christ devotion did develop, of course, at a secondary stage since Christianity eventually moved away from its Jewish moorings. Further study has demonstrated, however, that Bousset was not correct; the “Son of Man” was not a familiar title in second temple Judaism. Likewise, it is unlikely to have become a confession: “Jesus is the Son of Man.” In the NT Jesus himself is the one who uses the expression of himself not his followers.
The Achilles’ heel to Bousset’s argument (that the Kyrios-cult developed at some secondary stage away from Jerusalem and Judea) is 1 Cor 16:22: maranatha (Aramaic expression transliterated into Greek letters; cf. Rev 22:20). Most scholars take that as an acclamation, “Our Lord comes,” or an invocation, “Come, our Lord.” If Paul is using an Aramaic phrase in a Greek letter to a congregation in Corinth in AD 56, it is likely that the original, “primitive” church in Judea/Jerusalem referred to Jesus (the risen and coming one) as the Mareh (Aramaic for “Lord”). Aramaic was the language of the first Jewish communities/ synagogues. Research by various scholars delving into Qumran materials confirms that the term Mareh could refer to God as a divine title, in ways similar to kyrios in Greek. Hurtado took this as evidence that devotion to Jesus begins not in Greek-speaking Antioch but in Aramaic-speaking Jerusalem.
ONE GOD, ONE LORD came out of the impulse that Judaism not Hellenism provided the rich seedbed from which the Jesus movement sprung. It began in a Jewish context and drew initially from that background to express their beliefs regarding Jesus and his significance. Rather than examining the worship of Jesus in light of the Greek world with all their gods, Hurtado understood the challenges involved in investigating Christ-devotion in light of Jewish beliefs and practices. That was the essence of his project.
Registration is now open for this event at the Lanier Theological Library, Houston, TX! Click HERE to register!
Did the Demons Do it? Jesus, Satan and the Problem of Suffering
Why suffering occurs in a world created by a loving God remains one of the most wrestled-with questions in human thought. Does God send suffering to educate, correct or deepen us? Does suffering bring out human qualities that would never emerge without it? Or, is suffering a negative, destructive force we would be better without? If so, why does God allow it? Michael Lloyd takes a dim view of suffering. He will look primarily at the Gospels for answers to some of these questions, and he will argue that taking the New Testament’s demonic language seriously helps us to think more humanely about these difficult questions.
Michael Lloyd is the Principal of Wycliffe Hall and was formerly the chaplain at The Queen’s College, University of Oxford and the Director of Studies in Theology at Christ’s College, Cambridge University. He has his BA and MA from Cambridge University and D.Phil. from Oxford. He has taught theology and doctrine at the University of Oxford, Cambridge University and St. Paul’s Theological Centre, London.
Michael has published the popular introduction Café Theology (2005) and has a particular interest in the doctrine of evil and the problem of pain. He wrote his doctoral thesis on “The Cosmic Fall and the Free Will Defence” (Bodleian Library, 1997). This is a survey of Christian responses to the problem of evil, and a constructive defense of the Fall of the Angels hypothesis. He is working on turning this into an academic treatment of theodicy, and most of his academic work is in this area.
In his article on “The Humanity of Fallenness,” Michael argues that, without a doctrine of the Fall, the problem of evil is insoluble and Christian theology unravels. Many theodicies attempt to defend suffering as in some way instrumentally beneficial. This seems to Michael pastorally damaging, as it makes God the cause of people’s suffering and their enemy, at a time when they most need to know that He is with them, for them and on their side. He argues that theodicy should be about the defense of God, and should not pay suffering or evil the respect of granting it any positive place in the plan of God.
Michael also has an interest in the theology of G. F. Handel, and his significant place in the Deist Controversy of the 18th Century. Creative artists, composers, and writers play a bigger role in the shaping of intellectual culture than professional theologians and philosophers have tended to recognize. He wants to explore this further, and see if there are ways in which Wycliffe Hall can support and promote creative artists as part of the vision to be a center for the intellectual renewal of the Church, and, through the Church, of Society.
Michael Lloyd is the Principal of Wycliffe Hall at the University of Oxford in England.
To learn more about Michael Lloyd, click HERE.
A few years ago I was asked to write the introduction to articles and essays by F. F. Bruce on biblical criticism. Bruce (d. 1990) was a British classicist and well known New Testament scholar. His judgments were always sober and insightful. I never met Bruce but a good friend of mine was a student of his. He has great stories about Bruce. I did, in a way, meet Bruce through at least half a dozen books of his and articles I read. He was one of the most influential Protestant biblical scholars of the 20th century. His book Paul Apostle of the Heart Set Free was my first or second serious academic work on Paul
These essays are accessible and helpful. It is available in ebooks. Look for the title.
I continue to work through the preface of Larry Hurtado’s classic, One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism. It has been published in its 3rd edition recently by Bloomsbury T. & T. Clark, as a part of its Cornerstones Series.
In the 1990s there were a number of books published on theology and Christology which Hurtado felt deserved special notice. They were:
Larry Kreitzer, Jesus and God in Paul’s Eschatology (JSNTSup 19; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1987).
David Capes, Old Testament Yahweh Texts in Paul’s Christology (WUNT 2/47; Tubingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 1992)
Carl Davis, The Name and Way of the Lord: Old Testament Themes, New Testament Christology (JSNTSup 129; Sheffield:Sheffield Academic Press, 1996).
Carey Newman, Paul’s Glory-Christology: Tradition and Rhetoric (NovTSup 69; Leiden:Brill, 1992).
Neil Richardson, Paul’s Language about God (JSNTSup 99; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994).
Philp Davis rightly noted three patterns of mediation established in Jewish religious texts of the time. He referred to (a) the legacy pattern—which had to do with the role a mediator figure played in the past (e.g., creation); (b) the present pattern—which emphasized the role of a mediator in the present; (c) the future pattern—which anticipated a future or eschatological figure (e.g. messianic). Davis, however, in Hurtado’s opinion, could never account adequately for the kind of honor and reverence early Christians granted to Jesus as Messiah. All three patterns come together in a single figure in Christ.
John Collins’ critique of Hurtado was that he did not pay enough attention to royal messianic figures. Hurtado does speak of messianic figures in ch. 1 of ONE GOD, ONE LORD, but his point is not to dwell on messianic figures. His purpose was to focus on those kind of figures that had some analogous heavenly status to the risen Jesus in early Christianity. Messianic figures in most Jewish sources (except 1 Enoch).could be characterized as having a more earthly orientation. This is why Hurtado paid attention to exalted patriarchs and principal angels.
Most studies during this period were focused more on religious language and religious beliefs related to the Lord Jesus. Hurtado’s primary emphasis was and continued to be the practices of early Christians, particularly as they related to granting Jesus any sort of divine status.
Max Turner proposed that experiences of revelation and inspiration by the power of the Holy Spirit or what believers took to be the spirit sent by the risen and exalted Jesus contributed heavily to the notion that Jesus was divine and was therefore worthy of worship. Hurtado appreciated Turner’s study and the work of his student, Mehrdad Fatehi.
Hurtado ends his preface to the second edition expressing appreciation for the renewed interest in Christology at the time. The final word on the subject had not been written by Wilhelm Bousset (Kyrios Christos) and Oscar Cullman (A Christology of the New Testament). More was yet to be discovered for anyone daring enough to take a second look.
I am fortunate to be one of the editors to the Library of Early Christology (Baylor University Press). I am honored to be listed alongside April DeConick of Rice University and my dear, late friend, Larry Hurtado. Both have made a big mark in contemporary scholarship on Christian Origins.
Our latest volume is Conversion by A. D. Nock, a classic work in the field. A must read for people interested in Mediterranean religions and early Christianity. The scope of the book takes you from Alexander the Great to Augustine of Hippo.
I’m grateful to the Lanier Theological Library for their many resources.