The Early High Christology Club with Carey Newman

The Stone Chapel Podcast

The Early High Christology Club (EHCC) was a loose association of scholars from various backgrounds and different religious traditions.

They all  became convinced that the early circles of the Jesus movement regarded their Lord as having “high” or divine status. 

Carey Newman, executive editor at Fortress Press, joins David Capes on “The Stone Chapel Podcast” to talk about the beginning and contribution of the “club” to modern scholarship. 

Both Capes and Newman were founding members of the club, and unfortunately, they are the only surviving  members. 

Over the roughly 25 years the club “met,” it boasted some of the most significant voices in New Testament Studies: Larry Hurtado, Alan Segal, Paula Fredriksen, Donald Juel, April DeConick, Martin Hengel, Pheme Perkins, N. T. Wright, Marianne Meye Thompson, Richard Hays and a host of others. 

As an informal club, it had no membership.  But scholars who heard of the group wanted to become members and own one of the coveted coffee mugs produced by Baylor University Press. 

To be a member, a scholar needed to have written books or articles making the case that the evidence demonstrates that Jesus is worshiped from early moments of the movement and set in such close association with God that he could properly be referred to as divine. 

After relating the “founding myth” of the organization in the mid-1990s Carey Newman situates the club within the stream of scholarship. 

Some regard the worship of Jesus to be a later development in the first century (60-70 years after the execution of Jesus).  Others think it happened much later (hundreds of years).  But members of the EHCC generally make the case that historically it arose for various reasons within the first decade of the movement. 

Several Early High Christology Club members have lectured at the Lanier Library: Larry Hurtado, Richard Hays, Mike Bird, and N. T. Wright.  Among the special collections, the library has the libraries of two of the founding members: Alan Segal and Larry Hurtado.  It also houses many of the books of Peter Davids and David Capes, two key members.

The late Larry Hurtado’s blog is a good source of information about the club as well as all things New Testament:

The title of the book neither David or Carey could remember was Israel’s God and Rebecca’s Children: Christology and Community in Early Judaism and Christianity (Baylor University Press, 2007).

To hear the podcast click here.

The Early High Christology Club

I am a card-carrying member of The Early High Christology Club (EHCC).  Well, in the spirit of full disclosure we don’t actually have cards, we have a mug.  It is a highly sought-after prize.  If you are mug-worthy and see one, do everything you can short of stealing it to get one.  Carey Newman of Baylor University Press, also an EHCC charter member, made the first investment in the mugs.  A bit of explanation is in order.EHCC mug

The Early High Christology Club is a loose affiliation of scholars who have written books or articles arguing that the early followers of Jesus—as early as we have evidence—had a high Christology, that is, their assessment of his significance included that he was, in some sense, divine. Now this is actually an historical conclusion based on our reading of the literary evidence; it does not depend on any confession. The earliest evidences we have in the New Testament or any Christian sources are the letters of Paul; so much of this historical construct has been built upon a close reading of his letters.  There are all sorts of issues involved: how did Paul and other NT writers express their “Christology”? what kind of language was used? where did that language come from?  how does this comport with their reading of the Christian Bible, the Septuagint? how early is “early”? how high is “high”? –how did these early Jewish Christians regard Jesus as divine without setting aside their monotheistic heritage?  Paul, for example, claims to be a monotheist and yet he appears to regard Jesus as divine (e.g., 1 Cor 8.6; Phil 2:5-11).  If Jesus were divine, then did early Christians worship him?  If so, did they worship him the same way they would have worshiped God?

Not all people agree, of course, with the members of the EHCC.  There is the Late, Low and Slow Club (LLSC)—though I don’t think they have a mug—which concludes that the early followers of Jesus regarded him as a human being only. Many decades later when Christianity moved beyond the constraints of its Jewish heritage, Christians began to regard Jesus as divine. The LLSC posits a lengthy period of development from a low to a high Christology, anywhere from 60 to 100 years.   Now, members of the EHCC also posit a period of development in the Church’s Christology, but they think this development happened rapidly, perhaps even within a few years after Jesus’ crucifixion.

Founding member, Larry Hurtado, presents an official EHCC mug to Professor Martin Hengel (seen here with his wife)
Founding member, Larry Hurtado, presents an official EHCC mug to Professor Martin Hengel (seen here with his wife)

The EHCC meets regularly and informally at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature.  Carey Newman and Larry Hurtado, distinguished (now retired) Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at the University of Edinburgh, co-sponsor the annual gathering.  Carey provides the room.  Larry brings the food and drink.  Stories are told.  Friends catch up. There is a lot of laughter.  At a given moment in our gathering someone recites our founding myth.  Some who have heard it say that it is so good it cannot possibly be true; but those of us who were there know it happened just as we say.