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.

One God, One Lord (Part 9)

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. Hurtado 1

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.