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I continue to work through the preface to the second edition of Larry Hurtado’s ONE GOD, ONE LORD.
One of the criticisms leveled against Larry Hurtado’s work on Christ-devotion has had to do with his claim that reverence for Jesus is a significant innovation. On the contrary, critics assert that precedents did exist for the practice in Judaism before Jesus. In other words, the counter-claim is that “well, we’ve seen this all before . . . or at least something like it.”
In the Life of Adam and Eve God orders all the angels to reverence Adam since he is made in God’s image. Might this be an antecedent to the worship of Jesus as the bearer of the image of God (a new Adam)? Hurtado says no because there was no Jewish group who took up any sort of religious reverence for Adam. Hurtado writes: “in my view the absence of any Adam-cultus practice is crucial” (xiii). If it could be demonstrated that devout Jews took up the worship of Adam (in imitation of the angels) and that there was evidence for Adam-devotion, then it might be a different story. So there is no analogy here for the programmatic inclusion of Jesus as a recipient of devotion as we see in early Christianity..
Another scholar pointed to the story of Joseph and Asenath (15.11-12). In that account Asenath asks an angel to tell her his name so she could worship him. But this is not an antecedent either because the angel refuses to give her his name. This is part of a larger angelic-refusal tradition that characterized a number of second temple Jewish writings. What we have here then appears to be a corrective to any that might take up angel-worship (a common feature of paganism in places). Jewish monotheism ruled out the worship of angels.
1 Enoch is often cited by those who believe the worship of Jesus was not as innovative as Hurtado argues. In 1 Enoch there is a figure known as “the Elect One” or “Son of Man” to whom obeisance is given (1 Enoch 48.5-6; 62.9) in some grand, eschatological future. But again Hurtado notices that no Jewish groups actually engaged in the worship of this figure. No cult has yet been identified. The situation is somewhat complicated because when you dig down into 1 Enoch, some scenes appear to show how one day the nations of the world will reverence God’s people, Israel (Isa 45.14-15; 49:7, 23).
In various writings Crispin Fletcher-Louis thinks there is a precedent for the worship of Jesus in those scenes that depict the faithful bowing down before the Jewish High Priest in second temple texts. The primary evidence comes from a non-Jewish writer in the 4th century BCE who describes how on certain, high religious occasions the devout would offer proskynesis, that is, bow down before the High Priest. But in that day and culture, such a posture indicated only that one is giving respect due to a king, general, priest, or other person in high position. Hurtado concludes: “It [the proskynesis before the high priest] is hardly evidence of a pattern of cultic devotion directed toward the Priest in ancient Jewish worship gatherings” (xiv).
We will have more to say on this in our next post. Page numbers are taken from the most recent edition of Hurtado’s One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism, 3rd edition (T & T Clark, 2015).
I found a podcast series which may interest you. Matt & Matt cohost this series which describes itself as “conversations on current biblical scholarship.” The reason I found it is because a friend, Chris Tilling, was a guest on their podcast recently to discuss a topic I have interest in: New Testament Divine Christology.
If you’ve followed this blog, you know I’ve highlighted Chris’ book Paul’s Divine Christology on a couple of occasions. Chris is on to an important and overlooked feature of early Christology.
In the podcast Matt & Matt do a good job in laying out the contours of where current Christological discussions have gone over the past 20-30 years. Chris is well-versed in “the state of the question.” If you’re interested in whether the earlies followers of Jesus regarded him as divine, then you will want to take some time and listen to Chris’ take on things.
Here’s a link:
Charles Gieschen, professor and dean at Concordia Theological Seminary (Indiana), has written what I regard to be a significant article. I’d like for people to know about it. It is in a refereed journal entitled Vigiliae Christianae 57 (2003): 115-158. The title of the article is “The Divine Name in Ante-Nicene Christology.” His thesis is this: many references or allusions to the “name” of Jesus in early Christianity should be understood as signifying that Jesus possesses the Divine Name, the holy, unspeakable name of Israel’s God (YHWH), often called the Tetragrammaton. The “name” of Jesus in these contexts does not refer to the name given to him on the eighth day by his parents. Gieschen spends a good deal of time in the New Testament but he also considers such extra-canonical texts as 1 Clement, the Ascension of Isaiah, the Odes of Solomon, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Gospel of Thomas, the Acts of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, among others.
Clearly, I think Charles is onto something. He cites favorably my own book Old Testament Yahweh Texts in Paul’s Christology, WUNT (Tubingen, 1992), that showed how Paul, the earliest Christian theologian, took Scriptural texts containing the Divine Name and applied them to Jesus. The name “Jesus” was a common name in its day, even if it is unusual in English-speaking circles. It is a transliteration through Greek, into Latin, into English of the Hebrew name “Joshua.” I’ve been to many a baseball game where players from Latin American countries were named “Jesus” (pronounced Hay-soos).
When Paul says that “at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus the Messiah is Lord . . .” (Phil 2:9-11), it seems clear that the Greek genitive should be rendered possessively “the name that belongs to Jesus.” And what name belongs to Jesus? Gieschen argues, and I think he is correct, the covenant name of God revealed to Moses at Sinai (YHWH).
Gieschen concludes his study asking why a Divine Name Christology fades in the next Christian centuries. He gives two reasons. First, as the Jesus movement became more and more Gentile, knowledge of the Divine Name is no longer determinative for how Christ followers assess his significance. This begins to happen even among Greek-speaking Christians who read Kyrios as the standard translation/ rendering of the Divine Name in Hebrew biblical texts. Knowledge of the Divine Name traditions began to fade. Second, it seems that heretical groups in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD are those who utilize and keep the Divine Name Christology in tact. The “orthodox,” in responding negatively to the “heretics,” set aside their teaching which associated Jesus so clearly with the Divine Name.
To cite one example:
“One single name is not uttered in the world, the name that the Father gave the Son, the name above all things: the name of the Father.” (Gospel of Philip II.54.5-8)
If Gieschen is correct, the heretics kept alive a neglected aspect of early Christology.
Here is a link to the third lecture I did at Acadia Divinity School in Nova Scotia in fall 2014. Thanks to Danny Zacharias, fleetwd1 and Mike Harris for making this video available to me and anyone interested.
In fall 2014 I had the privilege of giving the 50th annual Hayward Lectures at Acadia Divinity College in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. The series title was “Paul’s Kyrios Christology.” I’m expanding those lectures into a book to be published in 2017 by Baker Academic entitled An Early High Christology: Paul, the Lord Jesus, and the Scriptures of Israel.
fleetwd1 has done a wonderful job wedding my PowerPoint slides with the video provided by Danny Zacharias at Acadia Divinity College in Nova Scotia. Thanks too to Mike Harris who captured each of the slides for production. Here is a YouTube link to the first lecture on fleetwd1: