One God, One Lord (Part 5)
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.
Both Maurice Casey and Jimmy Dunn do not think that Jesus is truly reverenced by believers until the later NT period, that is, once the communities left behind the so-called constraints of Jewish monotheism. Perhaps it is first witnessed in the Gospel of John (hereafter GJohn). As evidence they cite the absence (prior to AD 70) of Jews condemning what Hurtado called “Christ-devotion.” Since there is no condemnation, the reverence accorded Jesus must not have violated the Jewish sensibilities of God’s oneness. Therefore, no mutation in Jewish religious practices, as per Hurtado, had taken place.
Hurtado responded that prior to AD 70 there is evidence that some Jews considered Christ devotion a “dangerous development” (xvi). He has pointed this out in various publications. In particular, L. W. Hurtado, “Pre-70 c.e. Jewish Opposition to Christ-Devotion,” Journal of Religion 80 (2000), 183-205. We will take this up in a subsequent post. We might well ask the question: what did Saul, the Pharisee, find so problematic about the church that he was willing to destroy it prior to his revelation (Galatians 1; Acts 9)? While he does not say explicitly why he was so aggrieved, his letters might be a source of information for what he found so offensive. Might it have been the reverence early Jewish Christians were according to Jesus?
Therefore, in historical terms Hurtado argues that it is accurate to say that a mutation in Jewish religious practices had already taken place and was a regular feature of Christian churches prior to AD 70. But clearly by the end of the first century AD–about the time GJohn is written–other developments had taken place. He regards this as “a more advanced stage of polemical confrontation with the Jewish religious leadership of synagogues in the late first century” (xvi). It may not be too much to say that Christ devotion caused profound outrage among some Jews; what Christians were saying about Jesus and how they were reverencing him alongside the God of Israel would have been a stumbling-block.
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