on 12 September 2014
I came to this book having read the Hurtado volume ‘Lord Jesus Christ’ and being blown away by the thought that the earliest Christians viewed Jesus as God. I expected to find more of the same and was pleasantly surprised not to - quite. Dunn acknowledges Hurtado’s work (and Bauckham’s, who taught me at University many years ago) and whilst broadly agreeing with both, nevertheless challenges some of their findings. For instance, he disagrees with the former about the main opposition expressed to Christianity by Saul (before he became Paul), not opposition to ‘Jesus as God’ but the putting to one side the exclusivism of Judaism and the Torah. He disagrees with the latter in his concept of ‘divine identity’ as a new way of looking at the trinity.
I have for a long time been uneasy over the simplistic worship of Jesus that often forms part of charismatic-style worship, and Dunn has now helped me see why. Early Christians ascribed to Jesus much of what was ascribed to God, but fell short of actual worship of Jesus; worship of God in and through Jesus, yes, and I am happy with that.
One of the main reasons for this disquiet which Dunn brought out was that Jesus was not simply God reaching out to humanity, but also humanity reaching out to God, and this dimension is often lost in an all too simplistic worship of Jesus.
I found chapter 3, dealing with heavenly mediators and divine agents, such as Spirit, Wisdom and Word especially helpful in clarifying some of my thinking from other studies of early church history and theology.
The kindle edition which I bought had most of the usual links to footnotes, but there was no linking from the final indices to any part of the book, which was disappointing.
I thoroughly recommend the book for those involved in worship and liturgy, as well as those trying to understand more about the early church. It is a scholarly work, but easily accessible to most readers.