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Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity / Larry W. Hurtado. Hardcover – 3 Sep 2003

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 746 pages
  • Publisher: William B Eerdmans Publishing Co (3 Sept. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802860702
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802860705
  • Product Dimensions: 24.4 x 16.5 x 4.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,114,704 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Times Literary Supplement The scope of Hurtado's reading and his grasp of sources leave us in his debt... He has enabled his readers to comprehend the contours of early Christian beliefs. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society This volume provides a treatment of its topic that dissenting positions will have to refute if they are to maintain any credibility. First Things Hurtado approaches the early church with an integrity and thoroughness that should be a model for historians and theologians working in this area... His writing is uncomplicated and illuminating, and his sensibilities are evangelical in the best sense of the term. Theology Today An impressive volume... Can be warmly welcomed for the contribution it makes to our understanding of how Christianity's distinctive appreciation of Christ emerged. Biblica This book provides a painstaking and monumental study of the place of Jesus in the religious life, beliefs and worship of Christians from the beginning of the Christian movement down to the late second century. An outstanding investigation of the origin and development of the earliest Christian devotion to Jesus, Lord Jesus Christ should finally replace Wilhelm Bousset's Kyrios Christos as the standard work on the subject... All in all, Lord Jesus Christ is to be welcomed as a truly landmark study in the area of early Christian devotion to Jesus. Catholic Biblical Quarterly The present volume is a veritable tour de force, as Hurtado wends his way through the NT, the writings of the apostolic and apologetic Fathers of the Church, and second-century Christian apocrypha... Lord Jesus Christ is a book that deserves to appear on the reading list for comprehensive examinations in theology, not to mention that it also deserves to appear on the library shelves of those who consider themselves veterans in NT study. Presbyterian History Essential reading for everyone serious about understanding the Christian view of the incarnation. David E. Aune A fantastic work! Larry Hurtado has written what may well prove to be one of the more important books on Jesus in this generation. By shifting the focus of discussion away from the historical Jesus and toward the function of Jesus in the religion of early Christians, Hurtado touches on crucial issues that have been largely neglected since Bousset's Kyrios Christos (1913). In thoroughly probing the role of Jesus in the faith and life of the early Christians, from the beginnings of the church to well into the second century, Hurtado asks the right questions and provides many of the right answers. This book will be extremely useful for those attempting to understand Christianity in the context of the history of religion. Martin Hengel This is a great and necessary book. We have been waiting for it for years, and now it will strongly influence New Testament scholarship, especially in the fields of christology and early Christian history. By remaining in constant critical discussion with scholars holding differing opinions, Larry Hurtado also shows the progress of research during the last decades. Everybody working in this domain has to take account of his Lord Jesus Christ. Many thanks to Hurtado for his valuable gift! Alan F. Segal Larry Hurtado locates the presence of the Christ in early Christianity with a scholarly exactness never before achieved. The story he tells is important for all Christians and for all historians of Christianity. This will be one of the most important books on early Christianity in the twenty-first century. John S. Kloppenborg Among his many significant achievements, Larry Hurtado reconceives "Christology" as "Christ devotion," which embraces not only beliefs about Jesus but also practices and aspects of material and visual culture. In this ambitious and erudite volume Hurtado analyzes not just the standard repertoire of canonical sources -- Paul's letters, the canonical Gospels, Hebrews, the pastoral letters -- but also the sayings source Q, the Gospels of Peter and Thomas, Infancy Thomas, the Protoevangelium of James, and various gospel fragments, achieving a scope and depth rarely seen in monographs on the topic since the classic of Wilhelm Bousset. Attentive to detail and nuance, broad in its learning, and careful in its arguments, Lord Jesus Christ is a landmark in scholarship on Christian origins. Even though one might disagree with Hurtado in certain respects, he is always worth reading -- and reading carefully. Graham Stanton Larry Hurtado's new book is a stunning achievement. It explores with admirable rigor and clarity a central issue all too often ducked or evaded: How, when, and why did devotion to Jesus as a divine figure emerge within earliest Christianity? Hurtado has to negotiate many minefields as he takes his readers across a vast terrain. He is a wise guide whose judgment can be trusted, for his scholarship is of the highest order. This book is already on my shortlist of "books of the decade." Max Tuner This monumental, authoritative, readily accessible study clearly demonstrates that worship of Jesus as one with God emerged and flourished in the earliest church and in the context of dedicated Jewish-Christian monotheism (not in a Gentile Christianity that had broken with it, as the consensus since Bousset has maintained). Not just a landmark contribution, this work changes the whole landscape of the discussion. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Larry W. Hurtado is Professor of New Testament language, literature, and theology at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Peter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 3 Jan. 2009
Format: Perfect Paperback
This monumental tome investigates devotion to Jesus as a divine figure from the earliest years of Christianity to the late 2nd century. The book was in certain ways shaped by Bousset's 1913 study Kyrios Christos although Hurtado's conclusions are quite different: (a) worship of Jesus was not a secondary development (b) this devotion was expressed with unprecedented intensity & diversity (c) it was articulated within the exclusivist monotheism of the God of Israel.

First, Hurtado considers the nature of Jewish monotheism, monotheism in the New Testament & its effects on devotion to Christ, the religious environment and revelatory experiences in the NT. He argues that visionary experiences contributed to elevating Jesus to an exalted position whilst commitment to monotheism shaped this devotion into a Binitarian mode which represented an unprecedented innovation.

There are no reliable sources from pre-Pauline Christianity; the earliest writings are Paul's epistles. Hurtado accepts Paul's Jewishness but ignores his claim to Pharisee status, a claim devastatingly refuted by Hyam Maccoby. Nor does he touch on the subject of why Paul quoted from the Greek translation of the Tenakh, not the original Hebrew. As regards the apostle's dramatic turnabout, Eric Hoffer's interesting psychological look at the true believer must be borne in mind.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Tim Edwards on 9 Dec. 2005
Format: Perfect Paperback
This book was recommended to me by my lecturer when I was an undergraduate, and I have never looked back! It is a truly excellent book that is to be highly recommended. The book is study, packed with information and excellently presented.
It is a must for all areas that involve Christology or early Christianity and our understanding of it. It covers a wide range of topics from both Jewish and Greek points of view, and deals with some more contemporary theological issues such as wisdom, or sofia.
I found it particularly useful for christological titles such as 'Son of Man', 'Son of God', 'Prophet' etc.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 25 reviews
59 of 64 people found the following review helpful
Comprehensive 23 July 2006
By Steve Jackson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Perfect Paperback
A standard "liberal" view of Jesus is that he was a simple religious teacher (perhaps at most a prophet) who did not make unique claims about himself. However, the early church took Jesus' message and converted it to a message about Jesus. Typically Paul the Apostle is made the culprit. Paul is often taken as a Hellenistic Jew who interpreted Jesus in the context of Greek religion thereby converting Jesus into a demigod.

Jesus' earliest followers were almost exclusively Jewish and their theology was rigidly monotheistic. Yet, even in the earlier NT writings Jesus it the object of cultic devotion, prayers are said in his name, OT writings referring to God are interpreted as referring to him, and he is confessed as the preexistent Son of God. By the time of Revelation (perhaps the last NT book written, circa 95 AD) Jesus is worshipped alongside the father. How is it that monotheistic Jews ended up with a sort of "binitarianism"? This "explosion" of devotion to Jesus cries out for examination. While Hurtado doesn't give an answer to why the earliest Christians began worshipping Jesus (other than a somewhat nebulous discussion of their "experience" of Jesus), his discussion of this unmistakable phenomenon in the NT is outstanding.

Hurtado's approach is systematic. He analyzes the various strata of the New Testament chronologically (Paul, Acts, Q, the Synoptics, Johannine literature, later NT documents) and discusses the apocryphal Gospels (such as Thomas and Peter), he then ends circa 170 AD. Within each strata, he discusses the author's beliefs about Jesus and devotion to him. Hurtado accepts the commonly held beliefs concerning the authorship of dating of the NT books (the only exception is that he considers II Thessalonians likely by Paul).

Particularly effective is Hurtado's discussion of Paul. Paul was converted to Christianity shortly after Jesus' death and his first letter (probably I Thessalonians) shows an unmistakable belief in the preexistence of Jesus. In addition, while Paul quarreled with other Christians concerning many issues, Christology wasn't one of them. And if other Christians saw Paul as a religious innovator transforming the simple Galilean peasant into God, then one might expect to find some hint of this dispute within the NT, yet there isn't any.

Many readers will find Hurtado's discussion of the apocryphal Gospels most interesting. This collection of material - which almost certainly is later than the four gospels in our NT - diverges from what became orthodox Christianity in a number of ways. Nonetheless, Jesus is depicted as a heavenly being coming down from heaven to dispense esoteric wisdom.

My only complaints about this book are that the later NT literature (Pastorals, General Epistles and Revelation) aren't discussed in detail and Hurtado doesn't directly discuss the development of Trinitarian thought. Of course, Hurtado had to put some limits on the book, but I felt a bit cheated after reading 653 pages of text.
36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
An outstanding work of scholarship 15 Aug. 2006
By a reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Perfect Paperback
This landmark study is the best account I have come across of early Christianity. Speculation is kept to a minimum and the author deals with the evidence that we have from early Christian writings. His approach to these writings is to read between the lines and look at what we can tell about how the authors tell us things rather than what they tell us. The other strength is that the early Christian world is considered firmly in the context of the Jewish and later Gentile communities in which it developed. The author has certain presuppositions, e.g, that not all of Paul's letters were written by Paul. Also, he deals objectively with the role of religious experience in the development of Christ devotion. That is, neither affirming nor discounting any explanations of what such the actuality of these experiences, he simply looks at what accounts of these experiences can tell us about how early Christians worshipped and lived out their faith. Although this is really an academic text which deals quite comprehensively with a number of complex topics, the book never dries up and the author's style of writing carries you along. Essential reading for anyone interested in early Christianity, I can't recommend it strongly enough.
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
How the Church Has Always Revered Jesus Christ as Divine 29 Mar. 2007
By Dr. Marc Axelrod - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Perfect Paperback Verified Purchase
We have needed this book for a long time! Larry Hurtado has given us a full scale treatment of the history of devotion to Jesus Christ. Contrary to scholars such as J.D Crossan, Hurtado shows why Paul's writings must be considered when researching the history of devotion to Christ. He persuasively demonstrates that in Paul's writings as well as the later Gospel traditions, Jesus was revered. He even shows where Paul puts Jesus right up there with God (he calls this a binitarian understanding of God). He says that this is a radical new envisioning of Jewish monotheism and that it cannot be traced back to any polytheistic Gentile ideas.

Hurtado also shows how the Gospels and Q also reveal the church's early devotion to Jesus.

The book concludes with a discussion of Jesus in later noncanonical writings such as the Gospel of Thomas and in the writings of the early church fathers.

The basic thesis of the book is that the church worshipped Jesus as divine from the very beginning of Christianity. Hurtado dialogues with Jesus scholars such as Martin Hengel, John Kloppenborg, J.D Crossan, and James D.G Dunn, and he always treats their work with the utmost respect while also explaining why he occasionally must diverge from their viewpoints.

The last time a major study of Jesus worship was written was way back in 1913, so this book is long overdue. Hurtado is a moderately conservative guide through the twists and turns of early Christian literature, and his conclusions are well thought out and deserve to be considered.
41 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Overturning Bousset 20 Feb. 2006
By Dr. David Ritsema - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Hurtado wastes no time in upsetting the German-historical model of Wilhelm Bousett. Bousett has postulated that the high christology of the NT was a historical progression in which the earliest Christian communities did not whole to the idea of Jesus as Lord and God. Hurtado shows how the earliest evidence in the NT points to the fact that not only did people like Paul hold to this high view of Christ, but this view had been in place for sometime and in fact had no time to actually develop; it had to have been in place from the beginning. He goes on to explain in chapters 3-6 that the Gospels (Jesus Books) express high christological language consistent with Paul and in place from the beginning. Even Q does not differentiate from what is found in Paul and other texts.
31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
A must read 15 Mar. 2006
By Robert K. Wetmore - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Perfect Paperback Verified Purchase
Over the years I have read countless articles and some books which assume the early church's high Christology "evolved," (i.e., Jesus started out as some kind of a Rabbi, teacher, prophet, etc. with or without messianic pretensions, and then Greek influence changed him after his death into a god). I can't tell you how many times I have read that a New Testament epistle or gospel was late because it had advanced christology.

Larry Hurtado's "Christ the Lord" skillfully demonstrates that the earliest Christians proclaimed Christ as Lord. Using a variety of sources, he shows how widely and solidly the first church (i.e., Jewish Christians, and then later Gentile Christians) saw Christ as equal, but not identical, with Yahweh. The book is frustrating at times because Hurtado is committed to many liberal truisms (the psuedonymity of pastoral epistles, 1 & 2 Peter, Jude, etc.; the form and content of Q; priority of Mark, etc). I'm not even sure if Hurtado believes in Christ's physical resurrection (although he convincingly argues the first Christians believed they experienced it and because of that proclaimed it). That "negative" in the end, however, becomes a positive: even coming from the non-conservative side of Christian scholarship, "Christ the Lord" still demonstrates clearly that proto-orthodox views about Christ's deity arose during the first days after Christ's death. When Christians prayed Maranatha (Lord, come!), they were showing their faith that Jesus was indeed pre-existent, the source of all creation, equal but subordinate to the Father, and Lord of all things.

Strengths: First class historical scholarship; superb clarity in writing; deep logic; many profound insights into the earliest church's devotion to Jesus; many outstanding observations about critical themes in Paul and the gospels; excellent analysis of 1 & 2 John; helpful analysis of the so-called other gospels (Thomas, Peter, etc.); transliterated Greek and Hebrew; translated modern foreign languages; avoidance of creating new technical terms;

Weaknesses: At times, redundancy; a couple of times I got a little lost in the middle of a chapter; perhaps (but perhaps not) a little long.

Advice: 1) Buy the book and read it carefully. 2) Don't fall to the temptation of stopping once he finishes with the New Testament. Some of the best material in the book deals with comparing heterodox and proto-orthodox "Jesus Books." 3) Don't assume his observations about Q are proven. Until we have a copy of a Q manuscript, it is entirely speculation. 4) Ask this question: Could it be that the early church believed Jesus was equal to God because they actually witnessed the risen Christ, and then found ample witness in the Old Testament?

Highest recommendation.
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