Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity Perfect Paperback – 2 Nov 2005
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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.
From the Back Cover
This outstanding book provides an in-depth historical study of the place of Jesus in the religious life, beliefs, and worship of Christians from the beginnings of the Christian movement down to the late second century.
"Lord Jesus Christ" is a monumental work on earliest Christian devotion to Jesus, sure to replace Wilhelm Bousset's "Kyrios Christos" (1913) as the standard work on the subject. Larry Hurtado, widely respected for his previous contributions to the study of the New Testament and Christian origins, offers the best view to date of how the first Christians saw and reverenced Jesus as divine. In assembling this compelling picture, Hurtado draws on a wide body of ancient sources, from Scripture and the writings of such figures as Ignatius of Antioch and Justin to apocryphal texts such as the "Gospel of Thomas" and the "Gospel of Truth."
Hurtado considers such themes as early beliefs about Jesus' divine status and significance, but he also explores telling devotional practices of the time, including prayer and worship, the use of Jesus' name in exorcism, baptism and healing, ritual invocation of Jesus as "Lord," martyrdom, and lesser-known phenomena such as prayer postures and the curious scribal practice known today as the "nomina sacra."
The revealing portrait that emerges from Hurtado's comprehensive study yields definitive answers to questions like these: How important was this formative period to later Christian tradition? When did the divinization of Jesus first occur? Was early Christianity influenced by neighboring religions? How did the idea of Jesus' divinity change old views of God? And why did the powerful dynamics of early beliefs and practices encouragepeople to make the costly move of becoming a Christian?
Boasting an unprecedented breadth and depth of coverage -- the book speaks authoritatively on everything from early Christian history to themes in biblical studies to New Testament Christology -- Hurtado's "Lord Jesus Christ" is at once significant enough that a wide range of scholars will want to read it and accessible enough that general readers interested at all in Christian origins will also profit greatly from it.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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?