http://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2013/ ... consensus/
“High/Early Christology”: An Emerging Consensus?
Now, while history always needs to be driven first and foremost by the specific data available to us, it also needs to fit that data into a context and do the dirty Bayesian business of considering background probabilities (or so I'm told).Almost exactly a year ago, I posted on a very informative and judicious (in my view) review of recent scholarly work on the emergence of “high” christology (which = Jesus regarded and treated as in some meaningful way “divine”) by Dr. Andrew Chester (Cambridge University), my earlier posting here. Given the tone of one or two recent comments, claiming, e.g., that any such view reflects some sort of theologically “conservative” cabal, I thought it well to point again to Chester’s article: Andrew Chester, “High Christology–Whence, When and Why?,” Early Christianity 2 (2011): 22-50.
As Chester observes, it’s really the evidence that seems to require the conclusion that Jesus-devotion erupted rapidly and originated in circles of Jewish Jesus-followers in Judea. That conclusion (with variations in emphases) is now supported by a wide (and growing) spectrum of scholars. (I even recall being challenged about the matter by a retired Jewish professor of ancient history who emailed saying that it was incredible to think that this sort of Jesus-devotion could have been entertained by self-identifying Jews of the Roman period. I replied by asking him to read one or two of my own studies on the subject. A week or two later he emailed again, saying “I’ll be damned! There were Jews stupid enough to believe this!” I considered it quite an endorsement!)
As evident in the anecdote I’ve recounted, this historical judgment doesn’t require any prior religious stance, and doesn’t necessarily demand one. To reiterate Chester’s judgment, however counter-intuitive it seems at first, it’s just what the evidence seems to require.
One way of taking this evidence is gobbling it up on the platter exactly as it has been served to us: some followers of Jesus, at least by the time Paul came around just a few years later, were already calling their crucified friend someone divine.
Another way of taking it requires a lot of salt. Along with all the other anomalous evidence, it could motivate someone to take up the gauntlet thrown down by Bobby "Fisher of Men" Price and the new Flying Dutchmen of Historical Criticism: take the stone of strangeness that the scholars rejected and make it the cornerstone for a new edifice with a new configuration of Christian origins... where, not least of all, the Pauline letters are not nearly so early and un-pseudepigraphical as they are believed to be.
(Apologies to Joe "the Tornado" Wallack!)