“High/Early Christology”: A Crack in the Foundations?

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
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Peter Kirby
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“High/Early Christology”: A Crack in the Foundations?

Post by Peter Kirby » Thu Dec 12, 2013 8:13 am

Larry "Bringing the Pain" Hurtado takes anti-Nicene doubters to task:

http://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2013/ ... consensus/
“High/Early Christology”: An Emerging Consensus?
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.
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).

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!)
"... almost every critical biblical position was earlier advanced by skeptics." - Raymond Brown

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Re: “High/Early Christology”: A Crack in the Foundations?

Post by Kunigunde Kreuzerin » Thu Dec 12, 2013 9:29 am

Peter Kirby wrote:Larry "Bringing the Pain" Hurtado takes anti-Nicene doubters to task:

http://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2013/ ... consensus/
“High/Early Christology”: An Emerging Consensus?
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.
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.
"He [Andrew Chester] proposes that “what was needed was a catalyst” to combine these various factors and produce the remarkable innovation represented by early “high christology”. Here he cites several scholars who in varying ways have pointed to the impact of early religious experiences (e.g., visions, and other such experiences that struck recipients with the force of revelations). He rightly judges, however, that though “visions and mystical experiences ” were likely important, “they must be brought integrally into relation with the various other factors” noted. Thereby, “we at least thus have a clear basis and framework to help us begin to make sense of why and how the early Christians could articulate so high a Christology at so early a stage, in a Jewish context and in language that Jewish would reserve for God” (50)."
probably James and John made "dream- and visioncatchers" out of their fishing nets :confusedsmiley:

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Re: “High/Early Christology”: A Crack in the Foundations?

Post by stephan happy huller » Thu Dec 12, 2013 10:08 am

Of course these scholarly nitwits will never admit that Jesus started as a god (or THE angel of the presence) and was later developed into a person unless someone spikes the punch at an SBL conference with LSD. I don't recommend this and it certainly won't be me.

isu = ishu ('His man' i.e. the first heavenly man 'thought' by the father 'before the beginning' rather than 'made' by God in Genesis)
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Re: “High/Early Christology”: A Crack in the Foundations?

Post by Peter Kirby » Thu Dec 12, 2013 10:17 am

stephan happy huller wrote:Of course these scholarly nitwits will never admit that Jesus started as a god (or THE angel of the presence) and was later developed into a person unless someone spikes the punch at an SBL conference with LSD. I don't recommend this and it certainly won't be me.

isu = ishu ('His man' i.e. the first heavenly man 'thought' by the father 'before the beginning' rather than 'made' by God in Genesis)
Good point. Either switching up the Jesus of Paul to be read as a god instead of a recent man (whether by Wellsian or Dohertian interpretations and/or by interpolations) or pushing their composition later would take seriously both the New Consensus that they represent a pre-existing high christology of the pre-existent Son of God and the Old Consensus that first century "Jewish Jesus-followers in Judea" would have to be pretty high themselves to come up with the idea that their buddy Jesus was divine.
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Re: “High/Early Christology”: A Crack in the Foundations?

Post by MrMacSon » Thu Dec 12, 2013 3:17 pm

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.

(a retired Jewish professor of ancient history ... 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.

“High/Early Christology”: An Emerging Consensus?
Commentary like this lacks nuance - it is superficial & lacks reference to the fluidity of the times; Hellenism; the roles of other belief systems; the conflicts within Judaism, & conflicts between Jews and others.

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Re: “High/Early Christology”: A Crack in the Foundations?

Post by Peter Kirby » Thu Dec 12, 2013 7:03 pm

MrMacSon wrote:
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.

(a retired Jewish professor of ancient history ... 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.

“High/Early Christology”: An Emerging Consensus?
Commentary like this lacks nuance - it is superficial & lacks reference to the fluidity of the times; Hellenism; the roles of other belief systems; the conflicts within Judaism, & conflicts between Jews and others.
Suppose those references have now been added, then. How do they change the picture, do you think?
"... almost every critical biblical position was earlier advanced by skeptics." - Raymond Brown

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Re: “High/Early Christology”: A Crack in the Foundations?

Post by Diogenes the Cynic » Thu Dec 12, 2013 7:47 pm

Paul did not think Jesus was God. Hurtado is wrong about that. I think he draws a false dichotomy between human and "divine" Christologies and gives too short a shrift to angelic Christologies.
Last edited by Diogenes the Cynic on Mon Dec 16, 2013 1:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: “High/Early Christology”: A Crack in the Foundations?

Post by Peter Kirby » Mon Dec 16, 2013 2:34 am

Diogenes the Cynic wrote:Paul did not think Jesus was God. Hurtado is wrong about that. I think he draws a false dichotomy between human and "divine" Christologies and gives to short a shrift to angelic Christologies.
I agree. Citing Hurtado here is certainly not without its problems.

What about "Wisdom" theology? It's already known from the apocrypha/pseudepigrapha and provides the single best analogy for the earliest christology, if not the direct inspiration. In other words, to use the language of the later christological controversies, Judaism had already taken a turn for the Arian (subordinate, created secondary person with some divine attributes) in the form of Sophia.
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Re: “High/Early Christology”: A Crack in the Foundations?

Post by Blood » Mon Dec 16, 2013 5:55 am

Peter Kirby wrote:Larry "Bringing the Pain" Hurtado takes anti-Nicene doubters to task:

http://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2013/ ... consensus/
“High/Early Christology”: An Emerging Consensus?
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.
White noise. This kind of claptrap is about as "scholarly" as Trekkies arguing over the best episode in Season 1. To state that this "doesn't require any prior religious stance" is simply laughable.

Where exactly do we find the "evidence" that "Jesus-devotion erupted rapidly and originated in circles of Jewish Jesus-followers in Judea"? The New Testament. Why should I accept that as an authority for anything historical, if I don't have a "prior religious stance"?

Then when somebody challenges Hurtado in the comments section by saying Vermes believed the opposite, his comeback is that Vermes wasn't a NTfanboy scholar and therefore didn't know what he was talking about. That's an insult to Vermes.
“The only sensible response to fragmented, slowly but randomly accruing evidence is radical open-mindedness. A single, simple explanation for a historical event is generally a failure of imagination, not a triumph of induction.” William H.C. Propp

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Re: “High/Early Christology”: A Crack in the Foundations?

Post by Blood » Mon Dec 16, 2013 6:04 am

Peter Kirby wrote:
Diogenes the Cynic wrote:Paul did not think Jesus was God. Hurtado is wrong about that. I think he draws a false dichotomy between human and "divine" Christologies and gives to short a shrift to angelic Christologies.
I agree. Citing Hurtado here is certainly not without its problems.

What about "Wisdom" theology? It's already known from the apocrypha/pseudepigrapha and provides the single best analogy for the earliest christology, if not the direct inspiration. In other words, to use the language of the later christological controversies, Judaism had already taken a turn for the Arian (subordinate, created secondary person with some divine attributes) in the form of Sophia.
I'm not sure that a single, obscure text, completely unknown to rabbinical Judaism ("The Wisdom of Solomon"), can be used to broadly claim that "Judaism had already taken a turn for the Arian." Melito, I believe, classified it within the New Testament canon.
“The only sensible response to fragmented, slowly but randomly accruing evidence is radical open-mindedness. A single, simple explanation for a historical event is generally a failure of imagination, not a triumph of induction.” William H.C. Propp

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