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

Post by Peter Kirby » Thu Dec 19, 2013 1:48 pm

McGrath chimes in:
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringo ... ology.html

"Perhaps more happened in the first decade than has been done justice to by those who see significant evolution over the course of the entire New Testament period, and more happened in the rest of the first century and beyond than has been done justice to by those who have emphasized the decisive nature of the initial event and immediately following years."
"... 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 Bernard Muller » Thu Dec 19, 2013 5:20 pm

For the ones interested, I have a reconstruction on what happened after Jesus' crucifixion up to 58 CE, on this webpage:
http://historical-jesus.info/hjes3x.html
Also here, a small table about the evolution of the christology during that time:
http://historical-jesus.info/t58.html

Cordially, Bernard
I believe freedom of expression should not be curtailed

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

Post by DCHindley » Thu Dec 19, 2013 7:35 pm

I've copied to MS Word the text of three articles at Hurtado's blog:

December 11, 2012 “Early High Christology”: A Recent Assessment of Scholarly Debate
December 12, 2013 “High/Early Christology”: An Emerging Consensus?
December 18, 2013 “Early High Christology”: Clarifying Key Issues and Positions

Then I tried to condense his prose into understandable units, with a great deal of difficulty. It seems that one must really read his book One God, One Lord, Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism (2nd ed 1998, 1988)
http://www.scribd.com/doc/188402388/Lar ... ook4me-org
to understand much of what he babbles about, and why he does it that way.

Larry Hurtado has a following, no question about it, especially among the "neo orthodox" (including a large contingent of young hip "gamers," so you old school gamers better watch out or they may jump you in a dark pericope somewhere). Over at the Review of Biblical Literature website there is nary a bad review of any of his books (I could not read the two or three in German). Reviewers praise his clarity and concise thinking, but when I read him I just kind of have to shake my head. He is quite dismissive of those who have come to differing positions, especially Vermes, who in his mind just doesn't "get" it. :confusedsmiley:

What I think he is saying, is that because the undisputed Pauline letters use high Christology, no matter how defined, and Paul is traditionally believed to have written them pretty much as we have them now, we can thus conclude that high Christology precedes roughly 60 CE, which makes it "early" high Christology, or even "really early" if we assume, as he does, that Paul's Christology may not have differed significantly from that of the earliest followers of Jesus, say around 40 CE, at least as he imagines them to have been held. And he has a very active imagination of what Jews might be willing to entertain about a divine-like being such as the Christ! :banghead:

Hurtado is a huge fan, with reservations, of Wilhelm Bousset, especially his book Kyrios Christos, (German, 1913; rev. ed. 1921, 1965; ET by John E Steely, Kyrios Christos: A History of the Belief in Christ from the Beginnings of Christianity to Irenaeus, 1970). Hurtado reviews it here:
http://www.ts.mu.edu/readers/content/pd ... 40.2.4.pdf

All I can say is his critique of the book in general, that "Although Kyrios Christos has proved enduring in its influence, the book also reveals the time-bound situation of its author, particularly his own religious convictions of a now quaint, Old Liberal bent," could just as easily be attributed to his own work, if only we substitute the words "Old Evangelical" for "Old Liberal." :tombstone:

Right now I am fatigued and need to go to sleep, but I'll offer some critique of his Dec 2012 and Dec 18, 2013 articles in the coming days. (sorry, no snoozing smiley)

DCH :whistling:
Peter Kirby wrote:Larry "Bringing the Pain" Hurtado takes ante-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!)
Last edited by DCHindley on Thu Jan 02, 2014 4:03 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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

Post by Kunigunde Kreuzerin » Fri Dec 20, 2013 12:51 am

DCHindley wrote:Over at the Review of Biblical Literature website there is nary a bad review of any of his books (I could not read the two or three in German). Reviewers praise his clarity and concise thinking ...
Tobias Nicklas (review of Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity): "In my opinion one of the really important exegetical works of the last years!"

- extremely clear and well understandable language
- enviable detailed knowledge
- very well-founded theories

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

Post by DCHindley » Sat Dec 21, 2013 12:20 am

I've been reading his One God One Lord (2nd ed 1998) at the link previously posted. So far I am at page 59 but there are only 128 pages of text (plus 40 pages of end notes divided by chapter, and another 10 pages of indices).

IMHO, his language is clear enough but full of cliché's more appropriate to sermons (e.g., Indeed, Surely, Thus, and far too many Christian technical terms of a devotional nature). I get similarly fatigued reading the Ante Nicene Fathers series written in 19th century devotional dialect, or listening to the dialogue of a episode of the TV series western Deadwood. While I will concede that I also sometimes use this kind of stuffy language, I do it to poke fun at the use of it, while he is dead serious.

I'll agree with Nicklas that he does have a detailed knowledge of the works of many other critics covering a wide range of positions, more so than I at first expected. Of the works he cited I have read or at least read through some of them and his summary of their technical observations correspond closely to what I remember and appear to be factually correct. He does not often share their evaluations of what the evidence signifies, often for good reasons, but can be dismissive in a negative way if he feels it will do away with opposition to his preferred conclusions. When he does agree with a critic on some technical interpretation he is not shy about heaping on their praises. When reading Hurtado, it would be helpful to have a copy of Charlesworth's two volume Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (1983, 1985) on hand as he will bring up works by the Hellenistic Jewish author Ezekiel the Tragedian, Hebrew (3rd) Enoch, and Hellenistic Synagogue Prayers recovered from Christian liturgies.

As for his "well founded theories" it seems he prefers to make generalizations about subjects in order to support his own views, and to avoid dealing with specific differences between his interpretations and those of others. An example is the fact that the Jewish people through the ages had expressed elevated opinions about certain key biblical characters (especially Enoch, Moses & Melchezidek), angels (e.g., Michael, Raphael, Yahoel, etc) and personifications of divine attributes (e.g., Wisdom, Philo's Logos), who were often portrayed as sharing rule in heaven with God himself and thus quasi-divine, so he thinks this justifies thinking that the divine honors rendered to Jesus by early Jewish Christians does not break with Jewish monotheistic practices. In short, Hurtado uses this generalization process to "explain away" (my term) the development of Jesus dogma/devotion.

Compared with another conservative critic, the Roman Catholic writer John P. Meier (A Marginal Jew, I think up to 5 volumes so far), Meier prefers to carefully set up the discussion so that he can dismiss the contrary views on a subject and be left with the pious status quo as his preferred solution. However, his footnotes contain much more meat about the positions of critics he disagrees with, including detailed discussions about source texts, that are a joy to read. Hurtado's footnotes are drier and mainly state the conclusions raised by critics he mentions and describes some of the technical terms they may have coined.

DCH
Kunigunde Kreuzerin wrote:
DCHindley wrote:Over at the Review of Biblical Literature website there is nary a bad review of any of his books (I could not read the two or three in German). Reviewers praise his clarity and concise thinking ...
Tobias Nicklas (review of Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity): "In my opinion one of the really important exegetical works of the last years!"

- extremely clear and well understandable language
- enviable detailed knowledge
- very well-founded theories
Last edited by DCHindley on Sat Dec 21, 2013 12:35 am, edited 2 times in total.

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

Post by Peter Kirby » Sat Dec 21, 2013 12:32 am

Thanks for sharing this with us, DCH. Hopefully I will have some time to read the book too and share my thoughts also.
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Re: “High/Early Christology”: A Crack in the Foundations?

Post by DCHindley » Thu Jan 02, 2014 4:14 pm

Well, I ordered a used copy of the English translation of Bousset's Kyrios Christos which just came today. However, I just cracked the back of the book binding by using it as a hammer, so I'll have to find some Elmo's Glue-all (if anyone doesn't immediately think of Mad Magazine, your youth has been miserably misspent with video games).

Here is the TOC.

CONTENTS

I: JESUS THE MESSIAH—SON OF MAN IN THE FAITH OF THE PALESTINIAN PRIMITIVE COMMUNITY 31

Appendix I Resurrected on the Third Day 56
Appendix II Descent into Hades 60

II: THE FAITH OF THE COMMUNITY AND THE PICTURE OF JESUS OF NAZARETH IN THE FIRST THREE GOSPELS 69

I. The Messiah Dogma 70
II. Miracle 98
III. The Messianic Secret 106
IV. Prophecy 109
V. The Significance of the Death 115
VI. Conclusion 116

III: THE GENTILE CHRISTIAN PRIMITIVE COMMUNITY 119

I. The Title Kyrios 121
II. The Cultic Significance of the Kyrios Title 129
III. The Religio-Historical Source of the Title 138
IV. Further Consequences 149

IV: PAUL 153

I. Christ Mysticism and Cultic Mysticism 154
II. The Identification of κύριος and πνεύμα 160
III. Religio-Historical Estimate of Paul’s Christ Mysticism .... 164
IV. The Christ-Adam Theology 172
V. The Source of the Pneuma Doctrine 181
VI. Religio-Historical Analogies 188
VII. Consequences 200
VIII. Theology 205

V: THE BELIEF IN CHRIST IN THE JOHANNINE WRITINGS 211

I. Designations of Title and Dignity 211
II. The Reconstruction of the Life of Jesus 215
III. Fading of the Pauline View of the Pneuma 220
IV. The Peculiarity of Johannine Piety 227
V. The Son of God the Light 232
VI. Christ Mysticism and God Mysticism 237
VII. John and Paul 240

VI: GNOSTICISM 245

I. Intellectual Foundations 245
II. Gnosticism and Paul 254
III. Pauline and Gnostic Anthropology 258
IV. Pauline and Gnostic Doctrine of Redemption 265
V. The Connecting of the Figure of Jesus of Nazareth with the Gnostic Redeemer Myths 271
VI. Jesus’ Earthly Appearing 275
VII. Summary 280

VII: THE CHRIST CULT IN THE POST-APOSTOLIC AGE 282

I. Fading of the Pauline Doctrine of the Spirit and of the Pauline-Johannine Christ Mysticism 282
II. The Title Kyrios 287
III. The Kyrios Cult in the Post-Apostolic Age 292
IV. The Sacrificial Death and Its Significance 305
V. Kyrios Cult and Ruler Cult 310
VI. The Deity of Christ 317
VII. Theological Reflection 332

VIII: THE STRUCTURING OF CHRISTIANITY ON THE BASIS OF THE CHRIST CULT AND ITS VARIOUS TYPES 350

I. Introduction 350
II. The Christianity of Ignatius 353
III. The Christianity of Certain Epistles 3 57
IV. The Christianity of I Clement 367
V. The Significance of the Person of Jesus for This Type of Christianity 3 77

IX: THE APOLOGISTS 385

I. The Logos Theology 385
II. Appropriation of the Logos Idea 399
III. Import of the Logos Idea 403
IV. Concluding Estimate 413

X: IRENAEUS 420

I. God Must Become Man, in Order That Men May Become Gods 422
II. Deification by Means of the Vision of God 426
III. The Deification Ideal of Irenaeus and the Community Piety 428
IV. The Christology That Arises on the Basis of the Idea of Deification 432
V. The Theory of Recapitulation 437
VI. Irenaeus’ Tendency Toward the Idea of Evolution .... 442
VII. Irenaeus and Paul 446

INDEXES 454

I. Index of Biblical Passages 454
II. Index of Other Literature Cited 464
III. Index of Persons and Subjects 477

DCH

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

Post by Gilgamesh » Thu Jan 09, 2014 12:00 pm

This is an amazing discussion. Why not let the words of the NT speak for themselves?

Paul, the first NT writer, never confuses Jesus with God. He always calls Jesus, “Lord” and God, “God.” He always insists that God raised Jesus from the dead, that God accepted the sacrifice of Jesus, that God exalted Jesus to his right hand, etc.

Here is a list, compiled from several theologians, of the earliest creedal formulas in the NT: I Thes 4: 13-18
I Cor 8: 6
I Cor 15: 3-5
Rom 1: 3-4
Rom 3: 23-25
Rom 4: 24-25
Rom 10: 9-10
Rom 14: 9

Read the words without interjecting faith, including the faith of unbelief, and show how any of these are unambiguously Trinitarian or Ditheistic.

Not even John, the last canonical gospel, affirms that Jesus is God. The proto-orthodox churches simply chose to read this Gnostic gospel in that manner after they had developed some philosophical underpinnings for the Trinitarian formula, but that took a couple of hundred years and many theologians condemned as heretics. And the battle continues.

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