In the ecclesiastical calendar, 25 January (this Friday) marks the “Conversion of St. Paul.” Over the last several decades, however, scholars have differed over whether “conversion” is the right term to describe Paul’s change from fierce opponent of the young Jesus-movement to one of the most well-known advocates.
In general usage, a “conversion” marks a change from one religion to another. At the time of Paul’s experience (a scant couple of years after Jesus’ crucifixion), the Jesus-movement wasn’t what we know and think of as a self-standing “religion.” It was more a rather exclusive new sect or movement within the larger Jewish tradition. (And it must be emphasized that Paul’s “persecution” of Jesus-followers was not directed at “Christians” but solely at fellow Jews whom he must have regarded as having seriously problematic in their beliefs and practices.)
More significantly, Paul refers to that experience that prompted his shift in direction…
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A recent commenter queried my statement that “ontological” categories weren’t explicit or operative in 1st-century Christian texts (see my response to Philip Alexander in the comments on my posting here). Granting that ontological categories and statements aren’t explicit in NT writings, the commenter asked how we can judge that ontological categories weren’t operative or on the table in early Christological beliefs/statements. As this is an important question, I’ve chosen to address it in a posting, rather than in a comment/response.
These “ontological” categories figure in the Christological discussions and debates of the early centuries of Christianity, and are reflected in the classic creedal formulations, such as the “Nicene” creed, in which Jesus is confessed to be of the same “essence” as the Father.
First, the lack of explicitly ontological language in Christological statements in the NT writings is significant. For, surely, if the writers of these texts were working with ontological conceptual…
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Leading New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado addresses various questions regarding New Testament Christology.
Well, my postings over the last couple of days have certainly generated a number of responses, including several rather vigorous ones, and have raised some entirely understandable questions. Instead of responding to the comments individually (thereby burying both questions and my responses down in the “comments” material), however, I thought I’d try to address them here in this blog-posting. I’ll try to be as concise as clarity allows, but this will be a somewhat “longish” posting.
1. First, in response to my emphasis that the NT makes God’s actions (esp. in raising Jesus from death and giving him glory) the basis for the “high” Christological claims and the remarkable devotional practice in which Jesus was included with God, what about the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ miracles, authoritative actions, etc.? Doesn’t this suggest that Jesus was actually exercising his divine power during his earthly life?
The first thing to note is what the…
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Q. When did the worship of Jesus, as God, rather than Messiah, Lord, and Savior, begin? And by whom?
A. First I have to address the wording of the question. It could be asking when/whether Jesus came to be “God” or when “God” came to be re-signified as Jesus. There’s no evidence that Jesus replaced God or overwrote God (so to speak), at least not in the first couple of centuries. Subsequently, there have been Christians for whom God was Jesus, pure and simple. But that’s not what scholars find in the earliest centuries…
Leading New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado offers a summary of his book which shares the title of this post. He focuses on the way God is talked about and reverenced in the New Testament writings.
In the many comments that have been generated by my posting on Jesus’ resurrection as the act of God, it seemed to me that there is a need for some sober and patient analysis of the data in the NT writings. So, I offer this shamless plug for one of my attempts to do this, my modest-sized book: God in New Testament Theology (Abingdon Press, 2010). The publisher’s online catalog entry here
The great NT scholar, Nils Dahl, famously wrote an article on “the neglected factor in NT theology,” which was God! He acutely observed that there were oodles of books on almost every other topic in the NT, but a scant number on “God”. He was (and still is) correct. (It made my bibliographical effort easier!) Indeed, I think that there are a few PhD theses waiting to be written on “God” in some NT writings.
Within the word-limit…
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