Loke Responds to Hurtado on divine Christology (and vice versa)


“Divine Christology”: Loke Replies
by larryhurtado
After my posting yesterday pointing to the new book by Andrew Loke, and offering some reasons for my inability to assent to his argument, he sent me a reply. For the purposes of scholarly dialogue and public information, I agreed to post his reply. I have added a few comments in return, these enclosed in square brackets and identified by “LWH”.

Dear Professor Hurtado,

Thank you for posting your review of my book. It is an honour to see my book reviewed on such a respectable blog which I have greatly benefited reading for a number of years now. Nevertheless, I am concerned about several points you mentioned in your review.

First, you wrote that I argued that the disciples’ experience of Jesus’ resurrection “had the effect of somehow making them remember more fully what Jesus had already taught them about his person.” But that was not what I argued. What I argued was not a matter of the disciples remembering, but what they would have found convincing. As I wrote on p.162: “It can be argued that Jesus did claim to be truly divine ‘pre-resurrection’ but this was not widely accepted by his disciples until after the resurrection appearances. This is understandable, for given their Jewish monotheistic faith, it would have been much harder for them to believe that a flesh-and-blood figure was also truly divine than to believe that he was (say) a human Messiah. The resurrection appearances, however, were the final pieces of evidences which caused them to believe that God had vindicated Jesus’ ‘pre-resurrection’ claims through the miraculous resurrection. . . . .”

[LWH: OK, Andrew. No intentional distortion on my part. In my description of your position, I was attempting to capture and convey your argument that Jesus had declared his divine status, but only after their experience of the risen/exalted Jesus did they come to accept it, and to “recall” that Jesus had declared his divinity to them.]

You wrote “But the fact remains that there was no such cultic reverence of Jesus until after the experiences of his resurrection/exaltation. This still seems to me to make these experiences the crucial factor in generating the conviction that it was now right to give Jesus cultic devotion.” However, this objection does not take into account the distinction between necessary conditions and sufficient conditions which I spell out in my proposal. I agree that the disciples experiencing Jesus’ resurrection/exaltation was a crucial necessary condition for generating the conviction to give Jesus cultic devotion. However, I presented many important arguments on pp.117-151 for why it was not a sufficient condition and that Jesus’ claims were also a necessary condition; and these arguments deserve the attention of the reader.

[LWH: My brief blog posting wasn’t the place for a detailed engagement with the specifics of your arguments, Andrew. You and I have had extensive email exchanges in which I’ve offered specific critique of some of your claims and arguments. And can I observe, that in referring to the resurrection experiences as “a crucial necessary condition” you are granting them a rather important role, as I do.]

You wrote that “critical analysis of the historical traditions does not yield evidence that Jesus himself actually claimed to share in divine glory and status during his earthly career.” In Chapter 7, I developed the proposals by Wright, Lee, Bock, Grindheim et al and argued that there are evidences that Jesus indicated his divinity pre-resurrection. I also stated a number of reasons for thinking that the post-resurrection appearances are veridical (p.160).

[LWH: As you will know, Andrew, the various scholars that you cite (and one could add others) contend that Jesus’ words and actions narrated in the Gospels reflect him acting with unique divine authority. Some would collapse the distinction between this and claims to divinity, others wouldn’t. In any case, outside of the Gospel of John, it is difficult to find statements in which Jesus explicitly declares that he is a divine being and should be worshipped. And it is the latter phenomenon that in the ancient world was most indicative of a figure being treated as divine.]

You wrote “Loke contends that for earliest believers, Jesus was their supreme authority, and so if Jesus didn’t declare his divinity his followers wouldn’t have accepted the notion. But, as I read the evidence, for earliest believers the crucial matter was what God had declared about Jesus, what God had done in making Jesus the ‘Kyrios’.” I agree with you that for earliest believers the crucial matter involved what God had declared about Jesus. But what I contend is that the earliest believers were convinced after the resurrection appearances that the most authoritative source of information for knowing what God had declared was Jesus whom they regarded as the Ultimate Prophet whose authority surpasses even that of Moses and the Torah (pp.166-167). Thus, if Jesus did not regard himself as divine, the divinization of Jesus would have been rejected by the earliest Christians as a serious falsification of Jesus’ intention and a violation of God’s will (see Chapter 6).

[LWH: It seems to me, Andrew, that your final sentence is a non sequitur, or at least is not a necessary follow-on from what precedes it. Yes, of course, the experiences of the risen/exalted Jesus conveyed to early believers that Jesus is now enthroned as Kyrios and as the ultimate revelation of God’s purposes, surpassing all that went before (e.g., Hebrews 1:1-4). But I find no statement in the NT that reflects your final sentence, that unless the earthly Jesus declared his divinity and demanded worship, it would have been rejected by his followers.]

You wrote “I remain persuaded that powerful religious experiences of the kind that I have sketched…conveyed that conviction.” But you did not mention my criticisms of those charismatic experiences you cited, viz. that they did not involve a sizeable group (p.126), that there was considerable suspicion about such experiences (p.128), that Paul’s frequent references to his own revelations did not secure widespread agreement among Christians concerning his views (pp.128-130), etc.

[LWH: Once again, Andrew, your complaint fails to take account of the clearly-stated concise nature of my posting. Granted, you offer objections to my proposals, and I think I indicated that there were more arguments in the book that I didn’t mention. I read your critique of my views and, to your frustration it appears, I remain unpersuaded.]

There are many more arguments I presented in my book which are not reflected in your brief review and my brief response here. [LWH: Yup, and I repeat that I stated that.] I hope readers will check out my book for themselves, and pay particular attention to the 14 historical considerations I listed in Chapter 8, the arguments I offered against alternative proposals in Chapters 5 and 6, and the evidences concerning Jesus’ pre-resurrection claims in Chapter 7.

[LWH: My posting was intended to acknowledge your book, and to point interested readers to it. I, too, hope that others will read and weigh your arguments.]

Andrew T. Loke, MBBS MA PhD (Research Assistant Professor, The University of Hong Kong)

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