Larry Hurtado’s Destroyer of the Gods– Part Ten

BEN: In the third chapter your main point seems to be that early Christians were distinctive in that they tried to establish a religious identity separable from one’s ethnic identity, and even more distinctive asked for exclusive devotion to their deity. Of course the latter was also true of Jews, and the former was true of Isis worshippers around the Empire, which was not tied to a particular Egyptian ethnic identity either. So maybe the term, ‘somewhat distinctive’ would be better. You also poi … [Read more...]

Larry Hurtado’s Destroyer of the Gods– Part Nine

BEN: Let’s consider for a moment a comparison of the Qumranites and the earliest followers of Jesus, meaning Jewish Christians like James, Peter, and Paul. These two early Jewish movements were definitely sectarian in ways that say the Pharisees were not. For them both, if you were not part of ‘their’ in- group with their beliefs and practices, then you were not properly worshipping God, or as Paul dramatically puts it, Jews like that have been temporarily broken off from God’s people, though the … [Read more...]

Larry Hurtado’s Destroyer of the Gods– Part Eight

BEN: In your second chapter you say at one juncture (p. 73) that Jesus is treated in ways that liken him to God. Wouldn’t be better just to say, as Bauckham does, that in ways we don’t full grasp Jesus was considered part of God’s very identity, meaning of course that God was complex, involving more than one personal entity. This latter view seems to me to do better justice to the fact that: 1) while the term theos in the NT almost always means the one Christians call God the Father, never … [Read more...]

Larry Hurtado’s Destroyer of the Gods– Part Seven

BEN: One of your major theses seems to be that while Jews were viewed as peculiar, and even perverse, because of their worship of only one God, their God, nevertheless, because they were a specific ethnic group, it was largely written off as a peculiarity of that ethnos. But the problem for Christianity was, in your view, that it involved a considerable number of Gentile converts from paganism, and this was what was problematic. But even in Paul’s churches, there were both Jewish and Gentile f … [Read more...]

Larry Hurtado’s Destroyer of the Gods– Part Six

BEN: While many Jews might be prone to see Jesus followers as heretics—defectors from true Judaism especially if we are talking about Jewish Christians, this of course doesn’t explain the strong reaction to Christians by various pagans, perhaps especially a reaction against Gentiles who became followers of Jesus. How would you articulate the character of these two different sorts of negative reactions? What’s the real difference? Were Jews more concerned with orthopraxy vis and vis keeping Torah … [Read more...]

Larry Hurtado’s Destroyer of the Gods– Part Five

BEN: One of the interesting points you make about Pliny’s famous reference to Christians is that he apparently knows about persecution, prosecution etc. of Christians elsewhere in the Empire, but he is not sure how to proceed in his own province-- hence the letter. You also make the important point that the remedy that Pliny uses (namely worshipping the Emperor, cursing Christ etc.) indicates that there was something especially problematic with early Christian worship and its focus on Christ. In … [Read more...]

Larry Hurtado’s Destroyer of the Gods– Part Four

BEN: In your first full chapter, you talk about the Jewish and pagan reactions to earliest Christianity. One theme which keeps surfacing is that there were strong negative reactions at the ideological level, not just in terms of praxis. This in turn suggests there must have been something distinctive, and apparently repugnant to many, about the early Christian belief system. You also point out some of the differences between the reaction to early Judaism (which did sometimes involve satire and … [Read more...]

Larry Hurtado’s Destroyer of the Gods– Part Three

BEN: Reading your review of Stark’s 10 factors on why a religious movement succeeds, you point to the fact that the movement on the one hand must maintain some continuity with its cultural setting so it is not seen as totally alien and incomprehensible, but at the same time it must have some distinguishing features, presumably appealing distinguishing features, that set it apart from its setting, including certain behavioral demands made on insiders. The boundaries between insider and outsider m … [Read more...]

Larry Hurtado’s Destroyer of the God’s Part Two

BEN: Bruce Longenecker has now brought forth reasonably clear evidence that the graffito in Pompeii that uses the word Christianos makes clear that the term was being used of Christians (whether insiders or outsiders) in that city in the 60s or 70s. This would seem to comport with the literary evidence about the term being used in Antioch. This is important because it means that outsiders saw this group as something distinctive from Judaism in general in some ways, and presumably insiders did as … [Read more...]