Larry Hurtado on James Dunn’s Latest Book

Larry Hurtado on James Dunn’s Latest Book July 7, 2010

Larry Hurtado has posted on his blog about Jimmy Dunn’s most recent book, Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?: The New Testament Evidence He has not read the published version yet, but read a pre-publication draft, and shares some thoughts on it.

I’d like to offer one comment about Larry’s blog post: There does indeed appear to be some evidence for Christians having worshiped sacrificially in earliest Christianity. In the Book of Acts, we have reference to the early Christians gathering in the Temple at the hour for prayer/sacrifice, and to Paul offering sacrifice for the purification of individuals (presumably other Christians) who had taken vows. And in Matthew, there is reference to Christians bringing their gift to the altar, a teaching that was presumably passed on among Christians who might do just that (while the Temple still stood), but which at the very least seems to depict Jesus as expecting his followers to use the Temple for offering sacrifice.

When we add to this the use of sacrificial language in an extended sense (e.g. offering one’s life as a living sacrifice) and in particular as a way of interpreting the death of Jesus, it seems that all such language retains God as its focus, with no unambiguous attempt to make Jesus the recipient of sacrificial worship, whether literal or metaphorical. And so I think this facet of our early Christian sources does offer important evidence about how the earliest Christians thought about God, Jesus, and worship.

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