Earliest Christology

Earliest Christology December 19, 2013

Larry Hurtado has posted about views of early Christian Christology. He says that proponents of the view that significant development took place over the course of the first century of Christianity fail to do justice to the exalted status of Jesus and devotional practice evidenced from the beginning. I would respond by saying that proponents of early high Christology often fail to do justice to just how different the Gospel of John is from the Gospels of Mark and Luke. (UPDATE: now also see Dale Tuggy’s post on whether Jesus is God in Mark.)

But perhaps a rapprochement is possible? If there has been a tendency to downplay the degree of development on one side, there has been a tendency to downplay the significance of the earliest sources’ exalted claims about Jesus on the other. And so perhaps we can inch closer to agreement that the status attributed to Jesus by Paul is exalted and “divine” (in the sense of Jesus exercising divine rule and bearing the divine name) and yet not (at least explicitly) divine/incarnational in the sense that John may have been, and still later Christian creeds certainly were.

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.

Michael Bird mentioned the same quote from Martin Hengel that Larry Hurtado did, but in relation to Bart Ehrman’s forthcoming book. And of course, for my own views see The Only True God: Early Christian Monotheism in Its Jewish Context.


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