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How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God?: Historical Questions about Earliest Devotion to Jesus Paperback – November 2, 2005


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How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God?: Historical Questions about Earliest Devotion to Jesus + Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity + Jesus and the God of Israel: God Crucified and Other Studies on the New Testament's Christology of Divine Identity
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (November 2, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802828612
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802828613
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #895,700 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Larry W. Hurtado is professor emeritus of New Testament language, literature, and theology at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

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Larry Hurtado has done it again.
Amazon Customer
Hurtado mulls over the idea that what Paul as Saul found to be so objectionable about this very early Christianity was its reverence for Jesus as God.
Virgil Brown
I enjoyed reading this book; Hurtado is a very thorough scholar but he never "lost" me as a lay reader.
Pieter Uys

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

93 of 102 people found the following review helpful By Virgil Brown VINE VOICE on October 14, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
About 112 CE (or AD if one prefers), Pliny the Younger wrote a fascinating letter to emporer Trajan. In it Pliny tells Trajan that during Christian gatherings, Christians "chant antiphonally a hymn to Christ as to a god." But when did early Christianity first recognize Jesus as divine? The compendium of opinion (following Wilhelm Bousset's 1913 _Kyrios Christos_) has contended that Christianity began as a small group of messianic Jews in Roman Judea and the worship of Jesus began when Christianity emerged in Hellenistic circles. The divination of Jesus emerged in the larger pagan religious environment. Hurtado believes that the evidence demands a better explanation.

Hurtado writes that worship of Jesus was an explosively quick phenomenon. In our earliest Christian writings such as 1 Cor 1.2 (mid 1st century), cultic devotion to Jesus is presupposed. It is reflected in the way Christians understood Psalm 110 where Christians saw Jesus in the opening words "And the Lord said to my lord, 'Sit at my right hand...' "

Hurtado explores Phil 2.9-11 in detail and concludes that Jesus is the rightful recipient of the reverence portrayed in Is 45.23. Jesus Christ is Lord; it is the name above all other names, the divine name itself, God.

There are two main factors that point to the early date and the Jewish setting of the early reverence of Jesus. The writings of the Apostle Paul are the earliest in the New Testament and contain a wide range of honorifics about Jesus. Jesus is "christos" or messiah, "Lord," "God's Son," etc. But of even greater significance is the fact Paul's conversion experience occurred just a handful of years after Jesus' death.
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69 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on January 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
Larry Hurtado has done it again. His previous work, "Lord Jesus Christ" is one of the best, the most thorough, not to mention the most readable, explorations of earliest Christianity on the market. Don't miss it.

With "How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God" Hurtado ponders the question: when did the primitive Christian community come to believe Jesus was God?

Some modern scholars have suggested that the idea evolved. Bousset, for example, believed that in the primitive Palestinian community "Jesus was simply revered as the divinely appointed 'Son of Man'" (P 12) rather than as God himself.

Hurtado proves this wrong. "The devotion to Jesus was without true analogy" (P 23) as were the early devotional practices, and all of them suggest that from the very first Jesus was regarded as divine.

Paul's letters, which are the first written records we have, presuppose a divine Christ. This is so even in the first letter believed to be written, 1 Thessalonians. Furthermore, in the epistles Paul refers to devotional practices which were given to believers before Paul visited them, thus pushing the chronology back very close to the death of Jesus, making any kind of evolution impossible. "Among the devotional practices of earliest Christian circles ...were such things as invoking Jesus' name in healing and exorcism" (135).

Those who doubt that the earliest Christians believed Jesus was a God have no explanation for the persecutions that the Christians experienced. Why did Paul harry the believers? Why was Stephen killed? And "Paul's reference to...'forty lashes minus one' obviously indicates the punishment..was .most likely carried out by local synagogue authorities" (72).
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Pieter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on December 29, 2007
Format: Paperback
The author explains the deliberately provocative title in its two aspects: the book investigates how Jesus of Nazareth came to occupy such a lofty position so early in the history of the religion, and the remarkable nature of this early devotion as a historical phenomenon. The work investigates both the claims about his significance and the pattern of devotional practices in the first and early second centuries. Having read The Authentic Gospel of Jesus by Geza Vermes at the same time, I found this book highly illuminating and thought-provoking.

Instead of dissipating after the crucifixion, the movement flourished. The death of Jesus triggered a much more startling level of devotion that far surpassed the commitment of his followers during his life on earth. The author shows that this devotion was so momentous that it played a pivotal role in the complex early Christian efforts to articulate doctrines about Jesus and God throughout the next few centuries. This is confirmed in Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew by Bart Ehrman, a compelling study of diversity in early Christianity.

Part One is titled Issues & Approaches. The first chapter is a critical review of the various historical approaches to understanding the emergence of this devotion. The next presents the major evidence for considering this development as initially totally within second-temple Judaism. In other words, it represents an innovation in the strictly monotheistic religion of the time.
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