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Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity Perfect Paperback – September 14, 2005

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Editorial Reviews


Times Literary Supplement The scope of Hurtado's reading and his grasp of sources leave us in his debt... He has enabled his readers to comprehend the contours of early Christian beliefs. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society This volume provides a treatment of its topic that dissenting positions will have to refute if they are to maintain any credibility. First Things Hurtado approaches the early church with an integrity and thoroughness that should be a model for historians and theologians working in this area... His writing is uncomplicated and illuminating, and his sensibilities are evangelical in the best sense of the term. Theology Today An impressive volume... Can be warmly welcomed for the contribution it makes to our understanding of how Christianity's distinctive appreciation of Christ emerged. Biblica This book provides a painstaking and monumental study of the place of Jesus in the religious life, beliefs and worship of Christians from the beginning of the Christian movement down to the late second century. An outstanding investigation of the origin and development of the earliest Christian devotion to Jesus, Lord Jesus Christ should finally replace Wilhelm Bousset's Kyrios Christos as the standard work on the subject... All in all, Lord Jesus Christ is to be welcomed as a truly landmark study in the area of early Christian devotion to Jesus. Catholic Biblical Quarterly The present volume is a veritable tour de force, as Hurtado wends his way through the NT, the writings of the apostolic and apologetic Fathers of the Church, and second-century Christian apocrypha... Lord Jesus Christ is a book that deserves to appear on the reading list for comprehensive examinations in theology, not to mention that it also deserves to appear on the library shelves of those who consider themselves veterans in NT study. Presbyterian History Essential reading for everyone serious about understanding the Christian view of the incarnation. David E. Aune A fantastic work! Larry Hurtado has written what may well prove to be one of the more important books on Jesus in this generation. By shifting the focus of discussion away from the historical Jesus and toward the function of Jesus in the religion of early Christians, Hurtado touches on crucial issues that have been largely neglected since Bousset's Kyrios Christos (1913). In thoroughly probing the role of Jesus in the faith and life of the early Christians, from the beginnings of the church to well into the second century, Hurtado asks the right questions and provides many of the right answers. This book will be extremely useful for those attempting to understand Christianity in the context of the history of religion. Martin Hengel This is a great and necessary book. We have been waiting for it for years, and now it will strongly influence New Testament scholarship, especially in the fields of christology and early Christian history. By remaining in constant critical discussion with scholars holding differing opinions, Larry Hurtado also shows the progress of research during the last decades. Everybody working in this domain has to take account of his Lord Jesus Christ. Many thanks to Hurtado for his valuable gift! Alan F. Segal Larry Hurtado locates the presence of the Christ in early Christianity with a scholarly exactness never before achieved. The story he tells is important for all Christians and for all historians of Christianity. This will be one of the most important books on early Christianity in the twenty-first century. John S. Kloppenborg Among his many significant achievements, Larry Hurtado reconceives "Christology" as "Christ devotion," which embraces not only beliefs about Jesus but also practices and aspects of material and visual culture. In this ambitious and erudite volume Hurtado analyzes not just the standard repertoire of canonical sources -- Paul's letters, the canonical Gospels, Hebrews, the pastoral letters -- but also the sayings source Q, the Gospels of Peter and Thomas, Infancy Thomas, the Protoevangelium of James, and various gospel fragments, achieving a scope and depth rarely seen in monographs on the topic since the classic of Wilhelm Bousset. Attentive to detail and nuance, broad in its learning, and careful in its arguments, Lord Jesus Christ is a landmark in scholarship on Christian origins. Even though one might disagree with Hurtado in certain respects, he is always worth reading -- and reading carefully. Graham Stanton Larry Hurtado's new book is a stunning achievement. It explores with admirable rigor and clarity a central issue all too often ducked or evaded: How, when, and why did devotion to Jesus as a divine figure emerge within earliest Christianity? Hurtado has to negotiate many minefields as he takes his readers across a vast terrain. He is a wise guide whose judgment can be trusted, for his scholarship is of the highest order. This book is already on my shortlist of "books of the decade." Max Tuner This monumental, authoritative, readily accessible study clearly demonstrates that worship of Jesus as one with God emerged and flourished in the earliest church and in the context of dedicated Jewish-Christian monotheism (not in a Gentile Christianity that had broken with it, as the consensus since Bousset has maintained). Not just a landmark contribution, this work changes the whole landscape of the discussion.

From the Back Cover

This outstanding book provides an in-depth historical study of the place of Jesus in the religious life, beliefs, and worship of Christians from the beginnings of the Christian movement down to the late second century.

"Lord Jesus Christ" is a monumental work on earliest Christian devotion to Jesus, sure to replace Wilhelm Bousset's "Kyrios Christos" (1913) as the standard work on the subject. Larry Hurtado, widely respected for his previous contributions to the study of the New Testament and Christian origins, offers the best view to date of how the first Christians saw and reverenced Jesus as divine. In assembling this compelling picture, Hurtado draws on a wide body of ancient sources, from Scripture and the writings of such figures as Ignatius of Antioch and Justin to apocryphal texts such as the "Gospel of Thomas" and the "Gospel of Truth."

Hurtado considers such themes as early beliefs about Jesus' divine status and significance, but he also explores telling devotional practices of the time, including prayer and worship, the use of Jesus' name in exorcism, baptism and healing, ritual invocation of Jesus as "Lord," martyrdom, and lesser-known phenomena such as prayer postures and the curious scribal practice known today as the "nomina sacra."

The revealing portrait that emerges from Hurtado's comprehensive study yields definitive answers to questions like these: How important was this formative period to later Christian tradition? When did the divinization of Jesus first occur? Was early Christianity influenced by neighboring religions? How did the idea of Jesus' divinity change old views of God? And why did the powerful dynamics of early beliefs and practices encouragepeople to make the costly move of becoming a Christian?

Boasting an unprecedented breadth and depth of coverage -- the book speaks authoritatively on everything from early Christian history to themes in biblical studies to New Testament Christology -- Hurtado's "Lord Jesus Christ" is at once significant enough that a wide range of scholars will want to read it and accessible enough that general readers interested at all in Christian origins will also profit greatly from it.

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Product Details

  • Perfect Paperback: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.; Pbk. Ed edition (September 14, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802831672
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802831675
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #196,433 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Perfect Paperback
A standard "liberal" view of Jesus is that he was a simple religious teacher (perhaps at most a prophet) who did not make unique claims about himself. However, the early church took Jesus' message and converted it to a message about Jesus. Typically Paul the Apostle is made the culprit. Paul is often taken as a Hellenistic Jew who interpreted Jesus in the context of Greek religion thereby converting Jesus into a demigod.

Jesus' earliest followers were almost exclusively Jewish and their theology was rigidly monotheistic. Yet, even in the earlier NT writings Jesus it the object of cultic devotion, prayers are said in his name, OT writings referring to God are interpreted as referring to him, and he is confessed as the preexistent Son of God. By the time of Revelation (perhaps the last NT book written, circa 95 AD) Jesus is worshipped alongside the father. How is it that monotheistic Jews ended up with a sort of "binitarianism"? This "explosion" of devotion to Jesus cries out for examination. While Hurtado doesn't give an answer to why the earliest Christians began worshipping Jesus (other than a somewhat nebulous discussion of their "experience" of Jesus), his discussion of this unmistakable phenomenon in the NT is outstanding.

Hurtado's approach is systematic. He analyzes the various strata of the New Testament chronologically (Paul, Acts, Q, the Synoptics, Johannine literature, later NT documents) and discusses the apocryphal Gospels (such as Thomas and Peter), he then ends circa 170 AD. Within each strata, he discusses the author's beliefs about Jesus and devotion to him. Hurtado accepts the commonly held beliefs concerning the authorship of dating of the NT books (the only exception is that he considers II Thessalonians likely by Paul).
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Format: Perfect Paperback
This landmark study is the best account I have come across of early Christianity. Speculation is kept to a minimum and the author deals with the evidence that we have from early Christian writings. His approach to these writings is to read between the lines and look at what we can tell about how the authors tell us things rather than what they tell us. The other strength is that the early Christian world is considered firmly in the context of the Jewish and later Gentile communities in which it developed. The author has certain presuppositions, e.g, that not all of Paul's letters were written by Paul. Also, he deals objectively with the role of religious experience in the development of Christ devotion. That is, neither affirming nor discounting any explanations of what such the actuality of these experiences, he simply looks at what accounts of these experiences can tell us about how early Christians worshipped and lived out their faith. Although this is really an academic text which deals quite comprehensively with a number of complex topics, the book never dries up and the author's style of writing carries you along. Essential reading for anyone interested in early Christianity, I can't recommend it strongly enough.
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We have needed this book for a long time! Larry Hurtado has given us a full scale treatment of the history of devotion to Jesus Christ. Contrary to scholars such as J.D Crossan, Hurtado shows why Paul's writings must be considered when researching the history of devotion to Christ. He persuasively demonstrates that in Paul's writings as well as the later Gospel traditions, Jesus was revered. He even shows where Paul puts Jesus right up there with God (he calls this a binitarian understanding of God). He says that this is a radical new envisioning of Jewish monotheism and that it cannot be traced back to any polytheistic Gentile ideas.

Hurtado also shows how the Gospels and Q also reveal the church's early devotion to Jesus.

The book concludes with a discussion of Jesus in later noncanonical writings such as the Gospel of Thomas and in the writings of the early church fathers.

The basic thesis of the book is that the church worshipped Jesus as divine from the very beginning of Christianity. Hurtado dialogues with Jesus scholars such as Martin Hengel, John Kloppenborg, J.D Crossan, and James D.G Dunn, and he always treats their work with the utmost respect while also explaining why he occasionally must diverge from their viewpoints.

The last time a major study of Jesus worship was written was way back in 1913, so this book is long overdue. Hurtado is a moderately conservative guide through the twists and turns of early Christian literature, and his conclusions are well thought out and deserve to be considered.
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Format: Hardcover
Hurtado wastes no time in upsetting the German-historical model of Wilhelm Bousett. Bousett has postulated that the high christology of the NT was a historical progression in which the earliest Christian communities did not whole to the idea of Jesus as Lord and God. Hurtado shows how the earliest evidence in the NT points to the fact that not only did people like Paul hold to this high view of Christ, but this view had been in place for sometime and in fact had no time to actually develop; it had to have been in place from the beginning. He goes on to explain in chapters 3-6 that the Gospels (Jesus Books) express high christological language consistent with Paul and in place from the beginning. Even Q does not differentiate from what is found in Paul and other texts.
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