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At the Origins of Christian Worship: The Context and Character of Earliest Christian Devotion Paperback – September 7, 2000
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"A concise and useful introduction to the subject of roots of Christian worship."
"This book proves to be pointed and helpful in coming to a greater understanding and appreciation of the origins of Christian worship. I recommend it especially to those wanting to better understand worship's roots."
Toronto Journal of Theology
"In a manner that is both innovative and challenging, Hurtado seeks to locate early Christian theology within the context of early Christian worship (rather than the other way around), comparing Christian practices described in the New Testament with alternative religious expressions from the contemporary Mediterranean world. . . As a rich introduction to Christian worship in its social context, Hurtado's praxis-oriented approach bears much fruit, including its ability to suggest so many promising avenues for further research and debate."
Anglican Theological Review
"This brief, scholarly, and readable book considers -- as its subtitle accurately puts it -- the context and character of early Christian devotion. Larry Hurtado, a leading scholar of evangelical background, seeks to describe the setting in which the earliest Christian worship arose and certain of its features, and then to reflect on issues for contemporary Christian worship."
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Top customer reviews
The first chapter is an interesting and helpful portrait of just how religious Roman-era "pagan" cities were. The second chapter juxtaposes a portrait of the earliest Christian gatherings and how they were similar to, and yet very different from, the many other religious gatherings of that time. In the third chapter Hurtado focuses on the six specific ways Jesus was incorporated into Jewish monotheistic synagogue rituals. Thus the first three chapters are "typical Hurtado" - that is, history ("just the facts, m'am"). The final chapter is Hurtado's take on how this history should inform modern-day worship by Christians.
If you're like me and think worship is a matter of lifestyle and not liturgy, you won't be every interested in the last chapter. I was very glad to read it, however, for one important reason. In it, Hurtado professes his belief that God is a trinity. This is noteworthy because in his other books he is very clear that there is no evidence that the authors of the Bible were consciously Trinitarians. In fact, if anything, he says the New Testament writers were "binitarian." (By the way, he has even altered that terminology, stating on his blog last year that he now proposes the term "dyadic," as he is wanting to use a term that carries the least "baggage.") Thus Hurtado writes his first three chapters of the book in his usual role of historian, but this last chapter he writes as a theologian. Yet in so writing that last chapter, he proves what an intellectually honest historian he is. And so the fourth and final chapter made me appreciate all the other work of this able historian all the more. I strongly recommend him to you, though his other books I mentioned are more worthy of your attention than this one simply because they are meatier.
As for theologians, the only one we really need is Jesus.
Christians saw themselves as monotheists even though they were also proclaiming Jesus as God. In fact, "There are basically two main identifying marks of early Christian worship, when considered in its religious context: 1) Christ is reverenced as divine along with God, and 2) worship of all other gods is rejected" (p 39).
Hurtado lists six phenomena of early Christian religious devotion which he contends amounted to a "pattern of devotion that was unparalleled among other known religious groups that identified themselves with the biblical/Jewish tradition" (p 71). It was a distinct mutation. Certainly no group identified with Jewish traditions called upon a man as equal to God the Father as did the Christians. The name of Jesus was invoked as God even in the initiation rite of Baptism.
A well thought out and impressive work of scholarship.