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The Son of God: The Origin of Christology and the History of Jewish-Hellenistic Religion Paperback – June, 1977
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This book, which was written in the 70s, answers those believers in the History of Religions theories. Hengel points out that "The Hellenistic mysteries did not know of sons of gods who died and rose again" (p 25) anymore than did the cults which featured dying vegetation dieties like Osiris. After examining and disposing of all these theories, he takes on the gnostic myths. Here he points out the tiresome error of many (for example, a certain Mr. Crossan) who try to place gnostic texts that were written in the third century back into the first century. "Gnosticism itself is first visible as a spiritual movement at the end of the first century at the earliest" (p 34) he points out tartly.
Other interesting points: Hengel argues for an inner consistency of the belief in Christ, Jesus' unique relationship with "Abba", Jesus' position in comparison to that of all the angels, and the differences between early Christianity and other religions.
"The Son of God", unfortunately, is more overtly theological than the book on Hellenization. Hengel attempts to prove that the idea of Jesus the dying and resurrecting god-man is unique and therefore cannot be explained in terms of influence from pagan or Gnostic sources. Now, I don't deny that the Christian concept of Jesus in many ways *is* unique, but is it unique in the sense that nothing whatsoever preceded it in terms of influence and inspiration? Not even Hengel believes so, but he is at pains to prove that "the Son of God" is a Jewish rather than a pagan or Gnostic idea. He mentions various intermediary redeemer figures from the Jewish tradition, discusses the Jewish concept of God's Wisdom (which was often personified), analyzes Philo's philosophy, and even makes parallels to Jewish mysticism.
There is just one problem with all this.
Ancient Judaism was Hellenized, remember?Read more ›