Professor Larry Hurtado (University of Edinburgh) discusses his views on the development of Christology and the concept of God in the New Testament, in two podcasts on Trinities.org.
1. (Podcast 99) “Dr. Larry Hurtado on early high christology” (begins at 10:50)
Dr. Hurtado explains the term “early high christology” and what it means when applied to his own work. He discusses various angels and men who in various ancient Jewish writings are in some way exalted and honored in God-like ways, and how these cases differ from that of Jesus. Dr. Hurtado has argued that in the early years of Christianity we suddenly see a distinctive pattern of Jesus-worship, as evidenced by the earliest books in the New Testament. Such practices don’t derive from a second or third century, Gentile Christian context, but rather from the earliest, largely Jewish Christian context.
Hurtado discusses this in light of various passages in the gospel according to John, and also the statements of 1 Timothy that God is immortal. (1:17,6:16) The New Testament, he observes, emphasizes that Jesus was a genuine human being, a man, although in his view it also presents Jesus as existing even when the world was made, in a pre-human phase of his existence. God and Jesus, in his view, are closely linked, but also distinguished in the New Testament. God exalts Jesus to divine glory, which is why we must worship Jesus, according to early Christians. Worship of Jesus, he argues, has a theocentric (God-centered) justification or basis.
He also comments briefly on James Dunn’s Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?, the idea that “worship” by definition can be given only to God, and whether we should start our christological thinking with fourth century or with first century sources.
2. (Podcast 100) “Dr. Larry Hurtado on God in New Testament Theology”
I talk with Dr. Hurtado about his book God in New Testament Theology. He talks about
- the theocentric basis of New Testament christology
- what the New Testament adds to the theology of the Old Testament
- God as “Father”
- the way Christians view God in relation to Jesus
- whether we need to interact with God through a mediator
- the New Testament picture of God as love and yet as dangerous, and of Jesus as both savior and judge – and both as sources of agape love
- how the NT picture of God differs from the theologies of pagan deities
- how recently, and even in ancient times, in popular thinking Jesus can eclipse God in Christians’ minds, becoming a friendlier, less threatening god than the Father
- ho theos vs. theos in early Christianity, and how the NT and early texts distinguish between Jesus and the one God (aka the Father)
- whether or not the NT authors rethink how Judaic monotheism should be understood
- the “dyadic devotional pattern” we see in NT-era worship practice, and whether this violated the first commandment
- the sense in which Yahweh is unique, according to the Bible
- whether Dr. Hurtado would agree with the suggestion that Jesus is “a part of” God
- how the NT as it were “redefines” God with reference to Jesus
- whether or not in his view Dr. Hurtado’s work supports “social” (three-self) Trinity theories
- that contemporary theology has tended to neglect the literature of the first three Christian centuries in favor of the “classics” of the 4th and 5th centuries
- Dr. Richard Bauckham’s “christology of divine identity” as an attempt to make sense of the NT apart from later “ontological” ways of approaching the matter