Larry Hurtado on Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World

On September 10, 2016, Professor Larry Hurtado (University of Edinburgh) delivered a lecture at the Lanier Theological Library in Houston, Texas: “A New and Mischievous Superstition: Early Christianity in the Roman World”.

The lecture covers material from his recent book, Destroyer of the Gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World (Waco: Baylor University Press, September 2016).

In the Roman world in which Christianity first emerged it was viewed as different and dangerous. And Christianity was distinctive. Christian’s were called atheists and regarded as impious, because they refused to worship the traditional gods. Unlike other religious groups of the day, they had no shrines, altars, images or priests. Reading and disseminating texts were central activities. Early Christianity comprised a new kind of religious identity that wasn’t tied to ethnicity. Unlike traditional Roman-era religion, Christianity also made ethics central. But, ironically, all these things that made early Christianity distinctive, even odd, in the ancient Roman world, have become commonplace assumptions about “religion” for us. This lecture addresses our cultural amnesia, showing how early Christianity helped to challenge the ancient world and helped to shape our world.

Destroyer of the Gods was also the subject of a panel discussion at Lanier Theological Library, on September 9, 2016. The panel included Carey Newman (Baylor University Press), Rubel Shelly (Lipscomb University), and Christian Eberhart (University of Houston), with Mark Lanier as Moderator.

Further, Professor Hurtado is interviewed about Destroyer of the Gods by:

Professor Hurtado also notes his article in Catalyst, which draws on some of the material in Destroyer of the Gods: “The Distinctiveness of Early Christianity” (October 5, 2016).

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How Did Jesus Become God? The NOB Theological Seminary Debate between Bart Ehrman and Michael Bird

bart-bird-debateOn February 12-13, 2016 at New Orleans Baptist (NOB) Theological Seminary, Professor Bart Ehrman and Dr Michael Bird debated the content of and issues surrounding Ehrman’s recent book, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Preacher from Galilee (HarperOne, 2014). Michael Bird is the co-editor of a response volume, How God Became Jesus: The Real Origins Of Belief In Jesus’ Divine Nature—A Response To Bart D. Ehrman (Zondervan, 2014). The debate took place as part of the annual Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum in Faith and Culture.

On the second day, further papers were delivered by Simon Gathercole, Dale Martin, Larry Hurtado, and Jennifer Wright Knust, with responses from Bart Ehrman and Michael Bird.

Friday, February 12, 2016

“HOW DID JESUS BECOME GOD?” Bart Ehrman and Michael Bird in Dialogue + Q&A”

Dr. Robert B. Stewart, Dr. Charles Kelley, Introductions (21:10)

Bart Ehrman (33:40)

Michael Bird – response (1:09:55)

Michael Bird (1:25:50)

Bart Ehrman – response (1:57:34)

Q&A (2:07:25)

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Simon Gathercole, “Monotheism among Jews and Christians” with responses from Bart Ehrman and Michael Bird (from 19:10)

Dale Martin, “The Theological Inadequacy of Historiography: the Empty Tomb in History and Theology” with responses from Bart Ehrman and Michael Bird (from 1:38)

Larry Hurtado, “The Significance of Earliest Devotional Practices” with responses from Bart Ehrman and Michael Bird (from 5:10)

Jennifer Wright Knust, “Modernity’s Vanishing Point: Histories of Jesus and the Retreat of Authenticity” with responses from Bart Ehrman and Michael Bird (from 15:35)

Concluding Comments from Bart Ehrman and Michael Bird (from 1:55)

 

Larry Hurtado on Early High Christology and the New Testament God

Larry-HurtadoProfessor 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)

mp3 Stitcher iTunes

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

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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

Larry Hurtado: “Paul’s Messianic Jesus: A Variant-Form of Ancient Jewish Messianism”

Professor Larry Hurtado delivers the 2014 opening lecture at the School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh. The lecture begins at 6:30. Hurtado contends that Paul’s messianism comprises “a particular and distinctive variant form” of the pluriform Jewish messianism of his time.

A similar version of the paper, “Paul’s Messianic Christology”, was delivered at  New Orleans Baptist (NOB) Theological Seminary, on February 11, 2016.

Larry Hurtado – Selected Published Essays etc

Jesus and Larry

Emeritus Professor Larry Hurtado (formerly of the University of Edinburgh) makes available a large number of essays and articles on his personal website. The main topics are Jesus, the theory of early worship of Jesus, and the Gospels.

Examples include:

Son of Man–Hurtado.  This is the pre-publication version of my essay published in ‘Who is This Son of Man’?  Latest Scholarship on a Puzzling Expression of the Historical Jesus, eds. Larry W. Hurtado & Paul L. Owen (London:  T&T Clark, 2011), 159-77.

The Women, the Tomb and the Ending of Mark The manuscript of my contribution published in A Wandering Galilean:  Essays in Honour of Sean Freyne, eds. Zuleika Rodgers & Margaret Daly-Denton (Leiden:  Brill, 2009), 427-50.