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Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity
Larry W. Hurtado
From The Publisher:
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 encourage people 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.
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.
—Catholic Biblical Quarterly
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.
—David E. Aune
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!
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.
—John S. Kloppenborg
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.
—Alan F. Segal
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.”
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.
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About the Author
Larry W. Hurtado is professor of New Testament language, literature, and theology at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Among his other books is One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism.
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