Friday, 30 June 2017

Lord Jesus Christ, by Larry Hurtado, Part 8: the line no-one ever crossed

ANGELS MUST NOT receive worship in either Jewish or Christian texts, says Hurtado, referencing Richard Bauckham's early work on this motif of refusal.

(Today we resume our "Hurtado Cruise", an interactive exchange with the text and even author - see previous post - over his magnum opus 2003 work, Lord Jesus Christ, crucial in building my own case for a first century Judeo-Christian trinity).

In our day and age, angels are seen by many folk as either a symbol for a very kind person or a legendary type of character in the same category as fairies and elves. Even within the church, there can be a sense of mystical or even magical allusion in talking about modern day experiences of them, which is removed from the context in which belief in these agents of God arose. The point is that the belief of such figures was also highly developed by the time that Christianity first flourished into the ready-made Roman empire-located network of synagogues, in such a way that some angels and exalted humans like Moses and Enoch carried huge divine responsibilities and rank. This was even to the point that they could "bear the Name" of God, literally be his representative. But Jesus broke that "rule". Correction, God broke that rule and required worship from Jewish followers of Jesus, to his own ultimate glory. Not only that, but Hurtado notes that the angel-refusal texts like in Revelation are the same texts that require worship of Jesus, which makes the contrast all the more striking.

My only critique of Hurtado, as I have already mentioned in my presentation of my exchange with the author, in no way downplays the striking nature of how God has Jesus 'cross the line' that must never be crossed. Like any established author, he has developed his own favoured linguistic resources, and "alongside God" is one of them, which dovetail well with other expressions like 'binitarian worship practices', one receives the worship alongside the other. Of course he will in his Paul chapter go into some depth on Philippians 2, and we too will make a port of call there on our own cruise of his work, but I felt this would have been a good time to develop how mediation and God's use of agents worked in a from God direction and in a to God direction. The latter description would have benefitted in particular from a description of how the priestly function facilitated worship to God without being through the priest. The key conclusion here is that Jesus is still made to cross the line but in a particular sense of mediation. Never before had an agent of God mediated worship back to God. This might however require a more Dunn-like distinction that I think Hurtado doesn't want to permit.

Back to Chapter 1: Forces and Factors - Hurtado now checks that monotheism is indeed functioning within the Christian New Testament and affirms it is, even in those contexts which extol Christ. Time for a quote:

[W]e have no analogous accommodation of a second figure along with God as recipient of such devotion in the Jewish tradition of the time, making it very difficult to fit this inclusion of Christ as recipient of devotion into any known devotional pattern attested among Jewish groups of the Roman period. [KL 919, my emphasis]

So how did monotheism affect Christ devotion? That's the subject of the next post!

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