Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday Review: Hurtado 6, Chapter 3, Part 2

Now to finish our review of chapter 3 of Larry Hurtado's, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity.

Hurtado next looks at Jesus' redemptive death in the Judean community. H suggests that the earliest Christians saw a connection between Christ's death and redemption. But he does not think they emphasized the doctrine the way Paul did.

As he has said earlier, he believes the understanding of Jesus' death as a sacrifice was primarily apologetic for Judean Christians. They wished to show that Jesus' death was no surprise to God and did not constitute a contradiction of their messianic claims (187). But for Paul it meant the inclusion of the Gentiles and thus was given more extensive significance.

This is an interesting suggestion, maybe even one that has some legitimacy. However, the early Christian practice of baptism leads me to question it a little. Why did people get baptized in the name of Jesus? Hurtado mentions this practice later in the chapter to argue for the unprecedented place of Jesus in the devotion of the early Christians.

But it seems to me that since this baptism is an extension of John the Baptist's baptism, it must in some way be a baptism for the forgiveness of sins, as Paul and Acts actually tell us. Further, it likely focused on corporate forgiveness more than individual forgiveness--that is, individual forgiveness as a means to corporate forgiveness. I believe the earliest Christians would still have seen this corporate forgiveness primarily in relation to Israel.

I thus conclude that the earliest church likely saw Christ's death primarily as a ransom for the sins of Israel and baptism in the name of Jesus as participation in this work, including an affirmation of his messianic identity.

In another subsection he looks at somewhat unique epithets in Acts for Christ: archegos, "founder," dikaios, "righteous one," pais, "servant." H plausibly argues that all three go back to the early Judean church.

Devotional Practice
In this section Hurtado covers first the relationship between the Judean church and the temple. He reinforces my own position that the earliest Jerusalem Christians continued to participate fully in the temple, including in its sacrifices.

Probably the most striking Christian innovation is "calling on the name of the Lord." As we have seen, this text clearly referred to YHWH in the OT, and the early Christians must have know this fact. Yet they still appropriated the passage in relation to Jesus. Hurtado argues that this practice was very early, a remarkable, unprecedented innovation.

It certainly is. However, I am not convinced that it indicates the kind of "inclusion within the divine identity" for which Bauckham argues.

By the way, if anyone wants to pay my way to Cambridge in December, Richard Hays and Richard Bauckham are giving lectures on Jesus' divine identity in the synoptics at Tyndale House, an evangelical para-university institution at Cambridge. Here are the details.

At the same time, healing and exorcism in the name of Jesus is similar in some ways to Mediterranean practice, except that Christians did it only in the name of Jesus and it seemed to be regular practice.

Hellenists and Hebrews
In this final section of the chapter, Hurtado disagrees with the position of Dunn, Martin Hengel, and others that the Hellenistic Jews of Acts 6ff differed somewhat in their theology from the Aramaic speaking ones of Acts 1-6. Here he draws heavily on the arguments of Craig Hill in Hellenists and Hebrews (1992).

On the one hand, I agree that Hengel's position is a little extreme. Hengel, showing his Lutheran background, sees not only the Hellenists but Jesus criticizing Torah and temple. I do personally think that Jesus largely disregarded the Torah's purity codes in deference to more important principles.

I do agree with Hurtado that the Hellenists probably did not have a different Christology from the "Hebrews." However, I suspect that they were in fact "proto-Paulinists," that they differed from Aramaic-speaking Jerusalem Christianity in ways similar to how Paul differed with them. And the temple surely played some role in the differences, even if Acts 7 has upgraded their position in the light of its own day.

Finally, I still side with Dunn that the persecution in Acts 8 was directed more toward the Hellenists than the Hebrews. Mentioning that James was martyred too is irrelevant. Stephen was martyred for quite different reasons than James by different people at a different time. I'll say what I tell all my NT survey classes. Acts 12 shows what Peter did when he was the target--he left town. In Acts 8 he doesn't have to leave.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

I was reading "The Text and the Times" by Robin Scroggs yesterday. He points out, as you have before that the early Christian movement was as movement of the "misfits" (that was not the term he used, but..). These were the poor, anti-establisment, egalitarian, apocalyptic sectarian peasantry that had no "power". This was the class that Jesus ministered to. I do not believe that all people were to fit in this category and it seems that this was not a universal, but a specified message. It empowered the disempowered.
The function of beauty that the Greeks admired was possibly too extravagant for the peasantry to bear. And since this was an uneducated agrarian class, the Christian would be in that class. Whereas this was the beginning of the Christian movement in humanitarian "aid" to the underclass, the Greeks were the class of the philosophers. This was Paul's education. So, conversion for Paul was understanding the humanitarian "needs". And since his conversion was one out of "tradition" to "humanity", he understood that meeting the pagan on their "terms" was a means of redemption. This is where "theology" began, using the religious cult and the Greek philosophy to bridge a gap in understanding, creating an even playing field when it came to humanity and humanity's God.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

The Greeks also influenced our form of government, in understanding nature as graced, that is that all men are created equal by their Creator, they have certain inalienable rights. Nature as graced was not the understanding of the Reformers. Their understanding was one of original sin where there needed a whoesale theology of salvation, instead of understanding man's innate capacities toward good (this doe not mean that we are as good as we can be, nor that we are as bad as we can be, either.)...

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