Category Archives: Christology

In Appreciation of Larry Hurtado

I was saddened to hear the news of Larry Hurtado’s leukemia reactivating after having been in remission for 9 months. I pray his strength in the Lord as he explores whatever options for care that he has, but I wanted to take a moment to note my appreciation for him and his work.

It’s no secret that I’m a lover of books and that I have a decent sized personal library. But there was a time when my library consisted of a single KJV Bible, an NIV Bible, and a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. This was what I had for the first 3.5–4 years of my salvation. And then in 2006 I purchased Brenton’s Septuagint, a New Oxford Annotated Apocrypha, Robert Letham’s The Holy Trinity: In Scripture, History, Theology, and Worship, and Simon Gathercole’s The Preexistent Son.

Letham and Gathercole were both springboards into various streams of scholarship in trinitarian theology and early Christology. I had been studying these doctrines in Scripture, researching them on the internet, and debating them with detractors in chatrooms but I hadn’t really been exposed to academic books on these subjects. And then on July 21, 2006 I printed out an article from a website called For an Answer by L. W. Hurtado. This article was entitled “What Do We Mean by ‘First-Century Jewish Monotheism’?.”

I gleaned a lot from this article while having no idea who its author was. And then in my reading of Letham and Gathercole I saw the name Larry Hurtado referenced several times throughout their books. I looked at their bibliographies and then took to Amazon. I purchased Larry W. Hurtado’s Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity and gave it a careful and slow reading. This book would change the way I thought about, argued in favor of, and defended early Christology.

I proceeded to spend years getting my hands on all of the Hurtado resources that I could find. I have a folder on several hard drives (in the even that any one of them crashes) filled with articles that he has written and most of the books that he has authored (save a few of his more recent volumes) and have read them all with great profit.

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On three separate occasions I have emailed Professor Hurtado and three times he graciously responded. The first time was a question concerning a claim about Matthew 28:19 not being original. At the time he was preparing for a 3 week lecture trip to Australia and Singapore and passed my question along to Paul Foster who replied promptly. The second time was a note of appreciation, which I will reproduce along with his response below. The final time was to run a few of my disagreements with James McGrath’s The Only True God by him and see if they held weight (he thought that they did). But I’ve said all this to say that even being as big a name in the field as he was, he always took the time to offer a response to a nobody like me.

And while I don’t find Hurtado’s arguments as substantial now as I once did I still have the greatest appreciation for his work and the paths it led me down. My library grew by leaps and bounds from reading his footnotes and bibliographies. My thinking about the importance of actual real life worship practices wouldn’t be what it is without him. I’d take a lot more issue with his work these days than I did in those days but I’d still argue that it’s necessary reading and has to be dealt with by anyone talking about early Christology and Christian origins.

I will be praying for him and his family as he deals with his health issues and I invite you to join me in doing so.

– – –

Below is my email in appreciation of Prof. Hurtado and his response. I’ll note that he responded to me on July 4, which is my birthday.

July 3, 2009, 1:59 PM

Hi Prof. Hurtado,

My name is Nick Norelli and I’ve emailed you a couple of times in the past to ask questions and you’ve always graciously responded; for that I am thankful.  I was writing now, not to ask any questions, but rather to express my appreciation for your work.

Having come to Christ in mid-2002 in a small Pentecostal church in New Jersey I wasn’t immediately exposed to works of scholarship.  I was of the ilk who thought that the best that Christianity had to offer could be found on the Trinity Broadcastng Network with the likes of Benny Hinn and T. D. Jakes.  It wasn’t until I really got interested in learning more about the doctrine of the Trinity that I was exposed to what I’d consider ‘real’ scholarship.  I noticed your works One God, One Lord and Lord Jesus Christ cited in the footnotes and bibliographies to the books I had been reading so I dutifully got a copy of LJC.  It was life changing in terms of the way I argued for a divine Christology and understood the New Testament.  It’s also the book that got me interested in Biblical studies as much as I was interested in theology.  And I also credit LJC with giving me an appreciation for historical inquiry into Christian origins.

Since then I’ve tried to get my hands on everything that you’ve written (articles and books) and I can’t tell you how encouraged I’ve been by your work.  I consider you the top scholar in the field, and I do so after having read the work of many of your peers.  I just wanted to write this note to let you know how appreciative I am for all that you’ve done for me without even knowing it.  May God continue to bless you and your work.

All the best,

Nick Norelli
https://rdtwot.wordpress.com

– – –

July 4, 2009, 7:41 AM

Dear Mr. Norelli,

I’m very grateful for your taking the effort to send me your  encouraging words.  It is very heartening for a scholar to be read at all, and for me especially so by readers beyond one’s circle of fellow academics.  It is even more encouraging that my works communicate clearly and effectively to you and others.

So, thank you again for your encouragement.  It is really appreciated.

Best wishes,
Larry Hurtado

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Phil Long (@Plong42) Reviews my Book

Phil Long as reviewed my book Christology in Review over at his blog Reading Acts. It’s a favorable review—thanks be to God—but Phil was surprised to see that I didn’t review the Michael Bird edited How God Became Jesus. To be honest, I’m surprised that I haven’t reviewed it either. I read it when it first came out and I began a post (which I believe is still in my drafts) summarizing each chapter but for some reason I never got around to finishing it. It’s been so long since I’ve read the book that I’ll have to go back and read it again!

Thanks to Phil for taking the time to read and review the book. I have produced a corrected edition in which I have fixed all of the typographical errors I spotted in the original version. I also fixed the format, which I wasn’t happy with in the original version. It looks and feels much more like a real book now. I’ll be sending Phil a copy of the update when they come in. I’d also note that I’ve added 2 other reviews to this corrected edition and a bibliography of the books reviewed. The latter became necessary since I removed the bibliographic details from the reviews themselves.

I’ll post on all that another time.

B”H

Home Library/Office Tour

I wanted to do this for a while. I had some time today. One day I’ll get a good camera and give this thing some real production value.

B”H

Baylor & Christology

I’ve just spent the better part of the morning perusing Amazon’s “Prime Day” deals (with no interest in anything they have on sale) and in so doing I’ve learned that Baylor University Press is rereleasing some important volumes on Christology.

The first is Charles A. Gieschen’s Angelomorphic Christology: Antecedents and Early Evidence (Library of Early Christianity). This is slated for release at the end of this month. Considering that third party sellers on Amazon are selling the original hardcover version for over $500 I think that $40 is a steal!

Next up is the incredibly important collection of essays The Jewish Roots of Christological Monotheism: Papers from the St Andrews Conference on the Historical Origins of the Worship of Jesus (Library of Early Christianity)The Jewish Roots of Christological Monotheism edited by Carey Newman and James Davila. This is also set for release at the end of this month and the price is right at $40 as compared to the over $200 price tag from sellers of the original.

Carey Newman’s Paul’s Glory-Christology: Tradition and Rhetoric (Library of Early Christianity) has the same price tag and same release date.

Finally, Larry Hurtado has a collection of essays (750 pages in total!) being published in September entitled Ancient Jewish Monotheism and Early Christian Jesus-Devotion: The Context and Character of Christological Faith (Library of Early Christianity).

While I have most, if not all, of the essays being published in the Hurtado volume in either digital or print formats it will be nice to have them all bound together. I’ll definitely be ordering the Gieschen and Newman volumes as well. Newman’s has eluded me for years. I have a PDF of Gieschen’s but it’s a scan and not the best quality. Still, real books are better than PDFs any day of the week!

I should note that these are all part of Baylor’s Library of Early Christianity series, which I just learned about this morning. I can’t wait to see what else they release!

B”H

One Brief Thought on the Recent Eternal Functional Subordination Kerfuffle

I’ve typed plenty on the debate over eternal functional subordination over the years. Much of what I’ve said can be found in book reviews. Some can be found in dedicated posts to one point of the discussion or another. I’ll leave it to interested readers to search my blog and find all that I’ve said. But I want to repeat something since I keep reading the word “Arian” being used with reference to those who affirm some kind of eternal functional subordination, or eternal authority-submission structure, or eternal asymmetrical order of relation, etc.

If it’s “eternal” then it ain’t “Arian.” It’s really that simple. Arians believed the Son to be a created being. Plain and simple. Yes, he was created “before” time (wrap your head around that one) but the Father existed “before” that. No one who believes that the Son has from all eternity been obedient or submitted to the Father is an Arian because they all believe that for as long as their has been a Father to obey/submit to, there has been a Son who obeys/submits.

That’s my spiel. And a huge thanks to Seumas Macdonald for his roundup of posts on the recent discussion. It saved me a lot of time and energy!

B”H

The New Gnosticism

My pastor called me up last night and asked me to remind him why I had a problem with the sentiment that we are spirits who have souls and live in bodies. I answered that it’s gnostic at its core and it’s just not what we see in Scripture.

If we go back to the beginning it says that God formed man from the dust of the earth. Notice how it leads with that. Body first. Then he breathed the breath of life into this being and he became a living soul. He didn’t create a disembodied spirit and then make a body for it.

The whole man is body, soul, and spirit (I’m tripartite kind of a dude). Man is not fully man devoid of any one of these elements. Having a body is part of being human. Think about it like this: Could God have saved us apart from the Incarnation? Sure. He’s God, he can do whatever he wants. And yet the eternal Son took humanity upon himself in order to live righteously, suffer for our sins, die as an atoning sacrifice, and rise bodily in order to defeat death. Jesus’ body was essential to his mission.

B”H

Moses or God?

At about 6:20 in the above video Brant Pitre says that the feeding of the multitude account in the Gospels would remind first century Jewish readers of Moses. I’m not denying that but he said, “If you’re a first century Jew and you have a prophet who takes out a great crowd into the wilderness and feeds them with bread, who’s that gonna make you think of?”

I can see why Moses might be the connection that someone makes, but why not think of God instead? It was “the LORD, the God of Israel [who said]: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness'” (Exod 5:1 cf. 7:16). It was the LORD who parted the Red Sea so that Israel could pass through on dry land (Exod 14:21) into the desert. It was the LORD who rained down bread from heaven (Exod 16:4).

So yes, Moses was a type of Christ, I agree. And it is easy to make the association with Moses. But I think it’s just as easy to make the association with the LORD, and perhaps even more appropriate. As Sigurd Grindheim pointed out in a couple of books (reviewed here & here) a few years back, Jews certainly had messianic expectations, but they were primarily waiting for God to come into his kingdom.

B”H