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How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God?: Historical Questions about Earliest Devotion to Jesus

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In How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God? Larry Hurtado investigates the intense devotion to Jesus that emerged with surprising speed after his death. Reverence for Jesus among early Christians, notes Hurtado, included both grand claims about Jesus' significance and a pattern of devotional practices that effectively treated him as divine. This book argues that whatever one m In How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God? Larry Hurtado investigates the intense devotion to Jesus that emerged with surprising speed after his death. Reverence for Jesus among early Christians, notes Hurtado, included both grand claims about Jesus' significance and a pattern of devotional practices that effectively treated him as divine. This book argues that whatever one makes of such devotion to Jesus, the subject deserves serious historical consideration. Mapping out the lively current debate about Jesus, Hurtado explains the evidence, issues, and positions at stake. He goes on to treat the opposition to -- and severe costs of -- worshiping Jesus, the history of incorporating such devotion into Jewish monotheism, and the role of religious experience in Christianity's development out of Judaism. The follow-up to Hurtado's award-winningLord Jesus Christ (2003), this book provides compelling answers to queries about the development of the church's belief in the divinity of Jesus.


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In How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God? Larry Hurtado investigates the intense devotion to Jesus that emerged with surprising speed after his death. Reverence for Jesus among early Christians, notes Hurtado, included both grand claims about Jesus' significance and a pattern of devotional practices that effectively treated him as divine. This book argues that whatever one m In How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God? Larry Hurtado investigates the intense devotion to Jesus that emerged with surprising speed after his death. Reverence for Jesus among early Christians, notes Hurtado, included both grand claims about Jesus' significance and a pattern of devotional practices that effectively treated him as divine. This book argues that whatever one makes of such devotion to Jesus, the subject deserves serious historical consideration. Mapping out the lively current debate about Jesus, Hurtado explains the evidence, issues, and positions at stake. He goes on to treat the opposition to -- and severe costs of -- worshiping Jesus, the history of incorporating such devotion into Jewish monotheism, and the role of religious experience in Christianity's development out of Judaism. The follow-up to Hurtado's award-winningLord Jesus Christ (2003), this book provides compelling answers to queries about the development of the church's belief in the divinity of Jesus.

30 review for How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God?: Historical Questions about Earliest Devotion to Jesus

  1. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    Very hard sledding for me. Read it for a church discussion group. Very scholarly, over my head. No surprise, the book did not clearly answer the question posed in the title, which is one of the most important questions in human history.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ed Creedy

    At times felt as though much was being said without a great deal being said, and disappointing to see a slight loss in scriptural confidence from his earlier writing. Hurtado himself admits much of what he discusses is treated in his earlier works, and so some overlap is understandable. Overall an interesting survey of early Jesus devotion among the first Christians, but perhaps a little too limited as a study.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Robert Schut

    The author treated the subject very evenly throughout the book. He showed that the devotion to Jesus by the early Christian community was a natural response to the idea that he was treated as divine from the beginning of their origin and not something that was an afterthought. His book answers questions that many might have today about their behavior being the "cause" of Jesus' divinity rather than the "result." The author treated the subject very evenly throughout the book. He showed that the devotion to Jesus by the early Christian community was a natural response to the idea that he was treated as divine from the beginning of their origin and not something that was an afterthought. His book answers questions that many might have today about their behavior being the "cause" of Jesus' divinity rather than the "result."

  4. 4 out of 5

    John Agar

    A tremendously disappointing book. Having acknowledged that Jesus seems to have been divinized almost immediately after his death, and that his elevation to godhead was a remarkable event within Judaism, the book never truly tries to answer the question it asks. It simply repeats what everyone has already known: People experienced the risen Jesus, both in person and through mystical experiences. How that happened is the question. So, after 200 pages, this is how Hutardo claims to answer his ques A tremendously disappointing book. Having acknowledged that Jesus seems to have been divinized almost immediately after his death, and that his elevation to godhead was a remarkable event within Judaism, the book never truly tries to answer the question it asks. It simply repeats what everyone has already known: People experienced the risen Jesus, both in person and through mystical experiences. How that happened is the question. So, after 200 pages, this is how Hutardo claims to answer his question: “[W]hat could have prompted such a major innovation in the devotional scruples and practices that the earliest Christian groups inherited from the Jewish tradition? To put the question a bit more pointedly, what might have moved Jews in touch with their religious tradition to feel free to offer to Jesus the kind of unparalleled cultic devotion that characterized early Christian religious practice? Given the evident strength of the scruple against infringing upon the uniqueness of the God of Israel by sharing the cultic reverence due to God with any other figure, I judge that the only option is to think that those members of the early Christian movement among whom there emerged the cultic devotion to Jesus that I have described must have felt compelled by God to reverence Jesus in ways otherwise reserved for God alone. The early Christians, however, were more concerned to proclaim Jesus' significance and to express their devotion to // him than to provide explanations of how they came to the convictions that prompted them to do so.” (P. 198) Beside the fact that this was known within three days of Jesus’s death, Hutardo takes books like Acts and the gospels as if they were accurate history, offers pure speculation about the motives of the authors, mentions Hare but ignores his findings, and ignores Brandon, the Jerusalem church, and Paul’s competition with “Judaizers.” The book is slanted, uninformed chit-chat. Plus, it’s marred by Hutardo’s insistence on using terms like “binitarian monotheism,” which, when he actually gets below the level of blather, he more or less admits is ditheism. Obviously, “binitarian” has nothing to do with trinitarianism, since Jesus at first was definitively another god in addition to the Hebrew god. The fact that Jesus-believers like Paul didn’t or couldn’t explain just where Jesus stood vis-a-vis God, but treated Jesus as a god, doesn’t justify terms like “binitarian”: “binitarian” is simply another way of identifying a problem that Hutardo doesn’t provide a solution to. Hutardo says that people haven’t taken seriously the fact that Jesus’s followers had mystical experiences. This is a straw man. Everyone has taken this seriously. The apostles and Paul based their new faith on these experiences, and mysticism has always been part of Christianity, no less than other religions That’s the starting point. Now — I think there’s a further point to make, though Hutardo doesn’t make it, and it’s necessarily speculative, with the facts probably lost with the destruction of the Jewish state in 70. That is that, along with the Pharisees and the other Jewish sects, there must have been a Jewish sect, or at least some very learned Jews, who took the focused universalism of the Jewish god and expanded it in an organic way: God was the god of the world, and therefore must offer himself to others than simply Jews. Jesus’s charismatic message, though the gospels provide scant evidence, must have expressed something of this. The Jerusalem church, at least as described by Paul, was struggling to assimilate this message into their existing world view. Paul made the logical step and dispensed with Judaism. This theory helps explain how Jesus’s message became so thoroughly embedded in the OT. The synoptic gospellers, like Paul, either were thoroughly conversant with the OT or their sources were. If the Jesus faith had not had religious experts formulating its initial presentation, it would have either been merely a pagan phenomenon or an intra-Jewish one without the divinization of Jesus, or it would have died of inanition. But the embedding was done in a particularly sophisticated way. It was proto-gnostic, in that God recedes from the picture leaving Jesus as the creator and blesser of all things. The father becomes a shadow. Someone said that no one understood Paul better than Marcion, and Marcion misunderstood him. Marcion’s misunderstanding arose from his trying to impose a logical framework on Paul’s irrationality. The creation of the trinity was another attempt. Swinburne’s social trinity is a modern attempt, and though it reduces the trinity to a bunch of pals (they have each other’s back), its polytheism is at least more logical than anything Christianity formulated out of its Jewish base. Silly but more logical.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rodney Harvill

    While the book’s title is truly provocative, it was never intended to question the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Rather, the focus is on when and how Jesus was first recognized and worshiped as deity. Scholars have approached the process by which this occurred with several different theories: • That Jesus was transitioned from teacher to deity in an evolutionary process over the course of first century. One form of this view is that Jesus was first worshiped as God by non-Jews such as the God-f While the book’s title is truly provocative, it was never intended to question the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Rather, the focus is on when and how Jesus was first recognized and worshiped as deity. Scholars have approached the process by which this occurred with several different theories: • That Jesus was transitioned from teacher to deity in an evolutionary process over the course of first century. One form of this view is that Jesus was first worshiped as God by non-Jews such as the God-fearing Gentiles, people whose pagan background to whom apotheosis would have been more amenable. • That the worship of Jesus as deity is nothing more than a form of the veneration of past figures such as Abraham, Moses or David in ancient Jewish tradition. • That the identification and worship of Jesus as deity was nothing more than a logical inference that He was entitled to worship on account of his exalted status. In this book, Dr. Hurtado focuses not on theology, but on the available evidence for the earliest devotional practice by Christians. Regarding the evolutionary process, Dr.Hurtado easily debunks it by drawing on evidence of very early worship of Jesus, Christian writings that include books of the New Testament. The earliest Christians were Jews, not pagans or former pagans, and the earliest Christian writings documenting this devotion are too early to be explained by an evolutionary process. In doing this, he stands on the shoulders of those who have gone before him and builds on their work. In the nineteenth century, Enlightenment scholars argued for an evolutionary process of theological development that precluded a first century date for any New Testament writings. Given that the oldest available manuscript evidence was from a thousand years after the events of the New Testament, who was to say that they were wrong? Well, God raised up scholars who searched for early manuscript evidence and found it. As a result of their work, the early date of most New Testament writings is not even questioned, even by the skeptics. Dr. Hurtado uses such New Testament writings as Philippians 2:6-11, something he could not have done and maintained credibility with the academic community a century earlier. Dr. Hurtado acknowledges the high degree of veneration of figures such as Abraham, Moses and David in the Second Temple Judaism out of which early Christianity grew. Even the New Testament testifies to this. How many times do the Jews appeal to their Abrahamic ancestry in the gospels, for example., At the same time, he also points out that there is no evidence of this veneration ever featuring apotheosis or worship as deity and that the early church’s devotion to Jesus was unique. Regarding the inference concept, I have some mixed feelings and wonder if some of what Dr. Hurtado is challenging is nothing more than semantic differences. When Jesus’ disciples saw the risen Lord, was it not an inferential process, albeit a very quick one, that convinced them that He was God? Dr. Hurtado points out that there is typically a strong focus on the theology of the early church, as evidenced by the New Testament, and not much emphasis on how the early church showed its devotion to Jesus. There is good reason for this emphasis. Consider how Paul builds a theological case in Romans by a series of logical arguments. Conversely, as Dr. Hurtado points out, when Paul used what looks like an early hymn or part of one in Phil. 2:6-11, he expected that the recipients of the letter weren’t going to question it. Instead, it was the premise of an ethical argument. On account of how Jesus conducted Himself, we should conduct ourselves in a certain manner. Then again, this is a form of logical argumentation. We mustn’t forget that Paul and other early Christians reasoned with the Jews in the synagogues, drawing logical inferences from the Law and the Prophets that Jesus was the Messiah. So, while I agree with Dr. Hurtado that the emphasis on theology shouldn’t neglect early devotional practice, I think that his approach and the theology approach complement each other nicely. I also love the apologetic value of his approach. There are many darts that the enemy can and does throw at the people of God to form doubts in our minds, but work such as this helps to blunt them. So, I praise my God that He has raised up scholars such as this.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lee Irons

    This book is a follow-up to his much bigger Lord Jesus Christ (2003), but this would be a great place to start if you want to get the essence of Hurtado’s argument in a shorter form. Hurtado focuses on the worship of Jesus, and various other aspects of reverence for and devotion to Jesus in the early church, as the basic data that demonstrate that the early church believed in the deity of Christ from basically the beginning. This is quite surprising given that the first Christians were all Jewis This book is a follow-up to his much bigger Lord Jesus Christ (2003), but this would be a great place to start if you want to get the essence of Hurtado’s argument in a shorter form. Hurtado focuses on the worship of Jesus, and various other aspects of reverence for and devotion to Jesus in the early church, as the basic data that demonstrate that the early church believed in the deity of Christ from basically the beginning. This is quite surprising given that the first Christians were all Jewish believers in Jesus and as such would have been committed to the monotheistic principle that divine worship ought to be given only to the one true God. The worship of Jesus alongside God is therefore a “striking innovation” in cultic practice. It may be utterly surprising and difficult to explain, but the sure fact is that religious devotion and worship were given to the exalted Jesus very soon after his resurrection, and this is what led the early church to the conviction that Jesus was God. I appreciate much of what Hurtado has to say. I enjoyed his interpretation of Philippians 2:6-11, particularly when he takes on the big name, James D. G. Dunn, who famously uses what he calls “Adam Christology” in an attempt to deny the clear implication of Jesus’ preexistence. However, for me, Hurtado’s emphasis on the worship of the exalted Jesus is not sufficient as a causal explanation of EHC unless one also gives a prominent place to the self-consciousness of Jesus as God’s Son (see Aquila H. I. Lee’s book below). Since the self-consciousness of Jesus is totally missing in his reconstruction, Hurtado ends up with a very strange answer to the question, “Why did the early church worship Jesus?” He says they did so because they had various revelatory (charismatic?) experiences in worship in which they felt that it was God’s will for Jesus to be worshipped. In obedience to God’s will, they simply worshipped Jesus. Then, on the basis of these religious experiences, they drew the conclusion that Jesus must be divine. This seems completely implausible to me. I do not see how the early Christians as Jewish monotheists could have credited such revelatory experiences in the first place, unless there was already something in place to prepare them for it. This is where I would see the self-consciousness of Jesus and his own claims to be the Son of God setting the foundation, with the resurrection and exaltation of Christ acting as God’s confirmation and vindication of his claims.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Brandon

    If you're interested in the history of the development of devotion to Jesus of Nazareth as God, this might be the best book available. It's certainly the best place to start, at only a little over 200 pages. In such a short read, Hurtado is able to capture a remarkable depth of scholarship that he himself has produced and also present it in a way that is very easy and dare I say, fun to read. Excellent book! Highly recommended for any Christian or non-Christian who is interested in exploring the o If you're interested in the history of the development of devotion to Jesus of Nazareth as God, this might be the best book available. It's certainly the best place to start, at only a little over 200 pages. In such a short read, Hurtado is able to capture a remarkable depth of scholarship that he himself has produced and also present it in a way that is very easy and dare I say, fun to read. Excellent book! Highly recommended for any Christian or non-Christian who is interested in exploring the origins of the Christian faith.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Wyatt Graham

    Larry Hurtado provides a clear case for early devotion to Jesus. He also engages with scholarship that would disagree with him in a clear and fair manner. At the end of the day, Hurtado seems to have the stronger case. Yet this book was written 2005 and other arguments probably have come to light since this time. For example, Kirk's 2016 book on the Man Jesus Christ probably requires a response (I have yet to read it). Larry Hurtado provides a clear case for early devotion to Jesus. He also engages with scholarship that would disagree with him in a clear and fair manner. At the end of the day, Hurtado seems to have the stronger case. Yet this book was written 2005 and other arguments probably have come to light since this time. For example, Kirk's 2016 book on the Man Jesus Christ probably requires a response (I have yet to read it).

  9. 5 out of 5

    Vincent

    Excellent body of work from Dr. Hurtado Highly recommend this volume from Dr. Hurtado. The reader will find this material challenging and thought provoking, a wonderful addition to your Biblically based library.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jorge

    El autor revisa la evidencia histórica sobre la comprensión de Jesús cómo Dios entre los primeros cristianos. Muestra claramente el proceso desde un enfoque de las ciencias sociales y no teológico. Un libro erudito, fácil de leer y accesible para los no especialistas

  11. 5 out of 5

    Brent Wilson

    I got turned onto Larry Hurtado through referral by a BYU professor, so I was curious what kind of scholarship he was doing. Turns out he looks carefully a group of NT scholars who focus on how Jesus was seen among the earliest converts - kind of an indirect way of getting at the "historical Jesus." In fact these scholars redefine the criteria for evidence of what can tell us something meaningful about Jesus - more sociological/ anthropological evidence, less about figure-detail issues in histor I got turned onto Larry Hurtado through referral by a BYU professor, so I was curious what kind of scholarship he was doing. Turns out he looks carefully a group of NT scholars who focus on how Jesus was seen among the earliest converts - kind of an indirect way of getting at the "historical Jesus." In fact these scholars redefine the criteria for evidence of what can tell us something meaningful about Jesus - more sociological/ anthropological evidence, less about figure-detail issues in historical context. This volume was okay, but I want to keep reading Hurtado's other work; I have a feeling I haven't hit the vein of gold yet!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Aswindo

    Dalam buku ini Larry Hurtado menyelidiki penyembahan luar biasa terhadap Yesus yang muncul secara sangat cepat sesudah kematianNya. Hurtado memperhatikan bahwa penghormatan kepada Yesus di antara orang Kristen mula-mula dulu dilakukan dengan dua cara, yaitu mengakui secara besar-besaran bahwa Yesus memiliki arti yang penting serta menetapkan cara-cara penyembahan yang secara efektif memberlakukan Yesus sebagai Tuhan. Buku ini menunjukkan bahwa apapun pendapat orang tentang penyembahan kepada Yes Dalam buku ini Larry Hurtado menyelidiki penyembahan luar biasa terhadap Yesus yang muncul secara sangat cepat sesudah kematianNya. Hurtado memperhatikan bahwa penghormatan kepada Yesus di antara orang Kristen mula-mula dulu dilakukan dengan dua cara, yaitu mengakui secara besar-besaran bahwa Yesus memiliki arti yang penting serta menetapkan cara-cara penyembahan yang secara efektif memberlakukan Yesus sebagai Tuhan. Buku ini menunjukkan bahwa apapun pendapat orang tentang penyembahan kepada Yesus itu, persoalan tersebut patut mendapat pertimbangan historis yang serius.

  13. 5 out of 5

    C.J.

    In How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God? Larry Hurtado investigates the intense devotion to Jesus that emerged with surprising speed after his death. Reverence for Jesus among early Christians, notes Hurtado, included both grand claims about Jesus' significance and a pattern of devotional practices that effectively treated him as divine. This book argues that whatever one makes of such devotion to Jesus, the subject deserves serious historical consideration. In How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God? Larry Hurtado investigates the intense devotion to Jesus that emerged with surprising speed after his death. Reverence for Jesus among early Christians, notes Hurtado, included both grand claims about Jesus' significance and a pattern of devotional practices that effectively treated him as divine. This book argues that whatever one makes of such devotion to Jesus, the subject deserves serious historical consideration.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Roar

    I'm not very knowledgeable in the area of "the historical Jesus," but to me this seems to be a good contribution! I didn't finish the book, though... I'm not very knowledgeable in the area of "the historical Jesus," but to me this seems to be a good contribution! I didn't finish the book, though...

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dick Pickett

    Excellent study of Christian origins.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Joy

  17. 4 out of 5

    Marlon Lahope

  18. 4 out of 5

    Steven

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ion Eftodi

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sim

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rudolph P. Boshoff

  22. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

  23. 5 out of 5

    Seiji

  24. 5 out of 5

    RJ

  25. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sameh Maher

  27. 4 out of 5

    Luke Brodine

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jean Zamora

  29. 4 out of 5

    Paul Dubuc

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dwayne Goins

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