This is the first of a four-volume groundbreaking study of Christological origins. The fruit of twenty years research, Jesus Monotheism lays out a new paradigm that goes beyond the now widely held view that Paul and others held to an unprecedented “Christological monotheism.” There was already, in Second Temple Judaism and in the Bible, a kind of “Christological monotheism.” But it is first with Jesus and his followers that a human figure is included in the identity of the one God as a fully divine person.
Volume 1 lays out the arguments of an emerging consensus, championed by Larry Hurtado and Richard Bauckham, that from its Jewish beginnings the Christian community had a high Christology and worshipped Jesus as a divine figure. New data is adduced to support that case. But there are weaknesses in the emerging consensus. For example, it underplays the incarnation and does not convincingly explain what caused the earliest Christology. The recent study of Adam traditions, the findings of Enoch literature specialists, and of those who have explored a Jewish and Christian debt to Greco-Roman Ruler Cult traditions, all point towards a fresh approach to both the origins and shape of the earliest divine Christology.
This book reflects impressive acquaintance with a large body of primary data and a wide swathe of scholarly literature, and prolonged and energetic engagement with the issues discussed. With only occasional lapses, his engagement with the scholarly work of others (especially those whom he credits with shaping ‘the emerging consensus’) combines an irenic and careful description with his criticisms. The book is also the first installment on a remarkable big-idea project. This book deserves (and will require) careful study, and will surely create interest in the projected volumes in which Fletcher-Louis will explicate fully his own ‘new paradigm’ of how the remarkable devotion to Jesus reflected in the NT first emerged.
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Crispin Fletcher-Louis (DPhil, Oxford) is the Director of Whymanity Research and Training. He has held posts at King’s College London, and the universities of Durham and Nottingham. He was the founder of Westminster Theological Centre, where he served as the Principal until 2012.