This outstanding book provides an in-depth historical study of the place of Jesus in the religious life, beliefs, and worship of Christians from the beginnings of the Christian movement down to the late second century. Lord Jesus Christ is a monumental work on earliest Christian devotion to Jesus. Larry Hurtado, widely respected for his previous contributions to the study of the New Testament and Christian origins, offers the best view to date of how the first Christians saw and revered Jesus as divine. In assembling this compelling picture, Hurtado draws on a wide body of ancient sources, from Scripture and the writings of such figures as Ignatius of Antioch and Justin to apocryphal texts such as the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Truth.
Hurtado considers such themes as early beliefs about Jesus’ divine status and significance. He also explores telling devotional practices of the time, including prayer and worship, the use of Jesus’ name in exorcism, baptism and healing, ritual invocation of Jesus as Lord, martyrdom, and lesser-known phenomena such as prayer postures and the scribal practice known today as the nomina sacra. The revealing portrait that emerges from Hurtado’s comprehensive study yields definitive answers to questions like these: how important was this formative period to later Christian tradition? When did the divinization of Jesus first occur? Was early Christianity influenced by neighboring religions? How did the idea of Jesus’ divinity change old views of God? And why did the powerful dynamics of early beliefs and practices encourage people to make the costly move of becoming a Christian?
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“The third thesis is that this intense devotion to Jesus, which includes reverencing him as divine, was offered and articulated characteristically within a firm stance of exclusivist monotheism, particularly in the circles of early Christians that anticipated and helped to establish what became mainstream (and subsequently, familiar) Christianity.” (Page 3)
“There are thus three main types of Pauline contexts in which Jesus is characteristically referred to as Kyrios: (1) In hortatory statements and passages Jesus is the Lord/Master whose teaching and example are authoritative for believers. (2) In references to eschatological expectations, Jesus is designated the Lord who will come again as agent of God. (3) In formulae and passages reflecting actions of the worship setting, Kyrios designates the unequaled status given to Jesus by God and is the characteristic title given to Jesus in the worship practices of early Christian circles.” (Page 117)
“There is no dispute that divine sonship was a category in the pagan religious environment of the Roman era, and that those referred to as sons of the gods were treated as divine. But a careful analysis of the theme in Paul’s epistles shows that his attribution of divine sonship to Jesus derives its meaning from biblical and Jewish traditions, in which divine sonship did not necessarily connote divinity. In these traditions divine sonship language was applied to the divinely chosen king, the devout, righteous individual, and to Israel collectively, particularly in the Second Temple period; in these cases divine sonship connoted special favor and relationship with God.” (Page 22)
Hurtado has swum against the prevailing currents of scholarship in locating a well-developed Christology at the well springs of the Jesus movement in the Jewish community. His arguments may prove to be the most significant advance in New Testament studies in our times.
—Concordia Theological Quarterly
Hurtado has provided scholars with a study of impressive scope and erudition that should be read and engaged by all those seeking to understand the origins of Christianity.
The present volume is a veritable tour de force, as Hurtado wends his way through the New Testament, the writings of the apostolic and apologetic Fathers of the Church, and second-century Christian apocrypha. . . . Lord Jesus Christ is a book that deserves to appear on the reading list for comprehensive examinations in theology, not to mention that it also deserves to appear on the library shelves of those who consider themselves veterans in New Testament study.
—Catholic Biblical Quarterly
Hurtado approaches the early church with an integrity and thoroughness that should be a model for historians and theologians working in this area. . . . His writing is uncomplicated and illuminating, and his sensibilities are evangelical in the best sense of the term.
Larry Hurtado is an internationally respected New Testament scholar and is professor of New Testament Language, Literature and Theology at The University of Edinburgh, Scotland. He is an expert of the Gospels (esp. Gospel of Mark), the Apostle Paul, Early Christology, the Jewish Background of the New Testament, New Testament Textual Criticism.