Larry W. Hurtado 1943-2019

This week I received the news that Larry Hurtado’s fight against his leukemia was over. By his death a good friend, and a brilliant scholar has passed away. He will be greatly missed.

I first met him in the US, at a SBL Annual Meeting, in 1996 0r 1997. I had been following him and his discussions on the then popular Ioudaios listserver; several years later, he started blogging; in fact, he posted his last blogpost on Nov 17th this fall. In 1998 he invited me to Edinburgh as a Visiting Nordic scholar, and I occasionally met him up through the years at various conferences.

His books have been of great interest to me; I especially cherish his One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism (1988,1998,2015); Lord Jesus Christ(2003, 2005); How on Earth did Jesus become a god? (2005); Destroyer of the gods. Early Christian distinctiveness in the Roman World (2016), and his small volume with the long title: How on Earth did anyone become a Christian in the First Threee Centuries ?(2016). He even published a piece on Philo; you can read that paper here. A lot of other studies by LH can be accessed at his blog.

Larry had a somewhat conservative background. He had served as a pastor, and he had a pentecostal background. When I read his great work (both in size and value) from 2003 on Lord Jesus Christ, and in particular his emphasis on revelatory experiences in the New Testament, I found it very interesting in light of his pentecostal background. However, he never flagged that himself, as far as I know.

It is nice to see the many posts on blogs and Facebook these days, witnessing the impact of Larry Hurtado. He will be remembered and missed.

Divine Embodiment in Philo

The second last issue of Journal for the study of Judaism has an interesting article dealing with Philo of Alexandria:
Deborah Forger, ‘Divine embodiment in Philo of Alexandria,’ Journal for the Study of Judaism 49.2 (2018) 223-262.

Its abstract runs like this:

Because later polemics established Jews and Christians as binary opposites, distinguished largely by their views on God’s body, scholars have not sufficiently explored how other Jews in the early Roman period, who stood outside the Jesus movement, conceived of how the divine could become embodied on earth. The first-century Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria often operates as the quintessential representative of a Jew who stressed God’s absolute incorporeality. Here I demonstrate how Philo also presents a means by which a part of Israel’s God could become united with human materiality, showing how the patriarchs and Moses function as his paradigms. This evidence suggests that scholarship on divine embodiment has been limited by knowledge of later developments in Christian theology. Incarnational formulas, like that found in John 1.14 were not the only way that Jews in the first and second century CE  understood that God can become united with human form.

In her conclusions, she also states that “Far from being one monolithic way that ancient Jews imagined that God could become embodied, what my analysis reveals is that there where likely multiply ways that Jews in the first few centuries of the Common Era envisioned that God, or a part of God, could become united with bodily, or material, form. By exploring a particular snapshot of Jewish history, instead of employing a teleological lens that works backward from a later known outcome in Christian theology, Philo’s descriptions of humanity’s divinely-inspired soul can be revealed for what they are: a competing model of divine embodiment.”

This is a challenging (and for some, perhaps, provocative?) thesis. My first impression is that she draws somewhat too far ranging conclusions base on a somewhat meagre basis. May be a closer reading will change my first impressions……

A New book from Karl Olav Sandnes

sandnesThe Norwegian scholar, Karl Olav Sandnes, professor in New Testament Studies at the Norwegian School of Theology, Oslo, Norway, has another new book coming out these days.

Prof. Sandnes has by now a distinguished list of publications, and in the last ones in particular, he offers new perspectives and manages to draw on a great variety of sources,  thus coming up with several interesting topics and views. For his Bibliography, see here.

The last (so far..) volume, now announced by Brill, has the following exciting title:

Sandnes, Karl Olav. 2016. Early Christian Discourses on Jesus’ Prayer at Gethsemane. Courageous, Committed, Cowardly? Novum Testamentum, Supplements 166. Leiden: Brill.

The publisher presents the book thus:
“From early on, Christians passed down the account of Jesus’s agony at the prospect of his own death and his prayer that the cup should pass from him (Gethsemane). Yet, this is a troublesome aspect of Christian tradition. Jesus was committed to his death, but as it approached, he prayed for his escape, even as he submitted himself to God’s will. Ancient critics mocked Jesus and his followers for the events at Gethsemane. The ‘hero’ failed to meet the cultural standards for noble death and masculinity. As such, this story calls for further reflection and interpretation. The present book unfolds discourses from the earliest centuries of Christianity to determine what strategies were developed to come to terms with Gethsemane.”

A Historical Jesus blog

People are still establishing and launching new Blogs; this one is about the historical Jesus:
The Jesus Blog:

The most interesting aspect about this blog is probably the fact that it is run by two younger scholars who have the potentiality of offering new viewpoints to an old debate. Their list of publications so far are indeed both interesting and impressive.

Moses as ‘God’ in Philo

Eerdmans is publishing a Festschrift for Max Turner this summer:
The Spirit and Christ in the New Testament and Christian Theology. Essays in Honor of Max Turner.
Edited by I. Howard Marshall, Volker Rabens and Cornelis Bennema.
Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Mi., ISBN: 978-0-8028-6753-7. 387 Pages.
In the Editors preface they write, inter alia, “This is a Festschrift to celebrate Max Turner’s sixty-fifth birthday. . . . We felt that such a volume should be united by more than a common desire to honor Max. Two principal areas in which Max has worked focus on the work of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, with the implications of this for the life of the church today. A volume that picks up these themes and uses Max’s work as the launching pad for further investigation of these topics would be of considerable value to students and scholars alike. We thus aimed to strike out in fresh directions rather than repeat what previous studies have done. As a result, this Festschrift contains contributions from Max’s colleagues at LST and the wider academy, as well as his former students (many of whom now belong to the latter category). It focuses on the areas of the Spirit and Christ, both in the New Testament and in aspects of Christian theology, with topics that are relevant for the church worldwide today.”

The main reason for mentioning it here in this blog, however, is the fact that it contains an article dealing specifically with Philo: Richard Bauckham, Moses as “God” in Philo of Alexandria: A Precedent for Christology?

The Shema and The First Commandment in First Corinthians

waalerThe Norwegian scholar Erik Waaler now has his dissertation published at Mohr-Siebeck. I was one of the opponents at his final exam – what we here in Norway call disputation – in 2005, and it will be interesting to see how our praises and criticisms have been dealt with in this revision of his thesis.
Erik Waaler,
The Shema and The First Commandment in First Corinthians
An Intertextual Approach to Paul’s Re-reading of Deuteronomy.
WUNT II 253. 2008. XIII, 563 pages.

The publisher presents his work in this way:
“Erik Waaler takes a somewhat modified intertextual approach to the relationship between Jewish monotheism and Pauline Christology. His focus is on Paul’s Christological reuse of Shema in 1Cor 8:1-6. He argues that the statement “there is no God but one” (8:4a) is a combined echo of Shema and the First Commandment, and that v. 4a might be associated with the Second Commandment. This fits with Paul’s constant use of Deuteronomy in 1Cor 5-10. Admittedly first century non-Christian Jews did not use the term one about other beings together with the one God, thus combined phrases such as ‘one God the Father and one Lord Jesus Christ’ are without Jewish parallels. Apart from this Christological twist, Paul’s reuse of such phrases is in line with Jewish custom. He uses phrases like one God and one Lord as arguments for unity, although he speaks of unity in the Church. In the Old Testament, themes like God’s fatherhood and His oneness are associated with creation and salvation. Paul echoes this, but when Shema let the phrase ‘one Lord’ signify Yahweh, Paul let it signify Jesus, who like Yahweh is contrasted to the idols. Additionally, both Shema and 1Cor 8:1-3 speak of love directed at God. The Christological twist is supported by Paul’s Christological re-interpretation of the divine epithet the Rock (Deut 32). In the context, Paul makes membership in the Christian in-group dependent on the confession: “Jesus is Lord.” Erik Waaler concludes that Paul in 1Cor 8:1-6 sustains a relatively high Christology. Paul achieves this effect by a contextual and binitarian re-reading of Shema.”

Jesus and the God of Israel

Somewhat unexepectedly, the most recent book of Richard Bauckham appeared in my mailbox today. Another interesting volume to read is on my desk:
Richard Bauckham,
Jesus and the God of Israel.
God crucified and other studies on the New Testament’s Christology of Divine Identity.

Grand Rapids; Eerdmans, 2008. 285 pp.

It turns out that his famous, but brief study; God Crucified (1998), is included as the first chapter of this volume (pp. 1-59), then we have the following studies included as separate chapters:

Biblical theology and the Problems of Monotheism (60-106),
The ‘Most High’ God and the Nature of Early Jewish Monotheism (107-126),
The worship of Jesus in Early Christianity (127-151),
The Throne of God and the Worship of Jesus (152-181),
Paul’s Christology of Divine Identity (182-132),
The Divinity of Jesus in the Letter to the Hebrews (233-254
God’s Self-identification with the Godforsaken in the Gospel of Mark (254-268).

Some of these chapters have been published before, but are now revised, others are not yet published; some of these will also appear in other volumes.
Finally, it turns out that this is not Bauckham’s final work and words on these issues. He admits that he is still working, and will be for some time to come, on a larger study, provisonally entitled Jesus and the Identity of God: Early Jewish Monotheism and New Testament Christology. Hence those who like the thesis set forth in this collection of minor studies still have something to look forward to from the desk of R. Bauckham.