Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity
Larry W Hurtado
Category: Doctrine and Theology
Magnum Opus is a much overused term in my opinion and as such it is an accolade that has, of late, become slightly tarnished. Larry Hurtado's Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity is, though, worthy of the term. There are several reasons why this is the case:
First, Hurtado's work in this volume is far more nuanced than when his popular One God, One Lord appeared in 1988. Indeed in Lord Jesus Christ some of the criticisms made against One God, One Lord have been dealt with and either rejected or, impressively, some of the detail of Hurtado's thesis has been amended accordingly. This shows deftness and scholarly maturity that some do not have (pages 17-26 are a particularly good example of this).
Second, when One God, One Lord was published, Martin Hengel said of it and of works by others such as Carey Newman and Alan Segal that we were seeing the beginning of a new 'history of religions' school. Hurtado never claimed this for himself. One God, One Lord was not broad enough in its scope to warrant this description. Lord Jesus Christ however is, and will stand as a benchmark for those who wish to discuss the veneration or worship of Jesus for some time to come. Hurtado covers not only New Testament material but the Gospel of Thomas and some Gnostic materials. His handing of the non-New Testament material is as competent and refreshing as that of the biblical (pages 474-478 with his comparison of the Fourth Gospel and Thomas are particularly informative).
Third, this book is accessible. Writing as an Anglican priest, I would want to say that it pays careful study. Hurtado writes in a way that is clear: this, as you will know, is a rare gift amongst those involved in academic research. This is not to say that every minister will want to read the book, but it is informative and helpful in putting beliefs about Jesus into their earliest context. It is a treasure trove of rich resources.
As you can tell, I liked it! Given that in my own research I have argued against Hurtado quite fervently, this has come as something of a surprise to me.
Why should you buy and then read this book?
It may well be a magnum opus, but this reviewer believes Professor Hurtado has more to offer the subject — and it will not be his last word. Lord Jesus Christ is a significant achievement! Buy it, read it and be changed by it.Eerdmans | Order from Eden.co.uk | Order from St Andrew's Bookshops
Kevin Ellis, June 2004
Kevin Ellis is an Anglican priest. He holds a New Testament PhD from London Bible College (now London School of Theology).
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