Larry Hurtado’s review of Jesus Monotheism, Volume 1. Volume

Prof. Larry Hurtado (Edinburgh University, Emeritus) has written a careful and balanced review of Jesus Monotheism, Volume 1, available here (but sadly only accessible to members of the Society of Biblical Literature) and he has posted some additional words about the review on his blog.

I am grateful for a careful and thorough review. In particular, from one who is a, if not the, leading scholar in the field I am thankful for the words of the last paragraph:

“This book reflects impressive acquaintance with a large body of primary data and a wide swath of scholarly literature and prolonged and energetic engagement with the issues discussed. … The book is also the first installment on a remarkable big-idea project … [that] 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 New Testament first emerged.”

I have just one comment and one quibble.

1. I think that Jesus had a divine self-consciousness and that was one of the decisive factors that precipitated what others now call “Christological monotheism”. (I signal in JM1 that this is where my argument will end up in volume 4). Hurtado thinks that to make that argument I will have to give to John’s Gospel a position of superiority over the Synoptics. Hurtado here assumes the view of most NT scholars that, whilst Jesus in John thinks of himself as a pre-existent being who has come from heaven, that that incarnational Christology is lacking in Matthew, Mark and Luke.

But for the record, I don’t read the synoptics this way and the main lines of my argument will be made without dependence on John. I arrived at my view of Jesus, his divine self-understanding, and a model to explain the origins of the earliest beliefs about him quite independently of any in-depth study of John’s Gospel. Though I do also now think that John’s account of Jesus’ life is supporting (and also, in some ways, complicating) witness for the view of Jesus that I will layout in volume 4.

2. Hurtado slightly misrepresents my claims for the relationship between the Similitudes of Enoch (1 En. 37–71) and the origins of Christological monotheism. He says:

First, in chapter 5 he urges that the Similitudes of Enoch and “related texts” reflect “a pre- Christian Son of Man expectation that prepared the way for a high and fully divine Christology” (172). Indeed, Fletcher-Louis characterizes the Similitudes as providing “a golden key to unlock the puzzle that is the origins of Christ devotion” (180) … Moreover, Fletcher-Louis urges that “the historical Jesus claimed he was ‘the Son of Man’ … now attested in the Similitudes and 4 Ezra” and that in doing so “he also claimed an identification with Yhwh-Kyrios.”

The first sentence is a fair quotation and representation of what I say. However, the second takes my words out of context and the third entails a little editing that I fear might give the misleading impression that I think Jesus knew the Similitudes and that he specifically claimed to fulfil its Son of Man expectation.

(To be fair to Hurtado, he graciously sent me a copy of the review before it was delivered to the publisher and asked for my comment. That was some time ago and I cannot now recall why I did not pick up these problems in the precise wording of his account of my treatment of the Similitudes).

Early on in my chapter on the Similitudes I flagged up the possibility that the Similitudes is “a golden key to unlock the puzzle that is the origins of Christ devotion” (p. 180). There are now weighty arguments for thinking that the Similitudes was a causal factor in the origins of Christ devotion. It is not hard to imagine a scenario in which Christ devotion was caused by Jesus’ own belief, or his followers’ belief, that the Similitudes‘ Son of Man expectation was fulfilled in his life. But with many other things that I say—in the immediate context of the “golden key” statement, in the rest of the chapter and in the conclusion to chapter 6—I indicate that matters are not so straightforward.

As I will explain in volumes 3 and 4, I think the Similitudes is a supporting witness to one part of a multi-factorial explanation of the origins of Christ devotion. It is not a golden key that solves the main questions that the quest for Christological origins must address. But it does, providentially, help to explain what we would know anyway from Old Testament and New Testament texts and their own account of the events, experiences and beliefs that precipitated Christ devotion. Jesus may have known the Similitudes of Enoch (or, more likely, he knew an earlier version of the text that we now have). But it is far from certain that he did know it and nothing in the new paradigm that I will offer in Jesus Monotheism, volumes 3 and 4 depends on him—or his earliest followers—knowing it and giving it an authoritative status.

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