Luis Jovel

3 Theories of why and how Christ devotion emerged within the first Jewish believers

Luis Jovel
3 Theories of why and how Christ devotion emerged within the first Jewish believers

In the study of the New Testament, there has always being a the question that "How some first century Jews came to the conclusion that Jesus was to be worshipped along with YHWH?" To a monotheistic faith, this would brake the first commandment in Exodus 20:2-3

2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

And Israel's main confession of faith in Deuteronomy 6:4

4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one

These two were considered the bedrock for Israel's monotheism, or the belief in one god, and only one god. 


Larry Hurtado, in his book, One God, One Lord. Early Devotion  and Ancient Jewish  Monotheism, gives us three approaches to this issue, cf. pgs. xi-xii.

  1. The increase of pagan converts lead the church to adopt the worship of Jesus. They brought their pagan practices and beliefs, and and the normal outcome of this influx was  the devotion to Jesus. Maurice Casey holds such a position, which to me, sounds more Bultmannian (if there's such a word). This is rebutted by Hurtado by pointing out that the early Pauline letters witness if not the worship, but the "reverenced" of Jesus just a couple of decades after Jesus' resurrection. The "paganization" of the Christian community is supposed to have taken place after the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem, 70 A.D. 
  2. The second position is that there was a pagan influence upon the Judaism of the time, and therefore it was corrupted, so the monotheistic notions of the Jews were not as strong as they should be. This would be the position held by Wilhelm Bousset. Again, Hurtado questions such position on the grounds that we see Paul and the other jews like him zealous of the faith of their fathers, cf. Galatians 1:13-14. That there were Jews influenced by paganism, I think one can take it as a fact, but within the ranks of the early christian community, we have no evidence of such Jews.
  3. Finally, Hurtado gives us his take, that the devotion to Jesus in early Christianity was a "novel development that drew upon the Jewish religious tradition and the conceptual categories it provided, and re-shaped them under the impact of the features of the religious life of earliest Christian groups."

This is of great importance, since many of Christianity's enemies, as well some sects such as Oneness Pentecostals claim that the Trinity was a much later development within an already "corrupted" Christianity, such an approach proves otherwise. Christianity was worshipping Jesus, along with the Father, from the time of Paul's earliest letters.