Larry Hurtado and Michael Kok in Conversation about High Christology (Skinner)

KokYesterday, Bible and Interpretation posted an article by Michael Kok entitled, “Critical Questions for the Early High Christology Club.” After interacting with the ideas of Larry Hurtado, Richard Bauckham, and others, Kok raises three questions:

(1) First, is there a concern to date a “high Christology” as close as possible to the founding of the “Christian” movement?

(2) Second, having been formulated in reaction to the parallelomania of the “history of religions school” (religionsgeschichtliche Schule), does the exclusive focus on the Jewish matrix of the Christ followers serve to insulate them from influences from the Greco-Roman world?

(3) Third, is there a risk of depicting ancient “Christianity” as monolithic, assuming that a divine Christology was the definitive feature of all Christ associations?

Here is his closing paragraph:

In the end, we must resist the tendency to treat the textual representations of Christian beliefs and praxis in the New Testament and other Christian literature as univocal. We must be rigorously historical in contextualizing which group was putting forward what claim about Jesus and what function did the claim serve in their symbolic universe and social formation. It is perfectly valid to inquire about the theological truthfulness of various canonical and creedal declarations about the person of Christ within confessional communities. The tools of the historian’s trade are not sufficient to engage such questions. They are only fit to investigate the individuals or groups who found a given Christology persuasive in a specific historical and social context.

HurtadoToday, Larry Hurtado has responded to Kok’s questions blow-by-blow. This could develop into something interesting. I’m wondering if (read: hoping) others will weigh in.

Advertisements

Gnostics as Intellectuals? DeConick Responds to Hurtado (Skinner)

A few days ago when I read, then discussed Larry Hurtado’s blogpost about how the gnostics were not to be regarded as intellectuals, I wondered to myself if April DeConick wouldn’t eventually respond. Well now she has, with a fairly substantive post of her own. I would love to see this turn into an ongoing conversation between the two.

Larry Hurtado Asks, “Were the Gnostics ‘Intellectuals?'” (Skinner)

Gospel_of_MaryOver at his blog, Larry Hurtado discusses the assertion that the ancient gnostics were “intellectuals”–an assertion he thinks this is “very funny, really.”

Two quotes in particular stood out to me:

It’s perhaps a natural mistake for people who haven’t read the texts, given that “gnostic” comes from the Greek word “gnosis”, which means “knowledge.”  But in the case of those called “gnostics,” the kind of “knowledge” that they sought wasn’t “intellectual,” but (to put it kindly) what we might term “esoteric,” secretive truths expressed typically in cryptic, riddling form, deliberately intended to make little sense as expressed.  Put unkindly, one might characterize it as a bunch of “mumbo-jumbo” with no attempt to present them reasonably and in terms of the intellectual climate of the time.

and

There are modern equivalents to the ancient “gnostics,” people who go for the esoteric, who imagine themselves “special” in some way, such that, without the sort of academic training most of us think necessary, they can leap into some mystical “truths.”  Just go to the average bookshop and scan the “religion & magic”  section (yeah, I know, “religion & magic,” says it all).  You’ll likely find many (perhaps most on the shelves) catering to such tastes and positing such ideas.

If you really want to observe “intellectuals” at work in the first few Christian centuries, Hurtado suggests reading the Ante-Nicene Fathers.

What I’m Reading (Gathercole, Keith/Hurtado, Jones)

I always love the summertime because it allows me to catch up on some long-neglected reading from the academic year. Over the past few weeks I have read several useful books, three of which I’d like to mention.

The first is Simon Gathercole’s, The Composition of the Gospel of Thomas: Original Language and Influences (SNTMS  151; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012). I have been a fan of Simon’s work for some time now and the same is true for his most recent offering. He possesses such a strong command of the requisite languages that it’s hard to ignore his treatment, even if you walk away disagreeing. For those who read my blog or have read any of my work on the Gospel of Thomas, it’s no secret that I lean in the direction of an original Greek work that is dependent (to some degree) on the Synoptic tradition. Simon makes a sustained case for both, while also introducing other possible influences on the development of Thomas, including Paul, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the “Two Ways” tradition. In my opinion, the most convincing part of the book is found in Simon’s argument that Thomas shows its reliance upon the Synoptic tradition through the multiple instances of Matthean and Lukan redaction it retains. This book is very technical and one must have at least a basic working knowledge of the biblical and related languages. That said, this is an important book that is poised to make an enduring contribution to the study of the Gospel of Thomas.

The second book I have read and enjoyed is Jesus Among Friends and Enemies: A Historical and Literary Introduction to Jesus in the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011), co-edited by Chris Keith and Larry Hurtado. This book combines the two methodologies most important to my own scholarship–historical criticism and narrative criticism, and is meant to fill a lacuna in historical Jesus scholarship. The volume introduces the reader to the most important figures in the life of Jesus (both friends and enemies, as the title indicates) by examining their presentation outside and inside the Gospel narratives. The book begins, I think appropriately, with a discussion of Jesus both within and outside the NT. Subsequent chapters discuss God, angels, various disciples, and Jewish leaders. I think this could be a useful text for several different graduate courses, including those devoted to the historical Jesus and the canonical gospels. The content is perhaps too advanced for the average undergraduate, though it could be used with benefit in some undergraduate contexts.

Finally, I have just received Brice C. Jones’s little volume, Matthean and Lukan Special Material:  A Brief Introduction with Texts in Greek and English (Eugene, Ore: Wipf and Stock, 2011). Students of the Gospels are often forced to consult commentaries, synopses, and their Greek texts to locate and examine the material that is commonly labeled “M” and “L” by Gospels scholars. This creates a situation in which the student must have a number of volumes open at the same time and be forced to look continually back and forth for comparison. A scenario like the one just described was, in part, the genesis for the present volume. Jones writes, “The idea for this book developed during my own studies of the Gospels as a graduate student. I would often sit in my Greek exegesis classes on the Gospels with my Q parallels and Synopsis, and wish that I had at my disposal a small book that printed the special material of Matthew and Luke” (p. 13).  This helpful little book consists of three chapters. The first chapter is devoted to a brief sketch of the synoptic problem and concludes with a decided preference for the Two-Source/Four-Source theory. Chapters 2 and 3 provide Greek texts and English translations of material unique to Matthew and Luke, respectively. I envision this being a helpful resource for students and scholars. Check it out if you get a chance.

I shouldn’t forget to thank the good people at CUP, Baker Academic, and Wipf and Stock for providing review copies of each book!