This post is an expansion and replacement of an earlier one. Most of my summer has been sort of hectic and intense in moving house, though some down times, such as plane travel and several times waiting for car fixes, have enabled me to catch up in reading downloaded books. I have read several of Larry Hurtado’s books which cover similar, if not identical ground.
Larry Hurtado’s main works refuted German theologian Wilhelm Bousset who wrote around the turn of the 19th Century. Bousset contended that Christians were influenced by the Greek ideology of many gods, and thus resulted in the inclusion of the worship of Jesus alongside the Father by the church. Bousset’s idea dominated scholarly circles and formed a Religionesgeschichteschule. Hurtado skillfully countered this thought with careful examination of the historical sources and the New Testament itself.
Hurtado’s study traced the worship of Christians instead of merely using Christology, the setting forth beliefs about Jesus from the text. By seeing the devotional practices, rather than what the text affirms, Hurtado thinks new information can be gleaned to help understand how a Monotheistic faith can have the worship of two persons. Hurtado contends that Christians are still Monotheistic along with Jews, with which I agree.
However, if we note in the scriptures how, for example, Moses and Joshua were commanded to take off their footwear in the presence of The Angel of The Lord, then, when recognizing that the Word became flesh, we see a natural progression in the worship of Jesus alongside God. In other words, it’s more of a recognition than innovation that believers now worship Jesus and God. The scriptures indicate from the beginning when the Lord God created mankind in His image, Adam and Eve communed with the Lord in their innocence face to face. This was the eternal Son, The Lord, who was fully God. Also, in the judgment scene after the fall of Adam (Eve was the first sinner but humanity sinned in Adam and not Eve), the man, woman, and serpent had no choice but to appear before the visible Lord. Conversely, God the Father dwells in unapproachable light and cannot be seen by humans. (1Tim. 6.16).
The Spirit of God, the bible contends, is a separate person from God the Father, but one in purpose like an extension (procession – Jn.15.26), if you will. This is seen in the first two verses of Genesis. Likewise, the Lord is the visible representation of the Father. No one but the Son and (presumably) the Spirit has seen the Father: “not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father” (Jn. 6.46).
When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus quoted the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Mark 12.29). Paul also affirmed only one God: “yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” (1Cor. 8.6 ESV).
The Son and Spirit are a unity in God and inseparable, since the term “echad” in Dt. 6.4 doesn’t speak of singularity but unity.
Hurtado terms the new worship of Jesus alongside the Father as a “mutation” and an “innovation,” seeing this new cultus as a result of revelations and experiences from God to the early church. My contention is that the cultic worship is a fulfillment, a perfect completion of what has always been the worship of Israel.
The “times of The Lord” are referenced in Lev. 23.1-2: “The Lord spoke to Moses: Speak to the Israelites and tell them, These are the Lord’s appointed times which you must proclaim as holy assemblies – my appointed times” (NET). These assemblies were the redemptive feasts when every Israelite male was required to “appear before The Lord.” They (the feasts) spoke or represented future activities performed by the Son and Spirit. When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming to be baptized he said “behold, the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world.” Christ was crucified at Pesach and has become the Christians’ passover (1Cor. 5.7). Pentecost (Shavuot) was when the Spirit was sent (at 9am during the morning sacrifice) to the nascent church. It is thought by some that Yom Teruah will be the last trumpet (1Cor. 15.52, 1Th. 4.16). Therefore, the feasts of the Jewish people which were part of their cultic worship have been fulfilled in part by Jesus and the Spirit.
Further, one need only read the book of Hebrews to see how Christ was both the true High Priest and sacrifice. The cultic worship of the Jews in the Old Covenant were through the mediation of the priesthood and temple to God. Jesus was the fulfillment of this worship, the greater temple. Therefore, the early Church did not have a mutated worship in their inclusion of Christ in their address and prayer to the Father. Instead, Christ was God’s mystery: “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2.2-3 NIV).