Divinity of Jesus

@Chris_Falter, that was very kind of you to provide me that citation. It abounds in the amazing!

On p. 92 of Larry W. Hurtado’s book, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity, footnote 33 includes this mention:

"J.J. Collins, “A Throne in the Heavens, Apotheosis in Pre-Christian Judaism,” in Death, Ecstasy and Other Worldly Journeys, ed. J.J. Collins and M.A. Fishbane (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995), 43-58[;] Collins surveys references to heavenly ascent and exaltation in canonical texts (Exod. 24:9-10; Dan 7:13-14; 12:3) and Jewish extracanonical writings (1Enoch 13-15; 3Enoch; Exagoge of Ezekiel; and 4Q491:frag.11, col. 1,II.10-18). As Collins notes, the scenes function to claim an authorization/authority for the figures given such exaltation, but there is no cultus devoted to these figures.

Even here, we can see the ghosts of Church Fathers hurrying the commenter to get off the topic: "… but there is no cultus devoted to these figures.**

Chris, I think my point is being well made in all these circumlocutions. Apotheosis was not a novel theme in the time of Jesus. And it became a metaphysical doll and plaything in the hands of creative thinkers! Moses and Elijah are in the transfiguration because they are figures in the Enochian tradition that have already been raised up to the bosom of God, and they are extending their status to the newcomer, Jesus. But at the last minute, a cloud appears and says to those attending, listen to Jesus! - - trumping the voice of Elijah and even the words of Moses!

The Shape-Shifter
It is my working hypothesis that this was how divinity first attached itself to Jesus, to be quickly followed by those who saw the story as conflicting with the idea of Jesus being divine from birth. Hence the stripped down treatment of the Transfiguration. What was once probably fully explained is now mysteriously left standing a little bare - - to a baffled audience (in the story and those reading the story). But we certainly know it means something really cool…

Most of those in this forum can certainly attest that the average Westerner has no common awareness that the Enochian literature provides a special and illuminating status (< pun intended!) to Moses and Elijah. In this side literature, Moses and Elijah never died. In fact, In the Book of Enoch, when Enoch returns to Earth, “… he tells his children that although they see him as the earthly, human Enoch…,” he is “… likewise an angelic Enoch (Metatron) that has stood in the Lord’s Presence.”

More from Hertado:
On p. 33 Hertado’s footnote 16 includes: "Margaret Barker, The Great Angel: A Study of Israel’s Second God (London: SPCK, 1992). In a m ore recent essay, Barker proposes that the worship of Jesus is to be explained by alleged traditions of the real apotheosis of divine kings and priests in ancient Israel, who were worshipped by Israelites as human embodiments of the God of Israel… "

On p. 51, footnote 71 includes: “As we will see later in this book, there appear to be forms of early Christianity that show little or no monotheistic concern, especially at least some examples of what are called “gnostic” Christians with their elaborate3 mythologies of multiple divinities.”

Hertado’s Thesis
But just above the footnote is a wonderful text extending onto p. 52: “Granted, the exclusivist monotheism of Roman-era Judaism characteristically operated as a constraint against anything fully comparable to the Jesus-devotion we are examining in this book. So, are we to think of this constraint only as maintained or as “broken” in early Christian circles, as some scholars mentioned above have formulated the question?”

“In light of the continuing monotheistic professions and evident scruples in these Christian circles, I propose that we also consider as a third possibility whether their Jesus-devotion constitutes an apparently distinctive and variant form of exclusivist monotheism, and that we inquire then how monotheism helped shape this devotional stance. Later in this chapter I will say more about how such a variant form of tradition can arise, and I will defend further the view that the Jesus-devotion evident already in the New Testament constitutes such a development. To anticipate that discussion, my point is that the constraining effect of monotheism may not have prevented this variant form from emerging, though it may have contributed significantly to the particular form that it took.” << Wow!, @Chris_Falter , that’s a great description!!!

The form that Hurtado describes is one where Jesus is completely elevated to the divine, but clearly in subordinate status to Yahweh. The author says: “This is why I have referred to this Jesus-devotion as a “binitarian” form of monotheism: there are two distinguishable figures (God and Jesus), but they are posited in relation to each other that seems intended to avoid a ditheism of two gods…”

Connection to the Carthaginian Hamilcar?
How does all this relate to my earlier discussions of Carthage’s annual celebration of the apotheosis of Hamilcar? I think I have the answer to this. What makes Judaism especially fertile in devising new and interesting configurations of the Godhead is that, according to some researchers, all the other divinities of the ancient Hebrew were either scrapped, or converted to Angels! - - as per the even more eccentric metaphysics of Zoroastrianism. It is alleged that Angelology abounds within Judaism as it makes full contact with the Magi of the Zoroastrians.

In the Phoenician context, when a man experiences of apotheosis, there is not much quibbling about what he has become. There were immortal gods and there were mortal humans. And if you were raised up to the company of older gods, you were a god as well. And so, in connection to Hurtado’s “binitarianism”, and apotheosis of Moses and Elijah, they have all joined the ranks of the angels - - an elite community that is already munificently “ranked” into choirs and choirs of choirs. Jesus, to some, is easily fitted to this gorgeous Hebrew gold-work of the divine: he is now Chief of the Chiefest Angels.

Son of God
Or you can say he is the Son of God - - whatever that is supposed to mean as compared to (or contrasted with) the ancient world’s intimate familiarity with the Son of Zeus, the demigod Perseus, the founder of Mycenae… the etymology of his name being so Greek as to perhaps have been a proto-Indo-European gem: “the Ravager”, or, as Robert Graves suggests the Destroyer [of-Cities] “a fitting name” for the founder of Mycenae, the biggest toe of the Greek foot on the neck of the pre-Greeks. Perseus rues wisely and dies of old age. “The gods whom he had served loyally, placed him in the skies, among the stars. And there he still shines…” - - immortal.

Stars - Realm of the Saints and Angels
Enter, stage right, the work mentioned on page 92 of Hertado’s book: Morton Smith’s “Ascent to the Heavens and Deification in 4QM”, in Archaeology and History in the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed. L.H. Schiffman (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1990), 181-188. In this work, the most deserving and saintly of the Essenes ascend into the sky, and become Earth’s newest stars!

@BradKramer @jpm -

The little tete-a-tete that George and I are enjoying seems to have deviated pretty far from the original topic. Would you be so kind as to move it to its own thread?

@gbrooks9 -

Hope you are having a great day. I would quickly note the following:

I expect better from you, George. Rather than impugn Hurtado’s motives, perhaps you could apply your zeal to gathering and presenting evidence that there was in fact an Enoch cult? So far, there is no evidence of such.

This is very much a quote-mine, George. Later in the same note, Hurtado continues:

examination of the evidence she proffers often makes it difficult to accept her claims. One example: Barker cites one line from Somn. 2.189 as showing that Philo knew and accepted the divinity of the high priest, whereas the context makes it clear that Philo specifically demurs from any such idea (‘Is he then a god? I will not say so…’).

The next time you feel tempted to get angry over a YEC quote-mine, remember our little exchange in this thread and take a deep breath…

As you are well aware, George, gnostic forms of Christianity did not begin to arise until after the entire Christian canon had been written. The most notable early gnostic teacher, Marcion, was stridently refuted by the orthodox church as a heretic.

Your embrace of Gnosticism as an explanation of Christian doctrine overlooks that fact that Gnosticism didn’t appear until well after that doctrine had already been formulated, and that the teachers of that doctrine vehemently resisted Gnostic teaching.

Your statement of Hurtado’s thesis is half-right, half-wrong. Yes, Jesus is completely elevated to the divine. No, he is not clearly in a subordinate status. One of Hurtado’s main points is that in a monotheistic setting, worship implies Godhood, full stop. And there is, by definition, only one God.

George, I do not see how you could carefully read Hurtado and come to a conclusion that completely contradicts his work. For that matter, you could also try reading Hebrews 1:3-12 -

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,

“You are my Son,
    today I have begotten you”?
Or again,

“I will be to him a father,
    and he shall be to me a son”?
6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,

“Let all God's angels worship him.”
7 Of the angels he says,

“He makes his angels winds,
    and his ministers a flame of fire.”
8 But of the Son he says,

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
    the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
    with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
10 And,

“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
    and the heavens are the work of your hands;
11 they will perish, but you remain;
    they will all wear out like a garment,
12 like a robe you will roll them up,
    like a garment they will be changed.[a]
But you are the same,
    and your years will have no end.”

All ten of these verses are crying out that Christ Jesus is not an angel; indeed, He is the Lord who laid the foundation of the earth from the beginning, the God whose throne is forever and ever. The angels worship Him.

George, i have always enjoyed our interactions, and I hope you will share your thoughts on the first chapter of Hebrews.

Have a good day,



But of course a Christian writer is going to conclude there is no connection between human traditions and what Jesus is and what he represents.

I think you interpret my posting as some kind of challenge to the authenticity of Christianity. That was not my intent. I realize now that if you were the only one reading this page, I would think it was a complete waste of time talking to you about such matters.

I don’t know what you expected me to be able to prove. Did you think I was going to prove that Jesus was really a Carthaginian or something along those lines? I think I’ve explored an underlying theme in Christianity that many might not have realized existed. Certainly that was the goal of the book’s author.

But you gave me a great book to investigate, providing details I could only have imagined existed … and now I have them in my hands…

And for that I thank you.

Pax Vobiscum, Chris.

Hi Chris, perhaps there is a dichotomy that you are seeing that is not there. Why can’t Jesus be both, completely elevated to the divine and yet also having subordinate status? When I was youngers, I studied the doctrine of the Trinity in depth, and came to agree with the Wisdom literature. Here is a tektonics apologetics site that discusses the concept

Note, I don’t necessarily agree with this NOW, being an atheist, but just pointing out that it’s not always either/or.


So… am I contradicting the author? Or am I agreeing with his formulation of an early phase of one branch of Christianity that he describes as Binitarian?

You are the one you suggested the book to me … I don’t think it is quite fair that you are criticizing me for embracing some of what it writes.

As for “quote mining”, I don’t think I have a single post where I accuse someone of Quote Mining. Maybe that’s something that bothers you than me?

Hi George, Hope you are doing well today. You are definitely contradicting Hurtado. A binitarian view is essentially the standard Trinity (unity of essence with distinct persons), minus the Holy Spirit as the third person. So the relationship between the Father and the Son is not any different in the early “binity” than it is in subsequent Trinitarian doctrine.

It is of course your prerogative to believe that the earliest followers if Christ got it wrong, even as you think his later followers did. My concern is to present the best evidence that we have about the development of Christian doctrine. The fact that Hurtado mentions the work of another scholar does not imply that the other scholar has made a strong argument. You seemed to have misunderstood this in your first post about Hurtado’s book. As you read through it, I hope you will carefully consider Hurtado’s analysis of the evidence.

All the best,

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I’m a little late to the game, but there are some early clues in scripture. Two notable ones are:

  1. All four Gospels have John the Baptist announcing himself as the “voice crying out in the wilderness” to make straight paths for the coming of YHWH (he is quoting Isaiah, where it is clearly YHWH who is coming, not merely “the Lord”). And in every case it is Jesus he is announcing.

  2. In the Philippians hymn (2:6-11 - which could very well be the earliest New Testament words), it is at the name of Jesus that every knee bows and tongue confesses that Jesus is Lord. The hymn references Isaiah 45, in which it is YHWH’s name instigates knee bending and tongue confessing, after the clarification (vv. 19-21) that YHWH is the only God.

It seems to me that “Son of God” is both a ripoff and challenge to the claims of Caesar, but there’s enough else in there to indicate a pretty early view of the deity of Jesus.

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You are confusing me, my good friend. If I champion Hurtado’s “Binitarian” concept, how can I be contradicting him?

And if you think “Binitarianism” is so ordinary, why does he speak to it with so much tentativeness and advisories as to what he will be proposing?

I re-direct your attention to this key paragaraph:

o o o o o o o o o o o
"In light of the continuing monotheistic professions and evident scruples in these Christian circles,

I propose that we also consider as a third possibility whether their Jesus-devotion constitutes an apparently distinctive and variant form of exclusivist monotheism, and that we inquire then how monotheism helped shape this devotional stance. Later in this chapter I will say more about how such a variant form of tradition can arise, and I will defend further the view that the Jesus-devotion evident already in the New Testament constitutes such a development.

To anticipate that discussion, my point is that the constraining effect of monotheism may not have prevented this variant form from emerging, though it may have contributed significantly to the particular form that it took."
[End of Quote]
o o o o o o o o o o o
Since I am a Unitarian, engaged in a more conventional effort to promote more “mainstream” l Christian views about Evolution, very frequently I have to distinguish for myself, as well as for the occasional well-meaning friend, the difference between what I personally believe and what I think is logical for a Christian to believe.

It is not my intent to demonstrate that the early Christians got something wrong (though on the topic of angels I am frequently sorely tempted!). My posts to you were my side-bar commentary on the various ways to view the evolution of how the followers of Jesus saw his divinity expressed, and what might have shaped the various phases of it.

I offered additional corroboration to Hurtado’s Binitarian thesis by pointing out that Judaism had morphed into a very different kind of ancient religion by means of its angelology in conjunction with its arch monotheism.

It allowed Christianity to develop some very new - - and apparently what became very stable ideas in the long run - - which establishes a Monotheism in three pieces.

I do not challenge this position (I personally don’t hold to it… if I did, the Unitarians would expel me! :slight_smile: ).

When I was working in Kuwait, I was surrounded by sincere Muslims who would occasionally ask me to explain how I could believe in three divine beings and still be a monotheist. Sometimes I would explain that I am personally a Unitarian. But usually I would just plow ahead with the usual Christian metaphysics of what the Trinitarian view of God means to Christians. Invariably, they would just shake their heads in total disbelief.

Hi George,

This statement …

… is contradicted by these earlier statements:

I am bewildered that after I explained how these last two statements are very much contradictory to what Hurtado theorized, you now don the monniker of Hurtado’s champion. I’m not sure whether to be shocked or amused.

Enjoy the book. If you pay attention to all of Hurtado’s evidence and logic, you will learn a lot.


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Oh, I guess you should be shocked… because that would be an accurate statement of your visceral reaction. But in this case, I would gently suggest to you that your viscera is over-reacting.

Following the principle of the first shall be last, let’s start with the 2nd of my quotes: Chris, it is a paraphrasing of Hurtado’s own words. I think maybe you should join me in reading his book… or at least the chapter.I specifically treat in my posting.

Ending now with my 1st quote, about the “gorgeous Hebrew gold-work of the divine” is, again, this is merely a gussied-up paraphrasing Hurtado’s general thesis, namely:

the monotheistic scruples of the Jewish community did not prevent the rise of early church Binitarian metaphysics, but shaped it.

While the practice of “paraphrasing” is not an exact science, I hardly think I have so dramatically ventured into colorful imagery in this paraphrasing that I’ve done any violent harm to Hurtado’s sense of meaning.

I would say, Chris, that discussing science with you seems to be much less hazardous than discussing theology. Your gut reactions to even the slightest reformulation of the conventional Christian doctrines seem to put you at the front of the line of the “Let’s burn the heretic” school of thinking.

This is all made more challenging and dramatic in any writing where I am comparing my personal (and truly heretical) views with any discussion about a religion professor’s “unpacking” of ideas he believes are bound up in a “real time history” of the shaping of the primitive church’s interpretation of the words left to them by Jesus.

Below are a few salient points from Wiki’s biography of Prof. Hurtado:

o o o o o o o o
"Larry Hurtado (born 1943) is a New Testament scholar, historian of early Christianity and Emeritus Professor of New Testament Language, Literature and Theology at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland (Professor 1996-2011). "

“Born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1943, he completed his PhD at Case Western Reserve University in 1973… . . Shortly after his appointment at the University of Edinburgh, he established the Centre for the Study of Christian Origins, which focuses on Christianity in the first three centuries.”

"He has made significant advances in understanding Jewish Monotheism and early Christian devotion to Jesus. He is an authority on the Gospels (esp. Gospel of Mark), the Apostle Paul, Early Christology, the Jewish Background of the New Testament, and New Testament Textual Criticism. He is perhaps most well known for his studies on the early emergence of a devotion to Jesus expressed in beliefs about Jesus sharing God’s glory, . . "

"Hurtado has argued that this Jesus-devotion comprises a novel “mutation” in ancient Jewish monotheistic practice. "

[End of Quotes]
o o o o o o o o
Perhaps we should both take comfort that while we have been discussing Christology, we have also been dabbling in “theological evolution” of a sort! - - for how better to characterize any discussion about Hurtado’s argument that the “Jesus-devotion” implicit in parts of the New Testament “… comparises a novel ‘mutation’ in ancient Jewish monotheistic practice.” (< an awesome sound bite by anyone’s standards!

However, it’s pretty clear that if I had written this sentence, rather than the Wiki biography, you would have immediately concluded that I was contradicting Hurtado himself.

It seems to me that you may not have not have actually read the book yourself… but perhaps a few quotes and some reviewer’s attempts to describe Hurtado’s thesis in a way “that won’t frighten the children”.

But you are right about one thing: I have learned lots from the parts of the book I have read thus far. And if the whole book is a further elaboration of this "… novel ‘mutation’ " of Jewish monotheism, I find Hurtado’s book most delicious!

Again, thank you for taking the time to recommend it to me!

Your good friend, George

This discussion seems to assume that the process of understanding Jesus as divine was extra Biblical. Not true!

The question of the gospels was, Is Jesus the Christ, the Messiah sent by the Father to save humankind and all of creation? The answer is clearly Yes.

Since this is true, then the question Is the Messiah both divine and human? This was answered by the fathers and mothers of the Church who determined that based on good Biblical thinking the answer again was Yes.


Roger, I don’t believe Hurtado would say that is what he is discussing…

But he does explore the social and religious context of the period… and “informs” the Biblical language with inputs from Society around it…

The wiki article successfully reduces the thesis down to just a few words:

Hurtado discusses the New Testament devotion to Jesus as a “novel mutant of Jewish monotheism”.

I would say that the belief that Jesus is divine is a logical outgrowth of His claim to be God’s Messiah and structure of God that is revealed by His ministry rooted in Biblical history.

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I’m not sure an extrapolation of OT “Messiah” necessarily leads to divinity.

Please look at Psalm 2 where YHWH says to the Messiah (the Anointed,) “You are my Son, today I have begotten You.” (verse 7)

This Psalm is quoted in Acts 4 so it was well known to Jesus and the early Christians. It is surprising that it is not well known to most Christians.

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