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Paula Fredriksen on Early Jewish Monotheism

April 5, 2014

Ok… this (pretty short) article is more “wonky” than my own posts. But it is actually important (and what it is pointing to is, further) to people with an interest in understanding the “how Jesus became God” process…. That is, how his divinity came to be believed in and proclaimed relatively quickly after his death, if not during his lifetime. (Even many conservative scholars no longer say it was claimed by him or believed in his lifetime.) In one sense, what is being discussed by McClellan here is a “deep” scholarly issue, best plumbed by specialists. But all of us can and should understand that it is critical to grasp, the best we can, how ANY ancient audience of an ancient writing thought… how they would likely have taken certain concepts, such as “Who is God/god and what is God (or gods) like” (or monotheism vs. various forms of polytheism). It may help solve some important, deep mysteries.

Daniel O. McClellan

I’m reading back through a number of sources that have been cited and have been conspicuously not cited by both sides of the current Ehrman/Bird-Evans-Gathercole-Hill-Tilling debate, and I’ve been impressed (again) by some comments made by Paula Fredriksen about the treatment of the notion of monotheism by the Early High Christology Club that bear sharing:

Big books and long articles have appeared analyzing the sudden and early development of high christological claims by imputing an austere and exclusive monotheism to late Second Temple Judaism.28 Jews are distinguished from pagan contemporaries on the basis of their cultic exclusivism, a consequence of this monotheism. The persecution of Gentile Christians, in turn, is explained as the result of their commitment, inherited from Judaism, to this sort of monotheism. Meanwhile, the higher the christological claims, the more ingenious the various and scholarly reassurances that these claims do not, in fact, compromise monotheism.

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