Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity

By Larry W. Hurtado | Go to book overview
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Early Pauline Christianity

Where to Begin?

In any study of earliest Christ-devotion the letters of Paul certainly must loom large, for these invaluable writings reflect an intense religious devotion to Jesus at a remarkably early point in the emergence of the Christian movement. But some readers will perhaps wonder why I commence here with a chapter on Paul, and then turn to an analysis of early Jewish Christianity in Roman Judea (Palestine). In strict chronological order there were, of course, Christians before the apostle Paul, as we learn from Paul himself. In his letter to Rome, for example, Paul sends greetings to Andronicus and Junia, two members of the Roman church who were fellow Jews and who "were in Christ before me" (Rom. 16:7), and in his letter to the Galatians Paul refers to "those who were apostles before me" in the Jerusalem church (Gal. 1:17).1 By all accounts the first groups in the emergent Christian movement were made up of Jewish adherents

1. The variant reading Ioulian, though attested early (P46), is now widely thought to be a
later corruption of an original Iounian, who is often thought by commentators to be linked with
Andronicus as sister or wife. Paul's reference to them as syngeneis could connote their being his
relatives or members of the same nationality, as in Rom. 9:3 where Paul refers to the Jewish peo-
ple as "my kindred according to the flesh" (see, e.g., MM, 595). There is also a variation among
manuscripts in Rom. 16:15, where Ioulian is likely original and Iounian a later variant. Commen-
tators offer various suggestions about how these two pre-Paul Christians came to be in the Ro-
man church. Their names may indicate that they were diaspora Jews who came into contact with
the Christian gospel during a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals (e.g., Pass-
over); or conversely they could be Palestinian Jewish Christians who moved to Rome for some
reason. All of the figures named by Paul in Rom.16 are likely leaders and respected figures among
Roman Christians. On Rom. 16 as an authentic part of Paul's letter to Rome, see esp. Harry Gam-
ble, Jr., The Textual History of the Letter to the Romans, SD 42 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977).


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