Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity

By Larry W. Hurtado | Go to book overview

The aim in this chapter and the two which follow is to continue our analysis of devotion to Jesus chronologically through the closing decades of what I am categorizing "earliest" Christianity, which takes us well into the second century.1 In the next chapter we examine key expressions of the "radical diversity" of interpretations of Jesus, focusing on "Valentinianism" and "Marcionism." The final chapter is devoted to phenomena that exhibit what I mean by "protoorthodox" devotion to Jesus. The time frame to which we give attention in this chapter and the next two (ca. 70-170) constitutes the key transitional period toward what became classical Christianity of subsequent centuries: a distinguishable religion made up largely of Gentiles, with bishops, canon, and creeds.2 In particular I want to emphasize the significance of the second century as the time when dynamics that had been operative for decades earlier more fully came to expression.

Before we look at particulars in the following chapters, there are a few important matters to address by way of orientation. First, we take account briefly of the broader importance of this period. Then I explain how my approach in these chapters distinguishes my analysis from some other relevant studies; I also define what I mean by "radical diversity" and "proto-orthodoxy." Thereafter it is

1. I draw upon and expand here my earlier analysis of Christian texts from ca. 70-150:
"Christology," in DLNTD, 170-84.

2. In his editorial introducing the launch of a journal devoted to the study of the second
century, Everett Ferguson quickly sketched the importance of this period: "A New Journal,"
SecCent 1 (1981): 4. Note also introductory comments by Arland J. Hultgren and Steven A.
Haggmark, The Earliest Christian Heretics: Readings from Their Opponents (Minneapolis: For-
tress, 1996), 1-3.

-487-

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