First-Century Jewish Monotheism
In recent years a number of scholars have given attention to the question of “monotheism” in first-century Jewish religion, especially (but not exclusively) scholars interested in the emergence of “high Christology” and the reverence given to Jesus as divine in early Christian groups. In my book One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monothe- ism, I urge that first-century Jewish religious commitment to the uniqueness of God is the crucial context in which to approach early Christian devotion to Christ.1 More specifically, I emphasize two characteristics of ancient Jewish religiousness: (1) a remarkable ability to combine a genuine concern for God's uniqueness with an interest in other figures with transcendent attributes which are described in the most exalted terms and which we may call “principal agent” figures who are even likened to God in some cases; and (2) an exhibition of monotheistic scruples, particularly and most distinctively in public cultic/liturgical behavior.
The readiness of ancient Jews to include exalted figures, especially “principal agent” figures, in their conceptual schemes of God's sovereignty provides us with useful (though limited) analogies and valuable background for the early Christian conceptual accommodation of the risen/ex
1. Larry W. Hurtado, One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish
Monotheism (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988).
The original version of this chapter appeared in Journal for the Study of the New Testament 71
(1998): 3–26. Reprinted by permission of Sage Publications Ltd. My thanks to the editor and
the publisher for permission to reuse the essay. I have made some small editorial changes for