Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?  -     By: James D. G. Dunn
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Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?

Westminster John Knox Press / 2009 / Paperback

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Product Description

What is worship? Is the praise offered to God what actually defines him? How did the first believers reconcile God's status and that of the human Jesus in their worship? In this challenging, thought-provoking resource, respected NT scholar Dunn raises---and answers---key questions that enhance our understanding of Christian beliefs and practices. 176 pages, softcover from Westminster John Knox.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 176
Vendor: Westminster John Knox Press
Publication Date: 2009
Dimensions: 8.50 X 5.50 (inches)
ISBN: 0664231969
ISBN-13: 9780664231965
Availability: In Stock

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Publisher's Description

To answer the title question effectively requires more than the citing of a few texts; we must first acknowledge that the way to the answer is more difficult than it appears and recognize that the answer may be less straightforward than many would like. The author raises some fascinating yet vexing questions: What is worship? Is the fact that worship is offered to God (or a god) what defines him (or her) as "G/god?" What does the act of worship actually involve? The conviction that God exalted Jesus to his right hand obviously is central to Christian recognition of the divine status of Jesus. But what did that mean for the first Christians as they sought to reconcile God's status and that of the human Jesus? Perhaps the worship of Jesus was not an alternative to worship of God but another way of worshiping God. The questions are challenging but readers are ably guided by James Dunn, one of the world's top New Testament scholars.

Author Bio

James D. G. Dunn is Lightfoot Professor Emeritus ofDivinity atthe University of Durham in England.He is one of the world'spremier New Testament scholars.

Editorial Reviews

"A 'must-read.' Dunn combines an appreciation for complex issues with clarity of argument in this riveting introduction to the role and function of Jesus in the worship of God during the first century." Loren T. Stuckenbruck, Richard Dearborn Professor of New Testament Studies, Princeton Theological Seminary
"Any book by James Dunn is worth reading, and this is no exception. It is a challenging and thought-provoking book which raises central issues for Christian faith and practice." Christopher Rowland, Dean Ireland Professor of the Exegesis of Holy Scripture, University of Oxford

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    November 5, 2015
    John M Kight
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    James D. G. Dunn is no stranger to the world of Early Christianity. In fact, it has been said of Dunn, Anyone who is interested in the rigorous study of early Christianity and who has not engaged with the works of James D. G. Dunn is not really interested in the rigorous study of early Christianity (The Holy Spirit and Christian Origins, 2004). Dunn is Emeritus Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at the University of Durham. He received an M.A. and B.D. from the University of Glasgow and a Ph.D. and D.D. from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of numerous books, including, The Evidence for Jesus(1985), Romans 1-8 & 9-16 in the Word Biblical Commentaryseries (1988), Jesus Remembered, Christianity in the Making, vol. 1 (2003), Beginning from Jerusalem, Christianity in the Making, vol. 2 (2009), as well as the present volume and the subject of this review: Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?: The New Testament Evidence (2010).

    Everything that I have read by Dunn has been well-written and thoroughly engaging. He is consistently both scholarly and accessible to the average reader, and Did the First Christians Worship Jesus? displays the marriage of these two realities well. Though it must be said that the content within may not be easily welcomed by conservative evangelicals. The book begins with a brief introduction where Dunn reveals his conversation partnersRichard Bauckham and Larry Hurtadoand builds the case for his investigation with a number of sub-questions that become the focus of the subsequent chapters. The thesis of the book is also laid on the table twofold: (1) for the first Christians worship of Jesus was a way of worshiping YHWH, and (2) the contemporary worship of Jesus now witnessed is only possible or acceptable within what is now understood as a Trinitarian framework (p. 6). In Chapter one Dunn examines the language of worship in the New Testament as applied to Jesus. He concludes that there is no real concrete evidence that worship language, as applied to God, was ever directly applied to Jesus. According to Dunn the worship language found within the New Testament was never explicitly directed at Jesus, rather it was directed at God for Jesus (p. 27-28). Chapter two carries much of the same theme of ambiguity as Dunn examines at the practice of worship in relation to the person of Jesus (i.e. prayer and sacrifice). Dunn writes, in earliest Christianity, Christ was never understood as the one to whom sacrifice was offered, even when the imagery of sacrifice was used symbolically for Christian service (p. 56).

    As Dunn moves toward the topic in closer detail, chapter three addresses the topic of monotheism, heavenly mediators, and divine agents. This was an interesting chapter and most readers will likely find it to be a highpoint in the book. Dunn examines Pauls reframing of the Shema, the divine personification of Spirit, Wisdom, and Word in light of the early Christian claims about Jesus, as well as exalted human beings such as Moses, Elijah, and Enoch. Dunn historically concludes that none of these entities were treated as a rightful recipient of worship, and thus either was Jesus to the first Christians. The final chapter is the heartbeat of the book and crucial to Dunns thesis. If the reader is able to read only a single chapter from the book this is the chapter to read. In chapter four Dunn address a number of stimulating topics related to the proposed question of the book, such as Jesuss view of monotheism, the New Testament texts that appear to refer to Jesus as YHWH (i.e. 1 Corinthians 8:6; 15:24-28), as well as related issues within the Fourth Gospel and Revelation. As the book concludes Dunn warns the reader of the dangers of an oversimplified answer to the question. Its not that simple according to Dunn. So, did the first Christians worship Jesus? Dunn concludes, No, by and large the first Christians did not worship Jesus as such . . . so our central question can indeed be answered negatively, and perhaps it should be (p. 150-151).

    As stated above, everything that I have read by Dunn has been well-written and thoroughly engaging. He is consistently scholarly and accessible to the average reader, and Did the First Christians Worship Jesus? displays the union of these two realities well. Nonetheless, the content within this book may not be as easily welcomed by conservative evangelicals. Still, Dunn will make you think long and hard about your reading of Scripture and history. While I would largely align myself in opposition to Dunns conclusion, and in full disclosure did so prior to reading the book, I personally discovered many benefits in his contribution to this ongoing conversation. Consequently, Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?: The New Testament Evidence is a commendable book, and I am certain that it will be enjoyed and discussed often by the interested reader.

    I received a review copy of this book in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
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