Iesus Deus: The Early Christian Depiction of Jesus as a Mediterranean God  -     By: M. David Litwa
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Iesus Deus: The Early Christian Depiction of Jesus as a Mediterranean God

Fortress Press / 2014 / Paperback

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What does it mean for Jesus to be "deified" in early Christian literature? Early Christians did not simply assert Jesus' divinity; in their literature, they depicted Jesus with the specific and widely recognized traits of Mediterranean deities.

Relying on the methods of the history of religions and ranging judiciously across Hellenistic literature, M. David Litwa shows that at each stage in their depiction of Jesus' life and ministry, early Christian writings from the beginning relied on categories drawn not from Judaism alone, but on a wide, pan-Mediterranean understanding of deity.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 208
Vendor: Fortress Press
Publication Date: 2014
ISBN: 1451473036
ISBN-13: 9781451473032

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Author's Bio

M. David Litwa (Ph.D.) currently teaches Greek at the University of Virginia. He is the author of We Are Being Transformed: Deification in Paul's Soteriology (2012) and Becoming Divine: An Introduction to Deification in Western Culture (2013).

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  1. 5 Stars Out Of 5
    New Testament Christology in Its Cultural Context
    June 2, 2015
    david
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    Putting many of the New Testament conceptions of Jesus' divinity and "supernatural" nature, significance and deeds in its original cultural context of the ancient Mediterranean, this superb study shows many of the ways that the earliest Christians depicted and portrayed the significance of Jesus by speaking/writing of him from concepts that were prevalent in their own culture. The earliest Christology was a mixture of a Jewish/Hellenistic thought world, with much of the greater Greco-Roman/Mediterranean thought world playing into the ways Jesus was portrayed in the depictions/presentations/remembrances of him as unique. Litwa's study is a superb and level headed tour through these issues, historically informed, conversant with the best scholars on these issues and well balanced.

    Students of the New Testament, historical Jesus studies and or Christian origins should give this fine study a thorough reading and consideration.
  2. 5 Stars Out Of 5
    A Game Changer for Christological Studies!
    December 10, 2014
    Daniel N. Gullotta
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    I would like to express my thanks to Fortress Press for providing me with a review copy of Iesus Deus: The Early Christian Depiction of Jesus as a Mediterranean God by M. David Litwa.

    If I could simply say one sentence about this book, I would say that this is one of the best books I have read on a long time about the deification of Jesus of Nazareth and I could not recommend it more highly. In short, I loved this book and I am so excited to read what Litwa produces next on deification. Dr. M. David Litwa teaches Greek at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where he also received his PhD. In addition to Iesus Deus, he is the author of We Are Being Transformed: Deification in Pauls Soteriology (2012) and Becoming Divine: An Introduction to Deification in Western Culture (forthcoming).

    One of the major problems Litwa points out is that within the current climate of Biblical scholarship is that any sort of comparisons made between Jesus and other Mediterranean mythology, legends, and stories is almost certainly accused of presenting parallelomania. Naturally, some of these parallels between Jesus and figures (such as Mithras and Attis) have rightly been given harsh criticism, but Litwa contends that some of the parallels between certain stories of Jesus do have strong connections to the matrix of the Mediterranean world. Litwa makes a case by case base that different stories associated with Jesus share common ideas closely associated with other Greco-Roman Mediterranean stories about various gods (both lower and uppercase g gods).

    Litwa breaks his research into six chapters as follows:

    Not through Semen, Surely: Luke and Plutarch on Divine Birth

    From Where Was this Child Born?: Divine Children and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas

    Deus est iuvare: Miracle, Morals, and Euergetism in Origens Contra Celsum

    Light Was That Godhead: Transfiguration as Epiphany

    We Worship One who Rose from His Tomb: Resurrection and Deification

    The Name Above Every Name: Jesus and Greco-Roman Theonymy

    The main thrust of Litwas arguments is that the process that lead to the deification of Jesus was not solely influenced by Second-Temple Judaism (as so many have stressed for the past two decades), but rather contained features of Hellenistic influence as well. This is not to say (despite what popular writers have suggested), that the emerging Christian faith simply sought, stole, and applied various aspects of Greco-Roman Pagan myths has they saw fit but rather they used common language, images, and symbols found throughout the Mediterranean as a means to crystallize their beliefs about Jesus.

    Litwa selects his material carefully and applies them to the various stories about Jesus in an extremely scholarly fashion. One of the greatest strengths with Iesus Deus is that Litwa is just as quick to point the differences within the stories of other Mediterranean stories in comparison to Jesus, just as much as the similarities. Another particularly strong point of Litwas work is his criticism of the current terminologies and definitions in use when writing about divinity within the ancient world. Litwa brings incredible nuance to his work and has forced me to rethink how I use the lower and upper case g when writing about God, gods, and goddesses in reference to ancient ideas of divinity.

    On Litwas writing style, he expresses a wealth of information in a manner that is accessible to a wide range of readers, from students to scholars and even laypeople. He does not grant Christianity or any other ancient faith tradition any sort of privilege and is extremely unbiased in his approach to the sources in question. Given its ambitious task, Litwa succeeds in convincing readers that Hellenism played some sort of influential role within the development and understanding of Jesus as the Christian deity.

    This is a fantastic book and a game changer for the future of Christological studies.
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