Sunday, December 18, 2016

Making Jesus Into God: Four Reviews (Part 7)

For the previous parts in this series, see the following:  Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5, and Part 6.

AP: In this post we are continuing with our look at Daniel Boyarin's Espacios fronterizos. Judaísmo y cristianismo en la Antigüedad tardía (Madrid: Trotta, 2013; in English Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity). There's only a little more to say and then I'll just offer some concluding remarks.

Here's my personal opinion regarding Jesus and Paul in defense of the idea that Christianity did not exist at that time. I offer these thoughts here, because Boyarin does not address the issue in his book. Regarding Jesus, I think that an independent investigation shows that  he is not the founder of Christianity for two basic and simple reasons: (1) because Christianity is born after the death of Jesus; and (2) because the research generally agrees that Jesus was a Jew, that he never gave up his Jewish religion, nor gave any indication of wanting to overthrow it, but to understand and live it in depth. With regard to Paul, I think that he laid a striking foundation for the creation of what would become Christianity, but it was his followers, his "school" or "deuteropulinism," that later put together what we see and call "Christianity." The authors of the Gospels and the authors of Colossians, Ephesians, the Pastoral Epistles, and so on were the ones who started to create it. Paul seems to divinize Jesus in some way and does so through the path of binitarianism, though not in any full-blown way. This dubious opinion is based on the reasonable hypothesis that (1) the passages of Paul's authentic letters, which seem to speak of Jesus' preexistence as Logos/Wisdom, the keys to divinization, may have other interpretations––1 Cor. 2:8; 10:4; 15:45–49; Phil. 2:6–11; Rom. 8:3–4, the most difficult of which is 1 Cor. 10:4, referring to the Israelites during the Exodus from Egypt: "And they all drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ"; and 2) apparently, Paul was never attacked by his adversaries for having presented a sort of binitarianism, which we see in some of Jesus' quarrels with the "Jews" of the Fourth Gospel (John 5:18: Jesus' adversaries accuse him of making himself equal with God [John 10:31–33]), but for serious disagreements about the interpretation of the law of Moses and its validity regarding the Gentiles who believe in the Messiah.

Nor does the book of Boyarin address why the Jews never worshiped that "Second Power in Heaven," the Logos, even though they recognized that it was a divine entity, and why the Judeo-Christians did so from the very beginning. And this is where the theses of Hurtado and Dunn intervene, even with their differences, pointing out the special special character of Judeo-Christian messianism, which starts from the unique belief of a unique resurrection of a unique character who is Jesus of Nazareth and how they arrived at the conclusion of his followers, by studying the Scriptures and by his revelatory trances––via appearances and inspired study of the Scriptures––that worship, or veneration, was the will of God.

The difference between Hurtado and Dunn is that for the former, the divine status of Jesus clearly appears in the New Testament, while for the latter there is a sort of modesty and intellectual retraction in considering him God, except in Revelation and in a few texts where Jesus is called Messiah. Horbury does not address the subject directly. And all the authors presented in this essay agree that the clarification of the divine nature of the messiah will take quite some time to develop and manifest itself with complete clarity (until the Council of Chalcedon in 451, as has already been said). There is also agreement, at least implicitly, between the last three authors outlined in which, in the end, whether or not to fully accept that Jesus was the Logos will be the key to the separation of Judaism and Christianity constituted in orthodox systems thanks to the task of heresiologists on both sides, Christians and Jews (especially Boyarin).

I think that, even without stating clearly in the commented books, Dunn and Horbury––Christians––and Boyarin––a Jew––do not doubt for a moment that Jesus was simply  a human being, nothing more, who, by a process more or less explicable within a Jewish theology of centuries of travel, binitarianism, was later deified after his death.

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