Friday, March 16, 2007

Monotheism and Mediators

The course has been exploring whether given texts are (as is often assumed) Jewish and how key figures within them function as "divine mediators."

To help appreciate the relevance of this to New Testament studies, I would like to suggest that students read pages 1-22 of Richard Bauckham's book God Crucified: Monotheism and Christology in the New Testament (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1998). The book explores the nature of Jewish monotheism and the character of debates within New Testament studies that concern how Jesus is to be viewed as "divine." Did the portrayal of Jesus as a divine figure evolve from Jewish ideas of divine mediators, exalted patriarchs, etc? Similar issues are explored in Dr Davila's article on divine mediators, as well as in book length treatments such as Larry Hurtado's One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism (London: SCM, 1988), but the treatment by Bauckham has the advantage of being pitched at a much more accessible level.

At this stage in the course, students will be better able to understand the debates touched upon in Bauckham's book and I hope this will help them to appreciate the importance of what we are doing for New Testament research. I want to encourage them, though, to pay attention to the works cited in the footnotes, throughout the chapter, as "Second Temple Jewish" texts. Often these are the works we have placed in the "questionable" category (as far as authorship and date of composition are concerned). Professor Bauckham is actually a very careful scholar, with great expertise in the Pseudepigrapha: the fact that he glosses over the critical issues surrounding these texts reflects the semi-popular nature of this book rather than any carelessness in his scholarship. It is interesting, though, to see how often texts about which we have serious questions occur here. This reflects the extent to which these texts play a role in New Testament scholarship, especially in discussions concerning Christology.