Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Thinking about Christian worship

That's the thing about blogs - don't get one for days, then two come along at once.

If you're looking for stimulating new year reading, then can I recommend Larry Hurtado's At the Origins of Christian Worship?

Hurtado is professor of New Testament Language, Literature and Theology at Edinburgh. Over the past 20 years, he has been exploring the whole issue of how monotheistic Jews came to see Jesus as divine.

At the end of the 1980s he published One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism. Then a couple of years he produced a massive tome called Lord Jesus Christ. Along with a collection of essays that came out ate last year called How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God? this amounts to a formidable body of work.

Hurtado has an easy style for a scholarly writer and an eye for how all this affects Christian belief today. At the Origins of Christian Worship is a set of four lectures he gave exploring the religious environment into which Christianity was born and the nature of early Christian devotion to Jesus. He tackles questions like 'how did the early Christians come to worship Jesus?' 'what evidence do we have for their practices?' and 'what might early Christian devotion have to say to us in the twenty-first century?' It's great stuff.

Early Christian worship fed into early Christian thinking about who exactly Jesus was and the shape of Christian community - hence it's a key element in any social history of the early church. I'm thinking of devoting a couple of sessions to it in my lecture course in Sri Lanka.

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