Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Larry Hurtado and Early High Christology (Video)

Here is a ten minute video with Larry W. Hurtado on his thesis popularly presented in How On Earth Did Jesus Become a God? On this point, I see it fit to recommend a recent interview that Matt from Broadcast Depth had with Hurtado. In the interview, Hurtado touched on a point too close to home. That is, a point that I see as relevant to all Christians in the field of NT studies:

One intellectual issue that I had to ponder early on and across the years (and I hope successfully) was how to engage with integrity the historically-conditioned nature of the biblical texts while also affirming their significance and function as scripture for Christian faith.  It seems to me that both extreme “liberal” and “conservative/fundamentalist” views actually agree implicitly on the same premise (which I regard as fallacious, or at least not incontestably true):  If the biblical texts are really historically-conditioned they cannot be “word of God”.  Recognizing the historically-conditioned nature of the biblical texts, the extreme liberal concludes they cannot really function as scripture.  Affirming the texts as scripture, the fundamentalist tries to dodge their historically-conditioned nature.  Worse yet, both views are fundamentally boring!  It would take more space than available here to lay out my own view, but in essence I think that it is theologically necessary to treat seriously the historically-conditioned nature of the biblical texts, and this is precisely integral to their scriptural function.

As a student of ancient history (as opposed to many who come to Biblical studies through theology) this has been at the forefront of my mind. One has to find the balance of recognising the New Testament documents as theology and as history - with the constraints that come with both. Gordon Fee was right on the mark here:

To see Scripture as both human and divine creates its own set of tensions. . . . God did not choose to give us a series of timeless, non-culture-bound theological propositions to be believed and imperatives to be obeyed. Rather he chose to speak his eternal word this way, in historically particular circumstances, and in every kind of literary genre. God himself, by the very way he gave us this word, locked in the ambiguity. . . . The issue is whether one is wont to begin with a theological a priori and conform historical questions to that a priori (= telling the exegetes what God could or could not have done before one looks at the data), or whether one starts with historical investigation and expresses one’s theological constructs in light of that investigation (= telling the theologian what God in light of historical probabilities seems to have done).
(Gordon D. Fee, Gospel and Spirit: Issues in New Testament Hermeneutic, shamelessly lifted from Ben Witherington, The Living Word of God.)

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