Wednesday, August 04, 2010

James Dunn's Did the first Christians worship Jesus?

If you run a bookshop, where would you shelve James Dunn's latest book 'Did the first Christians worship Jesus?'?

I found it at the section on 'Worship' at the bookshop where I work. So I grabbed the three copies, brought them to the counter, changed their category to 'Christology' before shelving them to where they really belong.

For sure, this latest work is less dense than Dunn's Christianity in the Making trilogy. And it is easy to read in the sense that the argument is clear. Yet one may misunderstand Dunn's argument if one cannot follow the nuances he carefully crafted throughout the book.

Personally, I think the entire book is not to answer the provocative question the book asks on its cover "Did the first Christians worship Jesus?" but to examine exactly what do we mean by that question.

The main concern of the book is to probe the meaning of 'worship' and 'Jesus' to the first Christians. Dunn uses the analogy of a wall and a window to describe the first (Jewish) Christians' understanding of Jesus in relation to God. They did not think Jesus as the wall to which their sight of God reaches its end. They were not committing 'Jesus-olatry'. In other words, they did not see Jesus as the wall with the inscription "God" on it. Instead, Dunn argues, the first Christians saw Jesus as the window through which they saw God.

Dunn's work can be easily misunderstood if one failed to follow through his nuances. I have a group of readers of the book in mind which I think is most vulnerable to misreading this book.

That's the Muslims.

In fact there is already one Muslim reviewer who actually thinks that Dunn "effectively takes issue with the great christological statements of the councils of Nicea and Chalcedon and joins the ranks of the unitarians in affirming a simple monotheistic theology. But his conclusions have far reaching implications for orthodox Christianity which stands condemned as promoting the serious sin of idolatry in its worship of Jesus as God."

The reviewer's misreading is most obvious in his (mis)perception that Dunn is "reluctant to take on board the effectiveness of these (Judaism's and Islam's persisting claim "that the worship of Jesus constitutes a denial of Christianity’s claim to be a monotheistic religion") critiques."

Dunn has specifically made it clear as early as page 1 to 2 that what he was doing in the book is to clarify how did the Nicaea council came to affirm the concept of Trinity through the Jesus event. Here's what Dunn wrote, which some (like the mentioned Muslim reviewer) are simply too blinded by their own dogmatism to take notice,
"...the classic creedal distinction between different 'persons' of the Godhead, when 'person' is understood in its everyday sense, invites the perception of God in tri-theistic rather than Trinitarian terms, as three and distinct individual 'persons'. In view of this, it may be helpful to look back to the beginning of the process that resulted in the formulation of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, and in doing so to clarify what lay behind the confession of Jesus as the Son of God in Trinitarian terms...

...a more fruitful way forward would be to inquire behind the process that has given Christianity its creedal confessions, to attempt some closer examination of the beginning of the process [of Christians worshiping Jesus as God]. (Emphasis added, p.1-2)
If one has read through the book, one would not miss the final part where Dunn emphasizes that the Jesus, as perceived by first Christians, is one that neither Muslims and Judaic Jews able to accept, and hence uniquely Christian, uniquely Trinitarian,
"...Christianity has gone further in declaring that God has bridged the gulf [between the divine and human] not merely in scripture and temple, not only through priest and prophet, but in a particular individual whom God revealed himself and who constitutes the bridge over the gulf in himself. That claim remains a claim too far for Jews and Muslims. But the claim that Christians make is that the character of God has never been revealed so fully and profoundly as in Jesus--in his mission, in his cruel death on the cross, and in his resurrection and exaltation. It is because Jesus died as he did that Christians find it necessary to speak of the God who suffers, even of 'the crucified God'. (Emphasis added, p.150)
To miss all these is to misread Dunn's work. No where in Dunn's work "takes issue with the great christological statements of the councils of Nicea" as the Muslim reviewer alleges.

Anyway, Dunn was right in wanting to clarify the early Christians' perception of Jesus prior to the Nicaea council. Yet he clarified it wrongly.

Larry Hurtado, whom Dunn dedicated this latest book to, has provided an elaborate review of Dunn's work. Hurtado is critical over Dunn's "anxiety about Jesus being the recipient of worship" (Hurtado, p.2) and explains why.

33 comments:

Israel Lee said...

When I saw this post, my heart cried out 'unfair'! Not because of what Dunn wrote, or what you wrote, but because you have this book in the stores in Singapore whereas I had to order from Amazon! ;-)

Even though the ones you picked up are published in the UK, and mine is from the US, it is still frustrating that we do not have the UK ones yet in Malaysia. Sad.

P.S. When I get the book in the coming weeks, I will comment further on it. ;-)

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Israel,

I know how frustrating that is! :-)

Enjoy the read when your arrived.

SHWong said...

It's not a bad idea to place of the 3 books in the worship section. Worship leaders often miss out these gems since they don't study Christology but only worship techniques.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi SHWong,

Now you are putting me in a dilemma! :-)

Anyway, you are right there. I faced the same tendency too while deciding where to shelve the books.

I thought those who usually visit the 'Worship' section are looking for worship techniques, as you rightly said, then the books would very much be missed by those who are interested to find out more about Christology. So I chose to placed them at Christology section where those who are interested can get a hold of them.

Add to that, I doubt this book really provides the full picture of Christian worship, as Hurtado has pointed out in his review.

So you may say that I placed the books at Christology section out of faith that they will get more exposure. An act of faith :-)

Oh, do check out this book, the bookshop is near your workplace ;p (do say 'Hi' if you are around during Fridays and Saturdays) hahaha

reasonable said...

Perhaps some books can be placed at both sections - e.g. one copy in Worship and one copy in Christology/Christologies

Sze Zeng said...

Hi reasonable,

Thank you for the suggestion but that is impossible for a store with thousands of books for stock-taking, cataloging, and locating the book.

We just have to make a decision where is the best place to expose the book to the most potential customers.

Cammie Novara said...

"Yet one may misunderstand Dunn's argument if one cannot follow the nuances he carefully crafted throughout the book." I can totally relate to that quote from personal experience.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Cammie Novara,

I see that you manage a site on intelligent design. Looks good. I suppose your experience is from your encounter with those who discuss about intelligent design on your website? :-)

Emily said...

Wow. The title to this book is something I have wondered myself for some time. I feel strange, especially in church when a lot of the worship is targeted at Jesus. I guess I keep coming to that verse in Matthew 19:17 when Jesus says, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God." It is interesting what Dunn says about Jesus being a window to God, and I wonder what Jesus thinks about the way many Christians view him as equal to God. I know all of this is just speculation, but it is nice to know I'm not the only one with such thoughts.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Emily,

Thank you for sharing about your similar sentiment with that of Dunn.

The thing is to balance between our reverence for Christ as God among our reverence for the Father as God as well as the Holy Spirit as God.

Slanting only to one person in the Trinity is always a risk of idolatry.

Larry Hurtado in his review has pointed out that there were first Christians who expressly revere, venerate, and devout themselves to Jesus as how they revere, venerate, and devout to God. (Acts 7:59, Rom 1:1-2,10:9-13, 1 Corinthians 16:22, Philippians 2:9-11, etc).

I guess, it is our duty to strike a balance in our relating to the Trinity without falling to Jesus-olatry on one side, and Subordinationism on the other side.

(Subordinationism is a doctrine in Christian theology which holds that the Son and the Holy Spirit are subordinate to God the Father in nature and being--from Wikipedia)

reasonable said...

Hi Emily,

I think what u quoted is more of Mark 10.17-18 (Matthew's version is a softer version).

"I wonder what Jesus thinks about the way many Christians view him as equal to God."

For speculative fun: perhaps one possible Jesus's reply to you is: "Emily, some writers of those documents in the NT have made a mistake - they went much further than what I myself have intended. I did what YHWH was to do in bringing Israel's story to a climatic point, to bring about the return of YHWH to Zion & Jerusalem, but that is not to say I am equal to YHWH despite me doing what YHWH was to do. Authors of the NT are fallible imperfect human beings; hence it should not surprise u regarding this mistake."

Emily said...

Sze Zeng and Reasonable,

Good points. Definitely something to think about. It's always fun to speculate.

Paul said...

Hi Sze Zeng

My name is Paul Williams and I just discovered your link to my review of Dunn's book on the Muslim Debate Initiative blog.

Sorry I didn't notice it sooner as I would have liked to reply to your comments earlier.

Anyway, I'l be writing a fuller response to your post shortly, but 2 things for now:

My review of Dunn was just that: MY personal response, not THE Muslim response as you unwarrantably claim :
"That's the Muslims".

I will defend my view that 'Dunn "effectively takes issue with the great christological statements of the councils of Nicea and Chalcedon and joins the ranks of the unitarians in affirming a simple monotheistic theology. But his conclusions have far reaching implications for orthodox Christianity which stands condemned as promoting the serious sin of idolatry in its worship of Jesus as God."

And my conclusion that Dunn is evidently "reluctant to take on board the effectiveness of these (Judaism's and Islam's persisting claim "that the worship of Jesus constitutes a denial of Christianity’s claim to be a monotheistic religion") critiques."

That Dunn does not believe the earliest Christians worshipped God is clear from his conclusion. That Dunn thinks there is NO historical evidence that Jesus thought he was in anyway God or Yahweh is also clear from his earlier work 'Christology in the Making'.

But more later..

Paul said...

you write

'Personally, I think the entire book is not to answer the provocative question the book asks on its cover "Did the first Christians worship Jesus?" but to examine exactly what do we mean by that question.'

Actually the final chapter is quite clear: Dunn does give an answer to the question "Did the first Christians worship Jesus?" and that answer is simple: NO they didn't. Did you even read the last chapter? The reason the earliest disciples did not worship Jesus is because they did not believe he was God. As Peter in Acts teaches: “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know."

And as Paul teaches in 1 Cor 11 'But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man,and the head of Christ is God.'

I still maintain that Dunn, a unitarian, does not follow through on his Christology and explicitly abandon the churches erroneous creeds. Perhaps he fears the wrath of conservative Christians if he took that step publicly.

In his excellent work 'Christology in the Making' after a meticulous exegesis of the texts Dunn concludes, 'If we are to submit our speculations to the text [the NT] and build our theology only with the bricks provided by careful exegesis we cannot say with any confidence that Jesus knew himself to be divine, the pre-existent Son of God.' p32.

Dunn has always argued that the very high incarnational Christology of John only develops late in the first century and is not found in the teaching of the earliest disciples of Jesus.

Muslims believe that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary; was sent only to the Jews (as Jesus himself taught in Matthew 15:24); that he was the Christ; that he performed signs and wonders (as per Acts 2); and he will return one day. But God warns us in the Holy Qur'an not to worship God's prophets for they are men just as we are. A conclusion the original disciples of Jesus would have agreed with...

reasonable said...

Paul Williams said "My review of Dunn was just that: MY personal response, not THE Muslim response as you unwarrantably claim :
'That's the Muslims'...."

Hi Paul,

I think you made a mistake in your exegesis of Sze Zeng's blog.

Sze Zeng did not claim that Paul Williams’ view is “THE Muslim response”.

What Sze Zeng wrote was: “I have a group of readers of the book in mind which I think is most vulnerable to misreading this book. That's the Muslims. In fact there is already one Muslim reviewer who actually thinks that Dun…”

As we all can see, in Sze Zeng's sentences, no where was it stated that your view represents “THE” Muslim response.

Sze Zeng merely said that the Muslims is a group of readers that is most vulnerable to misreading Dunn’s book, and then listed your review as an example, without saying that your view is representative of THE Muslim response.

Though you made a mistake in exegesis of Sze Zeng's writing, I hope you did not made the exegetical mistake too in your reading o Dunn.


Cheers!

:)

reasonable said...

Hi Paul,

You mentioned: "Actually the final chapter is quite clear: Dunn does give an answer to the question "Did the first Christians worship Jesus?" and that answer is simple: NO they didn't. Did you even read the last chapter? The reason the earliest disciples did not worship Jesus is because they did not believe he was God."

As some of us do not have the book "Did the first Christians worship Jesus?", can u do us a favour by quoting the relevant sentences/paragraphs that shows that Dunn's answer is "No they didn't worship Jesus"?

Thanks in advance for your help :)


Cheers!

Paul said...

Sze Zeng

Sorry I don't have time to quote chunks of Dunn's text on your blog.

Suggest you get a copy and read the book for yourself...

Paul said...

'reasonable'

I'm surprised you find time to quibble about what I said. Do you not have anything better to do with your time?

I could suggest reading the Quran if you are at a loose end.

The bigger issue with Sze Zengs sweeping comments about Muslims being 'vulnerable' (!) to reading Dunn in a certain way etc - despite the patronising and silly tone - is his highly selective and misleading citations from Dunn's book which give the false impression that Dunn is a Trinitarian. He is not, as an acquaintance with Dunn's other work clearly indicates.

Dunn is on record as saying that the earliest disciples did not worship Jesus and that the historical Jesus (as opposed to the imaginations of evangelical) probably did not consider himself divine.

I fear that it is conservative Christians who as a group are vulnerable to misreading Dunn...

reasonable said...

Paul said: “Sze Zeng, Sorry I don't have time to quote chunks of Dunn's text on your blog.”

The easy way out your mistake is to give an excuse of having no time. The proper & responsible way to do a discussion is to produce evidence to support what you claimed about Dunn.

Note that once again, apparently you are quite bad in your exegesis as Sze Zeng was not the one who asked you to quote Dunn’s words. Rather I am the one who asked you to do that. You failed to even exegete correctly the simple comments made here. That may make some readers wonder whether you are able to exegete Dunn’s work correctly.

It is me, not Sze Zeng, who asked you to quote some sentences for us here to show that Dunn said what you said he said (hope the last phrase is not confusing for your to exegete).

You do not need to quote “chunks of Dunn’s text” but rather, just quote some sentences that shows Dunn answering without doubt that the early Christians did not worship Jesus in a Trinitarian way.

Since you said Dunn is not a Trinitarian, it is simple to just quote some relevant sentences of Dunn to support your exegesis of Dunn.

You said that “Dunn is ON RECORD as saying that the earliest disciples did not worship Jesus...” Please quote just a few relevant sentences from Dunn’s book discussed in this blog to support your claim, since your said it is “on record”.

So since you said Dunn said that the early Christians did not worship Jesus in a Trinitarian way, please just quote some relevant sentences from Dunn’s book. We with our fair mind would then see if what you claimed is supported by the sentences said by Dunn.


Cheers!

reasonable said...

Paul, you said: “I'm surprised you find time to quibble about what I said. Do you not have anything better to do with your time?”

The important thing you should address is whether or not what I said was correct. I said that you made a mistake when you say that Sze Zeng claimed that your response was THE Muslim response. I said you were mistaken to say that. If you think what I said was wrong, then show it.

Otherwise just admit that you indeed misinterpreted what Sze Zeng said.

Since you can find the time to quibble with what Sze Zeng said, you should not be surprised that others too have the time to point out your mistakes in what you wrote and your errors in your exegesis of Sze Zeng’s post. If you fail to do proper exegesis of a simple post made by Sze Zeng, it may raise doubt to your ability to do proper exegesis of Dunn’s book.

Paul, you said: “I fear that it is conservative Christians who as a group are vulnerable to misreading Dunn...” Sze Zeng and I are not conservative Christians. I allowed for what one may call “eroors” in the bible (e.g. allowing for the Conquest accounts by Joshua in the OT as non-historical in the details). And I, together with some evangelicals, do not think that Jesus was walking around 2000 years ago thinking that “I am God” or “I am divine”. But we should not let our belief distort our exegesis of Dunn’s work.

So since you said Dunn said that the early Christians did not worship Jesus in a Trinitarian way, please just quote some relevant sentences from Dunn’s book. We with our fair mind would then see if what you claimed is supported by the sentences said by Dunn.

Cheers! :)

Paul said...

'reasonable' (I take it your name is meant ironically?)

Your aggressive and unreasonable tone is unpleasant.

NB: my comments are directed at Sze Zeng and his article attacking my review. i hope he will respond.

Judging from this blog Sze Zeng is certainly a conservative Christian (as opposed to a liberal one). Evangelicals typically DO claim that Jesus walked around claiming to be God (mistakenly thinking that the words of Jesus in John's gospel are the ipsissima verba of jesus). If some evangelicals don't they are in a very small minority.

To repeat: I am not going to quote chunks of the book for those like you who have failed to read the book.

Furthermore read my original article in full on my blog - it contains relevant quotes from Dunn that mysteriously did not appear in Sze Zeng's review. So buy or borrow a copy, read it, get up to speed on the debate then speak to me again.

If you are a novice when it comes to Dunn and his voluminous work then you should not really be commenting at this stage.

http://bloggingtheology.wordpress.com/2010/06/05/my-review-of-did-the-first-christians-worship-jesus-by-james-d-g-dunn/

Frankly, unreasonable, I'm much more interested in hearing from Sze Zeng to whom my comments are directed.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Paul,

Thank you for responding to my post. I shall respond in two separate comments.

As stated in my blog post, I do not see your personal review of Dunn's book as THE Muslim's response but a Muslim's (as 'reasonable' has pointed out rightly). However, it could be my fault for lacking of disclaimer. But I thought it was clear enough in the post that I didn't see your review as THE Muslims' view.

You wrote, "Dunn does give an answer to the question "Did the first Christians worship Jesus?" and that answer is simple: NO they didn't."

I have read through the portion you quoted from Dunn's book yet I find that there is no evidence that Dunn's answer is, "No the first Christians didn't worship Jesus." (as I shall show below)

You asked, "Did you even read the last chapter?

Yes, a few times in order to really comprehend Dunn's nuance project.

You quoted from Dunn's Christology in the Making, page 32, "If we are to submit our speculations to the text [the NT] and build our theology only with the bricks provided by careful exegesis we cannot say with any confidence that Jesus knew himself to be divine, the pre-existent Son of God."

But that is not the issue that you disagree with me here. We disagree on whether or not does Dunn think that the first Christians worshipped Jesus, not on whether does Dunn think that Jesus knew himself to be "divine, the pre-existent Son of God." Hence I do not have to engage with this particular quotation of yours as it has no relevance whatsoever to our disagreement. (Dunn's work may show two things, (1) that Jesus did not see himself as "divine, pre-existent Son of God," and (2) the first disciples did worshipped him. Both can be held in historical research. For example, a reporter can show that an old tree, which is worshipped by animists, as nothing but a tree. Showing the tree as nothing but a tree does not negate the fact that there are people worshipping it.)

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Paul,

Here are two further quotations from Dunn's Did the first Christians worship Jesus? to show that you have misread Dunn:

1) Nuances in Dunn's view on first Christians' worship of Jesus:
"...the first Christians did not think of Jesus as to be worshipped in and for himself [...] If he was worshipped it was worship offered to God in and through him, worship of Jesus-in-God and God-in-Jesus. And the corollary is that, in an important sense, Christian monotheism, if it is to be true monotheism, has still to assert that only God, only the one God, is to be worshipped. The Christian distinctive within the monotheistic faiths is its affirmation that God is most effectively worshipped in and through, and, in some real but finally unquantifiable sense, as (revealed in) Jesus." (Did the first Christians worship Jesus?, p.146. Emphasis added.)

Here Dunn does not rule out the fact that the first Christians did indeed worshipped Jesus. He merely points out that their worship of Jesus, if at all, was not the kind of worship that ends with Jesus.
Dunn even pointed out that the kind of worship the first Christians offered to Jesus, if they indeed did offer, would be one that does not end with Jesus. Therefore to say that Dunn gives an affirmative "NO" to the question whether did the first Christians worshipped Jesus is reading too much into Dunn. For Dunn, he does not rule out the scenario where the first Christians did worshipped Jesus, but in a way that does not end with him but to God.

2) Nuances in Dunn's view on God's oneness or unity:
"...a critique of Christian worship is made by the other great monotheistic faiths, Judaism and Islam. But it has become increasingly clear from the inquiry that the understanding of God as one, of the unity of God, is not so readily defined as such critiques generally assume. The unity or oneness of God is not a straightforward mathematical unity. Only a little acquaintance with mathematics, from ancient times until the present, will be sufficient to remind us that the concept of 'number' is more complex than at first seems likely, once we move on from merely counting apples and oranges or pennies and cents. We should recall, for example, that when Paul talks of the body of Christ, he insists that the body is one, the body is a unity, but he insists equally that the one body is made up of many diverse members. Oneness is not necessarily an entity singular in all the elements that make it one, that form its oneness. Alternatively, a singular entity may be too big or complex (the cosmos) to be fully comprehended in its singularity. All that can be perceived are different aspects, aspects that do not easily cohere into one (in fundamental physics no one has yet been able to produce a unified field theory); but the inadequacies of human conceptualization do not constitute a denial of the singularity of the entity. So too, the oneness of God should not be assumed to be a narrowly defined mathematical unity. (Did the first Christians worship Jesus?, p.148-149. Emphasis added.).

If you insist to label Dunn as a "unitarian," then you have to take into account the kind of "unitarian" he is. To Dunn, God's unity/oneness is not in the mathematical sense and so there is more than meet the eyes in Dunn's view. Add to that, Dunn's drawing on Paul's illustration of one body with diverse members shows that there is room in Dunn's perception to cater to the Trinity (One God, three Persons--just like Paul's illustration of one body with diverse members).

Thank you for reading.

Paul said...

Thanks for replying Sze Zeng.

I think you give an overly trinitarian interpretation to Dunn's writing. This is understandable as you obviously think Jesus is God yourself and would find find very difficult if a top scholar like Dunn thought otherwise.

He concludes his book,

‘The New Testament writers are really quite careful at this point. Jesus is NOT the God of Israel. He is NOT the Father. He is NOT Yahweh. An identification of Jesus with and as Yahweh was an early attempt to resolve the tensions indicated above; it was labelled ‘Modalism’, a form of ‘Monarchianism’ (the one God operating first as Father then as Son) and accounted a heresy.’ pp 141-142.

(So Jesus is NOT God)

Dunn's final chapter concludes,

‘If what has emerged in this inquiry is taken seriously, it soon becomes evident that Christian worship can deteriorate into what may be called Jesus-olatry. That is, not simply into worship of Jesus, but into a worship that falls short of the worship due to the one God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. '

(Over the years I have seen thousands of Christians - Catholic and evangelical - worship Jesus)

'I use the term ‘Jesus-olatry’ as in an important sense parallel or even close to ‘idolatry’. As Israel’s prophets pointed out on several occasions, the calamity of idolatry is that the idol is in effect taken to be the God to be worshipped. So the idol substitutes for God, takes the place of God. The worship due to God is absorbed by the idol. The danger of Jesus-olatry is similar: that Jesus has been substituted for God, has taken the place of the one creator God; Jesus is absorbing the worship due to God alone.’ p 147.

So as I concluded in my review: Dunn in rejecting the worship of Jesus as Yahweh in effect takes issue with the great christological statements of the Councils of Nicea and Chalcedon and joins the ranks of the unitarians in affirming a simple monotheistic theology.

Don't forget that Nicea states that Jesus is 'God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God'.

Dunn's conclusions have far reaching implications for orthodox Christianity which by implication stands condemned as promoting the serious sin of idolatry in its worship of Jesus as God.

God sent the prophet Muhammad (in part) to address the excesses of Christians and call them back to pure monotheism.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Paul,

I don't have difficulty if scholars think Jesus is not God.

I am well aware of Dunn's concern over Jesus-olatry, as I have stated in the post. Yet this particular concern of Dunn does not amount to saying Dunn as giving an affirmative "NO" to the question did the first Christians worshipped Jesus as the two quotations I gave testify.

The Jesus-olatry as understood by taking into account of the two quotations that I have highlighted would mean that Dunn merely points out that the first Christians' worship of Jesus, if at all, was not the kind of worship that ends with Jesus. In fact, Dunn pointed out that the kind of worship the first Christians offered to Jesus, if they indeed did offer, would be one that does not end with Jesus.

The key point here is "end with Jesus." Dunn considers worship that ends with Jesus as Jesus-olatry. Hence he is not saying that the first Christians did not worship Jesus. He is saying that the first Christians did not worship Jesus in a certain way; the way of Jesus-olatry.

(1) Dunn is saying that the first Christians did not worship Jesus.

(2) Dunn is saying that the first Christians did not worship Jesus in a certain way, are different.

The above two propositions are not the same, and I see that you see them as the same.

You wrote: So as I concluded in my review: Dunn in rejecting the worship of Jesus as Yahweh in effect takes issue with the great christological statements of the Councils of Nicea and Chalcedon and joins the ranks of the unitarians in affirming a simple monotheistic theology.

Given the quotations that I have provided from Dunn's work, it is notable that Dunn is not saying that monotheistic theology is simple. To him, monotheistic theology of the first Christians was complex, as the quotation from page 148-149 shows.

Appreciate your response. Have a good weekend.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Paul,

There is one correction in my previous comment to you. Here is the corrected version:

(1) Dunn is saying that the first Christians did not worship Jesus.

(2) Dunn is saying that the first Christians did not worship Jesus in a certain way.

The above two propositions are not the same, and I see that you see them as the same.

reasonable said...

Hi Paul Williams,

It has been shown again (this time by Sze Zeng's quotations from Dunn's book) that your skill in doing exegesis is very poor. Pl read very carefully.

"If you are a novice when it comes to Dunn and his voluminous work then you should not really be commenting at this stage."

If you are such a poor reader of text (as shown by your poor interpretation of Sze Zeng's blog on this book of Dunn, as shown by your poor interpretation of a comment I left here, and now as shown by the quoted text from Dunn's book), then you should not really be commenting at this stage. Go and polish up your skill in interpretation. I suggest you take up a course in exegesis in Trinity Theological College. Or you may take some simple lessons from me over here.

You qutoed from Dunn: "He [Jesus] is NOT the Father. He is NOT Yahweh. An identification of Jesus with and as Yahweh was an early attempt to resolve the tensions indicated above..."

The majority of evangelical scholars and thinkers would also say that Jesus is not Yahweh.

The meaning of Trinity is precisely that Jesus is not Yahweh.

Your quoted statements from Dunn are not saying anything that contradicts what is believed by the majority of evangelical thinkers.

After quoting those words of Dunn, your added your comments "(So Jesus is NOT God)" and then you further said that "Dunn in rejecting the worship of Jesus as Yahweh in effect takes issue with the great christological statements of the Councils of Nicea and Chalcedon and joins the ranks of the unitarians in affirming a simple monotheistic theology." These showed again your poor exegesis of Dunn; you really lacked an ability to grasp the nuances of Dunn.

Jesus is not Yahweh does not have the same meaning as Jesus is not God.

The first Christians did not worship Jesus as Yahweh is not the same meaning as the first Christians did not worship Jesus.

Dunn did not deny that the first Christians worshiped Jesus in a Trinitarian way. Dunn only denied that the first Christians worshipped Jesus as Yahweh; Dunn only denied that the first Christians worshipped Jesus in the place of God the Father or God the Creator.

Please think and meditate on Dunn's words carefully to catch the nuances involved before shooting off from your mouth.

reasonable said...

Dunn’s words: “The Christian distinctive within the monotheistic faiths is its affirmation that GOD IS MOST EFFECTIVELY WORSHIPPED…AS JESUS." (Did the first Christians worship Jesus?, p.146)
Paul need to stare at these words of Dunn again:“God is most effectively worshipped as Jesus”. If you were to believe Dunn, then the most effected way for you to worship God is by worshipping God AS JESUS.
Again, Dunn’ s words: “God is most effectively worshipped in and through and... as Jesus”.
If you were to believe Dunn, then you ought to consider believing in the resurrection of Jesus for Dunn has argued in his other works that Jesus’ resurrection took place. If you were to believe Dunn, then God is seen fully in Jesus.
“...a critique of Christian worship is made by the other great monotheistic faiths, Judaism and Islam. But it has become increasingly clear from the inquiry that the understanding of God as one, of the unity of God, is not so readily defined as such critiques generally assume. The unity or oneness of God is not a straightforward mathematical unity…the oneness of God should not be assumed to be a narrowly defined mathematical unity. “(Did the first Christians worship Jesus?, p.148-149)

Paul Williams quoted Dunn: “If what has emerged in this inquiry is taken seriously, it soon becomes evident that Christian worship CAN deteriorate into what may be called Jesus-olatry.”
Dunn did not say Christain worship has already deteriorated or would deteriorate into Jesu-olatry.
Please understand the nuances of the meaning of “can”.
Example: “Drinking alcohol CAN leads to liver problem” does not have the same meaning as “Drinking alcohol will lead to liver problem” and does not have the same meaning as “Drinking alchohol has led to liver problem”.

Paul Williams quoted Dunn: “That is, not simply into worship of Jesus, but into a worship that falls short of the worship due to the one God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. “
Now, the quoted words of Dunn shows that Dunn was not having problem with “worship of Jesus” but only with the type of worship that “falls short of the worship due to the Father or our Lord Jesus Christ”.
There is a kind of appropriate worship of Jesus which Dunn did not object to. There is another kind of worship of Jesus which is improper and it is the latter which Dunn was having a problem with.

In chapter one, Dunn has already said that there were some cases in the early New Testament writings that Jesus was the recipient of worship which in Dunn’s judgment was “very striking” and “very unusual and without precedent in the Judaism of the time”. Dunn said that Jesus was “in at least some degree the object of worship” from the New Testament evidence, in addition of Jesus being the enabler or medium of effective worship”. Dunn also said that the apostle Paul understood Christ as the one whom we can pray to.

reasonable said...

In the OT, Yahweh is the one to say these: "Before Me every knee will bow and by me every tongue will swear".

The Apostle Paul in the letter of Romans quoted something similar regarding Yahweh: "For it is written, 'AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD."

But in another early letter of Paul, this description is applied to Jesus by the apostle Paul: "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth..."

That means, in the earlier documents within the New Testament, what is applied to Yahweh has already begun to be applied to Jesus.

reasonable said...

Paul Williams said to SZ: "I think you give an overly trinitarian interpretation to Dunn's writing. This is understandable as you obviously think Jesus is God yourself and would find find very difficult if a top scholar like Dunn thought otherwise."

I think Paul Williams gave an overly unitarian interpretation to Dunn's writing. This is understandable as Paul Williams obviously think the Oneness of God as a simplistic mathematical oneness and hence would find it very difficult if a top scholar like Dunn thought otherwise.

hahahahaha

Paul said...

hi Sze Zeng

I wont be posting any further replies on your blog.

Thank you for the friendly way you have conducted the debate. However individuals like the ironically named 'reasonable' are just spoiling for a fight - and I have better things to do with my time than spar with him.

Paul

JT said...

I've recently read Dunns book on the worship of Jesus. His view is trinitarian but is extremely nuanced and can be ;taken' by the unwise, those not alert and those on the lookout for an 'easy' quote as almost non trinitarian.
The quotes included show he sees the worship of jESus as not an end in itself but is ultimately to the father.
Interestyingly of course all Evangelicals would say Jesus is not the father, but the use of God and Lord for Jesus in the Nt (see John 20v28 and Rom 10v9f) shows that without being a seperate God (subordinationism /arianism) and without being the same person as 'God' (modalism) there is a very clear and strong sense that 'God' and the NT quotes of the tetragram (YHWH ..in the NT kurios-Lord) includes Jesus within both titles/names. So the Nt says call on the name of the Lord (kurios) and be saved and it quotes the Ot where its YHWH, the seeming deliberate attribution of the divine name to Jesus is convincing evidence that 'its not as simple' as unitarians say!!!

JT (from wales)

reasonable said...

Indeed. Hope Paul Williams get to see JT's comments, especially this part and hope Paul gets to learn more about the skill of careful-reading:

"I've recently read Dunns book on the worship of Jesus. His view is trinitarian but is EXTREMELY NUANCED and can be 'taken' by the unwise, THOSE NOT ALERT and those on the lookout for an 'easy' quote as almost non trinitarian."


Cheers!