Oct 5, 2022Liked by David Armstrong

As so often, mixed feelings. I really like the second half, where the development and logic of Niceaen orthodoxy (from both a theological-philosophical and historical-material perspectice) is laid out. I've obviously encountered this argument before in Hart, and I substantially agree with it. I'm not quite as sold on the first half of the piece. Some of the connections drawn between Jesus's historical context and ancient Israelite religion seem tenuous to me. While I obviously appreciate the value of historical context (after all, I teach it for a living), I also know that premodern people lacked a sense that the past was genuinely different from the present, so no matter how clearly, say, divine kingship or divine procreation is spelled out in the Old Testament, we can't assume First Century interpreters would have recognized those concepts after several centuries of religious development. Basically, I think Philo's appearance was both late and brief when we consider that he was actually Jesus's contemporary, while the Deuteronomist (whoever they were) died half a millenium before he was born.

If there's one thing missing from this article, I'd say it's a discussing of what Christians believed they were doing when they worshiped Christ, and only Him. That's been an area of significant interest in recent scholarship, and some researchers (like the late Larry Hurtado) believe it's key to understanding how early Christians understood Jesus and his relationship to God. Of course, you can't fit everything or please everyone, and there's obviously more to come.

One last thing: You seem to have a distaste for scholarly or historical claims which suggest an unapologetically positive or exceptionalist view of Christianity or Judaism rather than a critical or skeptical view. This may be a purely academic instinct (maybe something they drill into you in Religious Studies 101?), but I can't help but feel that you end up underselling both Christianity and Judaism out of fear over overselling them, or even selling them at all.

Take all this with a loving grain of salt, of course, because typing this out one a smartphone with a sleeping baby in your lap should probably unlock some kind of Fatherhood Achievement. I look forward to the final installment.

Expand full comment

Not exactly related , but peripherally - do you have any recommendations in regards to books that read Paul as a faithful Jew proclaiming Jesus alongside a discussion of Paul's view of ethnicity and the dissolution of racial boundaries?

I'm not sure if my question is all that clear - are there scholarly books that discuss Paul and the Jew/Gentile boundary, that don't project the traditional Protestant misreading of Paul onto what Paul is actually saying?

Expand full comment