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The Only True God

The Only True God: Early Christian Monotheism in Its Jewish Context

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 168
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  • Book Info
    The Only True God
    Book Description:

    Monotheism, the idea that there is only one true God, is a powerful religious concept that was shaped by competing ideas and the problems they raised. At times, an attempt to enforce exclusive monotheism has divided a people or brought down a ruler; at other times, it has united tribes or peoples who had previously been at war with one another. The concept has been at the focus of many debates among (and between) Christians, Jews, and Muslims._x000B__x000B_Focusing on the early days of Christianity and its relations to Jewish religion at that time, The Only True God explores the extent to which Christianity began to move in new directions in the earliest period of its history. Surveying New Testament writings and Jewish sources from before and after the rise of Christianity, James F. McGrath argues that even the most developed Christologies in the New Testament fit within the context of first century Jewish "monotheism." In doing so, he pinpoints more precisely when the parting of ways took place over the issue of God's oneness, and he explores philosophical ideas such as "creation out of nothing," which led Jews and Christians to develop differing concepts and definitions about God.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09189-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. 1 Monotheism and Method: An Introduction to the Study of Early Jewish and Christian Thought about God
    (pp. 1-22)

    If one were to survey the religious ideas that have made the greatest impact on human history, among them would inevitably be includedmonotheism, the idea that there is only one true God. At times, an attempt to propagate exclusive monotheism has divided a people or brought down a ruler; at other times, it has united tribes or peoples who had previously been at war with one another. Monotheism is an idea that has been used to justify one group′s dominance over others, and it has been used to emphasize the idea that all are equal as children of one...

  5. 2 Worship and the Question of Jewish Monotheism in the Greco-Roman Era
    (pp. 23-37)

    Before we can determine whether various early Christian writings fit within Jewish monotheism as it was understood and practiced in the Greco-Roman period, we must determine whether and to what extent Judaism was in fact a monotheistic faith, and whether there was a unity or diversity of views on the matter. Rather than simply move directly into the evidence regarding the Roman era, it is crucial that we begin earlier, with a review of the evidence that Judaism was recognized by others in the Hellenistic age as having some sort of distinctive focus on one God alone. Because scholars such...

  6. 3 Monotheism and the Letters Attributed to Paul
    (pp. 38-54)

    In examining the view(s) of God held by the early Christians, it is to the letters of Paul that we turn first, since they provide our earliest written sources. Although it might seem more natural to begin with the historical figure of Jesus himself, it is only through writings from this time period that we can gain access to him. All the early Christian texts at our disposal in the New Testament reflect not only historical realities from the time of Jesus but also beliefs held by Christians in the time these works were written. A study of the view...

  7. 4 Monotheism and the Gospel of John
    (pp. 55-70)

    Many readers familiar with recent debates about the development of Christology may find no particular difficulty in accepting the arguments presented in the previous chapter regarding Paul′s Christology. Paul, writing in the earliest decades after Easter, was part of the generation that made the first steps in the direction of later Christian thought about Jesus and God, and it is to be expected that his views will not fully express the later Christian understanding of Jesus. In the case of the Gospel of John, however, most readers will assume, or perhaps even be firmly convinced by various pieces of evidence,...

  8. 5 Monotheism and Worship in the Book of Revelation
    (pp. 71-80)

    There can be no doubting the importance of worship as a theme in the Book of Revelation. Just considering the frequency with which the verb ″to worship″ (proskunein) and its cognates appear, without yet considering any other related terminology or actions, one finds a statistically high occurrence when compared with other New Testament writings. It is found in some form in Revelation 3:9; 4:10; 9:20; 11:1; 13:8, 12, 15; 14:7, 9, 11; 15:4; 16:2; 19:10, 20; and 22:8–9. The spread and frequency of the term alone can be said to give us some initial indication of the theme′s importance...

  9. 6 Two Powers Heresy: Rethinking (and Redating) the Parting of Ways between Jewish and Christian Monotheism
    (pp. 81-96)

    Our understanding of early Judaism and its relationship to Christianity has been significantly advanced by Alan Segal′s famous work on the ″two powers heresy.″¹ His research demonstrated that belief in two heavenly powers was considered an intolerable heresy by the rabbis and that Christians were among those indicted.² Furthermore, Segal argued that the two powers debate could be traced back to the first century, as evidenced by certain Christological passages of the New Testament and by Philo′s writings.³ Thus, according to Segal, the two powers controversy provided the context for the New Testament and, conversely, these writings shaped rabbinic reports...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 97-104)

    Let us begin this final chapter by summarizing the previous chapters′ arguments and conclusions. Having shown the widely divergent interpretations of the evidence regarding the relationship between early Judaism and Christianity on the idea of God, in chapter 2 we saw that Jewish devotion to one God was able to incorporate many practices that later monotheists rejected. However, this does not reflect a laxity of Jews in the Greco-Roman era about monotheism but represents a change in the definition of monotheism. There seems to have been a fervent, at times almost fanatical, adherence to the worship of only God Most...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 105-130)
    (pp. 131-148)
    (pp. 149-151)
    (pp. 152-153)
    (pp. 154-155)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 156-159)