by Jonathan Morrow
Did Christianity invent the idea that Jesus is God? Or does the idea that Jesus is God go all the way back to the beginning of Christianity?
To answer this question we need to focus our attention on the question of how early Jesus was being worshiped as God.
Paul’s letter to the Philippians (which critical scholars accept as authentic) affirms that Jesus was being worshiped as God within twenty-five years of his public crucifixion.
We can see that belief in action within early Christian singing (hymns) as they would gather (the most famous is Philippians 2:5-11). But it also can be found in early Christian doctrinal summaries that were recited in public worship, memorized, and passed down. The earliest written form of one of these summaries occurs in the apostle Paul’s words to the Corinthians (c.a. AD 53):
Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. (1 Corinthians 8:4–6, italics added)
Paul has done something unthinkable; he has taken the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4—the most sacred Jewish expression of exclusive allegiance to the one God—and included Jesus “in the unique divine identity.” The belief that Jesus was God was very early…
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