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Der eine und einzige Gott. Monotheistische Formeln im Urchristentum und ihre Vorgeschichte bei Griechen und Juden.
Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 2011. 345 S. = Novum Testamentum et Orbis Antiquus. Studien zur Umwelt des Neuen Testaments, 80. Geb. EUR 69,99. ISBN 978-3-525-55015-1.
Larry W. Hurtado
Originating as a 2009 doctoral dissertation by Darina Staudt pre-sented to the University of Heidelberg (Gerd Theißen, Doktorvater), this is a well-researched and impressively wide-ranging analysis of the origins and use of key »monotheistic« formulae that ap-pear in early Christian texts. Although the impetus for her study is the question of how Jesus came to be included in the reverence given to the one God, the specific questions she addresses are these: 1) What »monotheistic« expressions (» Formeln«) are used in the ancient texts, 2) what are the origins of these particular expressions, and 3) to what extent did Greek and Jewish traditions influence early Christian use of them?
The specific expressions/»Formeln« that she focuses on are εἷς θεός (»one god,« which she refers to as »die Einzigkeitsformel«), μόνος θεός (»only god,« labelled »die Alleinanspruchsformel«), and οὐκ ἔστιν ἔτι πλήν (»there is no other«, which along with similar expressions she calls »die Verneinungsformel«). She posits two »roots« for the Einzigkeitsformel: 1) an ancient Jewish emphasis on YHWH as »one« reflected in Deuteronomy 6:4, which originally empha-sized one legitimate expression of the YHWH-cult and place of worship, and then developed into an affirmation more recognizably »monotheistic« and more firmly asserted in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, and 2) early Greek philosophy, especially Xenophanes (6th century BCE), which did not, however, have much influence or usage until its »Renaissance« the Hellenistic period, when εἶς (»one«) came to be used in pagan circles in an »elative« or »doxo-logical« sense to refer to various deities.
In Jewish texts of the second-temple period (e. g., LXX Deut 6:4; Zech 14:9; Dan 3:17), the expression εἷς κύριος (»one Lord«) and similar expressions represents an adaptation of the Greek formula. In these Jewish texts, and in early Christian texts thereafter, »one God« expresses an exclusivity that did not characterize pagan usage of the »one god« formula. This exclusivity is most clearly de-monstrated in the restriction of cultic worship to YHWH. Then, in early Christian usage reflected already in the New Testament, »one God« and »one Lord« are adapted further to acclaim respectively »God« (»the Father«) and Jesus (»the Lord«), and we see also a corresponding »binitarian« or »dyadic« worship-pattern in which both God and Jesus are rightful recipients.
As for the »only god« forms (in which typically μόνος features), there is an unambiguously Old Testament/Jewish origin, reflected in Old Testament texts from the 5th century BCE onward, especially in the Psalms. In texts of the Persian period and thereafter this sort of expression clearly has a sharply exclusivist tone, probably reflecting a polemical demarcation from the deities of other nations. This polemical tone is all the more clear in the Verneinungsformel, »there is no other (god),« its origins in Deutero-Isaiah, and an increasing usage in Jewish texts of the Hellenistic and Roman periods, often combined with the »only God« form.
S. also shows interesting variations in Roman-era Jewish authors. Philo of Alexandria uses both »one God« and »only God« forms together. But he also freely refers to God as having various intermediary figures to perform his bidding, and, of course, Philo also devotes a major place to the »Logos«, which serves as the expression of the transcendent God that engages the created world and that is comprehensible to humans. By contrast, Josephus uses the »one God« and »only God« expressions only seldom, mainly in Antiquities, there often in reference to Jewish patriarchal figures. In-terestingly, when writing of events in his own time, Josephus ty-pically places these expressions on the lips of Jewish revolutionaries. S. suggests that Josephus reflects an awareness of the polemical tone of these expressions and so refrained from affirming them directly.
In the New Testament and other early Christian texts, the »one God« form is preferred, the »only God« and »no other god« expressions rarely used (e. g., Mark 12:32, in the mouth of a Jewish scribe, or in prayers and doxologies, e. g., John 17:3; 1Tim 6:15–16). S. proposes that the reason for this is the inclusion of Jesus with God in early Christian belief and worship. Yet, for early Christians, this did not involve positing two deities, but rather an expansion of the cultic worship of the one God to include Jesus, producing a distinctive »Christian monotheism.« So, the »one God« and »one Lord« language of early Christianity has its origins in the setting of worshipconfession/acclamation. Already in Paul we see the close connection of Jesus with God: »where Paul speaks of God […] he always thinks of Jesus Christ also« (320), a key example given in 1Cor 8:6. In only one New Testament text, however, do we find the Alleinanspruchsformel applied to Jesus, in Jude 4 (»our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ«).
S. contends that in the early Christian mission-encounter with pagan religion and philosophy, the name of Jesus played a key role, making more concrete the transcendent God. Important among the forces against which early Christians contended, S. urges, was Serapis-Isis religion. In her view, although not directly mentioned in the New Testament, the image of Jesus as Savior was developed over against Serapis, who likewise was a savior-deity.
The range of material covered in S.’s book is very impressive. She has chapters on Greek philosophical traditions (with discussions of pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle, Stoics, Roman-era writers), on Old Testament traditions, second-temple Jewish texts, Philo, Josephus, the New Testament, the Apostolic Fathers, and »later« usage of the »one God« form. In each chapter the discussion focuses on specific texts, to which she brings commendable familiarity with scholarly opinion on them. As well, there are several excurses on various matter, e. g., Gerhardsson’s study of the Shema, and, particularly, a valuable assessment of Erik Peterson’s classic work on »one god« expressions in Greek-language inscriptions.
I can only commend the book as an excellent analysis of the data relevant to the questions posed, specifically the origins and usage of the several formulae identified. It is not clear to me, however, that (or how) her study addresses the larger question posed in her op-ening paragraph: How did self-confessing »monotheistic« Jews come to include Jesus along with the one God as rightful recipient of worship? S.’s examination of the usage of the »one God« and »only God« forms certainly shows the effects of religious developments, among which the emergence of a strong exclusivist monotheism in second-temple Judaism and, still more, the eruption of a »binitarian/dyadic« devotional pattern in earliest Christianity were particularly remarkable. But the use and adaptation of these forms do not explain why these religious developments took place. Nevertheless, I repeat my hearty recommendation of S.’s book as a comprehensive and incisive study of these forms. A 16-page bibliography and an index of primary sources complete this excellent work.