The Society of Biblical Literature has mounted a new/recent web-resource for the “general public” entitled “Bible Odyssey” here. People are invited to lodge questions, and to each a relevant expert is asked by the SBL to make a response. I’ve had my own first go at doing this here, in response to a question about the origins of treating Jesus as divine.
-Dr. Larry Hurtado
“Bible Odyssey: Recent Web Site”
Larry Hurtado’s Blog
That’s a good, short description of a very interesting new resource on Biblical scholarship which has recently become available to non-scholars.
However, Bible Odyssey is more than just a place to ask a scholar a question.
You can learn how scholars view the different notable people in the Bible such as Abraham, Daniel, John the Baptist, and Jesus. The same treatment is given to specific places in the Bible like Antioch, Corinth, Jerusalem, and Rome. Have a question about a particular passage in the Bible? You can learn more about the Binding of Isaac, Jesus and the Money Changers, the New Covenant, and more.
But as Dr. Hurtado pointed out, one of the most exciting opportunities this web site offers is the ability to ask a Biblical scholar a question and receive a detailed response. Just click Ask a Scholar to get started, but keep this important proviso in mind:
Please keep in mind that this site is focused on the historical, social, literary, and cultural contexts of the Bible, rather than on theology, spirituality or personal religious beliefs. Selected questions that fall within the purview of Bible Odyssey will be forwarded to scholars.
If you just love getting into theological or doctrinal debates, that’s not going to happen here. Chances are, not all of your personal theological or spiritual beliefs are going to be supported by each and every response. I don’t know that each person listed as a contributor will be answering reader questions, but they’ve all provided content to the web site. In fact, one of my favorites (besides Dr. Hurtado) is on the list, Magnus Zetterholm.
Here’s an example of how “Ask a Scholar” works.
Someone asked a question about Jesus Worship:
When did the worship of Jesus, as God, rather than Messiah, Lord, and Savior, begin? And by whom?
This is right up Dr. Hurtado’s alley, so to speak, since he’s written extensively about the early worship of Jesus as God.
I found one portion of Hurtado’s response particularly interesting (I’ll put the relevant section in bold text below):
But I presume that you actually mean “when and where did Jesus first come to be reverenced as somehow really sharing in God’s status, or glory, and so the rightful recipient of worship along with God?” This has been a contested question for at least a century or more. Pretty much everyone is agreed that Jesus didn’t receive worship during his ministry. The key questions contested are how soon and where after Jesus’ crucifixion did it begin.
Maybe I’m reading this wrong, but it sounds as if Dr. Hurtado is drawing a distinction between God and Jesus, and that Jesus is alongside God as opposed to the embodiment of God as God’s Son.
Admittedly, the Divine nature of Jesus has always been rather mysterious to me, and I know that most Christians take it as a matter of course and don’t ask questions. Also, Hurtado isn’t answering the question about how Jesus could be God, just when did people begin giving him the same worship and devotion as God.
Dr. Hurtado finishes his response with (and again, I’ll bold what I think is the most interesting part of the text):
The Aramaic liturgical expression, “Maranatha” (= “O/our, Lord, come!” cited in 1Cor 16:22), is one of several pieces of direct evidence that Jewish, Aramaic-speaking believers invoked the risen/exalted Jesus as “Lord” in their corporate worship gatherings. The basis for this remarkable development was apparently the convictions that God had exalted Jesus as “Lord,” that Jesus now shared God’s glory, name and throne, and that God now required Jesus to be reverenced accordingly (e.g., Phil 2:9-11).
This makes it seem as if God took some sort of action that resulted in Jesus gaining exaltation as “Lord” and enabled Jesus to then share in God’s glory, name, and throne, thus requiring that his followers now revere Jesus in that light (as opposed to Jesus having eternally been God from “the beginning”).
Of course, I could be wrong in how I’m interpreting Dr. Hurtado’s response, but you’ve got to admit that this is a bit different from what you’ll hear coming from the pulpit on any given Sunday, at least it is in my experience.
And that’s the exciting part about being able to ask a Biblical scholar a question. It’s pretty rare for any current Biblical research to filter down into any particular Pastor’s sermon and thus into the church pews. From my own background, what we typically hear in sermons and Sunday school is a traditional interpretation of the Bible that’s been handed down for years, decades, or generations, filtered through specific denominational biases, and untouched by any recent or current Biblical scholarly findings.
For the person who wants to become a more serious student of the Bible but who isn’t a scholar nor likely to take a degree in Biblical studies, this is a terrific resource that is easily accessed.
A few technical problems.
The link to the page containing previous answers to “Ask a Scholar” questions is, as of this writing, broken (Addendum: the link has since been fixed). It leads to an error page. But on the error page, when you click the link to return to the Home Page, you go nowhere because there’s no .org extension after “bibleodyssey/”.
I reported the first problem, so hopefully someone will look into it. My guess is that the designer of the site still needs to do some more testing before it becomes fully operational.
All that said, I’m glad to pass along this information and hope that folks find it useful and illuminating.