A New Beginning of a New Life

Today I begin the first day of what I am calling my New Life. I officially stepped down as Chair of our Dept. of Religious Studies at UNC Charlotte after 10 years on July 1st, but then there was the Mt Zion dig, the Society of Biblical Literature Conference in Vienna, and last week lots of lose ends to tie up back on campus with the Chair transition, including my last official meeting with the Dean as outgoing Chair. So today marks a new week and a new beginning of a New Life. I return to the honored and privileged status of a Professor of Religious Studies, which means a Teacher first and foremost, a Researcher, and a public Servant. I have also just gained 40+ hours a week of unscheduled time that used to be given to Administrative Duties. Hurray! I am celebrating this day!

NewBeginnings-600x270

If you have any comments you can leave them on my Facebook page here or via Twitter @jamesdtabor. Thanks to all my readers and I look forward to a much more active Blogging life, among many other things.

 

Amnon Rosenfeld is Dead: Read His Last Published Article

A personal note: I have been more or less off-line with regard to my blog during the four weeks of the Mt Zion dig and the International Society of Biblical Literature meeting in Vienna last week (though I have posted lots of photos on Facebook and my page is open to anyone with a FB account to view. I just got home this weekend.  Dealing with all the normal stress of an excavation with 40+ participants not to mention the tensions that broke in Jerusalem the day we arrived over the kidnappings and murders, the beginning of Ramadan, staying in east Jerusalem by the Albright at the Ritz hotel, and now the rockets from Gaza and Israel’s response made it nigh impossible to devote time to writing. I hate that my first post has to be the sad news of the death of a dear friend and colleague.

I got the sad and shocking news last night via e-mail from Robert Deutsch:

Amnon Rosenfeld was killed in a car accident on July 10
The funeral will take place tomorrow Sunday, July 13, in Givat Shaul Jerusalem
His wife is still alive in the hospital.

AmnonRosenfeldI know no other details but his Facebook page is here with a lovely photo that captures his fresh-faced wonderful personality. As Matthew Kalman wrote me last night in shock, “he was a lovely, lovely, man.” Besides Kalman I think Amnon might be the only person who attended all sessions of the infamous “Trial of the Century,” regarding the case against Oded Golan, et al. that he and certain accomplices had dealt in stolen artifacts and forged, among other things, the inscription on the James ossuary and the Jehoash tablet.

Ironically, his last article appeared yesterday morning on Bible & Interpretation without the editors even knowing Amnon was dead–so it turns out to be a posthumous publication. His vast knowledge of the facts of the fiasco as well as his acute analysis of the poisonous and spiteful atmosphere among many in our field is in my view “spot on.” This contribution is one of his best think and most important. Don’t miss it:

The Antiquities Game – Behind the Trial of the Century

Amnon was a retired Geophysicist from the Geological Survey of Israel and was involved in the early physical tests on both of these controversial articles. He also wrote about the Talpiot tomb. You can find many of his most important contributions archived here at Bible & Interpretation. I should also mention the high quality reporting on all of these matters by veteran reporter Matthew Kalman, which you can find archived here.

Amnon and I corresponded regularly and when I saw his article up at Bible & Interpretation yesterday I thought it strange I had not heard from him that it was posted. Of course I had no idea he was dead. We saw many things eye to eye and I enjoyed our occasional meetings for coffee or a snack in Jerusalem and we would talk avidly about all the latest in the crazy world of “Biblical Archaeology.” He was wise, witty, with a keen analytical mind and a quick smile. I send his family my deepest condolences and will be praying for them today with the funeral taking place just as I am finishing up this post. Like a billion+ others I will watch the World Cup this afternoon but I will have Amnon on my mind today and for a long time to come.

The Jacobovici v. Zias Lawsuit: Why it Has Nothing to Do with Freedom of Speech

Predictably, as the Zias lawsuit picks up again here in Israel on Wednesday one can expect to hear it characterized by many in the press, as well as colleagues in the field who should know better, as an issue of “freedom of speech,” see the latest inaccurate story here. Joe is desperate to cast things that way so he can appear the victim rather than the perpetrator–of slander and defamation–which he most surely is.  If you are interested in the facts, here they are. I know only too well what is at stake here because I have been the victim of Joe’s slander myself, having been a close friend of his for over 20 years. The only difference is Simcha Jacobovici decided to sue Joe whereas I have chosen to ignore Joe’s ugly behavior as much as possible while providing those interested in the facts of the case as I know them.

Zias & Tabor at Qumran

Zias & Tabor at Qumran

Scholars in my field of ancient Judaism and early Christianity often sharply disagree on issues. Pointed critiques and exchanges are common and welcome, so long as they remain respectful. This has been the case with the academic discussion of the Talpiot tombs in Jerusalem and their possible relationship to Jesus of Nazareth and his family over the past few years.  You can find a representative archive of strongly differing articles at Bible & Interpretation here.

Jodi Magness and I laid out the parameters of the early stages of the debate, pro and con, on the Society of Biblical Literature web site here and here. Near Eastern Archaeology published a forum involving me and four other scholars on the topic in late 2006, see here. In March 2012 the ASOR Blog devoted the month of March to an intense academic discussion of the new discoveries in the Talpiot “Patio tomb” resulting from the robotic arm probe, see here.  Most recently Prof. James Charlesworth has published the proceedings of the 2008 Princeton Symposium in Jerusalem, The Tomb of Jesus and his Family with over 30 contributions to the discussion, representing a cross sections of interpretations and viewpoints.

PrincetonTalpiotWhat is happily absent from this intense academic discussion is personal defamation, slander, and libel. Unfortunately that has not been the case with Joe Zias, former Israel Antiquities Authority curator, who has publicly and vocally slandered and defamed me as well as my colleague Rami Arav and filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici, in connection with our exploration of the Talpiot tombs. Many of my colleagues have cheered Zias on, mistakenly thinking that he is merely expressing his views and disagreeing with us on the interpretation of evidence.

The truth is Zias has moved way beyond respectful academic critique into defamation, libel, and personal slander. I know this firsthand because I have copies of e-mail and letters he has written to my Dean, Provost, Chancellor, literary agent, and publisher–Simon & Schuster, as well as dozens of colleagues, charging me with “conduct bordering on the criminal,” “planting of evidence,” and calling for my dismissal for academic misconduct. In fact, in those e-mails he even charges that we “faked” the Jonah ossuary image and entered the tomb clandestinely, planting it for later filming and “discovery.” Zias urges Simon & Schuster not to publish our book, The Jesus Discovery, charging that our work is based on fraudulent claims. More recently he has expanded his critique to the commendable work Gene Gallagher and I did on Waco–which was even praised by the FBI–charging that my defense of “cult leaders” before congress gave support to the Oklahoma City bombing. Early on I wrote him a couple of e-mails and urged him to drop the personal attacks and participate in the academic discussion, inviting his critique of any aspect of our archaeological exploration of the “Patio tomb” or our interpretations of these tombs. He replied that my career was ruined, that UNC Charlotte had shown itself to be an institution with no academic standards, and that none of my students would ever find jobs or achieve any respect in our field.

So far as I know, even though Joe Zias is surely the most vocal critic of our work on the Talpiot tombs, he has yet to publish a single scholarly article setting forth his own counter arguments or positions. What he has done is constantly post personal attacks in “Comment” sections of media and blog pieces against me, Rami Arav, Simcha Jacobovici, and those he loosely calls “The BAR Crowd,” (which apparently includes editor Hershel Shanks and anyone who is associated with Biblical Archaeology Review). What is particularly ironic in all this is that Zias, back in 1996, was the first one to speak in favor of the possibility that the Talpiot “Jesus” tomb belonged to Jesus and a likely wife, expressing his amazement at the uniqueness of the “cluster of names” to a BBC film crew.

Last year Simcha Jacobovici decided that enough was enough and filed a libel suit against Zias in the Israeli court system, suing him for $1 million in damages. The lawsuit was never about Zias’s right to strongly express his disagreement with the theses of Simcha’s films on the Talpiot tombs or the books he had co-authored. It was specific in charging Zias with personal libel, slander, and defamation. Zias has a defense fund set up and various colleagues who have negative views of Simcha’s work have mistakenly taken the issue to be that of Zias’s right to the academic freedom of dissent. Joe has charged that “big money” interests have conspired to keep him from speaking out, punishing him for simply expressing his criticisms. Such is simply not the case, as many who have gotten his defamatory e-mails about me can testify.

Recently a lengthly analytical piece was published in the Canadian Jewish News that goes a long way toward setting the record straight and clarifying the issues. It shows what one might call a “pattern of defamation” that has become characteristic of Joe Zias–not only against Simcha Jacobovici, but against me and a half dozen other colleagues whose reputations he has slandered. Whether one wants to praise or criticize the views of Simcha Jacobovici, it is surely wrong to support Joe Zias in his methods and tactics involving slander and libel.  Here is the Canadian Jewish News piece in full:

Jacobovici defends his reputation in court

Michael Posner, Special to The CJN, Sunday, February 16, 2014

Documentary filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici shows a life-size replica of one of the ossuaries found in a first-century burial cave located beneath an apartment building in 2012 in Jerusalem. The artifacts, believed to date from the first century, are the subject of his documentary The Resurrection Tomb. [Lior Mizrahi/Flash 90 photo]

 

Canadian Israeli filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici is no stranger to controversy.

Best known as the host of the TV series The Naked Archaeologist, Jacobovici has directed more than a dozen provocative feature documentaries, including Deadly Currents, Hollywoodism and The Exodus Decoded. Almost all of them have broken new ground or challenged conventional wisdom.

The resulting backlash has inured the three-time Emmy Award-winner to criticism. But he wasn’t prepared for the campaign of vilification mounted by retired Israeli curator Joe Zias after the release of Jacobovici’s most recent docs  – The Lost Tomb of Jesus (2007) and The Jesus Discovery/The Resurrection Tomb Mystery (2012).

A Michigan-born anthropologist who made aliyah in the 1960s, Zias, 72, says Jacobovici is exploiting archeology for financial gain or, in his words, “pimping the Bible.” Specifically, in a series of web postings and emails to Jacobovici’s employers, bloggers and journalists, he accused the filmmaker of “planting archeology,” forgery and inventing a Holocaust story. Although many scholars have derided the films as manipulative and sensationalized, only Zias has actually accused him of fraud.

“I don’t mind being criticized,” Jacobovici, 60, said in a recent interview. “People should be free to say what they want. But there’s a difference between free speech and libel. And when you make these kinds of allegations, you cross the line.”

Last year, the filmmaker formally filed a libel suit against Zias in an Israeli court, seeking $1 million in damages. However, given the glacial pace of Israel’s judicial system, it will likely be months before there is a verdict.

Jacobovici is not the first to feel Zias’s wrath. In the past decade or so, he has charged half a dozen senior archeologists, scientists and religious scholars with deceiving the public. For instance, he accused the late Bar-Ilan University historian Hanan Eshel of forging a Dead Sea Scroll fragment, and lobbied for his dismissal. Aren Maeir, former chair of the university’s department of archeology, confirms that Zias urged him to fire Eshel, the author of more than 200 published papers.

Zias declined to be interviewed about Jacobovici’s libel case, but in various online postings, he has attempted to portray himself as the potential victim of censorship.

“In the search for fame and fortune,” he wrote in one posting, “powerful media and personal interests… have encroached upon what once was a honest profession… In an attempt to silence academic critics, a small but financially powerful group… has chosen to react via libel ligation [sic]…an attempt to silence public criticism and freedom of expression, in order to advance their own parochial interests.”

Zias has been most exercised by Jacobovici’s recent documentaries, which focus on two ancient tombs in Talpiot, just south of Jerusalem, both originally discovered in the early 1980s. These, the films boldly suggest, are the likely resting place of Jesus, his extended family and his earliest followers. The first tomb contained ossuaries (bone boxes) inscribed with a constellation of suggestive names. These included Yeshua bar Yehosef (Jesus, son of Joseph); Maria (Latin form of the Hebrew name Miriam); Yose (a diminutive of Joseph, the name of one of Jesus’ brothers found in Mark 6:3); Yehuda bar Yeshua (Judah son of Jesus); and Mariamene e Mara (possibly Mary of Magdelene).

For orthodox Christians, the very idea of a Jesus family tomb is anathema. Jesus could not have had his bones bundled into a box because, according to church doctrine, he was resurrected and ascended to Heaven. Nor do most mainstream Christians accept what the films imply – that Jesus was ever married, to Mary Magdalene or anyone else, or that he fathered children.

Jacobovici believes the second tomb, so far examined only by a camera attached to a tubular probe – Orthodox activists refused the filmmakers permission to enter the cave physically  – contains the first hard evidence of contemporaneous belief in Jesus by his original Jewish followers. The cave, he posits, may have been on the estate of Joseph of Arimathea who, according to the Gospels, was the affluent member of the Sanhedrin who claimed Jesus’ body after the crucifixion.

By pure coincidence, the same family name – Aramati –  appears on a mailbox in the building constructed over the ancient tomb in the early 1980s. Before the trial started, Zias claimed – in letters sent to Jacobovici’s broadcaster National Geographic, his publisher Simon & Schuster, and others – that the filmmaker had pasted the Aramati name on the mailbox to draw the parallel with the biblical disciple of Jesus.

This act, apparently, is what he meant by “planting archeology.” Jacobovici denied the allegation, noting that the Jerusalem phone book showed a family named Arimathea (in Hebrew Aramati) living at the address long before the documentary was shot. Since then, in court depositions, Zias has admitted that there is such a family living in the building.

In court on Feb. 9, Zias brought what he had billed as a star witness to testify – an American matron named Joanna Garrett. A friend of Jacobovici’s longtime collaborator, Prof. James Tabor, tenured chair of the department of religion at the University of North Carolina (UNC), Garrett spent one day with the crew during the shoot.

Later, she swore an affidavit claiming that the filmmaker had doctored the mailbox nameplate so that the Hebrew name “Aramati” would read “Arimathea” in English. This claim became the remaining basis for Zias’s allegation that Jacobovici had “planted archeology.”

On the witness stand, however, Garrett quickly disavowed her affidavit. Admitting that she never saw a doctored nameplate, she claimed that Jacobovici had said he “intended” to doctor the nameplate. She then conceded she had no knowledge of filmmaking.

In his own depositions, Jacobovici said he used CGI without altering the original nameplate to help viewers understand that the modern Hebrew name Aramati is essentially the same as the ancient Biblical name Arimathea. The two men are next due in the Lod courtroom in early April, under the jurisdiction of Judge Jacob Sheinman.

Zias’s depositions have also backed away from his forgery allegation. By forgery, it turns out, he means that the documentaries used CGI to enhance images carved on the ossuaries. If that constitutes forgery, then half the documentary world will have to plead guilty.

Not long after the first Jesus documentary aired, a leading group of 70 scholars assembled in Jerusalem to discuss the issue. As part of the proceedings, they gave a lifetime achievement award to honour the late archeologist Joseph Gat, who was a member of the team that excavated the first tomb in 1981. Accepting on his behalf, his widow disclosed that, while her husband had never publicly discussed the find, he was convinced they had found Jesus of Nazareth’s family tomb. He never talked about it, she claimed, because he thought the news would unleash a wave of anti-Semitism. Gat was a child survivor of the Holocaust and feared a recurrence.

Zias, who worked for the Israel Antiqui­ties Authority for 25 years, until retiring in 1999, had previously claimed that no serious archeologist supported Jacobovici’s thesis. When the widow’s remarks suggested otherwise, Zias contended that Jacobovici had orchestrated the entire scene to promote his cause – arranged for the award to be given and for her to appear, and had written the script she delivered, including the Holocaust reference.

Jacobovici categorically denies the charge. He is himself the son of Holocaust survivors. Born in Israel, he was raised there and in Montreal, and made his home in Toronto from 1980 to 2006, before making aliyah. He now lives with his wife and five children in Ra’anana.

“It’s one thing to claim this and that. It’s another to accuse a child of Holocaust survivors of inventing Holocaust stories and then argue that a sentence from a woman I met once in my life justifies this language,” Jacobovici said.

As it turns out, support for Jacobovici’s tomb thesis did not come only from Gat’s posthumous musings. Although initial academic and religious response was overwhelmingly dismissive, the ground of opinion may be starting to shift.

Late last year, the official proceedings of the Jerusalem conference were published, edited by Princeton’s James Charlesworth, one of the world’s top New Testament thinkers. The results are surprising because, while the naysayers have dominated headlines and blog postings, 12 of the 28 contributors now concede at least the possibility that the tomb is indeed that of Jesus’ family.

In addition to his charges against Jacobovici and Eshel, Zias has also accused Prof. Richard ­Freund, head of Judaic studies at the University of Hartford, and Canadian geologist Paul Bauman of planting archeology – specifically, of burying a metal casket in a graveyard at Qumran, the ancient Essene encampment on the West Bank.

“We had a film crew there, which tracked [the dig] from the moment we started our work,” Freund said. “I cannot understand why these allegations were ever levelled.” Freund has authored six books on archeology, two on Jewish ethics, more than 100 scholarly articles and appeared in 15 television documentaries.

Bauman, technical director of geophysics in the Calgary office of Worley Parsons, a multinational project management and consulting firm for the resource and energy sectors, said his company works on “gargantuan industrial projects… and top-secret defence sites of multiple nations. Why would I risk all my professional credibility by putting a metal box in a remote cemetery in the desert? I have never received financial compensation for any of the archeology work I’ve participated in outside of North America – [it is] done entirely out of philanthropic intent. I’ve worked with Dr. Freund on at least 15 projects over the last 15 years. The very idea of ‘planting’ a find is inconceivable.”

Then there is Prof. James Tabor, one of the world’s foremost scholars of early Christianity. Zias’s campaign, Tabor says, included “scurrilous letters to my editors at Simon & Schuster, to my agent, to my provost, chancellor and dean, as well as the chair of anthropology, in which he charged that I was guilty of ‘conduct bordering on the criminal’… and that I was interested in only in fame and fortune and was a shame to the profession…Nothing of substance in Joe’s charges was upheld, and he was told so by the [university’s] attorney. He became very strident and threatened to expose our university as not taking responsibility for corruption. He subsequently wrote to UNC officials over the entire state system, making the same charges. ”

Others who have stood in Zias’s line of fire include Rami Arav, professor of archeology at the University of Nebraska, and Magen Broshi, former curator of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Asked for comment, Zias – in an email exchange – said only that “none of the above have [sic] any respect among colleagues. They are mocked by all.” Later, he added, “Change no respect to little respect.”

Zias also played a central role in spurring the Israel Antiquity Authority to charge collector Oded Golan with forgery in connection with the so-called James ossuary. The IAA spent almost a decade trying to prove that Golan forged the latter part of the box’s inscription, “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” Among the key witnesses for the prosecution, Zias claimed to have remembered seeing only the first part of the inscription in an Arab-owned Jerusalem antiquities shop.

But as Time magazine later reported, Zias’s testimony fell apart on the witness stand when he confessed that “he could not actually read the Aramaic inscription and that his Hebrew wasn’t good enough to read his own name ‘Joseph’ on the box.” Golan was declared innocent last year, although the IAA continues to insist the inscription has been forged.

North Carolina’s Tabor says he, too, considered suing Zias for libel. “There’s a trail of evidence that is irrefutable, but I’ve chosen to try to counter him in other ways. But Joe has vowed to try to destroy Simcha and boasted that he has done him great damage. I am a tenured professor, whereas Simcha has his own company and its reputation, plus the livelihood of his associates, to consider.”

http://www.cjnews.com/node/122185

 

Praying to Jesus: From Jewish Messiah to God Incarnate

For untold millions of Christians asking the “Lord” for guidance, help, and even salvation is a complex and confusing business. Evangelicals often pray the “sinner’s prayer” asking Jesus directly to come into their “hearts” (Revelation 3:20; Romans 10:13). Or alternatively, they might call upon God to save them “in the name of Jesus.” I remember growing up in an evangelical Christian tradition and hearing prayers that began: Heavenly Father, we thank you for this or that…for sending your son Jesus Christ into the world…and we are grateful that you shed your precious blood for our sins…”

The switch from  talking “to” God “about” Jesus and praying “to God” as if he were Jesus, or talking “to Jesus” as if he were God was often seamless–in a single prayer. I remember being surprised my first semester teaching my historical Jesus course at Notre Dame when some of my Roman Catholic students would refer to Jesus as God without blinking an eye–as in “Dr. Tabor, what about that time God walked on the water and calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee?” It took me and any non-Catholics in the class a second or two to realize they were referring to the gospels narratives about Jesus. But had they used the term “the Lord” there would be no problem–since the word “Lord” in English can easily mean God, Jesus Christ, or both–and is commonly so used in our culture. I remember the popular evangelical song from the 1960s–”I know the Lord will find a way for me…” It really did not matter if one was referring to God or Jesus–and dozens of Christian hymns, both formal and informal, have the same ambiguity.[1]

Praying to JesusPart of the confusion is that the God of the Hebrew Bible, who mostly goes by the name Yahweh/Yehovah, is referred to as “the LORD” (the ALL CAPS indicate the name–but are missed by most readers) in most popular English translations of the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament–Catholic, Protestant, and even Jewish[2] This translation practice is an ancient one–and is even found in some copies of the Septuagint or Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, where יהוה/YHVH is rendered as ΚΥΡΙΟΣ/Lord.[3]

The problem comes with the New Testament in which Jesus is also commonly referred to as “the Lord.” Often only the context is all we have to go on to sort out whether one is referring to “God” or “Jesus”–and many would say since Jesus is God–why would it matter? But for others, the distinction between God the Father and Jesus the “Son of God” is an important one. I will never forget my 90 year old mother–who was raised in a solid Trinitarian evangelical tradition–saying to me, “Well I surely don’t think Jesus is God! God is God, and Jesus is the Son of God–he was Divine but he was not God. Jesus prayed to God just as we all do. He did not pray to himself!”–thus settling the issue in her mind.

So far as the Jesus movement goes our earliest evidence for this practice of conflating the name of God–i.e., Yahweh, with that of Jesus–that is, calling them both “Lord” in an interchangeable way, goes back to Paul. Even though Paul clearly distinguished between the “One God, the Father” and the “One Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 8:6), when he used the word “Lord” things are not always so clear–especially when he quotes the Hebrew Bible in passages that refer to Yahweh/Yehovah.

Paul writes to the Jesus followers at Rome that if they confess “Jesus as Lord” and believe that God has raised him from the dead–they will be saved. He asserts that for Jew or Greek “the same Lord is Lord of all,”–clearly referring to Jesus–and ends with a quotation from Joel: “For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:9-13; Joel 2:32). The problem is, in the passage in Joel, the Hebrew text clearly says: “Whoever calls upon the name of Yahweh will be saved,”–but Paul clearly has no problem in identifying “Lord” here with Jesus. In fact Paul regularly quotes passages from the Hebrew Bible that clearly refer to Yahweh/Yehovah and applies them directly to Jesus as the “Lord.” Just one chapter earlier, in Roman 9:33, Paul conflates quotations from Isaiah 8:14 and 28:16 that clearly refer to Yahweh and applies them to Jesus as the rejected “stone” or “rock” of offense to those Jews who did not accept him as Messiah and Lord. In Philippians 2:10-11 Paul equates confessing Jesus as Lord and the entire human race “bowing the knee” to him–whereas Isaiah 45:22-23 proclaims such devotion is reserved for Yahweh alone. Here the work of David Capes, Old Testament Yahweh Texts in Paul’s Christology, J. C. B. Mohr, 1992 is absolutely groundbreaking.

But Paul goes much further than this. Not only does he urge his followers to “call upon the Lord,” (i.e. Jesus), he claims that he has two-way conversations with Jesus and received “words” of revelation directly from Jesus. The following are a few passages from his earliest letters–which most scholars consider to be “authentic” Paul:

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours. (1 Corinthians 1:2)

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)[4]

For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord . . . (1 Thessalonians 4:14)

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you. . . (1 Corinthians 11:23)

For I did not receive it [his Gospel message] from man, nor was a taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:12)

If any one thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord. If any one does not recognize this, he is not recognized. (1 Corinthians 14:37-38)

I discuss Paul’s sense of his own authority and special calling more fully in my book, Paul and Jesus. My own view is that he considered both his calling as an apostle and his revelations to be so “beyond the ordinary,” surpassing any of the original apostles, that he would not have expected any follower of Christ to carry on this high level of intimacy directly with “the Lord Jesus.”

It is true that New Testament texts outside of Paul’s letters also witness to the practice of “praying to Jesus” just as Jews would pray to God alone. Jesus himself, in the gospel of John, invites his disciples to ask him for whatever they need (John 14:13). Stephen at the moment of his death cried out, “Lord Jesus receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). In the book of Revelation Jesus speaks directly to the churches and is worshiped as “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev 22:13), designations that in the Hebrew Bible belong to Yahweh alone (see Isaiah 44:6). What one must recognize is that these writings come several decades after Paul. There is no doubt that it was Paul’s equating Jesus with Yahweh as “Lord,” as well as his claims to have such intimate two-way communications with Jesus, that paved the way for Christians subsequently to develop their own versions of this kind of “Christ devotion” that blurred any distinction between “God and his anointed one” as the pre-Pauline Jewish followers of Jesus (James, Peter, John, Mary Magdalene, et al.) understood things.

Later Christian devotion to Jesus pales into insignificance anything found in the New Testament. Augustine’s prayer pretty much sums it up for the ages in terms of Christian devotion and prayers to Jesus–and makes clear why Jews and others of the Hebrew faith could not bow the knee to any human being–whether Moses, one of the Prophets, or even the Messiah:

You are Christ, my Holy Father, my Tender God, my Great King, my Good Shepherd, my Only Master, my Best Helper, my Most Beautiful and my Beloved, my Living Bread . . . my Entire Protection, my Good Portion, my Everlasting Salvation.

Christ Jesus, Sweet Lord, why have I ever loved, why in my whole life have I ever desired anything except You, Jesus my God? Where was I when I was not in spirit with You? Now, from this time forth, do you, all my desires, grow hot, and flow out upon the Lord Jesus. . .

O, Sweet Jesus, may every good feeling that is fitted for Your praise, love You, delight in You, adore You! God of my heart, and my Portion, Christ Jesus, may my heart faint away in spirit, and may You be my Life within me! May the live coal of Your Love grow hot within my spirit and break forth into a perfect fire; may it burn incessantly on the altar of my heart; may it glow in my innermost being; may it blaze in hidden recesses of my soul; and in the days of my consummation may I be found consummated with You!

  1. Love Divine All Loves Excelling
    … Jesus, Thou art all compassion; Pure, unbounded love Thou art.
    Visit us with Thy salvation; Enter every trembling heart.

    Jesus the Very Thought of Thee
    Jesus, the very thought of Thee with sweetness fills my breast;
    But sweeter far Thy face to see, And in Thy presence rest.

    Jesus, Lover of My Soul
    . . . let me to thy bosom fly
    . . . Hide me, O my Savior, hide
    . . . Oh, receive my soul at last!

    More Love to Thee
    . . . O Christ, more love to Thee!
    Hear Thou the prayer I make on bended knee
    This is my earnest plea: More love, O Christ, to Thee.

    Close to Thee
    Thou, my everlasting portion, More than friend or life to me,
    All along my pilgrim journey, Savior, let me walk with Thee.
    Close to Thee. . .

    My Jesus, I Love Thee
    . . . I know Thou art mine.
    For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
    My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou.
    If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.

    My Faith Looks Up to Thee
    . . . Thou Lamb of Calvary, Savior divine!
    Now hear me while I pray; Take all my guilt away.
    Oh, let me from this day Be wholly Thine! []

  2. There are a few mainstream exceptions, including the American Standard Version (that used Jehovah) and the Roman Catholic Jerusalem Bible (that uses Yahweh). []
  3. A few such Greek manuscripts in fact write the name in Hebrew characters: יהוה –which were then confused for the Greek letters: ΠΙΠΙ–leading some who were unlearned to conclude that the name of the Hebrew God was PIPI. []
  4. This phenomenon of two-way conversations with Jesus as “Lord” become somewhat common in later materials, e.g. Paul at his conversion according to Acts (9:4-6), Ananias (Acts 9:10-16); Peter (Acts 10:14). []