Reviewed by Sakae Kubo, vice president for academic affairs, Atlantic Union College, South Lancaster, Massachusetts.

How did the earliest Christians view Jesus? The author writes from a view point shared by most scholars that the New Testament writings, as we now have them, were put together at least 20 years after the time of Christ. He feels that these writings incorporate material from an earlier period. For example, as did the Gospel writers, Paul included in his Epistles material already available. By examining this precanonical material and the earliest writings of the New Testament, we can discover what early Christians thought about Jesus.

The author finds that from the earliest period Christians used a variety of expressions and ideas that were not mutually exclusive but complementary. Continuation and development were also consistent features.

In the very earliest material Jesus is designated as the herald of a new age. In this role He is called prophet, teacher, Messiah, Son of man, and Son of God with its various connotations, including a unique relationship with God. His followers believed God vindicated Jesus by exalting Him after the Crucifixion. The author puts Jesus' death in the context of the deaths of prophets and other righteous men mentioned in the Old Testament and Apocrypha. Some texts, such as Galatians 4:4-6 and Romans 9:3-5, point to His preexistence, and the Jewish personification of wisdom fits with this idea.

What De Jonge shows throughout his work is that Christians used the concepts within Judaism and its environment to express their understanding of Christ. So these ideas were already familiar to the early Christians. They were further shaped by the needs these believers felt.

De Jonge's conclusions are conservative in comparison with those of a recent generation, and are worth reading.


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Reviewed by Sakae Kubo, vice president for academic affairs, Atlantic Union College, South Lancaster, Massachusetts.

July 1989

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