In Jimmy Dunn’s provocative book Did the First Christians Worship Jesus: The New Testament Evidence, the introduction starts with “The question”.
He starts by talking about how attributing divine sonship to Jesus has been a stumbling block for dialogue, not only between Christians and Jews, but also Muslims and Christians. What Christians normally call “Trinitarianism”, is in the eyes of outsiders Tritheism. Thus, making dialogue nearly impossible with other Monotheistic religions.
Because of this, he suggests that it would be helpful for us to look back to the beginning of the process that resulted in the formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity and to moreover clarify what is behind the very confession of Jesus as the Son of God in Trinitarianism.
He seems to suggest in this introduction that Christians in the second through fourth centuries used Greek philosophical thought improperly and moreover anachronistically onto the first century text
He then asks the question, “Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?” After asking this, he then provides the answer that creedal Christians ought to give, citing Paul in Philippians 2:6-11, John the Revelator in 5:11-12, and the Gospel of John in 20:28. He then turns to passages that seem to argue the contrary, namely Matt 4:10/Luke 4:8 in which Jesus says to “Worship the Lord your God and serve only him” Dunn says, “The question unavoidably arises, Would Jesus have similarly rebuked those who sought to worship him?” He draws on another passage, Mark 10:17-18, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” Dunn continues and says “Again an unavoidable question arises: Would Jesus himself have welcomed his being confessed as equal with God?” Lastly, Dunn poses another question, this time from St. Paul himself. Dunn continues, “a noticeable feature in his [Paul] letters is his regular reference to Jesus as Lord, where, as we shall see, the title most obviously avers a divine status for Jesus; yet in several passages Paul also speaks of God as ‘the God…of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is the God of Jesus, even of Jesus as Lord.”
Dunn contends, as obvious from his previous publication for a very thick unity and diversity within the canon of Scripture. He argues that the very novel question regarding Jesus worship might not be nice and neat as we wish it were, but that the answer to the question might be messy, not straightforward, and require us to dwell in mystery.
Dunn leaves us with five questions, which will be the focus of inquiry in this book. The first question I will leave you with, and then post the subsequent question(s) in the next post, which will be the topic of discussion in the following post and so on. For the first question, he says: “We need to consider whether ‘worship’ was given only to God (or gods). We must attempt to define what worship is and whether it is the fact that worship is offered to God (or a god) that in effect defines him (or her) as ‘God’/‘god’”
Source: Dunn, James D. G. Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?: The New Testament Evidence. Louisville, KY.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010.