Dale Tuggy

Dale Tuggy is Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Fredonia, where he teaches courses in analytic theology, philosophy of religion, religious studies, and the history of philosophy.


  1. John
    October 8, 2013 @ 2:06 pm

    A most useful paper!
    Nothing in the scriptures merits worship of Christ as the one Supreme God.!
    I accept Dale’s assertions that Christ is worshipped as Gods Divine agent.

    No one has responded to a point I made in an earlier post – and I wouls appreciate your comment.
    The point I made was that it seems SELF-EVIDENT that-

    (i) All of the material in Hebrews 1 was available in the ‘public domain’ at the time the unknown author wrote it.

    (ii) Is it not clear that the material used in Hebrews 1 is ‘cut and pasted’ from some of Pauls writings – and some Psalms (2v7, 104v4 , 45 , 102 v 23-36 , 110) — and that Psalm 104v4 and Psalm 102 vs 23-36 are based on the Septuagint translations which mis-quotes the Tanakh.

    Is Hebrews 1 not just pure typology and therefore of NO relevance to the Trinity debate??


    • Dale
      October 12, 2013 @ 1:10 pm

      John, I don’t understand claim (i). Heb 1 is a unique composition, even though it incorporates quotes from the Greek OT. I don’t know if (ii) is true – but suppose it is. I don’t see how your conclusion would follow from (i) and (ii). But I don’t understand the conclusion either, I’m afaid. What does it mean to say that Heb 1 is “pure typology”?

  2. Matt13weedhacker
    October 8, 2013 @ 5:14 am

    Some of these points have already been made.

    That word: “…((( LET )))…” an imperative, a command, in Hebrews 1:6 would be completely unecessary if he was already Almighty God, who has continually received worship from His angels from creation’s beginning onwards, and has never ceased.

    The sense of that word: “…((( LET )))…” is the Father has — given permission — for the Son to be given royal obeisance as God’s “…appointed…” Heb. 1:2, and “…anointed…” King of the King-dom which He, the Father, set up: “…your God…” Heb. 1:9 “…his God and Father…” Rev. 1:6(B), who: “..anointed…” Heb 1:9 Jesus as the Christ ( Anointed One ).

    Gk., ( HO CHRISTOS ) and Gk., ( KYRIOS ) were both titles of the King of Israel in the LXX.

    “…My Lord the King…” and “…the Anointed of Jehovah…”.

    That’s the background of the NT.

    See: http://matt13weedhacker.blogspot.co.nz/2012/09/my-lord-king-king-of-israel-anointed.html

    Psalm 45:11

    New American Standard Bible (©1995)

    “…Then ((( THE KING ))) will desire your beauty. Because He is ((( YOUR LORD ))), — bow down — to him…”

    Psalm 45:11 again:

    King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)

    “…So shall ((( THE KING ))) greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and ((( WORSHIP ))) thou him…”

    Psalm 2:12

    KJV “…Kiss the Son…”
    YLT “…Kiss the Chosen One…”
    RSV “…kiss his feet…”
    WEB “…Give sincere homage…”
    NAS “…Do homage to the Son…”
    JPS “…Do homage in purity…”
    CEV “…Show respect to his son…”

    This needs to be taken into consideration as background to the NT:

    2 Chronicles 9:8

    American Standard Version

    “…Blessed be Jehovah thy God, who delighted in thee, to set thee ON ((( HIS ))) THRONE,— TO BE KING —((( FOR )))— JEHOVAH THY GOD: because thy God loved Israel, to establish them for ever, therefore made he thee king over them, to do justice and righteousness…”

    Acts 2:36

    A Conservative Version

    “…Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, THAT GOD HAS ((( MADE ))) HIM, this Jesus whom ye crucified, BOTH —((( LORD AND CHRIST )))…”

  3. John
    October 4, 2013 @ 1:40 am

    So sorry.!!
    You will find it if you Google “Origins of the Worship of Jesus (1998) University of St. Andrews”

    While looking for that I spotted another paper styled ‘The Worship of Jesus and the Imperial Cult’ written by Adela Yarbro Collins -also delivered at St. Andrews University.

    She obviously believes that it it Christ who is being ‘worshipped’ in Philippians 2

    As I mentioned, my thoughts are that the writer of Philippians was contrasting the ‘first Adam’ with the ‘second Adam’ -who while being made in Gods image did not seek equality with God but emptied himself and became obedient unto death of a cross. for which GOD has exalted him.

    Hope this helps
    Every Blessing

  4. Sean K. Garrigan
    October 3, 2013 @ 6:43 pm

    Hi John,

    That link didn’t work, but thanks for trying. I had read somewhere that Adela Yarbro-Collins offered two responses, but only one was published in the book that grew out of the conference.

  5. John
    October 3, 2013 @ 4:55 am

    Hi Sean,
    The paper I spoke of was a summary response to a 1998 paper by Richard Bauckhan -published by University of Edinburgh
    I found it by using Google and the reference was
    Hope this helps!
    Every Blessing

  6. Sean K. Garrigan
    October 3, 2013 @ 4:40 am


    Do you know whether the paper you speak of by Adela Yarbro-Collins is published? If so, is it in the book I referenced, or in some other journal? I know that there were papers presented at the St. Andrews conference that didn’t make it into the book, “The Jewish Roots of Christological Monotheism: Papers from the St. Andrews Conference on the Historical Origins of the Worship of Jesus”, edited by Carey C. Newman, James R. Davila & Gladys S. Lewis

    If she submitted a second paper at that conference, I’d love to get a copy.


  7. John
    October 2, 2013 @ 1:17 am

    I found my original quote from Adela Yarbro Collins as a response to Bauckham in a paper emanating from the University of St. Andrews .
    I have also found Hurtado’s writing on the subject to be annoyingly speculative – and conclusions seem to be ‘forced’ as you suggest.
    Trinitarians tell me that since Philippians was written very soon after the resurrection , that it is ‘first hand proof’ of early trinitarian thinking.
    As the NAB BIble points out, the subject of every verb in Philippians 2 verses 6-8 whereas the subject in verses 9-11 is Christ.
    As the footnote to Philippians 2v6 notes “many see an allusion to the Adam story..”
    Yes, the first Adam , being made in the likness of God reached out for equaliy with God, and this was probably the original sin.
    The ‘second Adam, while being made in God’s image did not seek equality with God, and humbled /emptied himself and was obedient even to death on the cross.
    what did Christ empty himself of? Presumably human ego.

    I have a strong feeling that you are all edging us towards a reasoned consensus on the issue of ‘worship’ – for which I thank you.

  8. Dave
    October 2, 2013 @ 1:04 am

    The monotheistic Jews and Muslims I know are very clear about the sacred sense of the term “worship”, that it’s reserved for God alone and for no other figures alongside God. It could be argued that worship of Jesus was an inevitable response by his followers at some point (for that’s what eventually happened), but it could be equally argued that the NT texts do not prescribe worship, merely honor and praise and glory for his role in securing salvation.

    And I believe it can be argued that certain groups of early Christ followers never did worship him. The most persuasive to me would be the Palestinian Jewish followers of The Way — the first disciples who spoke Aramaic and were more closely tied to the temple and the OT meaning of worship (reserved for God alone — and even Paul from outside of Palestine is quite careful again and again to avoid prescribing the worship of Jesus). Greek-speaking Jewish followers of Jesus may have opened the door for the worship of Jesus as they were a step removed from the Palestinian mileu of temple worship (they were clearly second class citizens in Palestine, and it’s prob. not surprising that it was Stephen, a Greek-speaking Jew who slammed the temple and paid the price for his outcry ‘God doesn’t live in temples made by human hands’ (as Dunn persuades forcefully). So in the end perhaps it was the introduction of the gospel to non-Palestinian Jews or Gentiles that sped the response of Jesus worship.

  9. Dave
    October 2, 2013 @ 12:45 am

    Sean, your point is well taken, if Palestinian Jewish followers of Jesus were worshiping Jesus (as God or alongside God) then why don’t we see a tremendous explosion about this in Paul’s letters? Early on we see opposition to the Jewish sect re: Christ as Messiah (Acts) as well as issues concerning the Law/circumcision/etc, but not confusion and controversy over Christ being God or worshiped alongside God (until maybe the gospel of John). I recall Dunn making such a point as well. In the end it’s the most persuasive argument really…it simply wasn’t an issue in the letters b/c theos Christology didn’t exist yet. One must force that in at the earlier stage of the movement as Hurtado tries to do. Unconvincing.

  10. Sean K. Garrigan
    October 1, 2013 @ 8:05 pm


    You are referring to the articles that appeared in “The Jewish Roots of Christological Monotheism”, correct? I own the book, but haven’t perused its contents for a while.

    I really enjoy Adela Yarbro-Collins’s work, along with her husband’s, John J. Have you read their joint contribution, entitled “King and Messiah as Son of God: Divine, Human, and Angelic Messianic Figures in Biblical and Related Literature”? IMO, they represent the best of modern Catholic scholarship.

    Adela Yarbro-Collins also contributed a critique of Hurtado’s work in “Israel’s God and Rebecca’s Children”, and one of the points she makes is in reference to the translation of Philippians 2:6, which she renders “did not consider equality with God something to be seized” (p. 63).

  11. john
    October 1, 2013 @ 11:37 am

    Sean & Dave
    In 1998 Richard Bauckham wrote a paper entitled “The throne of God and the worship of Jesus”

    There was a response by Adela Yarbro Collins which noted that ‘identity ‘ and ‘nature’ are not the same thing
    She believes that Bauckhan has underestimated the significance of scroll 4Q491 fragment 11
    which suggests that divine hypostases and personifications are not simply identical to God , but are subordinate and generated entities which God uses to interact with creation.
    She suggests that the ‘Son of man’ in the Similitudes of Enoch participates in God’s unique sovereignty – and like Jesus, is worshiped as God’s agent and not God per se.
    Dale suggests something similar I believe?

  12. Sean K. Garrigan
    October 1, 2013 @ 4:43 am


    Your question about whether the Jewish followers of Christ were worshiping him from door-to-door and while visiting the temple, etc, is a good one. That’s pretty difficult to fathom, isn’t it? I discuss what I refer to as “The Problem of Expectation” on my blog (see: http://kazesland.blogspot.com), and submitted a post about it here recently. If the Jews and the early Jewish Christians thought that Jesus was being worshiped, then it’s remarkable that there weren’t disputes about this sufficient for us to hear of them, esp if that worship was deemed to be on par with the worship given the Father.

    I wonder, if someone were to go back in time and visit the early followers, and explain to them the Catholic distinctions between Latria, Dulia and Hyperdulia, perhaps they’d shrug their shoulders and finally say that they gave Christ something like hyperdulia?

    Dwight Longenecker clarifies these categories here:


    Obviously the veneration of the saints and of Mary is late, but I suspect that something akin to the sorts of distinctions the Catholics have worked out systemically, were “felt” by the early Christians instinctively.

  13. Dave
    September 29, 2013 @ 1:17 pm

    And I keep coming back to: Were the 1st-century Palestinian-based Jewish believers in Jesus (followers of the Jewish sect ‘The Way’) “worshiping” Jesus house-to-house in fellowships while they simultaneously worshiped in a traditional Jewish style in the temple? They remained in the temple for a long time (Paul in Acts 21 returns to Jerusalem and the leadership of the mother church there — Peter, James, etc. warns him to get aligned with the law for the believers there were zealous for the law). If we lack definitive evidence that those closest to Jesus, the disciples, were not ‘worshiping’ Jesus while they lived out their dual identity as Jewish followers of Jesus, then I don’t see how the worship of Jesus prescriptive for all believers at all times. Honor, praise, glory, singing, undoubtedly normative. But “worship” of Jesus? That term seems to be more complicated to use definitively of the early believers.

    I don’t have a problem with those who interpret the texts to mean that worship of Jesus should be normative, it’s just that I think others like myself can also rightly interpret the same texts in their historical context and conclude one should only worship God and that such worship includes that Jesus should be honored (but not worshiped). Worship of Jesus is just not as cut and dried a fact in the NT, I believe.


  14. Dave
    September 29, 2013 @ 1:07 pm

    Sean and Dale,

    Revelation 4-5 might be interpreted to depict the worship of Jesus alongside God (your point Dale) or Jesus as God since he is seemingly receiving worship. Historically, many theologians have used this heavenly scene not as Dale is using it but as evidence for a prescription for Christians to worship Jesus as God. Their argument would be that the force of the 1st/2nd commandments still stand, that no other alongside God may be worshiped, therefore Jesus must be God. (To get around the commandment, I heard someone make the argument that one may not worship an image except God’s true image — Jesus). Dale, your point is God can change the rules, and your question is poignant, if the singing and praise and glorifying about and to Jesus is not worship than what is worship? Perhaps the meaning of “worship” is in the eye of the beholder, as it is elastic in its NT usage (as Sean puts it).

    My question: Are the elders ‘worshiping’ Jesus in that heavenly scene as they sing/bow down/ offer praise? I side with Sean here, the intent of the author doesn’t seem to be prescribing worship of Jesus for all peoples at all times or he would have made that clearer. And we must admit when examined closely the text there is rather ambiguous and in narrative form, and as all scholars remind us, apocalyptic literature is not the best literature for deriving prescriptions for Christian practice. So if Re 4-5 is the best place to find evidence for the prescription of worship of Jesus for all followers at all times, it’s surprisingly ambiguous to forcefully persuade.


  15. Sean K. Garrigan
    September 29, 2013 @ 11:20 am

    Hi Dale:

    I enjoyed the video. Ironically, when I said that I consider your view to be among the logical possibilities, I was referring to that very video, along with what I believe was part 1 of the same discussion, both of which I watched recently:-)

    Regarding the 19th century Unitarians, historical judgments are often necessarily tentative, but I had always thought that the final nail in the coffin of the Unitarians occurred when they married themselves to that amorphous bride, the Universalists. My memory of the events is sketchy, really sketchy, but as I sketchilly recall, they struggled to define themselves, and before they reached a consensus on who they were, they married a woman who would leave them ever unable to find a meaningful identify. Perhaps a joke will make the point better than my typically pregnant prose:

    Question: What do you get when you cross a Jehovah’s Witness with a Unitarian Universalist?

    Answer: Someone who goes from door to door for no apparent reason;-)

    My concern with the use of Revelation to justify the proposition that Christians should worship Jesus is that I sense that this probably goes beyond the intent of the writer. It seems to me that one of the primary points of various scenes involving exaltation is to inspire us to align ourselves with and subject ourselves to the one now sitting on God’s throne. Just as the Israelites could offer obeisance to both God and the King where that gesture was almost certainly offered in the context of worship (e.g. 1 Chron 29:20), once the ceremony ended, they settled in to a normal relationship between King and subjects. Of course, our relationship with Jesus is much, much more than a mere King/subjects relationship, and in virtue of who he is and what he did for us, he rightfully has a central place in our religious life, but I don’t see how that means that we should worship him. I certainly appreciate him and what he’s done, and for me he is second to none, except God Himself.

  16. john
    September 29, 2013 @ 10:39 am

    Hi Sean
    Thanks so much for taking the trouble to reply to my thoughts.!
    I think that opinions differ regarding the meaning of the words ‘inspired’

    Some argue that every single word in the Bible is ‘accurate’ reflection of God’s holy word.
    Others would argue that the authors were ‘inspired’ by God to write .

    I hold the latter view and would submit as ‘evidence’ that fact that there is NO ‘certainty’ that the Bible editors ‘got it absolutely right’.

    Just read the prefaces to each Book of the Bible in scholarly Bibles (RSV, NAB , Moffatt etc)
    and observe the ‘issues’ they encountered in such things as text selection and translation.
    Then read the footnotes following each book – and see the range of possibilities which editors encountered.
    If someone asks me do I believe that the Bible is ‘literally correct’ , I naughtily reply ‘which Bible’?
    It’s a joke ,but carries a very serious truth.

    I and many others would be most amazed , on encountering God, to find a ‘super-man’ with mighty arms and holding a swoird…sitting on a throne with ‘chairs’ on his right hand!

    People liviing in the first centuy could have imagined nothing other! God must be like a King – but even greater!
    Today most of my friends expect God to be an awesome force living in dazzling light – that’s the limit of our human imagination.

    Now, back to Hebrews.
    The unknown writer sat in his armchair one day and said ‘ What will Christ’s arrival in heaven have been like’?
    He painted a brief background based on Paul’s writings , and then surmised that the words and imagery of Christs welcome would have been like the Royal enthronement ceremonies mentioned in Psalms.

    Unfortunately the writer only had the Septuagint Bible available -otherwise he would have seen that the authors mis-quoted the Tanak in several places.

    We then have the theologians meddling – trying desperately to prove that these scriptures – many addressed to YHWY – are now readdressed to Christ

    When I see debates on the Trinity ,the Trinitarians always feel that they are ‘in a strong spot’ when it comes to the book of Hebrews.

    Unitarians then kindly assist them by getting bogged down in the minutae of the verses. What does ‘therefore God, your God ‘ mean etc.etc…..
    If you wnnt to get into the ‘minutae what does ‘daughters of Kings are your lovely wives’ (Ps 45v10) mean?

    It’s time we told them that Hebrews is PURE TYPOLOGY and there is not point trying to employ their usual ‘gymnastics’ to squeeze some nonsenmsical conclusion from what is after all a very simple straightforward scripture

    I guess that Hebrews 1 tells us very little new about Jesus othjer than the authors speculation that the risen and elevated Christ must now be ‘higher than the angels’
    This was to make a point to the Jewish audience who whould have held the traditional view that angels were ‘higher’ than mortal men’

    We have so much material on which to base our assessment of ‘who Christ was’ (Matthew 16 vs 15-17,
    John 20v17 etc) that we should not indulge Trinitarians with their ultimately futile speculation!

    Thanks for replying!!
    Every Blessing

  17. Dale
    September 29, 2013 @ 8:28 am

    Hi Sean,

    Again, thanks for your thoughtful critical comments. Yes, I’m not sure that this disagreement would amount to much in practice.

    A few parting shots:

    If someone doesn’t call what is given to Jesus in Rev 5 “worship”… I’d like to know what to call it then. Note that they sing both about and to him. The sorts of things they do to God, they also do to Jesus.

    The real base concern here, as you say, is with the OT rule to worship only YHWH himself. I used to assume, as I think many theologians do, that this is because it would be *intrinsically wrong* to give religious honor to anyone else, so that not even God himself could change that rule (he can’t make what is necessarily wrong to be not wrong – that’s a contradiction). I now think that is mistaken. It is in fact not at all hard to understand his changing it. An analogy: http://youtu.be/qCrHrsrdV70?t=7m25s (back up a little if you want to see my proposed definition of the sin of idolatry).

    It also helped me to realize that God has, according to the NT, set aside the whole ceremonial law, and even something else in The 10 Commandments – namely, the keep-Saturday-holy rule.

    Finally, a speculation. Why has God allowed such confusion about Jesus and God to persist so widely, and for so long? One reason, I suggest, could be that for all the problems this causes, it does contribute to people worshiping Jesus, and God is determined to see him glorified in this way. Perhaps he’s willing to pay the price of the confusions, at least for the time being. Why did unitarian movements, so vigorous c. 1580 – 1850 die out? I don’t think there’s a simple answer, but note that the bulk of unitarians, at least by around mid 19th c. had ceased worshiping Jesus, even denouncing it is “Christian idolatry.” (e.g. Joseph Priestley) Bad move, in my view!

  18. Sean K. Garrigan
    September 28, 2013 @ 5:57 pm


    Wow, I wasn’t prepared for that. Are you saying that the book of Hebrews isn’t inspired scripture, or that because the ideas expressed therein were probably already extant when the book was written, there is no need to believe that it tells us anything new about Jesus? If I recall, George Wesley Buchanan argued that Hebrews is a sermon offered by an unknown preacher in the first century, but I’m not sure whether or how that plays into your point.


  19. Sean K. Garrigan
    September 28, 2013 @ 12:40 pm

    Thanks, Dave. I enjoyed your debate with Bowman as well, and I have to tip my hat to you for the level of commitment it took to engage in such a dialogue, and see it all the way through. Those types of discussions get too tedious for me in that you not only have to present your case while responding to the other side, but you typically have to spend even more time just trying to unravel the sorts of misconceptions and mischaracterizations that seem to inevitably emerge and bog down the dialogue. That’s just too tiring for me!


  20. john
    September 28, 2013 @ 1:54 am

    Hi Sean,
    Don’t you think that Christians generally miss the point when referring to Hebrews Chapter 1.
    By accepting it’s ‘literality’ they give some credibility to the Trinitarian claims.
    As I see it
    Is it not self-evident that
    (i) All the material in Hebrews 1 was available in the public domain at the time Hebrews 1 was penned?

    (ii)Is it not abundantly clear that much of the material in Hebrews 1 is ‘cut and pasted’ from Psalms – and Pauls writings?

    The (unknown) author was using words and images with which his target audiance would have been familiar.
    God was viewed in an ‘anthropomorphic’ way – like a ‘super’ king. He sits on a throne hand has a ‘right side’ on which homoured guests would be seated -in this case the newly risen Christ.

    The author SURMISED that the words used by God to honour Christ would be the same words used at the appointment of Davidic Kings where the candidate was
    -Ordained as Priest
    -Crowned King
    -declared as God’s adoptive son.
    (see footnotes to NAB Bible)

    Because the Jews believed that angels were ‘higher’ than humans, the author SURMISED that in his newly elevated state, that Christ must now be “higher than the angels’

    Hebrews 1 is PURE TYPOLOGY, the SORT OF words God MIGHT have used.

    Apart from the ‘ cut and pasteing ‘ some of the scriptures used are based on the Septuagint, which
    mis-quotes the Tanakh in several places.

    Thus we have Psalm 102 which quotes YHWH as being the creator- being ‘re-directed ‘by the author of Hebrews, to Christ who suddenly becomes creator.

    We also have the shenannegans of selective capitalisation of the words ‘God’ and ‘Lord’ – for theological reasons

    Trinitarians lamely reply that these scriptures are ‘prophetic’ .

    Isn’t it time to ‘call’ this enormous ‘bluff’ and tell the truth.?

    Theses scriptures are pure typology, with NO doctrinal significance


  21. Dave Burke
    September 28, 2013 @ 1:15 am

    Great comments Sean, I’ve enjoyed your analysis

  22. Sean K. Garrigan
    September 26, 2013 @ 10:24 pm

    Hi Dale,

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I should probably point out what certainly wasn’t obvious in my first post, namely, that I consider your view to be among the logical possibilities. And I agree that part of our difference is purely verbal. I think that this is to be expected, because the more common biblical word for “worship” (proskuneo) was rather elastic in its application, and primarily signified obeisance.

    Where I think we clearly disagree is where we place the “worship” (scare quotes only used to signal the elastic nature of the word) of Jesus in relation to that dividing line etched in the sand by the first commandment. You would say that the “worship” of Jesus represents an exception to the rule, whereas I would say that the very qualified nature of such “worship” makes the perceived need for such an exception unnecessary.

    As Dunn has pointed out, the oft referenced “hymns to Christ” are actually hymns _about_Christ, and as such they ultimately do little more to signal the worship of Jesus than singing “Go down Moses” does to signal the worship of Moses. The obeisance offered to Jesus at Phil 2 and Heb 1 are both in perfect harmony with the sort of obeisance that one finds offered to royal figures in biblical times. In Philippians 2 Paul is drawing from Isa 45, where people offer proskuneo before Cyrus, which seems to be the initial fulfillment of Isa 45:23, where “every knee will bow” to Jehovah. In other words, in bowing before Cyrus they were bowing before Jehovah, for Cyrus was the anointed one God used to free his people from captivity. At Heb 1 Jesus is exalted as King, Son of David, and therefore receives the same obeisance that the King received at 1 Chron 29:20.

    IMO, it isn’t until the book of Revelation that the question really becomes urgent, yet even there we find controls to help us avoid over-interpretation, e.g. Jesus is the “Lamb of God”, which makes him the sacrifice rather than the God to whom the sacrifice is offered. This control would apply equally to the sacred meal, where Jesus’ symbolic body and blood are the body and blood of the sacrificial lamb, not the God to whom the lamb was offered in our behalf.

  23. Dale
    September 26, 2013 @ 11:02 am

    HI Sean,

    Thanks for your comment. Yeah, I read that book, and found it unsatisfying… I thought his theses and arguments were none too clear. I do think he’s right to worry about Christian worship where Jesus seems to eclipse or take the place of the God who sent him.

    I believe that our disagreement may be merely verbal. If by “worship” you MEAN honor that can only properly be given to God (the Father), then I agree that we should not “worship” Jesus – ’cause he ain’t the Father.

    You must agree, though, that in a broader sense of “worship”, we should give “worship” to both of them.

    So at one level, we’re just using the word “worship” differently, and are not disagreeing.

    It seems to me, though, that no one can give real, non-trivial grounds for such a distinction. e.g. If “worship” means “worship AS GOD” (i.e. worship thinking that the recipient is God himself) then it is true, but trivial that we should only worship (in *that* sense) God.

    But if “worship” means doing things like singing to, praying to, honoring in a religious meeting as a body, then I don’t see any principled, non-trivial way to distinguish a higher form appropriate only to God, and a slightly less high form appropriate only to Jesus. Dunn tries to lean on the usage of different Greek words in the NT, but as his book shows, those aren’t precisely defined in a way that would help us with this.

    I do think the NT specifies the Father as the indirect and ultimate recipient of worship given to Jesus. That make sense, given that God foreordained, sent, empowered, worked through, cooperated with, raised, and exalted Jesus. The grounds for worship which are specified are quite different too. This is all in Rev 4 – 5.

    In sum, I think if we try to say just what, concretely, is this “devotion that is only due to God Himself” – we falter. We can simply say that we worship Jesus (but not “as God”).

    “And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” 1 :Jn 1:3. Our end of this deal is worship, service, obedience – of course, knowing them AS two, and what the differences are.

  24. Sean K. Garrigan
    September 25, 2013 @ 9:34 pm

    I’ve looked at the question pretty closely and I find myself largely in agreement with James Dunn, who offered these words at the end of his book that addresses the current question:

    “So our central question can indeed be answered negatively, and perhaps it should be. But not if the result is a far less adequate worship of God. For the worship that really constitutes Christianity and forms its distinctive contribution to the dialogue of the religions, is the worship of God as enabled by Jesus, the worship of God as revealed in and through Jesus. Christianity remains a monotheistic faith. The only one to be worshipped is the one God. But how can Christians fail to honour the one through whom it believes the only God has most fully revealed himself, the one through whom the only God has come closest to the condition of humankind? Jesus cannot fail to feature in their worship, their hymns of praise, their petitions to God. But such worship is always, should always be offered to the glory of God the Father. Such worship is always, should always be offered in recognition that God is all in all, and that the majesty of the Lord Jesus in the end of the day expresses and affirms the majesty of the one God more clearly than anything else in the world.” (Did the first Christians worship Jesus?), p. 151

    After all is considered, I think that the best answer that one can give to the question “Did the first Christians worship Jesus?” is a qualified “no” or a qualified “yes”, and it is the very fact that the answer must be qualified that signals what so many seem to miss: However one chooses to define the devotion that is given to Christ, it is not, and cannot be, the very same devotion that is only due to God Himself.

  25. john
    September 22, 2013 @ 1:53 pm

    I guess you are right!

    Those Early Church Fathers were expert marketeers! – knew all about brand differentiation!!

    The problem is that future generations have paid a high price for their machinations!!

    Regarding Revelation 5 & 6 I am always fascinated by the magnificent oil paintings of God in his throne room.!
    We have this awesome figure who sits on the throne – who is surrounded by all of his ‘creatures’ and utterly dwarfs them.
    In the lower corner we see the small figure of a lamb standing among the assembled throng.
    This lamb is deemed worthy to receive honour and praise – for his obedience while on Earth.

    I have always felt that there are ‘degrees’ of worship – but maybe I’m just influenced by the awe inspiring artwork!?

    Every Blessing

  26. Dave
    September 21, 2013 @ 8:58 pm


    And…further, unlike Tuggy, I cannot see how the same Palestinian Jewish believers would have worshiped Jesus (whether as God or as Tuggy claims, in order to honor God). Though I have no problem with people concluding that the NT texts suggest believers should worship Jesus (I see a diversity of permissible interpretations on this), I don’t see concrete evidence, neither in Ph 2 nor in Re 5, when those texts are looked at closely from a 1st-century Jewish follower of Jesus lens.

    Blessings, Dave

  27. Dave
    September 21, 2013 @ 8:48 pm


    First, I agree that it is very doubtful that Jesus saw his God and Father as a trinity. I don’t think you’re missing anything except that church tradition is powerful on this point. At the same time, trinitarian theologians seem to be protecting something else — and needing clearer boundary markers between their “Christian” theology and those of Jews and Muslims and other cults that believe in monotheism. It’s not enough that Jesus is appointed Lord. He must be God somehow or traditional christian practice of worship and prayer would have no basis, nor would there be enough boundary between “false” views of God in other religions and cults. But for this move they must sacrifice a lot — clarity in conceptuality in the NT texts regarding God. And that’s a heavy price.

    I agree that prayer to Jesus is close to the idea of worship of him…but not exactly the same. As the one exalted to God’s right hand with power and authority to rule for God, as “Lord,” it would seem he should be able to answer prayers of those on earth and be an object of prayer. Otherwise, in what sense would he be “Lord” of heaven and earth? It would be odd for one so promoted and exalted to be without power to answer prayer. At the same time, Jesus is a declared a mediator for God’s people to God, and interceeds for them to God.

    Also, there are a number of texts that suggest believers are to “know” both God and Jesus, or experience fellowship with God and Jesus (both Paul and John’s writings suggest this). How does one get to “know” God and Jesus except by prayer? So that gives some evidence that early believers might have had a prayer relationship with Jesus. But then we’re back to the question, on what basis would they pray to him? I would say it would most probably be rooted in Jesus’ Lordship.

    So I could be persuaded that in the 1st century there were Palestinian Jewish followers of Jesus who established a practice of prayer to Jesus in some sense, based on his appointment as Lord. But I can’t see how the same Palestinian Jewish believers prayed to Jesus based on their conceptuality that Jesus was a member of the Godhead or trinity.

  28. John
    September 21, 2013 @ 7:24 am

    Close to the issue of who we worship – is the issue of who we pray to.
    Christ himself told us how to pray
    “Our Father, who art in heaven………..”

    Who is Christ’s Father?

    He told us quite clearly
    ” I am going to my Father, and your Father
    and to my God and your God’

    So Christ has a Father who is also our Father , who also happens to be his God and our God.

    Can anyone seriously suggest that Christ saw his God and Father as a Trinity
    (three prsons sharing one substance -with he himself being one of those persons and having a double nature)?

    The mind boggles – but Trinitarians don’t seem to see it!

    Maybe I’m missing something?

    Every Blessing

  29. Dave
    September 20, 2013 @ 8:14 pm

    @ Tuggy (above): “I agree that it is important that Christians should worship Jesus too, and not only God. The New Testament, in my view, clearly teaches this; it is a consequence of his being raised to God’s right hand.”

    I think it is more probable that, despite Christian practice, the NT documents are not conclusive about the importance or demand that followers of Jesus worship Jesus (whether that’s worshiping Jesus as a member of the trinity or worshiping Jesus so as to honor/ give glory to God which is Tuggy’s solution)

    For followers of Jesus who take the NT documents as inspired by God, as I do, there seems to be a permissable diverse range of interpretation on this point, that the texts are surprisingly few and hotly debated, and the practice in the 1st century is not easily demonstrated despite Hurtado’s exegesis and conclusions about Ph 2 (the key text purportedly supporting early cultic veneration and ‘mutated’ Jewish worship). Dunn counters him sell on the Ph 2 text.

    In addition, I hold that there was a diversity of practice among early followers of Jesus. In the Palestine mother church, one would be hard pressed to conclude from the texts that Jewish followers of Jesus (led by James) who still worshiped in the Temple were simultaneously worshiping Jesus house to house in their smaller fellowships. For these were Jewish followers of Jesus who were Jewish through and through, spoke Aramaic as their first language, who felt comfortable living among and worshiping among their fellow Jews who were “zealous for the law” (see Paul in Jerusalem, Ac 22, at the end of his missionary journeys, 30 years after the church was established there). Certainly they exalted Jesus as Lord, honored him, prayed to him perhaps (though these verses are scant, again see Dunn “did the early christians worship jesus’), but it would be difficult to demonstrate that they worshiped Jesus in any sense, let alone worshiped Jesus as God. While I don’t fault other followers of Jesus who enjoy this practice, I don’t think the NT texts are conclusive. Therefore I disagree with Tuggy that “it is important that Christians worship Jesus.” Worship the one true God, exalt and obey and follow the Lord Jesus, these seem to be the NT documents emphasis on the whole. Any other modified practices (such as worship of Jesus out of honor to God or as a member of the trinity) might be permissable within the range of interpretations allowed for by the NT documents, but not demanded by the NT.

  30. Dave
    September 20, 2013 @ 8:05 pm

    @ Tuggy above: “He is clearly worshiped in the fullest religious sense after. e.g. Philippians 2, Revelation 5, as well as prayed to.”

    I”m not sure what Tuggy means here by “fullest religious sense” and I don’t see Ph 2 as a clear text talking about the worship of Jesus (proskineo is not used, simply ‘bow the knee’ is used). Certainly the exaltation of Jesus above every name is made explicit. To say otherwise is interpreting ‘every knee will bow’ as necessarily worship, which is not necessarily the ancients understanding. Honor of Jesus is more clearly the meaning, and exaltation of Jesus is communicated as well by means of the action of bowing a knee (just as the Israelites bowed to David as they worshiped God without a threat to monotheism in I Chronicles 29:20). But worship? Again, this is not a clear text to show this, it must be open to serious question.

    My Point: Let’s not make the common mistake of making Ph 2 say more than it says. Hurtado uses Ph 2 as his key text to show how early there was cultic veneration of Jesus, but Dunn shows how that text might not be understood in the same way and how veneration might be later than Hurtado claims. If so, we’re back to wondering whether Palestinian Jewish followers of Jesus in the 1st century really did worship Jesus, and if they didn’t, we begin to see how this might be a practice in Christian worship that resulted from the interaction of the gospel with Gentiles and not demanded by the NT documents themselves.

  31. John
    September 20, 2013 @ 2:42 pm

    Hi James
    I must say that I am intrigued as to how you ‘square’ this with the words of Christ himself – along with Peter and Paul !!

    John 20v17
    I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”

    Acts 3v13
    “the God of Abraham has glorified his servant Jesus’

    Matthew 16 vs 15-17
    ” …. you are the Christ, the Son of the living God’
    “blessed are you … for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you”

    Acts 2v22
    “A man appointed to you by God’

    1 Timothy 2v4
    ” For there is one God, and one mediator…”

    Perhaps I’m missing something?


  32. James Goetz
    September 20, 2013 @ 9:16 am

    Hi John, I agree that the word “divine” has more than one definition. In this case, I meant “God.” Peace, Jim

  33. John
    September 20, 2013 @ 12:52 am

    Hi James
    By ‘divine’ do you mean ‘God’ -or ‘of God’ ?

  34. James Goetz
    September 19, 2013 @ 11:44 pm

    The answer to the first question is “no.” Jesus is not divine because he was worshiped. There was no cause to Jesus’ divinity. But Jesus was worshiped because he was divine. Peace, Jim