I came across a very interesting book, during my on going investigation into early christian devotion to Jesus (p) by author David M. Lita, titled “Iesus Deus: The Early Christian Depiction of Jesus as a Mediterranean God”. After checking the author credentials (He has a polished qualifications on greek and ancient greek studies and being a historian and Greek specialist rather than a theologian, he does not seem biased in his approach to the sources in question), it is hard to resist no to purchase this book, luckily for me being available on Kindle, meant I can splurge on the spot (with considerable less $ than its printed version) and now have finished skimming through it.
This is not a review of this book but just a brief outline of Litwa’s argument of his book:
The principal thrust of this book is that early Christians depicted Jesus as being a rival to Graeco-Roman gods. Litwa researches several stages how this happened: Jesus’ birth → Childhood → Miracles → Transfiguration, Resurrection → Exaltation.
Litwa criticise some scholarship trend in the past decades which attempted to isolate early christology from all Graeco-Roman influence. According to Litwa the emerging Christian faith used common language, images, and symbols found throughout the Mediterranean as a means to articulate their beliefs about Jesus.
What particularly interesting is Litwa’s inquiry into Jesus’ childhood when He devotes this one chapter to the Infancy Gospel of Thomas (IGT). Litwa’s striking interpretations is that the Jesus in the IGT is more comparable to the Jesus in the high christology Gospel of John than the Jesus in any of the Synoptic Gospels: An adolescent demigod who seems to be so malevolent can found parallel in virtually all Greco-Roman deities.
On Miracles, Litwa contends that Jesus miracles stories were inevitably being set alongside with the stories known by Celsus. The discussion of the transfiguration stories, Litwa argues that Mark’s portrayal of Jesus, was recognisable that supernatural light , combined with the response of awe and worship signaled the presence of the divine a common cultural conception on that era. In ascension, Litwa gives reason that ascension was the mythic consciousness during that time to help christians to imagine Jesus as deity. And in discussing “The Name Above Every Name,” Litwa believes that in the Graeco Roman world, the tradition of theonymy implied deification. Early christians assumed and exploited theonymy in the liturgy and literature to help them exalting Jesus in the framework of mediterranean in other words we see an embracing of Greco-Roman conceptions of divinity as the use of a language that would appeal to a wider Greco-Roman audience.
As a whole this book is persuasive to the claim being made that early christians imagined and depicted Jesus with the basic traits common to Greco- Roman divinities and divine men.