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The Only True God

Early Christian Monotheism in Its Jewish Context

James F. McGrath

Publication Year: 2009

Monotheism, the idea that there is only one true God, is a powerful religious concept that was shaped by competing ideas and the problems they raised. Surveying New Testament writings and Jewish sources from before and after the rise of Christianity, James F. McGrath argues that even the most developed Christologies in the New Testament fit within the context of first century Jewish "monotheism." In doing so, he pinpoints more precisely when the parting of ways took place over the issue of God's oneness, and he explores philosophical ideas such as "creation out of nothing," which caused Jews and Christians to develop differing concepts and definitions about God.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

front cover

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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. vi

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pp. vii-ix

This book is intended as a work of scholarship to advance our understanding of an important aspect of early Jewish and Christian belief, namely, the idea that God is “one.” It has nevertheless been my aim throughout the book to make its arguments accessible to those not already familiar with contemporary...

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1. Monotheism and Method: An Introduction to the Study of Early Jewish and Christian Thought about God

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pp. 1-22

If one were to survey the religious ideas that have made the greatest impact on human history, among them would inevitably be included monotheism, the idea that there is only one true God. At times, an attempt to propagate exclusive monotheism has divided a people or brought down a ruler; at other times...

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2. Worship and the Question of Jewish Monotheism in the Greco-Roman Era

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pp. 23-37

Before we can determine whether various early Christian writings fit within Jewish monotheism as it was understood and practiced in the Greco-Roman period, we must determine whether and to what extent Judaism was in fact a monotheistic faith, and whether there was a unity or diversity of views on...

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3. Monotheism and the Letters Attributed to Paul

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pp. 38-54

In examining the view(s) of God held by the early Christians, it is to the letters of Paul that we turn first, since they provide our earliest written sources. Although it might seem more natural to begin with the historical figure of Jesus himself, it is only through writings from this time period that we can gain...

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4. Monotheism and the Gospel of John

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pp. 55-70

Many readers familiar with recent debates about the development of Christology may find no particular difficulty in accepting the arguments presented in the previous chapter regarding Paul’s Christology. Paul, writing in the earliest..

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5. Monotheism and Worship in the Book of Revelation

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pp. 71-80

There can be no doubting the importance of worship as a theme in the Book of Revelation. Just considering the frequency with which the verb “to worship” (proskunein) and its cognates appear, without yet considering any other related...

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6. Two Powers; Heresy: Rethinking (and Redating) the Parting of Ways between Jewish and Christian Monotheism

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pp. 81-96

Our understanding of early Judaism and its relationship to Christianity has been significantly advanced by Alan Segal’s famous work on the “two powers heresy.”1 His research demonstrated that belief in two heavenly powers was considered an intolerable heresy by the rabbis and that Christians were...

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pp. 97-104

Let us begin this final chapter by summarizing the previous chapters’ arguments and conclusions. Having shown the widely divergent interpretations of the evidence regarding the relationship between early Judaism and Christianity...


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pp. 105-130


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pp. 131-148

Index of Modern Authors

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pp. 149-151

Index of Subjects

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pp. 152-153

Index of Ancient Sources

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pp. 154-155

back cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780252091896
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252034183

Page Count: 168
Publication Year: 2009