How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee: Ehrman, Bart D.: 9780061778186: Amazon.com: Books
Bart Ehrman, a New York Times bestselling author and Bible specialist, demonstrates how Jesus’ divinity came to be accepted as gospel truth throughout the first few decades of the early church. The idea that Jesus of Nazareth was and continues to be God is at the center of the Christian religion. However, this was not the belief of the original disciples during Jesus’ lifetime, and it was also not the belief of Jesus himself at the moment of his death. A new documentary entitled How Jesus Became God examines the tale of a concept that helped form Christianity, as well as the history of a religion that looked considerably different in the fourth century than it did in the first.
But how did Jesus make the transition from being a Jewish prophet to being the God of the universe?
It took Ehrman eight years to study and write the book.
And what they meant by it was very different from what people today mean by it.
How Jesus Became God
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Every reader will benefit from How Jesus Became God, which makes the most astonishing and complicated issue in the history of Christianity accessible to all readers while also providing a clear and impartial explanation of how many Christians—and non-Christians—see Jesus.” The Gnostic Gospels were written by ELAINE PAGELS, a professor of religion at Princeton University and author of The Gnostic Gospels.
- “Ehrman has pulled it off again again! It is in this colorful and fascinating work that he provides a sophisticated, comprehensive, and wide-ranging treatment of early Christian Christology and everything that it encompasses.
- This is an important and easily accessible work by a researcher of first rank,” says the reviewer.
- He de-mystifies a subject on which biblical experts are all too often in disagreement with one another.
- COLLINS, Yale University’s Holmes Professor of Old Testament In what way was it possible for the One God to have a son in the ancient monotheism?
- He introduces the reader to a Jewish universe filled with angels, cosmic forces, and many semidivinities, one of whom is Jesus of Nazareth, who has been raised from the grave.
A colorful summary of the precursor to Nicea is provided by How Jesus Became God.” The author of Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, PAULA FREDRIKSEN, says:
Leading Bible scholar Bart D. Ehrman analyzes how an apocalyptic prophet from the backwaters of rural Galilee who was killed for crimes against the state came to be regarded as equal with the one God Almighty, the Creator of all things, in a book that took him eight years to study and write. Ehrman depicts Jesus’ change from a human prophet to the Son of God, who was exalted to divine status during his resurrection, in his book The Transfiguration. That Jesus, the Galilean prophet, had risen from the dead was only realized after several of his disciples had visions of him after his death, in which he appeared to be alive once more.
As a historian, rather than a believer, Ehrman provides answers to the following questions: How did Jesus’ transition take place?
Because of the significant developments that have occurred throughout history, we may learn not just why Jesus’ disciples began to assert that he was God, but also how they came to accept this claim in such a variety of ways.
How Jesus Became God
Created in support of the newly released bookHow Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee, which is available now. A lower-class preacher from Galilee, Jesus predicted that the end of history as he understood it would occur within his own age, in classic apocalyptic style. God was on the verge of interfering in the events of this world in order to vanquish the forces of evil and establish a utopian kingdom on the planet. And he would be the ruler of the kingdom. It did not take place.
- He was caught, tried, humiliated and tortured before being publicly murdered.
- Even more than that, he was literally an incarnation of the divine, rather than a simple mortal.
- He was the one who put the cosmos together.
- Contrary to this, he was completely equal with God; he had always existed beside God for all of eternity; he had the same essence as God; and he was a member of the Triune God.
- To go from a Jewish prophecy preacher who ended up on the wrong side of the law and was killed for his efforts to the Creator of all things and All-powerful Lord, we must first go back to the beginning of time.
The question I address in my book is one that I believe is extremely important, not only for Christians who personally believe that Jesus truly is God, but for all of us, whether believers or nonbelievers, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists: all of us who are interested (as well we should be) in the history of Western Civilization.
- The following are the reasons why.
- Gentiles would not have converted to follow Jesus in the same way that they would not have turned to any other type of Judaism in the first century.
- If Christianity had not become a substantial and thriving religion by the beginning of the fourth century, it is virtually clear that the emperor Constantine would not have converted.
- It is unlikely that the empire would have become largely Christian.
- The Christian church would never have risen to become the dominant religious, cultural, social, political, and economic power in the Western world if it had not been for the efforts of men like Martin Luther King, Jr.
- And the majority of us would still be practicing pagans.
- In other words, what happened to turn Jesus from the crucified commoner to the God-man who created heaven and earth?
There are many believers who will be surprised to learn that Jesus did not spend his preaching ministry in Galilee proclaiming that he was the second member of the Trinity.
To the contrary, according to what I explain in my book, it was only after Jesus’ death that his disciples realized that he was God.
And how did they come to believe such nonsense?
Nothing to do with the discovery of an empty grave three days after his death, which was a complete coincidence.
It’s likely that there wasn’t a tomb.
Both Christian and non-Christian historians can agree that visions of Jesus were responsible for convincing some of Jesus’ disciples that he was no longer dead.
Non-Christians would claim that (at least some of) the disciples were experiencing hallucinations.
Particularly of departed loved ones (such as your grandma, who suddenly arrives in your bedroom) and of prominent religious figures (the Blessed Virgin Mary, who appears regularly in extraordinarily well-documented events).
They were perfect candidates for such visionary experiences because they were devastated, saddened, and guilt-ridden, just like their leader.
In ancient Greek, Roman, and Jewish thought, a person who was raised to the celestial world was divinized – that is, he was elevated to the status of God.
In the aftermath, a series of evolutionary forces took hold, leading to the followers of Jesus claiming ever-higher levels of exaltation for him: that he had been made the son of God at his resurrection; no, it had been at his baptism; no, it had been at his birth; no, it had been before he came into the world; no – he had never been made the son of God, he had always been the Son of God; in fact, he had always been God; more There are some exciting innovations taking place.
It is of critical importance. Furthermore, it is important not only for those who think that the disciples of Jesus were correct, but also for anybody who is concerned about the circumstances that have produced the world in which we live today.
Lord and God
Through his words and deeds, Jesus of Nazareth arouses hopes that he was (or would be) the Christ, the promised Messiah. The fact that Jesus instilled such optimism most certainly contributed to his crucifixion by the Roman rulers. Jesus never claimed divinity for himself, and he was never adored as such throughout his earthly mission, as is commonly believed. Even though Jesus was crucified, the ascription of divine status to him and the attendant devotional activities that are represented in the New Testament did not emerge until much later—and surprisingly quickly after—his death on the cross.
- Further advances in christological belief throughout the coming decades and centuries culminated in the creation of the classic theory of the Trinitarian God.
- These will not be surprising findings to anyone who has studied the subject from a historical perspective.
- It is being widely accepted that an extraordinary “high Christology” developed very soon after Jesus’ crucifixion, and that the rising Jesus played a significant role in the collective devotional rituals of the first believers.
- Ehrman’s book, on the other hand, is meant for people who are unfamiliar with this particular scholarly study.
Many Christians who are unfamiliar with the historical evidence will believe that beliefs about Jesus’ divine status are derived from Jesus’ own claims, and many non-Christians will believe that the validity of traditional Christian beliefs about Jesus is dependent on whether Jesus actually made corresponding claims in the first place.
- Ehrman, as he has done in his previous popular works, plainly intends not just to enlighten, but also to elicit debate from his wide-ranging audience of readers.
- A multiauthor riposte, How God Became Jesus: The Real Origins of Belief in Jesus’ Divine Nature, published by Zondervan almost concurrently with this book, demonstrates his ability to elicit responses.
- These publications resulted in appearances on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, as well as extraordinary sales, at least when compared to the majority of academic works.
- Along with (and as a result of) his widely read publications, he is frequently invited to participate in public discussions with Christian apologists, thus enhancing his public profile.
- In this one, he concentrates on topics to which he has not made a significant contribution in the previous.
- Ehrman is particularly adept at making intellectual arguments understandable to the general public.
In the first chapter, Ehrman correctly observes that the Roman culture was replete of gods and deified individuals (particularly deified emperors), and he proposes that this phenomena helps explain the formation of faith in Jesus as divine.
However, he fails to mention that the multiplicity of deities and demigods, as well as the practice of deifying emperors, were repugnant, if not blasphemous, to Jews living throughout the Roman Empire.
His examination of what we can and cannot know about Jesus’ resurrection serves as an example of his invasive polemical preoccupation with the subject.
Historians can note that early Christians claimed to have seen the rising Jesus and can trace the consequences of these claims, but they are unable to determine whether or not these statements are true because that is a theological or philosophical judgment.
A part of the book in which he compares early Christian experiences of the rising Jesus to such hallucinatory occurrences as “visions” of deceased loved ones, however, deviates from these guidelines.
The grieving experiences he describes are not frequently accompanied by the appearance of a resurrected loved one in glorified form, who has been elevated to celestial glory and is sitting at God’s right hand.
Ehrman’s study appears to be geared more on countering Christian apologists’ references to resurrection appearances than it does toward providing a fair analysis.
Moreover, polemical considerations intrude into his very extended argument that Jesus was most likely not given a proper burial, but was instead put into a criminal’s tomb or left for carrion.
He does not offer any examples of the ancient Jewish belief that the burial of the dead—including criminals and, more significantly, those who have been crucified—is a grave religious obligation (e.g., Tobit 1:16–18; Josephus, Jewish War4.317).
Another issue is Ehrman’s discussion of Jesus’ use of the expression “the Son of Man,” which raises serious questions.
The question remains, however, how would Jesus’ disciples have understood what he was talking about if the term had not been a fixed, well-known title (as most scholars now agree, and which Ehrman acknowledges).
This is also the way the phrase is used in the Gospels, which is very obvious.
According to orthodox Christian doctrine, Jesus’ incarnation is an irrevocable assumption of human nature, and his resurrected body foreshadows the glory that would be bestowed to believers as a result of his resurrection (e.g., Phil.
Ehrman believes that the fact that the New Testament writers do not refer to Jesus as God the Father is extremely significant.
Instead, the early Christian writers from Justin Martyr onward stressed that “the Father” and “the Son” were “numerically separate,” as Justin Martyr put it.
To be sure, these two emphases are reflected in the texts of the New Testament.
Ehrman then asserts that incarnation Christology developed “somewhat later,” while acknowledging that it developed “remarkably early”—so early that it is already presupposed by Paul in the New Testament.
It appears that Jesus’ preexistence might have been an almost instantaneous consequence of the conviction that God had raised him to heavenly/divine glory as the eschatological redeemer, the Messiah, as indicated by this evidence.
As an illustration, consider the famous hymnic passage in Philippians 2:6–11, in which the preexistent and divine Jesus is described as first becoming “incarnate” in the form of a man (vv.
Ehrman’s claim that Paul regarded Jesus as an angelic entity is another another source of consternation.
However, Ehrman’s reasoning is based far too strongly on his assertion (which is not accepted by the majority of interpreters) that in Galatians 4:14 Paul refers to Jesus as “an angel of God.” Instead, most exegetes believe that Paul’s assertion that the Galatians had welcomed him “as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus” represents an escalating set of alternatives to the other options.
- To that end, I would point out that there is no indication that angels (or any purported “Son of Man”) were worshipped in the meetings of any known Roman-period Jewish communities.
- In conclusion, this work gets a mixed response from readers.
- On the other hand, Ehrman’s book is a work of scholarship.
- Amazing early Christian assertions about Jesus’ divine status, as well as a constellation of devotional rituals that accompanied them, appear to represent an unique development in the context of the Roman Empire.
If Ehrman’s book sparks additional interest in the astonishing explosion of Jesus devotion that occurred in the early centuries of Christianity, it will have had a positive impact on society.
How Jesus Became God
In the early Christian tradition, the assertion that Jesus of Nazareth was God had a profound impact on the development of Western civilisation. Why did Jesus come to be regarded as God, and what specifically transpired to bring about this? It is only by asking this question that one can begin to unravel an enthralling, multidimensional historical puzzle, one that provides an extraordinarily revealing glimpse into the roots of Western worldview as well as into the theological underpinnings of our civilisation.
- Professor Ehrman, a Great Courses favorite, returns with the groundbreaking historical investigation of How Jesus Became God, which addresses all of these issues and more.
- Distinguished Christian scholar and New York Times best-selling book, Professor Ehrman advances the investigation by painstaking study and in-depth analysis of textual sources, among other methods.
- Join a respected biblical scholar as he wrestles with this pivotal moment in history.
How Jesus Became God
‘Counter-apologetics’ is a term that Bart Ehrman has used to describe his professional life. Authors of books with catchy titles such as The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, Misquoting Jesus, and Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them) have worked hard to exorcise others from the demons of Evangelical faith that he himself once battled for years. Due to his disarming approach and skill for straightforward explanation, he is a staunch supporter of the “scholars have demonstrated” and “now it can be stated” styles of religious popularization that are now popular.
- Given the instruments of historical-critical research, he now has an advantaged perspective on his earlier naveté in believing everything.
- As a professor of undergraduates and a public figure in the media, he aims to dismantle all of the arguments he had marshaled as a young evangelical at the Moody Bible Institute.
- The argument about the post-mortem visions of Jesus by Mary, Peter, and Paul is at the core of the book, and it is also the area in which Ehrman’s adherence to historical criticism causes his analysis to be at its weakest.
- Was Jesus, for example, the only historical figure to whom divinity was attributed in antiquity?
- A number of ascensions and appearances, as well as apotheioses and heavenly manifestations, are discussed in detail by Ehrman in both Greco-Roman and Jewish literary sources.
- Also included is a brief summary of Christological formulations from the New Testament to the Council of Chalcedon, which takes up roughly a hundred pages of Ehrman’s volume (451 AD).
The question is, how did the conviction that Jesus is divine come about in the first place?
Ehrman gives a significant amount of space to the descriptions of the gospels’ empty tombs, which is not surprising.
At the maximum, the empty tomb may signify that Jesus had been resuscitated, which would mean that he had returned to his empirical, mortal, terrestrial existence.
It is not a resuscitation, as the earliest disciples believe (which is a genuinely historical occurrence), but rather the exaltation of Jesus to “the right hand of God,” as the Gospel of John explains.
The early believers recognize Jesus as “Lord” since it is in this capacity that they see him to be “God.” Jesus’ elevation to the level of God’s own life, on the other hand, is not a historical occurrence in the sense that it affects Jesus himself.
Thinking about the Resurrection in terms of time, on the other hand, is misguided.
Gal 6:15 describes the resurrection-life as a “new creation,” in which all that had previously existed has been “replaced” by “behold, all things are new” (2 Cor 5:17).
Ehrman, like all others whose thinking is basically positivist—which includes the vast majority of both defenders and opponents of Christianity—seeks an ahistorical explanation for what is in fact a reality that transcends all historical categories.
As Ehrman points out, such “appearance reports” are a cornerstone of the Christian tradition (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:3–8), just as the empty-tomb traditions are.
The findings that researchers reach concerning the validity of visions tend to support the preconceptions that were introduced into the investigation by the investigators themselves, as is to be expected.
That’s exactly accurate.
The reports of Jesus’ empty tomb, on the other hand, demonstrate that even if the visions are real, they do not necessarily support the assertions made about Jesus’ divinity.
However, this does not imply that the one who appears among the gods has a complete part in the power and presence of the Supreme Being who created the cosmos.
In order to acknowledge that “Jesus is Lord,” post-mortem visions are neither a required nor a sufficient basis for doing so.
It is not only a few visionaries who are experiencing the “new creation,” but rather all of the members of Paul’s churches who are experiencing it as well.
It is clear from Paul’s letters that the Resurrection event did not take place only on the part of Jesus.
In a similar vein, Ehrman fails to take into account 1 Corinthians 12:3, in which Paul asserts explicitly that “no one can proclaim ‘Jesus is Lord’ except via the Holy Spirit.” Because of the presence of the transforming power of the Spirit among believers, Paul uses amazing language about the Holy Spirit “dwelling” in them (Rom 8:9) and about their being “in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:2) and about them being “in the Holy Spirit.” Christ “dwells” in his disciples, and they are “in Christ,” in the same sense that Paul talks of Christ “dwelling” in him (Rom 8:9–10).
In short, it was not the reports of an empty tomb or the claims of post-mortem visions made by a handful of Jesus’ disciples that prompted the early Christians to identify Jesus as the Son of God.
Through the experience of Christ as “life-giving spirit”—not only then but always—the view of Jesus as totally divine is enabled, which has been so tenaciously held by the orthodox during centuries of Christological arguments.
Sure, he’s not the only one who suffers from this shortcoming.
The good news, on the other hand, is not and never has been based on verifiable truth; rather, from the beginning and continuing today, it is based on personal experience of God’s transforming power. The following was published in the February 6, 2015 issue:
How Jesus Became God
‘Counter-apologetics,’ as Bart Ehrman likes to put it, has become his profession. In books with catchy titles like The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, Misquoting Jesus, and Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them), he has vigorously, perhaps obsessively, sought to exorcise others from the demons of Evangelical faith that once held him captive. The “scholars have demonstrated” and “now it can be told” styles of religious popularization are firmly entrenched in his beguiling demeanor and knack for concise exposition.
- He now has a unique perspective on his childhood credulity, thanks to the instruments of historical-critical studies.
- Every argument he previously marshaled as a student apologist at the Moody Bible Institute is now being used to destroy it as an instructor of undergraduates and as a media personality, according to him.
- The argument about the post-mortem visions of Jesus experienced by Mary, Peter, and Paul is at the core of the book—and the point at which Ehrman’s adherence to historical critique renders his analysis the weakest.
- In the case of the historical Jesus, was he the sole person to whom divinity was assigned in antiquity?
- A number of ascensions and appearances, as well as apotheioses and divine manifestations, are discussed in detail by Ehrman in both Greco-Roman and Jewish writing.
- Also included is a brief summary of Christological formulations from the New Testament to the Council of Chalcedon, which takes up roughly a hundred pages of Ehrman’s book (451 AD).
The question is, how did the conviction that Jesus is divine come about in the first instance?
Ehrman devotes a significant amount of time and energy to the tales of the empty tombs in the gospels.
Most likely, the empty tomb indicates that Jesus was resurrected—that is, that he has returned to his empirical, mortal, terrestrial existence.
It is not a resuscitation, as the early disciples believe (which is a genuinely historical occurrence), but rather the exaltation of Jesus to “the right hand of God,” as the gospels teach.
First-century Christians understand Jesus to be “God” in the capacity of “Lord.” However, as far as Jesus himself is concerned, his elevation to God’s own life is not a historical occurrence.
It is, however, incorrect to think of the Resurrection in terms of time.
GAL 6:15 describes the resurrection-life as a “new creation,” in which all that was previously existed has been “replaced” with “behold, all things are new” (2 Cor 5:17).
For Ehrman and the vast majority of positivist thinkers, which includes most Christian defenders and opponents alike, the search for an ahistorical explanation of what is in actuality a reality that transcends all historical categories is an exercise in futility.
“Appearance accounts,” like the “empty-tomb stories,” are a cornerstone of Christian tradition (see for example, 1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:3–8), according to Ehrman.
The findings that researchers reach concerning the validity of visions tend to support the ideas that were introduced into the investigation by the investigators themselves, which is not surprising.
I couldn’t agree with you more!
Even if the visions are real, as with the narratives of Jesus’ empty tomb, they do not necessarily lead to the assertions of Jesus’ divinity that have been made about him.
The fact that one appears among the gods does not imply that he or she is entirely immersed in the power and presence of God, the creator of the universe.
In order to profess that “Jesus is Lord,” post-mortem visions are neither a requirement nor a sufficient justification.
It is not just a few visionaries who are experiencing the “new creation,” but rather all of the members of Paul’s churches who are experiencing the reality of it.
It is clear from Paul’s letters that the Resurrection experience did not take place just in Jesus’ lifetime.
In a similar vein, Ehrman fails to take into account 1 Corinthians 12:3, in which Paul asserts explicitly that “no one can proclaim ‘Jesus is Lord’ save through the power of the Spirit.” Because of the presence of the transforming power of the Spirit among believers, Paul uses amazing language about the Holy Spirit “dwelling” in them (Rom 8:9) and about their being “in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:2) and about them being “in the Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3).
Christ “dwells” in his disciples, and they are “in Christ,” in the same manner that Paul talks of Christ “dwelling” in him (Rom 8:9).
“It was the common experience of divine power” (1 Cor 12:12–27), exhibited in a variety of miracles and gifts, as well as new capabilities of being, among people who had “drank the same spirit” and had become members of “Christ’s body.” Furthermore, this experiential claim helps explain why, in the very earliest writings, Jesus’ divinity is not simply a matter of God “adopting” an ordinary human being, but the vindication of one who was already at work in creation (1 Cor 8:6) and in the story of Israel (1 Cor 10:4); thus, already in Paul, we find a robust “incarnational” Christology (Phil 2:5–11).
Through the experience of Christ as “life-giving spirit”—not only then but always—the view of Jesus as totally divine is enabled, which has been so tenaciously grasped by the orthodox through centuries of Christological arguments.
Sure, he’s not the only one who suffers from this deficit.
In contrast, the good news has never been and will never be based on verifiable facts; rather, from the beginning and until now, it has been based on personal experience of God’s power. On the cover of the February 6, 2015 edition is the following article:
How God Became Jesus: The Real Origins Of Belief In Jesus’ Divine Nature—A Response To Bart D. Ehrman
According to Ehrman, these authors demonstrate that the Gospels are reliable and coherent historical sources; that Ehrman misrepresents Roman policy regarding crucifixion and non-burial; that he mischaracterizes Matthew and Luke when claiming they are unaware of Jesus’ pre-existence; that his schema of competing and evolving exaltation and incarnation Christologies is contrived, misleading, and historically implausible; and that his charge of contradictory Christologies in early Christianity is false.
This is a valuable collection of essays written by distinguished researchers who are up to date on the most recent research.
Professor Emeritus of New Testament at the University of St Andrews in the United Kingdom, Richard Bauckham As a reader-friendly and vibrant answer to Ehrman’s book on how Jesus came to be seen as, in some ways, divine, this collection of papers is recommended.
Faculty member Emeritus Professor of New Testament Language, Literature, and Theology at the University of Edinburgh, Larry Hurtado According to Ehrman, these authors demonstrate that the Gospels are reliable and coherent historical sources; that Ehrman misrepresents Roman policy regarding crucifixion and non-burial; that he mischaracterizes Matthew and Luke when claiming they are unaware of Jesus’ pre-existence; that his schema of competing and evolving exaltation and incarnation Christologies is contrived, misleading, and historically implausible; and that his charge of contradictory Christologies in early Christianity is false.
Review: How Jesus Became God by Bart Ehrman
In this last chapter of Ehrman’s How Jesus Became God, I provide a synopsis of the book as well as my general views and conclusions. For a more leisurely and in-depth tour through the book, its arguments, and the reply book, go here. See my series on how God became Jesus for more information. The Christology War, as Ehrman refers to it. Whenever Bart Ehrman publishes a book, it is considered a major occasion. One of the reasons, I’m sure, is because of his contentious and eyebrow-raising themes.
Not to mention the fact that he always releases his albums shortly before Easter.
As an accomplished scholar (especially in the field of textual criticism), he also has the ability to communicate complex ideas in a straightforward manner to a larger audience.
Bring all of these things together, then turn them up a notch, and you have How Jesus Became God, a historical narrative of how ideas about the person of Jesus have evolved over time. To put it another way, “How did Jesus become God?” (p1).
How Jesus Became God
Ehrman takes a straightforward approach to his work. As a starting point, he takes a broad look at the Greco-Roman and Jewish backgrounds and notions that, in his opinion, serve as a foundation for early Christian conception(s) of Jesus as being “divine.” Many people today are guilty of anachronistic Bible reading, which is when we read the text with our own conceptions and categories, and therefore miss the original context of the passage. According to Ehrman, in contrast to the contemporary mind’s tendency to see an insurmountable divide between man and g/God, pagans “believed that people may be divine in some sense” (p83), and, perhaps more shockingly, “the sametrue inside Judaism” (p84) (p83).
- To answer the issue of whether Jesus is divine, we must first inquire “in what sense” (p84) or, more specifically, “in what senses”; this is something that Ehrman highlights throughout the book.
- Ehrman holds a highly negative view of the credibility of the Gospels, and when he uses historical methodologies for finding the reality underlying the text, he uncovers a Jesus who is far different from the one we are familiar with.
- Jesus’ message was obviously not, “Hi, I’m God,” as some have suggested.
- So, when and how did Jesus’ disciples come to believe that He was God or divine?
- In the next section of the book, Ehrman moves forward in time to a time when belief in Christ’s divinity was being backdated, with “increasingly lofty things” (p212) being uttered about Him as time progressed.
- As Jesus’ “divinity” was being pushed backwards in His life, it is not unexpected that it would eventually spill over into concepts of preexistence as a result of this.
- After moving past the books of the New Testament, Ehrman traces the evolution of Christology through the early Christian ages, all the way to the Council of Nicea and beyond.
- While early Christians held a variety of perspectives on Jesus, “one worldview from early Christianity emerged as victorious,” according to the authors (p287).
Different perspectives grew increasingly unpopular as “orthodoxy” became more clearly defined (or worse). According to Ehrman’s conclusion, this conflict over Christology might even lead to antisemitism, because “the Jews slaughtered their own God” (p361).
Praise and Criticism
It will come as no surprise to readers of my chapter summaries that I was very critical of Ehrman’s arguments and that they should expect some sort of blunt instrument to make an appearance at this point, but I would want to begin with some points of admiration for Ehrman. It’s safe to say that, as a teacher, I’m quite envious of Ehrman’s lucidity and instructional abilities. His ability to engage students is undeniable; he manages to keep things interesting even when the subject matter is difficult to comprehend.
- When it comes to the material itself, he makes a lot of valid comments and correctly points out that Christology did not descend from the skies in its final form.
- Having said that, I have significant differences of opinion with Ehrman.
- A ship setting sail a few degrees off course is analogous to his method in that the divergence gets more and more evident with time until the ship becomes completely stranded in the middle of the ocean.
- Details of my differences may be found in my blog series, but to avoid being overly specific, I simply did not find his arguments appealing in any way.
- Ehrman even confessed that he came to this conclusion only a few months before the book was published.
A disproportionate amount of New Testament data was treated as an unfortunate petal in a game of “she loves me, she doesn’t”: he has Biblical authors disagreeing with themselves in their own writings, he creates an artificial wedge between texts by applying his “adoption” and “incarnation” labels to them, and he reads other texts in strange ways to make them fit his own conclusions It is unfortunate that Ehrman does not devote more room to “disproving” his opponents, because many Christians (or those with a Christian background) will read this book and be astonished when Ehrman does not evaluate or even mention a typical Christian interpretation of a specific passage.
- No more so than with researchers who are of a different political inclination than himself, most notably Richard Bauckham, with whom he does not engage substantially.
- Furthermore, Ehrman’s hyperbole can get the better of him at times, and he is forced to stoop to nothing more than cheap jabs at Christians.
- Apologists are subjected to the worst of Ehrman’s rhetoric, and their arguments are painted in a wholly negative and uneducated light as a result.
- According to Ehrman, “scholars” (who are all in agreement with him) are the only ones who are aware of what is going on, with Christians and apologists either uninformed or deceitful.
Instead, it is the arguments themselves that are important, not the people who are presenting them; in actuality, phrases beginning with “scholars say” are meaningless because it is easy to find scholars who agree with nearly any conclusion.
If you have read any of my chapter summaries, you will know that I was very critical of Ehrman’s arguments and that you should expect some type of blunt instrument to make an appearance at this point. However, I would want to start with some points of commendation. As a teacher, I have to admit that Ehrman’s lucidity and instructional abilities make me envious of him. His ability to engage students is undeniable; he manages to keep things interesting even when the subject matter is difficult to follow.
- To be sure, he makes some excellent points about the substance, and he is correct in pointing out that Christology did not come down completely formed from the heavens.
- As a result of this, I have significant differences of opinion with Ehrman.
- A ship setting sail a few degrees off course is analogous to his method in that the divergence gets more and more evident with time until the ship becomes completely stranded.
- Details of my objections may be found in my blog series, but to avoid being too specific, I simply did not find his arguments persuasive.
- It was only a few months before publication that Ehrman came to this conclusion, which he readily conceded to.
A disproportionate amount of New Testament data was treated as an unfortunate petal in a game of “she loves me, she doesn’t”: he has Biblical authors disagreeing with themselves in their own writings, he creates an artificial wedge between texts by applying his “adoption” and “incarnation” labels to them, and he reads other texts in strange ways to fit his conclusions.
Furthermore, he does not interact properly with scholars who hold opposing views to his own, most notably Richard Bauckham.
Aside from that, Ehrman’s hyperbole may get the better of him at times, and he can be reduced to little more than a series of one-liners directed against Christians.
Advocacy groups are subjected to the worst of Ehrman’s rhetoric, and they are painted in an unfair and uneducated light.
According to Ehrman, “scholars” (who are all in agreement with him) are the only ones who are aware of what is going on, with Christians and apologists either uninformed or deceiving themselves.
The arguments themselves, rather than the people who make them, are what is important; in truth, statements that begin with “scholars say” are meaningless because it is possible to find scholars who agree with nearly any conclusion in the first place.