…while working on this book [How Jesus Became God], Ehrman arrived at a dramatic about-face on fundamental issues relating to the Christian religion. Ehrman had previously assumed that the deification of Jesus did not take place until some six decades after his Crucifixion, around the years 90 or 95. Ehrman now acknowledges that Jesus’ followers — the inner circle who knew him personally — came to believe he was divine almost immediately after they became convinced of his Resurrection, a historical revision that moves up the timeline by several generations. – Huffington Post article
Professor Bart Ehrman’s new book How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee hit the shelves and online bookstores yesterday. It will no doubt quickly become a favorite resource for Muslim apologists who swoon over all things Ehrman, even though it is also bound to upset a number of the oft-refuted theories many Muslims still tenaciously and errantly cling to, such as the idea that unitarianism was the rule rather than the exception among ancient monotheistic Jews, or that the deity of Christ originated among the Gentile churches of Antioch (ala Wilhelm Bousset), or with the apostle Paul (ala James Tabor), or that it didn’t come along until late in the first century (ala James Dunn), or that it wasn’t invented until the time of the Nicene council (ala Geza Vermes), etc. [Nota Bene: While unbelieving scholars are largely in agreement on the negative conclusion they want to reach here, i.e. Jesus is not God and Savior, they do not now and never have represented a united front against orthodox Christianity in terms of the premises or facts they believe justify or conduct them to the desired conclusion. As well, neither now nor ever have unbelieving scholars been in agreement on the positive conclusions they reach concerning who Jesus was, with some saying he was a disillusioned apocalytpicist, or a failed revolutionary, or “Elijah, or John the Baptist brought back from the dead, or one of the prophets of old,” and so on ad infinitum.]
As the quote from the Huffington post article says above, this represents a dramatic reversal on Ehrman’s part, and, we might add, and as the above evinces, puts him at odds with a number of other liberal scholars who are looked upon as heroes by their indiscriminating Muslim acolytes. Ehrman’s new view also puts him much closer, at least in terms of the time line on the origin of belief in the deity of Christ, to the views of scholars like Larry Hurtado, Richard Bauckham, and Martin Hengel, all of whom have argued strenuously and cogently for early High Christology.
Ehrman does of course employ a number of strategies to avoid the most natural conclusion that follows from admitting that Jews were not monolithically unitarian, and that belief in the deity of Christ originated early with those who knew Jesus’ personally and intimately. But for the most part these strategies are not at all new and have received responses that are more than adequate, which makes the most interesting aspects of the book those places where Ehrman, as a high profile representative of that segment of critical scholarship that is animated by the spirit anti-Christ (1 John 2:18ff., 4:1ff.; 2 John 1:7), changes his own previously held position and gives up precious ground naively thought by some to be securely in the possession of non-Christians. To say the least, Ehrman’s admissions will be of considerable interest to Christians, and they will be useful for putting in check overly selective uses of Ehrman on the part of Muslims (and others) that are bound to follow the publication of this book.
For those who are interested in learning more about how Ehrman’s new book ends up being a boon in certain ways to Christianity and how it is utterly destructive of Islamic pretensions to having the truth about Jesus, I will begin posting a series of articles on this tomorrow evening from Sam Shamoun, if the Lord Jesus wills it.
Also, if you are interested in pursuing this topic in more depth, a book length reply has already been written by Christian scholars: How God Became Jesus: The Real Origins of Belief in Jesus’ Divine Nature---A Response to Bart Ehrman.
In the meantime, here is Rob Bowman’s initial brief review of both of these books.
How Jesus Became God—Or How God Became Jesus? A Review of Bart Ehrman’s New Book and a Concurrent Response