Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How Jesus Became God

…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. 

And for your viewing pleasure, here is a video from Craig Evans, one of the authors of the above book, discussing Ehrman’s treatment of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of our Lord.


Mark Bennett (Dk) said...

Hey Anthony, thanks for these resources, Evans, Bowman etc.

I had heard of this book and was going to buy it. I may now loan it from the library as Christians probably have better works on these subjects.

But in summary:

1) Erhman claims that the crucifixion of Jesus is a historical fact.

2) Erthman believes the family and disciples of Jesus envisioned a post-resurrected Jesus. (post-mortem appearances are historically sound).

3) Erhman believes the family and disciples of Jesus came to believe Jesus is divine. (not an invention of John, Paul etc)

4) Erhman won't study Islam because he values his life.

5) Erhman acknowledges the NT is very close to the original.

6) Therefore lets all convert to Islam!


Looking forward to Sam's articles.

Answering Judaism said...

Sadly I have noticed that one Rabbi on Facebook as even brought the book by Erhman. Why so many people who deny Christianity look to him as one to refute Christianity I have no idea.

I am pretty sure Erhman has his criticisms of the OT as well as the NT. So why would counter missionaries endorse Erhman? There is a little bit of inconsistency there.

Vineet Pal said...

"And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began." (John 17:5)

This statement is an obvious claim to deity. Not only did Jesus claim to exist before the creation of the universe, but He claimed to share the glory of God! Jesus also claimed that He had "all authority... in heaven and on earth" and that everything of God was His.18

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." (Matthew 28:18)

@david I emailed you.. you didn't noticed probably, if you have time please check and respond :)

David Wood said...

I don't see it. Try sending it again.

Radical Moderate said...

It just keeps getting worse and worse for Muslim apologetic's.

First Paul Williams becomes an apostate, and now they have lost Bart Ehrman.

DannyM said...

The Muslim's were too desperate and dense to realise this was always going to happen; they were always going to lose their Blessed Bart as the go-to guy - Ehrman *has* to mix things up in order to stay relevant to the ignorant masses (or, if you prefer, his ignorant public!). These ignorant masses are also far too dense to feel short-changed by Ehrman's shifting conclusions.

goethechosemercy said...

I just wanted to add here that God took in human nature, humanity did not admit God to its precincts.
The problem with the liberal positions is their inherent gnosticism-- they have no concept of a holy God, and therefore, man knows and decides who God is.
This is error.

Samuel Green said...

Thanks Anthony for this post.

Samuel Green said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marc Lüttingen said...


In Was Jesus just your average Joe? , I argued it is pretty unlikely
that Jesus was just an ordinary man on the grounds of the extreme
dissimilarity between the conviction of His first disciples and the very
high Christology one can find only one or two generations later.

There needs to be something special about him.

Ehrmann now thinks that extremely powerful and wonderful hallucinations do the job.
Well I doubt it.
Why did not the disciples of all other failed Messiah
developed similar hallucinations and draw similar conclusions?
Ehrmann has to postulate that this occurred by sheer chance
to the early disciples but not to the other Messianic sects.

I think that if you really want a naturalistic explanation, this should look like this:

1) the body of Jesus disappeared in some way from a known tomb
2) A group of female followers found the empty grave and were stunned
3) as a consequence of this discovery the disciples
got so excited that they began to have all sorts of visionary experiences
4) this in turn led them to view Christ as a divine being

I am currently trying to develop a (frequentist) probabilistic way to explore historical issues which avoids the pitfalls of the Bayesianism of folks such as Richard Carrier and allows the existence of unknown probabilities.

Cheers from Europe.

Patrick Goggins said...

I read "How Jesus Became God" and the refutation, "How God Became Jesus." Both books explained how almost all Christologies - high and low - were around very early on, and how these Christologies were chronologically *eliminated,* from low to high, as the nascent church built its orthodoxy.

My comments, and these go to both books, are: 1) they assume that Jesus’s ministry was apocalyptic, when Crossan and others make a good case that Jesus’s ministry was sapiential – that is, present here now and attainable through good deeds and adhering to the law, and 2) that the Pauline epistles are the earliest source writings – when the Epistle of James the Just arguably pre-dates them.

For further discussion of these comments, and a thorough review of both books, please check out my Reader’s Guide to Bart Ehrman's How Jesus Became God.

This is the latest in a series which includes my best-selling Reader’s Guide to Reza Aslan’s Zealot , and my Reader’s Guide to Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Jesus .