How Jesus Became God | Bart D. Ehrman

Stained glass: Alfred Handel, d. 1946[2], photo:Toby Hudson

Bart Ehrman has a new book out, looking at the historical development of Jesus becoming God.  Although I’m not religious, I still find the history of religion interesting, and of the Judeo/Christian tradition in particular fascinating.  I have his book on my reading list.

Jesus was a lower-class preacher from Galilee, who, in good apocalyptic fashion, proclaimed that the end of history as he knew it was going to come to a crashing end, within his own generation. God was soon to intervene in the course of worldly affairs to overthrow the forces of evil and set up a utopian kingdom on earth. And he would be the king.

It didn’t happen. Instead of being involved with the destruction of God’s enemies, Jesus was unceremoniously crushed by them: arrested, tried, humiliated, tortured, and publicly executed.

And yet, remarkably, soon afterwards his followers began to say that — despite all evidence to the contrary — Jesus really was the messiah sent from God. More than that, he was actually a divine being, not a mere human. And not just any divine being. He was the Creator of the universe. After long debates among themselves they decided that he was not secondary to the one God of Israel, the Lord God Almighty himself. On the contrary, he was fully equal with God; he had always existed for eternity with God; he was of the same essence as God; he was a member of the Trinity.

via How Jesus Became God | Bart D. Ehrman.

Negative reactions so far seem to come from some devout believers, who think any talk of theological development is wrong headed, and from the atheist community of Jesus mythicists, who insist that Jesus was entirely the creation of the later Christian community.

I’ve already posted on the problems with mythicism, but the resistance of some believers to this kind of investigation also strikes me as misguided.  Even if Jesus was in fact God, tracing how that came to be understood historically has a lot of value for both believers and non-believers.  Of course, this requires a certain amount of open mindedness, on both sides.

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4 Responses to How Jesus Became God | Bart D. Ehrman

  1. Brett says:

    I’ve never really understood the need of the Jesus Mythicists to posit an entirely fictional Jesus, as opposed to a real apocalyptic preacher from the 1st century who got himself killed when he provoked the authorities at the wrong time (i.e. when Pontius Pilate and his soldiers were in Jerusalem and all-too-willing to use bloody suppression measures if they thought Jews were about to revolt again). It’s not supported by the evidence, and they almost always drastically overplay parallels between paganism and Judaism/early Christianity.

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  2. I didn’t read the book. there is a debate: Bart Ehrman and Craig Evans that covers findings by Ehrman in his research… pre-dates the book.

    I do maintain that having an open mind is necessary as a human – primarily because any reports from 2000 years ago and longer (or even of any past times really) require that we must understand 1) there are possible inaccuracies, 2) evidence is selected for the times, 3) revelation is of knowledge but it is not God’s knowledge that translates handily into human language, and so on.

    As a Christian, it is not at all offensive to me that researchers and scrutiny of Christian statements of faith may raise questions.

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