Last week I mentioned that I have begun a new series on my blog responding to Bart Erhman’s latest volume, How Jesus Became God–The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (HarperOne, 2014). For the prior posts in this series, see here and here. Future posts will come over the next few weeks.
Many of the posts in this series (though not all) will be drawn from my full-length review of Ehrman’s book. I have just learned that Reformation 21 has now posted that full review here.
The review covers a lot of ground, ranging from early Christian views of semi-divine figures, to whether Jesus claimed to be God, and to whether the NT writings contradict one another in regard to Jesus’ divinity. I wish I could have covered more, but there just wasn’t space.
You will need to go to Reformation 21 to read the whole thing, but here is my conclusion:
In the end, it is difficult to know what to think of Ehrman’s new volume. While it certainly provides a helpful introduction to some of the key issues in early Christology, it is hampered by a problematic methodology, a lopsided treatment of some of the historical evidences, and a disposition bent on finding contradictions and problems (that may not actually be there).
It would have been much more refreshing if Ehrman could have simply argued that, yes, the earliest Christians believed, from a very early time, Jesus was the God of Israel (who, by definition, is pre-existent), and they believed this because Jesus presented himself as the God of Israel, but the earliest Christians (and Jesus) were simply wrong. But, instead, Ehrman has taken a different path. Rather than arguing they were simply wrong, he has tried to argue that neither Jesus nor the early Christians really believed this in the first place (at least at the beginning). Of course, historically speaking, the latter argument is much more difficult to sustain than the former. But, at the same time it is also more attractive. It is easier to reject the claims of institutional Christianity than it is to reject the claims of Jesus himself.
Are you going to continue your blog series reviewing Bart’s book? I think you only wrote 2 out of the 4 parts.
Michael Kruger says
Yep the series will continue.
Rev. Bryant J. Williams III says
I read your review on Reformation 21.
1. Although you quote from Ehrman’s book, I did find it interesting that no mention of Ehrman basically regurgitating W.C. Bauer’s ***Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity.*** In fact, Ehrman uses the same argument on page 5 in ***Lost Christianities.****
2. Ehrman uses the argument that Jesus gradually became divine is similar to the LDS using the same argument that Adam gradually became divine.
3. The argument from silence is truly glaring. Ehrman mentioned the absence of the pre-existnece, virgin conception and incarnation in Mark in contradistinction to Matthew and Luke indicating that Mark did not. You argued, rightfully so, “We simply do not know why an author included some things and not others; and it is very dangerous to suppose that we do.”
4. I am reminded that “just because there is an absence of evidence does not mean that there is evidence of absence.” BTW, we conservatives can be also guilty of this same methodological reasoning.
5. The various attempts to overstate the evidence is truly amazing. The use of “Thesis,” “Antithesis,” then “Synthesis” formula proposed in the 19th Century from Higher German Liberalism is still amazing.
6. The clear UNBELIEF of Ehrman is still humbling.
I think that you could have identified others that are not mentioned above. I do hope that in the continued review of this book is later posts that more detailed arguments are made.
Rev. Bryant J. Williams III
Austin Davis says
“It is easier to reject the claims of institutional Christianity than it is to reject the claims of Jesus himself.”
Institutional religion is often in conflict with Jesus. Here is a link on the modern-day institutional church using secular police power: http://www.wadeburleson.org/2014/05/austin-davis-covenant-presbyterian-and.html