This week sees the release of How Jesus Became God by the controversial historian Bart Ehrman. The title summaries the argument. Ehrman argues that the man Jesus came to be called a god after his life.
The good news is that a counter argument from a group of leading biblical scholars is being published at the same time. How God Became Jesus tackles Ehrman’s argument head on to provide a defence of the historicity and cogency of the traditional doctrine of the incarnation. It’s available here from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk.
There are a number of elements we want to contest or qualify. First, early views on Jesus as a “divine” figure were not just cut and pasted onto him from the polytheistic world of Clash of the Titans with Greek gods who become human or Emperors who become a god at death. Second, there is Jesus’ self-understanding. While Jesus saw himself as a prophet, he seems to have also thought of himself as more than a prophet. He spoke with a divine authority, identified himself with God’s own activity in the world, believed that in his own person he was embodying the return of the LORD to Jerusalem, and he would be enthroned right beside God in the future. Third, regarding whether Jesus was buried and his body just thrown in some ditch as carrion for scavengers, we show that the burial traditions in the Gospels have a lot more going for them than Ehrman alleges. Fourth, we strive to show that, against Ehrman, Paul did not think of Jesus as an angel who became human, but as a pre-existing being, who was part of the very identity of God. Fifth, and finally, the various challenges the early church faced in developing a grammar and framework for thinking about Jesus as fully God and fully human also need to get the proper nuance and commentary, which is not always given to them.
(Reproduced with permission. The full interview is available here.)