How Jesus Became GodPosted: May 6, 2014
How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee
Bart D. Ehrman
HarperOne, 421 pages, March 25, 2014
Kindle Edition $15.99, Amazon Hardcover $18.86
Bart Ehrman is known for his books on the earliest manuscripts of the Bible and other ancient writings. Critics will say he takes the position that what the Bible says is actually unknowable. I prefer to view him as saying we need to be cautious and that the most widely accepted reading of a given passage may not be the closest to the author’s original intent.
In this book Ehrman doesn’t compare different manuscripts of the same work. Rather, he discusses how the man Jesus came to be regarded as God. He writes about how the deification of humans was common in the ancient world, and how the deification of Jesus was in once sense a competition with the Roman Empire, where the Emperor Augustus was considered to be divine.
He makes the case that Jesus did not consider himself to be divine. He may have considered himself to be the Messiah, but a close reading of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (omitting John which was written later with its own perspective) shows that he did not think of himself as divine. Ehrman says that Jesus was not referring to himself himself when he spoke of the Son of Man, as we assume, but that the Son of Man was a separate, divine being who would pave the way for Jesus’ human messiahship.
Ehrman makes a strong case that the historical Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher. He points out that Mark, the shared source of Matthew and Luke (known as Q), the material unique to Matthew, and the material unique to Luke all have apocalyptic statements by Jesus. Somewhat disconcerting for those of us who would prefer not to see Jesus in that light.
While Ehrman is not everyone’s cup of tea, I always get a lot out of his books. He inserts more of himself into this book than he has his previous work, but I found that that added to the book rather than detracting from it.
How Jesus Became God is well worth reading if such topics interest you.