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A Case for the Divinity of Jesus: Examining the Earliest Evidence
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VINE VOICEon January 23, 2014
This book, aimed at the general reader, is a terrific overview of all the most recent orthodox scholarship on early Christianity and the divinity of Christ.

Only in Christianity do we find a claim that God took human form. This was not a claim that appeared late; quite the contrary. We have proof that the earliest Christians believed Christ was God.

Early hymns, creeds, or confessions embedded in Paul's epistles date back to the early 30s, according to scholars like Hurtado and Longenecker. "Neufeld noted that almost immediately after the crucifixion...his followers developed statements of faith" (p 9) In these normative creeds, we find Christ called not only Lord but God. Significantly, we know Second Temple Jews refused to address the emperor as Kyrios "because they believed that this term was only to be applied to the Hebrew God" (p 22).

Although Ehrman and Pagels rely on Gnostic writings to insist early Christianity was diverse, they can provide no actual evidence to suggest any Gnostic existed before the mid second century.

In fact, the hymn in Colossians "is evidence that the early church was already worshiping...Jesus as divine prior to Paul's writing" (p 39).

As for the books that make up the New Testament: "We have complete manuscripts of the New Testament dating to no later than AD 350 and fragments dating from AD 100 to 125 and possibly earlier. In total, we have about 5,500 ancient Greek manuscripts" (p 74).

This is an extraordinary number of manuscripts, in fragments or otherwise, especially when compared to the meager amount of manuscripts we have found for just about anything else. The novels that the later Romans loved? Cicero's writings?

Liberal scholars argue that all the gospels were written after AD 70, since the destruction of the temple is prophesied too explicitly in the gospels, and therefore, must have been written after the event. This is an idiotic argument, even for liberal scholars, but, I swear, idiotic or not, it's the basic argument for the late dating.

Yet the arguments for much earlier dates are compelling. For example, Luke never mentions the murder of James, in AD 62 - even though James was more important to the church than Stephen, whose murder is given a long explanation in Acts. Nor is any explanation given as to the outcome of Paul's trial, even though his arrest and imprisonment takes up a good deal of space.

On the basis of these two facts, it is actually very likely that Acts, not to mention Luke therefore, were written before AD 62.

In Matthew 17:24-27 "the payment of the half-shekel temple tax indicated a pre-70 environment, because after 70, Josephus informs us that the tax was to be paid to the treasure of the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus in Rome (p 97).

Perhaps most revolutionary in the last few decades of biblical scholarship has been an interest in how the oral gospel was passed in Second Temple Judaism. Gerardsson, Riesner and Keebler are well known scholars who have tackled the transmission of tradition in Second Temple Judaism.

"In Israel in Jesus' time elementary education was mandatory for boys until age twelve" (p 111) where rote memorization was emphasized. Again and again, in Paul's epistles, in various gospels, there are references to tradition - paradidonai - which was a technical term meaning you were conveying oral traditions which were as important as written traditions.

Frankly, the entire hysterical search by liberal scholars for the elusive 'Q' gospel, not to mention the so-called synoptic problem, is solved completely by delving into the transmission and meaning of the oral gospel.
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on July 27, 2013
The combination of perspicacity, stunning logic, and passion used to humbly prove Christ's divinity was just awesome.Overman took the bull by the horns and delivered!
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on November 24, 2009
Has the scholarly quest for the "Historical Jesus" shaken your faith in the verity of the Gospels? Have you been bedazzled by purported "alternative Christianities" from Apostolic times? If so, here's a book that will clear your head of the cobwebs of doubt, and your bookshelf of second century gnostic nonsense, like the "Gospel of Thomas," as well as books which argue that Jesus himself made no claim to divinity and was divinized only many years later by writers who neither knew him nor had access to reliable reports about him. Dean Overman's clear and meticulous analysis bolsters the credibility of the Gospels by showing that the oral, rabbinic tradition by which religious knowledge was passed on was highly reliable, and so accurately preserved the events and sayings of Jesus reported in the Gospels. And, his review of first century sources such as creedal statements and hymns shows that not only "Doubting Thomas," but Jesus' other contemporaneous followers as well were convinced by his resurrection that Jesus was indeed God's divine son--as he himself had claimed by his repeated use of the name of God--"I AM." This book is a compelling read for both believers and honest inquirers.
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on February 4, 2015
Dean Overman’s "A Case for the Divinity of Jesus" is an excellent source for investigating: 1) some of the earliest claims about Jesus, 2) what those claims tell us about Him, and 3) arguments against some modern claims that certain doctrines developed late or were only one small view in a vast sea of views of who Christ is. While the divinity of Jesus is an underlying theme that unifies the work, it is really more of a compilation of arguments defending the orthodox or historical view of Jesus against modern criticisms than it is just a book defending His divinity.

Overman begins by looking at the very early creedal formulas and hymns that precede and are recorded in the NT documents. He does a good job of showing that the early church had a high Christology (view of Jesus) right from the very beginning. He goes on to argue that the gospels present a view of Jesus as divine through key expressions used of Jesus and through certain actions of the disciples towards Him, and that the gospels (and entire NT) is reliable history from very near the time of the actual events. He also has a good chapter on oral tradition and how it provided a solid foundation for the historical facts to be captured and written by the NT authors. Based upon this foundation, Overman then investigates the plausibility of the resurrection event as a capstone to the first part of the book.

In the last part of the book, Overman argues against the hypothesis that the Gnostic gospels provide historically reliable sources providing alternate versions of Christianity. This is a good section that provides some key details on The Gospel of Thomas and an interesting linguistic argument against it being a first-century work. He ends the book with some thoughts on exclusive religious claims and how to have meaningful conversations with people who have different belief systems. Overall, this is a good resource that covers a number of important and interesting topics about Jesus and the case for the historical Christian view.
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on August 16, 2017
As promised -

Received as promised
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on January 2, 2015
I found this book to be a disappointment on several levels. First of all, there is no discussion of the various meanings that the words "divine" or "divinity" might have in various usages, meanings which can range from "the one God," to an emanation of God, to an angel, to a prophet, and so forth. In other words, the early followers of Jesus might have regarded him as "divine" without necessarily accepting the tenets of what later came to be Trinitarian or Nicene Christology. I would recommend the works of James Dunn, N.T. Wright, and Markus Bockmuehl for more nuanced discussions of the concept of divinity and how it might apply to Jesus.

Secondly, I believe that the author is often not working with the best and most accurate translations of pertinent Biblical passages. (One example would be 1 Timothy 3:16, where he inserts the word "God" when it is not found in the earliest manuscripts and is not attested in the writings of the early church Fathers.)

Thirdly, the author does not adequately explain those (numerous) passages in which a clear distinction seems to be made between Jesus and God, or when Jesus is clearly represented as being subordinate to the Father.

I believe that the book "One God & One Lord" (Graesner, Lynn, and Schoenheit) argues persuasively for a unitarian perspective while still affirming the exalted, quasi-divine role that Jesus holds in the plan of God. I believe that "One God & One Lord" provides a more persuasive interpretation of the pertinent biblical passages.

One strength of this book, however, lies in its debunking of the current fad for Gnostic gospels, gospels which were almost certainly written many decades after the material found in the New testament canon and which provide little if any insight into the actual Jesus of history.
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on May 8, 2017
This is not just a book to read, help with your questions, and answer problems and objections, but also a book to keep on your shelf for future reference. If you're a serious student of the scriptures, a seminary scholar, or the preacher on the corner this book will deliver for you. The author clearly identifies the issues, answers questions and objections, and clarifies the case like a jurist. Just the book for anyone who wants to examine first century evidence for the divinity of Jesus. Outstanding!
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on December 13, 2009
Dean Overman's recently published work, A Case for the Divinity of Jesus: Examining the Earliest Evidence, is masterful in doing just that -- examining the very "earliest" evidence. It is a wonderful and enlightening sequel to his previous two books, A Case for the Existence of God and A Case Against Accident and Self-Organization. Throughout the book he emphasizes the earliest creeds, hymns and liturgies of the very earliest church. Here he is actually describing the beliefs about Jesus held by those who were most closely associated with him in the days immediately preceding his crucifixion and the days following his resurrection. He describes in detail how these creeds and hymns were incorporated in our very earliest Christian writings and sets forth evidence validating the reliability of these writings and the dramatic patterns of the worship of Jesus as divine prior to the composition of these writings. Of key interest and importance is the focus and extensive research Overman has done on the second-century Gnostic gospels. Overman clearly explains the speculative nature and inaccurate information disseminated by persons promoting these Gnostic gospels in an attempt to distort the traditional, orthodox faith of the earliest church. This is unfortunately a growing and popular sentiment in today's world. For the history buffs, this book is a history book. Overman's continuing extensive research in the theological area is also profound and invaluable to any reader. His comprehensive writing style and consistent attention to detail and factual information is remarkable in his honest effort to seek the ultimate truth.
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on April 11, 2010
The treatment subject matter herein is unassailable. Given the probability factors and historicity of events, there is an exceptional wealth of factors demonstrating the reliability of extra-Biblical as well as Biblical history surrounding the claims of Jesus The Christ, (as well as those within Jesus' scope of association). This is the best logical, historical, and rational treatment of the subject of the Divinity of Jesus Christ written since Dr. Benjamin Warfield's treatise on the "Person and Work of Christ". If you are a disciple of such men as Bart Ehrman, this book will restore you from fanciful misguidance, loose handling of ancient texts, and enlighten all to the accurate scholarly handling of historical documents.
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