Top positive review
3 people found this helpful
Yes, you need to buy this book!! Now!!!
on 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.