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How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee Hardcover – March 25, 2014
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Ehrman, who has written prolifically about early Christianity, here takes up one of religious history’s most profound questions: How did a messianic Jewish preacher become identified as God? This is a particularly astonishing phenomenon when one considers how fast it happened and how different the idea of Jesus as God was from Jesus’ actual message. Ehrman writes very personally, especially in the beginning, and this approach draws the reader into a subject that is littered with curves and contradictions. Eventually, all writers who tackle this topic must answer the fundamental question: Did Jesus’ followers actually see a resurrected Christ? Ehrman sets up his answer well, first considering the various interpretations of divine humanity in ancient times. When it comes to the resurrection, he explains that whether the apostles actually saw Jesus or saw a vision makes no difference. Their belief in a risen Jesus is what shifted and shaped Christianity. A discussion of later Christologies and heresies becomes complicated, but this fascinating discussion will engage—and provoke—a wide audience. --Ilene Cooper
HOW JESUS BECAME GOD makes the most astonishing and complex topic in the history of Christianity accessible to every reader, and offers a clear and balanced discussion of how various Christians–and non- Christians-see Jesus. (Elaine Pagels, professor of religion at Princeton University and author of The Gnostic Gospels)
“ In this lively and provocative book, Ehrman gives a nuanced and wide-ranging discussion of early Christian Christology. Tracing the developing understanding of Jesus, Ehrman shows his skills as an interpreter of both biblical and nonbiblical texts. This is an important, accessible work by a scholar of the first rank.” (Michael Coogan, Harvard Divinity School lecturer and editor of The New Oxford Annotated Bible)
“Ehrman writes with vigor and clarity, but above all with intellectual honesty. He demystifies a subject on which biblical scholars too often equivocate. Both believers and non-believers can learn much from this book.” (John J. Collins, Holmes Professor of Old Testament at Yale)
“This careful book starts where the ‘historical Jesus’ accounts ends and lays out how this absorbing story continued for centuries. Candid and direct, it unfolds what often seem to be the unnecessarily complicated controversies that divided early Christians in a fair and understandable manner.” (Harvey Cox, Hollis Research Professor of Divinity at Harvard)
“How did ancient monotheism allow the One God to have a ‘son’? Bart Ehrman tells this story, introducing the reader to a Jewish world thick with angels, cosmic powers, and numberless semi-divinities. How Jesus Became God provides a lively overview of Nicea’s prequel.” (Paula Fredriksen, Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and author of Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews)
“Ehrman writes very personally, especially in the beginning, and this approach draws the reader into a subject that is littered with curves and contradictions... This fascinating discussion will engage—and provoke—a wide audience.” (Booklist)
“Ehrman’s book raises questions that should interest us all... [and] represents a genuine conversation among informed scholars.” (Christian Century)
“Bart Ehrman has made a career of zeroing in on some of the most difficult questions at the intersection of faith and history.” (Boston Globe)
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One point that I find particularly persuasive, in terms of the question of whether Jesus himself claimed to be God or the Son of God and equal with God, is his comment, repeated a couple of times, about how different the Gospel of John is. Anyone with a more than passing knowledge of the 4 gospels sees this, and anyone with a study bible knows that the gospel of John was written last, probably at least 60 or 70 years after the death of Jesus.
But the key point he makes is that Mark, for instance, never has Jesus say any of the exalted, poetic things that John puts in his mouth. So Ehrman's question is: if, in fact, Jesus went around saying "Before Abraham was, I am," how could Mark have left that out? How could the 3 synoptic gospels have such subtle hints of God-claims, if Jesus actually said the things John attributes to him? To have heard those things from the mouth of Jesus, but just passed them over when writing down the gospels is not imaginable. If I had a hero or leader who taught me a lot of things, and who also claimed frequently to be the son of John D. Rockefeller, it would be pretty strange for me to write a book about him and leave out that last key point, even though it would not technically be false to omit it--but something that would add to the credibility of what he said would be an odd thing to omit.
The reason I don't give the book 5 stars is that it is almost over-simplified and repetitive in some ways. I feels to me like lecture notes written up as a book, where each time class meets, the professor starts by reviewing where we were last time. It does make the book very clear, but almost too much so. And sometimes, I just felt tired of the conclusions of biblical textual scholars--this book claims to have been written by Paul, but we don't think it was for reason x, this passage says y, but it was most likely added and so it actually means z, etc. The textual; critics may be right, but it just isn't persuasive to most readers that a letter that says, I, Paul, am writing to you in Colossae," (or wherever) was actually written 100 years after Paul's death. And I recall that a lot of scholarship about the Old Testament doubts the accuracy of OT texts, until the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. So although I am not a believer, I just find some of the scholarly reasoning tedious.
The audience that would gain the most from this book are doubters, ie people within Christianity who are feeling uncomfortable with it, wondering if it's true, and want to know more about how we got from the time of Jesus to where we are now. Any study of how we got our bible, how orthodoxy came to be arrived at, how the early church actually functioned, is salient for a person who wants to know whether what they have been taught about the Bible and about Jesus really holds water. If you read this book and then conclude that Jesus was eternally the Son of God who came down from heaven, then you are standing on firmer ground. And if you find that ground shifting under your feet, keep inquiring until you find a satisfactory place to stand.
BE WARNED...purely historical accounts, and scientific interpretations regarding the origins of the divinity of Jesus Christ, do not mix well with "Faith" and "Religious Belief Systems". This is not a book for those who read the bible as the unchanging word of God. This is an account of how the author sees human interactions, verbal traditions, cultural interactions, and mixed interpretations of the many languages in which the bible was written, and their impact on current belief systems. It's not written in stone, it's not infallible, it's just an interesting insight as to how one author sees how the Jesus story came to be what it is today.
It makes you feel like you are a member of a jury, examining each piece of evidence then forming an opinion about said evidence.
Bart's books are extremely informative and you will learn a great deal on how we got to present day thinking about Jesus.
A few Other things you will learn:
Why the Bible was backfilled (edited) as beliefs evolved.
In early times there was no such thing as separation of church and state. Constantine pushed Christianity on his empire to gain iron clad political control over the masses.
The church became more powerful than the Roman Emperor himself.
Theological debates continued for centuries and even to present day on Christology.
The Bible of today is not the Bible in early history.
The Bible is not divine written, it is man written and has evolved throughout the centuries at the whim of the powers that be.
The historical Jesus was a Jewish apocalyptic rabbi that thought the world would end in his lifetime. He would be totally shocked to discover a huge religion was based upon him.
People who were crucified were left to rot on the cross. Birds and animals would feed on the corpse until it was just pieces left, then the remains were dumped into a mass grave. The only exception to this was sometimes on the emperor's birthday, the corpse was taken down complete. This never happened on a Jewish holiday. Pilate was totally against any Jewish traditions.