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Radio Debate on How Jesus became God: Part 1

As is my wont, I was in England for Spring Break, and while there I was invited to participate in a radio program devoted to my book How Jesus Became God (as I've indicated before on the blog).   The program was set up to be a radio "debate," or, well, "friendly exchange of ideas" (it was the latter more than the former) between me and Simon J. Gathercole, who is a Senior Lecturer in New Testament at Cambridge University.  Simon is one of the five contributors to the response book How God Became Jesus.   He is a bona fide and serious New Testament scholar, whom I respect and with whom I heartily disagree on many many issues!  :-)   The program was "Unbelievable," a weekly program on UK Premier Christian Radio hosted by moderator Justin Brierley, a bright and interesting fellow, not a scholar but well acquainted with scholarship.  He, like Simon, is a reasonably, but reasonable, conservative Christian.  The "debate" involved two segments, both taped on March 29th, 2014.   The following is the first of [...]

Article in the Huffington Post

The Huffington Post has just published an article that I wrote introducing How Jesus Became God. (Link below) Here’s the article as I wrote it and sent it in. I’ve written several others that I will be providing as well, as soon as they are available in their various venues, plus anything else of related interest. **************************************************************** Jesus was a lower-class preacher from Galilee, who, in good apocalyptic fashion, proclaimed that the end of history as he knew it was going to come to a crashing end, within his own generation. God was soon to intervene in the course of worldly affairs to overthrow the forces of evil and set up a utopian kingdom on earth. And he would be the king. It didn’t happen. Instead of being involved with the destruction of God’s enemies, Jesus was unceremoniously crushed by them: arrested, tried, humiliated, tortured, and publicly executed.   FOR THE REST OF THIS POST, log in as a Member. If you don't belong yet, GET WITH IT!!! And yet, remarkably, soon afterwards his followers began [...]

2020-04-03T17:13:44-04:00March 30th, 2014|Book Discussions, Historical Jesus, Religion in the News|

Scholars and Popular Audiences

On the heels of the publication of How Jesus Became God, written for a broad, general audience, rather than for scholars, and in light of my previous post in which I indicated that some scholars are very sniffy about this kind of publication and think that it is “only” a popular kind of book, I was going to devote this post to my view of scholars in relationship to popular, trade books. As I was outlining my points in my head, I realized, Wait a second! I’ve said all this before. Not on the blog. But in a very different context indeed. In 2011 at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature there was a very large session devoted to such things. The panel presenting papers was John Dominic Crossan, Amy Jill Levine, N. T. Wright, and me. The audience was all biblical scholars, maybe a thousand of them? The following is what I said in my talk about scholars publishing for a popular audience. ****************************************************************** We as biblical scholars need to be [...]

2020-06-04T16:24:58-04:00March 28th, 2014|Book Discussions, Reflections and Ruminations|

Why Sell Books?

In a previous post I dealt with the question of How Books Sell, and tried to explain that trade books that make it big, if they make it big, do so by receiving substantial media attention.  When Reza Aslan had that immortal (not to say immoral) interview on FOX, it sealed the deal.  His book went up to #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list – every author’s dream.   Without the interview, it wouldn’t have happened. In this post I want to deal with a correlative question that may have been on precisely no one’s mind: Why Sell Books?   Well, it’s on my mind, anyway.  And it’s on my mind because invariably when a scholar publishes a book for a popular audience, his/her colleagues (some of them) in the field get all sniffy and huffy about it.   What you often hear them say (when they don’t know you’re listening) is: “Oh, he just wants to sell books!” You’d think I’d be ready for this by now, but I’m flabbergasted every time it happens, still.   [...]

2020-04-03T17:15:08-04:00March 27th, 2014|Bart's Critics, Book Discussions|

My First Radio Interview on How Jesus Became God

I am lined up to do a number of interviews for the new book, and here is the first, with a program called Interfaith Voices, hosted by Mareen Fiedler.   Interfaith Voices is the nation's leading public radio show about faith, ethics and spirituality, and plays on WAMU 88.5 FM in Washington, DC.   The following is an interview taped on March 20th, 2014. She titles the radio program, "The Debate over the Divinity of Jesus" while referencing my latest book "How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee." She asks good, perceptive questions that allow me to talk about key aspects of my thesis in the book.  The interview will provide a good overview of what you'll find in it, once you get your grubby paws on it (now that my grubby paws are off it). Please adjust gear icon for 720p High-Definition:

2017-12-14T23:30:35-05:00March 25th, 2014|Book Discussions, Historical Jesus, Public Forum, Video Media|

How Books Are Sold

How Jesus Became God is released tomorrow. So I’m pumped. This is the most exciting time for an author of a trade book (written for a general audience). It’s always great, of course, beginning the research on a new project; and it’s always fantastic, if nerve wracking, to begin the writing; of course it’s always a huge relief to finish the book and send it off to the publisher. But the most exciting time is when the book is just about to be released. Outside of my small little world of trade book authors, the whole process is not well known. At least, it was not known to me, even as a widely published scholar, before I went into this world. In fact, it took a couple of trade books before I started understanding this world. One thing that I completely misunderstood, as a scholar just starting to write books for a general audience, was what it was that created sales. At first I thought that if you wrote a good book, it would sell [...]

2020-04-03T17:15:16-04:00March 24th, 2014|Book Discussions|

How Jesus Became God!!

It is time – well past time, some of you may think – for a new thread.   And one is oh-so-ready-to-hand.    My new book, How Jesus Became God, will be released on Tuesday (March 25).  I am unusually eager for that to happen.  I’ve never had a trade book (i.e., written for a popular audience) that I’ve been as invested in.   Many of my other ones have done well, and I’ve been proud of each and every one of them (they’re like your children – you love each of them dearly and deeply ….).   But this is that one that I think is the really important one – in its way, more important than Misquoting Jesus, and all the rest. That’s because the question it’s dealing with is really BIG, in my opinion.   It may sound a bit outlandish, crazy, or over the top, but I think a case can be made that the question of how Jesus became God is one of the most important questions for the history of Western Civilization.  OK, that [...]

2017-12-14T23:30:58-05:00March 23rd, 2014|Book Discussions, Memory Studies, Public Forum|

John from a Socio-Historical Perspective

Now that I have explained what the socio-historical method is in general terms (in my previous post) I can go on to show how it can be applied to a particular Gospel, in this case, the Gospel of John.  Again, none of this is new and fresh scholarship that I myself came up with; two of the real pioneers of this method were two of the greats of New Testament interpretation in the latter part of the twentieth century, both of whom, remarkably, taught at Union Theological Seminary in New York (taught, in fact, some of my good friends!), the Protestant scholar J. Louis Martyn, and the Roman Catholic scholar, Raymond Brown.   Their views ended up being a more or less consensus position for many years, and continues to be prominent among teachers of the NT still today. **************************************************************** The Gospel of John from a Socio-Historical Perspective The place to begin is by examining the different thematic emphases evident in different stories, which ultimately may derive from different sources, and to consider the kinds of [...]

2017-12-14T23:31:09-05:00March 22nd, 2014|Canonical Gospels, Public Forum|

How Jesus Became God

Ehrman sketches Jesus's transformation from a human prophet to the Son of God exalted to divine status at his resurrection. Only when some of Jesus's followers had visions of him after his death... [button url="http://www.bartdehrman.com/books/How-Jesus-became-God.htm" target="_blank" size="small" style="teal grey" ]Learn More[/button]

2020-04-03T17:15:32-04:00March 22nd, 2014|Book Discussions, Memory Studies|

The Socio-Historical Method

More on the Gospel of John!  In previous posts I explained how it can be studied following a variety of methods that I had introduced earlier in relation to Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  In my textbook I go on to introduce a different method altogether, which is concerned with a *completely* different set of questions and issues.  It will take me a couple of posts to explain the method, and a couple to apply it to the Gospel of John.  Let me stress that I did not come up with these methods.  I’m simply explaining methods that scholars tend to use when approaching these books.  I should emphasize this point in part because I want to stress that interpreting an ancient text is not simply a matter of reading it and summarizing what it says.  Hard-core interpretation requires self-reflective and rigorous methods, and a patient (verse-by-verse, word-by-word) application of these methods.  When a bona fide scholar makes a pronouncement about the meaning of this or that passage of the NT, it is not simply a [...]

2017-12-14T23:31:40-05:00March 21st, 2014|Canonical Gospels, Public Forum|

Sources of the Fourth Gospel

I have given evidence so far that the Gospel of John is not a single composition written by a single author sitting down to produce the account at a single time, but is made up of written sources that have all been edited together into the finished product. Here I lay out a bit more information about the sources that appear to lie behind this account of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. ****************************************************************** Thus the theory of written sources behind the Fourth Gospel can explain many of the literary problems of the narrative. These sources obviously no longer survive. What can we say about them? Character of the Sources in John (1) The Signs Source. Some of the seams that we have observed appear to suggest that the author incorporated a source that described the signs of Jesus, written to persuade people that he was the messiah, the Son of God. There are seven "signs" in the Gospel; it is possible that these were all original to the source. You may recall that "seven" is [...]

2020-04-03T17:15:42-04:00March 19th, 2014|Canonical Gospels|

More on John from a Redactional Perspective

In the previous post I started to give the evidence that the Gospel of John is based on previously existing sources (probably written – that it ultimately goes back to oral sources goes without saying) (even though I just said it). The argument for sources is a cumulative one, and in my judgment this third one clinches the deal. Again, from my textbook: ************************************************************** The two preceding arguments may not seem all that persuasive by themselves. The third kind of evidence, however, should give us pause. For it is the inconsistencies of John's narrative itself -- literary "seams," as they might be called -- that provide the strongest evidence that the author of John used several written sources when producing his account. (3) The Presence of Literary Seams. If I were to sew two pieces of cloth together, everyone would know. I am a lousy seamster, and the connections would be plain for the world to see. Some authors who splice their sources together are obvious as well, in that they don't cover up their [...]

2020-04-03T17:15:56-04:00March 18th, 2014|Canonical Gospels|

John from a Redactional Perspective

In my previous post I asked whether many of you were getting tired of this discussion of methods of analysis, in relationship to the Gospel of John. Almost everyone who replied wanted me to continue, and so I do! I move on to the question of whether redaction criticism can be useful for studying the Fourth Gospel. This will take two posts. Again, I am drawing from my textbook, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction…. ********************************************************* The Gospel of John from a Redactional Perspective As we have seen in our earlier discussions, redaction criticism works to understand how an author has utilized his or her sources. Scholars have successfully used the method with the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, where we can posit two sources with reasonable certainty (Mark and Q). The method is somewhat more tenuous in the case of the Fourth Gospel, since this author's sources are more difficult to reconstruct. Still, John must have derived his stories about Jesus from somewhere (assuming that he didn't make them all up). What sources, then, [...]

2020-04-03T17:16:46-04:00March 17th, 2014|Canonical Gospels|

Keep on Keepin’ On?

  This post is a brief hiatus to say that if you’re getting tired of all this talk about methods and the Gospel of John, let me know and I’ll go on to something else.   I haven’t heard any complaints, so I’ll keep going till I do!  I realize these posts may not be the sexiest things to come across the blog, but sometimes it is good to deal with lots of substance as well as / in addition to the human interest stories. I suppose we need both! In any event, these posts have been a boon for me, because they have allowed me to continue to contribute to the blog with less of a time commitment during a period when I have been even more crazily swamped than normal. This past week, on Spring Break, I’ve been in London, which should in theory have been a vacation!  And I have seen two plays (a *terrific* rendition of Ibsen’s Ghosts, and my all-time favorite actor Simon Russell Beale in King Lear).  And it’s been [...]

2014-03-14T18:13:38-04:00March 14th, 2014|Public Forum|

More on John from a Comparative Perspective

Continuing my thread on methods for studying the Gospels. In yesterday’s post I began to talk about the “Comparative method” and showed how, in comparison with the Synoptics, just how different John is, purely in terms of contents. But even when John and the Synoptics contain similar stories (e.g., miracles; teachings; passion narrative) they are very different. That’s what I try to show in this excerpt today. ************************************************************ Comparison of Emphases The differences between John and the Synoptics are perhaps even more striking in stories that they have in common. You can see the differences yourself simply by taking any story of the Synoptics that is also told in John, and comparing the two accounts carefully. A thorough and detailed study of this phenomenon throughout the entire Gospel would reveal several fundamental differences. Here I will emphasize two of them, differences that affect a large number of the stories of Jesus' deeds and words. First, the deeds. Jesus does not do as many miracles in John as he does in the Synoptics, but the ones [...]

2017-12-25T12:31:27-05:00March 13th, 2014|Canonical Gospels|

The Gospel of John from a Comparative Perspective

So far in my discussion of John’s Gospel I have tried to show how different methods of analysis can tell us different things. And so I’ve talked about the literary-historical method, which determines the literary genre of a work and asks how that genre is used in its historical context, and the thematic method, which ignores genre and simply looks for outstanding themes of a work, for example in its opening chapters and in its speeches. Now I move on to a comparative method, to which I will devote two posts. After this I will post on how a redactional method also can be applied to John, and then end this thread with a brand-new method, that I have not yet talked about, explained, or justified – the socio-historical method. So there is still more fun to come. Here is what I say in my textbook about John from a comparative point of view, part one. ********************************************************* The Gospel of John from a Comparative Perspective One of the most striking features of the Fourth Gospel [...]

2020-04-03T17:16:55-04:00March 12th, 2014|Canonical Gospels|

The Gospel of John from a Thematic Perspective

In previous posts I’ve discussed how a literary-historical approach to John can yield interesting results. Other methods of analysis are available as well. Here I discuss another one that I have not yet explained, but should be understandable simply from the following extract from my textbook. I call this other method, simply, the “thematic” approach. Here is what I say about it, in relation to the Gospel of John. ********************************************* The Gospel of John from a Thematic Perspective Whereas the literary-historical approach to the Gospels focuses on the conventions of the biographical genre, and so determines how a book portrays its main character through the unfolding of the plot as he interacts with those around him, the thematic approach isolates prominent themes at key points of the narrative, and traces their presence throughout, more or less overlooking questions of plot and character interaction. If we were to examine John from a strictly thematic point of view, we might look at some of the salient motifs established at the outset of its narratives (since biographies set [...]

2020-04-03T17:17:19-04:00March 11th, 2014|Canonical Gospels|

More Literary-Historical Perspectives on John

Here I continue showing how a literary-historical method can be applied to the Gospel of John, before (in later posts) showing how it can be studied following the other methods as well. ************************************************** Since ancient biographies typically established the character traits of the protagonist at the outset of the narrative, it is perhaps best to assume that an ancient reader, once he or she realized that this book is a biography of Jesus, would be inclined to read the rest of the story in light of what is stated about him here in the mystical reflection at the outset. This is no biography of a mere mortal. Its subject is one who was with God in eternity past, who was himself divine, who created the universe, who was God's self-revelation to the world, who came to earth to bring light out of darkness and truth out of error, a divine being who became human to dwell here and reveal the truth about God. This Gospel will present a view of Jesus that is far and [...]

2020-04-03T17:17:33-04:00March 9th, 2014|Canonical Gospels|

The Gospel of John from a Literary-Historical Perspective

I have talked so far about several of the methods scholars use in order to study the Gospels of the NT: the literary-historical,redactional, and comparative methods. As I’ve stressed, each of these can be used for any one Gospel (or for any other piece of writing, in theory). In my textbook, when I come to the Gospel of John, I show how they all can be applied to the *same* book, before introducing an altogether different method known as the socio-historical approach. I will explain all this in a series of posts, starting with this one. ********************************************************** As I have argued, historians are responsible not only for interpreting their ancient sources but also for justifying these interpretations. This is why I have self-consciously introduced and utilized different methods for each of the books we have studied: a literary-historical method for Mark, a redactional method for Matthew, a comparative method for Luke, and a thematic method for Acts. As I have indicated, there is no reason for a historian to restrict him or herself to any [...]

2020-04-03T17:17:40-04:00March 8th, 2014|Canonical Gospels|

Did Jesus Exist? Video Presentation

I was invited to read from my book, "Did Jesus Exist: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth" at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Bulls Head Bookshop on Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 at 3:30 p.m. Here is a video of the event. To give you an idea of the topic, the back cover of the book reads, "Large numbers of atheists, humanists, and conspiracy theorists are raising one of the most pressing questions in the history of religion: 'Did Jesus exist at all?' Was he invented out of whole cloth for nefarious purposes by those seeking to control the masses? Or was Jesus such a shadowy figure—far removed from any credible historical evidence—that he bears no meaningful resemblance to the person described in the Bible? In Did Jesus Exist? historian and Bible expert Bart Ehrman confronts these questions, vigorously defends the historicity of Jesus, and provides a compelling portrait of the man from Nazareth. The Jesus you discover here may not be the Jesus you had hoped to meet—but he did exist, [...]

2017-12-25T12:32:53-05:00March 6th, 2014|Historical Jesus, Mythicism, Public Forum, Video Media|
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