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Did the Earliest Christians Believe Jesus *Became* God?

This will be my final post on the debate I had in New Orleans with Michael Bird on “How Did Jesus Become God” a couple of weeks ago.  As I indicated in my previous post, it appears where we disagree in particular is with how the resurrection affected the disciples’ understanding of Jesus.  My view is that when they came to think Jesus was raised from the dead, the disciples thought that this entailed his being exalted up to heaven.  And *that* is why thy started calling Jesus “God,” because in ancient thinking – as documented widely in both pagan and Jewish circles – it was believed that a mortal being who was taken up to heaven was made immortal, and was in fact, considered then to become a God. That is the belief attested for such figures as Romulus in Roman circles and Enoch in Jewish circles. And it is, I’ve contended, how the earliest Christians understood Jesus.  Only as they thought about it more did they start saying even more exalted things about [...]

2020-04-06T12:51:57-04:00February 29th, 2016|Bart's Debates, Early Christian Doctrine, Public Forum|

Bart Ehrman on Problem of Suffering – UCB

My thoughts on the problem of suffering. On April 17th, 2008 I appeared on a show called "Conversations with History" with host Harry Kreisler, sponsored by the Institute of International Studies, Regents of the University of California at Berkeley.  The show was called "Biblical Insights into the Problem of Suffering," and was based on my then recently published book God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question -- Why We Suffer." Harry Kreisler is the creator, executive producer, and host of the Conversations with History series. Conceived in 1982 by Mr. Kreisler as a way to capture and preserve through conversation and technology the intellectual ferment of our times, Conversations with History includes over 500 interviews. Harry Kreisler was the Executive Director of the Institute of International Studies at the University of California at Berkeley (1974-2014).  In that role, he shaped, administers, and implements interdisciplinary academic and public affairs programs that analyze global issues. Below, beneath the interview, were some thoughts on the book that I wrote up at the time. [...]

2022-06-07T14:29:15-04:00February 28th, 2016|Book Discussions, Public Forum, Video Media|

Jesus’ Virgin Birth in Mark (Reader’s Mailbag February 26, 2016)

It is time for the weekly Readers’ Mailbag.  This week I will be dealing with only one question, one that I find particularly intriguing.  If you have any questions you would like me to answer, either in a comment or in the mailbag, let me know.  I can’t answer every question I get, either because I don’t know the answers (often enough!) or because I can’t get to them all.  But I take them all seriously and will do my best to get to yours! ******************************************************* QUESTION:  I've read of one NT scholar who is critical of your reasoning in How Jesus Became God. He says that your argument from silence is fallacious. For example, he says that just because the virgin birth is absent in Mark's gospel does not constitute evidence that the writer did not believe in the virgin birth.   RESPONSE:        Great question.  The first and most obvious thing to point out is that there is no way to know what another person believes (either the person who wrote Mark or [...]

Christ as the Adopted Son of God

In this post I can begin to explain what I *think* is the point of contention between Michael Bird and me on the question of how the followers of Jesus came to think he was God.  When I say that I “think” this is the main point, it’s because I’m not completely sure.  As I’ve pointed out, Michael never laid out an alternative hypothesis for how the early Christian views of Christ came into existence or developed.  Moreover, since he never said how he thought it happened, he obviously didn’t mount a case for his view or indicate what he thought was the evidence for it.  So it’s a little hard to know how to assess his view. What is clear is that he disagrees with a fundamental point in my view, and his main talk at the debate was focused on this point. My thesis is simple.   During his lifetime Jesus’ followers did not consider him to be God (as the Gospels themselves indicate so well).  After his lifetime they did (as seen, for [...]

What the Resurrection of Jesus MEANT

In my previous post I indicated that I was a bit disappointed at my public debate with Michael Bird at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary that he did not propose an alternative solution to “How Jesus Became God,” some other sense of how it happened different from the one I proposed.  If he disagrees with my scenario, what scenario does he himself imagine?  I’m not sure. Part of the problem is that he himself said during the debate that Jesus did not go around during his public ministry saying something like “Hello – I’m God, the Second Member of the Trinity.”  That’s exactly right, he certainly didn’t.  But later Christians were saying that about him. So how do we get from point A to point B? I don’t see any viable alternative to the one I mapped out (I’ll point out in a second where Michael does disagree with it, even if he doesn’t propose an option).   It is clear as day from Mark’s Gospel that... The Rest of this Post is for MEMBERS ONLY. [...]

2020-04-06T12:53:51-04:00February 24th, 2016|Bart's Debates, Book Discussions, Public Forum|

A Less Weighty, Personal Matter

A lot of people have noticed that I’ve lost a good bit of weight, and have asked if I’m OK.  So, this is obviously of limited interest to people on the blog!  But instead of answering each query, I thought I would waste a blog post and say something more broadly.  Or less broadly. The short answer is that I’m more than OK:  I’m in the best shape I’ve been in for probably thirty years! So here’s the deal, for those who want to know, and even for those who don’t.   This past April I went in for my annual physical and my blood tests came back: pre-diabetic.  I thought there must be a mistake.  Pre-diabetic?!?  I didn’t have the typical indications: no history in the family, no high blood pressure, and so on.   Well, I was a little overweight.  OK, maybe you think more than a little, but still.  I had been working out regularly, sleeping well, and was in good cardio-shape.  But, well, I did have a bit of a beer gut.  Years [...]

2020-04-03T03:51:01-04:00February 23rd, 2016|Bart’s Biography, Public Forum, Reflections and Ruminations|

Christ as Son of God in Mark’s Gospel

In my previous post I indicated that by the early fourth century, the debates over Christ’s divine nature had become extraordinarily sophisticated and complex (though not as sophisticated and complex as in the two centuries to follow!).  At the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE the question was over whether Christ, the God who created the world, was a subordinate divinity to God the Father, one who came into being at some point in time, or if, instead, he was just as eternal, just as powerful, and just as glorious as the Father, completely “one” with him, even in his essence.  It was this latter view that won the day. One of the things that I contend in my book How Jesus Became God, and in the debate, I had in New Orleans with Michael Bird (as many of you will know by now) was that these issues were not at *all* what the earliest Christians were debating and arguing about, either with one another or with non-believers. Michael Bird’s most popular books are The [...]

2022-12-31T16:34:53-05:00February 21st, 2016|Bart's Debates, Canonical Gospels, Public Forum|

My Debate with Michael Bird Feb. 12 , 2016

As many of you know, this past weekend (February 12-13, 2016) I met with Australian New Testament scholar Michael F. Bird at the 2016 Greer-Heard Point Counter Point Forum on for a two part debate. The event was held at the Leavell College Chapel at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. A question and answer session followed the debate. The subject of the debate was focused on my book. How Jesus Became God. Michael was the editor of the "response" book, produced by a group of evangelical scholars, called How God Became Jesus. Michael F. Bird, BMin, BA (Hons), PhD taught New Testament at the Highland Theological College in Scotland (2005-9) before joining Crossway College in Brisbane as lecturer in Theology (2010-12). He joined the faculty at Ridley as lecturer in Theology in 2013. As an industrious researcher, Michael has written and edited over twenty books in the fields of Septuagint, Historical Jesus, Gospels, St. Paul, Biblical Theology, and Systematic Theology. Michael Bird’s most popular books are The New Testament in Its World: An Introduction to the History, Literature, [...]

2020-04-06T12:50:33-04:00February 20th, 2016|Bart's Debates, Book Discussions, Historical Jesus, Video Media|

Weekly Readers’ Mailbag: February 18, 2016

  Here is the weekly Readers’ Mailbag, three questions this time – one about my  alleged “support of Islam against Christianity,” one about why we think the NT Gospels were originally written in Greek, and one about what I mean when I talk about the views held by the majority of “critical” scholars (as opposed to what other kind of scholar?)? Feel free to ask questions you have; some I will not be able to get to (either because I don’t know the answer or because the answer is a one-liner instead of a two-paragrapher or for some other reason); and the list is always growing (making it harder and harder to answer them all).  But give it a shot!  I love to hear your questions.   COMMENT:  [After pointing out that whoever said I was about ready to convert to Islam was obviously makin’ in up, or influenced by someone else who was makin’ it up, this Muslim reader commented as follows:]  Anyways, that won’t stop us from using your awesome arguments against Christianity. [...]

The Controversies about Christ: Arius and Alexander

As I mentioned in the last post, in my debate this past Friday at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, I was trying to sketch out how it was that the early Christians came to think that Christ was God.   I decided in the debate *not* to start at the beginning, for example, with the teachings of Jesus, his understandings of himself, the views of his disciples and so on.  Instead, in order to set up a key contrast, I started at the end (well, one of the ends) of the Christological conflicts and discussions of Christianity’s first three hundred years, the conflict specifically between the famous Christian teacher of Alexandria Egypt, Arius, and his bishop, Alexander. It was this controversy that led to the famous Council of Nicaea, called by the emperor Constantine (who had converted to Christianity just thirteen years earlier) in the year 325 CE.   The controversy is widely misunderstood by people today, who frequently hear completely erroneous things about it – for example, that Arius thought that Christ was human, not [...]

The Son of God, the Council of Nicea, and the Da Vinci Code

In my main lecture during the debate this past weekend, I decided to develop in short order the case that I make in my book How Jesus Became God for how, well, Jesus became God.  (!)   But I chose to do it differently from how I do it in the book, at least in terms of rhetorical strategy.  I chose to start at the *end* of the development (it’s actually nowhere near the end – since Christological arguments continued on for centuries – but it was one sensible ending points), with the controversies over Christ’s divinity in the early fourth century, controversies between Arius and his detractors. I’m afraid many people today (most?) get their knowledge of Arius, the Arian Controversy, and the Council of Nicea from that inestimable authority, Dan Brown, who wrote about it at length in that great work of historical realism, The Da Vinci Code.   I tell my students at Chapel Hill that if they want to learn about the history of the Middle Ages, the way to do that is [...]

My Debate This Past Weekend

I just returned yesterday from a two-day event in New Orleans involving a public debate with an Australian New Testament scholar named Michael Bird, who is the author of The New Testament in Its World: An Introduction to the History, Literature, and Theology of the First Christians, and Introducing Paul: The Man, His Mission and His Message.  To explain the situation, I need to give some background.   As most readers on the blog know, a couple of years ago I published my book How Jesus Became God.  This was my attempt to show how it is that the man Jesus, an apocalyptic preacher from a remote area of rural Galilee, came to be considered the second member of the Trinity, God the creator, who had always existed, who was fully equal with the God of the universe, who was in fact of the same “essence” as him.  How’d that happen exactly? Also as many of you know, a group of evangelical scholars learned I was writing the book, and decided, even before they had seen it [...]

2020-06-03T15:55:04-04:00February 15th, 2016|Bart's Debates, Book Discussions, Historical Jesus, Public Forum|

Drew Marshall Show – How Jesus Became God

On May 17th, 2014 I appeared on The Drew Marshall Show with Professor Natalie Evans from University of Waterloo.. The broadcast was recorded  from the studio of CJYE based in Oakville, Ontario Canada. Drew Marshall begins the show by discussing my spiritual journey initially and then focusing on his latest book "How Jesus Became God." Please adjust gear icon for high-definition.

Weekly Readers Mailbag: February 13, 2016

  Time for the weekly mailbag.  This week I’m dealing with only one question; I want to give a more elaborate answer than usual since it relates so closely to my forthcoming book Jesus Before the Gospels.   Here’s the question:   QUESTION:  Dr. Ehrman, as you mention we tend to remember events that carry a large emotional impact (e.g. 9/11, Kennedy assassination, etc.) but, in turn, we tend to easily forget the more banal and mundane events in life (e.g. what we ate for breakfast three days ago, the name of our waiter from last night, etc.). In fact, when researchers give test subjects stress-reducing drugs, such as betablockers, they find that the subjects are much less likely to remember an event.  So I'm wondering whether you support or dismiss various gospel events based on this human inclination to remember. For example, the disciples would have been far more likely to remember how Jesus was arrested (highly emotional) versus how they met Jesus (rather less emotional).   RESPONSE: I would like to deal with just [...]

2020-04-03T03:52:03-04:00February 13th, 2016|Book Discussions, Memory Studies, Reader’s Questions|

Upcoming Speaking Engagements 2016

  A couple of people have asked me about my upcoming speaking schedule, so I thought I would post it here.   I have broken it down into two separate lists.  The first are my book readings to promote Jesus Before the Gospels, the book being published on March 1.   Most authors no longer do big book tours, since they rarely generate much by way of sales; and most authors are oh so glad not to be doing these any more (they sound glamorous, but they oh-so-are-not).   So my book readings involve just the local Independent book shops.  But if you’re in the area, come to one of them.  I think they’re great fun.  Here they are.   Tues, March 1 @ 7 pm Quail Ridge Books and Music (Raleigh) – Wed, March 2 @ 7 pm Flyleaf Books (Chapel Hill) – Tues, March 8 @ 7 pm Regulator Bookshop (Durham) – Wed, March 9 @ 3 pm Bull’s Head Bookshop at UNC (Chapel Hill) – Sat, March 12 @ 11 am McIntyre’s Books (Pittsboro) – [...]

2017-11-16T21:24:49-05:00February 11th, 2016|Book Discussions, Public Forum|

On the Accuracy of Oral Traditions

I have announced on the blog that my new book, Jesus Before the Gospels, will be available March 1.  The book is about how the stories of Jesus were passed along by word of mouth for several decades before being written, and about how modern studies of both memory and oral cultures can help us understand what probably happened to the traditions as they circulated orally from one person to another over all those years. In reaction to a previous post on the topic, a reader made the following interesting comment:   COMMENT: The Iliad [of Homer] exists today in its modern form because of oral tradition.  We can be pretty sure that the story did not happen as it’s told to us, even if you leave out the part about kibbitzing gods (and we can be pretty sure that it wasn’t originally meant to be a literal recounting of the Trojan War, literalism never being the mission statement of poetry).  But inspired by it, Schliemann did go out and find Troy. Which we wouldn’t [...]

2020-04-03T03:52:11-04:00February 10th, 2016|Paul and His Letters, Public Forum, Reader’s Questions|

Are “Group Hallucinations” Possible? The Case of Mary.

Several people have asked me about my claim that “group hallucinations” are possible. That is, a “vision” can be seen by many people at once.  It seems counter-intuitive: aren’t hallucinations by definition the inner workings of a person’s mind?  How can more than one person have the same hallucination at the same time? Well, I’m not sure how that works, psychologically.  My guess is that there is a strong sociological component as well. For example, if something weird is seen by a number of people, one of the persons in the group interprets it, and the rest agree that yes, that is indeed what they saw.  But that’s just my guess.  Maybe some of the trained psychologists on the blog can tell us. But in any event, it is a well-documented phenomenon.  Here is the query from one of the people who asked the question, specifically with respect to the modern-day appearances of Jesus’ mother, Mary, followed by a brief discussion of the phenomenon taken from my book How Jesus Became God. Group Hallucinations - [...]

2022-06-28T23:52:32-04:00February 9th, 2016|Historical Jesus, Public Forum, Reader’s Questions|

Upcoming Debate!

This coming weekend, Feb. 12-13, I will be holding a debate at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary on the topic "How Did Jesus Become God?"   They are calling it a "Dialogue," but that's just because they're being nice.  It's actually a great group of people, even though, as you might imagine, we agree on very little when it comes to matters of faith.   My worthy opponent is Michael Bird. You may have heard of him. He is the author of The New Testament in Its World, and Introducing Paul: The Man, His Mission and His Message, among other books.  Back when I published How Jesus Became God, he was the one who edited the response book that came out the same day, How God Became Jesus.  He wrote one of the articles in the book.  We will both be staking out our claims on Friday night.  The next day are papers delivered by scholars we have hand-chosen for the event, two each: mine are my good friends Jennifer Knust (Boston University) and Dale Martin [...]

Weekly Readers’ Mailbag: February 7, 2016

Time for my weekly mailbag.   Before dealing with two rather more direct questions that have come to me – one about eyewitness testimony and the other about whether I hope to get on Fresh Air and Colbert with the new book – I thought I would include an item that did not come to me from the blog, but on my Facebook page.  It’s a brief exchange I had with some anonymous figure.  I seem to have a lot of these.    Please excuse his/her (lack of) syntax; grammar is evidently not a strong suit.  But I think you get the idea of the question.  At least I thought I did.   FACEBOOK EXCHANGE:   bart you said on npr that you feel as that the eye witness all had visions or hallucinations.that jesus didn`t rise from the you really expect serious students of the word to accept that,do you know that the expert on the resurrection gary habermas of liberty university called your explanation total nonsense.the ration that over 500 people all experiencing the [...]

2017-11-16T21:26:23-05:00February 7th, 2016|Memory Studies, Paul and His Letters, Reader’s Questions|

Q & A about Jesus Before the Gospels, Part 1

Steven pointed out to me that the first part of the Q&A also got obliterated and sent into the stratosphere during our recent technological nightmare.   So I need to re-post it.  Here it is! I have received a number of interesting questions about the book, raised by these three segments of Q&A.  If you have any you would like me to address on the blog, let me know!   Here is the original post: ****************************************************************************** As I have already indicated, my book Jesus Before the Gospels will be published in a month, on March 1.   As part of the promotion and marketing of the book, I have written out a few answers to questions that my publicist presented to me, as a kind of Q&A that she can use for her work of getting the word out there.   I answered twelve questions related to the book, and will post my responses here on the blog in three bite-size chunks.  Here is chunk #1. *************************************************************************** What is it that drives your fascination with how Jesus [...]

2020-04-03T03:54:08-04:00February 5th, 2016|Book Discussions, Historical Jesus, Memory Studies, Public Forum|
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