I have been discussing how human beings were sometimes thought to become gods in the ancient world. All of this is backdrop to my assessment of why Christians thought that Jesus had become God. Of course, most Christians say that Christ did not *become* God: he had always *been* God.
That indeed is the traditional Christian teaching, but I will be arguing that it was not the original view. The first followers of Jesus, after his resurrection, believed he had been made divine at that point. Only later did that view develop into the notion that he had always been divine. It will take a while for me to show that, but my premise will be that Jesus’ immediate followers were influenced by traditions that humans could indeed become divine beings.
Still what relevance will that have for Christianity? The earliest Christians were Jews. The traditions I’ve been talking come out of *pagan* cultures.. No relevance for early Christians, right?
Wrong. As it turns out Jews also sometimes thought that a human could become divine. In this post I’ll talk about one variant of this view, that mortal humans could become divine superhumans, angels. In later posts I’ll talk about an even more bizarre view (bizarre, that is, in the context of Judaism) that humans could become gods. Jews believed that? Who woulda thought?
This is how I begin to explain the matter in my book How Jesus Became God.
Many people today have the view that when people die, they become angels (well, at least if they’ve been “good”). That is a very old belief indeed. In one of the great apocalypses that has come down to us from early Judaism, the book of 2 Baruch, we learn that righteous believers will be transformed “into the splendor of angels… for they will live in the heights of that world and they will be like the angels and be equal to the stars…. And the excellence of the righteous will then be greater than that of the angels” (2 Baruch 51.3-10). Here, then, those who are righteous become angels who are greater than other angels – greater even than the stars, who were believed by many ancient people to be fantastically great angels.
Some ancient Jewish texts portray particular individuals as being transformed into angels at death. One of the supremely mysterious characters in the Hebrew Bible is the ancient figure, Enoch. We do not learn much about This is a topic most people know nothing about. Want to become one of the informed insiders? If you’re a blog member, you’re in! If you’re not a member, you can certainly get in. Just join the blog. Every penny of your small fee goes to charity, so there is nothing to lose!