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Explaining myself….

This post will be on something different for a change.  So my current reality is that every day of the week, for several weeks now, I have either been travelling or working on How Jesus Became God.  Neither activity is conducive to writing posts for the blog.   When I write on the book – as I did yesterday – it usually means going at it intensely all day long, until I’m brain dead, which luckily tends to coincide with the end of a chapter.  Yesterday I did chapter 8, which deals with the Christological controversies of the second and third centuries, as some Christians insisted that Jesus was human but not divine (e..g, the Ebionites and the Roman Adoptionists), others maintained that he was divine but not human (the opponents of 1 John and Ignatius, and then Marcion), others claimed he was two entities, a human Jesus who was temporarily inhabited by a divine being from the heavenly realm (the Gnostics), and others who claimed he was just one entity who was both divine and human.

That final choice won the debates, but all that did was start up a whole other round of debates.   Some church leaders insisted that the man Jesus was God, and that God was God, and that therefore Jesus the Son was also God the Father – one God who was both son and father (kind of like I myself am both a son and a father – depending on whom I am relating to).   That view was wildly popular for a time – it apparently was the majority view around the beginning of the third century – but it got trounced by theologians like Hippolytus and especially Tertullian.  But then Origen came along with his theory of how it all worked – which also made sense to some people at the time, but later also came to be declared a heresy.

Anyway, that’s what my chapter was on.   And when I got done writing it, I was brain dead.   No way I could write a post.

On other days I’ve been traveling to give lectures.  Last week I was in Colorado visiting my best buddy from seminary who is the chaplain at Colorado College; they had invited me to give a lecture there, and I used it as an excuse to hang out with my friend (and his wife, who was also a friend in seminary); I ended up spending a lot of time talking with students and so on, not to mention a lot of time in the air and at airports.   Those days too were not conducive to writing posts.

And so, since I haven’t been able to write fresh posts every day (or, well, any day) I’ve been posting bits and pieces from my book How Jesus Became God.  You may have noticed.   I hope it hasn’t gotten too monotonous.    Today is another travel/lecture day, but I’ve had some free time  to explain myself(I got in a couple of hours before my official obligations), which is what I’m doing now.  I’m at Centre College in Danville KY, to give a lecture this evening.   Then I’m traveling back to NC tomorrow, and then off to Boston to see the grandkids (and, oh yeah, their parents…) for a few days.   Then it’s back for a week to finish the book, before heading off to Israel for ten days.

So next week will be more How Jesus Became God  posts.  I don’t know how I’ll manage to post anything from Israel, but if I have wi-fi and energy enough, I will, to talk about the trip.   These trips are completely exhausting.  It’s a great deal for me.  It’s an alumni trip for UNC, and in exchange for giving a few lectures, I get a free trip.  Fantastic!   But these alumni tours are exhausting, since the tour companies realize that most people will come to this part of the world only once in their lives, and so they understandably CRAM everything they can into the ten days or so, doing an unbelievable amount of stops here there and everywhere, especially in a place like Israel.   So I *hope* to carve out some time to blog, but I can make no promises….

Anyway, apologies for this post with no real content, other than to explain myself.   My plan tomorrow is to say something about these colleges I’m giving lectures at and to explore how different they are as institutions of higher education from the one where I have my day job (which is a major state research university instead of a small liberal arts college).

And please, if you have topics you would really like me to address, please let me know.   I can’t guarantee that I’ll get to anything immediately, but if I have some questions / issues/ concerns in the hopper, it makes my life so much easier.


Teaching at Carolina
Paul’s Christology

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    zakiechan  April 17, 2013

    Thanks for coming to Colorado College! I very much enjoyed your talk, and heard a lot of great feedback from students… many describing it as “mind-blowing!”

  2. Avatar
    Joel_Lisboa  April 17, 2013

    Hi Bart; when and who was the first person to suggest the divine/human Jesus in one entity? I mean, the final choice that won the debate.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 18, 2013

      We don’t know! One could argue this is the view of most of the New Testament authors, but they never put it that way. After the NT I guess the earliest would be Ignatius (who is more explicit on the matter), around 110 CE.

  3. Avatar
    toddfrederick  April 17, 2013

    I was in Israel in 1962 and do wish I could go to dig with James Tabor this summer, but issues prevent that. Please, if you can, let us know what you’re doing in Israel when you’re there. Can you post photos on the blog? That would be cool !!

  4. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  April 17, 2013

    You do not need to “explain” yourself. I have no clue how you do all that you do. You have some sort of “gift.” The Christology blogs have been great. I would like to summarize my view of them so far:

    Having never previously heard of the idea of Jesus being considered to be an “angel,” this idea still seems quite odd to me. I do think, however, that your Christology blogs have clearly established that, over 2100 years ago, many people believed in the existence of supernatural beings, believed that such supernatural beings could become human, believed in different levels of divinity, believed that some emperors were lower forms of gods, and believed that some humans were partly supernatural as well as being human. These beliefs seem quite strange to us today, but it was from such a culture that the belief that Jesus was/is “divine” arose. This culture is well illustrated by both the Gospel accounts and the accounts in Acts of angels, demons, and various supernatural events. A more “scientific” culture would have viewed such things in a less supernatural way. Maybe this is the main point: the mysticism of an ancient culture produced and shaped the “divine” view of Jesus. .

    • Avatar
      Pat Ferguson  April 18, 2013

      “You do not need to “explain” yourself. I have no clue how you do all that you do. You have some sort of “gift.” The Christology blogs have been great.” DITTO 🙂

  5. Avatar
    Yentyl  April 17, 2013

    Thanks! Have an awesome time in Israel.

    Would you please help me with a word in Matthew 5:39? The word used as “evil.” What is your take on this verse and what it actually means? I’ve looked it up in a Greek lexacon, but it seems there are too many ways this could have been used.

    Thanks.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 18, 2013

      It’s the word PONEROS, same word as in the Lord’s prayer — deliver us from “evil” (or “from the evil one”). It usually refers to something or someone who has malevolent purposes that are opposed to God and his people. For Matthew, who believes in turning the other cheek, apparently you are not supposed to put up resistance to someone who means to harm you. I’m not sure how well this works as a personal ethic, but you certainly wouldn’t want it to be made a policy by the Joint Chiefs of Staff….

      • Avatar
        Yentyl  April 18, 2013

        Thank you very much. This word just seems to fall off the page somewhat.
        Here is my comment in MY book I’m writing:
        The word in Greek is Strong’s #4190: 1. Full of labours, annoyances, hardships. A. Pressed and harrassed by labours. B. Bringing toils, annoyances, perils; of a time full of peril to Christian faith and steadfastness; causing pain and trouble. 2. Bad, of a bad nature or condition. A. In a physical sense: Diseased or blind. B. In an ethical sense: Evil, wicked, bad.

        So don’t you think he was speaking of the times to come upon them? Surely, elsewhere in the Bible we are told to defend ourselves.

        Thanks again.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  April 19, 2013

          My view is that different passages of the Bible have different views about most things — including the use of violence and non-violence. “turning the other cheek” comes right after this statement, and so it appears to be referring to personal confrontation….

  6. Avatar
    dmondeel  April 18, 2013

    Bart, don’t wear yourself out. I’m looking forward to the book you’re presently writing. I knew you’d tackle the subject of Jesus as divine next.

  7. Avatar
    TSkidC  April 18, 2013

    Bart, I don’t know how you maintain the pace you do. It’s truly impressive. I hope you have a fantastic time in Israel. And don’t worry about your blogs including segments from your forthcoming book. It’s all fascinating stuff.

  8. Avatar
    TomTerrific  April 18, 2013

    Thanks for coming to Danville. It was great to talk to you in person and to hear your lecture.

  9. Avatar
    maxhirez  April 18, 2013

    You don’t have to explain yourself. We all know how in demand you are. We wouldn’t be reading if we didn’t. I think all your members would agree that you do an AMAZING job of keeping content fresh here. Thank you for your continued excellence, and for goodness sake enjoy yourself while you’re in Israel and KEEP SAFE! (By that I mean be polite to the IDF guys/gals-they are pretty bad-ass.)

  10. Avatar
    Adam0685  April 18, 2013

    There’s nothing wrong with taking a few days off from the blog! The amount you post is remarkable to begin with. In any case, I’ve been very much enjoying your current theme.

    In terms of possible future content, you have described a major shift in your thinking as you have rethought the low/high christology paradigm. You talk about other changes such as when you were able to acknowledge discrepancies in the Bible and when you became an agnostic due to the problem of suffering. It would be interesting to hear other “ah-hah moments” you may have had in your academic, scholarly, and teaching career. Or times where you changed your views in a significant way.

  11. Avatar
    RichardToothman  April 18, 2013

    Dr. Ehrman,

    One of the topics that I am very interested in is the book of Revelation. What is it’s origins, how many copies do we have, basically the same information that you so brilliantly give on the gospels. If you ever get a chance to discuss these topics that would be great.

    Thanks

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 18, 2013

      OK, I’ll keep it in mind!

    • Avatar
      brandyrose  April 19, 2013

      I would second Richard’s request; I read Elaine Pagel’s book Revelations and thought it was really excellent, and I wondered your thoughts, etc. Thanks!

      • Bart Ehrman
        Bart Ehrman  April 19, 2013

        I’m afraid I haven’t read it! Like most scholars, I tend to read scholarship and not trade books (even though I write them!)

  12. Avatar
    gavm  April 18, 2013

    Good you hear you’ll get to see and old friend prof Ehrman. no doubt it will be good. i am curious to know how yr treated by the Christian academic community, as in r they a bit cold towards you? i know the fundamentalist arnt too keen on you. most scholars seem to be at least sympathetic to Christianity. how are they towards a genuine opponent of the faith?

    PS. I personally i would like more post on a sceptical view of the resurrection, specifically responding to the arguments of the better apologists (craig, licona ect). i dont know if anyone else is interested.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 18, 2013

      No, academics as a rule get along with me extremely well; I see them as my peer group. Even those more conservative than me engage with me on serious academic issues, not on personal faith issues, dealing with my serious scholarship, not my popular books.

  13. Avatar
    ZachET  April 18, 2013

    How come you don’t come the UK to do talks

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 18, 2013

      I have done! Especially at Kings College London. I basically go where I’m invited and can accept the invitation….

      • Avatar
        samchahal  April 19, 2013

        We need more talk in the UK! Please let us know when you are next doing a talk, i would love to attend, thanks

  14. Avatar
    glucab86  April 18, 2013

    You have said that Jesus as an angel improves the understanding of the epistles of Paul. Which passages or concepts expressed by the apostle, once obscure or hotly debated, take on new clarity with your proposal?

    Also, I would like to read posts about the Gospel of John, the problems it presents for an historian and if and how it has been influenced by the greco-roman culture.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 18, 2013

      I think the Christ-poem in Philippians makes much much better sense to me now that I understand that Paul thought of Jesus as a pre-existent angel (or even THE angel of the Lord) who became human. John — OK, I’ll get to doing some posts soon.

  15. Robertus
    Robertus  April 18, 2013

    I very much enjoy your posts from your upcoming book, especially since you’ve been so forthright in acknowledging your change of position. It’s always a special privilege to see a mind working.

  16. Avatar
    eppic  April 18, 2013

    I for one very much appreciate the time and effort you have been dedicating to this blog in spite of your busy schedule. Really, the amount and quality of your posts have exceeded my expectations.

    • Avatar
      Xeronimo74  April 19, 2013

      Agreed!

    • Avatar
      Xeronimo74  April 19, 2013

      And I wish more biblical scholars would do something like this! It’s great to be able to interact with your favorite author(s) in such a way.

  17. Avatar
    Scott F  April 18, 2013

    I have a question: You have said that you are re-examining the view that Christology developed from low to high in a roughly linear fashion over time. If chronology is not as big a factor does that affect how we date certain texts such as John’s Gospel with its high view of Christ?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 19, 2013

      One of my points is that there is not a straight linear development. Paul, writing before the Synoptics, has a “higher” (to use this terminology) Christology than they do. But it’s a great question about John — but complicated. There are lots of reasons for thinking it’s later than the Snyoptics, a developed theology being just one of them (also, for example, more heightened tensions with non-Xn Jews).

  18. Avatar
    wordsmith  April 18, 2013

    Bart

    the question on my mind is almost certainly NOT knowable, but I will ask it anyway.

    1 – can anyone estimate how many Christians (all variations included) were abroad on Planet Earth at any given time in the 100s or 200s?

    2 – when Constantine chose to back Christianity and make it the “official” religion — in the early piece of the 300s — how many actual Christians were there? Or, to make it easier: Taking the whole “Roman” empire as 100%, what pct of the peeps were Christians?

    3 – A few generations later (380?) — Theodosius I said that the Roman Empire officially believed what the Bishop of Rome believed. How many (or what percentage of the people) were Christians in 379?

    I don’t expect precise answers. Any pointers you could provide to where answers might be found (or guesstimates, even) by researchers/experts/theologians/atheists or even hockey players would be appreciated.

    thanks for considering this request

    JOE

  19. Avatar
    philologue  April 20, 2013

    Just wanted to echo some of the comments above – you are doing a phenomenal job with the blog – there’s absolutely nothing to explain. I for one am thoroughly enjoying your posts from the book you’re writing – it’s a privilege to see a scholar at work and benefit from the knowledge before the book even comes out! Don’t feel like you have to post daily, or post while you’re on “vacation” in Palestine – take some time off for yourself too! We’ll still be right here when you come back 😀 Thanks for the hard work.

  20. Avatar
    donmax  April 22, 2013

    Haven’t clocked in for a very long time. Like you, I’ve been much too busy of late. Just want to wish you well and encourage you to visit Biblical Tamar Park in southern Israel, near the Dead Sea. It’s an incredible place and very much worth fitting into your itinerary if at all possible. Take care, good luck and best wishes — D. C. Smith

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