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More Misreadings of How Jesus Became God

This will be my final post in which I indicate places where Larry Hurtado has critiqued How Jesus Became God by attributing to me views that I don’t have and positions that I have never taken.    These are the only positions – the ones that I have never taken – that he charges me with in order to show that I am lacking in expertise and, as an outsider to the field of early Christology, simply don’t know in places what I’m talking about.   Yesterday I looked at what he had to say about my views about the Son of Man, today I’ll look at two others.   Let me say again that when I pointed out to Larry that I never express the views that he has cited to show that I am curiously ill-informed, he graciously published a second post in which he set that bit of the record straight.

After this post I will discuss in future posts a couple of the areas where Larry does correctly read my views and on which we have genuine disagreements.

The second instance in which Larry read into my book a view that it did not present and that I do not have was rather disconcerting.  I had trouble understanding why he drew the inference he did.  This is what he says in the original post:

At a few other points, Ehrman refers to the Christology of this or that NT text, noting that Jesus is not pictured as God the Father.  I take this as implying that this is significant somehow, as if later Christians did identify Jesus as the Father. But Jesus was never pictured as God the Father, neither in any NT text nor in any classical Christian text thereafter.  Indeed, from Justin Martyr onward, Christian writers typically note that “God the Father” and “the Son” are “numerically distinct,” that is, distinguished, in the expressions of the doctrine of the “Trinity.”

I was completely flummoxed by these comments and at first wasn’t sure what to make of them.  Does Larry *really* imagine that I think that the later authors of the New Testament maintained that Jesus was God the Father?  That I didn’t know that Justin Martyr and other surviving proto-orthodox writers differentiate between the Father and the Son?  Really???  How could he imagine such a thing?  This struck me as very odd indeed – especially since Larry wanted to use it as evidence that I was not well-informed about early Christology.

OK, so let me make several points (which I also made to Larry in my emails to him).

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Why I (Actually) Discuss Hallucinations
The Son of Man and Jesus



  1. Avatar
    shakespeare66  June 6, 2014

    It brings to mind the fact that any communication is difficult, given that one has to read the words of the author carefully, and any distraction might lead one to conclude that the writer has left something out. I was recently watching a debate between Sam Harris and Deepak Chopra, and I found the miscommunication more interesting than the debate itself. Semantics was running amok. In reading a book, obviously the reader is bringing his own knowledge, experiences, etc. to the reading, and perhaps he has too much of a schedule to do a thorough reading. If one does want to take issue with a book, it is the best practice to read it throughly first.

  2. Avatar
    dfogarty1  June 6, 2014

    Hey Larry! Zzzzzzzzz. Roll over. Burp. Scratch. Zzzzz

  3. Avatar
    hwl  June 6, 2014

    Do you think biblical scholars are very judgmental? That is, their initial reaction to another scholar publishing in a specialist field the latter is not widely known to have published in, is that the scholar lacks expertise?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  June 6, 2014

      My guess is that biblical scholars (who do tend to be territorial) are like most scholars that way….

  4. Avatar
    jhague  June 6, 2014

    Is it unusual for a scholar to review another scholar’s book and make incorrect statements due to assumptions?
    It almost appears that Larry had it in for you…was attempting to make you look bad. Have you had any previous run ins with him?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  June 6, 2014

      It happens a lot. Larry and I have been friends for years, and basically agree on a lot. But we are both very rigorous as scholars, and that sometimes leads to … consequences of interchange!

      • Avatar
        gavm  February 4, 2015

        when guys like Larry get asked to speak at churches and Christian conferences are there ever probs? serious scholars know about the probs of scripture and treat it like any other text, something frowned upon in most churches. what do these scholars talk about?

        • Bart
          Bart  February 4, 2015

          I don’t think they raise problematic issues in those contexts.

  5. Avatar
    SpaceCoast  June 6, 2014

    I do believe my jaw literally dropped when I read Larry’s first criticism you cite above. Rather than saying anything about your scholarship, it seriously calls into question his reading comprehension. Baffling indeed!

  6. Avatar
    cgstrat  June 6, 2014

    Hello Professor Ehrman,
    I’m confused about Larry’s third claim. What point was Larry trying to make regarding how eschatological figures could be pre-existence in one way or another? In what way does Larry think that affects your argument about Paul’s conception of Jesus as a pre-existent angel? It seems to fit in with your argument.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  June 6, 2014

      Yes, some eschatological figures in Judaism exist before they appear — as was eventually thought of Christ. I’m not sure what Larry was thinking, since it’s a view that I implicitly affirm in my book.

  7. seminole
    seminole  June 6, 2014

    I know from experience that there is no deeper frustration than being “misread” by a hostile reader who then promulgates his misreadings as enlightened objective analysis. I put ‘misread’ in quotes because there is usually, I believe, some element of intent, conscious or otherwise, and an agenda. Hurtado’s “misreadings” are so outrageous as to make one doubt that he even read your book. (Maybe he just read the “Cliff Notes”, ha ha.) I commend you for your patience with this man; Kipling would be proud: “If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools…”

  8. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  June 6, 2014

    Keep scratching! Maybe something in the book irritated him so he did not read it all and/or did not read it carefully before he wrote his blogs? People are very sensitive about the subject of early Christianity because it means a lot to them.

  9. Avatar
    Matt7  June 6, 2014

    Everyone has a bias. Is it possible that Dr. Hurtado has a strong bias against your book because he published one with a similar title in 2005 (“How On Earth Did Jesus Become a God”) that likely did not sell as many copies as your books do?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  June 6, 2014

      I don’t know! It’s a very different book from mine….

      • Avatar
        gavm  February 4, 2015

        Prof i havent read yr book but i downloaded the course from the grt courses and got a lot out of it. im interested in the topic but want to read more than just one decent author. any decent books you would recommend?

        • Bart
          Bart  February 4, 2015

          I’d suggest the books by Larry Hurtado for starters. He gives bibliography in them.

  10. Avatar
    edstrelow  March 13, 2015

    You are all very nicely avoiding the issue of personal and professional jealousy. Academics are no.less prone to it than anyone else, just somewhat better at disguising their motivation.

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