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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.

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Christ as Son of God in Mark’s Gospel
The Controversies about Christ: Arius and Alexander

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    wnhelms  February 20, 2016

    Very interesting; I’ve read many of your books already but still learned a lot. Looking forward to reading your new book.

  2. Avatar
    Omar6741  February 21, 2016

    And then…
    Islam emerged from Arabia….
    And its followers said “There is no god but God!”…
    And the entire Middle East let out a collective sigh of relief. 🙂

  3. Greg Matthews
    Greg Matthews  February 21, 2016

    I was watching this video this morning and I wondered if it ever occurred to these early Christians to ask why Jesus was even needed. If Jesus was “God from God. Light from Light” (and all the other bullet points you listed from Alexander’s position) then why the need for a separate essence? Why didn’t God just come down and let himself be crucified? Apparently Jesus existed for an eternity, but did nothing other than come down to earth 2000 years ago for ~33 years and then went back to God (of course Christians still pray to him etc etc, but again why not just pray direct to God).

    • Pattycake1974
      Pattycake1974  February 21, 2016

      Well, being a former Unitarian, God did come down and allow himself to be crucified. No separate essence, just playing out another role for humanity.

    • Rick
      Rick  February 22, 2016

      I’ve often wondered something similar about the trinity. So the triune God who is the omnipotent, omniscient creator of all sends himself to earth as a human to suffer and die to atone for the sins of everyone else? Everyone else that he also created in forms that would sin, knowing they would sin (he’s omniscient) when, being omnipotent, he could have created them without sin? And, this was his plan all along to change his relationship with his creations and bring salvation to them from himself? Rather than just forgiving them for sinning, or forgiving himself for creating the sinners..?

      • Bart
        Bart  February 23, 2016

        God doesn’t send himself. The Father sends the Son.

        • Greg Matthews
          Greg Matthews  February 23, 2016

          Today we would say that this type of thinking was us applying our view of how things are to people who lived 2000 years ago. Obviously that type of comparison isn’t fair because their society and religion viewed things differently back then. Unfortunately 2000 years ago no one had that type of insight to apply to themselves and how they viewed God and their “the Father sends the Son” notion.

    • SBrudney091941
      SBrudney091941  March 8, 2016

      As Jews like to say, “Why go through a middle man when we can go straight to the top?!”

  4. Greg Matthews
    Greg Matthews  February 21, 2016

    Any chance we’ll be able to see any video from day 2? I realize it went on for several hours, but it would be interesting to see the responses to the papers at least and it sounded like from the Friday Q+A session there was going to be another Q+A with the audience (the bit where the coordinator promised the folks who didn’t get to ask their questions would get first shot the following day).

    • Bart
      Bart  February 21, 2016

      I think the answer is probably no. The second day lasted five hours, and that’s kinda long for a video.

      • Avatar
        redstuff  February 23, 2016

        Only the concluding comments on 2nd day is available.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTkzve5G8wA

        • Avatar
          Phrygia  April 3, 2016

          Dr. Ehrman, in the second day video, you were asked what caused Paul to change from persecuter to believer. You said it was his vision of Jesus. I think it’s also plausible that Paul came to admire those early Christians. He may have appreciated their strict morality and was probably in tune with their apocalyptic beliefs. He may have also felt guilt about his intolerance towards them, and this guilt may have affected him similarly to the guilt factor in bereavement visions. It’s possible he may have already been leaning to joining and then had his experience.

  5. Pattycake1974
    Pattycake1974  February 21, 2016

    I only caught parts of the debate while it was livestreaming. Watching the beginning now and what are you talking about? Modalism!

  6. Pattycake1974
    Pattycake1974  February 21, 2016

    Your counterpoints were very good at explaining why Jesus was adopted once and not three times. There were a few places where your rebuttal made Michael’s points (you were explaining his points) clearer to understand.

  7. Avatar
    Macavity  February 21, 2016

    I watched the Concluding Comments video in which you prompted Simon Gathercole to talk about the Coming Sayings in the synoptics. You didn’t offer your opinion. Sometime would you write about these sayings and the argument that the sayings imply that Jesus had some kind of knowledge of his preexistence?

    Also, it appears that at one time Dale Martin’s NOB lecture was available for viewing. Now it is private. Is it possible that you could make his lecture available to readers of your blog?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 21, 2016

      Simon and I had a debate about this topic on the radio show Unbelievable a couple of years ago; it’s probably available for listening still.

  8. Avatar
    Wilusa  February 21, 2016

    Very enjoyable – I’m so glad you were able to make it availabe for us!

    I was sort of surprised that you didn’t mention Paul’s having thought Jesus was a preexistent (lesser) divine being at an earlier date. And I’m puzzled as to *why* – if I’m remembering what you said correctly – Luke has a character in Acts indicate that Jesus was made divine at the Resurrection, and in his *Gospel*, seems to imply it happened at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry *and* at his birth. (Wasn’t Acts written *later* than the Gospel?)

    Something I don’t remember anyone’s mentioning…wasn’t Jesus’s supposedly being raised from the dead seen as *especially* important because of his followers’ apocalyptic beliefs? Because they saw it as heralding the “general” resurrection?

    A thought I keep having about the “Trinity.” Why couldn’t they just say that *in the Christian context*, “God” was the same type of word as “committee”? A term that necessarily included more than one person. But a very special kind of committee, whose members never disagreed!

    • Bart
      Bart  February 23, 2016

      Yes, I think the apocalyptic interpretation of Jesus’ return to life is absolutely key. And God by committee — interesting idea!

  9. Avatar
    GreatBigBore  February 21, 2016

    Please tell me the second session was recorded!

    • Avatar
      GreatBigBore  February 21, 2016

      Oops. Never mind, I just read your response to the same question. I can’t express how bummed I am. I’m a huge fan.

    • Bart
      Bart  February 23, 2016

      I’m actually not completely sure. I’ll find out.

  10. Avatar
    J.J.  February 23, 2016

    Question for clarification, Bart. Do you think the author of Mark intended to imply adoption at the baptism? Just curious. Yes, it’s an early understanding of that scene in Mark as noted in the church fathers… but do you think it was intended? I don’t recall if you addressed that or not. I listened to the webcast, and of course, one important aspect was that Michael was implying that adoption was a later notion and you think earlier. But I don’t recall if you clarified that it was so early that you think the author intended that in that scene. Reason I ask is because I wonder if the Gospel of Mark even attempts to address the question of how or when Jesus became the son of God. Sure, Mark defends Jesus as the son of God despite his crucifixion, but does Mark ever attempt to address how or when Jesus became the son of God. The Fourth Gospel, for example, states the pre-existent word became flesh, but doesn’t attempt to address how that happened. Thanks.

    • Bart
      Bart  February 23, 2016

      Yes, my hunch is that this is what he had in mind, though we’ll never know his inner psychological state or mental processes!

  11. Avatar
    Scott  February 23, 2016

    Dr Ehrman. In the video you point out that Luke’s use of “today I have begotten you” can be used to imply an adoptionist view of Christ. Then you point out that Luke’s birth narrative shows the “pushing back” in time of Jesus’ connection to God the Father. Do these two lines of evidence need to be reconciled?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 23, 2016

      Yes, in my book I try to show how Luke could have it both ways!

  12. Avatar
    plparker  February 23, 2016

    You’re obviously a much better debater technique wise. You make clear, easy to follow points and respond directly to your opponent’s arguments. It is easy to follow the flow of your argument. Just wondering, do you have debate experience from high school or college days? Were you in a debate club or league?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 24, 2016

      Yeah, as it turns out, I was a state debate champion in high school.

      • Pattycake1974
        Pattycake1974  February 24, 2016

        Who has been your most difficult opponent? As in, the person was very astute when debating you?

        • Bart
          Bart  February 25, 2016

          I’d say most of my debate partners have been smart and usually good debaters. Two particularly on top of their fields have been Craig Evans and Daniel Wallace.

  13. Avatar
    novotnycurse  March 1, 2016

    Note: Melbourne is not pronounced Melborn.
    The correct pronunciation is Melbun.

    Spielberg (ignorantly) had Richard Dreyfus say Brisbayne in Jaws when it should have been pronounced Brisbun.

  14. kadmiral
    kadmiral  July 15, 2017

    Just watched this debate. To my eyes it was painfully apparent that your research, conclusions, and explanations were far superior to Bird’s inadequate attempts to counter. It did not seem that he was very well prepared. And it was interesting that you went first laying out your case, then he took his shots at your argument, and then your rebuttal was almost one of disbelief at what he brought up. During his argument time I wondered if he had even read your book, because it seemed he was trying to argue things that were more than adequately presented and backed up by your research. This seems to be a case where one’s faith-bias blocks his rationality.

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