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Reasonable Doubts – How Jesus Became God

I have not posted any audio (or video!) appearances for a while.  Here’s one from a few years ago.   On July 25, 2014, I was interviewed by Jeremy Beahan and Justin Schieber  for their podcast called “Reasonable Doubts” on my book “How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee.”   The issue of the book is how Jesus, an apocalyptic prophet from Galilee, came to be regarded as a God by his followers.

Reasonable Doubts was a production of WPRR Reality Radio (Grand Rapids, MI) and was the winner of the 2009 Peoples Choice Award for Best Religious/Inspirational Podcast.

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The Skeletal Remains of Yehohanan: Readers Mailbag October 8, 2017
Is This the Same Teacher? Jesus in John and the Synoptics.



  1. Avatar
    Nichrob  October 6, 2017

    I just happen to be reading Peter, Paul, & Mary, and I’m at the chapter where you are discussing Paul’s arguments in 1st Corinthians. I’m listening to your pod cast and you discuss Raymond Brown. Maybe the clue bird just landed for me, but I see how Paul argued that Christ became God at his resurrection. The Corinthians were arguing that he became God at his Baptism. And therefore, the Corinthians may have believed that “they” are now Gods… Like Jesus. I now see this argument as a “timing issue”. Paul disagrees and argues “they” are wrong. Only at the future resurrection, will they (the dead or living) become like Christ.

    If I understand you and Brown correctly, this is fascinating because we actually have an argument on “when” Christ became a God and when “we” mortals can participate. Fascinating. Thank you for your hard work!

    • Avatar
      Wilusa  October 8, 2017

      I haven’t looked at that particular book of Bart’s recently. But…doesn’t Bart believe Paul thought Jesus was a preexisting divine Being – something like an archangel – before he incarnated as a human? (Maybe this is just a matter of differentiating between when he “was a divine Being” and when he “became ‘God’.”)

  2. Avatar
    rivercrowman  October 6, 2017

    Thanks for re-airing!

  3. Avatar
    amateurexegete  October 6, 2017

    I’m currently reading this book so this is a timely post for me. Fascinating stuff!

  4. kadmiral
    kadmiral  October 6, 2017

    Besides your own book on the subject, what are the best couple of books or so on Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet? I would like to study this more. Thanks!

    • Bart
      Bart  October 8, 2017

      The classic piece of hard-hitting scholarship is E. P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism. A very fine book for a broader audience is Dale Allison, Jesus of Nazareth: Millenarian Prophet

  5. talmoore
    talmoore  October 6, 2017

    I spent so much time thinking about how I’d handle Jesus’ crucifixion for my novel that I often found myself just staring at the wall. It came to the point that I had to more or less ignore most of the passion narrative in the Gospels. The only parts of the Gospel account that I chose to keep were that Jesus was crucified a) on the Friday morning after the first night of Pesach (April 7th, 30 CE, to be specific), b) along side at least a couple more other “rebels,” and c) with a sign stating the charges against him claiming to be king of the Jews. Other than that, the narrative flows almost completely differently. The way I reconstruct the crucification narrative, so as to be at the very least historically plausible, is the following:
    -Jesus is crucified at the crack of dawn, along side a couple others, on a hill just northwest of Jerusalem, so that those traveling towards either the Damascus or Jaffa gates would see them.
    -He spends at least three days hanging on the cross, as various people come up the hill to read the charges or, more likely, have someone read it for them.
    -On Monday, he is declared dead on the cross. There is a debate between the Jewish and Roman authorities as to whether to take his body down, seeing as how it’s sacrilegious to keep a dead body hanging on a cross after sundown (Deut. 21:23).
    -Pilate points out that one of the other crucified men appears to still be alive, and that he will decide what to do when he dies.
    -The next day, Tuesday, the last crucified rebel is found dead. The Jewish authorities plead with Pilate, saying that it’s especially sacrilegious to leave these dead bodies hanging during the Passover festival, which is supposed to be a celebration. Moreover, their rotting corpses have the potential to defile the Temple should an animal carry their remains into the city.
    -Pilate gives in and orders the bodies taken down.
    -On that day, Tuesday, April 12th, 30 CE, the bodies of Jesus and the others are taken down by the Romans just before sunset. The remains are taken over to the Gehinnom valley just south of Jerusalem, where they are burned (yes, the irony is intentional). The bones are then buried deep under dirt and rocks so animals can’t get to them.
    -The end

    • Avatar
      Pattycake1974  October 8, 2017

      How far along are you with your novel?

      • talmoore
        talmoore  October 9, 2017

        I had to set it aside for now. Too much political craziness going on right now that I can’t ignore.

    • Avatar
      llamensdor  October 10, 2017

      I guess it depends on how good a writer you are, but I think you and the readers will have a lot of difficulty dealing with a Jesus who hangs on the cross for three days.

    • Avatar
      Wilusa  October 11, 2017

      Would Pilate still plausibly be around on Monday and Tuesday? I’m assuming “Passover” was on Friday (Jesus’s last meal with his disciples, a Passover meal, was after sunset on what we’d still be calling Thursday). Saturday would have been the Sabbath, when most Jews in the vicinity wouldn’t have been doing anything in particular – no likelihood of uprisings, or any sort of protests against Rome. By the next day, Jesus’s crucifixion would have been “stale news” – almost all the (few!) people who’d really cared about it having fled back to Galilee. So I’d expect Pilate, and his Roman guards, to have headed back to Caesarea.

  6. Avatar
    ardeare  October 6, 2017

    If you surmise that we don’t have much information on the crucifixion process utilized by the Romans because it was common knowledge, would it then be reasonable to assume we don’t have Paul mentioning the empty tomb because it too, was common knowledge? He does talk quite a bit about the resurrection in 1 Corinthians ch.15 in which he says Jesus was buried and raised on the third day.

    • Avatar
      Wilusa  October 11, 2017

      And Paul was writing to people in churches, some of whom he’d actually met. So he might have known as *fact* that they’d already heard the “empty tomb” story. (Whether or not he – or they – believed it.)

  7. Avatar
    Tempo1936  October 6, 2017

    Excellent Interview with great questions and answers .
    Is the radio debate ,Referenced in the interview, called “unbelievable” available on the blog or through other sources?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 8, 2017

      Yes, my assistant Steven has told me you can find them here:

      How Jesus became God – Ehrman vs Gathercole P1 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UH5C8hWsXyo
      Discussed on blog here for Part 1: https://ehrmanblog.org/radio-debate-on-how-jesus-became-god-part-1/

      How Jesus became God – Ehrman vs Gathercole Pt 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIcw1Q-R9cQ
      Discussed on blog here for Part 2: https://ehrmanblog.org/media-how-jesus-became-god-ehrman-vs-gathercole-pt-2/

      • Avatar
        jrauch  October 9, 2017

        When Jesus was rejected in his home town of Nazareth, he is unable to do any great miracles except heal a few sick people. Before understanding how the writers were evolving on their understanding of Jesus, this always bothered me that the “creator of the universe” was unable to do miracles because people didn’t believe in him. The writer of John who believes Jesus is God, does not have this story. Do you believe this rejection of Jesus in Nazareth is a historical event and wouldn’t that support your claim that the historical Jesus did not think he was God and also that the authors not believe he was God in the synoptic gospels?

        • Bart
          Bart  October 9, 2017

          I think it’s in part designed to show why he was not widely believed to have done miracles during his lifetime (the explanation: he *would* have done them, if only people had more faith)

        • talmoore
          talmoore  October 9, 2017

          Picture this dialogue:
          Christian: “And as a sign of his power Jesus healed the sick and performed many miracles.”
          Jew: “Where did he perform these signs?”
          C: “He performed many of them in Galilee, where he grew up.”
          J: “Funny, my uncle’s from Galilee and he has never mentioned a Jesus performing such significant miracles.”
          C: “Hmm, what town is your uncle from?”
          J: “Chorazin.”
          C: “Oh, well, there were many scoffers and hard-hearted people in Chorazin, so God didn’t want Jesus to waste his powers on those people.”
          J: “Ah, I see. That’s pretty convenient.”

  8. Avatar
    Wilusa  October 7, 2017

    Very enjoyable! I’m sure most of us have already learned your views on these issues, but it was great to hear them discussed.

  9. Avatar
    Wilusa  October 7, 2017

    But I admit I have a tendency to want to cling to some other ideas, that either (a) let me have more respect for Jesus, or (b) just strike me as being equally possible, while making no real difference at all.

    I’d like to believe it was Jesus’s disciples who convinced him he was the Messiah, rather than the other way around. That they believed, not that the Messiah would be a ruler in the Kingdom (they thought God himself would preside over it), but that he’d play a crucial part in *bringing it about*.

    And God wouldn’t want violence. So the Messiah *must* be destined to be an extraordinary *preacher*, even though no one had thought that before. And since John the Baptist’s death proved he hadn’t been the chosen one, it must be Jesus. (In this scenario, Jesus never made those promises about twelve thrones. They’re in the category of legend.)

    Jesus never did call himself the “King of the Jews.” Either Judas or the Temple priests told the Romans he’d called himself that. They wanted him executed – for whatever reason. So they made an issue of the original meaning of the term “Messiah,” even though they knew he had a different understanding of it.

    About the empty tomb story… I’m not convinced that generalizations can be made about practices in every corner of an Empire as vast as Rome’s in that era. *Especially* with Pilate’s being about to leave town (taking his Roman guards with him), I think it’s possible that someone willing to fork over some cash would have been allowed to claim Jesus’s body. And it’s certainly not *impossible* that a member of the Sanhedrin had – secretly? – admired him, and wanted to give him a decent burial.

    As I imagine it, Joseph of Arimathea (assuming that was his real name), never intended entombment in his family crypt to be permanent. He just put the body there so it would be in a safe place before the Sabbath…and later had it moved. Possibly to a location suggested by his own rabbi, who wasn’t willing to be publicly involved. Joseph himself, for that matter, “wasn’t willing to be publicly involved”!

    This is the scenario that “makes no real difference.” I just think it’s as possible as what Bart believes.

  10. Avatar
    seahawk41  October 7, 2017

    I just finished listening to the above interview. It reminded me of reading the book, so I’ll have to read it again! One thing came to mind during the discussion of whether crucified persons were buried. There is a case where an ossuary was found with a nail through the ankle bone. [I think it was ankle, might have been wrist.] Obviously this was an exceptional case; as I recall, there are some 900 bone boxes in Israeli museums and this is the only such case, when according to Josephus hundreds (thousands?) were crucified in 1st Century Palestine. But at any rate, what do you make of this exceptional case?

  11. Avatar
    wje  October 7, 2017

    Good evening, Bart. In a previous post you said that you do not believe that John is a very good guide to what the historical Jesus said. What is it about John that makes you believe this?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 8, 2017

      Ah, that would require a number of posts! I’ll think about dealing with it down the line (I deal with it in my various books on the Gospels). One big point: what he says in John is (a) very different from what he says in the Synoptics (b) is more advanced theologically and (c) is so striking that if he really said such things it’s very hard indeed to understanding how earlier sources (Mark, Q, M, L) neglected to mention that part! (That, for example, he considered himself divine.)

      • Avatar
        Wilusa  October 9, 2017

        I, for one, would accept this explanation, without needing to hear any more details!

  12. Avatar
    john76  October 10, 2017

    Dr. James McGrath has a blog post outlining why he thinks Dr. Ehrman is wrong about his characterization of Jesus’ Christology in Paul’s letters here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/2014/11/thoughts-on-bart-ehrmans-how-jesus-became-god-sblaar14.html

    • Bart
      Bart  October 11, 2017

      Hey, if we all agreed there’d be no need for scholarship!

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