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More on the Response Book

Another post on the forthcoming “response book,” titled How God Became Jesus, written in reaction to my book How Jesus Became God. As I indicated in my previous post, I gave my publisher permission to share my manuscript with the five scholars who produced the response, so they were not simply guessing about what I had to say. They had it in their hands. They responded in kind and allowed their publisher to share with me their book. I haven’t read it yet.

The reason that they shared their book with me in advance of its appearance is that we are being asked to do some media events that will require knowledge of each others’ books. The event that has been set up already is a kind of on-radio debate with one of the five authors, Simon Gathercole, who teaches at Cambridge University. Next week I’m heading over to London for Spring break, mainly to see family and so on. But I’ve agreed to do a taped radio show.

Unlike the States, in England (as I understand it – maybe someone can correct me if I’m wrong) there’s one major Christian radio station, which is called Premier Radio. And on it there is a kind of talk show run by a very smart and interesting fellow, an evangelical Christian named Jason Brierley. The show is called “Unbelievable.” I’ve been on it a bunch of times, sometimes being interviewed for one of my books, but most often having an on-air debate (taped ahead of time) on this or that topic – usually something I’ve written about.

In that capacity I’ve debated Peter Williams about the reliability of the manuscript traditions of the New Testament; Darryl Bock on the reliability of the New Testament itself; Mike Licona on the question of whether historians can prove that Jesus’ resurrection happened; and Richard Swinburne, a philosopher who teaches at Oxford, on whether there can be an explanation for the suffering in the world if there is an all-powerful God in charge of it. In *that* debate I got really, truly, and deeply angry and it probably showed. But I can talk about that some other time.

The debate with Gathercole will be taped and will not be released/aired until after the book appears. So I’ll be interested in seeing how it goes, and will, of course, read his contributions to their book very carefully ahead of time.


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Did Jesus Exist? Video Presentation
Books and Response Books



  1. Avatar
    staib  March 1, 2014

    You may be right but I think it would be fairer to read it before you condemn it.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 3, 2014

      I’m not condemning it yet! I’ll be doing extensive responses to it once it comes out. I’m just saying that if the thesis is that God became a human in Jesus, that’s theology, not history, and shouldn’t pretend to be history, if it’s theology.

  2. Avatar
    Cygnus_X1  March 1, 2014

    Well now I have to watch (or listen) to your debate with Richard Swinburne. Sounds like good stuff.
    I’ve been watching some of the Youtube videos by John Ankerberg and it amazes me how Christians can’t seem to wait for the rapture/tribulation/second coming….it’s always right around the corner. They’ve been obsessed with it for 2,000 years to the point where they want a massive war between Israel and their arab neighbors since it was “prophesized”. Scary stuff.
    I look forward to your new book.

  3. Avatar
    J.J.  March 1, 2014

    Your teaser is a surprise. So do you think the author of Mark believed in the resurrection?… and considered Jesus to be God?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 3, 2014

      Mark absolutely believes in the resurrection. Jesus explicitly says he will be raised from the dead on three occasions, and when the women go to the tomb on the third day, they learn by the young man there that he has in fact been raised. Mark lacks resurrection *appearances*, but not a resurrection!

      • Avatar
        J.J.  March 3, 2014

        I presumed you thought that… but I was leading into the next question, do you think Mark considered Jesus divine?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  March 3, 2014

          Yes. But the question is: In what *sense*?? He did *not* think of Jesus as a pre-existent divine being who became a human. He thought of Jesus as one who was adopted by God to be his son, a different model of divinity from, say, that in the Gospel of John.

          • Avatar
            Shubhang  March 4, 2014

            So would that make Mark an ‘adoptionist’? That would be quite ironic that one of the stalwart evangelists of the Church believed in what was post Nicaea an abominable heresy

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  March 5, 2014

            Yes, I think so.

  4. Avatar
    gabilaranjeira  March 1, 2014

    Good luck! I’m sure the book will be another success!
    Funny it took 5 scholars (a task force!) to respond to your book! Kind of flattering…

  5. Robertus
    Robertus  March 1, 2014


    And you haven’t even read their book yet. 😉

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 3, 2014

      Wait till I do!

    • Avatar
      ALIHAYMEG  March 4, 2014

      The title makes it abundantly clear that this will NOT be a book based solely on historical analysis. There are certain assumptions that can be safely made.

  6. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  March 1, 2014

    I have read/heard your discussions of this issue in your debates, in your books, and in your blogs. You are probably right and certainly far more qualified to discuss this than I. Despite this, I still have trouble separating theology and history so neatly. It seems to me that truth is truth and evidence is evidence and knowledge is knowledge. The key is what is the most likely explanation of this or that.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 3, 2014

      I think the problem is when people confuse theological *claims* with historical *probabilities*. Theology is done on different principles from history, and when the two get confused it just creates problems, for both theology and history….

      • Avatar
        RonaldTaska  March 3, 2014

        Confusing theological “claims” with historical “probabilities” is a very helpful way to think about it. After further thought, it seems to me that some things are true and some are not true and sometimes we just do not know. Theology seems to be a lot in the “we just do not know” category and it’s the dogmatic certainty that often accompanies it that is hard to understand.

      • Avatar
        dikelmm  March 3, 2014

        I think many people (including myself) have difficulty compartmentalizing their thought processes. The different methods of analysis that you or others use are like different methods used to diagnose and treat medical conditions such as standard Western medical methods, chiropractic methods, or Eastern methods such as acupuncture. Some people choose what works for them. Some think they are mutually exclusive. Some of us want the “cheat sheet” that tells us what is the correct method.

  7. Avatar
    SJB  March 1, 2014

    Prof Ehrman

    “… the very earliest followers of Jesus maintained that he was God just as soon as they came to believe in his resurrection…”

    Wow! I was definitely going to read your book but this made me sit up straight anyway. I’m willing to wait for you to make your case but you really think James thought his brother was God? I suppose I had assumed the earliest strain of belief was in some variation of Adoptionism and perceptions of Jesus’ divinity had to wait until there was an influx of Gentiles into the movement. Would First century Jews with their august monotheism really be able to believe that a human being could be God?


    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 3, 2014

      Yes they would. And did! I explain how/why in the book….

      • Avatar
        Steefen  March 8, 2014

        James wasn’t even at the crucifixion.
        James was not at the empty tomb.

        And what is the Gospel of John talking about: “And the napkin (soudarion), that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.”

        The New Testament also states that Lazarus left behind burial clothes and a soudarion, a funeral cloth used to cover the face of the corpse.

        Simon Peter sees the soudarion. Soudarion is one of the few words in the New Testament that is neither Hebrew nor Greek. It is of Latin origin. The soudarion was a funeral cloth used by Romans – not by Jews. And who buried Jesus? Joseph of Arimathea who took the biblical Jesus down from the cross in 36 C.E. or Joseph (Latinized to Josephus) who cried with tears in his eyes to have three men taken down from crucifixion for the best of medical care (one survives crucifixion). Since Bart Ehrman says none of the biblical 12 disciples wrote Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John and since written forms of Matthew Mark, Luke and John do not appear before the start of the Jewish Roman war, 66 C.E., as Rome would have authorized a Pacifist Messiah to combat an Activist Militant Messiah literature, the hand of a Roman writer or editor is either correctly describing how a dead Jesus was wrapped or is correctly revealing Flavian influence on the New Testament by Flavian emperor, Flavian college for the regulation of foreign cults in Rome–the Quindecimviri Sacris Faciundis, Flavian intellectuals, Josephus the Flavian adopted historian, Flavian members of the first century Roman Church (Pope Clement I–I would think Flavian Pope Clement I would know something about the emerging gospels in written form since they are contemporary literature).

        Finally, not one but two cases of Jesus’ exorcisms are spiritual analogies to Vespasian putting Jewish rebels on the run.

        • Avatar
          Steefen  March 9, 2014

          Maybe Christianity was censored by the Romans to be a religion of pacifism and peace so future unimaginable horrors of humankind, such as the siege of Jerusalem by Titus, would be mitigated. (Yes, there have been wars of independence since…)

  8. Avatar
    lfasel  March 1, 2014

    Historically and culturally speaking making a person a “God” in antiquity was not uncommon, anyone could be claimed as a god if their were enough people wanting it. In fact one can read: When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!”
    12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. (Act 14:11-12 NIB). So it would not of been unusual to claim that Jesus was God after he arose from the dead. Theologically most Christians run to the Book of John for their support of this concept. I watched the debate between you and Craig Evans and was surprised to hear him say that the book of John was an external Book not belonging to the synoptics, Prof James Charlesworth believes that the Book of John has a lot of interpolations and has been edited saying the First chapter and a few others don’t belong. I don’t even think John could write (dictate maybe). Remove this book and whole lot of theology falls to the ground. What are your thought on it.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 3, 2014

      He was almost certainly referring to 1:1-18 (not the entire first chapter), which does indeed appear to have come from a different source from the rest of the Gospel. There are a few other interpolations in the book, but it is usually thought that what happened was that it went through multiple editions. Prof. Charlesworth didn’t come up with this idea: it has been prominent since the work of Raymond Brown and J. Louis Martyn.

  9. Avatar
    John E Paver  March 1, 2014

    I have read several of the so-called “rebuttals” of various of your books but I find that they all lapse into “ad hominem” attacks and other fallacious arguments, and I notice that you sometimes get blamed for pointing out the contradictions in the Gospels but you didn’t put the contradictions in there! Some of these books also look like “vanity publishing”! I see similar “rebuttals” by rampant militant atheists and anti-theists against the likes of David Bentley Hart, John C. Lennox and Rodney Stark. So there exists (in my humble opinion) poor “rebuttals” on all sides, and sometimes one does not realise until after one has parted with hard-earned money that the “rebuttal” is just a whine!

    I was wondering therefore if you have any thoughts on which “rebuttals” of your books are worth reading? The new one for example, do you consider it is worth reading alongside your new book?

    On an unrelated matter, for those of us who can’t read New Testament Greek, I wonder if you could recommend a translation of the Bible which is best for reading with your various books? I notice you often use NKJV for OT but you do your own translations for NT!

    Best wishes, John.

    • Avatar
      John E Paver  March 2, 2014

      I think I have found your answer to my second question! NRSV! I’m slowly getting through all of those back posts and I found a blog entry devoted to this very question!

      And, oops, I did of course mean NRSV not NKJV above! I get confused sometimes! :O

      Best wishes, John.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 3, 2014

      Yes, this new rebuttal is done by very fine scholars, and so will certainly be very learned.

      My preferred translation is the New Revised Standard Version, which I especially like in a study edition such as the HarperCollins Study Bible.

  10. Avatar
    willow  March 1, 2014

    You do know that, not having yet read your book I know nothing about what explanations, reasoning, and evidences it contains; but still have to ask:

    “the very earliest followers of Jesus maintained that he was God just as soon as they came to believe in his resurrection.”

    When was that, exactly? When they came to believe in the resurrection? With, or without, the influence of Paul?

    Was the source of Paul’s writings limited to his visionary experiences of/with Jesus? Could it be possible that the very early Christian movement not only influenced his writings but his visionary experiences as well?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 3, 2014

      As soon as they came to believe in the resurrection. Before Paul. I explain it all in my book!

      • Avatar
        Rosekeister  March 3, 2014

        I’m sorry but I can’t wait. When you say resurrection do you mean that Peter and Jesus’ brother James believed Jesus’ heart started beating again and he rose and walked from the grave or do you mean that they thought that after Jesus’ death he was exalted to God’s side? Or some variation? I’m guess I’m asking if the Jewish-Christians had a different idea of resurrection than what became the gentile church?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  March 5, 2014

          I think they imagined that his body was revivified and taken directly up to heaven.

          • Avatar
            Rosekeister  March 13, 2014

            Thanks, I’ve been waiting for your new book while read Joel Marcus’ commentary on Mark. I’m sure others like myself feel more confident that we aren’t throwing our money away on bizarre theories when we see that you recommend a book. I like the posts on your classes that include which books are required reading for the students.

  11. Avatar
    Jrgebert  March 1, 2014

    With a title like ‘ How God became Jesus”, the authors should address when God became Jesus. Since most probably the authors are not adoptionists, it will be interesting to see if they address the historicity of the Birth Narratives.

  12. Avatar
    mark  March 2, 2014

    So will the Great Courses guidebook to your upcoming course on this same topic be a condensed version of this book, or will you just include a copy of the book to substitute for the guidebook? That would really increase your sales, leading to more $$$ for you in future when you sign a deal for your next book. Also, which version of that course should I get? I prefer audio cuz I can listen to it in my car while driving, but if the DVD is full of maps, pictures of archaeological sites and important and helpful visual study aids then I’d rather purchase it on DVD.
    Please Help!!!


    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 3, 2014

      I doubt if there will be maps and archaeological sites. But there will obviously be other visuals. So do whichever best pleases you. The guide book will contain outlines of the lecture, questions to consider, bibliography, and so on. It was written independently of the book, though obviously there will be overlap.

  13. Avatar
    z8000783  March 2, 2014

    Looking forward to getting this.

    BTW, it’s Justin Brierley

  14. Avatar
    donmax  March 2, 2014

    You might be surprised to hear that I’m on your side in the debate. Good luck!

  15. Avatar
    Steefen  March 3, 2014

    Bart Ehrman:
    the very earliest followers of Jesus maintained that he was God just as soon as they came to believe in his resurrection.

    We do not follow. Jesus insisted that he was raised a human: “Thomas, put your hand in my side, feel me. I am human.” Second, Jesus didn’t resurrect with even more powers than the powers he had before he died. He didn’t present *himself* to the priests at the Temple, “What else you got? Step down. I’m the Chief Priest of my Father’s house, now.” For some reason, Matthew says he resurrected with all powers in his hands–in heaven and on earth [paraphrase] . Jesus did not come back with the powers of the Son of Man to defeat Rome and bring a Jewish Kingdom of Righteousness/Heaven/God.

    Now, some people say that a) Jesus’ prophecies were fulfilled by Rome’s destruction of the Temple and the failed revolt of the Jewish rebels (66-73 C.E.) The Failed Jewish Revolt and the Destruction of the Temple gave Jesus credibility as a prophet for b) his prophecies about Jerusalem being surrounded and the stones of the Temple brought down–but more: power of prophecy gave him credibility as divine.

    Dr. Ehrman, do you agree Jesus’ prophecies about Jerusalem being surrounded and the stones of the Temple (not the wall–we have the Wailing Wall) were points of persuasion in converting people to follow Jesus (80 C.E. to 100 C.E.)? I think I’ve seen some of the Early Church Fathers looking at the massively horrific defeat of the Jews by Rome as God’s will being done as foretold by Jesus.

    Second, do you agree that Jesus’ destruction of Jerusalem prophecies came true, given 70 AD and the taking of Masada?

    Third, do you agree that one of the reasons Jesus became God (or even God becoming Jesus) is evidenced by Jesus’ precognitions?

    (Let’s interpret the question as people recognizing Jesus as God or people recognizing God becoming Jesus since you’re agnostic. An agnostic cannot prove Jesus became God because an agnostic cannot prove God’s existence. An agnostic cannot prove God became Jesus for the same reason.)

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 5, 2014

      I don’t know of the destruction of the Temple was used to convert people; yes, I think Jesus probably did predict the destruction; and no, I don’t think Jesus was seen as God because of his predictions, anymore than his namesake Jesus son of ANanias was seen as God because of his.

      • Avatar
        Steefen  March 10, 2014

        Bart Ehrman:
        the very earliest followers of Jesus maintained that he was God just as soon as they came to believe in his resurrection.


        Dr. Ehrman, do you go through Acts of the Apostles? I’m remembering the angels telling the disciples to stop looking in the sky for Jesus’ return. The angels didn’t tell them, He’s God now. Wouldn’t we need angelic corroboration of the claim. Even without that, you actually see Jesus as God in the first five chapters of Acts? Where would we begin to see the Jerusalem Church maintaining he was God? The Hellenists with Stephen the Martyr would have seen him next to the Power, not the Power. We have the Gentiles, where in Acts do they maintain Jesus was God?

        I’m not seeing Jesus as God even in the writings of Paul. I see Jesus elevated to spiritual Christ. Jesus becomes God with the doctrine of the Trinity. I guess people can join in on whether or not Jesus is of the same substance as God debate…

  16. Avatar
    gregmonette  March 4, 2014

    I have a gut feeling they won’t be arguing if Jesus is God, but whether or not the NT writers, the early Christians, and Jesus himself, claimed he was divine in some sense and what that actually meant. Claiming Jesus is God is like saying Jesus’ death atoned for sin. It may be true theologically, but it’s outside of the purview of historians. I think their book will be doing the exact same thing as your book (but coming up with differing conclusions)…and that is taking a detailed look at the earliest Christian writings to see how Christology developed and what shape it took…and why it took the shape that it did. I’m assuming the title they chose was purposely crafted to seem like a companion/conversation partner to your book.

    After all, if the early Christians did believe that a pre-existent deity inhabited Jesus of Nazareth at some point in time…well, what would be wrong in titling the book what Bird, Evans, Gathercole, Hill, and Tilling have? They are looking into a historical question…”Did the early Christians (and possibly Jesus himself) believe Jesus was divine…and in what sense?” It’ll be fun to read both books 🙂

  17. Avatar
    proveit  March 4, 2014

    You go to great lengths to distinguish between history and theology. It strikes me as rather strange that theologians don’t seem to entertain the difference. You would think that an educated theologian would be obliged to highlight whether they are speaking theologically or historically. Is it that they don’t discern any difference?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 5, 2014

      I think good theologians do that. But there are theologians and there are theologians.

  18. Avatar
    SpaceCoast  March 4, 2014

    Off topic a bit, but I’m curious whether you would recommend a text version of your book or if the unabridged audio will be sufficient. I use both formats, but clearly some works are better suited to one or the other. Are there a lot of illustrations, charts/graphs, or notes that would make the text version a better option? (sorry to hijack a great topic with this question, but it occurred to me as I was in Amazon about to place a pre-order)

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 5, 2014

      There won’t be illustrations or graphs, and some notes but not hundreds. So pick whichever format you’re most comfortable with.

  19. Avatar
    gavm  March 13, 2015

    Prof I know you believe history can never demonstrate the supernatral, because magic is so unlikely, but if I may ask. What if there was a big world wide attack on humanity by vampires today. This event was covered by tv, news
    Papers, social media, the Internet and all forms of media. Lets say we humans eventually sucssed.
    In the yr 3000 historians of that time would be studying the early second mellinium CE. Would it not be reasonable for them to consider the”vampire wars” as historical even though the are clearly supernatural? It just seems as long as we have enough evidence we can say anything is historical, magic or not
    Thank you again

    • Bart
      Bart  March 13, 2015

      The very point is that it is precisely that sort of thing that never *DOES* happen. It’s like saying, OK, hypothetically, what if we found out that the moon really was made of French Blue Cheese? What would scientists say *then*?

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