In his recent book How Jesus Became God, biblical critic Bart Ehrman argues that the earliest disciples did not believe Jesus was God, and that Jesus did not claim this about himself.
In How God Became Jesus, Michael F. Bird, Craig A. Evans, and other top scholars respond to this latest challenge to orthodox Christianity. Subjecting Ehrman’s claims to critical scrutiny, they offer a historically informed account of why the Galilean preacher from Nazareth came to be hailed as “the Lord Jesus Christ.” They contend that, rather than being an invention of the church centuries after Christ’s death, Jesus’ divinity is clearly evident in the earliest Christian sources, immediately following his resurrection.
For more on the historical Jesus from editor Michael F. Bird, check out Are You the One Who Is to Come? The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question.
“However, exactly when, where, and why Christians first began to make such elevated claims about Jesus’ heavenly origins and divine nature is a historical question and one that can only be answered through a concerted investigation of the evidence.” (Page 12)
“The cast of scholars who have done the most to promote this paradigm of an early and relatively strong identification of Jesus with the God of Israel is known within scholarly circles as the EHCC, or, ‘Early High Christology Club.’ The names Martin Hengel, Richard Bauckham, and Larry Hurtado are associated with this ‘club.’” (Page 13)
“Whether Jesus of Nazareth really is God, as Christians of all varieties have historically claimed, can only be answered as a matter of faith. It comes down to whether one believes the early church’s testimony to Jesus attested by Holy Scripture that he is the Son of God.” (Page 12)
“When I say that Jesus knew himself to be God, I mean that he was conscious that in him the God of Israel was finally returning to Zion (i.e., Jerusalem) to renew the covenant and to fulfill the promises God had made to the nation about a new exodus.” (Page 52)
“The idea that one becomes an angel upon death is called ‘angelomorphism,’ and in relation to Christ is known as ‘angelomorphic Christology.’” (Page 36)
Contra Ehrman, these authors demonstrate the Gospels are reliable and coherent historical sources; that Ehrman misrepresents Roman policy regarding crucifixion and non-burial; that he mischaracterizes Matthew and Luke when arguing they know nothing of Jesus’ pre-existence; that his schema of competing and evolving exaltation and incarnation Christologies is contrived, misleading, and historically implausible; and that his charge of contradictory Christologies in early Christian writings is itself contradicted by the biblical evidence.
Andreas J. Köstenberger, senior research professor of New Testament and biblical theology and director of PhD studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, on The Gospel Coalition
This is a helpful collection of essays by first-rate scholars abreast of the latest research. Anyone who wants a reliable historical account of how early Christians came to see Jesus as God should read this book.
Richard Bauckham, Emeritus Professor of New Testament, University of St Andrews, UK
This set of studies comprise a readable and lively response to Ehrman's book on how Jesus came to be regarded as in some sense divine. Collectively, they identify controversial issues and offer cogently put alternative views that deserve to be noted and that show that the scholarly discussion remains in play.
Larry Hurtado, Emeritus Professor of New Testament Language, Literature and Theology, University of Edinburgh
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