Ehrman and Christology in the Blogosphere

Ehrman and Christology in the Blogosphere May 6, 2014

Lots more reviews and discussions have appeared of Bart Ehrman’s latest book.

Bart Ehrman shared a brief response to How God Became Jesus. See too Mike Bird’s brief response to the response to his response…

Nijay Gupta shared the second and third and fourth parts of his review, and began reviewing the response book, posting on the chapters by Bird and Evans. In part four, Nijay writes:

If the earliest Christians said anything, they said “Jesus is Lord” (1 Cor 12:3; Phil 2:11). Also, they said, Maranatha – “Our Lord, come!” Obviously, for the Aramaic phrase, they were talking about Jesus (1 Cor 16:22), and given that kyrios was the common title for Yahweh in the LXX, it would seem that right away the earliest Christians tethered Jesus to the identity of the one God (hence 1 Cor 8:6). Were this resurrection-exaltation Christology, there is just no way it could be called monotheism – Jesus and Yahweh would either be one God with two names or they would be in competition for the same title. Would God exalt a human after death and give him God’s own title kyrios? I don’t think Ehrman’s exaltation schema works when we work with the kyrios Christology.

I do not believe that argument works. “Lord” had a range of meanings from “sir” to “our divine Lord, the only true God.” To suggest that somehow the New Testament usage of “lord” in reference to Jesus would in and of itself have infringed on monotheism, rather than making Jesus a lord like the Davidic king, seems to be assuming what needs to be proved. The evidence is abundantly clear that “lord” was never a title felt to be ascribable only to one God and no other.

Mike Bird found Daniel Kirk’s review strange. Daniel posted the next part in his review series. See also Bird’s article for the Christian Post.

Dale Tuggy shared a podcast interview with Craig Evans, and also offered a podcast about Ehrman’s treatment of the empty tomb traditions.

Chris Tilling shared a video

Dustin Smith is continuing his multi-post review.

Michael Kruger, unable to offer substantive criticism within the framework of accepted scholarly methods of historical study, decided to blame what he views as problems on Ehrman’s underlying worldview. He then followed up by merely quoting Bauckham, as though that were an adequate response. See some of my posts here on this blog on Bauckham’s work for further discussion of this topic.

See too Allan Bevere’s post which rightly challenges the mistaken idea that the doctrine of the Trinity was developed and imposed by Constantine. On the one hand, the term goes back to Tertullian, building on ideas that were around even earlier. On the other hand, it is a mistake to assume that all the threefold formulas one encounters from the New Testament onward are “trinitarian” in the sense that they represent the thinking articulated in later creeds. And on a third hand, Constantine himself was baptized by a bishop who reflected the view of those who dissented from the Nicene formula.

And of related interest, there is an interesting post on Ehrman’s view of the illiteracy of Jesus’ disciples.


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  • Gary

    On the last link, the possible illiteracy of Jesus’ disciples…
    I read it, and think it left out something. Although I have not read Ehrman’s book yet, I have read other books by him. I don’t remember which one it was, but one of them gave a specific scripture stating that a few disciples were illiterate. Since I don’t believe in inerrancy, I wouldn’t use this to prove Ehrman’s point. But I think it was unfair of the blogger to beat around the bush and not mention the specific verse Ehrman uses in other books.
    Acts 4:13 “Now when they beheld the boldness of Peter and John, and had perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.”
    In the Ehrman book I read, he said it was possible that this men, at a later date, learned excellent Greek, or had an excellent Greek secretary. But probably not likely. I think I would go with Ehrman’s opinion. The blog conclusion was rather unspecified, like “anything is possible”. But so what. If it was a paper, I’d give the blog conclusion an F.

    • Acts 4:13 characterizes them as unlettered (the opposite of a scribe) and ordinary/laypeople, not formally educated or scholars. Whether that indicates in a Jerusalem setting anything about their knowledge of Greek is doubtful, in my opinion.

      • Gary

        Just pointing out that Bart Ehrman mentions that verse in relation to the education level of disciples. I don’t know if he used that in the current book, but he used it in an older one. Along with some other specific references to education levels in the time and locations. As I said, I don’t remember the book, but I would assume Ehrman’s current book references his data. Does that mean you think, as an example, the actual disciples John and Peter, were eloquent in written Greek, and wrote their biblical scriptures, especially considering the likely date of their writing? I find that hard to believe.

        • It depends on what you mean by eloquence. There have been eloquent speakers who could not even read or write.

          There would have been lots of people who had the ability, with or without help, to compose the various general epistles. We really don’t know enough about most of the figures to whom they are attributed to say anything other than what was typical or common. And so the “common fishermen probably couldn’t compose this” point is not all that strong when taken on its own. It is only the presence of things like very highly educated Greek, or extensive non-Jewish terminology, combined with other considerations, that leads to the conclusion that certain works are extremely unlikely to stem from their purported authors. Claiming that a first-century Galilean fisherman wrote 2 Peter (or Hebrews) borders on the preposterous. Claiming that a first-century Galilean fisherman wrote the Gospel of John is not as obviously ridiculous, linguistically speaking. I don’t think John wrote it, but it is not a conclusion drawn simply on the basis of the author’s competence with the Greek language.

          • Gary

            The original point from the blog:
            “Ehrman….a specific conclusion: these specific disciples would not have authored the Gospels, or taken notes during Jesus’ ministry.

            … we may end up reconsidering the likelihood that Jesus’ disciples could have taken notes or authored Gospels.”

            The blog author only offers the Ehrman argument that fisherman were probably illiterate, so they probably didn’t author scriptures. Having read other Ehrman books, I know that one argument is not the only argument Ehrman offers, as the blog SEEMS to imply. So I am glad you agree with Ehrman, in this one point, at least on John and Peter. 🙂