Jesus: Human, Angel, or Deity?

Jesus: Human, Angel, or Deity? September 7, 2014

I’m reading Bart Ehrman’s latest book, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee, and will begin blogging my thoughts about it soon. Before doing so, let me get out of the way an abundance of blog posts related to the book or to the topic of Christology that is its focus, which have appeared in the blogosphere since my last round-up.

Ehrman shared a video of a lecture he gave a decade ago, on “Christ come in the flesh”:

Ken Schenck’s multi-post blog review drew to a close, including chapter 7  about Jesus as God on earth, chapter 9 on the Trinitarian creeds, and the epilogue.

Larry Hurtado has blogged several times on this topic. See for instance his post on Paul’s messianic Jewish Christology, and his discussion of Christopher Barina Kaiser’s book on visions of the Lord. He also shared posts about the divine name as it pertains to New Testament Christology, including its rendering in the Septuagint. See also his article on textual ambiguity in Acts.

Crispin Fletcher-Louis shared a paper outlining his forthcoming book about Jesus’ monotheism.

Matthew Malcolm shared thoughts on Paul’s interpretation of Scripture as it relates to monotheism and Christology.

Chris Keith mentioned, and Michael Kruger shared the table of contents from, the forthcoming volume in honor of Larry Hurtado’s work, including on monotheism and Christology.

Johnny Walker reviewed Chris Tilling’s book, Paul’s Divine Christology.

Dale Tuggy blogged about interaction between Buzzard and Bowman on the Shema, and discussed the interpretation of Philippians 2:6-11 (also mentioned by Dustin Smith). Someone else drew my attention to a JETS article and a PhD thesis on the interpretation of Philippians 2:6-11, which are available online.

Jaco’s Blog responded to me on the understanding of “I am” as in some sense a divine self-designation, which represents in the Fourth Gospel the divine name that God has given to Jesus. I plan to return to that conversation, as well as the more recent one about pre-existence in Philippians 2:6-11, sometime soon. But sharing these links was long overdue.

Of related interest, don’t miss the discussion of the criteria of authenticity and of potentially historical material in the Gospel of John on James Crossley’s blog as well as elsewhere. Also, Ken Schenck asked whether Jesus was an ISFP.

Phillip Long discussed the application of historical critical skepticism to the Gospels. In repeating the claims that conservative Evangelicals have made about its presuppositions, Long seems to me to enter into the same problematic territory that antievolutionists do when they complain about science presupposing “philosophical naturalism.” Neither history nor science requires that one subscribe to such a philosophy, but it does require that you subscribe to a particular methodology. And those methods have shown themselves to work well for answering the kinds of questions they are designed to answer.

See also David Capes’ post on the Early High Christology Club. I didn’t know they have their own mugs! He also blogged about Chris Tilling’s book and shared a link to an article he wrote on extrabiblical evidence for the historical Jesus.


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  • Dan Teasdale

    Professor McGrath, I am unclear on your position.
    Do you believe Jesus is Lord?

    • James Walker

      the only possible reason to ask such a question is in an effort to cast doubt on the other person’s salvation. you ought to be ashamed for having such presumption, but I doubt my criticism will even phase you.

      • Benjamin Martin

        That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus… ~Romans 10:9

        To confess is to “declare,” not obfuscate. Didn’t you ever sing that “hide it under a bushel” song in Sunday School?

        • James Walker

          You and I seem to have very different notions of how letting our light shine looks in practice.

          • Benjamin Martin

            I take Jesus’ notion in one particular passage of Scripture. How about yourself? Got another reference with which to parry, like McGrath?

            Scripture vs. Scripture is as fun as Mad TV’s Spy vs. Spy.

          • James Walker

            if you’re referring to Matthew 10:33, you seem to have missed that there is quite a large space between behavior that could be taken to “disown” Jesus and behavior that constantly wears His name upon one’s lips.

            and, no, I have no intention of tossing “proof texts” back and forth. I’ve recognized since I grew beyond childhood that’s a loser’s game.

    • Was this comment intended for a different post? I don’t see how it relates to this one. Or were you asking whether I think that particular New Testament authors viewed Jesus as “Lord” in some particular sense? Can you clarify what you are asking about, and how it relates to either this post, or perhaps another one about my own faith where you perhaps intended to leave it?

      • Jonathan Bernier

        Very charitable response.

      • Benjamin Martin

        That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus… ~Romans 10:9

        I think it’s an appropriate question for a OP titled “Jesus, Human
        Angel or Deity.” Can you answer Dan’s question, or not?

        • Sure I can, but I think that everyone recognized that the question most likely reflects that conservative Christian desire to pigeonhole people and dismiss what they say if categorized in a particular way. I did not want to give Dan that excuse for ignoring this post, which ironically was a collection of links to posts by others and contained very little of my own point of view. If Dan or you is actually interested, it seems to me that the obvious course of action would be to read posts where I talk about my own point of view. There are plenty of them from the many years I’ve been blogging.

          (If your comments on this blog had not bordered on trollishness, I probably would have given you a more direct answer than I gave Dan. I’ve given direct answers in comments responding to such questions in the past when the question seemed sincerely motivated. Those have typically involved longer conversations, precisely because it was clear that all involved that simply saying “yes” or “no” didn’t really clarify the details of my thinking in any meaningful way.)

          • Benjamin Martin

            But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven. Matthew 10:33

            But of course, you blah blah blah and didn’t blah blah blah.

            Try doing that to your wife when she asks you if she’s beautiful and see if she concludes or not that you denied it.

          • When my wife asks me something, there is a relationship there. In your case, there is only an impression you’ve given through blog comments, and that impression hasn’t been that you are interested in serious conversation. But know that I am actually eager to talk about this topic with those who are genuinely interested, and that if you had responded with genuine interest this time around, I might still have responded differently.

            So you can either look for the answers provided previously on this blog, or you can treat my silence on this point going forward in this comment thread as my imitation of the behavior of my lord Jesus before those who considered themselves authorities and judges.

            At least, according to certain accounts.

          • Benjamin Martin

            Whatever support one needs for whatever position, it can always be found in Scripture, proving just how scholarly is the field of “New Testament Scholarship.”

          • This was not a discussion of a matter of scholarship. Are you just being dishonest in jumping from a question about my faith to a sweeping dismissal of a scholarly field?

            I think you have made it clear that you are a troll. But since I really do hate banning people, I will give you a chance to provide some clarification or explanation, in case I have misjudged your behavior and your aims here. But know that this is a place where regular commenters engage in a high level of serious discussion that impresses me. I have no intention of allowing that to be ruined.

    • Benjamin Martin

      Dan, if you sort long enough through the piles of snark, you’ll find McGrath affirms “my lord Jesus.”

      So that answers your question. And establishes his bias.

      • Only a fool or someone very dishonest would claim to be without biases.

        And only someone whose bias seriously distorts his perception would assume that the bias he hopes to accuse a person of is the one snark-free element in a snark-full comment.

  • Anthony Lawson

    Looking forward to your posts about Ehrman’s book Dr. McGrath. I finished his book a short time ago and am nearly finished with the Bird, et. al. response book. Although I have a few qualms with Ehrman’s book, overall I liked it. The response book, although there are some things that I liked and agreed with, but overall, let’s just say that I’m more frustrated with it than anything else, especially with it’s apologetic rhetoric.

  • Gary

    I read Ehrman’s book and liked it. Only watched the first two minutes of the video. Will have to watch it, and the two other parts, sometime when I have more time. But the first minutes of the video reflect what I remember most of the book. Jesus the man, is one fact (historical). But the various different stories of Jesus that conflict (the parts that heat up myth discussions) generally originate from people trying to explain the divine part. Example, adopted as divine by God at baptism (Mark), at birth (Matthew and Luke), at resurrection, and the start of the end (Paul), or was always that way (John). Or trying to satisfy OT claims, or twisting OT claims as prophecy about Jesus (like out of Egypt). Add a good dose of Nag Hammadi texts, and you can see a million stories (I exaggerate) about Jesus the divine.

  • Benjamin Martin

    We are all as equally divine/human as Jesus. Thou Art God. That was Jesus’ point.

    “I am a son of God,” well there’s the whole thing in a nutshell. If you read the King James Bible… You will see in italics, in front of the words “son of God,” the “son of God.” Most people think the italics are for emphasis. They’re not. The italics indicate words interpolated by the translators. You will not find that in the Greek. In the Greek it says, a son of God.

    It seems to me here perfectly plain. That Jesus has got it in the back of his mind that this isn’t something peculiar to himself. So when he says, “I am the Way, no Man comes to the Father but by me.” This “I am” this “Me” is the divine in us.

    We are sons of, or of the nature of God. Manifestations of the divine. This discovery is the gospel. That is the Good News. But this has been perpetually repressed throughout the history of Western religion…

    Alan Watts
    Jesus and His Religion

  • Andrew Dowling

    I like Crossley’s post about John. While it’s clear John contains traces of historical components and likely even some very early tradition, by and large one can’t rely on it for a picture of the historical Jesus . . .guys like Bauckham love to purport their theories as “new revolutionary developments in biblical scholarships” but really no-one has been able to surmount a logical refutation of the reasons John should be considered largely theological/historical fiction since the 19th century.

    Long’s piece repeats that same standard apologetic line “by engaging in historical criticism, you are just accepting the naturalistic assumptions of the Enlightenment.” This is the argument “du jour” among conservatives nowadays. . . but do they reject these Enlightenment assumptions when they go to the doctor? What about when their child is sick? Do they vote?

    They seem to accept those assumptions without question in every other facet of life except when it comes to analyzing the Bible.