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How Jesus Became God: A Critical Review

How Jesus Became God

NOTE: Last week we featured a brief reflection by Fr. Robert Barron on biblical skeptic Bart Ehrman's new book, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (HarperOne, 2014). Today we feature a more in-depth review by Trent Horn.


 
Most Christians say the apostles came to believe Jesus was God after seeing how Christ’s resurrection vindicated his claims to divinity. But Bart Ehrman’s newest book, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee, offers another theory.

How Jesus Became GodEhrman is popular New Testament textual critic who was once a Fundamentalist Christian and is now an agnostic. Ehrman’s big claim to fame came with his 2005 book Misquoting Jesus, where he argued that the text of the New Testament was corrupted through the scribal copying process. He then argued that this corruption jeopardizes our orthodox understanding of the Bible. The book has sold millions of copies, and you’ve no doubt seen or heard Ehrman on late-night television, including the Colbert Report.

Ehrman’s thesis in his latest book is that the divide between human and divine in the ancient world was not as clean cut and “uncrossable” as it is for modern religious believers. According to Ehrman, in the ancient world it was common for the divide to be crossed in either the “gods come down in the likeness of men” direction or the “men go up and become gods” direction. Within this cultural milieu it was not improbable for the apostles to believe that their good rabbi had become “God.”

I enjoyed the book, and I think it's disappointing how many Christians jump into an automatic “pan-the-heretic” mode before reading it. Don’t misunderstand me: I think Ehrman is wrong, but his book is well-written.

Gods and men in the Ancient World

 
The first two chapters describe the malleable barrier between gods and men. The first few pages left a sour taste in my mouth. Ehrman begins with a story about a first-century miracle worker whose disciples believed he was the Son of God and had survived his own death. But, surprise! Ehrman’s not talking about Jesus but another supposed miracle-worker and contemporary of Jesus named Apollonius of Tyana. This sets the stage for Ehrman to talk about how in the ancient world men who become gods and vice-versa were really a dime a dozen.

However, Ehrman neglects to mention that although we have multiple sources for the life of Jesus we only have one source for Apollonius. Ehrman says this source, Philostratus, recorded what eyewitnesses said about Apollonius, but neglects to mention that the only eyewitness mentioned is one Damis from Nineveh, a city that didn’t even exist in the first century (which means Damis probably did not exist either). Ehrman also doesn’t mention how the wife of emperor Severus commissioned Philostratus to write the biography of Apollonius over a century after Apollonius’s “death.” The Life of Apollonius was probably created as a competitor to the Gospel accounts of Jesus which, by that point, were in wide circulation across the Roman Empire.

Ehrman acknowledges this theory in a footnote but then claims that all he is doing is showing how belief in “God-men” was easily accepted in the Roman cultural context; but I find this answer unsatisfying. If belief in a God-man like Apollonius was only easily accepted because it was crafted to imitate Jesus, it still doesn’t explain how Jesus’ divinity came about.

Perhaps the most striking concession Ehrman makes in this section is that Apollonius is the only story of a true “God-man” like Jesus. Ehrman writes, “I don’t know of any other cases in ancient Greek or Roman thought of this kind of “God-man,” where an already existing divine being is said to be born of a mortal woman." If the story of Apollonius is parasitic upon the story of Jesus, then that makes the story of the “God-man” Jesus all the more exceptional and difficult to explain without recourse to a miracle.

The Resurrection of Jesus

 
In chapter three we get a crash course in “historical Jesus studies” or the use of objective criteria to find what the nineteenth-century Biblical critic Martin Kähler called “The Jesus of History” (as opposed to the supposedly non-historical “Christ of faith” who inhabits the catechism). At about this point I noticed that some of what Ehrman was discussing also popped up in his previous book, Did Jesus Exist?

I think it was New Testament critic Burton Mack who said that the greatest mystery of Christianity is the question of how Jesus came to be worshipped as God so quickly after his death. Mythicists who deny Jesus existed have a simple answer: he was always worshipped as God and the human part was added later. Ehrman rejects that view, but has to find a way to get Jesus up the "ontological totem pole" at a very fast rate. Ehrman claims to be able to do this in his analysis of the Resurrection, an “event” that he says was necessary for Jesus not to be remembered as just another failed messiah.

Ehrman is adamant that this was not a fluffy “resurrection of Easter faith,” nor was it a “spiritual resurrection” as other critics try to make it out to be. It was instead a real bodily resurrection that the apostles proclaimed. He is careful to say, however, that it was belief in the resurrection that caused the apostles to think Jesus was God, and not the resurrection itself. Ehrman then devotes two chapters to providing a natural explanation for how this belief in the resurrection came about.

His main point is that although he once believed that we could know Joseph of Arimathea buried Jesus, he has now changed his mind and says we can’t know that for sure. He says we simply can’t know what happened to the body of Jesus. We can know, however, that the apostles had visions of Jesus after his death, but that was probably because they were bereaved and such visions are actually quite common. He says the answer to the question of whether or not these visions were real or hallucinatory is beyond the reach of the historian.

My Thoughts on the Resurrection

 
I’m not convinced by Ehrman’s arguments against the authenticity of the burial tradition. He says that because Joseph and the empty tomb are not mentioned in the creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, this shows it was probably a legendary development. But the creed’s use of the word buried (in Greek, hetaphe) implies something formal and ceremonial, not a mere chucking of a body into a ditch. In addition, there’s no reason to include those details in 1 Corinthians because they were not needed. When the creed says “Christ appeared” it’s natural to ask “to whom did he appear?” The creed answers this question with a list of witnesses. When it says Christ was buried, we don’t need to know who buried him, just as we don’t need to know who killed Christ (something the creed in 1 Corinthians also doesn’t mention).

In regards to the visions, how do we know that the disciples would have been bereaved and not angry that Jesus turned out to be a fraud instead of the messiah? I’m sure the disciples of John the Baptist mourned his death and may have felt guilty for not aiding him during his imprisonment, buttheir grief did not lead them to proclaim he had risen from the dead.

Overall, Ehrman’s treatment of the resurrection is good when he goes in depth about a subject and poor when he gives an off-hand response to an objection. For example, his cursory write-off of the resurrection accounts being contradictory and therefore not being reliable is not compelling because the accounts only differ in secondary details. Many ancient histories do the same. For example, among Tacitus, Suetonius, and Cassius Dio we have three different accounts of where Nero was when Rome burned, but that doesn’t mean Nero wasn’t in the city when it happened.

The Path to Orthodoxy

 
In chapters eight and nine Ehrman narrates the struggles within the early Church as Christians sought to lay out in specific detail what they believed about God and Jesus. If you ever take the time to read the canons from councils like Nicea and Chalcedon, then you see how it’s really difficult to describe orthodoxy correctly. It’s really easy, however, to make your view a heresy. What is the Trinity? Are the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each gods? Nope! That’s tri-theism. Are the Father, Son and Holy Spirit each a part of God? Nope! That’s modalism. While Ehrman’s description of the early Christological controversies is fairly useful, there are parts where I think he oversimplified to the point of error.

One of those would be his assertion that the third-century popes endorsed the heresy of modalism, which claims that there is one God who is one person and that this person appears in different “modes” or roles. In this view of God, there is no relationship between the Father and the Son since they are the same person (God) just as my role as “husband” has no personal relationship as “son.” Ehrman says that Pope Callistus I (218-223) endorsed this view, but our only source for this charge is Hippolytus, who, Ehrman neglects to tell his readers, was a bitter opponent of Callistus—making his charges unreliable. Callistus was certainly no modalist because he excommunicated Sabellius, one of modalism’s primary proponents (another name for modalism is Sabellianism). J.N.D. Kelly’s Oxford reference book on the popes gives a good description of the matter here.

Closing Thoughts

 
There’s a lot more to discuss here (especially Ehrman’s view of Paul’s Christology), but overall I think Ehrman’s work represents the typical “Jesus was a failed end-times prophet” approach that is popular within historical Jesus studies. Ehrman does part ways with some of his like-minded colleagues, such as Dale Allison (see page 185 of How Jesus Became God), and at those points it’s nice to see Ehrman put forward a compelling argument instead of just lobbing an assertion.

For readers who want a fuller treatment of the arguments in opposition to Ehrman’s case, I’d recommend the following resources:

How God Became Jesus: The Real Origins of Belief in Jesus’ Divine Nature—A Response to Bart Ehrman. As the tile suggests, this book represents the viewpoints of five authors who disagree with Ehrman’s thesis. Kind of a mixed bag when it comes to quality, but Craig Evans’s essay on Jesus’ burial is worth the whole price.

Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony. This book by Richard Bauckham is a must-read for anyone who glosses over Ehrman’s claim that the Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses and so cannot be trusted.

The Resurrection of the Son of God. The well-known New Testament scholar N.T. Wright gives one of the most comprehensive treatments of both the resurrection and the surrounding cultural context that makes a natural “legend-based” explanation of the resurrection very implausible.
 
 
Originally posted at Catholic Answers. Used with permission.
(Image credit: Huffington Post)

Trent Horn

Written by

Trent Horn holds a Master’s degree in Theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville and is currently an apologist and speaker for Catholic Answers. He specializes in training pro-lifers to intelligently and compassionately engage pro-choice advocates in genuine dialogue. He recently released his first book, titled Answering Atheism: How to Make the Case for God with Logic and Charity. Follow Trent at his blog, TrentHorn.com.

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  • NicholasBeriah Cotta

    So much of historical research is driven by the necessity to publish and the necessity to pull narratives out of what is really a scarce data (think about how tough Shakespeare biographers have it and lived 1550 years later). I think willful denial takes a big part in it to which is why I like the portion of the essay dedicated to Ehrman’s addition to the “one religion among many” fallacy, “Ehrman acknowledges this theory in a footnote but then claims that all he is doing is showing how belief in “God-men” was easily accepted in the Roman cultural context…”
    Clearly, historians find things that most people would never have the time to pore through so they can just make up a narrative and cherry pick their way to success with what can seem like a tremendously powerful argument.
    The truth is that history was written by myopic men then, and even more myopic men now. I think the crucial details that made me trust these accounts were the characters. I converted after I studied LIterature (BA) because I was well acquainted with historical literature, and also I thought well acquainted with how authors write stories. To me, once I gave these books an honest chance at being true, I found the consistency was just too great to be a lie. The apostles are all represented as genuine men, the Pharisees reflect true and subtle despicable evil and Jesus truly had incredibly consistent wisdom about how humans fundamentally relate to one another.
    He was wise, consistent, authoritative, yet made an incredible claim and these scriptures reflect that incredible concept honestly. They are accounted by Palestinian fishermen, publicans, and sinners and they are doing their best to tell us this story. It’s really just a beautiful way for God to communicate to us – if he gave us a modern textbook, frankly, the concept of love and sin would be much more difficult to understand. God’s precision is translated in to a human precision, which is a favor to us all.

    • Jimi Burden

      Excellent comment. We'd be wise to remember especially what you wrote in the beginning about the need to publish and the desire for prestige.

    • David Nickol

      So much of historical research is driven by the necessity to publish and
      the necessity to pull narratives out of what is really a scarce amount
      of data . . . .

      This is an interesting argument. Call all historical research into question! One might argue that "publish or perish" applies to all academic disciplines. So basically we must look askance at all human knowledge!

      The truth is that history was first recorded by myopic men, and even more myopic men now synthesize it.

      So all of history is unreliable, but the Bible is true?

      I think the crucial details that made me trust these accounts were the characters. . . . To me, once I gave these books an honest chance at being true, I found the consistency was just too great to be a lie.

      I think many people feel the same about War and Peace, or The Brothers Karamazov. I think it is true that the Bible (and extra-biblical Christianity) is filled with wonderful stories, but the same is true about, say, Greek mythology or, for that matter, Frank Herbert's Dune.

      By the way, few people—even few educated non-Christians—would claim that the Gospels are "lies."

      • NicholasBeriah Cotta

        I meant to make an argument that the authenticity of a story can not just be judged alone by "credentialed historians" but by the credibility of the story itself (and that’s why I make the literature segue.) I am not saying historians have no value, but I am saying that they don’t have ultimate value, even in regard to history – they are merely a segment of both places and have particular biases and self-confirming narratives that they’d like to see come through. Historians always conflict, sometimes incredibly widely; who are you going to believe? Ultimately, you judge the conflict based on many factors from your own life experience, other corroborating facts, and the consistency of their narrative. I just think it needs to be reiterated that academics don’t hold a monopoly on the subject of their own work; Let me quote from an article I read once from a moral judgment researcher, (http://www.thisviewoflife.com/index.php/magazine/articles/why-sam-harris-is-unlikely-to-change-his-mind10):
        “But when we look at conscious verbal reasoning as an evolutionary adaptation, it begins to look more like a tool for helping people argue, persuade, and guard their reputations than a tool shaped by selection pressures for finding objective truth. Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber synthesized the large bodies of research on reasoning in cognitive and social psychology like this: “The function of reasoning is argumentative. It is to devise and evaluate arguments intended to persuade…. Skilled arguers are not after the truth but after arguments supporting their views.” When self-interest, partisan identity, or strong emotions are involved, reasoning turns into a lawyer, using all its powers to reach the desired conclusion.”
        Expertise in our society is overvalued because normal people are afraid and they are more comfortable when an “expert” has a god-like mastery. Most of the time though, experts are experts in sophistry and having some of the highest I.Q.s in society has led their confirmation biases to simply be more cleverly argued.
        It's not just that the Bible is full of wonderful stories, but that they are incredibly consistent stories, and that the content claims to be true in a real sense. Also, where did they come from? They came from the dregs and backwaters of a backwater society; how have they lasted next to Karamozov and Tolstoy? I think Jesus is a character that you just can’t write; he has impacted society more than any other single man in history and he lived on taught on this Earth in a desert at age 30 almost 2,000 years ago.

      • Christopher

        see my above coment

  • I think the big news here is Ehrman has changed his story. He previously said the divinity of Jesus was not claimed until around the end of the first century. Now he says it was claimed almost right after the resurrection. That is a pretty big retreat by a pretty major scholar. That means they are still looking for a theory that makes sense of the data. The early divinity claim is problematic as well. Did Jesus claim it? If He didn't and the resurrection was not real then it seems quite strange for the apostles to assert this. Memory of Jesus would be very fresh. Greeks might have played fast and loose with the human/god distinction but Jews did not. For Jews a divinity claim was likely to get you killed.

    • David Nickol

      That is a pretty big retreat by a pretty major scholar.

      Whether or not you are correct in claiming that Ehrman has altered his position, the use of the word retreat here is telling. The true story of who Jesus was is not a scholarly war in which one side advances and the other side retreats. Human nature being what it is, scholars may often have an irrational, emotional attachment to their current and past positions. But true scholarship is not about advancing your cherished beliefs or retreating from them. It's not about winning and losing. It's about evaluating the evidence as objectively and dispassionately as possible. That is something both believers and nonbelievers are obligated to do in the study of the historical Jesus. I am sure that many here see modern biblical scholarship largely as a "retreat" from what they believe the Catholic Church once stood for, but that is not (in my opinion) the right way to look at things. What we should be looking for is the truth about Jesus, and if, say, some major archeological discovery were to shed new light that strongly tipped opinions one way or another, a true scholar would welcome that evidence whether it bolstered or undermined his or her current position.

      • It is a bit different here. Scholars are trying to find some story, any story, other than the Christian story. When they fail that is interesting. Often scholars will dig in their heels and simply refuse to address some pretty major questions with their theory. Often it is just Christians asking these questions and secular scholars like to stick together and pretend the Christians don't exist. So they are not exactly about truth. It is more like ignoring the elephant in the room.

        So in that context the fact that Ehrmans position is moving around does mean something. It is as close as he will come to acknowledging the objections are bothering him.

        • David Nickol

          You make it sound like there is a war going on between Christians and "scholars." I think it is very safe to assume that the vast majority of New Testament scholars are believing Christians, not Jews or atheists who went into the field to debunk Christianity. Also, the vast majority of biblical scholars who laid the foundations of modern New Testament scholarship beginning in the eighteenth century were believing Christians. Modern biblical scholarship wasn't founded by secularists to attack Christianity. It arose within Christianity and is still very much a Christian enterprise.

          You seem to be convinced that "the Christian story" is so obviously true that any Biblical scholars who don't believe it (or don't believe your version of it) are at best deluding themselves.

          It is as close as he will come to acknowledging the objections are bothering him.

          I am guessing you do not know Bart Ehrman personally and are in no position to psychoanalyze him. I thought what we were supposed to be doing was judging people's ideas, not judging people.

  • David Nickol

    I enjoyed the book, and I think it's disappointing how many Christians
    jump into an automatic “pan-the-heretic” mode before reading it.

    It is good to see a review of Bart Ehrman's work that does not treat him as a crackpot or an "outlier." He is, as I think most people know, the author of one of the most widely used textbooks for "Introduction to the New Testament" courses at the college level. How Jesus Became God is not to be mentioned in the same breath as "debunking" books like The Passover Plot. Trent Horn is to be commended for not dismissing Ehrman's work as "nonsense" that was long ago discredited. Ehrman is in the mainstream of modern New Testament scholarship. That doesn't mean he is right about everything, or even right about the most important things. But it does mean that his work can be dismissed with the wave of a hand.

    • fredx2

      But I am shocked at how much of this scholarship is merely suppositions, or "people making their case" rather than provable facts. But people act as if Bart Ehrman has proven something, when he obviously has not. He has just made a case for something and supported it with evidence. However, the quality of that evidence (form criticism, for example) is always the weak point of these cases.

      • David Nickol

        But I am shocked at how much of this scholarship is merely suppositions,
        or "people making their case" rather than provable facts.

        You work with the evidence and the tools you have. New Testament scholarship is never going to be physics.

        But people act as if Bart Ehrman has proven something, when he obviously has not.

        First, I am not sure what you think Bart Ehrman claims to have proven in this book. He certainly did not write it to "prove" that Jesus was not divine or didn't rise from the dead.

        Second, many people who would disagree with Bart Ehrman would claim the Bible proves something it clearly does not prove, unless you approach it with the assumption that it is the inspired word of God. The Catholic Church claims to know infallibly that Mary was conceived without original sin and was bodily assumed into heaven at the end of her life. Catholics must believe that. Where is the proof?

        However, the quality of that evidence (form criticism, for example) is always the weak point of these cases.

        Form criticism (or the historical-critical method in general) is not evidence. It is a tool. If you do not believe the Bible is the inspired word of God—or even if you do—what is a more reliable way to study the Bible?

      • Jimi Burden

        I made the mistake for a couple of decades to rely on biblical scholarship as if it were the truth. After I finally began reading evangelical and catholic scholars, I recognized that much or most of it is good guesswork and that we really shouldn't put our faith in this basket. I tell people now -- the evidence points equally well to both sides of the debate. You have to choose.

  • Randall Ward

    One of the best books I have read on the subject is the three volume "The Gospel and Letters of John" by Urban C. von Wahlde. He writes about the unfolding gospel as written in the books of John and the Johannine letters. I always knew there was something "funny" about the gospel of John, the way it is written and it was not until I read these three volumes that I had my eyes opened to the process. No book has helped my belief as much as this three volume set. It is not hard to read but it is long and requires study. You will be well rewarded by your efforts as you will actually see the early processes of the Church as it grew deeper in it's faith.

  • D. Havas

    For example, among Tacitus, Suetonius, and Cassius Dio we have three different accounts of where Nero was when Rome burned, but that doesn’t mean Nero wasn’t in the city when it happened.

    Nero could have been anywhere. It's not a matter that's claimed to have infinite importance. A "saviour" should be held to a higher standard than somebody who would burn his own people... oh wait, I guess not!

  • David Nickol

    Most Christians say the apostles came to believe Jesus was God after
    seeing how Christ’s resurrection vindicated his claims to divinity. But
    Bart Ehrman’s newest book, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee, offers another theory.

    The above strikes me as not quite accurate. I think they key point is that what Trent says most Christians believe is that the followers of Jesus began to believe he was God after the resurrection. That is consistent with what Ehrman says.

    . . . Jesus did not declare himself to be God. He believed and taught that he was the future king of the coming kingdom of God, the messiah of God yet to be revealed. This was the message he delivered to his disciples, and in the end, it was the message that got him crucified. It was only afterward, once the disciples believed that their crucified master had been raised from the dead, that they began to think that he must, in some sense, be God.

    The difference between what Trent Horn asserts that "most Christians say" and what Bart Ehrman says is that presumably "most Christians" believe Jesus made claims to divinity during his lifetime, and Bart Ehrman argues that Jesus did not make such claims.

    In my reading, I have found that it is not at all unusual for biblical scholars who are also believing Christians to question whether or not Jesus made claims to divinity during his lifetime. In fact, I recently quoted N. T. Wright—certainly a believing Christian!—raising the question of whether Jesus knew he was God during his lifetime and answering with less than a definitive yes.

    • NicholasBeriah Cotta

      Can I just say bravo to David for almost single-handedly taking the skeptical position on this thread? In summation, your points have been reserved but valid I think.
      Your nuanced position here is interesting and if I can repeat what you're saying, would it be "Even the Christian community didn't really realize a specific point when Jesus went from clearly a man with followers to clearly a God man, and Ehrmann is simply positing that he didn't argue it for himself at all."
      The Christian position assumes that pretty much the first group that knew Jesus as God would be the apostles and to those disciples to whom he appeared. Ehrman's position that this exact little time frame was explained by something other than a bodily resurrection, no?
      Do you think that this idea catches hold if this specifically small group of people had some sort of mass hallucination? And doesn't motivation come in to play when gaging the veracity of their claims - as in- what would they be doing it to gain? The new Christian religion eschewed sex, money and power. I can surmise that we have had examples of small cult like groups that are willing to die for their mass delusions, but always the group has embraced selfish behavior (like sex, money, power) or outright lunacy (mass suicide). The *simplest* motivation is still the bodily resurrection of their leader.
      I guess I didn't read the book so feel free to dismiss me if the explanation is too long/etcetera...

      • Michael Murray

        Can I just say bravo to David for almost single-handedly taking the skeptical position on this thread?

        In what sense do you regard David's posts as the skeptical position ? It seems he is just stating the mainstream historical position. It's not the same as the Catholic faith position. Is that why you regard it as skeptical ?

        • NicholasBeriah Cotta

          Skeptical to the article I meant, my apologies. People who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible are definitely a minority.

      • I think the reasons you don't see many comments from atheists on this post is that it is really a question for believers. I have little interest in when Christians began to believe that Jesus was also Yaweh. To the extent that I am interested, I don't feel Horn has really engaged the topic. Check out Ehrman's appearance on the unbeleivable podcast recently.

        In terms of why early Christians would embrace this new religion, my guess is that it would be because Christians promised eternal bliss, and the tenets of denying pleasure would not become orthodox for until at least the third century.

  • Henry

    It would appear that both sides of the argument here need to create beliefs or suppositions and present them as facts in order to support an argument. For example, Trent Horn early in his article says that " The Life of Apollonius was probably created as a competitor to the Gospel accounts of Jesus which, by that point, were in wide circulation across the Roman Empire." And then he goes on to say it was "easily accepted because it was crafted to imitate Jesus".

    The balance between the words "probably" and then "because" perhaps needs some further definition.

  • Christopher

    If you believe Christ was God or not depends on your frame of reference. A Catholic believes that the Trinity God shines through the glass door of our souls and that Christ cleans only outside of that door with His Son, Jesus, through His passion. The Catholic in turn believes they themselves must clean the inside of that glass door of our soul, which gathers dust(sin) from time to time, by becoming holy thru the process of Confession to a priest and Holy Communion. Jews believe God the Father, not Christ, shines through the door of our soul and cleans the outside of the glass door and that they must clean the other side like Catholics believe. A Protestant believes Christ came and through his sacrifice on the cross cleaned both sides of the glass door of our soul. Accordingly to Protestants, there is no need for a confession to a priest and communion is just a symbol. The Muslim believes Muhammad was sent by God to clean both sides of the glass door. An Atheist believes there is no light shining through the door because the door does not represent the soul. They believe people don't have souls. The "door" is the here and now caused by evolution is made of wood not glass so they can't understand what everybody is thinking. No wonder we can't agree if Christ is God!

    With that said historical research of the correctness of the Bible is not relevant. People will believe what they want to believe. Christ was felt to be God by many because, among many other things, of the meaning of His inspirational stories and His philosophy of life. For example, in about 150 words Christ explained the three great philosophies of life in the parable of the good Samaritan. Without repeating this well known story he spoke of the philosophy of the robbers which was-what is yours is mine and I am going to take it. He spoke of the philosophy of the priest who passed the injured person by-what is mine is mine and I am going to keep it. And lastly He spoke of the philosophy of the Samaritan which was-what is mine is yours and I am going to share it.

    The fact is all of Christ teachings have this level of inspiration and this is why He is considered God by many, right or wrong. Moreover,this level of inspiration is not myopic but should be accepted by all because it teaches us not to be animals. It at least gives humanity a goal of behavior that allows us to live together with all our religious and non-religious differences. Yes inspiration was present by many before Christ and after but no one seems to do it as well as He in my opinion.

    For me we can not change what people believe. We all have our reasons and passion in that regard. However, I want the Atheist to be a kinder Atheist. I want a Protestant to be a kinder Protestant a Jew to be a kinder Jew and a Catholic to be a kinder Catholic. Let's end the debate about who is right or wrong in their beliefs and start the debate on how to be kinder to each other. Then we all win!

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      I agree. I don't really care what theists believe; so long as they don't insist that my behavior conform to their beliefs.

      • Christopher

        I agree with you. No one should insist their behavior conform to others beliefs.But understanding what others believe is important because sometimes they fly planes into buildings and plan to kill innocent people one of which my be you! And understanding why someone thinks the way they think is key to getting along with them.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          Again, I agree. That's one of the reasons I'm here: to try to understand the viewpoints if people whose thought-processes are utterly alien to me.

          • Christopher

            For me some viewpoints I understand and others I will never understand. Some people follow their hunches and think like the mob believing a series of coincidences point to something more even if they don't have "proof" of concept. While other people need proof of a concept under the scientific terms only they determine as acceptable before believing a given truth. So I understand an Atheist viewpoint and I understand my viewpoint as a Catholic, but I don't understand why somebody would blow themselves up based on any religion. While these people believe the "ends justify the means" reasonable people will never understand. So good luck with that!

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Understanding why a theist would blow themselves up to kill non-believers is perfectly understandable. Being unable to take an objective view of one's own position on religion is far more complex and interesting to me.

          • Christopher

            I understand. The rubic cube of complexity in religious and non religious truth is amazing.

  • Patrick Goggins

    I read "How Jesus Became God" and the refutation, "How God Became Jesus." Both books explained progressive Christology, how almost all Christologies - high and low - were around very early on, and how these Christologies were chronologically *eliminated,* from low to high, as the nascent church built its orthodoxy.

    My comments, and these goes to both books, are: 1) they assume that Jesus’s ministry was apocalyptic, when Crossan and others make a good case that Jesus’s ministry was sapiential – that is, present here now and attainable through adhering to the law, and 2) that the Pauline epistles are the earliest source writings – when the Epistle of James the Just arguably pre-dates them.

    For further discussion of these comments, and a thorough review of both books, please check out my Reader’s Guide to Bart Ehrman's How Jesus Became God.

    This is the latest in a series which includes my best-selling Reader’s Guide to Reza Aslan’s Zealot , and my Reader’s Guide to Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Jesus .

  • A major issue with Christianity is the concept of the Trinity—three persons in one God. How can this be? It doesn’t make scientific sense. Or does it?
    From John 1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” What could more clearly describe an inexpressible
    multiple singularity (the Trinity)? Consider:

    God would be identified as the underlying consciousness/intelligence
    of everything;

    The Word (which was ‘with God’) would be the identifying nature/spirit, the manifestation communicated; and

    Christ would be the communicator, the “Word made flesh,” the Son who, since the beginning, ‘puts the rubber on the road/world. (God "created all things by Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 3:9))

    And so we have the Trinity, at the same time a singularity.