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Why Jesus is God: A Response to Bart Ehrman

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Well, it’s Easter time, and that means that the mainstream media and publishing houses can be counted upon to issue de-bunking attacks on orthodox Christianity.  The best-publicized of these is Bart Ehrman’s latest book How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee.

Many by now know at least the outlines of Ehrman’s biography:  once a devout Bible-believing evangelical Christian, trained at Wheaton College, the alma mater of Billy Graham, he saw the light and became an agnostic scholar and is now on a mission to undermine the fundamental assumptions of Christianity.  In this most recent tome, Ehrman lays out what is actually a very old thesis, going back at least to the 18th century and repeated in skeptical circles ever since, namely, that Jesus was a simple itinerant preacher who never claimed to be divine and whose “resurrection” was in fact an invention of his disciples who experienced hallucinations of their master after his death.  Of course Ehrman, like so many of his skeptical colleagues across the centuries, breathlessly presents this thesis as though he has made a brilliant discovery.  But basically, it’s the same old story.  When I was a teenager, I read British Biblical scholar Hugh Schonfield’s Passover Plot, which lays out the same narrative, and just a few months ago, I read Reza Aslan’s Zealot, which pursues a very similar line, and I’m sure next Christmas or Easter I will read still another iteration of the theory.

How Jesus Became GodAnd so, once more into the breach.  Ehrman’s major argument for the thesis that Jesus did not consider himself divine is that explicit statements of Jesus’ divine identity can be found only in the later fourth Gospel of John, whereas the three Synoptic Gospels, earlier and thus presumably more historically reliable, do not feature such statements from Jesus himself or the Gospel writers.  This is so much nonsense.  It is indeed the case that the most direct affirmations of divinity are found in John—“I and the Father are one;” “before Abraham was I am;” “He who sees me sees the Father,” etc.  But equally clear statements of divinity are on clear display in the Synoptics, provided we know how to decipher a different semiotic system.

For example, in Mark’s Gospel, we hear that as the apostolic band is making its way toward Jerusalem with Jesus, “they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid” (Mk. 10:32).  Awe and terror are the typical reactions to the presence of Yahweh in the Old Testament.  Similarly, when Matthew reports that Jesus, at the beginning of the last week of his earthly life, approached Jerusalem from the east, by way of Bethpage and Bethany and the Mount of Olives, he is implicitly affirming Ezekiel’s prophecy that the glory of the Lord, which had departed from his temple, would return from the east, by way of the Mount of Olives.  In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus addresses the crippled man who had been lowered through the roof of Peter’s house, saying, “My son, your sins are forgiven,” to which the bystanders respond, “Who does this man think he is?  Only God can forgive sins.”  What is implied there is a Christology as high as anything in John’s Gospel.

And affirmations of divinity on the lips of Jesus himself positively abound in the Synoptics.  When he says, in Matthew’s Gospel, “He who does not love me more than his mother or father is not worthy of me,” he is implying that he himself is the greatest possible good.  When in Luke’s Gospel, he says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away,” he is identifying himself with the very Word of God.  When he says in Matthew’s Gospel, in reference to himself, “But I tell you, something greater than the Temple is here,” he is affirming unambiguously that he is divine, since for first century Jews, only Yahweh himself would be greater than the Jerusalem Temple.  Perhaps most remarkably, when he says, almost as a tossed-off aside at the commencement of the Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard it said, but I say…” he is claiming superiority to the Torah, which was the highest possible authority for first century Jews.  But the only one superior to the Torah would be the author of the Torah, namely God himself.  Examples such as these from the Synoptic authors could be multiplied indefinitely.  The point is that the sharp demarcation between the supposedly “high” Christology of John and the “low” Christology of the Synoptics, upon which the Ehrman thesis depends, is simply wrong-headed.

And now to the “hallucinations.”  Most of the skeptical critics of Christianity subscribe to some version of David Hume’s account of the miraculous.  Hume said that since no reasonable person could possibly believe in miracles, those who claimed to have experienced a miracle must be unreasonable.  They must, then, be delusional or naïve or superstitious.  Hume’s logic was circular and unconvincing in the eighteenth century, and it hasn’t improved with age.  Yes, if we assume that miracles are impossible, then those who report them are, to some degree, insane, but what if we don’t make things easy for ourselves and assume the very proposition we are trying to prove?  What if we keep an open mind and assume that miracles are, though rare, possible?  Then we don’t have to presume without argument that those who claim to have experienced them are delusional, and we can look at their reports with unjaundiced eyes.

What in fact do we find when we turn to the resurrection appearance accounts in the New Testament?  We find reports of many different people who experienced Jesus alive after his death and burial:  Peter, John, Mary Magdalene, the twelve, “five hundred brothers at once,” and Paul.  Does it strike you as reasonable that all of these people, on different occasions, were having hallucinations of the same person?  The case of Paul is especially instructive.  Ehrman argued that the visions of the risen Jesus were created in the anxious brains of his grief-stricken disciples, eager to commune once more with their dead Master.  But Paul wasn’t grieving for Jesus at all; in fact, he was actively persecuting Jesus’ followers.  He didn’t crave communion with a dead Master; he was trying to stamp out the memory of someone he took to be a pernicious betrayer of Judaism.  And yet, his experience of the risen Jesus was so powerful that it utterly transformed his life, and he went to his death defending the objectivity of it.

Debunkers of orthodox Christianity have been around for a long time, and in some ways, it is testimony to the enduring power of the Christian faith that the nay-sayers feel obliged to repeat the same tired arguments over and over.
 
 
(Image credit: Herald Sun)

Fr. Robert Barron

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Fr. Robert Barron is an acclaimed author, speaker, and theologian. He’s America’s first podcasting priest and one of the world’s most innovative teachers of Catholicism. His global, non-profit media ministry called Word On Fire reaches millions of people by utilizing emerging technologies to draw people into or back to the Faith. Fr. Barron is also the creator and host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, 10-part documentary series and study program about the Catholic Faith. He is the author of several books including Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master (Crossroad, 2008); The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path (Orbis, 2002); and Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith (Image, 2011). Find more of his writing and videos at WordOnFire.org.

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  • Lynn Narkevic

    Passover Plot was published in 1965. I hope that the past almost 50 years has added to the amount of biblical scholarship to write about. And based on Amazon.com's description of Zealot, I would say that its author's goal is decidedly different than Ehrman's.

    Your referring to his "seeing the light" and becoming an agnostic scholar comes off as sarcastic at best and is unworthy of the respectful piece I assume you intended to write.

    I have read a few of his works and would disagree with you that he is on a "mission to undermine the fundamental assumptions of Christianity." He, like most of us, is on a mission to find the truth. If it appears that this undermines your ideas of what Christianity stands for, then your problem is with the religion, not with someone who has dedicated his life to studying that religion.

    • cminca

      "Your referring to his "seeing the light" and becoming an agnostic scholar comes off as sarcastic at best...."
      That is SOP for Fr. Barron

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Lynn, thanks for your comment! I haven't seen you at Strange Notions, so welcome!

      I tend to agree with Fr. Barron that Ehrman has seemingly made it his mission to undermine Christianity. I find it difficult to examine his corpus and argue otherwise:

      http://www.amazon.com/Bart-D.-Ehrman/e/B001I9RR7G

      The majority of his recent books all attempt to unearth some earth-shattering truth that would devastate Christianity. These include:

      - Arguing that Jesus never consider himself divine
      - Claiming that many of Jesus' words in the Bible are later fabrications
      - Positing that the Bible is full of contradictions and therefore cannot be trusted

      His mission is most apparent when you read descriptions of each book, like this one from "Forged: Writing in the Name of God--Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are":

      "If many of the books in the Bible were not in fact written by Jesus’s inner circle—but by writers living decades later, with differing agendas in rival communities—what does that do to the authority of Scripture?"

      • Arthur Jeffries

        The marketing tactics of Bart Ehrman's publishers do not necessarily reflect Mr. Ehrman's true intentions. In fact, Mr. Ehrman has said repeatedly that he is merely popularizing the scholarly consensus for a lay audience, and that most of what he writes in his books is neither new nor unique and certainly not "earth-shattering." This would seem to be true, as most scholars do not believe that Jesus ever claimed to be divine, nor do scholars disagree with Ehrman that "many of Jesus' words in the Bible are later fabrications." Furthermore, one needn't even be a scholar to see that the Bible is full of contradictions.

        • C. J. W.

          Forgive me, but how could one ever prove convincingly that particular quotes from the Bible are "authentic" language or not? If the tone or structure of a particular passage stands out, couldn't that just as easily be because of the style of a particular translator? I'd love to hear some specifics (from anyone) on how this is done scholastically.

          • Arthur Jeffries

            The following may be helpful: http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~kloppen/criteria.htm

            If the tone or structure of a particular passage stands out, couldn't that just as easily be because of the style of a particular translator?

            Keep in mind that NT scholars are working from the Greek text, not translations into English or other languages.

          • David Nickol

            Forgive me, but how could you ever prove convincingly that particular quotes from the Bible are authentic or not?

            If by authentic quotes you mean actual sayings of Jesus, it is extremely common in biblical studies (including by Catholic scholars in good standing) to try to determine what are the "very words of Jesus" (or, as one often reads in biblical scholarship, ipsissima verba jesu). No biblical scholar that I have ever run across believes that all of the quotations in red type in a red-letter edition of the New Testament were actually spoken by Jesus (that is, spoken by Jesus, translated into Greek, and recorded in the Gospels). Of course, there is no way to prove that Jesus didn't say what he is quoted in the Gospels as saying, but there is no way to prove he did say anything he is reported to have said.

            I think Arthur Jeffries makes a very important statement about Bart Ehrman:

            In fact, Mr. Ehrman has said repeatedly that he is merely popularizing the scholarly consensus for a lay audience, and that most of what he writes in his books is neither new nor unique and certainly not "earth-shattering."

            Fr. Barron says, "In this most recent tome, Ehrman lays out what is actually a very old thesis, going back at least to the 18th century and repeated in skeptical circles ever since . . . . " The tone sounds contemptuous to me, but Fr. Barron (in my opinion) has his facts essentially correct. Ehrman is popularizing the consensus of modern biblical scholarship—that is, the consensus of those who employ "higher criticism" or the historical-critical method, which dates back to the 17th or 18th centuries. I do not understand why it makes sense to scoff at academic results that have been built on by generations of scholars for hundreds of years. If Bart Ehrman were to claim to have invented a whole new approach to biblical criticism rather than to rely on the work that has been done over the last few hundred years, then we would have cause to be suspicious of him. But Ehrman is a "mainstream" biblical scholar whose books should shock no one who is reasonably familiar with modern biblical criticism.

          • C. J. W.

            [...] Fr. Barron (in my opinion) has his facts essentially correct. Ehrman is popularizing the consensus of modern biblical scholarship—that is, the consensus of those who employ "higher criticism" or the historical-critical method, which dates back to the 17th or 18th centuries. I do not understand why it makes sense to scoff at academic results that have been built on by generations of scholars for hundreds of years.

            This is really what I wanted to get at. We can't make the mistake of talking about academic consensus in Biblical scholarship as if it were a scientific consensus with statistics and p-values (and I'm not saying you are; however, many do, because it suits their foregone conclusions). These are not high levels of confidence we're relying on for our expert consensus, and we may take it with a grain of salt as we may the words of the Bible itself. To me, it reeks of pretending at certainty in a highly uncertain field.

          • David Nickol

            To me, the trotting out of this scholarship as Fact(!) reeks of pretending at certainty in a highly uncertain field.

            Who is making the bigger claim to have the "Facts"? Fr. Barron or Bart Ehrman?

            Here is a paragraph from the Introduction to Ehrman's How Jesus Became God:

            In this book I have tried to approach this question in a way that will be useful not only for secular historians of religion like me, but also for believers like my friend who continue to think that Jesus is, in fact, God. As a result, I do not take a stand on the theological question of Jesus's divine status. I am instead interested in the historical development that led to the affirmation that he is God. This historical development certainly transpired in one way or another, and what people personally believe about Christ should not, in theory, affect the conclusions they draw historically.

            I have barely begun the book, but if Ehrman carries through with that approach, it certainly doesn't sound like Fr. Barron is giving an accurate account of Ehrman's work. If you are a believer or a nonbeliever, the question of how Jesus came to be viewed (correctly or incorrectly) as God is still a perfectly legitimate question.

            It is Fr Barron who is calling Bart Ehrman's argument "nonsense." Ehrman, as a former believer, acknowledges that he used to be a believer, but he does not come across as saying, "I do not now believe the nonsense I formerly believe."

          • C. J. W.

            It is Fr Barron who is calling Bart Ehrman's argument "nonsense." Ehrman, as a former believer, acknowledges that he used to be a believer, but he does not come across as saying, "I do not now believe the nonsense I formerly believe."

            I think the Fr also oversteps the certitude of his analysis as well. And here's the trouble with this kind of scholarship: we can't quantify *how* probable is a particular interpretation to be historically accurate. I think Mr. Ehrman reiterates salient points about the mention of Jesus' divinity in the different Gospels; at the same time, I'm not convinced that they far outweigh the probability of the Fr's interpretation. I think the determination of which is "True" is determined by one's own overall feelings about Christianity, and not on superior scholarship -one way or the other.

          • Michael Murray

            Thus, to write as if this issue were sealed academically dishonest.

            I don't think Ehrman is being academically dishonest here. He writes at some length about the difference between history and what actually happened for example:

            At this stage it is important to stress a fundamental point. History, for historians, is not the same as "the past". The past is everything that has happened before; history is what we can establish has happened before, using historical forms of evidence.

            Tim O'Neill said similar things in a recent article here.

            You should have a read of the book or look at some of Ehrman's available online material. There is a lot of overlap between his books so any of them will explain what the historical approach to the Bible is about.

            It's shame Father Barron wants to poor scorn on Ehrman in the way he does. It means I can't be bothered reading past the first couple of sentences. It may be the rebuttal to Ehrman is clear and well known to Barron but that doesn't mean it is to the audience here.

          • C. J. W.

            I don't think Ehrman is being academically dishonest here. He writes at some length about the difference between history and what actually happened for example:

            And he may not be. I don't know, because I haven't actually read his book. This article is what brought it to my attention. However Mr. Ehrman frames his proposition, the promotional materials for his book dishonestly suggest a high degree of certainty, which unsophisticated readers may take for granted (though not necessarily here).

          • Michael Murray

            I hadn't read the promotional material but I can see what you mean on Amazon. Everything is a definite statement. I think that's kind of inevitable with publishers. "A plausible hypothesis for how Jesus became God" kind of loses something as a title !

          • Ignorant Amos

            That is exactly how Kris D Komarnitsky puts it on the cover of his book, well not exactly, but near enough, "An inquiry into alternative explanations of Christian origins"

            http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00I6DDLUO/ref=cm_cr_ryp_prd_ttl_sol_0

            An excellent read.

          • Ignorant Amos

            The problem now for me is that Ehrman's last book was academically dishonest leaving me with a bad taste for buying and reading this latest book.

          • David Nickol

            This is a case in which the evidence is available to anyone who wants to make a judgment as to whether or not Fr. Barron or Bart Ehrman is correct. It seems to me that Ehrman's position that seems to offend Fr. Barron here is not a matter of whether one believes that Jesus is God. Fr. Barron states it as follows:

            Ehrman’s major argument for the thesis that Jesus did not consider himself divine is that explicit statements of Jesus’ divine identity canbe found only in the later fourth Gospel of John, whereas the three Synoptic Gospels, earlier and thus presumably more historically reliable, do not feature such statements from Jesus himself or the Gospel writers. This is so much nonsense.

            The question of what Jesus believed himself to be is discussed by Ehrman in Chapter 3. He says

            The question in this chapter is, Did Jesus say that? Or other things that are attributed to him? Did he claim to be the one who came down from heaven who could lead people back to the Father? Did he claim that he preexisted? Did he claim that he was equal with God? If he did, then there is a very good reason that his followers did so as well—this is what he taught them. But if he did not claim to be God, then we need to find some other explanation for why his followers dis so later, after his death.

            Note that Fr. Barron broadens Ehrman's question by talking about "statements from Jesus himself or the Gospel writers." Fr. Barron goes on to present a list of quotes from the synoptics, but not one of them is an explicit statement by Jesus that he claims to be God:

            • He who does not love me more than his mother or father is not worthy of me . . . .
            • Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words
            will never pass away . . . .
            • But I tell you, something greater than the Temple is here . . .
            • You have heard it said, but I say . . . .

            These may have been startling sayings to a first-century Jewish audience in Palestine, but they are not explicit claims to be God. So I think Fr. Barron did not make his case. I think many biblical scholars who are deeply committed Christians would agree with Bart Ehrman that Jesus makes no explicit claims to be God in the Synoptics, and would also agree that the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John are not to be taken as actual quotes of Jesus but as theological meditations or discourses.

          • asker42

            Fr. Barron didn't say they were explicit claims. He said they were claims that could have been interpreted as Jesus implicitly claiming divinity.

          • Michael Murray

            Ehrman continues in the same way. The approach he is taking is not an anti-Christian or anti-theist polemic in my opinion.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Furthermore, his wife and many of of his closest friends and family are Christian, so I doubt his motives are not as nefarious as is being asserted. As you know, Ehrman came to his agnosticism as result of not being able to square the circle of theodicy and not as a result of his discovery of NT errancy.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Just about all scholars are in agreement that 5 of the 6 endings of Mark are made up nonsense by
            later scribes attempting to re write what was to them was a strange end to his gospel. There are loads of internet sites that explain the various methods used by experts to show up the problems with the vaeious versions. But the conclusion is the same, scribes meddled with scripture, some very obvious, others not so much so. How do we now what is adulterated and what is not?

          • asker42

            What 6 different endings? Mark has 2 endings.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Naaaàh!....it doesn't have two.....know yer new testament I say....bible criticism is a bitch...look it up.

          • asker42

            Mark is considered to have a short ending and an expanded ending, and most scholars believe the expansion is a later edition. There may be a number of "versions" of the ending due to minute descrepencies, but I have not seen any theory about there being 6 substantially different endings.

          • Ignorant Amos

            There are many variants with minor issues and a lot of that is discussed here...

            http://www.textexcavation.com/marcanendings.html

            Granted, most people only talk about the Long Ending and Short Ending variants, but there are others.

            I know of at least one theory in a paper outlining my point.

            There is what is considered the Original Ending (OE), the Short Ending (SE), the Long Ending (LE), the Very Long Ending (VLE), the Double Ending (DE) and the Bobbio Ending (BE). Some scholars argue for a a lost Original Long Ending, but we can let that fly.

            http://errancywiki.com/index.php?title=Legends2

  • GCBill

    Hume said that since no reasonable person could possibly believe in miracles, those who claimed to have experienced a miracle must be unreasonable. They must, then, be delusional or naïve or superstitious. Hume’s logic was circular and unconvincing in the eighteenth century, and it hasn’t improved with age. Yes, if we assume that miracles are impossible, then those who report them are, to some degree, insane, but what if we don’t make things easy for ourselves and assume the very proposition we are trying to prove?

    I don't think this is accurate as a summary, let alone effective as a response. Hume thought that nature was somehow "determined" by laws, though he was famously unsure of how we come to know this. If you grant that premise, then his argument has considerable force. For how could testimony be strong enough to convince us that a law had been violated? Testimony is sometimes unreliable, but the laws of nature are rarely (if ever) broken. Therefore, the more likely explanation is (almost) always that the people who attest to miracles are mistaken. Of course, if you try to evaluate this as a deductive argument, then it fails, because the laws of nature are not directly reachable through deduction. So there's always a chance that a seemingly violatory occurrence is actually contrary to nature's observed laws. But it would take unrealistically strong testimony in order for us to be warranted in believing that. So Hume's argument, when properly understood, sets an achievable (but very difficult) standard of proof for miracle claims.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      "Testimony is sometimes unreliable, but the laws of nature are rarely (if ever) broken. Therefore, the more likely explanation is (almost) always that the people who attest to miracles are mistaken."

      Thanks for the comment, GCBill! Christians would of course agree that in general, miracles are less likely than natural explanations for surprising events because miracles are admittedly rare.

      But why should past infrequency of miracles determine whether a particular event in the present has a miraculous cause?

      When it comes to a specific miraculous claim, such as the healing of a paralyzed man through prayer, the probability that a miracle occurred must be determined based on the available background evidence, not on the past frequency of miracles. If all natural explanations have been exhausted then the probability of a supernatural explanation increases significantly.

      • GCBill

        But why should past infrequency of miracles determine whether a particular event in the present has a miraculous cause?

        Well, determine is a bit strong, because it's hardly the only relevant piece of information. But I do think the "past infrequency of miracles" counts as part of the "available background evidence" for a miracle claim. I'm taking a hint from Bayes here, although doing a full Bayesian analyses of the resurrection is nightmarishly difficult.

        If all natural explanations have been exhausted then the probability of a supernatural explanation increases significantly.

        The trouble is, we're not in a position to know if they've all been exhausted or not. So long as our knowledge of the physical world is incomplete, the set of unknown explanations will contain both natural and supernatural ones. What we can say in such a scenario is that our known supernatural explanations are (more or less) probable than our known natural ones.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          And the danger of positing a supernatural explanation is two-fold: first, because we don't know everything about nature as yet - assiging to the supernatural an explanation simply because we haven't found out enough yet is a logical fallacy; second, because in every case where we have found an explanation for a perviously inexplicable phenomenon, the explanation has turned out to be natural, rather than supernatural.
          Why look for a supernatural explanation when we have never found one?

          • MattyTheD

            M. Solange,
            "in every case where we have found an explanation for a previously
            inexplicable phenomenon, the explanation has turned out to be natural"
            Seems like a tautology to me. The ONLY explanations that naturalists would accept are natural. So it does not surprise me that "all" the explanations they find are natural. You've essentially given a definition of naturalists and presented it as it if verifies an objective truth.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Not in the slightest. Many of those naturL explanations came from theists - as the theists frequently remind us. Show me a case where a supernatural explanation has been found.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          The scenario where one finds a natural explanation for something previously assumed to be supernatural is an interesting one. It seems to me that the discovery of the natural explanation might change the theological significance of the event, but that wouldn't *necessarily* be the case. For a theist, the reinterpretation might be something along these lines: "Aha. I thought God had chosen a unique mode of expression in that moment in order to get the point across, but now I can see that God was using one of his usual motifs to get the point across." The meaning that one would assign to the event might remain more or less the same.

          Sometimes, of course, the medium and the message are inseparable. In the case of the resurrection, I think I would be disheartened to learn of a natural explanation. If God wanted to say something truly unique in the person of Jesus, I would hope that God would find a truly unique way of saying it.

          In one of the Dale Martin clips I have listened to, he claims the very term "supernatural" was only introduced around 500 AD. I would support a motion to rescind this word, as it may have done more harm than good. It provides any easy way of talking about things that don't happen, "in the natural course of events", but I'm not sure that value added justifies the confusion it creates.

      • George

        "If all natural explanations have been exhausted then the probability of a supernatural explanation increases significantly."

        Why? Why ever approach the supernatural? (and here I'm not even going to touch on why anyone would just split reality into these two categories) How would you even know that all natural explanations had been exhausted? What's a reasonable timeframe to say "they'll never figure it out"?

  • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

    Regarding the fourth and fifth paragraphs: I've seen a lot of argument in real life and online, and yet I have never in my life seen worse evidence than this marshalled by anyone for any position whether religious, political, literary, pseudoscientific, or farcical. The conclusions range from bizarrely baseless to firmly grounded in blatant fallacies.

    Is this article an April Fool's joke? Is it a severely abridged edition of the original work, or perhaps an outline of an article-to-be-written that got mistaken for a complete article?

  • M. Solange O’Brien

    Edit: Comment removed by moderator

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      M. this comment does nothing to further the discussion. It's merely a sneer at Fr. Barron. In future comments, please address his arguments directly and respectfully. If you find them flawed, because explain why.

    • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

      My questions were removed rather than responded to also, despite that they were respectful and directly addressed the flaws with a portion of Fr. Barron's article.

  • David Nickol

    Brandon Voght has deleted at least two messages so far, claiming of one of them, "It's merely a sneer at Fr. Barron."

    I will try to address some of the substantive issues in Fr. Barron's post later, but I find a number of "sneers" against Ehrman in Fr. Barron's post.

    According to Fr. Barron, Ehrman "saw the light and became an agnostic scholar and is now on a mission to undermine the fundamental assumptions of
    Christianity. . . . " Ehrman, says Fr. Barron, "like so many of his skeptical colleagues across the centuries, breathlessly presents this thesis as though he has made a brilliant discovery." Fr. Barron gives a one-sentence summary of what he considers Ehrman's argument to be and declares, "This is so much nonsense."

    Fr. Barron seems to imply that Ehrman is some kind of turncoat, a self-aggrandizing enemy of "orthodox Christianity" who is not to be taken seriously. Ehrman's arguments are old and tired and are so obviously wrong that they scarcely require a response.

    This response may be adequate in the eyes of those who are as firmly convinced as Fr. Barron that there is no need to question the self-evident truth of the story the Gospels allegedly tell, but for those who do not find simple and self-evident truth in the Gospels, this dismissive reaction to Bart Ehrman's work is not at all helpful.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I think Barron's tone is much more moderate than a sneer, but I don't object to any SN OP sneering if it is appropriate given the original audience. Remember that these OPs are almost never written for SN.

      I don't think sneering is appropriate in the SN comments if they are directed at other commenters. That said, it is often hard to detect a sneer in one's own comment. Sometimes it has to be pointed out.

      • David Nickol

        It seems to me Fr. Barron's message can be summed up as follows: "Here they go again, spouting old nonsense and trying to tear down Christianity, the truth of which is self-evident." I would say Fr. Barron is dismissive and I would say it does not become him or help him make his case. I don't think he accurately represents Bart Ehrman's position, and I think he vastly oversimplifies the issue of the notion of Jesus's divinity, and he glosses over the fact that it took centuries for the Church to arrive at a definitive formulation of exactly how Jesus was divine. And of course there were competing theories, of which only one prevailed, and the others were condemned as heresies. It is not as if the divinity of Jesus was fully explained during the time of the Apostles and that explanation is the very same explanation the Church offers today.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Fr. Barron's OP is a piece of journalism, not scholarship.

          I personally don't have a problem with his tone because I think the media does seem to trot out some new "Jesus Seminar" revelation every year around Easter.

          For a similar reason, I don't have a problem when atheists get snarky at OPs which assume things about them beyond an absence of belief in God.

  • David Nickol

    There seem to be two important questions about the alleged divinity of Jesus as possibly reflected in the New Testament. Did the "historical Jesus" claim to be God? If there are any definitive statements of Jesus claiming to be God in the Gospels, did Jesus really make them? And second, are whatever claims Jesus makes in the Gospels (whether they are accurate quotations of the historical Jesus or statements of faith by the authors) sufficient on which to base a claim that Jesus was God?

    Another question is what would it have meant for the followers of Jesus during his lifetime to believe that Jesus was God? Certainly they would not have understood him to be the Second Person of the Trinity, since there existed no doctrine of the Trinity, and since the "how" of an incarnate God had not been worked out yet. How would believers who thought Jesus was divine have understood how he could have been divine. And did this necessarily mean he was co-equal with God?

  • Steven Dillon

    What exactly is meant when it is said that Jesus claimed to be God? That he claimed to share a title with the deity Jews worshipped? A role? A set of powers? Etc. I don't know what concepts the 1st century Jew would appeal to.

  • M. Solange O’Brien

    "[T]here is not to be found, in all history, any miracle attested by a sufficient number of men, of such unquestioned good sense, education, and learning, as to secure us against all delusion in themselves; of such undoubted integrity, as to place them beyond all suspicion of any design to deceive others; of such credit and reputation in the eyes of mankind, as to have a great deal to lose in case of their being detected in any falsehood; and at the same time attesting facts, performed in such a public manner, and in so celebrated a part of the world, as to render the detection unavoidable: All which circumstances are requisite to give us a full assurance in the testimony of men. (Hume 1748/2000: 88)"
    Barron does not appear to have correctly represented Hume's argument. Barron appears to be claiming that Hume argues rejecting miracles a priori which is absolutely not true, Hume argues rejection of miracles because in balance between violations of natural law and unreliability of courses, we should choose the simplest explanation (Ockham is never wrong, like Malthus).
    And Brandon, I think that David Nickols does have a point - Barron is not being neutral in his language here regarding either Hume or Ehrman - which does not necessarily contribute to a polite response. Just a comment.

    • MattyTheD

      M. Solange, that's a great quote from Hume, thanks for quoting. However the quote does undermine your claim a bit. Fr. Barron suggests that Hume's rejection of miracles contains a tautology. And your quote for Hume supports that. Why is it tautological? Because's Hume's criteria for a credible witness is a large group of people with "unquestioned good sense, education, and learning, as to secure us
      against all delusion in themselves, etc" How can Hume say that miracle witnesses fail that test? Because they claim to have witnessed miracles. It's a tautology, just as Fr. Barron suggests.

      • David Nickol

        How can Hume say that miracle witnesses fail that test? Because they claim to have witnessed miracles. It's a tautology, just as Fr. Barron suggests.

        I don't see it that way at all. Hume was not such an idiot as to say, "There has never been a miracle reported by a group of reasonable people, and there never will be, because anyone who claims to have seen a miracle is unreasonable." Clearly the meaning is more along the lines that there has never been a miracle reported by a group of witnesses so credible that their report had to be taken seriously. It seems to me to be a statement of fact by Hume. The way to disprove it is to cite instances of groups of credible witnesses reporting that they have witnessed miracles.

        • MattyTheD

          I hear you, David. But what you said doesn't strip Hume of his circular logic. Let me put it this way. Hume's argument for empiricism contains a totally subjective criterion - i.e. the "credibility of witnessses". He's contradicting himself. Let me paraphrase him: "All non-empirically-verifiable claims must be rejected because there are no witnesses who meet my criteria of credibility". But "credibility" is a *subjective, non-verifiable, non-empirical* criterion. He's building a naturalist conclusion on non-naturalist assumptions and criteria. It's both circular and self-contradictory.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Which definitely makes it non-circular. Thanks for confirming that.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I would say that Hume's argument has been eroded by the process the Church has adopted in the modern era to examine miraculous claims.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        Really? I see no evidence of that. JP II even eliminated the Devil's Advocate. It seems the church's evaluation of miracles had become incredibly sloppy in the last 50 years. And they standards are nothing more than god of the gaps arguments.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          That means you have not read my OP on miracles or the even better one written by Jacalyn Duffin.

          • Susan

            That means you have not read my OP on miracles or the even better one written by Jacalyn Duffin

            I read your OP Kevin and I agree with M. Solange.

            Can you link the one by Jacalyn Duffin?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The evaluations are "incredibly sloppy"?
            The only standard is a "god of the gaps" argument?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I didn't have to phrase it well, but JP II did eliminate the AD, as well as radically streamlining the process for canonization: he canonized more saints than any pope in history; more than his predecessors in the last few hundred years. And what other miracles has the church approved that don't involve healings - the qualification of which is classic god of the gaps: science gas no explanation, therefore miracle?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You said "incredibly sloppy."

            The majority of those canonized during JPII's very long papacy were martyrs who don't need a miracle.

            According to good old Wikipedia, "The Devil's advocate opposed God's advocate (Latin: advocatus Dei; also known as the Promoter of the Cause), whose task was to make the argument in favor of canonization. This task is now performed by the Promoter of Justice (promotor iustitiae), who is in charge of examining how accurate is the inquiry on the saintliness of the candidate."

            This inquiry can run in the thousands of page and involves many persons.

            I know someone who was in charge of preparing the original material for the cause of Emil Kapaun, a Catholic chaplain who died in a North Korean POW camp (and who has recently been awarded the Medal of Honor), and it is anything but sloppy.

          • Susan

            I know someone who was in charge of preparing the original material for the cause of Emil Kapaun, a Catholic chaplain who died in a North Korean POW camp (and who has recently been awarded the Medal of Honor), and it is anything but sloppy.

            Hi Kevin,

            I looked up Emil Kapaun on Wiki and it looks like he was an extaordinary human being. That is not the issue but I'm glad you brought him up because I didn't know about him. I have no information about miracle claims associated with him. Can you link something?

            There is also Mother Teresa's miracle, the healing of Monica Bresla, which is worse than sloppy from everything I've read about it. If you have new information that. will rescue that one, I'm happy to read it.

            We are talking about miracle claims. It's important to define "miracle" as the word means so many different things to so many people. For instance, Jacalyn Duffin's definition and your church's definition don't seem to be the same thing.

            So, how do you define a "miracle"?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I know about Fr. Kapaun having written a feature script about him. Here is a news story about a miracle that is associated with Fr. Kapaun.

            http://abcnews.go.com/2020/miracle-faith-chase-kear-recovers-fatal-accident-prayers/story?id=10239513

            I have no idea whether it will be approved.

            The news reports I have read about the Bresla "miracle" make no sense to me but I have not researched them further.

            In the OP I wrote for SN, I offered two miracle definitions which the Church uses in the context of approving miracles for canonization processes.

            As for miracle in general, I suppose it would be an effect caused directly by God, not by natural processes. So, natural processes can feed 5000 with fish and bread, but it would take a miracle to turn five loaves and two fish into enough food for that crowd.

  • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Brandon Rimmer

    This is somewhat beside the point of the article, but might there be a conflict of interest in the Robert Barron posts? It is not a criticism, but merely a question, and would involve a response of at most an admission of the conflict, much like the BBC announces when it reports on stories about sponsors, or when they report on the activities of their management.

    I'm not sure Robert Barron will get a fair treatment in the comments section, because he is Brandon Vogt's boss. I wouldn't publicly criticize my boss in a forum like this. I think it should be acknowledged that there is a greater risk that Robert Barron's articles will be treated with soft gloves, and that criticisms to his articles might receive disproportionate responses.

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      Have you noticed that in any of Barron's other posts? I admit I haven't, but I certainly haven't been looking for it, and I assume that Bradon is being fair.
      Barron's posts are always interesting, even though I question his understanding of how atheists think and behave.
      Besides, I know him. He's a nice guy. And he's got a soft-spot for Shakespeare.

      • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Brandon Rimmer

        I don't think it would be purposeful unfairness. He'd try to be fair. I think he is generally honest and self-aware. But conflicts like this are very difficult to avoid in some way. This is the first time I've noticed that this might be happening.

        I would do my best to avoid chairing a talk given by the adviser of my PhD, because I think that he's so awesome he would deserve to speak longer, and would have a terrible time cutting him off. I'd try my best to be honest, but I'd likely fail to some degree.

        • cminca

          It isn't the first time I've noticed it and have remarked on it in the past.

      • cminca

        I'm sorry--are you referring to Brandon or Barron?

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          Sorry. Barron. I've never met Brandon.

          • cminca

            Well--if you know him you might want to tell him that his message about Christianity might fall on more receptive ears if that message wasn't delivered in such smug, snarky tones.

            As I've said elsewhere--there is a reason so many people have to start their arguments with "Well, I'm a Christian and......" It is because, based on their remarks and delivery, no one would guess them as a follower of the Christ.

            And I would expect better of a priest who is supposedly trying to draw people into or back to the Catholic church.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Barron is a brilliant speaker: I've heard him lecture many times (and preach homilies, for that matter); but he is clearly to speaking to an understanding audience (I almost said preaching to the choir, but that's not entirely it). He's been posting on youtube for ages, and writing stuff on Word on Fire for many years now. His 'evangelization' is primarily geared to Christians and Catholics, however, and I suspect that much of his arrogance is unconscious

          • cminca

            Actually--I think you had it right when you almost said "preaching to the choir".

            One can speak to an audience that understands you, while they still may disagree with you. To actually be successful at that, you need to state your argument in a straightforward, un-judgemental way.

            Fr. Barron is clearly not interested in that audience that disagrees with him. He is speaking AT that audience.

            He is speaking TO an audience that not only understands, but agrees with his remarks. And judges those who disagree with them.

            Much like Rush Limbaugh.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Much like Estranged Notions. ;)

    • cminca

      There is a conflict of interest and there is a double standard.

      If another poster or a commenter made remarks like ".... like so many of his skeptical colleagues across the centuries, breathlessly presents this thesis as though he has made a brilliant discovery...." or "Of course this is nonsense" they would be edited or, at the least, told off.
      It has been evident since Brandon announced the connection between himself and Fr. Barron.

  • David Nickol

    Did Jesus believe he was God? As I interpret N. T. Wright, the answer is that Jesus thought he was, but did not know, and he considered the possibility that he could be wrong. Here is an excerpt from one of N. T. Wright's essays entitled Jesus's Self-Understanding.

    My case has been, and remains, that Jesus believed himself called to do and be things which, in the traditions to which he fell heir, only Israel’s God, YHWH, was to do and be. I think he held this belief both with passionate and firm conviction and with the knowledge that he could be making a terrible, lunatic mistake. I do not think this in any way downplays the signals of transcendence within the Gospel narratives. It is, I believe, consonant both with a full and high Christology and with the recognition that Jesus was a human figure who can be studied historically in the same way that any other human figure can be. Indeed, I have come to regard such historical study not just as a possibly helpful source for theology but a vital and non-negotiable resource: not just part of the possible bene esse, but of the esse itself. Partial proof of this drastic proposal lies in observing what happens if we ignore the history: we condemn ourselves to talking about abstractions, even perhaps to making Jesus himself an abstraction. Fuller proof could only come if and when systematicians are prepared to work with the first-century Jewish categories which are there in the historical accounts of Jesus and which shaped and formed his own mindset.

    The self-understanding (or consciousness) of Jesus is an important topic that (in my experience) is rarely addressed. I recall one discussion in a different forum in which there were Evangelical Christians, at least one of whom maintained that Jesus, being God, was omniscient, and consciously knew everything, including the Laws of Thermodynamics, the Theory of Relativity, everything that had happened in the past and would happen in the future, and so on. In raising the question of who Jesus believed himself to be, it seems that it is very problematic to posit that Jesus knew a great deal, and equally problematic to posit that he knew very little.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      How can you be God and not know it?

      • David Nickol

        How can you be God and not know it?

        I am sure N. T. Wright could answer that better than I can, and I would note that N. T. Wright is by no means a crackpot that "orthodox" Christians accuse of trying to undermine belief in Jesus.

        I would ask, How can you be fully human and be omniscient and omnipotent? If Jesus was truly God, was he aware from the moment of his conception (the incarnation)? What was a 9-month stay in Mary's womb like for someone who knew he was God? Was Jesus born knowing Aramaic (and all other languages)? Did Jesus know exactly what everyone he encountered was going to say before they said it? Did Jesus know the answer to every question he asked before he asked it? It seems to me that even if Jesus was God incarnate, it is inconceivable that there were not some limits to his knowledge. A very small example is Mark 13:32: "But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." Does it make sense to think there was one and only one thing known to the Father that wasn't known to the Son?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          The answer can be found in basic Christology. Two natures, one person. In his human nature Christ could not be omniscient but in his divine nature he was. Because he was from the moment of conception one divine person, he did know everything.

          • David Nickol

            Because he was from the moment of conception one divine person, he did know everything.

            Would you go back to some of my questions? Did Jesus know Aramaic when (and even before) he was born? Did he know all other languages, past, present and future? Did Jesus need no instruction from Mary and Joseph? Assuming Jesus worked with Joseph as a carpenter, did Jesus know every carpentry technique that would be invented in the future, learning nothing from Joseph? Why does Luke say, "And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man." How much wiser can God get? When the woman afflicted with hemorrhages touches the hem of Jesus' garment and is cured, why does Jesus say, "Who has touched my clothes?” Is he pretending not to know?

            Was Jesus, if omniscient, aware of every sparrow that feel all over the world? Did he know the number of hairs on everyone's head?

            It seems to me that it is inconceivable that a fully mature human being, even one with two natures, could be omniscient in the sense of holding every bit of knowledge (including knowledge of the future) in his head at all times.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Catholics believe Jesus Christ is a divine/human being. Of course in his human nature he could not hold all knowledge. I said that.

            Let's look at one thing: Aramaic. As God he knew it perfectly (otherwise he could not be omniscient) but in his human nature he had to learn it like any other infant and toddler does. If he had wanted to (because he was omnipotent) he could have miraculously overridden his undeveloped body and spoken Aramaic, but he wanted to learn to speak just like everyone else does.

            Though he was in the form of God, [Christ] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Phil 2:6-7)

          • David Nickol

            Can one person have two natures and know Truth A with one nature while not knowing Truth A with his other nature? It seems to me, then, that the person would both know and not know Truth A at the same time. It sounds more like multiple personality than one person with two natures.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Even with one human nature, we can know the same thing in diverse ways. I know the apple pie both from the way it smells when it is baking and what I see when it is sitting on the windowsill cooling. When I know it from smell I can simultaneously not know it from sight (if my eyes are closed). So I can know Truth A with one sense and not know truth A with another sense.

          • David Nickol

            So I can know Truth A with one sense and not know truth A with another sense.

            You seem to me to be talking more about perceiving or recognizing rather than knowing. You must have the concept apple pie already in your "knowledge bank," as well as the knowledge of what an apple pie looks like and smells like, in order to recognize an apple pie by smell or by sight.

            Remember, by the way, that it's not just me you are disagreeing with. It's N.T. Wright.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Remember, by the way, that it is not just me you are disagreeing with. It's the Fourth Ecumenical Council.

          • Ignorant Amos

            It took 400 years to come up with THAT?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't understand your comment.

          • Ignorant Amos

            It took the fourth ecumenical council, which was 400 years after the birth of Christianity, to arrive at...

            The answer can be found in basic Christology. Two natures, one person. In his human nature Christ could not be omniscient but in his divine nature he was. Because he was from the moment of conception one divine person, he did know everything.

            How anyone knows this is another quandary.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It was defined in then. It was not invented then. What is with your block quote?

          • Ignorant Amos

            Who mentioned invented?

            All the same, it took four centuries to define IT?

            The HTML tag at the beginning of the quote wasn't closed out properly.

          • David Nickol

            Did the Council of Chalcedon infallibly declare Jesus omniscient?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't know. Why don't you look it up? You look up hallucinations of grieving spouses. You have excellent look-up skills.

          • David Nickol

            I don't think there is anything to be gained by continuing to participate here.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Sorry, David. I really didn't mean to be snarky (just jocular).

            On the one hand, you consistently post well-researched and meticulously detailed comments, and then you don't seem to have heard of some fundamental Catholic doctrines on the other (e.g., that Christ has two natures).

          • Ignorant Amos

            Kevin, you brought the 4th council into the fray. When asked for clarification, i.e. *Did the Council of Chalcedon infallibly declare Jesus omniscient?", you claim not to know the answer, advising others to research your earlier assertion. Then you infer ignorance of a fundamental Catholic doctrine where none has been displayed other than your own very same ignorance of origin. Way to go.

            What I must do is thank you for raising some of the stuff you do, because it does make me want to read about it myself. Some of the things I uncover are fascinating. Absolute theological burble, but fascinating as to how these things developed.

            http://www.gci.org/history/chalcedon

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Absolute burble?

            I looked up burble and couldn't find a definition that fit your context. It just sounds like an insult, though.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Everything you don't like or agree with boils down to an insult Kevin. Hence this current thread of comments.

            Nothing to say on the meat of the discussion, just nitpicking on the definition of a colloquially used word.

            I'm sure you know exactly what it means in context though.

            Search Northern Ireland + burble if it helps.

            Failing that, it is the incoherent murmuring a crowd makes. Or council if you like.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            To claim that the conclusions drawn by an Ecumenical Council, or any body of well-educated persons who have deliberated a long time over something, is "incoherent murmuring" is an insult.

            I could claim that the findings of a Communist Party congress are wrong and evil, but I sure would not call them incoherent.

          • Ignorant Amos

            There's that appeal to authority fallacy again.

            Well educated by what standards?

            They deliberated? It was a consensus of opinion was it? Did you even read the link I provided?

            I could claim that the findings of a Communist Party congress are wrong and evil, but I sure would not call them incoherent.

            That is a non sequitur. If you found the findings of a Communist Party congress wrong or evil, that wouldn't be incoherent.

            Council of ChalcedonChalcedon

            An unexpected event dramatically changed the situation. On July 28, 450, while out riding, Theodosius’ horse bolted. The emperor fell, broke his neck and died. His sister Pulcheria became empress with her husband, Marcian, as co-emperor. They were opposed to Eutyches’ teaching and eager to redress the wrongs perpetrated by Dioscorus.

            Emperor Marcian called for a church council to meet at Chalcedon, on the outskirts of Constantinople. More than 500 bishops attended — the largest church council gathering to that time. All delegates were from the Eastern Church, except the few papal representatives from Rome and two from Africa. Deliberations lasted from October 8 to November 1, 451.

            Leo again sent representatives with his Tome, which was read and approved by the council. Chalcedon reversed the “Robbers’ Council” decision and condemned Eutyches’ teaching. It anathematized those who taught that Christ had only a single, divine nature and those “who imagine a mixture or confusion between the two natures of Christ.”

            Leo's idea only got onto the table for consideration because of a riding accident, otherwise you would be defending some contradictory idea here, which you no doubt would hold as coherent.

            Ever heard of the four humours?

          • David Nickol

            . . . . and then you don't seem to have heard of some fundamental Catholic doctrines on the other (e.g., that Christ has two natures).

            I learned that Christ has two natures in elementary school.

            Remember that I had a very solid Catholic education in 12 years of Catholic school back in the days (1953-1965) when those of us who went to Catholic school were "well catechized" and were taught primarily by nuns, brothers, and priests.

            But your message drove home a point to me, which is that those looking for answers of the kind Catholic apologists provides can look them up in the books and other publications of sources like Peter Kreeft, Scott Hahn, Karl Keating, Catholic Answers, NewApologetics, and so on. Speaking for myself (and no doubt other skeptics and atheists on Strange Notions), the answer from Catholic apologists (and other Christian apologists such as Lee Strobel) seem pat and canned even from the "original sources," so they are even less helpful when relayed by participants here relying on them.

            So when it comes to issues such as the earliest Christian understandings of Jesus, I think my time would be better spent reading any one of probably a hundred books in my library (or on my Kindle) such as How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God?: Historical Questions about Earliest Devotion to Jesus or Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity, both by Larry W. Hurtado, or Jesus of Nazareth by Gerhard Lohfink, or Jesus Remembered: Christianity in the Making, Volume 1, and Beginning from Jerusalem: Christianity in the Making, Volume 2, both by James D. G. Dunn. Unfortunately, it is much easier and much more entertaining to write messages here than to struggle through immense tomes like many of the ones I mention above, but there is potentially much more to be gained by doing the hard work required.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            And then sharing your wisdom gained here.

          • David Nickol

            And then sharing your wisdom gained here.

            No way! :-)

            What frustrates me (and, I suspect, many others who have some familiarity with modern biblical scholarship) is that the whole field is more or less rejected by the "conservative" voices here. Fr. Barron says, mockingly, "In this most recent tome, Ehrman lays out what is actually a very old thesis, going back at least to the 18th century and repeated in skeptical circles ever since, namely, that Jesus was a simple itinerant preacher who never claimed to be divine and whose 'resurrection' was in fact an invention of his disciples who experienced hallucinations of their master after his death." While it would be going way too far to claim that is the consensus of modern biblical scholars, a great deal of what Ehrman presents is either the consensus of modern biblical scholars or at minimum consists of views taken quite seriously in contemporary biblical scholarship. Fr. Barron, as I read him, dismisses it all as "nonsense." In my view, Fr. Barron does not want to be part of a dialogue. He, and other "orthodox" Catholics already know the meaning of everything in the bible, and they are not about to let biblical scholarship influence their views. I think it is fair to say that Bart Ehrman knows far more about the New Testament than Fr. Barron ever will, and yet Fr. Barron dismisses him as some kind of crackpot who won't let already thoroughly discredited 18th-century arguments die.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            These dudes http://www.salvationhistory.com/ are modern Scripture scholars but they don't begin with assumptions like miracle don't happen, the apostles hallucinated, Mary couldn't have prayed the Magnificat, and so on.

            I don't for a moment think that Fr. Barron rejects all modern biblical scholarship. Keep in mind that Barron is being a journalist in this post, not doing scholarship. In journalism you don't put too fine a point upon anything.

          • David Nickol

            Mary couldn't have prayed the Magnificat . . .

            From the Ignatius Study Bible:

            Other memorable features include Luke's unique contributions to the Gospel tradition . . . . And only Luke has preserved some of the Church's most beautiful hymns, such as Mary's Magnificat (1:46-55), Zech-ariah's Benedictus (1:68-79), Simeon's Nunc Dimittis (2:29-35), and the Gloria sung by the angels on Christmas night (2:14).

            The Magnificat (Latin for "magnifies" is a hymn of praise and a recital of God's covenant faithfulness. Mary extols humility (1:48) and rejoices in God's blessings on the lowly (1:47, 52-53). The song also introduces the them of God's "mercy" (1:50, 54), which flows into the following episode (1:58, 72, 78) (CCC 2097, 2619). The Magnificat is imbued with themes and imagery from the OT. It closely resembles the Song of Hannah in 1 Sam 2:1-10, while other passages illumine the background (Ps 89:10, 13; 98:3, 111:9; Sir 33:12, Hab 3:18).

            Do you think the Ignatius Study Bible is telling us that Mary extemporized one of the Church's most beautiful hymns of praise, wittingly or unwittingly imitating the Song of Hannah and touching on numerous Old Testament themes? Or do you think by including the Magnificat among "some of the Church's most beautiful hymns," do you think the Ignatius Study Bible is accepting the almost universally held view that the Magnificat was a hymn created in the early Church and preserved by Luke in his Gospel.

            It is certainly not necessary to think of the Magnificat as pure invention. The early Church could certainly be assumed to know the character of Mary. If indeed something like the Annunciation took place, the early Church might well have known Mary's reaction to it, and based on that reaction composed a hymn reflecting its nature. So the Magnificat even if it was a hymn composed by the early Church, could have been a meditation on, and an accurate reflection of, Mary's reaction to the Annunciation.

            Why in the world it would be necessary, or more "Catholic," to think of the Magnificat as a verbatim transcript of Mary's words following the Annunciation is a total mystery to me. If she was that self-possessed and eloquent, one of the great tragedies is that the early Church did not preserve as much of what she said as possible.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I can accept your explanation that the primitive Church and Luke could have enlarged on something that had Mary as its source.

            I also have no trouble believing that Mary could know the Jewish scriptures well, was very intelligent and eloquent, had a great memory, and filled with the Holy Spirit could compose a prayer like the Magnificat.

          • Susan

            I don't know. Why don't you look it up? You look up hallucinations of grieving spouses. You have excellent look-up skills.

            That is beneath the discussion David has been trying to have. You are better than that, aren't you?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That is not logically coherent. Either Christ knew Aramaic or he did not.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Let's look at one thing: Aramaic. As God he knew it perfectly (otherwise he could not be omniscient) but in his human nature he had to learn it like any other infant and toddler does. If he had wanted to (because he was omnipotent) he could have miraculously overridden his undeveloped body and spoken Aramaic, but he wanted to learn to speak just like everyone else does.

            Because that is how omniscience and omnipotence works, the on/off switch. But it is good theology to get Kevin's divine saviour out of a lot of scriptural pickles. I'll say that much.

            It is all a bit of an enigmatic paradox isn't it?

            What I find miraculous is the assertion of knowledge neither, Kevin, nor anyone else for that matter, could possibly have.

            A case of trying to build a castle in the air.

  • christianloew

    I've heard that the same publishing company also published a work simultaneously that is a response to Ehrman’s book by 5 Christian New testament scholars? Apparently they received an advanced copy of Ehrman’s book and they were both released at the same time.

    I'm curious if anyone here has had a chance to read it in contrast to Ehrman’s book?

  • MattyTheD

    Of the critical responses in this thread, I haven't found one that addresses the crux of Fr. Barron's argument. It's a litany of subordinate points about Fr. Barron's tone, his representation of Hume, etc. Fortunately, Fr. Barron highlighted his main point by writing the following three words - "here's the point":

    "Here's the point, the sharp demarcation between the supposedly “high”
    Christology of John and the “low” Christology of the Synoptics, upon
    which the Ehrman thesis depends, is simply wrong-headed."

    Barron then goes on to support his argument by offering a number of examples, using what he calls a different "semiotic system" for interpreting the Synoptic Gospels.

    Any critiques of that core argument?

    • David Nickol

      As luck would have it, I just finished writing one. :-)

      Briefly put, Bart Ehrman wants to examine explicit statements that Jesus made about himself. Fr. Barron broadens that to statements made by the authors of the Synoptics, and yet still he does not give us any explicit statement by either the Gospel authors or Jesus himself claiming that Jesus is God.

      I don't know about you, but to me an explicit claim to be God must be something like, "I am God." Saying something like, "Your sins are forgiven" is not an explicit claim, even if the listeners say, "But only God can forgive sins." No one would deny that Jesus spoke as if he had some kind of extraordinary authority. But that does not amount to an explicit claim to be God. Ehrman also says the following:

      In the ancient world it was possible to believe in a number of ways that a human was divine. Here are two major ways it could happen, as attested in Christian, Jewish, and pagan sources (I will be discussing other ways in the course of the book):

      • By adoption or exaltation. A human being (say, a great ruler or warrior or holy person) could be made divine by an act of God or a god, by being elevated to a level of divinity that she or he did not previously have.

      • By nature or incarnation. A divine being (say, an angel or one of the gods) could become human, either permanently or, more commonly, temporarily.

      One of my theses will be that a Christan text such as the Gospel of Mark understands Jesus in the first way, as a human who came to be made divine. The Gospel of John understands him in the second way, as a divine being who became human. Both of them see Jesus as divine, but in different ways.

      Note that one of Fr. Barron's arguments is that Matthew, Mark, and Luke say things that can be interpreted to suggest Jesus was divine. Ehrman acknowledges explicitly that all the Gospel authors saw Jesus as divine. I think this dispenses with Fr. Barron's two main arguments. Ehrman is correct that Jesus made no explicit claims in the Synoptics to be God, and all the Gospel authors believed Jesus to be divine in some sense, so there is nothing remarkable about them depicting Jesus as divine.

      • Lionel Nunez

        Well, if we are to take what you say as true, then me saying your argument is 'a Frankenstein of bad ideas' wouldn't be enough for you to understand what I find wrong with your post and how badly I think of it? After all, it could only be interpreted to suggest I don't like it, right?

        • David Nickol

          After all, it could only be interpreted to suggest I don't like it, right?

          Yes, that is absolutely correct. I understand you don't like my post, but I have no idea exactly what you object to, since you have not specified any idea in the post that you disagree with and have not given reasons for your disagreement.

          • Lionel Nunez

            Your answer proves the underlying suggestion of my point; If you haven't read the work, aren't familiar with it's tropes, or can't appreciate the cultural significance different peoples attach to certain phrases, then you can't make legitimate criticisms on the work, at least in those respects. If you had read Frankenstein, were familiar with the literary conventions it takes advantage of, and were integrated into our shared popular culture, not even needing a foreign one, then you would know what the phrase denotes. Likewise is true for the bible and why Fr. Barron says Erhman is wrong.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I think David is quite familiar with the bible and its metaphorical language. As am I (though certainly less so than he).

      • The Ubiquitous

        "Who do you say that I am?"

        • David Nickol

          "Who do you say that I am?"

          Let's take Matthew 16:15-16, in which Jesus asks the question and Peter answers, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Be aware that in Judaism in the first century, "Messiah" did not mean or imply "God incarnate," nor did "Son of the living God." Here is an excerpt from a footnote from the NAB:

          The title christos, “Christ,” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew māśiâḥ, “Messiah,” “anointed one.” Among certain groups in first-century Palestinian Judaism, the title was applied to an expected royal leader from the line of David who would restore the kingdom to Israel (see Acts 1:6). The political overtones of the title are played down in Luke and instead the Messiah of the Lord (Lk 2:26) or the Lord’s anointed is the one who now brings salvation to all humanity, Jew and Gentile (Lk 2:29–32). Lord is the most frequently used title for Jesus in Luke and Acts. In the New Testament it is also applied to Yahweh, as it is in the Old Testament. When used of Jesus it points to his transcendence and dominion over humanity.

          It is quite mistaken to conclude that, since Jesus came to be seen as both the Messiah and as God Incarnate by later Christians, anyone who considered Jesus the Messiah during his lifetime thought he was God Incarnate.

          • christianloew

            Haven't figured out how to do cool quoting and bold/italics here yet but here's my comment.

            "It is quite mistaken to conclude that, since Jesus came to be seen as both the Messiah and as God Incarnate by later Christians, anyone who considered Jesus the Messiah during his lifetime thought he was God Incarnate."

            I am no Theologian nor am I any kind of seasoned apologist, but I wouldn't consider Paul a "later Christian" and he definitely considered Jesus to be God and he was a contemporary of Peter and James at the least, and in Acts the disagreement on Jewish traditions and how those now relate to the Gentiles is discussed. If there were ANY disagreement about something as essential or dramatically new such as "Jesus is God" don't you think THAT would have been the bigger argument?

          • David Nickol

            I don't think my meaning was quite clear. My point was that to Christians after a certain point, "Messiah" and "God Incarnate" were inseparable. This was not the case in first-century Judaism. I think it is safe to sake that to those Jews looking forward to the coming of the Messiah, no one expected the Messiah to be God Incarnate. Absolutely no one. The belief that developed either during the lifetime of Jesus or within several decades after his death that Jesus was God Incarnate was a dramatic change in thinking about the concept of Messiah (and also about God).

            I think Ehrman is correct that the Synoptics (and, Paul, I think) believed Jesus to be divine by "adoption," whereas John believed him to be a preexisting divine being who became human.

            The important point is that, according to the understanding of the times, considering Jesus to be the Messiah was not equivalent during the lifetime of the Apostles to thinking Jesus was God. It was not until the fourth century that the Church definitively worked out exactly how Jesus could be God.

          • christianloew

            "The important point is that, according to the understanding of the times, considering Jesus to be the Messiah was not equivalent during the lifetime of the Apostles to thinking Jesus was God."

            I see, thanks for clarifying your point.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I am no Theologian nor am I any kind of seasoned apologist, but I wouldn't consider Paul a "later Christian"...

            Paul wasn't a Christian at all, at least not according to Paul's own account of himself.

            "I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin."~ Romans 11:1

            "Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I."~ 2 Corinthians 11:22

            He was a Jew that converted to Jewish cult that was influenced by a Jewish messianic figure.

            ...and he definitely considered Jesus to be God...

            Did he now? It is all a bit more iffy than that definitive assertion you are making in a single sentence. Paul is a bit of binatarian depending on what one reads. We could hammer each other with different refuting verses from the Pauline epistles all day long, but it won't prove what exactly Paul thought of Jesus' deification one way or the other...but I'll start if you like....

            "There is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ."~ 1 Timothy 2:5

          • christianloew

            Hey Amos!

            Thanks for your comment. I was responding to the OP, who understood my confusion and clarified his statements for me.

            I'm not sure how Paul stating his heritage precludes him from becoming a Christian, but perhaps the definition of "Christian" is what you have issue with.

            I never claimed, nor would I, that Paul wasn't an Israelite...

            As for Paul believing that Jesus was God, as I said earlier, I am not a Theologian or seasoned apologist and there are many others here who are better equipped to debate with. I was just confused about the OPs statements and he clarified.

            But if you're really interested and have some time to read, maybe take a look at "Pauline Christology" from
            Crandall University

            http://www.mycrandall.ca/courses/pauline/Jesus.htm

            Cheers Amos!

          • Ignorant Amos

            But if you're really interested and have some time to read, maybe take a look at "Pauline Christology" from
            Crandall University

            I read it...hence my alluding to Paul's binatarian attitude. Also, understanding that a portion of PauIne epistles are both forged or interpolated, the problem for historians is sorting the wheàt from the chafe. Now on impossable with what there is to work with.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Paul wasn't a Christian at all.

            "Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they
            met with the church, and taught a large company of people; and in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called Christians." (Acts 11: 25-26)

          • Ignorant Amos

            Well if it is in Acts it must be true...eh Kevin? Because Luke/Acts gets nothing wrong? Really?

            But anyway, since when was Paul a disciple?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            IA, don't challenge christianloew to a battle of the Bible verses and then rule out Luke and Acts!

          • Ignorant Amos

            Kevin, I can do more than that, I can rule out half of the Pauline epistles as forgery or pseudonymous.

            Notwithstanding the interpolations in the recognised as authentic works of Paul.

            If you wish to challenge my assertion that Luke/Acts is fraught with issues, as recognised by the scholarship, feel free to knock yourself out.

            My challenge is with the contradiction in Pauline verses that require theological flick flacks to overcome.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You wanted to argue with christianloew about what Paul thought about the divinity of Christ based on what Paul wrote, but I can't use Acts to argue that Paul was a Christian?

          • Ignorant Amos

            I was using Paul's own words as the contradiction many see them to be, feel free to support or refute Paul's words as inerrant as you deem fit.

            You can quote Acts to support an argument too, but I'm similarly free to point out what scholarship and I find lacking in the use of such works. Do you assert that Luke/Acts is inerrant and without issues of veracity?

            Kevin, these are your scriptures not mine.

            BTW, what happened to the sola scriptura cop out, it is either inerrant or not relied upon solely for history or theology...your choice?

          • The Ubiquitous

            Not the point. In what other religion did the founder enter in as an indispensable personality, inviting questions of his ontology?

            Who Christ is is central, by deliberate intention of the founder, even in the synoptics. This is unlike Moses, Mohammed, Joseph Smith, Buddha, Zoroaster, Lao-Tzu, Confucius, Martin Luther, John Wesley, Mary Baker Eddy ...

          • Susan

            Who Christ is is central, by deliberate intention of the founder

            The entire discussion here is whether or not that is true. Asserting it without supporting it is not useful.

          • The Ubiquitous

            "Who do you say that I am?"

          • Susan

            "Who do you say that I am?"

            Have you read the discussion?

            I get the impression you haven't if you think that that quote is helpful.

          • The Ubiquitous

            I apologize. I believed these points were manifest even from a cursory knowledge of that quotation, its origins, its context. Please note that all of these points appear in comments prior to yours.

            1. That's from a synoptic Gospel.

            2. Christ says it.

            3. It invites a person to contemplate the founder.

            Further argument: That he does so is unlike any other religious founder.

            Incidentally, it is also part of the reason why "Messiah or a bad man" is a better argument than most make it out to be.

          • Susan

            Thank you for your apology. It wasn't necessary but I appreciate your more thoughtful response.

            But you didn't answer my question. Have you read the discussion?

            I am asking that respectfully.

          • The Ubiquitous

            I have read your posts and David Nickol's post in reply to mine. I don't see any others in reply.

          • Susan

            Hi Ubiquitous. Welcome to disqus. It is a mess.

            The way to see the whole discussion is to click on Strange Notions and then on the OP from scratch. Otherwise, most of the discussion disappears and many of the relevant points about history and biblical scholarship.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It is also not a claim to be god - which is the point under discussion.

          • Ignorant Amos

            How do you get to 2 from 1?

          • Ignorant Amos

            3. It invites a person to contemplate the founder.

            Which is kind of the reaction the later author is after.

            From wiki...

            By 1658, he was in Constantinople, where he met a preacher, Abraham Yachini (a disciple of Joseph di Trani), who confirmed Sabbatai's messianic mission. Yachini is said to have forged a manuscript in archaic characters which, he alleged, bore testimony to Sabbatai's Messiahship. It was entitled "The Great Wisdom of Solomon", and began:

            "I, Abraham, was confined in a cave for forty years, and I wondered greatly that the time of miracles did not arrive.
            Then was heard a voice proclaiming, 'A son will be born in the Hebrew year 5386 [the year 1626 CE] to Mordecai Zevi; and he will be called Shabbethai. He will humble the great dragon; ... he, the true Messiah, will sit upon My throne."

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And it is not a claim of divinity - which is the point under discussion.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Ever hear of Ned Ludd? Admittedly, not the basis for a religious movement, but analogous all the same.

            Arthur Droge, professor of early Christianity at UCSD. At the Amherst conference in 2008 Droge said publicly that he had no idea whether there was a real Jesus, and gave a presentation using Ned Ludd as an example of a quickly historicized fictional person, around whom a whole movement grew, which Droge argued demonstrated that we could not be confident the same thing hadn’t happened to Jesus.

            Then there is Rabbi Rebbe Schneerson...

            Some of Rabbi Schneerson's followers believed he was the Jewish Messiah, the "Moshiach," although Schneerson discouraged such talk, and he publicly rejected the notion. Nevertheless, some have persisted in that belief since his death. The reverence with which he was treated by followers led many Jewish critics from both the Conservative and Reform communities to allege that a cult of personality had grown up around him. His obituary in The New York Times said he "was attacked for allowing a cult of personality to grow around him" from Conservative and Reform critics. Though he worked to dissuade his followers from making it that, telling New York Times reporter Israel Shenker in 1972 "I have never given any reason for a cult of personality, and I do all in my power to dissuade them from making it that". Moshe D. Sherman, an associate professor at Touro College wrote that "as Schneerson's empire grew, a personality cult developed around him... portraits of Rabbi Schneerson were placed in all Lubavitch homes, shops, and synagogues, and devoted followers routinely requested a blessing from him prior to their marriage, following an illness, or at other times of need."

            Then we have Sabbatai Zevi in the 17th century.

            Assisted by his wife, Sabbatai became the leader of the community. He used his power to crush the opposition. He deposed the existing rabbi of Smyrna, Aaron Lapapa, and appointed Chaim Benveniste in his place. His popularity grew, as people of all faiths repeated his story. His fame extended far and wide. Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands had centers of his Messianic movement. The Jews of Hamburg and Amsterdam learned of the events in Smyrna from trustworthy Christians. Henry Oldenburg, a distinguished German savant who became the first secretary of the Royal Society, wrote to Baruch Spinoza (Spinozae Epistolae No 33): "All the world here is talking of a rumour of the return of the Israelites ... to their own country. ... Should the news be confirmed, it may bring about a revolution in all things."

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      Sure. Barron admits that Ehrman is correct. He then offers a specific and non-obvious "code" to claim that the gospel authors thought Christ was god. He still admits Ehrmans point.

      • Lionel Nunez

        Code?! So a culture can't have different idioms than us? But even the term 'idioms' is generous to you; they're not allowed to refer to the chief piece of literature of their society to make a point?

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          Sure. But there's no evidence that they were; merely Barron putting a complex interpretation on events.

          • Lionel Nunez

            So if evidence isn't expressly provided to support something then it doesn't exist until it is? At the absolute minimum you have to agree that Fr. Barron finds it compelling/obvious enough that he didn't feel the need to pick apart ancient greek in the bible and go over the particular cultural and historical significance of the phrases relative to the time period/culture that the New Testament was written. And besides, I'm sure the author is aware that the audience is more than competent enough to easily find the support for statements they made, but the real problem you have here is the conclusion; if you agreed with it than I doubt you would care which way the evidence went. And what's complex? The English is plainly expressed and if you don't understand how he could draw his conclusions about what Jesus said then your Theology and Biblical knowledge is probably too weak for you to make a fair determination either way.

          • Michael Murray

            but the real problem you have here is the conclusion; if you agreed with it than I doubt you would care which way the evidence went.

            Got some evidence for this snarky remark ?

          • Lionel Nunez

            Of course! The evidence is as follows; Fr. Barron points out this is an old argument that likely has been thoroughly debunked and was never very convincing. He is so comfortable with this that he doesn't feel the need to elaborate on what those counter-arguments are. He then provides an alternative solution to the problem suggested by Ehrman. Even if Solange successfully refutes Fr. Barron's explanation that would still not make Erhman right since his argument isn't that compelling. If Solange is committed to Erhman's argument as true then it follows that evidence isn't quite so important as what he already believes. Although, I will admit that, as a Catholic, why Erhman is wrong might be more readily apparent to me than him.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            If you're simply going to be insulting, I see no need to reply.

      • MattyTheD

        Where does he admit that Ehrman is correct?

        • Michael Murray

          You won't get a reply from M. Solange O'Brien as she has been banned. Most of the atheists who have tried to contribute here have been banned. You can find her over at

          http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com.au

  • fightforgood

    Interesting article.
    I think a more simplistic way of evaluating what Jesus said with regard to who he is (was on earth), is to evaluate our current lives. Who walks around telling people who they are? The puffed up arrogant, me first folks, no? I don't claim to be an expert in my field, others do though. If I'm interviewed and asked what I know, or to rate myself, I can't say I'm not an expert. I lean on what others say about me and let the interviewer know what others say. Sometimes I might be straight forward (with the knowledge from others about me), but I have to be careful, not to come across full of myself.
    Would you expect a humble loving God to proclaim his glory-ness, or show himself in glory? Others then would write the narative.
    The hallucination point is one of those things so far out there and such a reach, it requires no evaluation or response.

    • Ignorant Amos

      Version 1.0 did in book volume number one....then again, that was before any humbleness crept into the saga.

    • David Nickol

      Would you expect a humble loving God to proclaim his glory-ness, or show himself in glory?

      I don't see that it makes much sense to expect God to be arrogant or humble. What does an omnipotent, omniscient, all-good creator of the universe have to be humble about? What counts as arrogance if you are the one infinitely perfect supreme being?

      The hallucination point is one of those things so far out there and such a reach, it requires no evaluation or response.

      Hallucinations are quite common, and people can have hallucinations without being considered mentally ill. On the other hand, even if you are a believing Christian, you have to admit that rising from the dead is extraordinarily rare. It is certainly not "far out" to consider hallucinations, which happen all the time, as an explanation of claiming to see someone who has risen from the dead. Consider: "In the context of grief after the death of a spouse, one-third to one-half of bereaved spouses report hallucinations of the deceased."

      I have not finished reading Ehrman's book yet, but based on what I have read so far, he does not personally take a stand as to whether visions of Jesus after his death were hallucinations or were authentic. He offers hallucinations as an explanation that would make sense to unbelievers, but he does not state as a fact that the followers of Jesus had hallucinations and never really saw Jesus after his death.

      • fightforgood

        Thank you for taking your time.
        For your first part, to me it makes sense to use what Jesus taught in conjunction with his life's events. It makes the events easier to understand. And the concepts of the teachings more foundational. Which makes the whole subject easier to analyze.
        We've all encountered liars. Lies don't last long.
        If God said to himself "I am the omnipotent, omniscient, all-good creator of the universe" Therefore "arrogance doesn't count because I am, me. Now I must go down to Earth and teach these weaklings I care so much about - to do good, be good. I should put on a good face though".
        In which case, I don't think we would be discussing today because the Church would have failed fairly quickly as the teacher would be a liar, in that God would not be an example of his teaching.
        Unless we argue God can doublecross himself.
        I do agree with you that hallucinations are quite common, what is not common is the source being nothing but observation by a great many folks at different periods of time. Drop some acid and you will hallucinate. Lose a loved one and you might find hallucinations.
        Both have causes. It seems a stretch to assume all who 'saw' Jesus were loved ones. His own clan didn't fall into this extreme love. Thomas as the example of logical mind there.
        Who would be great sources of information on 'loved ones hallucination syndrome' if it exists? I would say clergy since they would be the folks who arguably deal with death the most.
        They are taught to help the grieving. If it seems likely that all the folks who 'saw' Jesus were hallucinating. I would guess they would go to the apostles to discuss the situation.
        Perhaps it was closed of me to simply dismiss it, but it's been discussed so often. But as someone said earlier, maybe not in this audience. So that was wrong of me.

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    This is not a criticism of the post, which necessarily had very limited scope, but to me it is important to recognize that historical reasons are not the only reasons for believing Jesus to be God. There is also an aesthetic identification to be made, a sensibility that "sees" that a perfect human offering to God IS God.

    Without this sensibility, I think one loses the key insight that we all, insofar as we "do the right thing" with our lives, partake in divine reality. Conversely, when one does have this sensibility, our individual experiences of partaking in the divine reality become "evidence" of the divinity of Jesus. By extrapolating from our own experiences, we can see that if only a human were able to make a completely selfless gift of his life, he would be God.