Quick thoughts on Ehrman’s “How Jesus Became God”

How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from GalileeHow Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee by Bart D. Ehrman

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I knew where Ehrman was coming from before I read it, but it was still pretty disappointing. He’s a gifted writer and can explain his points clearly, but I was hoping for something more scholarly than popular. It seemed to me that writing for a popular audience allowed him to float over other scholarly perspectives on early Christianity if he wishes. I would have liked to see him interact with Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses that makes an extended academic case for the presence of eyewitness testimony in the gospels, but that perspective is never considered. Ehrman also seemingly approaches Christian sources, especially the New Testament sources, with the attitude that if an author does not mention something that appears somewhere else (especially in the birth or resurrection accounts of Jesus), then that author never heard of it or disagrees with it.

Perhaps the disappointment is my fault for not knowing that it was a popular rather than academic book. Also, Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses is, I think, the only academic work of New Testament scholarship that I’ve ever read, so I’m hardly an expert on what needs to be responded to and what doesn’t. I did think that Larry Hurtado, whose work Ehrman uses in the book, provided some thought-provoking praise and criticisms here.

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One comment

  1. IMO, Ehrman seems to have become more strident and sloppy as he has gotten older, perhaps because it sells more books and gets him more interviews. I actually purchased one of his early books and found it quite useful as an overview of early Christian thought, probably because it contained relatively little editing and commentary compared to his later works. It was basically a bunch of extended quotations that could give me a flavor for certain writings and pique interest in case I wanted to read more.

    Since then I’ve found better anthologies, but unfortunately Ehrman is as good as it gets when shopping at Barnes and Noble.

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