How Jesus Became God

Review

How Jesus became God is an amazing book. A must read for everyone interested in the historical Jesus. It deals with the different ways Christians came to see Jesus after his death. Some claimed he was “exalted”, others claimed he was an pre-existent angel, and there were those who claimed he was a pre-existent being. The book explains all these views and tells us how the view of Jesus evolved into the view that Christians nowadays adhere to. Rating: 5/5

Below are, as usual, a collection of interesting quotes from the book.


– About there being other miracle workers and “sons of god” in the ancient world:

“Even though Jesus may be the only miracle-working Son of God that people know about today, there were lots of people like this in the ancient world. We should not think of Jesus as “unique”, if by that term we mean that he was the only one “like that” – that is, a human who was far above and very different from the rest of us mere mortals, a man who was also in some sense divine. There were numerous divine beings in antiquity.”
Bart Ehrman – How Jesus Became God (p. 17)

– About the divine realm interacting with the natural realm in the ancient world:

“The divine realm had numerous strata. Some gods were greater, one might say “more divine”, than others, and humans sometimes could be elevated to the ranks of those gods. Moreover, the gods themselves could and occasionally did come down to spend time with us mere mortals.

In the book of Acts we have an account of the Apostle Paul on a missionary journey with his companion Barnabas in this same region, visiting the town of Lystra (Acts 14:8/18). Paul sees a man who is crippled, and through the powerful of God he heals him. The crowds who have seen this miracle draw what for them is the natural conclusion: “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men” (Acts 14:11).
Bart Ehrman – How Jesus Became God (p. 21)

– About a lovely bunch of folks called the Cynics:

“Cynic philosophers were adamant that you shouldn’t live for the “good things” in life. You shouldn’t care for anything, in fact, that is external to you, anything that is ultimately beyond your ability to control. If your house burns down, that’s outside your control, so you shouldn’t be personally invested in your house. If you get fired from your job, that’s outside your control, so you shouldn’t be personally invested in your job. If your spouse divorces you or your child unexpectedly dies, that’s outside your control, so you shouldn’t be personally invested in your family.

Cynic philosophers who acted out their convictions had no possessions, no personal loves, and often no manners. They didn’t have permanent homes and performed bodily functions in public. That’s why they were called Cynics. The word cynic is from the Greek word for dog. These people lived like dogs.”
Bart Ehrman – How Jesus Became God (p. 36)

– About the unique claim that Jesus had risen from the dead:

“No, what made Jesus different from all the others teaching a similar message was the claim that he had been raised from the dead. Belief in Jesus’s resurrection changed absolutely everything. Such a thing was not said of any of the other apocalyptic preachers of Jesus’s day, and the fact that it was said about Jesus made him unique.”
Bart Ehrman – How Jesus Became God (p. 131)

-About the fact that we cannot take the Gospels at face value:

“The Gospels cannot simply be taken at face value as giving us historically reliable accounts of the things Jesus said and did. If the Gospels were those sorts of trustworthy biographies that recorded Jesus’s life “as it really was”, there would be little need for historical scholarship that stresses the need to learn the ancient biblical languages (Hebrew and Greek), that emphasises the importance of Jesus’s historical context in his first-century Palestinian world, and that maintains that a full understanding of the true character of the Gospels as historical sources is fundamental for any attempt to establish what Jesus really said an did. All we would need to do would be to read the Bible and accept what it says as what really happened. That, of course, is the approach to the Bible that fundamentalists take. And that’s one reason why you will not find fundamentalists at the forefront of critical scholarship.”
Bart Ehrman – How Jesus Became God (p. 88)

– About the authors of the Gospels:

“The followers of Jesus, as we learn from the New Testament itself, were uneducated lower class Aramaic-speaking Jews from Palestine. These books are not written by people like that. Their authors were highly educated, Greek-speaking Christians of a later generation. The probably wrote after Jesus’s disciples had all, or almost all, died. They were writing in different part of the world, in a different language, and at a later time. There’s not much mystery about why later Christians would want to claim that the authors were in fact companions of Jesus, or at least connected with apostles: that claim provided much needed authority for these accounts for people wanting to know what Jesus was really like.”
Bart Ehrman – How Jesus Became God (p. 90)

– About the sort of literature the Gospels are:

“The Gospels contain non historical information and stories that have been modified and exaggerated and embellished. These books do not contain the words of someone who was sitting at Jesus’s feet taking notes. They are nothing like that. They are books that are intending to tell the “good news” of Jesus. That is, their authors has a vested interest both in what they were telling and in how they were telling it. They wanted to preach Jesus. The were not trying to give biographical information that would pass muster among critical historians living two thousand years later who have developed significantly different standards of writing history, or historiography. They were writing for their own day and were trying to convince people about the truth – as they saw it – about Jesus. They were basing their stories on what they had heard and read. What they read was based on what the authors of these other writings had heard. It all goes back to oral tradition.”
Bart Ehrman – How Jesus Became God (p. 92)

– The pre-Pauline creed form 1 Corinthians may be evidence Jesus wasn’t buried by Joseph of Arimathea:

“Given the effort that the author of this creed has taken to make every statement of the first section correspond to the parallel statement of the second section, and vice versa, this should give us pause. it would have been very easy indeed to make the parallel precise, simply by saying “he was buried by Jospeh (of Arimathea).” Why didn’t the author make this precise parallel? My hunch is that it is because he knew nothing about a burial of Jesus by Jospeh of Arimathea, or the way in which Jesus was buried – not in this creed, not in the rest of 1 Corinthians, and not in any of his other letters. The tradition that thee was a specific, known person who buried Jesus appears to have been a later one.”
Bart Ehrman – How Jesus Became God (p. 142)

“This is what New Testament scholars call a pre-Pauline tradition – one that was in circulation before Paul wrote it and even before he gave it to the Corinthians when he first persuaded them to become followers of Jesus. There is evidence in the passage itself that it, or part of it, is pre-Pauline, and it is possible to determine just which parts were the original formulation. Scholars have devised a number go ways to detect the pre literary traditions. For one thing, they tend to be tightly constructed with terse statements that contain words not otherwise attested by the author in question – in this case Paul – and to use grammatical formulations that are otherwise foreign to the author. This is what we find here in the passage. For example, the phrase “in accordance with the scriptures” is found where else in Paul’s writings; nor is the verb “he appeared”; nor is any reference to “the twelve”. There are very good reasons, in fact, for thinking that the original form of the creed was simply vv. 3-5, to which Paul has added some comments of his own based on what he knew.”
Bart Ehrman – How Jesus Became God (p. 138/139)

– About the ancient Jews having no expectations of a crucified messiah:

“Ancient Jews had no expectation – zero expectation – that the future messiah would die and rise from the dead. That was not what the messiah was supposed to do. Whatever specific idea any Jew had about the messiah (as cosmic judge, mighty priest, powerful warrior), what they all thought was that he would be a figure of grandeur and power who would be a mighty ruler of Israel. And Jesus was certainly not that. Rather than destroying the enemy, Jesus was destroyed by the enemy – arrested, tortured, and crucified, the most painful and publicly humiliating form of death known to the Romans. Jesus, in short, was just the opposite of what Jews expected a messiah to be.”
Bart Ehrman – How Jesus Became God (p. 116)

– Jesus doesn’t personally forgive sins:

“When Jesus forgives sins, he never says “I forgive you”, as God might say, but “your sins are forgiven”, which means that God has forgiven the sins. This prerogative for pronouncing sins forgiven was otherwise reserved for Jewish priests in honor of sacrifices that worshipers made at the temple. Jesus may be claiming a priestly prerogative, but not a divine one.”
Bart Ehrman – How Jesus Became God (p. 127)

– On the empty tomb and the appearances starting out as separate traditions:

“Our earliest account of Jesus’ resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3/5) discusses the appearances without mentioning an empty tomb, while our earliest Gospel, Mark, narrates the discovery of the empty tomb without discussing any of the appearances (Mark 16:1/8). This has lead some scholars to suggest that there two sets of tradition – the empty tomb and the appearances of Jesus after his death – probably originated independently of one another and were put together as a single tradition only later. If this is the case, then the stories of Jesus; resurrection were indeed being expanded, embellished, modified, and possibly even invented in the long process of their being told and retold over the years.”
Bart Ehrman – How Jesus Became God (p. 142/143)

– About Joseph of Arimathea burying Jesus:

“Joseph’s identification as a respected member of the Sanhedrin should immediately raise questions. Mark himself said that at Jesus’s trial, which took place the previous evening, the “whole council” of the Sanhedrin (not just some or most of them – but all of them) tried to find evidence “against Jesus to put him to death (Mark 14:55). At the end of this trail, because of Jesus’s statement that he was the Son of God (Mark 14:62), “they all condemned him as deserving death” (Mark 14:64). In other words, according to Mark, this unknown person, Joseph, was one of the people who had called for Jesus’s death just the night before he was crucified. Why, after Jesus is dead, is he suddenly risking himself (as implied by the fact that he had to gather up his courage) and seeking to do an act of mercy by arranging for a decent burial for Jesus’s corpse? Mark gives us no clue. My hunch is that the trial narrative and the burial narrative come form different sets of traditions inherited by Mark. Or did Mark simply invent one of the two traditions himself and overlook the apparent discrepancy? In any event, a brutal by Joseph is clearly a historical problem in light of other passages just within the New Testament.”
Bart Ehrman – How Jesus Became God (p. 152/153)

– What usually was the case with crucified criminals:

“When it came to crucified criminals – in this case, someone charged with crimes against the state – there was regularly no mercy and no concern for anyone’s sensitivities. The point of crucifixion was to torture and humiliate a person as fully as possible, and to show any bystanders what happens to someone who is a troublemaker in the eye of Rome. Part of the humiliation and degradation was the bod being left on the cross after death to be subject to scavenging animals. Crucifixion was meant to be a public disincentive to engage in politically subversive activities, and the disincentive did not end with the pain and death – it continued on in the ravages worked on the couple afterward.”
Bart Ehrman – How Jesus Became God (p. 157)

“The common Roman practice was to allow the bodies of crucified people to decompose on the cross and be attached by scavengers as part of the disincentive for crime. I have not run across any contrary indications in any ancient source. It is always possible that en exception was made, of course. But it must be remembered that the Christian storytellers who indicated that Jesus was an exception to the rule had an extremely compelling reason to do so. If Jesus had not been buried, his tomb could not be declared empty.”
Bart Ehrman – How Jesus Became God (p. 160)

“It is possible that Jesus was an exception, but our evidence that this might have been the case must be judged to be rather thin. People who were crucified were usually left on their crosses as food for scavengers, and part of the punishment for ignominious crimes was being tossed into a common grave, where very soon one decomposed body could not be distinguished from another.”
Bart Ehrman – How Jesus Became God (p. 161)

– Why the resurrection can not be prove historically:

“A resurrection would be a miracle and as such would defy all “probability”. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a miracle. To say that an event that defies probability is more probable than something that is simply improbable is to fly in the face of anything that involves probability.”
Bart Ehrman – How Jesus Became God (p. 165)

“It is striking and worth noting that typically believers in one religious tradition often insist on the “evidence” for the miracles that support their views and completely discount the “evidence” for miracles attested in some other religious tradition, even though, at the end of the day, it is the same kind of evidence (for example, eyewitness testimony) and may be even of greater abundance. Protestant apologists interested in “proving” that Jesus was raised from the dead rarely show any interest in applying their finely honed historical talents to the exalted Blessed Virgin Mary.”
Bart Ehrman – How Jesus Became God (p. 199)

– About the speeches in Luke/Acts:

“One of the reasons we know that it was Luke who wrote the speeches of his main characters is that the speeches all sound ver much alike: the lower-class, uneducated, illiterate, Aramaic-speaking peasant Peter gives a speech that sounds almost exactly like a speech by the culturally refined, highly educated, literate, Greek speaking Paul. Why do two such different people sound so much alike? because neither one of them is actually speaking: Luke is. Bart Ehrman – How Jesus Became God (p. 227)

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