In Rob Bowman’s review of Bart Ehrman’s new book, How Jesus Became God, he enumerates the many points of agreement evangelicals have with Ehrman:
I think evangelicals should be quick to acknowledge and even capitalize on a large number of agreements that they can have with Ehrman about Jesus and Christology. These include but are not limited to the following facts:
- Jesus was a real historical person, a Galilean Jew who preached the kingdom of God. Ehrman has devoted a whole book to defending this fact.
- The canonical Gospels are the earliest and, for all practical purposes, the only valuable sources of detailed information about the historical Jesus. The “Gnostic” gospels and other apocryphal writings date from much later and are not significant sources of historical information about Jesus.
- Jesus thought he was, or at least would become, the Messiah.
- Jesus was crucified at the order of Pontius Pilate.
- Jesus actually died on the cross.
- Some of Jesus’ original followers sincerely believed they saw Jesus alive from the dead.
(Already, we’ve eliminated about 90 percent of the nonsense we so often hear from skeptics about Jesus! And we’re not done.)
- The belief that Jesus rose from the dead convinced Jesus’ disciples, practically immediately, that he was a divine figure, exalted to the right hand of God. The very earliest Christians thus made some astounding claims about Jesus.
- The belief that Jesus was a divine figure who existed before his human life was accepted by at least some Christians within twenty years of Jesus’ death, even before Paul’s earliest epistles. (Say good-bye to the baloney about Paul radically changing Christianity from Jesus’ Jewish moral code to a Hellenized savior cult.)
- Philippians 2:6-11 teaches that Jesus Christ was a preexistent divine figure who became a human being; Ehrman rejects the “Adamic” interpretation of the passage that tries to circumvent the preexistence of Christ.
- Paul calls Jesus “God” in Romans 9:5!
- John clearly teaches that Jesus existed before creation in some way distinct from God the Father, yet he was “God” and was equal to God. (Jehovah’s Witnesses, take note.) Furthermore, John did not originate this view, because the Johannine Prologue derives from a pre-Johannine source.
One could hardly wish for more agreements and even concessions from the world’s most influential agnostic biblical scholar.
With all these points of agreement between us, why does Ehrman end up with such a different view of Christianity? I think Ed Komoszewski pinpointed the root difference between Ehrman and Evangelicals in his review of the 2011 debate between Bart Ehrman and Dan Wallace:
Wallace painted Ehrman as a radical skeptic. Is that picture true to form? One person from the audience asked Ehrman what it would take for him to be sure that we knew what the original of, say, the Gospel of Mark was. He said if we had ten first-generation copies, written within a week or so of the original, with “0.001% deviation” between them, then he could be relatively assured that we had Mark’s Gospel intact. Forget the fact that such requirements are not made for any other ancient literature, or that the New Testament is so rich in copies that scholars can get a very good sense of the original wording. Ehrman’s response to this question confirmed that Wallace had indeed framed things accurately.