We’re entering the second Silly Season of the year for Christianity, folks.
The biggie tends to be Christmas, when all and sundry anti-theist, anti-Judeo-Christians crawl out of the woodwork with their books, talk-show appearances, and TV shows telling us they have the ‘real truth’ about Christ’s birth, Christ’s ‘real life’, and the ‘truthy-truth’ about the apostles and early Christianity.
Eastertime is no slouch, either, although the foaming rage doesn’t seem quite as bad; that makes no sense to me, because Christmas was about Christ’s birth, whereas Easter is about His death and resurrection, two of the cornerstones of the faith – Easter ought to draw a lot more outrageous outrage than it does.
So, Easter’s coming up next Sunday (the 20th), and just in time, Bart Ehrman, famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) agnostic theology professor from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, is coming out with a new book about old stuff: How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation Of A Jewish Preacher From Galilee. In it, according to the NewsBusters article, Mr. Ehrman says (in paraphrase) that:
Jesus himself didn't call himself God and didn't consider himself God, and that none of his disciples had any inkling at all that he was God.And:
I don't think Jesus was given a decent burial – that he was probably thrown into a common grave of some kind," and that the early disciples of Jesus probably hallucinated his resurrection.Like I said above, these claims are very old, and they’ve been debunked for at least a thousand years. But, hey, anything to sell a book, eh?
Some of Mr. Ehrman’s points ought to be treated, though.
He contends that nowhere in the Bible, other than in the Book of John, does Jesus ever say He’s God. But if Jesus never directly said He was God, He certainly intimated it – why else would the scribes, Pharisees, and teachers of the Law want to stone Him for blasphemy (Matthew 26:63-65; Mark 14:61-64)? It’s pretty obvious those men thought He was claiming Godhood. And if they thought so, how could His disciples have missed it?
As to Jesus’ body being buried, Mr. Ehrman doesn’t mention the fact that Pilate, even though he was vicious towards the Jews, was on thin ice with Rome – he’d already caused Caesar enough heartburn over the Jews for Caesar to warn him. The crucifixion of Jesus and the two thieves happened the day before Passover; because Jewish law didn’t allow bodies to be left during the Sabbath or on holy days, leaving Jesus on the cross through Passover would have infuriated the Jews, who likely would have petitioned Rome, which would have set Pilate’s butt in the boiler; it makes sense that he would have taken the opportunity to not upset the Jews again and not get himself in deeper trouble with Rome by simply releasing the body to be buried. Pilate probably didn’t care what was done with the body once it was off the cross, but getting it off the cross would placate the Jews and keep Pilate’s head on his shoulders.
As to the disciples hallucinating a risen Christ, Mr. Ehrman compares this to the ‘hallucinations’ ‘… of the Blessed Virgin Mary appearing to hundreds of people at one time – thousands of people at one time.’ Question: have any of the people who claim to have seen the Virgin said they actually saw her in the flesh, that they touched her, that she ate with them? Jesus apostles claimed this. Have any of the people who claim to have seen the Virgin also claim that the vision lasted for forty days? Jesus’ apostles did. Do those who claim to see visions of the Virgin also claim that she’s risen from the dead? Jesus’ apostles did.
IMO, a very poor comparison.
One last thing from the article: Mr. Ehrman says, ‘I'm not allowing my religious beliefs or disbeliefs to affect how I tell the historical story of how Christology developed – how Jesus became God.’ This, IMO, is disingenuous at best. Read Mr. Ehrman’s writings, listen to his speeches and interviews, and you discover quite quickly his disbelief in the veracity of the Bible is most definitely affecting his re-telling of the history of Christianity.
Mr. Ehrman says that he was once an evangelical Christian, but that his college studies led him to believe that the Bible was filled with discrepancies which could not be reconciled (they are reconcilable, and have been); he moved to liberal Christianity, then to full-on agnosticism.
I don’t think Mr. Ehrman ever really was a Christian; I turn to John the Apostle for my explanation:
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. (1 John 2:19, ESV)