Skip to content

How Jesus became “God,” per Ehrman

May 29, 2014

Having been asked to review Bart Ehrman’s new book, How Jesus Became God (HarperOne, 2014), for the Christian Century, I take the opportunity here also to comment on it.  This book is another of his now “best-selling” publications directed to a general readership, and, as with these earlier books (e.g., Misquoting Jesus), this one seems intended to startle naïve Christians uninformed about biblical scholarship, agitate and respond to Christian apologists, and reassure fellow sceptics and agnostics (Ehrman’s self-description) that they have some basis for their doubts.

Ehrman is generally a good communicator, and one of the positive things one can say about the book is that it is clearly written, and readily accessible to readers with little or no prior acquaintance with the issues and scholarly methods involved in the topic.  Indeed, at a number of places Ehrman gives an admirably clear description of this or that technical matter, e.g., his explanation of how scholars identify places in Paul’s letters (e.g., Romans 1:3-4; Philippians 2:6-11) where he likely incorporates earlier Christian confessional and liturgical traditions.

But, whereas in some of his previous general-reader books, Ehrman drew upon his recognized expertise (especially in NT textual criticism), in this book he deals with a subject on which he is not particularly known as a contributor.  So, he draws heavily on the work of other scholars (including my own), and with commendable acknowledgement.  Unfortunately, however, on several matters he seems to rely on now discredited views, or over-simplify or misunderstand things.

But before I turn to criticism, I want to note a few more positive things.  With probably the majority of NT scholars, Ehrman emphasizes that the exalted claims about Jesus reflected in the NT (e.g., that Jesus shares divine glory, divine rule, the divine name, and is to be given universal reverence) all appeared soon in the aftermath of Jesus’ execution.  These convictions were based primarily on experiences of the risen/exalted Jesus (“visions” in Ehrman’s terms) by Jesus’ followers, which conveyed the conviction that God had raised Jesus from death and had uniquely exalted him as Christ and Lord.

Ehrman (rightly in my view) also notes that these lofty claims about Jesus reflected in the NT seem to have erupted very early, so early that they are presupposed as widely shared already by the time Paul wrote his letters (from ca. 50 CE and thereafter).  In a commendable example of changing his mind, Ehrman acknowledges that prior to immersing himself in the evidence and scholarly analysis for this book, he had assumed a much slower and more drawn-out process, but was driven to conclude that these remarkable Christological beliefs erupted much earlier and much more fully than he had thought.  It’s always reassuring when a scholar admits to learning something new, and even to changing his/her mind.

Moreover, Ehrman argues (again, rightly in my view), that the early claim that Jesus is Messiah, requires us to conclude also that Jesus had excited such hopes about himself during his own ministry.  Indeed, this was likely the reason that the Roman authority moved against him and crucified him.  (“Messiah” = typically a divinely appointed ruler/deliverer, a claim that would have been seen as sedition against Rome.)  As Ehrman observes, resurrection by itself would not have connoted that Jesus is Messiah.  But, if Jesus’ followers had held such a hope during his ministry, then Jesus’ resurrection would quite readily have been taken as God’s validation of Jesus as Messiah.  (This, by the way, is basically the argument made by the great Yale NT scholar, Nils Dahl, decades ago.)

To cite another commendable matter, early in the book, Ehrman helpfully and clearly explains the limits of historical inquiry, particularly noting that historical analysis is not able to judge the validity of theological claims.  So, he notes, historians cannot really judge the question of whether God raised Jesus from death.  All historical analysis can do is to explore when and in what circumstances such claims emerged, what people seem to have meant in making such claims, and what the subsequent effects were.

But, to turn now to critical comments, it’s curious that Ehrman then devotes a section of the ensuing discussion to comparing early experiences of the risen Jesus with apparitions of deceased loved ones to the bereaved, and with other such phenomena.  The point of doing so, quite obviously, seems to be to give reasons for taking early Christian experiences as hallucinations, and so not really valid.  To do this, however, is (in Ehrman’s own terms) to move from historical analysis to something else.  To be specific, this discussion seems more aimed to counter Christian apologists and give justification for doubting Christian claims.  But this makes just a bit coy his profession of not being concerned to judge the question whether experiences of the risen Jesus were valid.

As I’ve mentioned, on several matters Ehrman seems ill-informed and/or not current.  For example, he assumes that the expression “the son of man” (used numerous times by Jesus in the Gospels) was a recognized title of a figure well-known in ancient Jewish eschatological hopes.  So, Ehrman continues (on this assumption), Jesus must have been referring to this future figure, not to himself.  But from at least the 1970s it has been clear that this assumption is baseless.  There is, in fact, no evidence that “the son of man” was a fixed title, or that there was a known figure who bore it, in ancient Jewish tradition.  So (as is clearly the way the Gospel writers took the expression), Jesus’ use of “the son of man” (NB:  with the definite article) seems to have been simply a distinctive self-referential expression/idiom.

To cite another example of the curious misunderstanding of some things, Ehrman repeatedly refers to the early Christian doctrine of Jesus’ incarnation as portraying him as “temporarily human.”  But from the NT onward, and even  in subsequent centuries, Jesus’ assumption of humanity was emphatically portrayed as irrevocable.  Indeed, it is as a resurrected and glorified human that he serves (in classical Christian thought) as the paradigm for the ultimate salvation of believers.  (Of course, in classical Christian belief Jesus is also divine, but not at the expense of a genuine, and irrevocable, humanity.)

At a few other points, Ehrman refers to the Christology of this or that NT text, noting that Jesus is not pictured as God the Father.  I take this as implying that this is significant somehow, as if later Christians did identify Jesus as the Father. But Jesus was never pictured as God the Father, neither in any NT text nor in any classical Christian text thereafter.  Indeed, from Justin Martyr onward, Christian writers typically note that “God the Father” and “the Son” are “numerically distinct,” that is, distinguished, in the expressions of the doctrine of the “Trinity.”

As a final criticism, Ehrman posits that the key to Paul’s Christology is that he thought of Jesus as an (or the) angel (of God/the Lord).  That, says Ehrman, explains how Paul could ascribe “pre-existence” to Jesus, and how, as a devout Jew, he could countenance worshipping Jesus.  As the key basis for this notion, Ehrman invokes a peculiar reading of Galatians 4:14, where Paul says that in his initial visit the Galatians received him “as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus.”  Ehrman insists that this is to be read as a flat appositive construction, in which “an angel of God” = “Christ Jesus.”   But this isn’t actually as compelling a claim as he thinks.  Even Gieschen (on whose work Ehrman relies here) presents this reading of the construction as only a distinct “possibility.”  And most scholars (myself included) don’t think it really works.  The grammar certainly doesn’t require it, and it seems more reasonable to take it as a kind of stair-step statement, “angel of God” and “Christ Jesus” as ascending categories.

Moreover, Ehrman fails to consider other evidence that Paul distinguished between Jesus and angels, as for example in Romans 8:38-39, where Paul lyrically asserts that “nothing in all creation,” including angels, can separate believers from God’s love in “Christ Jesus our Lord.”   Or note 1 Cor. 6:3, where Paul asserts that, on the basis of their redemption in Christ, believers will judge angels (in the eschatological consummation).  In short, Paul’s Christology seems to place Jesus in a category of his own, superior and distinct from angels.

Further, contra Ehrman, there is, in fact, no evidence of angels receiving worship in any known Jewish circles of Paul’s day.  So, the worship given to Jesus isn’t really paralleled or made more understandable by positing that Jesus was regarded as an angel.

As to Jesus’ “pre-existence,” Ehrman seems not to know the indications that in ancient Jewish apocalyptic thought one or another kind of pre-existence could be ascribed to eschatological figures (as Nils Dahl noted long ago in another important essay, and as R. G. Hamerton-Kelly documented more fully).

On these and a few other matters, in short, Ehrman’s discussion is misinformed, which is curious given that the jacket promotional blurb describes the book as the product of eight years of research and writing.  But, notwithstanding its defects and sometimes slanted handling of matters, it will perhaps have some positive effect.  The general public today is widely unaware of how remarkable were the beliefs about Jesus and the extraordinary place of Jesus in the devotional practices of earliest Christian circles.  So, if the book sells as well as his previous general-reader books, in addition to enriching Ehrman’s bank balance further, this one might help general readers to appreciate more how astonishing these early beliefs and devotional practices were.

From → Uncategorized

44 Comments
  1. Aren’t the angel of the Lord passages in the Old Testament theophanies? They use God’s personal name and “angel” interchangeably many times. So Jesus, if you agree with Ehrman on this one point about the angel, isn’t just pre-existant. Jesus is God.

    • Geoff: Your comment is difficult for me to follow as to what you’re trying to say, but I’ll try. Yes, the “angel of the LORD” in some OT passages (esp. Genesis) seems to function almost as an alter ego for YHWH. It’s a peculiar figure/feature of these passages. As for how Paul thought about Jesus (which is the issue, not what Bart or I think), the case isn’t made that Paul classified the “pre-existent” Jesus as an/the angel. As to what “Jesus is God” means, you’ll have to clarify. Paul didn’t think “Jesus is God” in the sense of “overwriting” God. Paul seems to have thought of Jesus as now sharing the glory of God, and being the unique expression of God’s glory, etc. So, uniquely linked with God, such that it is now necessary to accord Jesus the kind of devotion previously/otherwise restricted to God. But neither Paul nor other NT writers say things like “Jesus is God”.

  2. Lasni Roha permalink

    I want to share my personal opinion. After I read some material from your blog (Dr. Hurtado’s blog), I finally admit that Dr. Hurtado material is ONLY useful for historical reference that early Christianity (whom Dr. Hurtado said erupted very early – post Easter) worship Jesus . For your information- i am native and live in Indonesia (the biggest Islamic country — which comprised of Sunni) where Divinity (Deity) of Christianity has been attacked constantly).

    Their argument usually :
    All bibles (OT and NT) has been corrupted and changed by Paul (which is silly and ridiculuos) and throned to be God in Nicaea council. But usually Paul has been scapegoat. They said that Injil (usually they refer to 4 gospel), but another time they refer to books that Jesus actually brought given by Allah (Note : Christian in Indonesia also called God as Allah but because Indonesia consist of many tribes, then Allah is national (Indonesian) language (not confusing with Allah SWT, because Christian not mention SWT as Islam do), while for tribes languange we use by name of Gusti, Debata, Tuhan, etc. But Christian is Indonesia always understand that true Allah, God, Debata, Tuhan, etc is YHVH (we called by pronunciation i.e Jehovah or YAHWE).

    I thank for Dr. Hurtado for his explanation though i disagree for some points where i stand with Dr.Kruger, and Dr. Simon Gathercole. I havenn’t read Dr. Bauckham books yet though Dr. Kruger often cited from his (Dr. Baukham) books.

    The point i want to say that why all apostles (disciples) assumed or thought that God vindicated Jesus and exalted to heavenly glory, made Lord, Christ, and Judge after Easter (post Easter) ?. Who then told them (while keep in mind that they were hard-core monotheism) that they thought like this ? How about Elijah, Enoch. Pharisees also believed the resurrection from the dead.

    While some commenters here said that pre-existence of Jesus had been told publicly (wide audience) by gospel writers, you said that they wrote through Post-Easter lens (whom I also agree), but i think that they also wrote from pre-Easter lens also (from my reason above).

    So my conclusion that the information of His pre-existence exist to His disciple (pre-Easter) but as seed and became in full blossomed in His resurrection (post-Easter).

    Thank you for reading my personal opinion🙂

    God bless us.

    • Lasni: Your comment makes clear the setting in which your write and the nature of your concerns. I think you don’t quite get what I’ve been trying to say in the posting to which you responded.
      Gathercole’s argument is that the synoptic gospels reflect a belief in Jesus’ pre-existence. But he doesn’t say that people believed this during Jesus’ ministry. He agrees that all the Gospels reflect the further “revelations” of Jesus’ high status that came in the “post-Easter” period. That is, Gathercole’s argument doesn’t really conflict with what I’ve stated.

  3. Thank you for sharing this excellent review. I was wondering how long it would take before you’d turn your attention to Ehrman’s latest.

    I’ve found a few weaknesses myself, such as his use of John 10:30 as evidence that Jesus was claiming to be equal with God in John, despite the many and varied interpretations of that account that one finds in the literature. . . . . . .
    [Comment edited as commenter’s request: LWH]
    You mentioned your review of The Colossian Syncretism by Clinton Arnold, and I’d love to read it. Can you provide the reference so that I can track down the book/journal?

    Thanks,
    ~Sean

    • Sean: For my review of Arnold, The Colossian Syncretism, see Journal of Biblical Literature 117 (1998), 156-58.
      Your comment about Ehrman’s handling of John 10:30 seems to me a bit unfair. I don’t find his view persuasive, but it’s not fair to characterize him as you have.

      • “Your comment about Ehrman’s handling of John 10:30 seems to me a bit unfair. I don’t find his view persuasive, but it’s not fair to characterize him as you have.”

        I agree, and I regret putting it the way that I did. I also apologize to professor Ehrman for it. I had hoped he’d take it in good humor, but upon re-reading it, that wasn’t very well thought out.

        In fact, if you could, I would appreciate it if you’d delete all but the first and last sentence of the post in question, and perhaps put a note that you’ve edited the post at my request?

  4. Thanks be to God that none of this depends on Ehrman…or any one of us, for that matter.

  5. X X, I strongly disagree.

    All the books are as available as this webpage via Amazon, LifeWay, Family Christian Bookstore, ECT at reasonable prices.
    In fact, I just went to the LifeWay store in Wheaton, IL last week to buy a work from Baker Academics, edited by Dr Hurtado and Dr Chris Keith called Jesus among Friends and Enemies for about $25-30.

    That reminds me… In this book, they have a nice exploration of God and Angels (Chapter 1) by Edith M. Humphrey in this book.
    I offer this work for anybody who is trying to get a grasp on the whole angel/God stuff (I think Ehrman didn’t do justice to the situation adequately).

    Ps… Dr Hurtado,
    Is it me or is there a possible editorial mistake in Jesus among friends and enemies
    on Page 44 *2nd paragraph* where it reads
    “These figures are described more extensively than either Gabriel or Daniel, but since they are not named personally, there is still explicit encouragement given to the reader who would collect “angel lore.””

    Daniel isn’t an angel…hence ‘angel lore’ wouldn’t go to him in the first place.
    It seems like it should be a reference to Michael
    The paragraph prior is speaking of Michael and Gabriel. The paragraph in question is speaking of seraphim/cherubim within the context of describing the angelic realm/orders.

    Thanks.

    • On the Daniel reference, yes, that does look like a mistake. Must have meant Michael or Raphael or something such, who are other named angels in biblical tradition.

  6. I have read a good part of Ehrman’s book, but it is hard to work up much desire to continue. And it is impossible to read it with much sympathy, because — in my opinion — he recklessly mishandles and misrepresents his sources.

    For example, he is at pains to make parallels between Jesus and the traveling philosopher, Apollonius of Tyana.

    In the beginning of Chapter 1, “Divine Humans in Ancient Greece and Rome,” Ehrman claims that — like Jesus — Apollonius: “… (4) went from village to town, announcing that people should be concerned about spiritual reality and not this earthly, material life (5) gathered a number of followers who became convinced that he was the Son of God (6) did miracles to confirm their belief (healings, exorcisms, raising the dead)…”

    According to Philostratus — in his Life of Apollonius I. XV — the philosopher’s wide travels were undertaken so he could see the world and learn from teachers in “India, Babylon, and Susa.” His followers refused to go with him; and he rebuked them, calling them “soft and effeminate.”

    Furthermore, none of Apollonius’ recorded “miracles” had the purpose of confirming his disciples faith in him. Furthermore, at no point in Phlostratus’ account is Apollonius ever called “the Son of God.”

    And as to his superhuman abilities, Philostratus tells us that Apollonius himself indicated that his ability to understand what birds are saying was shared by the Arabs — who gained the ability by eating the heart and liver of serpents (I. XX). And Apollonius’ ability to chase away goblins by shouting at them was also something others could do (II. IV).

    By comparing ancient sources, historian Jona Lendering concludes that we can only be sure that Apollonius was a magician who had a reputation for some healings (http://www.livius.org/ap-ark/apollonius/apollonius02.html).

    • Perhaps the more relevant matter is that Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius is from the 3rd century, and is now widely thought to have been prompted by the Gospels accounts of Jesus. So, it’s hardly relevant for understanding the emergence of the lst-century Gospels.

      • True. But my point is: Ehrman tends to distort his sources from any century.

      • Bobby: I really think that you’re making a rather sweeping claim, and tending toward an ad hominem statement. That’s not fair, likely not accurate. Bart has a good reputation in textual criticism especially, and I respect him in his own expertise. There are cases where I think he gives what looks like a one-sided discussion (e.g., in his discussion of the question of Jesus’ burial, which includes no references to evidence of strong Jewish concerns to bury the dead, even, says Josephus specifically, the crucified). But let’s avoid broad characterizations.

  7. Donald Jacobs permalink

    Professor Hurtado, about angel Christology: I know you have pointed out that most scholars have rejected the proposal of Martin Werner that the primitive church had an angel Christology. I wonder if you have read or responded to this article that attempts to rehabilitate Werner’s argument that the use of the title “Lord” for Jesus indicates an angel Christology?

    http://www.degruyter.com/view/j/zntw.2004.95.issue-3-4/zntw.2004.95.3-4.149/zntw.2004.95.3-4.149.xml

    • Two quick responses about Wold’s proposal in this article:
      1) Yes, in some Jewish texts of the approximate time angelic beings can be referred to as “lords”. Wold’s article essentially confirms this with a number of instances. But “lord” (in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) can also be used for any number of beings, essentially any that is superior. So, e.g., a master of a slave is the “lord” of the slave. Not much specific can be made of this.
      2) Without any justification offered, Wold presumes to take Paul in 1 Cor 8:4-6 as referring to angels, whereas the larger context makes it abundantly clear that the “gods and lords” aplenty referred to are the pagan deities of cities such as Corinth. Esp. in 1 Cor 8 & 10, this is clear.
      So, in short, there is in fact nothing in the article that leads to an “angel Christology” in Paul.

  8. But Ehrman is right in saying that ‘the Angel of the Lord’/’the Angel of Death’ act as ‘God’, no? Exodus 12:12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord.” > verse 23: “For the Lord will pass through to strike Egypt, and when he sees the blood on the top of the doorframe and the two side posts, then the Lord will pass over the door, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you.” In verse 12 it’s God who strikes down the first borns and in verse 23 it’s ‘the destroyer’ (the Angle of Death) who does so.

    • Yes, in some OT passages (esp. in Genesis) “the angel of the LORD” acts and speaks as the direct expression of YHWH/God. But the question raised in Ehrman’s discussion is whether Paul (and other earliest believers) thought of Jesus as an/the angel. That’s not so clear.

      • Lasni Roha permalink

        After I read the argument from Bart Ehrman when debated Daniel Wallace, i almost count all of his work as useless. It was because he said that “we really don’t have any way to know for sure” regarding authenticity of the New Testament and automatically all ancient literature must be treated in the same way.
        Nevertheless, Mr. Hurtado, i want to ask something regarding that some OT text that “angel of the Lord” sometimes was direct expression of YHVH, is it possible that Apostle Paul think like this ?
        Thank you.

      • Lasni: Paul never refers to Jesus as “the angel of the Lord”. To my knowledge, the first person who does this is Justin Martyr (ca. 150 CE).
        As for the question of establishing the text of the NT writings, we have better evidence than for any other ancient literary text. We don’t have autographs for any ancient literary text. But when considered “in the round” we have very good bases for a critical edition of NT writings. (Otherwise NT scholars, Bart included, would be put out of business!)

  9. Jim permalink

    Any plans for some sort of review of the Bird et. al. rebuttal, How God became Jesus?

    • I’m on a panel that will review both books in the SBL annual meeting in November. So, I’ll have to prepare to discuss them both. So, I may well have a blog-post on the Bird volume too in due course. (But I actually have a lot of things to do besides blogging!)

  10. Sean du Toit permalink

    Hi Larry, just wondering if you’ll let us know when the published review is available and if you’ll make comments on the response book “How God Became Jesus”? Always appreciate your thoughts, thanks much.

  11. Robert permalink

    Excellent review. I hope Bart responds. I would leave out the comment about his bank balance, however, as that may be misconstrued.

    • Oh, but such sales do generate revenues. Nothing personal intended.

      • Rick permalink

        I’m new to your blog, Larry, and have caught up with most of your recent posts. Thank you for doing this. However, I agree with Robert. Given your critical though charitable review, the comment about “bank balance” seems out of character, and appears personal despite intentions. Not a problem in a friendly blog, but hopefully it does not appear in the formal review. With Lorenzo, below, it is clear to me that your work has greatly influenced Bart though you disagree on some matters, as is typical of good scholars.

      • Well, I’m sorry if my passing reference to the financial success of Bart’s books was taken amiss. For what it’s worth, Bart has emailed engaging some critical points in my posting but didn’t mention that. So, I hope/suspect that he took it as the good fun that was intended.

      • lorenzo971 permalink

        Dr Hurtado, you just mentioned some emails from Ehrman. Any chance to share something with us humans?🙂 Did he manage to provide any compelling counter-argument to your criticism ??thank you!!

      • I couldn’t share specifics of someone’s mails without their permission. But I will say that essentially he thanked me for the affirmations of some things about the book and queried a few of my criticisms. I responded citing the pages where I had derived the impressions that drew my criticisms. I trust that we’re still on good terms. Certainly, that’s my attitude. Scholars should be able to disagree without being ugly to each other.

  12. Thank you Dr. Hurtado, I fully agree with your review!
    I’d may even add some possible criticism to the (ill-informed, in my opinion) analysis of Jesus’ burial accounts (which Ehrman thinks are not plausible) vs. historical burial practices of that time. Also, Ehrman always play games with terminology: in this case he uses “visions” for “experiences” to diminish their significance, as he used “forgery” for apocrypha in a different context. But on the whole, I believe that having Ehrman changing his mind on Christology development further consolidates scholars’ consensus about early High Christology eruption. And I have reasons to suspect that your outstanding work on this subject over the past years, heavily influenced his change of mind.

  13. Mark Edward permalink

    Jesus wasn’t /yet/ equated with God the Father? Christians believed Jesus was only temporarily human?

    I would expect claims like these would set off more than just the apologists. Would I be wrong in thinking claims like these are so fundamentally mistaken (not just theologically, but in a strictly historical comprehension of early Christianity) that if any other scholar wrote them it would severely damage their credibility?

  14. I’d say that it may be unfair to judge Ehrman’s views as “misinformed,” and we should try very hard to be more fair. He could more likely be said to not be ignorant about things that anybody reading a dictionary article would know but is simply misrepresenting things intentionally. Such a more fair assessment would not disparage his scholarly ability down to an undergrad level. To me it seems more accurate to consider of such a vaunted scholar that “he knows better,” eh?😉

  15. J.J. permalink

    Good review, especially the critique of Ehrman’s angel christology in Paul. The mythicists (who already have Ehrman in their crosshairs) are going to enjoy his angel christology.

    • The first time I heard that argument in relation to Gal 4:14 was when I read Geischen’s Angelomorphic Christology, noted above. Since that verse is subject to an alternative interpretation that many (most?) find compelling, Ehrman would have been better off focusing attention on a slightly more sophisticated case for suggesting that some early Christians may have considered Christ to be an angel, e.g. F. Scheidweiler’s observation that:

      “The Angel-Christology, as a peculiar combination of Christologies of exaltation and pre-existence, is the key to the whole situation of Paul’s Christology and it solves every difficulty…In what way should one conceive of a heavenly being, who was indeed like God, but was subordinate to Him, who could experience an elevation of rank and also surrender it again? Such a being could only be an angelic-being.”*

      Such an approach could have inspired a much more interesting and invovlved dialogue than we are likely to see in relation to Gal. 4:14, i.e. a single verse with at least 1 compelling alternate interpretation.

      ~Sean

      *Novation und die Engelchristologie, in Zeitschrift f. Kirchengeschichte, Bd. 66, Heft I/II, pp. 126-139, as quoted in The Formation of Christian Dogma, by Martin Werner, Harper & Brothers: New York, translated and abridged by S. G. F. Brandon, M.A. , D.D., p. 130

      • Sean: The claim of Werner (and the works he cited, such Scheidweller) have long ago been shown to be simplistic. They fail to reckon with the evidence that Paul (and other NT texts) in fact draw sharp distinctions between the exalted Jesus and angels, even principal-angel figures. See my own discussion in my book, One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism (1988; 1998).

      • Thank you for your comment, Dr. Hurtado, which may be viewed as illustrative of the point I was trying to make. Attempting to build a case for angel-Christology in Paul based on Gal. 4:14 is probably a non-starter. On the other hand, presenting more sophisticated argumentation (not necessarily stemming from Werner, specifically) would have the potential to get a dialogue going that could prove to be more fruitful or instructive, whichever side of the debate one favored.

        To an Arian, sharp distinctions between Jesus and the angels are no more problematic than sharp distinctions between Jesus and his God and Father are to a Trinitarian. Logically speaking, Jesus could both be an angel and also superior to the angels just as many feel that he could be both God and also distinct from and subordinate to God. Presbyterian William Kinkade put it well during the Trinitarian/Unitarian debates of yesteryear when addressing the argument that Jesus couldn’t have been an angel in light of Hebrews, Ch 1. His comments are such that they can’t be abbreviated sufficiently for a blog post, but you can find them on page 155 of his “The Bible Doctrine of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit”, which can be read here:

        http://preview.tinyurl.com/psza6yq

        Any way, my point is not to argue here in favor of angel Christology, but only to suggest that a much more sophisticated argument in favor of this view is possible, and that such an argument is what Ehrman would have needed to make if that particular part of his historical re-construction were to gain any traction. Gal. 4:14 is not going to give him what he’d need to make the case for angel-Christology in Paul compelling to most Christians.

        ~Sean

      • Sean: The question before us on THIS site isn’t what is or isn’t acceptable to “most Christians”, but what is simply the more likely historical judgement about what Paul thought about Jesus.

      • “Sean: The question before us on THIS site isn’t what is or isn’t acceptable to “most Christians”, but what is simply the more likely historical judgement about what Paul thought about Jesus.”

        Point taken. After I clicked “Post Comment” I thought that I probably should have put the period after “compelling,” but it was too late. In any case, it looks like we agree vis a vis the main point, i.e. Ehrman didn’t make a compelling case for angel-Christology in Paul.

        BTW, you and Ehrman actually have something important in common. You are both gifted teachers, with a knack for making sometimes somewhat esoteric subject matter interesting, even to lay folks. As I state on my blog, even when I disagree with what you say, I can’t help but enjoy how you say it:-)

      • Thanks. And I discovered a couple of years ago that Bart and I also share having been competition debaters in high school (although in different decades!).

  16. Excellent well-rounded review. I have one comment, though. According to Clinton Arnold’s The Colossian Syncretism there were some Jews venerating angels in Paul’s day. Arnold cites 2:18 as part of his thesis, attributing this angel worship as being perpetrated by both pagans and Jews.

  17. x x permalink

    I wish yourself and others such as Richard Bauckham would publish popular level books such as Erhman’s, and have them published by Harper Collins — who can get copies into the hands of the general reading public. Eerdmans, Zondervan, Baker, etc. will *never* achieve this kind of wide circulation..

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: