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Ehrman Review Published

July 26, 2014

My commissioned review of Bart Ehrman’s book, How Jesus Became God:  The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee, has just appeared in the latest issue of Christian Century (August 6, 2014), pp. 26-28.   It’s given a review-essay place, and I was allowed a reasonably generous word-count, which permitted me to engage a number of key issues in the book.

I applaud Ehrman’s ability to communicate scholarly issues in an accessible manner, and also I hope that the book will help make a general readership more aware of the fascinating questions connected with the early eruption of Jesus-devotion.  Ehrman indicates that in the course of doing his research he came around to the recognition that it erupted early and quickly, and didn’t develop as an incremental process.

I’m also critical of several matters, however, and have to give the book a mixed verdict, therefore.  I think he presents some matters in a one-sided fashion (e.g., his treatment of how Jesus’ body was disposed of after crucifixion, or his treatment of early resurrection-visions).  And I don’t  think that he offers a valid basis for his claim that the earliest “high” christology involved seeing Jesus as an angel.  On these and some other matters, the book seems to me to mis-fire.  But it’s always good to have one’s own research focus presented to a wider readership, even if I’m not satisfied with the presentation.

Thanks to a commentor on this blog site, I can now note that the review is available online here.

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  1. Mark permalink

    Thank you for the review. I have to admit, Ehrman’s claim that Paul thought Jesus was an angel seems paper-thin, almost like he’s trying to convince himself in an effort to explain Paul’s exalted view of Jesus. Apparently, Ehrman sits and contemplates the meaning of these difficult texts, looking for a way in which to read them, and then “voila” the answer comes with dazzling clarity. Remarkably, even after 2000 yrs. Paul remains a stumbling block for those scholars who wish to reduce Jesus to what is essentially a political figure. Or, maybe, a failed apocalyptic preacher with a death wish. Your review is a valuable aid in that process.

    • Well, I think you’re probably over-simplifying Bart and his method, actually. For his notion that Paul thought of Jesus as an angel, Bart does point to Gieschen on his reading of the Galatians text. And, the question of what Jesus himself intended and how he was seen during his ministry is one thing, distinguishable from what followers made of him after his crucifixion. I think there’s a relationship between them, but they are logically distinguishable.

  2. Tim Reichmuth permalink

    Dr. H.,

    Having read your review , as well as Ehrman’s book, I believe you were a bit generous in his ability to
    Communicate scholarly issues. My observation of this work is similar to all of Ehrman’s popular treatments of scholarly issues, he is more dedicated to dismissing his former supposed evangelical beliefs than presenting a laymen’s view of early Jesus devotion.


  3. samtsang98 permalink

    Your discussion on the role of angels in the Second Temple Period is so much better.

  4. The review is available online:

    Dr Hurtado, can you confirm this is your full review?

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