Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ehrman's Exageration

Bart Ehrman, is by far, one of the most prominent agnostics and critic of the New Testament today. In his newest book, Jesus Interrupted, Ehrman makes the claim that only the Gospel of John presents Jesus as being divine. Consider this quote from Ehrman, "John is the only Gospel in which Jesus is explicitly identified as divine."[1]- . I do agree that John has the most references to the divinity of Jesus, but is Ehrman correct in his statement?

If we assume that the four Gospels were written by individuals who witnessed the life of Jesus, then this will help to clear up one aspect of the puzzle. If John was the author of the Gospel of John, it is easy to understand why his book would be so different. Also, if we assume the three other Gospel writers were martyred earlier in the 1st century while John lived until the end of the 1st century, then again you could see why differences between the earlier synoptic Gospels would be somewhat different than John. If John along with the other Gospel writers was inspired of God, it is reasonable to believe that his later message would contain extra material by God's direction for believers in the future. The Gospel of John does say that, "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. (John 21:25)" Clearly, the four writers reported differently emphasizing various points as they saw them and as they were guided by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20). Ehrman, however, discounts God and anything to do with the supernatural, so it is obvious to see why he would find fault. Bart is skeptical at heart, looking for variant mistakes, but the central theme of the four Gospels is that Jesus came from God, was God, was crucified for the sins of mankind and bodily rose from the dead. What about Ehrman's claim that Jesus is not presented as divine in the other 3 Gospels?

While Jesus never said in an outright manner that "I am God," he did stipulate his divinity on many occasions. Since Ehrman claims that Jesus is not presented as divine in the other Gospels outside of John, all that one needs to show is one example to the contrary. In Matthew 8:23-27, Jesus calms a storm, at which the apostles remark, "what kind of man is this." Well. only God could calm a storm. While Ehrman would discount this supernatural act of Jesus at least Matthew points out that Jesus had done so, disproving Ehrman's point that Jesus is not identified explicitly as being divine. In Matthew 9:23-26, Jesus heals a girl that had been dead. Only a divine being can heal a dead person. In Luke 7:48, Jesus explicitly tells a woman, what only God can say - "Your sins are forgiven."In Luke 21, Jesus predicts the destruction of Jerusalem. Ehrman, would, of course say that this was a later addition, but the burden of proof lies on his shoulders.

What about the Gospel of Mark? Mark is believed by most scholars to be the earliest of the four Gospels, so how does Mark portray Jesus? In Mark 2:1-12, we find Jesus forgiving sins again and healing a paralytic to prove that he has authority to forgive sins. Two points to raise here are that only God can heal completely and forgive sins, this is why the people who witnessed the statement of Jesus said, "He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" It is interesting to note that other sources outside of the Christian documents inform us that Jesus was a worker of miracles/wonders (see Josephus and the Jewish Talmud).[2] Perhaps the biggest claim to divinity outside of John's gospel is found in Mark 14:53-65. In this passage Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man in the context of Daniel 7:13-14. The Daniel passage that Jesus referenced to himself was a know passage by the Jews in reference to God. It is because Jesus referenced himself to the Daniel 7 passage that the charge of blasphemy was made. The Danial passage that Jesus was claiming in reference to himself was an explicit statement of his divinity.

[1] Ehrman, Bart, Jesus Interrupted, p. 140

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