In this series of post I am going to be documenting some of Bart D. Ehrman’s contradictions, specifically those he has made in respect to Christ’s divinity. After reading and listening to him for so many years, it has become apparent to me that Ehrman is more than willing to contradict what he has said or written in order to avoid making specific concessions, which would confirm that the conservative, evangelical position regarding the Trinity and the Deity of the Lord Jesus is actually correct.
Take, for instance, what Ehrman said in the cross-examination section of his debate with Evangelical professor Justin Bass that took place on September 18, 2015:
“Paul, by the way, doesn’t say Jesus is equal with God of Israel… He is definitely not Yahweh for any author of the New Testament! Yahweh and Jesus are different beings in the New Testament… Paul does not say that Jesus is Yahweh… You show me a place where Paul says Jesus is Yahweh.” (Primitive Christianity, “Jesus is NOT Yahweh the God of Israel – Bart D. Ehrman” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zogxeFBP6l0)
It is interesting see how Ehrman ends up contradicting himself in this very same exchange since, after Professor Bass pressed him on the meaning of Philippians 2:9-11, Ehrman does a u-turn and admits that, “God has given him a position equal with himself but he hasn’t made him into Yahweh.”
I am now going to cite from Ehrman’s books to show where he himself admits that the NT writers do in fact proclaim that Jesus is equal with Yahweh and is even called Yahweh.
John’s Proclamation to Christ’s eternal equality with God
Here is what Ehrman wrote concerning John’s Gospel:
“… Among other things, in this Gospel there are not simply allusions to Jesus’ divine power and authority. There are bald statements that equate Jesus with God and say that he was a preexistent divine being who came into the world. This view is not simply like Paul’s, in which Jesus was some kind of angel who then came to be exalted to a higher position of deity. For John, Jesus was equal with God AND EVEN SHARED HIS NAME and his glory in his preincarnate state. To use the older terminology (which I favored back then), this was an extremely high Christology.” (Ehrman, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee [HarperOne, 2014], 7. Jesus as God on Earth: Early Incarnation Christologies, p. 270; bold and capital emphasis ours)
“One of the most striking features of John’s Gospel is its elevated claims about Jesus. Here, Jesus is decidedly God AND IS IN FACT EQUAL WITH GOD THE FATHER–before coming into the world, while in the world, and after he leaves the world. Consider the following passages, which are found only in John among the four Gospels:
- In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have beheld his glory, glory as of the unique one before the Father, full of grace and truth. (1:1, 14; later this Word made flesh is named as ‘Jesus Christ,’ v. 17)
- But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is working still, and I also am working.’ This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God. (5:17-18)
- [Jesus said:] ‘Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.’ (8:58)
- [Jesus said:] ‘I and the Father are one.’ (10:30)
- Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.’ (14:8-9)
- [Jesus prayed to God:] ‘I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.’
- [Jesus prayed:] ‘Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.’ (17:24)
- Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ (20:28)
“I need to be clear: Jesus is not God the Father in this Gospel. He spends all of chapter 17 praying to his Father, and, as I pointed out earlier, he is not talking to himself. But he has been given glory EQUAL TO THAT OF GOD THE FATHER. And he had that glory BEFORE HE CAME INTO THE WORLD. When he leaves this world, he returns to the glory THAT WAS HIS BEFORE. To be sure, Jesus comes to be ‘exalted’ here–he several times talks about his crucifixion as being ‘lifted up’–a play on words in reference to being ‘lifted onto the cross’ and being ‘exalted’ up to heaven as a result. But the exaltation is not to a higher state than the one he previously possessed, as in Paul. For John, he was already both ‘God’ and ‘with God’ in his preincarnate state as a divine being. Nowhere can this view be seen more clearly than in the first eighteen verses of the Gospel, frequently called the Prologue of John.” (Ibid., pp. 271-272; bold and capital emphasis ours)
“… As we saw, the Prologue of John stressed that Jesus was the incarnation of the preexistent Word of God who was both with God and was himself God. This incarnation Christology is one of the ‘highest’ views of Christ to be found in the New Testament…” (Ibid., pp. 297-298; bold emphasis ours)
Ehrman also comments on Jesus’ use of the phrase “I Am”:
“Even though this view of Christ as the Logos made flesh is not found anywhere in the Gospel of John, its views are obviously closely aligned with the Christology of the Gospel otherwise. That is why Christ can make himself ‘equal with God’ (John 5:18); can say that he and the Father ‘are one’ (10:30); can talk about the ‘glory’ he had with the Father before coming into the world (17:4); can say that anyone who has seen him has ‘seen the Father’ (14:9); and can indicate that ‘before Abraham was, I am’ (8:58). This last verse is especially intriguing. As we have seen, in the Hebrew Bible when Moses encounters God at the burning bush in Exodus 3, he asks God what his name is. God tells him that his name is ‘I am.’ In John, Jesus appears TO TAKE THE NAME UPON HIMSELF. Here he does not receive ‘the name that is above every name’ at his exaltation after his resurrection, as in the Philippians poem (Phil. 2:9). He already has ‘the name’ while on earth. Throughout the Gospel of John, the unbelieving Jews understand full well what Jesus is saying about himself when he makes such claims. They regularly take up stones to execute him for committing blasphemy, for claiming in fact to be God.” (Ehrman, pp. 278-279; bold and capital emphasis ours)
The next set of quotes concerning John’s Gospel are taken from another one of Ehrman’s books criticizing the Holy Bible:
“Thing are quite different in the Gospel of John. In Mark, Jesus teaches principally about God and the coming kingdom, hardly ever talking directly about himself, except to say that he must go to Jerusalem to be executed, whereas in John, that is practically all that Jesus talks about: who he is, where he has come from, where he is going, and how he is the one who can provide eternal life.
“Jesus does not preach about the future kingdom of God in John. The emphasis is on his own identity, as seen in the ‘I am’ sayings. He is the one who can bring life-giving sustenance (‘I am the bread of life’ 6:35); he is the one who brings enlightenment (‘I am the light of the world’ 9:5); he is the only way to God (‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me’ 14:6). Belief in Jesus is the way to have eternal salvation: ‘whoever believes in him may have eternal life’ (3:36). HE IN FACT IS EQUAL WITH GOD: ‘I and the Father are one’ (10:30). His Jewish listeners appear to have known full well what he was saying: they immediately pick up stones to execute him for blasphemy.
“In one place in John, JESUS CLAIMS THE NAME OF GOD FOR HIMSELF, saying to his Jewish interlocutors, ‘Before Abraham was, I am’ (John 8:58). Abraham, who lived 1,800 years earlier, was the father of the Jews, and Jesus is claiming to have existed before him. But he is claiming more than that. He is referring to a passage in the Hebrew Scriptures where God appears to Moses at the burning bush and commissions him to go to Pharaoh and seek the release of his people. Moses asks God what God’s name is, so that he can inform his fellow Israelites which divinity has sent him. God replies, ‘I Am Who I Am … say to the Israelites, “I Am has sent me to you”’ (Exodus 3:14). So when Jesus says ‘I Am,’ in John 8:58, HE IS CLAIMING THE DIVINE NAME FOR HIMSELF. Here again his Jewish hearers had no trouble understanding his meaning. Once more, out come the stones.” (Ehrman, Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We don’t Know About Them) [HarperOne, A Division of HarperCollins Publishers, 2009], Three. A Mass Of Variant Views, pp. 79-80; bold and capital emphasis ours)
So according to Ehrman, John depicts Jesus as an eternal Being who has always possessed God’s name and has always been equal to God the Father.
In the second part of our discussion https://answeringislamblog.wordpress.com/2017/05/11/will-the-real-bart-ehrman-please-stand-up-pt-2/, we are going to see Ehrman claiming that some of the early Christians believed that Jesus Christ is the human incarnation of the OT Angel of Yahweh, and how this admission further illustrates Ehrman’s gross inconsistencies.