BART EHRMAN AGREES: JOHN DESCRIBES JESUS AS GOD ALMIGHTY!

In this post I will cite what agnostic/atheist New Testament scholar Dr. Bart D. Ehrman has to say in respect to John’s Christology. The reason for doing so is because Ehrman does not believe in God’s existence and does not think that Jesus rose from the dead. As such, his views of what John’s Gospel teaches in regards to Christ’s Deity carry strong weight since he has no theological axe to grind which would force him to make John’s witness fit in with certain theological presuppositions and beliefs. Being an agnostic/atheist Ehrman can simply allow the Fourth Evangelist say what he does in fact say about the Son.

I start by referencing the book Ehrman wrote on the Deity of Christ:

“… 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 emphasis mine)

And:

“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.’ (17:4-5)
  • [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 emphasis mine)

Again:

“… 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 mine)

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 emphasis mine)

The next set of quotes are taken from another one of Ehrman’s assaults against God’s inspired Word:

“Things 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.” (Bart 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 emphasis mine)

And:

“… John starts with a prologue that mysteriously describes the Word of God that was in the very beginning with God, that was itself God, and through which God created the universe. This Word, we are told, became a human being, and that’s who Jesus Christ is: the Word of God made flesh. There is nothing like that in the Synoptics… Jesus also preaches in this Gospel, not about the coming kingdom of God but about himself: who he is, where he has come from, where he is going, and how he can bring eternal life. Unique to John are the various ‘I am’ sayings, in which Jesus identifies himself and what he can provide for people. These ‘I am’ sayings are usually backed up by a sign, to show that what Jesus says about himself is true. And so he says, ‘I am the bread of life’ and proves it by multiplying the loaves to feed the multitudes; he says ‘I am the light of the world’ and proves it by healing the man born blind; he says ‘I am the resurrection and the life’ and proves it by raising Lazarus from the dead.” (Ibid, pp. 72-73; bold emphasis mine)

Finally:

“The last of our Gospels to be written, John, pushes the Son-of-God-ship of Jesus back even further, INTO ETERNITY PAST. John is our only Gospel that actually speaks of Jesus as divine [Note – In his most recent book Ehrman admits that he has now changed his position and thinks that all the Gospels portray Jesus as divine, albeit in different senses]. For John, Christ is not the Son of God because God raised him from the dead, adopted him at the baptism, or impregnated his mother: he is the Son of God because he existed with God in the very beginning, before the creation of the world, as the Word of God, before coming into this world as a human being (becoming ‘incarnate’)… This is the view that became the standard Christian doctrine, that Christ was the preexistent Word of God who became flesh. He both was with God in the beginning and was God, and it was through him that the universe was created. But this was not the original view held by the followers of Jesus. The idea that Jesus was divine was a later Christian invention, one found, among our gospels, only in John… What led Christians to develop this view? The Gospel of John does not represent the view of one person, the unknown author of the Gospel, but rather a view that the author inherited through his oral tradition, just as the other Gospel writers record the traditions that they had heard, traditions in circulation in Christian circles FOR DECADES before they were written down. John’s tradition is obviously unique, however, since in none [sic] of the other Gospels do we have such an exalted view of Christ. Where did this tradition come from?” (Ibid, Seven. Who Invented Christianity?, pp. 248-249; bold and capital emphasis mine)

Ehrman has more to say concerning John’s prologue:

“John does not make any reference to Jesus’ mother being a virgin, instead explaining his coming into the world as an incarnation of a preexistent divine being. The prologue to John’s Gospel (1:1-18) is one of the most elevated and POWERFUL passages of the entire Bible. It is also one of the most discussed, controverted, and differently interpreted. John begins (1:1-3) with an elevated view of the ‘Word of God,’ a being that is independent of God (he was ‘with God’) but that is in some sense equal with God (he ‘was God’). This being existed in the beginning with God and is the one through whom the entire universe was created (‘all things came into being through him, and apart from him not one thing came into being’).

“Scholars have wrangled over details of this passage for centuries. My personal view is that the author is harking back to the story of creation in Genesis 1, where God spoke and creation resulted: ‘And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.’ It was by speaking a word that God created all that there was. The author of the Fourth Gospel, LIKE SOME OTHERS IN JEWISH TRADITION, imagined that the word that God spoke was some kind of independent entity in and of itself. It was ‘with’ God, because once spoken, it was apart from God, and it ‘was’ God in the sense that what God spoke was a part of his being. His speaking only made external what was already internal, within his mind. The word of God, then, was the outward manifestation of the internal divine reality. It both was with God, and was God, and was the means by which all things came into being.

In John’s Gospel, this preexistent divine Word of God became a human being: ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory’ (1:14). It comes as no surprise who this human being was: Jesus Christ. Jesus, here, is not simply a Jewish prophet who suddenly bursts onto the scene, as in Mark; and he is not a divine-human who has come into existence at the point of his conception (or birth) by a woman who was impregnated by God. He is God’s very word, who was with God in the beginning, who has temporarily come to dwell on earth, bringing the possibility of eternal life.

“John does not say how this Word came into the world. He does not have a birth narrative and says nothing about Joseph and Mary, about Bethlehem, or about a virginal conception. And he varies from Luke on this very key point: whereas Luke portrays Jesus as having come into being at some historical point (conception or birth), John portrays him as the human manifestation of a divine being who transcends human history.” (Ibid, pp. 75-76; bold and capital emphasis mine)

There you have it, folks. Even an agnostic/atheist can see that John describes Jesus as God Almighty who became flesh, the unique divine Son who is equal to God the Father in essence and glory.

FURTHER READING

Bart Ehrman and the Trinity Pt. 2

Jesus Christ – Our Lord And Our God!

A Rebuttal to Shabir Ally’s Response to Dr. James White Part 5b

1 Timothy 3:16 and the Deity of Christ [Part 3]

2 thoughts on “BART EHRMAN AGREES: JOHN DESCRIBES JESUS AS GOD ALMIGHTY!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s