Why I Am Excited to Read Bart Ehrman – For the First Time (Gupta)

Two confessions (this is not an April Fool’s Joke!)

#1: I have never, ever read the work of Bart Ehrman before.

#2: I am excited to read How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (HarperOne, 2014). [It just arrived on my desk – thank you to HarperOne!]

Why am I excited? Not because I think Ehrman is the most brilliant thing ever to happen to NT studies. But because, unlike several other of his popular-level books, this subject (Christology) is actually a high-profile debate in the academic guild. When it comes to textual criticism and pseudonymous authorship (two topics Ehrman has previously treated), while I didn’t read those books the general impression I got from reviews was that Ehrman was hyping up the issues. Very few  confessional scholars lose sleep over text-critical concerns and fears that NT texts are “forged.” However, Christology really is the make-or-break topic in the New Testament.

To say I am excited to read his book does not mean I expect to be persuaded by his major argument – that the disciples did not really believe him to be God (see back cover). However, there are enough question marks about New Testament Christology, ancient conceptions of divinity, and how early Christian thought about Jesus developed over time that I am open to hearing what Ehrman has to say.

From the ZonderBird response book (How God Became Jesus, Zondervan 2014), I am most interested in rejoinder essays by Simon Gathercole and Mike Bird. On a different note, I really, really hope Hurtado, Bauckham, and Dunn write reviews on Ehrman – long reviews! Inquiring minds want to know!

5 thoughts on “Why I Am Excited to Read Bart Ehrman – For the First Time (Gupta)

  1. I’ve been reading How God Became Jesus (I’m doing it backward I know). But I have read enough of Ehrman to know what his arguments are going to be. They are nothing earth shattering. It is repackaged stuff that we’ve been reading for years. But he is such a good writer for a popular audience that he has to be taken seriously (as Crossan has been as well). I really found his “Did Jesus Exist” to be very helpful (and even in that book, there were hints that this present book was coming).

    1. Yes, I too was tempted to read Bird first (since it came a couple of weeks in advance), but I tucked it away and I want to give my first read of Ehrman the most objective one I can! It will be hard!

  2. I have only read Lost Christianities, where Ehrman popularised the term “proto-orthodox,” and his NT intro. If you look beyond some of his negative language and times when he definitely pushes the envelope, you’ll find him to be a very engaging writer and always worth reading.

    I suggest you have a look at Ehrman’s New Testament Introduction – now in its third edition. It is universally recognised as one of the best NT intro texts out there. I always enjoy reading Ehrman’s NT intro together with Carson and Moo – each is equally brilliant, and opinionated on certain issues :).

    Btw, based on one of your reviews, I bought Eugene Boring’s NT intro. I am loving it and its now my “go to” text along with Raymond Brown.

    1. Thanks, Paul. Glad you like Boring – he’s anything but boring! So much insight is packed into the intro. I don’t think I could use it as a textbook (except as a reference work), but I have turned to it in lecture prep many times.

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