How Jesus Became God by Bart D. Ehrman

“Faith is not historical knowledge, and historical knowledge is not faith.”

Lately, I have been really interested in books that show an outside angle of faith. This includes works about the psychological or sociological aspects of faith and books that focus on Jesus as an historical figure, not a religious figure.

How Jesus Became God is about the historical figure of Jesus and how he evolved into a deity.

I have been in church-going circles my whole life. I have been in very conservative circles and extremely liberal circles with everything in between. I know that even reading a book like this would be considered ridiculous by some Christians; to read a book that questions the power or divinity of Christ is outright heresy.

I think all factual knowledge is valuable knowledge and the pursuit of such knowledge requires questions, and all questions (no matter heretical they may same sound) are necessary. The author (a former Christian who is a professor of religion) describes similar discussions with Christians. It is quite interesting that Christians seem more afraid of ex-believers than simple unbelievers. Are Christians threatened by their innermost, hidden doubts?

But I digress.

I am sure many Christian apologists could read this book and rip it apart for its apparent inconsistencies and acceptance of controversial historical findings. You can find these debates in all historical subjects. So, allow me to only comment on Ehrman’s presentation in this book.

All in all, I think this is a very good, well-written book. We can all agree there was a man called Jesus who was from Nazareth and was crucified by the Romans. What he said and did during his life is debated by many. The Gospels were written decades later by men who were not eyewitnesses, and it can questioned that the Gospels were influenced by other works.

Ehrman does a good job presenting his case. My biggest objection to his evidence is something he calls the “criterion of dissimilarity” which pretty much means that if something appears to be out of place or somewhat negative or unhelpful about the Jesus’ narrative then most likely it is valid or legit. I am a little wearying of this line of thinking. One classical example of this is the women at the empty tomb, I have heard pastors claim this as proof of the resurrection because no rational man in ancient times would start a religion based on the testimony of women. That perhaps is accurate, but I have seen plenty of movies based “true stories” that give their man characters (who are based on real people) negative character traits, these undesirable traits are not more true because they are less desirable. They do, however, make a good story.

I enjoyed this book. It was longer than it needed to be. I obviously have a lot of questions to ask. I still have faith. This book did not magically destroy my faith. I think it is important for Christians to read books like this so that have a better understanding of Jesus. You can disagree with the author and still enjoy his book.