I am fortunate to be chair of an SBL Program Unit called: “The Extent of Theological Diversity in Earliest Christianity.”
Here is our description as listed on the SBL site:
Description: Focusing on the evidence for Jesus’ death and resurrection as a narrative used to shape the identity of emergent communities, and on the alternatives to this narrative preserved in early Christian sources, this Consultation explores the origin, nature and extent of theological diversity in earliest Christianity from the beginnings until approximately 180 CE. By fostering a conversation involving the testing of various reconstructions of early Christian history against the range of relevant evidence, the unit seeks to bring greater precision to the study of “orthodoxy and heresy in early Christianity.”
This fall one of the two sessions we will sponsor seeks to address the question: “How Did Jesus Become God?” Bart Ehrman has written a book on the topic and it will be published in March 2014 by HarperCollins. Here is the full title: How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee. Ehrman has agreed to let us offer a session in review of his book. We are in the process of putting together the panelists for the review session. Ehrman will give a response to his reviewers. I haven’t seen the book yet. I am still waiting for my advance copy.
Ironically, a daughter company of HarperCollins, Zondervan, commissioned a book in response which is scheduled to be published this spring as well. Michael Bird pulled together a group of contributors to “answer” Ehrman’s historical reconstruction. Other than himself these include Simon Gathercole, Chris Tilling, Craig Evans, and Charles Hill. Zondervan will release the book this March as well under the title: How God Became Jesus: The Real Origins of Belief in Jesus’ Divine Nature—A Response to Bart Ehrman. Apparently HarperCollins shared the electronic manuscript of Ehrman’s book with Zondervan in order to provide—what can only be described as—a timely response. I’d be interested in how all of this happened. If you compare the front covers of each book, you can see how similar they are.
Needless to say this promises to be a great conversation over an important and controversial topic.
Here are some of the people we are talking with about being on the panel. I’ll announce the final panel in about a month:
Bart Ehrman, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Larry Hurtado, University of Edinburgh
Dale Martin, Yale University
Michael Bird, Ridley Melbourne College
James McGrath, Butler University
Craig Evans, Acadia Divinity College
If you are planning on being at SBL in San Diego in November 2014, be sure to look up our group and join us for the dialogue.
I hope the participants will not avoid the main question, which is Jesus’ own definition of God in MK 12:29. Agreeing with a friendly Jew that “the Lord our God is one Lord,” Jesus was obviously a unitary monotheist. How is it that the church bearing his name has abandoned the creed approved by Jesus?
I’m not sure there is a need to presuppose unitarianism into the text at that point. Do you think otherwise?
The fact that Jesus is not God has left American churchdom facing the hard reality that they are idolaters. Worshipping three beings as God is equivalent to worshipping three Gods. One may protest that trinitarians worship one God who has three essences/parts/beings, the fact remains that it is simply the worship of three Gods.
It may surprise you that Trinitarians do not worship three essences/beings/parts. I would agree that this is tri-theism. We worship the One True God. This One divine essence exists as three eternal persons.