When Bart Ehrman was a young Evangelical Christian, he wanted to know how God became a man, but now, as an agnostic and historian of early Christianity, he wants to know how a man became God.
(Quote from “If Jesus Never Called Himself God: How Did He Become One?” NPR Fresh Air)
I came across this engaging, excellent public radio interview of researcher, biblical scholar and author Bart Ehrman today. He was interviewed by Terry Gross in connection with his book How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee.
You can listen to the actual interview by going to the NPR Fresh Air program site or by clicking on the stained-glass image of Jesus above.
Ehrman is a credible and responsible research scholar on topics of religion, particularly Christianity. I admire his writings and his research findings, having read some of his earlier books. He used to be a Christian evangelical fundamentalist who is now an agnostic. I highly recommend reading Ehrman, in addition to listening to the Fresh Air interview.
Here are excerpts from the interview in which Ehrman makes a very fascinating point about the resurrection of Jesus.
Was Jesus put in a tomb and three days later that tomb was found empty? Well, that’s a historical question. And to answer it, it doesn’t require any set of religious beliefs; you can simply look at the sources and draw some historical conclusions. …
Before I wrote this book and did the research on it, I was convinced, as many people are, that Jesus was given a decent burial, and on the third day the women went to the tomb, found it empty, and that started the belief in the resurrection.
Apart from the fact that I don’t think Jesus was given a decent burial — that he was probably thrown into a common grave of some kind — apart from that, I was struck in doing my research by the fact that the New Testament never indicates that people came to believe in the resurrection because of the empty tomb. This was a striking find because it’s just commonly said that that’s what led to the resurrection belief.
But if you think about it for a second, it makes sense that the empty tomb wouldn’t make anybody believe. If you put somebody in a tomb and three days later you go back and the body’s not in the tomb, your first thought isn’t, “Oh, he’s been exalted to heaven and made the son of God.” Your first thought is, “Somebody stole the body.” Or, “Somebody moved the body.” Or, “Hey, I’m at the wrong tomb.” You don’t think he’s been exalted to heaven. In the New Testament it’s striking that in the Gospels the empty tomb leads to confusion but it doesn’t lead to belief. What leads to belief is that some of the followers of Jesus have visions of him afterward.
(Bart Ehrman Interview)