Why ‘Became’ Matters

Posted: Thursday, March 20, 2014 in Books

These two books are the current “Featured Selections” for History Book Club members. The books are described as follows:

How Jesus Became God – Christian faith claims that Jesus was, and is, God. Leading Bible scholar and historical Jesus expert Bart Ehrman reveals how an apocalyptic prophet crucified for crimes against the state came to be thought of as equal with God Almighty. Jesus’s followers accepted his message that God would overthrow the forces of evil; some anticipated that when the new kingdom arrived, Jesus himself would be its king. After Jesus was crucified, many came to believe that God had raised him from the dead and exalted him to his own right hand. Ehrman traces these epic events in a compelling and authoritative narrative, showing how belief in Jesus’ resurrection changed everything, and set the stage for the development of Christianity as we know it.

How the Bible Became Holy – In How the Bible Became Holy, Michael Satlow traces the story of how an ancient collection of obscure Israelite writings became the founding texts of both Judaism and Christianity. Satlow describes the creation of key biblical texts in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C.E. as mainly academic exercises. It was not until these were translated into Greek in the second century B.C.E. that some Jews began to see them as culturally authoritative—and not until a century later that the Sadducees assigned legal power to the writings. He also discusses the way Jesus and his followers understood the authority of the scriptures. Satlow offers provocative new assertions about commonly accepted interpretations of biblical history.

I have not read the books (neither is published yet but coming soon) – but I am familiar with one of the authors. Ehrman is the Chair of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. He has written many titles in an effort to repudiate the claims of orthodox Christianity, most notably the deity of Christ and the God-spirated Holy Scriptures. I am not as familiar with Satlow, who is professor of religious studies and Judaic studies at Brown University.

The problem with both books is found in the verb used in title of both books: “became.” I am sure that both of these books will look “historically” at events surrounding the time of Christ’s life and the canonization of Scripture. Both will raise questions concerning orthodox Christianity and the early church. And both will conclude that Orthodox Christianity’s interpretation of these things written and the history of the times in not correct. In other words, Ehrman will again “validate” his conclusion that the deity of Christ is simply an invention of radical Christianity and Satlow will “validate” his findings concerning the fallacy of the God-inspired canon of Scripture (which I know he denies is a “closed” canon).

Jesus did not become God – He has been, is, and will always be God of very God. Jesus became man when He put on flesh and dwelt among us. And He is and will always be the God-man. Likewise, the Bible did not become holy – it has been, is, and will forever be holy because it is the very Word of God, breathed out by Him. These are His words given to man so that they might know about Him and know Him, so that they might know themselves and their need for Him. If this is what these two books proclaim, then I commend them…but I doubt they will! I am sure they should come with the warning: BUYER BEWARE!

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