Today I want to focus on his claim that the Bible does not teach that Jesus is God, as he sets forth his case in chapter 7 of his book.
Ehrman on Philippians 2
From pages 233-238 Ehrman discusses Philippians 2. The relevant portion, Philippians 2:5-10 states
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
He labor the point that many people have spent a long time studying the passage from all spectrum of scholarship. But merely saying that there’s many views on a passage in of itself is not a refutation of the view that Philippians 2 teaches the deity of Christ. Ehrman also fail to engage or interact with scholarship arguing for the view that Philippians 2 teaches the deity of Christ.
The other disappointment I had with Ehrman is the fact that he failed to deal with the text itself. For instance, the Greek word for “form” in “form of God” in verse 6 is μορφη. Lexically, the word μορφη refers to the inward essence of a “thing” or “person” while rarely referring to the outer appearance. Ehrman also failed to deal with the adjective ισα, which in the English NASB is translated as “equality.” Lexically it has the idea of equal and later became the root for isosceles, isometric, etc. There is no acknowledgement or denial of these two Greek words in the book, which is unacceptable since they are the key reasons some see Philippians 2 as teaching the deity of Christ.
Ehrman on the Gospel of Mark
Ehrman then stated the following:
In Mark Jesus is certainly not God. In fact, in one passage he clearly indicates that he is not to be thought of as God (Mark 10:17-18; a man calls Jesus ‘good,’ and Jesus objects because ‘no one is good but God alone’).” (Page 238-239)
Challenging the assertion that “Jesus is certainly not God” in Mark requires examining the entire book of Mark carefully and is beyond the scope of this blog post but I recommend watching what James White has to say about this assertion:
Note also that Ehrman looks to Mark 10:17-18 as support for his claim that Mark teaches us how Jesus “is not to be thought of as God.” But careful reading of Mark 10:17-18 reveal Jesus did not say “Don’t call me good because I’ m not God.” Rather Jesus asked a rhethorical question, one that the rest of context indicates the reason why Jesus asked it is to question the young man’s conception of what is good rather than ultimately being an issue about Jesus let alone being an indicative statement about Himself.
Ehrman on the Oldest Christian traditions
So frequently was Jesus called Christ in the oldest Christian traditions that already by the time of Paul, “Christ” had become Jesus’s name (Jesus Christ, not Jesus God). Jesus is called Christ in Paul, Mark, M, L, John, Josephus, Pliny, Tacitus, and so on.” (239-240)
First off, Ehrman here commits an either/or fallacy. Ehrman has not demonstrated how just because Jesus is called Jesus Christ that necessitate a denial of His deity according to the Christian faith.
Secondly, contrary to his assertation some of the the sources he mentioned does indicate the deity of Christ. Concerning Mark see the above video by James White. Then there’s Pliny the Younger who wrote:
They were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and bound themselves to a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft, adultery, never to falsify their word, not to deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of a meal—but ordinary and innocent food.
Note that Pliny as an outside observer gives a window into the early Christian church and how they worshiped Jesus. In light of Jewish Old Testament background undergirding Christian theology, one must not worship anything except God alone.
Much of what has been said also applies to this last quote from Ehrman:
Jesus is not called God in Q, M, L, or any of the oral accounts that we can trace from the synoptic Gospels. But we can go yet earlier than this. As I pointed out, we have very primitive views of Jesus expressed in such pre-Pauline traditions as the one he cites in Romans 1:3-4 where Jesus is said to have become the son of God (not God) at his resurrection.” (Page 232)
Again, Ehrman commits a fallacious reasoning from Romans 1:3-4 that just because it teaches that Jesus is the Son of God does not mean He is not divine in origin. Ehrman fail to interact critically with the orthodox formulation of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ and how it balances the Diety and humanity of Christs that account for His titles such as Christ and Son of God.