Bart Ehrman and Christ Claiming to be God in Matthew, Mark and Luke

I made the mistake of listening to an interview with Bart Ehrman on NPR’s Fresh Air. Ehrman is a professor at UNC Chapel Hill. According to him, he grew up as an evangelical Christian, then turned into a liberal Christian and, now that he’s become smart and whatnot, has denied God altogether.

He has recently written a book about Jesus. His claim is that Jesus never said He was God, but His followers over the years developed Him into deity and did all sorts of stuff with His person that He never expected.

Now, if you are familiar with the Bible, you know that Jesus pretty clearly claims to be God a number of times in the Gospel of John. “I and the Father are one.” “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.” “Before Abraham was, I AM.” All of that is in John.

Ehrman sees this as proof that Jesus being God was a later teaching of the church. John is the last Gospel written. Therefore, according to Ehrman, John is trying his hardest to make Jesus into a God-man.

Ehrman claims that in Matthew, Mark and Luke Jesus never once claimed to be God. Here’s a snippet of Ehrman’s interview:

“These are all statements you find only in the Gospel of John, and that’s striking because we have earlier gospels and we have the writings of Paul, and in none of them is there any indication that Jesus said such things. …

“I think it’s completely implausible that Matthew, Mark and Luke would not mention that Jesus called himself God if that’s what he was declaring about himself. That would be a rather important point to make. This is not an unusual view amongst scholars; it’s simply the view that the Gospel of John is providing a theological understanding of Jesus that is not what was historically accurate.”

So, there you go. Jesus isn’t God. Jesus never claimed to be God. Jesus just thought he was going to be the guy chosen to rule in God’s future kingdom, that’s all. Just a silly ol’ bloke from the hill country with dreams of being a king.

One of the classic arguments people make with the Bible is denying your usage of it. I’ve seen this on many fronts. If you use the OT to make a point, “Well, that was just for those under the Law, not for us.” If you use a statement from Jesus, “Well He was only talking to first century Jews.” If you quote James, “Well, that’s James, even Luther didn’t think that was canonical.”

People breathe.
No they don’t.
Sure they do. Look, I’m a person and I breathe.
Well, you don’t count. I’m talking about other people.
OK. Look at those people. They breathe.
Well, I’m not talking about those people.

So, if Jesus clearly claims to be God in John, “Well, John is a later fabrication, you dolt.” They take away our crucial piece of evidence. Arguments like this drive me crazy. It’s like talking to a nine-year old.

So, ok. For sake of argument, let’s go with his assertion that Jesus never claimed to be God in Matthew, Mark, or Luke.

(However, even if we were able to show from Matthew, Mark, and Luke that Jesus claimed to be God, Ehrman doesn’t believe in the integrity of Scripture anyway, so this will also be removed. Handy piece of logic, eh? Bottom line, what Ehrman really means is: The Bible is full of crap. Fine, then stop talking about it.)

Matthew 1:23 says that one is being born who is called Emmanuel. Emmanuel means “God with us.” This is a claim of the child born being God.

Matthew 7:21; 10:32,33; 11:27 and 12:50 all show Jesus referring to God as His Father, not a typical expression of God anywhere before Christ. Christ, also, in many of these passages, explains a crucial relationship between Him and the Father. No, there is no explicit “I am God” statement, but anyone with integrity who understands words and how the Bible uses them (like the Jews who heard Him say these things and wanted to kill Him for blasphemy) knows what He means.

Matthew 7:21 Jesus claims to be the judge of men and whether they did the will of the Father or not. What right does He have to be judge? How does He know who did the will of the Father? This is a claim to divine authority. He also says people will address Him as “Lord, Lord.”

Matthew 11:27 says the son reveals the Father–which is pretty much the same as “If you have seen me you have seen the Father” of John.

Matthew 16:13-17 shows Jesus asking who people say He is, and, more importantly, whom do you say that I am? Peter says, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” Again, the Son of God thing is huge. This is a key relationship on display. No, it’s not an explicit statement, but anyone who understands biblical terminology knows what this means.

Matthew 14:33 the disciples worship Christ after seeing Him walk on the water. They say “Of a truth thou art the Son of God.” This is no mere man. He walked on the Water. Worshiping him as the Son of God is an admission that this man is spectacular.

Matthew, Mark and Luke are filled with miracles demonstrating His power like no one else before. They also fulfill prophecies written many years before. However, again, Ehrman throws this all out, so we can’t use any of that.

Matthew 26:63-65 Jesus is before His accusers and is asked if He is the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus says “Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” The high priest accuses Him of blasphemy. Why? Because He is claiming to be God–on the right hand of power is an admission of deity.

Mark 2:5-12 is probably the strongest passage. Jesus says He can forgive sins. Who can forgive sins but God? Is the charge leveled at Him. To show He has power to forgive sins, He heals the man. Jesus does not deny that only God can forgive sins. He proves He can forgive sins–PROVES HE IS GOD–by doing an act of power to demonstrate He’s not just speaking words. This is a clear claim to be God.

Mark 9:37 may be even better than the last verse. In this verse Jesus says “whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.” Again, this is the same as saying “I and the Father are one.”

Many times demons say things like, “We know thou art the Christ, the Son of God.” Ehrman thinks the title “Christ” merely refers to a king, an anointed one. Truly, Christ means “anointed one,” but it also holds huge significance for The Christ. This is no mere King; this is the King of Kings. Again, if one follows through biblical terminology through prophecies and so forth, one can clearly figure this out.

The Jewish leaders made the same mistake Ehrman does, thinking the Messiah, the Christ, is just some better than average guy. They too missed the many OT hints that The Christ is God in the flesh.

That’s why IN MARK, Jesus quotes some OT to confound the religious leaders.

“And Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that Christ is the son of David? For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The Lord said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool.David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he then his son? And the common people heard him gladly.”

The common folk knew what Jesus was saying–David’s prophesied son wasn’t just some kid to be born; it was God in the flesh. The religious leaders (the educated ones who made their living looking smart) missed all this while the common folk saw it clearly.

I fear Ehrman is playing this out once again. There aint nothin new under the sun, folks!

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