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!

Is God Male? And Is That a Problem?

“If God is male, then the male is God.”

I read that quote in a theologian’s answer to the question, “Is God male, cuz, like, aren’t all males jerks?”

OK, that wasn’t the exact wording of the question, but it was the gist.

His unequivocal answer was “No! God is not male.” Male and female are different, mainly biologically. God is not a biological being, so, yes, God is not male. God is God. He has no biological maleness.

Scripture, however, does describe God in male terms. The theologian went on to say that we call God “Father” merely because God needed a title, so He went with Father. This doesn’t imply God is male though, just that He uses male titles.

Mmkay. Here’s where we need to be careful. No, God, who is not a biological creature, is not biologically male. Yes, God is described in vastly overwhelmingly male terms, which has to mean something.

Let’s examine a time when God did show up as a biological creature, when He was born to a woman, became flesh and dwelt among us. Was Jesus “Son” in name only? No, He was biologically a male.

Jesus is God. Jesus was a male. I’ll let you wrap up the conclusion there.

Yes, yes, I know God is also described as a hen who desires to gather her chicks, doesn’t that prove God’s non-maleness?

No, it’s an apt description of God’s desires. God created male and female in His image. First, it’s still HIS image. Second, femaleness, as much as we like to joke about it, is not an alien species. Males will have some female traits about them, just as females will have some maleness about them.

It’s like when my daughter pummels yet another opponent in a tennis match and I say to her, “You the man!” I am not saying she is male, I am saying her ability to destroy other people is a masculine trait worthy of praise in anyone, male or female.

We’re both, male and female, in HIS image, which means we will share some commonalities.

I understand the conflict that people have in describing God as male, or hearing that God is our Father. Many have had creepy, jerk fathers making this description hard to swallow.

I get it and do not want to demean dealing with jerk fathers, of whom there are many. But your father being a jerk does not imply that all males are jerks, nor that God, who is described as a male Father, is a jerk.

Imagine if God were described overwhelmingly in female terms, or that He revealed Himself as “Our Mother in heaven.” Do mothers have some sort of monopoly on goodness? Would there be no humans who would say, “You know, my mother was a real jerk, I struggle with knowing God as my mother.”

Of course there would be. There are just as many creepy mothers as there are creepy fathers.

The statement, “If God is male, then the male is God” is really bad logic. It’s the same as saying, “If apples are fruit, then fruit are apples.” Doesn’t work that way.

God purposely reveals Himself as male. God is never once referred to as “she” or “her” in the Bible. No female pronouns are ever used. A reading of the Bible will clearly show that God reacts in overwhelmingly male ways throughout. If God did all the same stuff, but described himself in female terms, it wouldn’t even read right.

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. If we have issues with the word of God, if we don’t like what we hear there, this is a problem, and, let me suggest, it’s not the Bible’s problem.

Creating God in our image is dangerous. When we allow our feelings, pain, sorrow and confusion to dictate our understanding of God, we trivialize the revelation of Himself God gave us.

Allow me to suggest that if you have problems with God’s maleness, you probably have problems with males in general. If that is the case, there are some forgiveness issues you should deal with.

Whenever we come across parts of Scripture we have a hard time dealing with–whether that’s God’s maleness, the teachings on divorce, homosexuality being a sin, or any other problematic issue–it’s safe to assume the problem is with us and our understanding, not with God or the Bible.

Resist the urge to deconstruct God and then create God in our own image. He is who He is, whether we believe Him or not.

Atheism and the Problem of Evil

The problem of suffering and evil has historically been the leading cause of atheism. The thinking goes like this

God is good.
God is all-powerful.
Evil and suffering exist.
What gives? How can a good God allow suffering?

There are two extreme responses to this “predicament.”

1. Christian Science–I am not referring to Christians who go into the scientific fields, I am referring to Mary Baker Eddy and her particular brand of religion. Christian Science answers the Problem of Evil by denying that evil and suffering exist.

I once attended a Christian Science Church, just to say I had, and I was amazed, as the teacher taught about denying suffering, that half her audience was in wheelchairs. Hey, you can deny evil and suffering all you want, it’s there. Denying evil is not the answer.

2. Atheism–Rather than denying evil, which is pretty dumb, atheists decide to deny God. “Because evil exists, God cannot” is the logic. This is actually quite an admission by Atheists.

One thing that has always caused curiosity in me is why atheists never quit talking about God. I don’t think wood nymphs exist, which is why I never talk about them. Atheists have a very high view of God in some areas, one some believers could learn from.

My question, though, is how does denying God answer the problem of suffering and evil?

OK, God doesn’t exist, how does this deal with pain? How does this answer any questions about why bad things happen?

Let’s say a group of guys are playing basketball at The Y. Guys’ basketball games at The Y will get violent. There’s always a jerk who starts pounding on people. There is evil in the game.

A Referee is there to moderate the game. Jerk Baller is still pounding people, doesn’t stop one bit. Sometimes he’s called for fouls, and sometimes he isn’t, cuz pretty much every time he moves he fouls people.

The other players, getting frustrated at all the fouls, especially all the ones Jerk Baller seems to get away with, get mad. “How can so much evil fouling exist when we have a referee?”

If we use the above, there are two responses the fouled players can have:

1) Deny the existence of the fouls, man up and play through it. All the denial in the world won’t make those bruises go away, nor put in all the shots you missed because you were hacked.

2) Go the atheist approach, and deny that there’s a referee. If there’s no referee, then there’s no foul, there’s no right and wrong. But see, Jerk Baller is still hacking you every shot you take, whether there’s a referee or not.

Obviously, as with all illustrations, this one isn’t perfect. No referee is all-powerful, they will miss calls and even make bad calls, so it’s off a bit. But it makes the same point.

Denying God does not answer the problem of suffering and evil. In fact, denying God pretty much just leaves you with suffering and evil. That’s no answer.

I believe the problem to the conundrum–

God is good.
God is all-powerful.
Evil and suffering exist.
What gives? How can a good God allow suffering?

–is not with the first line–God is good. It is the testimony of Scripture that God is good–the goodness of God leads people to repentance.

We also can’t deny the third line–suffering and evil exist. They do. Take a look around.

Therefore, the problem must lie in line two–God is all-powerful. I believe we need a better understanding of this.

Many say “God can do anything.” This isn’t biblical, however. I did a post on this not long ago about whether God can create a rock too heavy for Him to pick up. In that post I list verses that say the things God can’t do.

Being all-powerful does not imply that God can do anything. God can do anything that is consistent with who He is. Part of His character is being just. He allows bad things to happen because people do bad things.

This is not to say that the amount of pain in your life equals the amount of sin you did. There are some who get more pain than others to no fault of their own. This is an unfortunate thing to witness or endure.

Evil and suffering exist because man rebelled against his Creator. That’s called justice. You reap what you sow. Man has sowed evil, so man will reap evil. The whole creation groans, even the animals, because of humanity’s rebellion.

Part of the answer to the problem of evil is for individuals to stop being evil. We are told to love others as Christ loved us. When we observe evil and suffering, are we moved with compassion to help, or do we merely have internal angst that makes us hate God and melt into a narcissistic corner?

Who is atheism’s Mother Theresa?

God actually entered into our suffering, showed His great love for us, by taking part in human pain. He took our sin on Himself and suffered and died because of it. But He also rose again, showing He has power over death, which demonstrated His power over sin.

This is the goodness of God. He deals with our bad by entering our consequences with us. Then He overcomes them, gives us new life that seeks to love others by entering their suffering with them and helping them through.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, your Creator who died for you, and you will be saved. Will you still need band-aids? Yup, we still live in a fallen world. But the believer’s hope is that a better world is on its way. We live for that one and endure this one.

Worship, Tattoos, Infant Baptism and Jeroboam

I read an article about whether Christians should get tattoos.

Christian tradition is that tattoos are taboo. Leviticus 19:28 is the prime text, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord.

Some have said this is a no-option passage–tattoos are sin. Others tie it in with the context and say it has more to do with paganism, dealing with dead people and weird stuff.

One of the voices in the article was a pastor who said he got tattoos because he was trying to attract the punk rock crowd to his church. Punk rockers are tattooed, therefore, a pastor who wants to reach the punk rockers needs a tattoo.

My personal opinion is that tattoos are really dumb and ugly. Whether they are sin, I don’t know. Leviticus 19:28 is the only verse close to it and it is against them. I’d be disappointed if my kids got one, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

However, the thing that bugs me is how a pastor decides to get tattoos because he was changing his church to reach punk rockers.

This is a common notion in the modern church growth movement–find out what the crowd wants and give it to them. If you have to change the music; change the music. If you have to shorten the sermon; shorten the sermon.

The church has not been called to fit into punk rock culture; punk rockers are called to be in the church. They change; not the Church. I know I’m in the minority on this issue, but alas, it bugs me.

Here’s my distinction–it is fine for a person to do things to reach people (Paul’s “all things to all people,” although I doubt he’s talking about pushing the lines of sin with things like tattoos), but I don’t think the church is called to change to meet the world’s desires.

The church is light. When the light decides that the best way to attract the dark is to become dark too, we defeat our purpose.

What good does it do to get the dark to come into the dark?

My fear is that the church is more concerned with marketing itself, with finding what the crowd wants and doing that so we get their money and retain our power, than it is with obeying God’s Word.

The Old Testament was written for our learning. Here’s a great example the Church can learn from.


Most of the commands in the Law (Leviticus and Deuteronomy) are about worship, primarily what happens in the temple with priests, sacrifices, etc. If the people kept those laws, God would be with them and bless them. If they didn’t obey His commands on worship, God would forsake them and kick them out of The Land.

Solomon married a bunch of foreign women who brought their foreign gods. Solomon began worshiping their gods, contrary to God’s command to “have no other gods before me.” Due to Solomon’s unfaithfulness, the Kingdom was split in two.

Along comes Jeroboam, who fears that Israel will leave him, turn on him and kill him because they’ll go to Jerusalem (across the border) to worship. He decides he needs to keep people from going there to avoid losing his political power and life.

Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan.”

In order for Jeroboam to keep himself in power, he changes worship. He ignores God’s commands about worship so he can manipulate and control the people and preserve his own rule. All these new worship ideas he “devised of his own heart.”

God’s word ceased to be his guide; his ideas took first spot.

So, Jeroboam changed up the worship, but his little ideas hung on longer than he did. Jehu became king later on and

Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin.

Jehu follows Jeroboam’s ideas. But that wasn’t all. Jehoahaz comes along and

he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, and followed the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin; he departed not therefrom.

Another sheep comes along and blindly follows what the guys before him did. But he wasn’t all. Along comes another Jeroboam, Jeroboam II, and guess what he does?

he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord: he departed not from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin.

King after king comes along and follows Jeroboam’s lead. One man’s desire to control the people and preserve his own fortunes, changes worship for years. This isn’t based on their ideas, nor on God’s Word. This new worship is based on one guy’s ideas from his twisted heart.

But that’s not the last time Jeroboam’s sin comes up. There’s one more passage, a doozy.

For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they departed not from them;Until the Lord removed Israel out of his sight, as he had said by all his servants the prophets. So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day.”

Yup, the whole nation is now walking in the sin of Jeroboam, going after his false worship ideas he invented. Unbelievable. God told them if they forsook His commands He’d kick them out of The Land. That’s what He did.

Jeroboam’s sin was to follow his own ideas, to put human desire first and God’s Word relegated to non-existence.

I fear this is the source of much of the Church’s habits. Infant baptism is a prime example.

There are no texts in the Bible about infant baptism. None. Baptizing households is the best they can come up with, and that’s a long way from the doctrine of infant baptism.

They remarkably point to circumcision to prove infant baptism, as if half the New Testament doesn’t exist. Circumcision is the constant problem in the NT. Faith is not about doing one thing one time to a kid.

Infant baptism is traced back to citizen rights in the Roman Empire. Kids born to Roman citizens went through a citizenship ceremony involving water. When Constantine made Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire, hey, why not have the church take this one?

Soon people were baptizing babies because some guy had the bright idea that he could manipulate people and keep himself in power. God never said to baptize babies, but we have cute notions invented in some guy’s heart, so for years the church has done it.

There is no way a novice Christian who sat down and read the Bible would get up and conclude, “You know what? I think we need to throw water on babies so they can go to heaven.”

Are we as concerned with the commands of God as we are keeping the traditions of men? Is our desire to attract a crowd trumping our obedience to our God?

These are crucial questions for the church and for the individual. Do we have the guts to change when necessary? Do we have the guts to not change when required? Do we have the ability to know the difference?

“Clear Texts Should be Used to Interpret the Unclear Ones” is Unhelpful Advice

A phrase I have heard several times by people who “know the Bible,” is that to find out what the Bible means we need to, and I quote, “use the clear texts to interpret the unclear ones.”

This is a fine sounding statement, and no doubt, is used just fine by many people who are clear on things.

However, if you’ve spent any time with Christians, and God help you if you have, you will know that finding any passage of Scripture that is clear to every one in the room is pretty tough.

One of the best ways to interpret Scripture is to know the Scripture and let the Scripture interpret the Scripture. That is a basic rule.

However, I think problems arise when we have “clear” and “unclear” passages neatly labeled. Romans 7 is a classic example. I have met many people who are totally clear on this chapter, and others who find it mind-boggling.

Your understanding of God plays into your understanding of Scripture. If you have a bad understanding of who God is, this will affect your interpretations of Scriptures.

Sure, you may feel you are clear on a specific passage, but if you’re wrong on that passage, it doesn’t matter who clear you think you are!

I’m probably not explaining myself well on this.

I’m not being clear, perhaps.

One problems is that we stick with the verses that are clear to us, and, unfortunately, just chuck the tough passages. We don’t let the “unclear” interpret the “clear,” which I think is just as important!

When Romans 3 says “There is none who seeketh after God,” that passage is crystal clear to many people. But when Paul says in Acts 17, “they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us.” That passage is crystal clear to another group of people.

Now, if you think Romans 3 is the clear passage, then no one can seek God. If you think Acts 17 is the clear passage, then you think it’s pretty easy for anyone to seek God.

Therefore, using the “clear” to interpret the “unclear” is decidedly unhelpful. Let’s let us use both and deal with the consequences.

Ready to Give An Answer

“Be ready always to give an answer” seems to be the favorite verse of many believers!

It is frequently used to defend arguing and being ready to confront all the morons who dare believe other things beside what you believe.

A full look at the verse begins with a call to sanctify your heart. Note this is not God’s sanctifying work, but a sanctification we are to do with our hearts.

Next comes “be ready always to give an answer.” Perhaps then, one could say, if you haven’t sanctified your heart, shut-up. One could say that, not sure one should, but one could.

I could.

I did, in fact.

And it was kind of fun.

But the full phrase aint done yet, it goes like this, “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”

This isn’t talking about being ready to argue, or being ready to defend your doctrine, or be ready to impose your will intellectually on the fools around you.

Rather, after having your heart sanctified (set apart to God in all your thinking, saying and doing), people will notice a difference about you and will ask. The answer is given to the question “Why do you have hope?” You then answer with meekness and fear, not self-defense, rhetorical grandeur or argumentation.

Ever been asked that? If not, then this verse is not applying to you.

Paul once expounded on the glories of Jesus Christ and in the midst of his glorying in Christ, he said of Christ, “before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession.”

One of the main things Paul praises Christ for is, not just that He is King of Kings, the only high potentate, the one who dwells in the light people can’t approach to, but that He did well before Pilate.

What stood out about Christ’s confession before Pilate? Largely His silence stands out. Pilate marveled at it.

I wonder, just wonder, if being quiet when people attack us, mis-characterize us or find fault with what we say and do, if we shouldn’t just keep quiet.

Seems to me faith remains quiet; uncertainty uses many, many words loudly.

I shall apply my own point.

And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you”