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The Deity of Christ and Bart Ehrman

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The Deity of Christ is a fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith. It is taught throughout Scripture. It has been attacked by heretics throughout history including Islam, and is denied today by many liberal scholars who also deny the supernatural, and the concept of miracles, including God’s existence. When Christians cite the claims of Jesus that He claimed to be God particularly in the gospel of John, our Muslim friends try to find alternate interpretations to disprove clear texts such as John 1:1; 8:58-59 (cf. Exodus 3:13-14); 10:30; 14:9; and John 20:28. 
Dr. Bart Ehrman in a recent tweet addresses the question of whether or not Jesus called Himself God. You will notice that Ehrman interprets the passages in John cited above in the same way that Christians have interpreted these passages about the deity of Christ, that these are claims that Jesus makes about His identification as God. Ehrman believes that this is crystal clear in John as he says, “For John, Jesus is obviously God”. Note as well, that Ehrman acknowledges just as Christians have always maintained, John does not say Jesus is God the Father, which is the heresy of modalism. Ehrman curiously wonders why the other gospel writers do not state the deity of Christ as clearly. They do, but not in the same way John does. Since Muslims are fond of quoting Bart Ehrman in their attacks on the New Testament, perhaps they will be consistent here, and pay attention to Ehrman’s treatment of the gospel of John. Ehrman’s tweet is available below. I have highlighted the significant parts in bold letters.

What Do You Think?
Box 10.5  Did Jesus Call Himself God?
It is an interesting to ask: “What did Jesus say about himself?”  More specifically, you might ask: “Did Jesus ever call himself God?”   As it turns out, it depends on which Gospel you read.
In the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus never says he is God.  He does talk about himself as the Son of Man; he says he must be killed and raised from the dead; and he admits he is the messiah.  But the vast bulk of his teaching in these Gospels is not about himself at all.  It is about God, the coming Kingdom of God, and the way to live in preparation for it.
Not in John.  
In John Jesus teaches almost entirely about himself:  who he is, his relation to the Father, how he has come into the world from heaven above to convey the truth that can bring eternal life.   And he makes some remarkable claims about himself.  These claims are found in John and nowhere else.
For example, to the Jews who do not believe in him, Jesus says “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).   Abraham lived 1800 years earlier, and Jesus is claiming to have existed before that Even more than that, he claims for himself the name of God, “I am” (see Exodus 3:13-14).  His Jewish opponents know exactly what he is saying.  They pick up stones to execute him for blasphemy.   Two chapters later, he does it again, claiming “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).   Once again they break out the stones.  Later, to his disciples, he says “If you have seen me you have seen the Father” (John 14:9).
These teachings of Jesus that he is a divine correlate with what John says elsewhere, as we have seen in the Prologue “The Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1)  And in the ending, when Thomas confesses that Jesus is “My Lord and my God” (20:28)
For John, Jesus is obviously God, and he says he is (not God the Father but … equal with God?).  Why do you suppose these sayings are not in the earlier Gospels?   If Matthew, Mark, and Luke knew that Jesus had said such things, wouldn’t they want to tell their readers?   It’s worth thinking about.


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