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How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  4,229 ratings  ·  539 reviews
New York Times bestselling author and Bible expert Bart Ehrman reveals how Jesus’s divinity became dogma in the first few centuries of the early church.

The claim at the heart of the Christian faith is that Jesus of Nazareth was, and is, God. But this is not what the original disciples believed during Jesus’s lifetime—and it is not what Jesus claimed about himself. How Jesu
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published March 25th 2014 by HarperOne (first published March 2014)
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Paula Stiles Amazon is inaccurate. I am holding the book in my hands and if you include the index, it is 404 pages long. Exactly.

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Will Byrnes
And it came to pass that I read and ye shall learn of a pretty amazing book. Biblical scholar Bart D. Ehrman takes on the subject of how, in history, the notion of Jesus as god developed. Was it there from the beginning? How did it arise? What does it even mean? Was he considered divine by believers before conception, at conception, at baptism by John, when he died on the cross, when he rose from the dead, when he headed upstairs to the executive offices? And the answer? Yes.

As with many myster
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Aberrant Religion

Christians, or more precisely Paul of Tarsus, invented not just a religion but also a new form of religion, one constituted by belief rather than by ethical or ritual action. This religion is markedly different from that which was practiced by its nominal focus, Jesus. And it is different from all contemporary and subsequent religions. It is a religion which claims to know the ultimate truth about reality and demands that its adherents accept, profess, and, if called upon to
Apr 06, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. - Revelation 3:16


'How Jesus Became God' is a good packaging of current scholarship on the historical Jesus for the neophyte. The book basically explores how the crucified Jesus transformed into not just the Messiah, but the Lord of all creation. He examines the exaltation of Jesus from an apocalyptic preacher from Galilee into a figure fully equal with God. He looks at how this type of change happened
Mar 06, 2019 marked it as did-not-finish
DNF 20%

I may come back to this one someday. It wasn't horrible, but it was a bit too dry and crunchy for me to be able to really get into it. Non-fiction isn't my jam, but the subject matter is interesting to me, so I think I'll try a different book by this author later on.
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-history
Ehrman dissects the scriptures to show how beliefs about Jesus’s divinity formed and changed in early Christian communities. He does not dwell on his personal beliefs, although he mentions that he started out as an evangelical Christian and has become a skeptic. His thesis is that during Jesus lifetime his followers did not regard Jesus as God. It was belief in the resurrection that first persuaded early Christians to believe Jesus was divine and even God, but what this meant to different Christ ...more
Aug 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bible-studies
Bart Ehrman digests biblical scholarship into an easy to read text for believers and non-believers alike. While 270pp is more than sufficient for his thesis, along the way he presents interesting concepts and the reader learns a lot about the process of biblical research.

Ehrman develops the concept that it was resurrection and its aftermath that confirmed Jesus as equal to god. In learning how "exaltation Christologies gave way to incarnation Christologies" (p. 263), I also learned a host of oth
Jan 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
When reading books about religion, it's important to read them for what they proclaim to be rather than what we wish they would be. Bart Ehrman doesn't claim to be doing theology, or offering proof for God, or [insert desired misconception here]. He styles his study as an examination of the historic process by which a first-century Jewish preacher came to be viewed as God by his followers.

It's a history of belief.

And in this narrow endeavour Ehrman succeeds. There's a firm grounding in the belie
Michael Finocchiaro
Nov 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Bart Ehrman is an interesting writer who was himself formerly a fundamentalist preacher with a deep knowledge of all the biblical languages. He has since become a critic of Christianity and this particular book explores how interpretations of the New Testament were manipulated in the early history of the church to provide a narrative and justification for the politics of that growing organization. I found it fascinating in that it challenges a lot of seemingly immutable truths such as the author ...more
William Mcneely
Nov 03, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
In sum:
Bart Ehrman is an excellent writer, he draws you in with his style and his wit, as well as some moving personal autobiography. My problem with this work overall is first of all its weakness in citing sources. Yes this is not supposedly written at an academic level more of a pop-culture level, but the fact that when he cites sources it tends to be his own books--this just screams, "give me your money skeptics and doubters!" It might've been even more persuasive if he could back up his poin
Dennis Mitton
I’ve sat in enough churches to know that sooner or later the question will rise: “If Jesus were to walk in here right now would he recognize this place as His church?” In ‘How Jesus Became God’ Bart Ehrman argues well that the answer is no. Not because the modern church is doing it wrong but because the question is wrong. Ehrman argues that our view of Jesus is an amalgam of historical fact, purposeful fiction, and a lot of wishful thinking that would probably surprise even Jesus.

During the firs
Gary Patton
Apr 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
In his introduction, Mr. Ehrman explains that he is an ex-believer in Christianity and an historian. What a wonderful coincidence, I thought, because both statements describe me, as well.

Like Mr. Ehrman, I too have credentials as an historian although I have never practiced as one. I earned a Master's Degree in History from the University of Toronto in 1966.

Also like him, I have spent all the years since reading about and getting to know the historical Jesus from the Bible as well has secondar
Aug 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
When I was young, around twelve or so, and attending church regularly, I was already quite taken with the field of history and was a voracious reader. I was also becoming less engaged with the dogmatic aspects of Lutheranism in particular, as well as dogma in general. What did keep me "in the fold" was the music, the art, the pageantry, my love for the little girl down the street, and my burgeoning interest in the origins of Christianity.
I was fortunate to discover, in a room off the annex entra
Hexar Anderson
Nov 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Previously devout Christians such as myself, having finally abandoned the faith and superstition ingrained in my thought processes since childhood, and having thrown off the shackles of religion, have a nagging question that still begs an adequate answer or explanation: If Jesus was not truly the Son of God, then who was he really?

Bart Ehrman, a preeminent New Testament scholar, provides in this book a plausible answer - that although Jesus did most likely exist as a first-century apocalyptic pr
Mar 31, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: review-copy, own
NOTE on 4/24: I won't be responding to any more comments. Online comment wars are always hurtful and never helpful, and no one's mind gets changed at the end of it all.

As an evangelical, I obviously disagree with the central thesis of this book. However, I actually found parts of the book to be enjoyable. What was most frustrating to me was the lack of interaction with scholarship outside of his own circle. To discuss early Christology without interacting with the work of Hengel, Bauckham, and/
Apr 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Over the past few years, Bart Ehrman has earned a reputation for rankling Christian evangelicals and fundamentalists. Some of this is almost certainly intentional. Compared to other NT scholars who take a similar stance on the historical Jesus (e.g., E.P. Sanders, Dale Allison, etc.), Ehrman's popular histories read like mystery novels. Ehrman's fans will call this energetic scholarship. His critics will call it breathless sensationalism. As with most things, the truth probably sits somewhere in ...more
Kevin Stilley
Reading Bart Ehrman is always a frustrating experience. He is knowledgeable, creative, and a brilliant communicator, -- exactly the kind of author that we all want to read. But he resorts to the most twisted exegesis of texts, conflates history's weirdest groups with Judaism and Christianity to arrive at a parody of Christianity that is unrecognizable, and completely ignores historical information that doesn't jive with the conclusion that he is promoting. In other words, he isn't honest.

Aug 06, 2016 rated it liked it
Interesting read, but tedious. The author uses textual authority to establish various traditions for "how Jesus became God" -- whether incarnation Christology, exaltation Christology, or various heterodox approaches. The bottom line, though, is that Jesus wasn't claimed to be God during his lifetime, and only after the "resurrection" did such claims begin to be made on his behalf. The so-called resurrection is also examined, noting in particular that it would have been highly unusual for the Rom ...more
Ray Ciervo
Apr 24, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: theology, apologetics
Ehrman spins liberal positions on the deity of Jesus Christ with new stories. However, this is a flawed work in many respects. Ehrman uses "slight of hand" when he makes what is possible, probable. The what is probable, certain - even though he states that historiography is not certain.
As I see it, he has no pony in the race. He's an atheist so his presuppositions are going to color his conclusions. Although he doesn't buy into anything he concludes (it's a matter of faith) he believes the NT ey
Tamara Agha-Jaffar
In How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee, Bart D. Ehrman traces how Jesus, a humble preacher from Nazareth, came to be worshipped as God.

Ehrman argues that Jesus came to be recontextualized at different times and in different places by different followers, all of whom promoted a different theological agenda. He places the historical Jesus in the context of his time and conducts textual analysis of relevant documents, including the Old and New Testament. His aim
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
In my opinion this is Ehrman’s most interesting book. Here, he tries to explain exactly how the New Testament could have arisen in a world in which Jesus was just a man. This includes an extensive discussion of the empty tomb and the Resurrection.

The entire book is very well-written, aware of recent scholarship, and interesting material, but towards the end of the book it's evident that he has a hard time of it. In fact, speaking as a non-Christian, this book makes a kind of fascinating case for
Mar 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed How Jesus became God more than several of Ehrman's other books, probably for the reason that I find the underlying question most interesting. In the early chapters, Ehrman steps a little outside his main area of expertise and explores the Jewish and Roman cultural environments, which surrounded the genesis and dissemination of the early Christian church. I found the second chapter about early Judaism particularly interesting - I would love to read a book (I don't know of any that exist ...more
Michael Carlson
Aug 19, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I cannot recommend this book. While Ehrman's research is solid, his constant agenda of wanting to shock what he obviously thinks are naive and stupid believers is offensive and underhanded.
One example. Ehrman writes: "I sometimes give my students an assignment to read through all of Paul’s writings and list everything Paul indicates Jesus said and did. My students are surprised to find that they don’t even need a three-by-five card to list them. (Paul, by the way, never says that Jesus declared
Kaethe Douglas
Sep 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, nonfiction, gods
Not a book I can imagine having broad appeal. I'm an Ehrman fan, I think he does an amazing job of explaining the science of the history of the bible. And I also enjoy reading about ecclesiastical history. This book follows the progression of the idea of Jesus over time, from the earliest believers who called him teacher and knew him as a fairly normal apocalyptic preacher through the early years of Christianity and into orthodoxies and heresies, ending with the creed that Jesus is both fully hu ...more
Jul 05, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audio-books
I listened to the Audible version of How Jesus Became God a while ago. It’s been difficult for me to figure out how to review it. I thought Walter Dixon was a convincing narrator for this book. I could imagine the author speaking in the same tone. The book was well written. I really wanted to like the How Jesus Became God because I believe its premise. However, I wish that Ehrman had used something other than Biblical verses and Biblical history to support his claims. I was familiar with much of ...more
Brian Stuy
Aug 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
The question of how an itinerant preacher in Galilee became the Son of God is a fascinating and important question believers and unbelievers alike should ask. It is apparent in the writings of the New Testament that Jesus became "deified," growing from "almost human" in Paul and Mark (early writings) to eternal God in John (later writing). Prof. Ehrman does a fascinating job of laying out the sequence of this transformation, starting with the pre-canonical writings to the fifth century controver ...more
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, religion
Ehrman opens a window on the history of Christology and Christian theology and it's a fascinating view. He charts the evolution of belief surrounding the historical Jesus and explains with ample textual support the reasons for inconsistencies in the accounts of the Gospel writers as well as the epistles of Paul. A crucial aspect of this story is how theologians fought over these inconsistencies and hammered out the doctrines many believe in today. This isn't theology, by the way. It's history. R ...more
Apr 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Interesting academic look at the essays and debates of very early Christianity - shows the evolution of Jesus from a new world order apocalyptic to an exalted God. Great book to read after the Talmudic Judaism novel A Driven Leaf as it covers a similar time period and philosophic groups of thought. Carefully researched and absorbing.
Bruce Brian
Apr 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is the third book from Bart Ehrman that I've read. It is his best and most comprehensive. I recommend this book, if the historical critical method of examining the Bible and religion interests you. Beginning many years ago it interested me. Things may have been more simple had it not, but I know things have been more authentic......
Emanuel Blaga
May 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the most rigorous and scholarly approach type of book I have ever read about Christianity. A great book to read for believers and non believers alike, for the first it will put their faith to the test and help them put scholarly structure in their belief and for the second will provide the factual evidence sealed by academic review to reinforce their own beliefs in the non existence of the divine God Jesus.

Being a believer myself I have never suspected how many myths and fictions can sur
Apr 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, religion
Ehrman accepts much of the non-miraculous stories of the gospel as probably true, including the crucifixion. Jesus mythicists would object, but what he says about the cultural mileu of Jerusalem is interesting whether you believe the story is literally true or not. I did not know that Passover was a traditional time of rabble-rausing amongst politically-minded Jews, or that there was an influx of Jews at the time. Jesus's entry into Jerusalem for Passover makes sense in that light, and being cru ...more
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Bart D. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. He came to UNC in 1988, after four years of teaching at Rutgers University. At UNC he has served as both the Director of Graduate Studies and the Chair of the Department of Religious Studies.

A graduate of Wheaton College (Illinois), Professor Ehrman received both his Masters of Div

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