The Table Briefing: Did the Historical Jesus Claim to Be Divine? -- By: Darrell L. Bock
BSac 173:691 July-September 2016) p. 352
The Table Briefing:
Did the Historical Jesus Claim to Be Divine?
Mikel Del Rosario
Darrell L. Bock is Senior Research Professor in New Testament Studies and Executive Director of Cultural Engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas. Mikel Del Rosario is cultural engagement assistant.
How would you respond to someone who said Jesus never claimed to be God? While most believers can cite Scriptures that affirm Jesus’s deity, more and more people are hesitant to accept the Bible as an authority. Through popular culture, many have passively absorbed claims by skeptical scholars that the historical Jesus never claimed to be divine.
On an episode of the Table Podcast, we sat down with Dr. Justin Bass to discuss whether the historical Jesus claimed to be divine. Bass explained how he argued for the affirmative at a debate held at the Collin College Preston Ridge Conference Center in Frisco, Texas. Dr. Bart Ehrman, one of the most visible agnostic New Testament scholars today, argued for the negative position.
This Table Briefing highlights a portion of the conversation with Bass on the historical evidence for Jesus’s claim to be divine. First, we discuss a strategic way to talk about Scripture in a skeptical context. Then, we examine what early sources for Jesus’s claims say. Finally, we consider two key texts that demonstrate how Jesus used a combination of his words and deeds to point to his divine identity.
Examining Scripture In A Skeptical Context
Before we talk about the claims of Jesus, it is important to consider how we can discuss the New Testament with skeptical friends who
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do not recognize the Bible as an authority. Understanding how historians and New Testament scholars employ biblical texts in historical Jesus conversations can inform a strategic approach.
Bock: Most historical Jesus study is rooted in a principle that we actually use in our journalism today, which is corroboration: “Is there some way we can corroborate, or get additional sources, or multiple witnesses attesting that this took place?” It used to be [that] newspapers didn’t print a story unless they had two fairly independent witnesses testifying that something happened. Then they felt more confident about it. One of the criteria is what’s called multiple attestation: The more source levels you have testifying to something—a theme, a saying, or something like that—the more likely it goes back to Jesus on the premise that the more widely spread this is across the tradition, the more likely it is to h...
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