The Case for Jesus: C.S. Lewis vs. Bart Ehrman by Dr. Brant Pitre (Part 1 of 5)
In this video, which is 1 of 5 introductory videos to The Case for Jesus: The Reliability of the Gospels and the Jewish Roots of Jesus’ Divinity, Dr. Brant Pitre sets the stage for what will follow in the upcoming videos. In this video, Dr. Pitre juxtaposes C.S. Lewis’ famous trilemma argument (Liar, Lunatic, or Lord) about Jesus being divine to Dr. Bart Ehrman’s position that Jesus is not divine in the all four Gospels. In Lewis’ famous argument, he assumes that what the Gospels tell us is actually reliable. However, this assumption is something that has been questioned in recent years, heralded by Ehrman as one of the more notable proponents of this form of skepticism.
Bart Ehrman maintains that it is only in the later Gospel (of John) that Jesus is found to be divine and only a human Jesus is found in the earlier synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). So, in effect, since the Gospels are not reliable to begin with by presenting us with two very different Jesus’s, according to Ehrman, the force of Lewis’ argument is effectively circumvented. Jesus does not have to only be either a Liar, a Lunatic, or the Lord. The stories about him being divine, according to Ehrman, are fanciful folklore since the earlier human Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke do not correspond to the later Gospel of John. And, as such, the divine Jesus, according to Ehrman, is Legend.
Before diving into the specific examples (though there will be more in the set than what we can show in these introductory videos), Dr. Pitre expresses that this is, in fact, incredibly erroneous. For, while Jesus does not go around shouting that he is God in the synoptics (nor does he in John for that matter) — as that would be entirely anachronistic, expecting from a 1st century Jew what one would expect from someone in the 21st century Occident — he does claim to be divine in a very Jewish way. And, this is what you would expect of any person engaging in any topic: to speak the language/idioms of the times and perform certain acts that people in any given context of time and geography would understand. So, with that in mind, Dr. Pitre plans to provide the case that Jesus does not only claim to be divine in the Gospel of John, but in all four canonical Gospels that we possess, if only we meet Jesus in his context and understand his words and deeds in light of that framework. Indeed, it is only when Jesus’ words and actions are removed from their first century Jewish context, according to Brant Pitre, that we can arrive at the conclusions of Bart Ehrman.
The Case for Jesus Course Introduction: Is Jesus Divine in the Synoptic Gospels? (Part 2 of 5)
In part 2 of 5 of Dr. Brant Pitre’s introductory videos to The Case for Jesus: The Reliability of the Gospels and the Jewish Roots of Jesus’ Divinity, where he engages skeptical approaches to the Gospels (e.g., by Dr. Bart Ehrman and others), he discusses two miracles that, *when read in context*, help answer the question – is Jesus Divine?: moreThe Stilling of the Storm and The Walking on the Water.
First, Dr. Pitre discusses the famous stilling of the storm in the synoptic Gospels (in this instance, in Mark’s account). This miracle of Jesus stilling the storm elicits from the Apostles to ask about Jesus’ identity, “Who is this?”
Moreover, Dr. Pitre shows the parallel in the book of Psalms how it is YHWH in Psalm 107 that stills the storm. So, in context, both in the narrative and the larger historical context of Jesus’ time and place, it is not just anyone who stills the waters, but God himself. Additionally, the structure of the narrative in Mark 4 parallels the structure of Psalm 107 such that it’s quite clear that Jesus’ divinity is precisely what Mark is *intending* to relay to the reader — it’s not just the calming of the storm, but the cumulative parallels that Mark is wanting his readers to recall that leads to the obvious conclusion that Jesus is divine in Mark’s Gospel. As such, Jesus, in Mark 4, plays the part of YHWH in Psalm 107 in addition to the two narratives being replete with parallels.
Secondly, Dr. Pitre discusses Jesus’ theophany of the Walking on the Water/Walking on the Sea found in Mark 6. For, as some skeptics, such as Dr. Bart Ehrman can and do say, power over the elements is not tantamount to being divine because, for example, Moses parts the waters in Exodus 14 and Elijah stops the rain in 1Kings 17 and, yet, they are not divine — they were simply God’s prophet/emissary/agent. But, in Mark 6, for example, what is distinctive about the Walking on the Water scene is not that Jesus simply shows power over the elements, but that he *performs a miracle in the context of taking the divine name, “I AM,” from Exodus 3 (the burning bush scene with Moses on Mt. Sinai). Moreover, we are told that Jesus meant to “pass them [the disciples] by” who were in the boat, which is precisely what YHWH does when he performs a theophany in the Old Testament with Elijah and Moses: he “passes by” them.
And if that were not enough, Job 9 is being alluded to by Mark in the Walking on the Water as well. In Job 9, it is God who alone tramples on the waves of the sea as on dry ground and “lo he passes me by.”
So, all of this language of theophany present in the walking on the water from Exodus 3, 2Kings 19, Job 9, and Exodus 33 indicates that this is not just a miracle — which could be performed by both God or simply a divine agent who is not God — but a theophany whereby Jesus is revealing his divinity through a miracle whilst ascribing the divine name to himself – YHWH, who has now come in person.
So, in conclusion if a skeptical interpreter of the synoptics, such as Bart Ehrman, asks the question, “Is Jesus Divine in the Synoptic Gospels?” there is ample evidence to support (and not just limited to these 2 miracles — more on that can be checked out in the book and the forthcoming CD set release) that, in fact, the Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels is a divine Jesus.
The Case for Jesus Course Introduction: Bart Ehrman and the Transfiguration of Jesus on the Mountain (Part 3 of 5)
In this video excerpt, which is part 3 of 5, taken from The Case for Jesus: The Reliability of the Gospels and the Jewish Roots of Jesus’ Divinity, Dr. Brant Pitre continues his critique of skeptical scholars (e.g., Bart Ehrman and others) who claim that Jesus was not a divine Messiah in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Dr. Pitre does so in this video by following up on the last video with some final comments about the the walking on the water scene and with the divine Jesus you find at the theophany of the Transfiguration, as depicted in the synoptic Gospels.
Following up with the Walking on Water: One element that the Gospel of John gives us about this account that the synoptics do not is that Jesus was about 4 miles out in the Sea of Galilee, which is roughly 7 miles wide at its widest point. This small element further enforces the miraculous nature of the walking on water, for Jesus was not simply walking out on a sandbar near the shore or surfing on sheets of ice — he was effectively in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, walking on water. Moreover, Matthew also gives us an extra detail stating that the Apostles began to worship him when they got back into the boat, which is the very thing that Jesus told the devil in his temptations in the desert earlier in the Gospel of Matthew that was owed to God alone. So the question remains: Why does Jesus accept the worship of his disciples if he’s not divine when that is precisely what he states is due to God alone earlier in the very same Gospel?
The Transfiguration: In Mark 9, at the mount of the transfiguration with Peter, James and John, Jesus is not just revealing his power to his disciples, but is performing a theophany, when read in context. In this scene, Moses and Elijah appear, who are two figures in the Old Testament who did not get to see the face of God (Cf. Exodus 33 and 1Kings 19) — they hid and covered their faces in the theophanies of the Old Testament when God passed them by. But, now it is in the Glory Cloud (Shekinah) of the Old Testament that Jesus reveals God’s face to Moses and Elijah, and Moses and Elijah are finally able to see the face of the God whose face they could not see in their earthly life. In Jesus of Nazareth, God now has a face that these two figures longed to see.
Finally, Dr. Pitre asks, “How does Ehrman get around this?” For, in fact, Bart Ehrman, in his book, How Jesus became God, quoted by Dr. Pitre in this video, acknowledges that Jesus is divine in the synoptic Gospels and performs divine acts. But, Bart Ehrman then resorts not to denying that we have a divine Jesus in the synoptics (which he does earlier in the same book), but that it is the “anonymous” authors of the Gospels who made him divine (i.e., invented his divine identity) when penning the Gospels.
Thus, we have something of a fallacy of begging the question (Petitio Principii) happening with Bart Ehrman’s book. Effectively, the circle goes like this:
(1) We know Jesus was not divine in the synoptics, according to Bart Ehrman.
And, how do we know that?
(2) Because there is no evidence for it, according to Bart Ehrman…except for the evidence that is there expressing Jesus’ divinity. But, in those instances where Jesus is made out to be divine in the synoptics, we know it was simply made up, retroactively sensationalized and applied to the real, historical Jesus.
And, how do we know that?
(3) Because we know that Jesus was not divine, especially in the synoptics.
Therefore, to assert the argument, Jesus was not divine in the synoptics we must either ignore the evidence that is there or run into the circular argument as to why it was made up, assuming the very thing needed to be established.
You can find more videos and comment on this one at blog.catholicproductions.com.
You can also find Dr. Pitre’s Bible studies on cd/dvd/mp3 and signed books at https://store.catholicproductions.com/collections/brant-pitre
The Case for Jesus Course Introduction: Jesus and the Rich Young Man (Part 4 of 5)
In this video excerpt (part 4 of 5), taken from The Case for Jesus: The Reliability of the Gospels and the Jewish Roots of Jesus’ Divinity, Dr. Pitre looks at Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man in Mark 10.more Many skeptical scholars use this story in the Gospel of Mark to say that Jesus taught that he was not God. They do this based on Jesus’ response to the young man after the young man calls Jesus “good teacher.” Jesus responds by asking the young many “why do you call me good?” and saying that “no one is good but God alone.” Given Jesus’ response, many scholars argue that Jesus clearly here is saying that he is not God. If the story stopped here this would be a very good interpretation, but unfortunately for the skeptics the story continues.
If Jesus was affirming that he was not God, he would also be affirming that he was not good given the context of the young man’s question. Does this interpretation make sense given the rest of the story?
The problem with the interpretation of many skeptic scholars is that Jesus goes on to tell the young man that keeping the Ten Commandments is not good enough for this young man to inherit eternal life. This is a problem because it is God who gave the commandments. Who is Jesus, if not God and not good, that he can tell this young man that what God has given is not good enough? And if this wasn’t enough of a problem for the interpretation of the skeptics, Jesus tells the man to sell all that he has and FOLLOW ME.
Those who want to interpret this passage to mean that Jesus is saying that he is not God need to answer the following question:
If Jesus is saying that he is not God and is not good, how can he add to the Ten Commandments and tell the young man to “follow me”?
In other words, it makes no sense for Jesus to tell the young man that he must follow him if we wants to inherit eternal life, if he just got finished saying that he is not God and is not good. A closer reading of Jesus’ response to the young man shows that Jesus actually never says that he is not God or that he is not good. His response to the young man is a riddle to get the young man to come to the realization of Jesus’ divinity. Jesus wants the young man to see that he is good, that he is God and that he therefore must be followed, and Jesus wants to accomplish this without forcing it upon the young man.
The Case for Jesus Course Introduction: Jesus and the Kingdom of God (Part 5 of 5)
In this fifth and final intro video to Dr. Brant Pitre’s set, The Case for Jesus: The Reliability of the Gospels and the Jewish Roots of Jesus’ Divinity, Dr. Pitre discusses Jesus’ most commonly referenced terms: The Kingdom of God and the Son of Man.
Most people today hear this phrase and think of heaven. However, as a first century Jew this isn’t the first thing that would come to mind. Mark says in the beginning of his Gospel, after John was arrested, that Jesus began preaching that the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel. In Matthew 10, Jesus also commands his disciples to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew 10. In Luke 11, Jesus, when casting out demons, says the Kingdom of God has come upon you. And, even in John’s Gospel, when Jesus is speaking with Nicodemus, Jesus says that unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
So what is this Kingdom of God that Jesus is preaching to first century Jews? What category or categories would they have been operating on to contextualize this phrase of Jesus? Well, if you go back to the Old Testament and look for the phrase “Kingdom of God,” you will not find it with the exception of the Book of Daniel. So Jesus is specifically referring to the Danielic Kingdom. So, in this video, Dr. Brant Pitre goes back and provides a context for what the Kingdom of God looks like in Daniel and how Daniel predicted the precise time of the coming of this Divine Messiah which is precisely the time the Jesus steps on to the scene.
In a second section, Dr. Pitre answers the question of why, if Jesus is the Danielic Son of Man and is the king of the fifth kingdom from Daniel, why do people still reject him. Interestingly, it’s tied directly to how Jesus himself describes the Kingdom of God in the parables in the Gospels about the Kingdom.
And, you can find Bible studies by Dr. Brant Pitre at store.catholicproductions.com/collections/brant-pitre