Rather than continuing on with the next chapter in How Jesus Became God, I want to share another way of responding to Ehrman’s argument of how divine humans in the OT and inter-testamental language provide a conceptual background for the early Christian teaching about of Jesus’s “deity”; but one that is far different from orthodox Christianity.
For Ehrman, the Jewish notion of “divine beings” and “divine humans” such as the Son of Man (in Dan 7 and 1 Enoch), the Word of God/Logos, Moses, and Enoch (read more here) reveal that Jesus could quite naturally be considered just another one of them without being identified with Yahweh, and miles away from being “the second person of the Trinity”.
Michael Bird in How God Became Jesus argues that these beings are clearly distinguished from the LORD so- whatever they are – belief in them did not compromise strict Jewish monotheism. Bird insists that none of these beings are confused with Yahweh, instead they all are created beings with delegated authority. Therefore, they are nothing like the NT’s teaching of Jesus.
Another Take on Divine Humans?
Now, there’s another way of looking at this evidence, one that disagrees with both Ehrman and Bird. I’ve been listening to some of Dr. Michael Heiser‘s lectures on the “Jewish Trinity” and he has taken a different approach to these beings entirely; one that I will need to ponder! He argues for the concept of two powers in heaven (or two Yahwehs, or binitarianism) in the OT. This may sound ridiculous if you aren’t familiar with the idea, but his arguments ought to be considered. In a way they’ve been mind-blowing for me!
What he is trying to show is that the OT and ancient Jews before the second century held a dual flavour to Yahweh. OT texts speak of Yahweh in heaven whilst Yahweh is on earth, and so on. Heiser argues then that these “divine beings” in inter-testamental literature, rather than representing a Jewish belief in multiple gods, are actually (sometimes odd) attempts to identify the visible Yahweh!
Better than me trying to articulate Heiser’s view, I’d recommend watching/listening to his lectures on the Jewish Trinity. These predate How Jesus Became God and don’t reference Ehrman; they just happen to be on the same topic.
So what difference does any of this make? Ehrman actually acknowledges this Two Powers view (p67-69) is in ancient Judaism, but if Heiser is right then all this evidence actually works against his argument. Far from the OT and ancient Judaism presenting a pyramid of divine beings, these texts actually reveal a proto-Trinitarianism! So if Heiser is right, we shouldn’t reject Ehrman’s arguments, just read them through a different lens! Instead of these beings arguing against orthodox Christology, Heiser would argue that they establish it!
Again, you will just need to check out the lectures for yourself: Jewish Trinity and compare it with Scripture,
[Many thanks to HarperOne for providing a copy of How Jesus Became God in exchange for a balanced review.]