Rather than try to find an eloquent introduction to this book on the internet, I'll simply say that I think Bart Ehrman did an excellent job of describing the conditions and changes that took place in the first 300 to 400 years after Jesus that led people to the conclusion that Jesus is God. It is a well written and fascinating book for anyone interested in how the church came to believe what it says it does now. I hope these questions will facilitate our discussion.
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Week 9 Questions
1 – Do you have any idea what your pastor believes? Do you care?
2 – Where in your life have you spent (wasted?) time in hair-splitting conversations (arguments)?
3 – What idea from Justin Martyr (or any of the others listed) do you like or dislike? Agree with or reject?
4 – Have you (yet) written your own creed? Would you share it with us?
5 – If you are going to be on the side of the “good guys”, how do you determine which side that is?
6 – Where do you place Constantine's motives?
7 – What do you think was the Major Cause of the Jews being considered Christ killers?
8 – How has this book changed your religious views?
Week 8 Questions
1 – What do you think is the current most important idea about which we have orthodox and heterodox views?
2 – Notice that Christianity started st the transition between oral and written society. How do you think Christianity would be different if it had started either completely before or completely after this transition?
3 – Ignatius was dearly hoping he was right about Jesus / Christ. Have you ever been in a similar situation where if something were otherwise than how you thought it was, the result would be a great waste?
4 – (Research) What do you know about Seth?
5 – Does Gnosticism resonate with you? How?
6 – Why is the idea of Man (humanity) fallen through sin so pervasive in this culture?
7 - Is religion heresy to scientists?
8 – Do definitions have to make sense? 1 == 3 !
9 – What heretic do you know best?
10 – In what part(s) of your life are you orthodox and in what part(s) heretical? How important is this to you?
Week 7 Questions
1 – Where did all the angels go? We hear so little about them in church today.
2 – Did a pre-existant Christ become human by giving up exalted prerogatives? If so, did the product, Jesus, really have any control over situational outcomes?
3 – If the analysis of the second half of the Christ poem, we see what normally happens – rather than people learning to “do what Jesus did”, they instead “worship Jesus (Christ)”. Why is this so often true?
4 – Did the angel who later became Jesus make a deal with God before being “born of a virgin”?
5 – (Research) How are Enoch and Elijah different?
6 – Is obedience really such a high virtue?
7 – Build a science fiction version of the story of the Bible, including the moral development of your characters. (Yes, it can be (much) shorter than the Bible).
8 – Do you have any system for determining when to read the Bible literally and when to read it allusively?
9 – What other synonyms for Logos do you like?
10 – On a scale from 1 (useless) to 10(extremely important), how important to you is you own Christology?
Week 6 Questions
1 – What do you think would have happened without Paul's conversion?
2 – Can you read the Bible (New Testament) carefully enough to find any preliterary traditions? What do you find?
3 – Do you think the creed in Paul's opening of Romans predated the Virgin Birth story? Have you taken any time to consider the order of the parts of the stories of early Christianity?
4 – Comment on Ehrman's description of Romans.
5 – How do you think the development of Christianity would have been different if it were not competing with the Roman emperor for the Son of God title?
6 – Do you think Ehrman is anachronistic when he talks of the exaltation to an “unbelievable extent”? What happened to the gradations of divinity we (he) talked of earlier?
7 – Are there any new (to you) ideas in this chapter? Describe one.
8 – How does this book affect your church life?
Week 5 Questions
1 – What is the difference between being raised in the spirit and being raised in a “spiritual body”?
2 – Ehrman uses the term “material body” but does Paul ever use that term? If so, what translation are you reading?
3 – What conclusion(s) can you draw from Ehrman's discussion of the resurrected body?
4 – What do you think of Ehrman's separation of “what really happened” from “what people thought happened”? How is this useful today?
5 – What are your own vision experiences, and how “real” are they?
6 – If what sense (How) do you believe that Jesus is God? (Or, if you don't, make up something you don't DISAGREE with.)
Week 4 Questions
1 – What would you accept as evidence that Jesus was raised from the dead? Or, that men walked on the moon?
2 – What do you think is your most basic presumption?
3 – As Ehrman goes through his list of non-historical things, do you disagree with any? Which one(s), and why?
4 – What do you think of the distinction between “the past” and “history”?
5 – What do YOU really know about the death of Jesus?
6 – Did Jesus need to be buried in order to be resurrected?
7 – (Research) What portion of the story tellers in Jesus time were women?
8 – Describe your view of the end of Jesus' life, after the last supper.
Week 3 Questions
1 – If you can disregard everything I (Peter) have said on the subject, do you think Jesus said he was (or was equal to) God?
2 – How would you compare the authority of the Gospels to the authority of the internet?
3 – Can you find anything on the internet that supports the (anthropological) idea that stories were expected to change with circumstances in (older) oral cultures? (I have been a believer of the modern myth Ehrman mentions.)
4 – Of Independent (or Multiple) attestation, Contextual credibility or Criterion of dissimilarity, how would you order these from most to least important?
5 – If you have a copy of “The Five Gospels”, check the color and arguments therein for the quotes Ehrman uses in the “Jesus as an Apocalypticist” section. Now what do you think?
6 – We have modern apocalypticists. (Fundamentalist believers in the rapture, etc.) Would you say that make our society apocalyptic? Therefore, did the apocalypticists in Jesus society make him that way?
7 – Does Ehrman convince you that Jesus was an apocalypticist?
8 – How has your understanding of Messiah changed with this reading?
9 – How do you think Jesus thought of himself?
Week 2 Questions
1 – If Jews were monotheists, what do you think they thoug of the relationship between their (G)od and everyone else's (g)ods?
2 – Compare the dates of the Ten Commandments with the date of Isaiah 45. Is that how long it took Jews to move from henotheism to monotheism?
3 – What evidence do you see for lower level (below God) divine beings?
4 – What do you think is the primary purpose for the story in Genesis 18?
5 – Have you ever thought of Jesus as an angel?
6 – If the Watchers and Zeus have similar characteristics, what might have been the reason the stories came into being?
7 – Did any of your WORDS groups include the kinds of ideas Ehrman uses in this section on wisdom?
8 – How do you think wisdom and logos are the same or different?
9 – If instead of the patronage system in place at Jesus (and earlier) time, the world had been democratic, what would the various forms of divinity (and movement from humanity to/from divinity) look like?
10 – How divine are you? OR How are you divine?
Week 1 Questions
1 – How do you understand the difference between the historical question of how Jesus became God and the theological question of how Jesus became God?
2 – After a thumbnail of each chapter, which chapter do you think you will find most interesting? Why?
3 – What was your reaction to page 12, the story of Apollonius? Do you feel like there is a difference between Jesus and Apollonius? Can you describe the difference?
4 – Are there any modern versions of the old “levels of divinity”?
5 – Which model of achieving divinity would you choose for yourself, and why?
6 – Note: My view of Jesus is as a cynic sage rather than an apocalyptic prophet.
7 – If you got to make up your own god, what would it be a god of? Would it be a good idea to be tolerant of another's god?
8 – How does (did) Christianity benefit by increasing the distance between human and divine?