How Jesus Became God
01: Jesus-The Man Who Became God
First, consider the huge historical significance of the Christian belief in Jesus's divinity, in terms of its effects on Western civilization as well as today's world. Learn about different scholarly views of the historical Jesus, and trace the remarkable diversity of early Christian thought regarding Christian identity, scripture, and theological understandings of Jesus.
02: Greco-Roman Gods Who Became Human
In the ancient world, there were many accounts of "divine" mortals. Track this phenomenon in the Greco-Roman polytheistic religions, noting the overlap between the human and divine worlds. Explore three ancient models of divine men, in both mythology and Christian scripture, as gods take on human form and humans enter the heavenly realm.
03: Humans as Gods in the Greco-Roman World
Delve further into the interface between the human and the divine in pagan cultures. Examine narratives describing people born of the sexual union of gods with mortals, highlighting examples such as Alexander the Great. In the Roman and Egyptian worlds, look at cases of humans who were exalted to the status of gods.
04: Gods Who Were Human in Ancient Judaism
Here, discover accounts of divine humans and other godlike beings within ancient Judaism. In Genesis and Exodus, explore conceptions of divine beings that appear in human form. In other Jewish texts, study narratives of humans who become angelic beings, as well as stories of the offspring of angels and humans.
05: Ancient Jews Who Were Gods
In ancient Judaism, beings other than the one true God could be considered to be or even called God. Learn about the divine figure of the Son of Man, and the Jewish conception of a "second God". Observe how divine attributes of God were personified, and how humans such as the kings of Israel were deified.
06: The Life and Teachings of Jesus
In approaching the historical Jesus, consider why the New Testament Gospels are the only useful early sources on his life, and study the criteria used by scholars for evaluating the Gospels as history. Then investigate Jesus's apocalyptic worldview, which envisioned the imminent end of history and a coming kingdom of God.
07: Did Jesus Think He Was God?
This lecture explores what Jesus said about himself, as well as what he specifically preached. Grasp the nature and purpose of Jesus's ethical teachings, and his view of himself as a prophet of the coming kingdom. Study the Jewish conception of the Messiah as a warrior-king who would overthrow the enemies of Israel.
08: The Death of Jesus-Historical Certainties
Regarding Jesus's final days, review the events that we know about with relative certainty. Learn about his reasons for being in Jerusalem, and the political tensions surrounding the Passover celebration there. Consider what led to his arrest, the nature of the charges against him, and what we can infer about his trial.
09: Jesus's Death-What Historians Can't Know
Look now at events surrounding Jesus's death that we cannot know about with certainty. Assess the plausibility of the Gospels' accounts of his arrival in Jerusalem, the date of his crucifixion, and the matter of his burial. Grasp how Christian writers made changes in the accounts of his death to serve theological ends.
10: The Resurrection-What Historians Can't Know
Jesus's resurrection stands as the basis for the entire Christian faith. But what can we know historically about the resurrection? Here, dig deeply into the question of what historians can and cannot demonstrate about the past, and consider aspects of the stories of Jesus's resurrection that are historically doubtful or unknowable.
11: What History Reveals about the Resurrection
What was it that caused Jesus's followers to believe he had been raised from the dead? Investigate the disciples' visions of Jesus, alive again after his death, as reflected in Paul and the Gospels. Learn also about the tradition of doubt in the resurrection, and the meaning to early Christians of being resurrected.
12: The Disciples' Visions of Jesus
In exploring the first claims about Jesus's resurrection, this lecture discusses the phenomenon of visionary experience as understood by modern researchers. Learn about the variety of religious and bereavement visions people experience, and the ways in which the disciples' visions and beliefs about Jesus combined to impact their conception of him as divine.
13: Jesus's Exaltation-Earliest Christian Views
What did the earliest Christians believe about Jesus's divinity? Delve into Romans and Acts for what they may tell us about early Christian thought, identifying the "pre-literary" creeds they quote from. Observe how these creeds indicate a view that Jesus was adopted as the Son of God precisely upon his resurrection.
14: The Backward Movement of Christology
Over time, Christian thought pushed the origin of Jesus's divinity further and further back in history. Trace this development by looking at views of Jesus in the New Testament Gospels. Focus on the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, noting their differing versions of when Jesus became the Son of God.
15: Paul's View-Christ's Elevated Divinity
Paul's theology represents a transition between early conceptions of Christ as exalted by God upon his death and later views of his innate or eternal divinity. Trace Paul's seminal role within the early church, and his view of Jesus as a divine being whose actions raised him to a higher level of divinity.
16: John's View-The Word Made Human
The Gospel of John differs significantly from the other three canonical Gospels in its conception of Jesus. Investigate John's contention that Jesus had always been the Son of God and the equal of God the Father. Contemplate John's identification of Christ as the embodiment of the word of God, or "logos".
17: Was Christ Human? The Docetic View
In the second and third centuries, Christian groups followed radically different beliefs and theologies. Learn about the "docetists", who believed Jesus was not human, but only appeared to be so, highlighting Marcion, a docetist who conceived of two distinct gods-a God of the Jews and a God of Jesus.
18: The Divided Christ of the Separationists
Among early Christian groups, the Gnostics demonstrate yet another view of the divinity of Jesus. Explore the fundamental tenets of Gnosticism, with its notion of secret knowledge as the source of salvation. Discover the Gnostic "separationist" view of Christ, according to which the divine Christ inhabited, temporarily, the human Jesus.
19: Christ's Dual Nature-Proto-Orthodoxy
By the fourth century, the theological understanding known as "orthodoxy" became predominant. Investigate the relationship between orthodoxy and "heresy", or conflicting conceptions of the faith, and evidence that orthodoxy was not the original form of Christianity. Learn about early "proto-orthodox" writers, and their contention that Jesus was both fully God and fully human.
20: The Birth of the Trinity
The doctrine of the Trinity asserts that God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are all individually God. Look into the origins of this mysterious claim, noting that the Trinity appears nowhere in the Bible. Learn about the conception of "modalism", which proposed that the three are manifestations of one being, and modalism's opponents.
21: The Arian Controversy
In the third century, sharp divisions existed between Christians, involving how to explain the relation of God the Father to Christ and the Holy Spirit. Examine the proto-orthodox thought of Novatian, and learn about the "Arian controversy" stemming from the highly divisive view of Christ as a subordinate deity created by God.
22: The Conversion of Constantine
The Christian conversion of the Roman emperor Constantine was a momentous turning point for the faith. Learn about the relationship of the Roman Empire to early Christianity, and the specific reasons why Christians were persecuted by Rome. Grasp Constantine's motives for converting to Christianity and for becoming directly involved in theological controversies.
23: The Council of Nicea
Constantine called the famous Council of Nicea in 325 CE, to resolve the conflicting views of Christ's divinity. Examine the theological issues at stake, pitting the Christological views of Arius against those of Alexander of Alexandria. Contemplate the political implications of the outcome, and the resulting orthodox creed, establishing Jesus fully as God.
24: Once Jesus Became God
Conclude by considering the historical ramifications of the Nicean affirmation that Jesus was God. Learn about the growing Christian faith's effects on paganism and the advent of anti-Jewish thought and action. Observe how the theological debates continued, and review Jesus's path to becoming the object of faith for billions today.