Last Tuesday, on March 25, two books were released from their publishers. Both books were also published in digital formats, and the very same morning both books where available on my IPad. These two books also represent something special in another way: the one volume was announced as critical to some central Christian interpretations of Christ in the New Testament; the other book was announced as a kind of counter book, opposing the interpretations of the other one. I am of course thinking about the following books:
Bart Ehrman, How Jesus became God. The exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee. (HarperOne, 2014), and Michael Bird, ed,. How God became Jesus. The Real Origins of Belief in Jesus’ Divine Nature—A Response to Bart Ehrman (Zondervan, 2014).
Both books had received a lot of publicity in the weeks and even months before they were published. And all this was very well organized by the publishers themselves. The book by Bart Ehrman was first announced, and than it was made known that there would be another volume arguing against the former. And then they were published at the same time. Of course, the authors of the latter had read the manuscript of the former; it was made available by the publisher.
I don’t think that kind of arrangement has ever been done before. It reminds me very much about a couple of books published in the late 1970s. I am here thinking of The Myth of God Incarnate, written by edited by John Hick and published by SCM Press in 1977. There was a lot of discussion of the views and theses of this volume, but no counter volume was published at the same day, we had to wait to later in the same year. Then a volume was published, labeled as The Truth of God incarnate, edited by Michael Green (Eerdmans, 1977). I remember the debate around these issues as somewhat heated (depending upon the person who judge), and provocative (again depending on whom you ask), but as far as I remember, the debate did not last very long. The controversy prompted a sequel, Incarnation and Myth: the Debate Continued (1979), edited by Michael Goulder. But after that, the heat went out. I might stand corrected, but that is how I remember this.
The two volumes published this week have already received some comments in the blogs, and is also getting picked up by the general news media. But I doubt there will be as much ‘fuzz’ around these as there was in the late 1970s. Is that positive or rather depressive?