In this post, I will talk about Bart Ehrman's discussion of Luke 3:22 in his book, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament.
context of Luke 3:22 is Jesus' baptism by John. The King James Version
for that verse reads: "And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape
like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art
my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased." Ehrman's argument is that
"in you I am well pleased" is actually an attempt to theologically
correct an earlier reading: "today I have begotten you." Why was this
attempt made, according to Ehrman? Essentially, there were
adoptionists who believed that Jesus became the Son of God and Christ at
his baptism, when God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit. But there
were Christians who disagreed with the adoptionists, believing instead
that Jesus was God's son before his baptism. The Christian scribes who
believed that Jesus was God's son prior to his baptism changed the text
to read "in you I am well pleased" instead of "today I have begotten
you," since the latter reading implied that Jesus became God's son when
he was baptized. The change made Luke 3:22 say that God was acknowledging Jesus as his son, not making Jesus into his son at that time.
offers text-critical grounds for his view that "today I have begotten
you" was an earlier reading than "in you I am well pleased." In the
second-third centuries C.E., Ehrman argues, "today I have begotten you"
was the predominant (maybe even the only) reading. Ehrman mentions such
names as Justin, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and others, but I'll
quote Justin Martyr. Justin says the following in Dialogue with Trypho
88, when discussing Jesus' baptism:
"but then the Holy Ghost, and
for man's sake, as I formerly stated, lighted on Him in the form of a
dove, and there came at the same instant from the heavens a voice, which
was uttered also by David when he spoke, personating Christ, what the
Father would say to Him: 'You are My Son: this day have I begotten You;'
[the Father] saying that His generation would take place for men, at
the time when they would become acquainted with Him: 'You are My Son;
this day have I begotten you.'" See here.
that Justin not only presents God saying "this day have I begotten you"
at Jesus' baptism, but Justin also tries to interpret that in a
non-adoptionistic fashion, applying it to the regeneration of Christians
rather than to God begetting Jesus as God's son when Jesus was
baptized. There is good reason to believe that "today I have begotten
you" was the predominant reading of Luke 3:22 in Justin's time, and that
it was later changed to "in you I am well pleased."
are other arguments that Ehrman makes for "today I have begotten you"
in Luke 3:22 being the earlier reading. First, up to the sixth century,
this particular reading is broadly attested, occurring in "witnesses as
far-flung as Asia Minor, Palestine, Alexandria, North Africa, Rome,
Gaul, and Spain" (page 63). You may recall that the book, Reinventing Jesus, which criticizes Ehrman, says that broad attestation is a strong ground for authenticity when it comes to text critcism. Second,
changing "today I have begotten you" to "in you I am well pleased" may
have been (at least in part) an attempt to harmonize Luke 3:22 with Mark
1:11, where we have "in whom I am well pleased. There were Christian scribes who tried to harmonize the Gospels, as Reinventing Jesus
acknowledges. Third, within Luke-Acts, there seems to be a salient
notion that something significant happened to Jesus at his
baptism----that God anointed Jesus and endowed him with power (cp, Luke
3:22 with 4:1, 14; Acts 10:37-38). According to Ehrman, what happened
in Luke 3:22 was "an election formula, in which a king is actually
chosen by God upon his anointing" (page 67). Ehrman offers other
arguments for the priority of "today I have begotten you" in Luke 3:22,
One might ask if "today I have begotten you" in
Luke 3:22 contradicts Luke's virgin birth story, in which Jesus is born
as the Christ (Luke 2:11). If that is the case, wouldn't "in you I am
well pleased" be the reading that makes more sense within Luke's
Gospel? Ehrman's response to that appears to be that Luke contradicts
himself, or at least appears to do so. On page 65, Ehrman states:
to Luke's infancy narrative, Jesus was born the Christ (2:11). But in
at least one of the speeches of Acts he is understood to have become the
Christ at his baptism (10:37-38; possibly 4:27); whereas in another
Luke explicitly states that he became Christ at his resurrection
(2:36). It may be that in yet another speech (3:20) Jesus is thought to
be the Christ only in his parousia. Similarly 'inconsistent' are
Luke's predications of the titles Lord and Savior to Jesus. Thus, Jesus
is born the Lord in Luke 2:11, and in Luke 10:1 he is designated Lord
while living; but in Acts 2:36 he is said to have been become
Lord at his resurrection. So too, in Luke 2:11 he is born Savior, and
in Acts 13:23-24 he is designated Savior while living; but according to
Acts 5:31 he is said to have been made Savior at the
resurrection. Nor does the title Son of God...escape this seemingly
erratic kind of treatment: Jesus is born the Son of God in Luke 1:32-35,
descended Son of God according to the genealogy of 3:23-28, and
declared to be Son of God while living (e.g., Luke 8:28; 9:35); but Acts
13:33 states that he became the Son of God at his resurrection."
Ehrman says reminds me of John Meier's claim that we see a grab-bag
sort of Christology in the Gospels: that there were different ideas
about who Jesus was, and the Gospel writers grabbed from these diverse
ideas in their own depictions of Jesus (see here),
incorporating low and high Christologies. Perhaps one could also do
source criticism with Luke-Acts to explain its diversity: some have posited that Jesus' birth story in the Gospel of Luke was pre-Lukan (see here), and that the speeches within Acts are earlier than Luke's Gospel.
It's interesting to me how Paul himself appears to have
diverse Christologies in his writings: Paul may arguably be saying in
Romans 1:4 that Jesus was appointed to be the Son of God at his
resurrection, yet Paul says in Romans 8:3 that God sent his son in the
likeness of sinful flesh, which seems to imply that Jesus was God's Son
long before God raised Jesus from the dead. Ehrman, like many
scholars, holds that Paul in Romans 1:4 is drawing from an earlier
source, while adding a little of his own two-cents. For some
reason, Paul has no problem including an allusion that appears to
contradict what he says elsewhere. Perhaps Paul had his own way of
explaining away Romans 1:4 to himself so that it would cohere with his
stance, and thus (like many Christian fundamentalists) he did not
acknowledge a contradiction. But, according to Ehrman, there were later scribes who would have issues with how Romans 1:4 was phrased!
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