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A Case for the
Divinity of Jesus: Examining the Earliest Evidence

By Dean L. Overman
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Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield

Summary: Whether Jesus was really the Son of God or not is a central question for Christians—and one that has provoked heated debate since the time of Jesus' birth. Dean L. Overman examines the earliest Christian records to build a compelling case for the divinity of Jesus. Overman analyzes often-overlooked evidence from liturgies and letters written in the years immediately following Jesus' death—decades earlier than the Gnostic gospels or the New Testament gospels. Addressing questions raised by books such as Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus and Elaine Pagels' The Gnostic Gospels, Overman presents powerful evidence from the earliest Christian communities that will be new for many modern Christians and builds a carefully reasoned case for Jesus truly being the Son of God.

In A Case for the Divinity of Jesus, you'll learn:

  • The highly reliable Jewish culture of memorization and oral transmission that served as the initial means of preservation and communication of the gospel immediately after the crucifixion
  • How early Christian creedal formulae that preexisted any Christian literary sources provide evidence for us of the earliest Christian beliefs
  • How these earliest Christian creeds and hymns indicate that Jesus was worshipped as divine at the very beginning of the Christian movement
  • How the extremely early evidence from oral tradition corroborates the gospel accounts of the resurrection
  • The substantial evidence for the traditional attribution of the Gospels' authorship -- and that they were written within the lifetime of eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus
  • Jesus' use of the term "I am": words that function as the name of God in the first century; hence his conviction for blasphemy before the Sanhedrin
  • Why the Gnostic alternative "Christian" beliefs are not in keeping with the Christian faith founded by the earliest Jewish disciples or apostles of Jesus
  • Strong evidence that the "Gospel of Thomas" and other non-canonical gospels were late second-century compositions without any independent, historical information about Jesus of Nazareth

Reviews of "A Case for the Divinity of Jesus: Examining the Earliest Evidence"

"The divinity of Jesus Christ has been a matter of fervent dispute since the Galilean made his appearance on the human stage. Following his death and resurrection, numerous schools of thought arose to try to explain who this man was and why he mattered. Overman, former Templeton scholar at Oxford University who studied religion at Princeton and Harvard, brings his considerable talents to this question, focusing on the scholarly evidence for early belief in the divinity of Jesus. This is the third in a series of studies from his able pen, including a volume examining the case for the existence of God. He spares no effort in dissecting and analyzing early liturgical practices and documentary bases. His examination of Gnosticism and its impact on Christian belief is nothing short of masterful; his reflections about a resurrected messiah among the Jews are thoughtful and pointed. Some may find his approach overanalytical and a bit dry. But he maintains a level of readability such that any student of Christianity and its leader will benefit from Overman’s thorough examination."

Religion in Review Online, November 2009, Publishers Weekly

"Dean Overman covers a lot of very important ground in this well organized and easy to read book. He makes a solid case for the divinity of Jesus, as seen especially in the historically credible accounts of the resurrection. But Overman deals with many other important topics, such as the reliability of the New Testament Gospels and the unreliability of the second-century gnostic Gospels and the complicated question of how other religions of the world fit into the picture. Students, clergy, experts and non-experts alike will benefit greatly from this book."

Craig A. Evans, Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Acadia Divinity College; author of Fabricating Jesus and co-author with N.T. Wright, Jesus, The Final Days

"Dean Overman has produced a carefully written, helpful book that investigates this exceptionally important issue in a persuasive and convincing manner."

Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne, Cambridge University, author of Belief in God in an Age of Science, Templeton Prize recipient

"Dean Overman brings the investigative skill of a brilliant lawyer together with the insights of an outstanding Christian intellectual leader to make a compelling case for the divinity of Jesus and his resurrection. The careful argument he makes needs to be taken seriously by all who want to examine the foundations for the astonishing claim that Jesus uniquely is the Son of God. No assertion of truth is more revolutionary in the world's history than this. Overman presents an accessible, persuasive case for why this assertion is historically grounded and intellectually trustworthy."

Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary, Reformed Church in America; Co-founder, Sojourners

"Skillful lawyer Dean L. Overman has carefully marshalled the earliest evidence available from the early church's earliest confessions and set out a compelling case for the divinity of Jesus. What results is not just an enjoyable 'good read'--it is an excellent and perceptive 'must read' for laypeople and scholars alike, which calls for an intelligent response in the court of public opinion."

Richard N. Longenecker, Professor Emeritus of New Testament, University of Toronto, author of The Christology of Early Jewish Christianity

"I admire this book's elegant, efficient, and clear style, formulated by a trained jurist. The argumentation is lucid and strong throughout, giving readers important and solid knowledge in 'good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over.' It is a clearly written presentation against the proposition that early Christians freely constructed the words and traditions of Jesus. The reader is in good hands."

Birger Gerhardsson, Lund University, author of The Reliability of the Gospel Tradition

"This book is one of the best examples of a solid argument for Jesus' divinity and His relationship with God the Father. . . . He carefully traces the evidence from an enormous collection of sources to prove his book's argument beyond any doubt. . . . Overman writes and discusses as a skillful lawyer would argue his case in a crowded courtroom."

January/February 2010, Edmonton's Living Light News

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • Worship Patterns in the Very Earliest Church Indicate an Immediate Veneration of Jesus as Divine Following His Crucifixion
  • In the Synoptic and Johannine Gospels Jesus Used the Term "I Am," Words that Function as the Name of God in the First Century; Hence His Conviction for blasphemy in His Trial Before the Sanhedrin
  • Reliability of the Canonical Gospel Accounts is Supported by the Historical Evidence
  • The Means of Communication of the Gospel Immediately After the Crucifixion was through a Highly Reliable Oral Gospel Tradition
  • The Resurrection is a Plausible Event
  • The New and Old Gnosticism are Based on Fantasies, Not on Historical Events
  • One Cannot Logically Maintain that all Religions Describe a Path to the Same Ultimate Reality
  • How Should One Engage a Person of Another Faith Concerning Diverse Religious Beliefs?
  • Appendix A: Hymnic or Creedal Verses
  • Appendix B: Bart Ehrman's recently published Jesus Interrupted is contradicted by the conclusions of his mentor, Bruce M. Metzger

Dean's interview with Glenn Mertz on "A Case for the Divinity of Jesus: Examining the Earliest Evidence" 27:29 (MP3)

WTLN - 950AM Orlando, FL - Interview with Allan Dempsey about "A Case for the Divinity of Jesus" 30:28 (MP3)

Issues, Etc - Dean's interview with Todd Wilken 30:33 - December 21, 2009 (MP3)

"Making a Case for the Divinity of Jesus" - Interview with KKMS Radio - 37:34 - January 6, 2010 (MP3)

Dean's interview with Al Kresta from Ave Maria Radio - 14:43 - January 21, 2010 (MP3)

Dean's Interview on Centered - Presenting the case for the divinity of Jesus.- February 21, 2010 (MP3)

Issues Etc., Jim Sandel - AM730 KDAZ - Interview with Dean Overman - 21:09 - November 28, 2009 (MP3)

Dr. Craig Hill on Dean's book, A Case for the Divinity of Jesus (MP3)