Richard Carrier writes:
Thus, there were two systems of vocabulary in antiquity, and when translating from Jewish to pagan thought-concepts, Jesus would have been understood as a god from the beginning–just not the God, a hugely important distinction, even for pagans. Christians would not consider Jesus to be the God until well into the second century (at the earliest); but they already considered him a god from its earliest recorded time, if we use pagan but not Jewish vernacular.James McGrath writes:
For example, Paul slips into pagan vernacular when he calls Satan a god (2 Corinthians 4:4); obviously if Satan could be called a god, so could Jesus, who was his celestial superior.
I'm not sure that there is anything that needs to be said by me in response, since he clearly is hedging on whether the earliest Jewish Christians thought that Jesus was a God, accepts what is perhaps the clearest example of a scholarly consensus that reflects bias resulting from religious conviction (the view that Jesus was considered a pre-existent divine person by Paul)For what it is worth, I think that Carrier’s argument crashes immediately and i) mistakes Paul’s divine-Christology with the use of the word theos, and ii) fails to recognise the structure of Paul’s Christ-language which patterns the same in terms of Israel-YHWH-relation language.
On the other hand, if I understand McGrath correctly, I believe he too mistakenly thinks a Pauline divine-Christology is engendered by religious bias rather than serious historical and exegetical work. I tend to think almost the opposite can be true, namely that non-divine christological construals of Pauline theology demonstrate strong ideological motivation, usually bound to the legitimisation of critiques of theologically conservative paradigms (and I say this as one sympathetic to such critical concerns, but they often lead to the obscurification of Pauline theology at this point).
While on the matter, Géza Vermes’ new book, Christian Beginnings, has – let’s not beat around the bush - an absolutely terrible section in chapter 4, “The Status of Christ in the Pauline Religion”. It doesn’t engage with crucial scholarship, and trots out fallacy and imprecision. The rest of his book might be wonderful, I didn’t read any further!