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Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew Paperback – September 15, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"A fascinating look at how Christianity was molded."--Dallas Morning News
"Ehrman's style is marked by the narrative thrust of a good story or even a sermon."--Christian Science Monitor
"A charting of the full theological kaleidoscope would take volumes, but it is possible, using Ehrman's book as a jumping-off point, to examine some of the more striking and widespread of the Christian roads not taken."--Time Magazine
"Ehrman displays expert knowledge of the texts and the best modern scholarship.... His balanced exposition of the Gospel of Thomas, with its careful delineation of the different materials in it, is outstanding."--America
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Top Customer Reviews
Ehrman's book is divided into three parts. The first looks at four Christian works that failed to enter the New Testament. Ehrman first looks at the remainder of "The Gospel of Peter," which survives to this day as an account of the crucifixion. Interestingly, Ehrman suggests we have about as many copies and references to it from this time as we do with the Gospel of Mark. We also learn about "the Apocalypse of Peter," which gives a guided tour of hell (women who braided their hair are especially miserable.) Ehrman then discusses the Acts of Thecla, a supposed apostle of Paul. We then get a discussion of the Gospel of Thomas, a collection of supposed sayings of Jesus. Some scholars believe that the Gospel of Thomas may go back to the mid-first century, but Ehrman is rather sceptical. Then we look at the Secret Gospel of Mark. According to leading Biblical scholar Morton Smith there is a seventeenth/eighteenth century copy of a letter of Clement of Alexandria (2nd century) which quotes from the supposed secret gospel.Read more ›
Reviewer: Mark Lamendola
The advice "Don't discuss politics or religion" usually makes good sense, because such discussions often pit one uninformed opinion against another-with a net negative result.
What happens, however, when a person undertakes massive research to present an objective, respectful, scholarly view of a religious subject? One possible result is a captivating book that opens your mind and touches your heart. Bart Erhman achieved that result with this book.
Ehrman discusses the various agendas of the authors behind both "scripture" and "heresy." He discusses how various writings supported the case for one faction of Christianity or another. He discusses what these writings were, how they came to be, how they were discovered after centuries of being lost, and how scholars have analyzed them.
During all of this discussion, Ehrman doesn't push an agenda of his own. Indeed, he appears to explain the views and goals of each faction without taking the side of any of them. Consequently, the book moves the reader to a deeper, more informed, appreciation of Christianity. That appreciation creates a desire to replace divisive dogma with healing spirituality.
The New Testament did not exist in early Christian times. It came about much later, and was a weapon in the battle for dominance among various factions. It served to unite many disparate churches into an orthodoxy. But, that orthodoxy necessarily negated the views of those whose "scriptures" weren't included in the New Testament. The New Testament is a collection of writings that support a particular set of views of Christianity (Ehrman explains why this is both a good thing and a bad thing).Read more ›
In the decades following the crucifixion of Christ all manner and forms of Christian belief and worship flourished in the eastern part of the Roman empire. The author describes a number of these movements and philosophies and their writings. Some were Jewish and followed Jewish law, such as the Ebionotes; some were anti-Jewish and rejected Jewish law, such as the Marcionites; some were diverse and deeply-philosophical such as the Gnostics. The proponents of each produced their written propaganda, often self-serving accounts of Jesus's supposed teachings or accounts of Jesus supposedly authored by one or another of his disciples.
Ehrman sorts out the forgeries and tells what we know of the literature that wasn't deemed worthy of being included in the New Testament by the "proto-orthodox" Church leaders. He tells a fascinating tale of a possible modern day forgery by a biblical scholar alongside an ancient forgery of the "Gospel of Thomas." He devotes two chapters to the Gnostics, a movement which can resonate today with the sophistication of their thought. Unfortunately, many of the early Christian writings have been lost so only a fragmentary description of them and the sects they represented is possible. One suspects, however, that early Christianity was as diverse as it is today, encompassing as it does everything from snake charmers to Papal pomp.
"Lost Christianities" is written in a lively style that is comprehensible to the non-specialist (me!).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
About the early Christians. Some fascinating ancient texts are explained lucidly and critically. It's a very good read and worth it.Published 10 days ago by John
It's a good overview of the earliest church's wide range of theologies and beliefs. Also illustrates the self-promoting nature of some of the leaders.Published 24 days ago by David M. Pittle
A popular introduction to modern scholarship's appreciation of early Christianity as highly diverse from its beginnings. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Rohag
Excellent book, generally easy to read but some documents within are challenging. Provides an intersting insight to the dynamics of early Christianity and their understanding of... Read morePublished 4 months ago by John M. Mac Donald