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326 of 337 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating - Not To Be Missed
With captivating strength and clarity, New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman has written another winner. He exudes competency, frequently reminding us that his conclusions are those of a historian. In "Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene," this means he will not be an advocate for or against any specific theology - instead, he will give us his best assessments from all available...
Published on April 18, 2006 by The Spinozanator

54 of 76 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More DaVinci Mania
Professor Erhman is an excellent writer and he crosses over to the mass-market well. His writing style is humorous, cogent and actually very informative. It is a study in the pursuit of Christianity and the Biblical history as an academic exercise void of theology or faith.

For that premise, Erhman is able to ignore the history of canonicity. He is able to...
Published on July 5, 2006 by Mark Jones

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326 of 337 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating - Not To Be Missed, April 18, 2006
With captivating strength and clarity, New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman has written another winner. He exudes competency, frequently reminding us that his conclusions are those of a historian. In "Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene," this means he will not be an advocate for or against any specific theology - instead, he will give us his best assessments from all available sources about these three historic personalities.

I was subjected (through age 20) to more than my share of fundamentalist preaching, yet values at home were more those of inquiry and evidence toward the world in general. Ehrman's approach to the Bible is more to my liking than reiteration of a dogma I've already heard, documented by passages of scripture preselected to prove that certain view. Consider a book where all aspects of the early development of Christianity are subjected to scrutiny. Issues of dogma are extensively discussed, but not endorsed nor advocated. Instead, they are examined for consistency within the whole context of Biblical and non-canonical sources and the political setting in which the early church solidified its views.

Few seminary graduates that have studied Biblical Textual Criticism have seen fit to share this type of information with their flocks. Ehrman fills this gap - every page chock full of information you would not find compiled anywhere else. This is his forte.

Mary Magdalene is incredibly popular, despite being mentioned in the Bible only thirteen times. One of the Bible's best stories is that of Jesus and the adulterous woman, mistakenly identified by many as Mary Magdalene. The Pharisees brought her to Jesus, asking what they should do with her. Of course, it was a trap. If he said she should not be punished, he would be going against scripture. If he recommended punishment, his message of mercy and love would be compromised. While writing something (speculations abound as to what) in the sand, he invited the sinless one amongst them to cast the first stone. Later when he looked up, they were gone, except the woman. Jesus told her to "Go and sin no more."

What a great story - adding suspense and pathos to many a sermon. It's a shame that it was a late addition - not present in the oldest and best Greek manuscripts of John's gospel, nor in any of the gospels. Not only that, its writing style was different and it included many words and phrases not used elsewhere in John. But it was such a wonderful and well-known story, more than one scribe decided to add it to the New Testament - and in several differing locations.

Ehrman compares the teachings of the historical Jesus with the theological views of the apostle Paul: Jesus proclaimed the imminent arrival of the Son of Man, and urged his followers to repent and return to a faithful adherence to God's law. Paul, on the other hand, insisted that following the Law would have no bearing on one's salvation, that in fact one could be saved only through faith in Christ's death and resurrection. Notwithstanding the broad similarities between these two men, both of them first-century apocalyptic Jews, their differences are striking. Do Jesus and Paul represent the same religion? Or has Paul transformed the religion OF Jesus into the religion ABOUT Jesus?

For all three of our characters, Ehrman goes to great pains to point out the difference between historical accuracy on the one hand and the eventual legend on the other - both being important. The former tells us what Biblical scholars think actually happened. The latter tells us what future generations wanted to believe as the stories changed to accommodate evolving theologies - and their corresponding legends.

For example: In our later sources, but not in our earlier ones, Mary Magdalene progressively becomes more important in Jesus' life, with eventual hints of possible intimacy. Reversing the chronological order:
Sixth century - Pope Gregory in his 33rd Homily took individual parts from several stories in the gospels and made a composite out of Mary Magdalene, portrayed her as a repentant prostitute.
Fourth century - "Greater Questions of Mary:" In this gnostic book, Jesus takes Mary up to a mountain where she observes a sensuous event involving Jesus.
Third century - "Gospel of Phillip:" In this gnostic gospel, we are told Jesus loved Mary more than the other apostles and frequently would kiss her.
Second century - "Gospel of Mary:" Another gnostic gospel where Jesus loves Mary and the other apostles equally, but He has granted Mary special revelations unknown to the others.
Gospel of John (latest gospel) - Here, Mary is never mentioned during Jesus' lifetime, but she discovers his empty tomb and he appears to her first after rising from the dead.
Gospel of Luke - Mary is assumed (not specifically named) to be among the women at the tomb, since she is named as one of the women from Galilee who followed Jesus to Jerusalem.
Gospel of Mark (earliest gospel) - Mary is not named until the end. She and other women find Jesus' tomb empty and flee out of fear, telling no one what they have seen.

Ehrman's point is that that the later (legendary?) sources suggest an intimacy that was not there at all in the earlier sources - not even a hint. Were Jesus and Mary married, as advocated in "The Da Vinci Code?" - no evidence whatsoever, not even in the non-canonical literature.

Although Mary Magdalene is always a major star in a stage or film production, history does not support the way she is usually portrayed. In Luke 8, she is one from whom seven demons have been exorcised. That's the only reference to Mary's relationship with Jesus during his ministry. She became a figure of paramount importance only because she was one of the women who observed the crucifixion, watched his burial, and came on the third day to anoint his body, only to find the tomb empty. In a couple of our sources, the resurrected Jesus appeared to her first, even before he appeared to Peter.

The critical theology of Christianity is based on Jesus' death and resurrection, and Mary was there. From this came her legacy, earning Mary eighty-five pages of commentary by Ehrman - much of it based on sources from outside the Bible.

Together with similar analyses of the lives of Peter and Paul, this book provides a unique perspective of early Christianity. Perhaps not for all readers, but if you are one of those curious Christians or non-Christians who wish to be exposed to a scholarly and historical account about these three most favored New Testament characters - this is your book. Literal Bible interpreters welcome!
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52 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but uneven, September 5, 2006
Bart Ehrman's bibliography includes some thoughtful and accessible work on the diversity present in early Christianity, particularly his duel "Lost Christianities" and "Lost Scriptures." While these books made him popular, his critical work reviewing the many absurdities of Dan Brown's "Da Vinci Code" -- "Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code" -- launched him into a truly popular sensation. That is all to the good. Professor Ehrman's scholarship is generally excellent and he offers readers many helpful insights into an important topic.

That said, his newest work, "Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene," whose stated goal is to review what is known of the lives of these three early followers of Jesus appears a rather uneven text, much of it derivative of his previous books. At its essence the book might be summed up as follows, "A bit, quite a bit, and almost nothing." Of Simon Peter we can know almost nothing independent of the Christian Scripture. While Ehrman can tease out some useful biography - a fisherman, lower class, married, denied Jesus thrice, head of the Jerusalem Church along with Jesus' brother James - there is little here that cannot be found on a Wikkipedia search. Reviewing the various writings attributed to Peter, Ehrman rejects them all as not from the Apostles own hand, some more convincingly than others. He does, however, do a good job showing what followers of Peter generally held to among the sects of the early church, mostly Jewish Christians ascribing to abstinence seeing Jesus as a Jewish Messiah.

On Saul of Tarsus we know more, so Ehrman can offer a more substantive biography, though again he often diverges into speculation. As with his work "Misquoting Jesus," we here see an excellent case made as to why many of the letters attributed to Paul likely do not come from his own hand. While the whole of the case does not need to be repeated here, it generally goes to contradictory points within the letters, thus while Paul praises a woman as "first among the apostles" in Romans, he says they should be silent in Corinthians. Even in this, Ehrman makes a good case that within letters we have later additions such as in Corinthians where we are told women should "be silent" in one place and "cover their heads" when they prophesize and pray in another, the latter he argues being an addition by a later scribe opposing female participation. As with Peter, much of the analysis relies on speculation based on what we can suppose about someone of Paul's class and period. That said, Ehrman does a good job teasing through the sources, particularly showing the effort to "harmonize" Peter and Paul in Acts and the alterations of Paul's theology in that later work.

As for Mary, what the author describes as a current "popular favorite," the short answer is we can know almost nothing. The text offers few tidbits and Ehrman can refute a few aged myths such as her status as a prostitute, but as for real biography, we can know so little because she gets little attention in the early sources we have and the questionable reliability of the later sources. Still, we at least can, in his short biography, understand the reasons why this is true.

Many other reviewers here and in other places attack Ehrman taking his textual methodology as an attack on their faith and literalist ideology. One sharing their view - and one might add rather closed minded approach - may well want to avoid this work. Unlike the Jewish textual methodology, which has for thousands of years sought to tease out and understand contradictions within their text, Christian history tends to favor a "don't ask, don't tell" approach, often enforcing it with a heresy trial and a burning at the stake. Thus we see a fair bit of resistance to scholars like Ehrman who point out contradictions between the gospels that make it hard to believe they should be taken literally - Jesus dying in one after the Passover in most, on the Passover in another one (John); Changes in Jesus last words in one to the other; etc. Such theologically based attacks should not shy readers away from the author's work. While those who have read his other books may find little new here, for those unfamiliar and looking for an introduction to the subject, Ehrman's produced an interesting and relatively short work for their perusal.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As always, Ehrman gets you thinking, April 3, 2007
Bobby Newman (Long Beach, NY USA) - See all my reviews
Bart Ehrman has written a number of analyses of early Christian church writings, trying to help the reader to understand historical context and how this shaped what was included, and excluded, from scripture. In Peter, Paul and Mary Madalene, he keeps up this tradition. His discussions of reading the books of the New Testament horizontally, as opposed to vertically, to show the contrasts between them, should be required reading. Such highlighting may offend literalists, but that is the nature of religious discourse if questioning is not allowed. Finally, Ehrman's writing style makes such reading easy to do. On top of being easy to read and well-informed, Ehrman is genuinely funny. Comments regarding, for example, the six people in the English speaking world who have not yet read The Da Vinci Code come at you from nowhere and help to keep everything moving and entertaining as well as enlightening.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If I had a hammer..., April 23, 2009
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This review is from: Peter, Paul and Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend (Paperback)
Peter Paul & Mary Magdalene

Bart Ehrmann is not just re-chewing old cabbage from previous books here, though he is forced by his subject matter to reexamine old ground from a new point of view. The rationale for his title, which he obviously found just too pawkishly juicy to resist, is the way in which the sixties folk pop trio, like the Biblical one, came on the scene in an apocalyptic time bearing a pop-countercultural message, the latter as expressed in what became the Gospels, the latter-day one in such a song as "If I Had A Hammer."

In the Biblical case, unlike the sixties case, this book's central question is who were these people? Modern Christians seem to be pretty sure they know, for all that their opinions may vary all over the map. By way of illustrating the real problem, Ehrmann would ask, for example, who was Jesus? For all that modern Christians may think they know that one, the reality is that the four different gospels portray four different Jesuses, with radically different personalities. For modern Christians, of course, who read the Bible "as a little child," if at all, this is not necessarily a crisis of faith. They just go with the Jesus they like best, most usually the rather Buddhistic "cool guy in sandals" Jesus of Matthew, and let it go at that. Obviously for a serious scholar like Ehrmann, that's not good enough, for understanding either the real Jesus or other such lesser players as Peter, Paul and Mary.

Simon-called-Peter, for a start, is particularly problematical, in that, important as he must have been, we only know him from the accounts of others. By all accounts, he was an illiterate Aramaic-speaking blue-collar fisherman, a strange choice for what Jesus called "The rock upon which I will build my church..." especially since Peter seems, by temperament, anything but a rock. As both the apostle who cut off the ear of one of Jesus' adversaries and who denied Jesus thrice, Peter always seems rather a volatile, constantly doubting, vacillating hothead, to a degree that occasions Ehrmann to suggest that Jesus may have simply been being sarcastic. The writings attributed to Peter, in highly literate Koine Greek, are obviously not really his, nor do we know for sure what he actually may have gone on to do, all accounts being variously unreliable and contradictory. To the Catholic church, he was the first patriarch of Rome, where he was eventually martyred, though alas there is no verifiable record of Peter's ever actually having visited Rome, and significant reason to suppose that he wouldn't have in any case, so who was this masked man anyway? For Ehrmann, though, this is just where it gets interesting. Just as important as who Peter really was is the issue of who people, from then to now, have thought he was, as expressed through legendry and literary forgeries about him down through Christian history, which have had such a profound effect on that history and on church doctrine.

This is even truer of Saul-called-Paul, the only player, including Jesus himself, who we can be reasonably sure ever existed as a flesh and blood historical character, and who has left us some actual record in his own words. Again, just as important as who Paul was is who people since then have thought he was, with its corresponding influence, for better or worse, on church history and doctrine. Obviously, not all of that has worked out the way Paul himself might have wanted. Of all the New Testament epistles under his name, for example, almost half are later forgeries written by others, and it is in fact the forgeries that have caused him to be remembered mainly, in history and church doctrine, as a woman-hater and an anti-semite, policies plainly contradicted by a careful reading of the epistles Paul actually wrote, but which have caused huge problems for Christianity ever since.

Which is not necessarily to say that Paul was really just a misunderstood goodguy, of course. He was, after all, the Pharisee who ultimately hijacked the newborn church from the original Nazarenes and radically transformed it from a Jewish heresy into a paganized, gnosticised mystery cult, with a central message that pretty much flew in the face of what would appear to have been Jesus' own central teachings, all on the basis of a brief epiphany on the road to Damascus, which may or may not ever have really happened. Paul, who never met Jesus, was no disciple, after all; he seems, in fact, to know practically nothing about Jesus himself. He has none of the things to say about the life or teachings of the real flesh-and-blood Jesus that a disciple normally would, and shows no interest in any aspect of Jesus apart from his spiritual significance as resurrected savior; not so much the Jewish "Messiah," or "Redeemer," as simply the paganized "Christ," or "Annointed One," a troubling distinction that today's Christians manage to melt together just by not thinking too much about it, but which has been problematical for Christianity all the way back to Jesus himself, who sometimes seems to have been of two or more minds about it.

One could call Paul, as he called himself, an "apostle," of course... but an apostle of what? Actually, of his own ideas and doctrines, a huge problem for Christianity all the way down to Martin Luther and on into our own time, and perhaps the biggest cause of Christianity's central problem of epistemological incoherency, leaving Christendom perpetually stranded at the crossing-points of who Paul was versus who people have thought he was.

In getting round to Mary Magdalen, Ehrmann seems to take a lot of pleasure in shifting gears and having some fun. He points out the irony of Mary being, today certainly, the biggest rock star of all the players despite, or perhaps even because of, receiving the least notice in scripture. Since the gospels say so little about her that we can't be absolutely sure about such issues as whether she was a prostitute or even knew Jesus all that well, it's intriguing to see her toil on down through Christian history to become not just the intimate and confidante of Jesus, but even his mistress or wife and, ultimately, the mother, by Jesus, of the founder of a line of French kings. Obviously what is at work here is the spontaneous evolution of a compelling corpus of post-biblical modern mythology, with its own informal sub-religion of zealous believers. Ehrmann gets an excuse here to discuss in some depth not only such rather deplorable pop fables as Jesus Christ Superstar, The Last Temptation, The DaVinci Code et al., but traces the genre back through mediaeval legendry, some of it spawned by clergy, to roots in early Gnostic and apochrypal writings such as found in the Nag Hamadi trove, and classical era gender lore. To my mind, it's an ideal wrap-up for a thoroughly engaging book.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Challenging, thoughtful, skeptical, but almost fun..., July 30, 2006
William E. Adams (Midland, Texas USA) - See all my reviews
This is my first Bart Ehrman book, but it won't be my last. Although he is head of the religion department at University of North Carolina, he is certainly not a fully persuaded preacher. He approaches the ancient literature surrounding Peter the disciple, Paul the apostle, and Mary Magdalene (perhaps both, perhaps not) as a historian, not a theologian. That will tick off a lot of readers. I spent a week with this volume, approaching it with an open mind (easier for a religious liberal like myself) but a prayerful heart. Ehrman notes that most modern scholars agree that perhaps half of Paul's letters in the New Testament were not Paul's own work, and that half of Peter's smaller output is questionable as well. While he does not declare that non-canonical ancient writings have equal weight with those selected as sacred by fourth-century church leaders, he makes a sometimes persuasive case that the stories which did get in "The Bible" are not always older, or more accurate, or more believable than the tales and legends which were rejected. I am no scholar, but I am a person who hopes that Jesus was special, and that the basic Christian message is valid. Reading studies such as this one, to me, is vital for those who purport to have an honest belief, intelligently arrived at. Bart Ehrman pretty much demolishes any credibility to the idea that the words and sentences in the Bible are infallible, protected by God or the Holy Spirit from mistaken translations or political/religious agendas of later times. He does not opine on the divinity of Jesus or the validity of the Resurrection, however. One could come away from this reading experience with faith weakened, or strengthened. It is not the Gospel writing that is sacred, but the purpose of the life of the man/God (?) that the writing is about. That is something that will be debated until judgment day, whenever and however it arrives.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Peter I know, and Paul I have heard about, but who is this Mary?, December 26, 2007
His use of the legendary counter-cultural rock group aside, there are
very few new ideas in this book for those who have already read other Bart
Ehrman books. He opens this work taking familiar passages from the New
Testament, standing them next to passages from extra-biblical documents and asking, "Does the historian accept what is found in the Scripture as being historically accurate and what is found outside of it as inaccurate? On what grounds?" (Introduction, p.xiv) He rightly reminds the reader that every writer, both ancient and modern, has an agenda that must be understood if you are to correctly understand the document, "This is especially true of the early Christian Gospels." (p.10)

Let me state from the outset, I like Bart Ehrman. He is an accomplished scholar; he is a good writer (I enjoy reading his work and typically read every word); and he is a charismatic lecturer (I have sat in on one of his lectures). I agree with many of Ehrman's thoughts and I especially applaud the fact that he is forcing us to think more critically about the New Testament. *sigh* Glad I got that out of the way.

Ehrman challenges you to read the NT gospels "horizontally," meaning to compare stories from Mark's gospel to the same story in Matthew or Luke. His purpose is to make you see the various differences and to question which version is trustworthy. He cites a few examples to get the discussion rolling, something he does in his other books, but his objective is not just to "help" you understand better. I would recommend that a reader have some other materials in front of him when reading Ehrman, thus reading him more horizontally. He has a tendency to present data with only his desired emphasis. Yes, Bart Ehrman has an agenda.

He begins with Peter. The discussion on Peter is not as potent as that on Paul and Mary Magdalene, but he does bring out the various extra-biblical documents regarding Peter which is good for anyone interested in this subject matter. Ehrman always does a good job of introducing extra-biblical works and these are the texts he uses in his study of Peter: the Gospel of Peter, the Acts of Peter, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Letter of Peter to Philip, and the Pseudo-Clementine writings. He gives a good overview of why scholars have doubted the Petrine authorship of the NT documents 1 and 2 Peter. He also does a nice job of illustrating from the early church writings why Peter should not be called the first pope, or even the first bishop of Rome. There is not much else in the section on Peter that demands comment. It is here, however, that I must offer my first scholarly critique - Ehrman consistently points to his other works in footnotes without any explanation. I realize these works are meant for a popular audience and not to be academic writings, but he could do a better job here. For example, Ehrman makes it clear that he believes the sermons of Peter contained in NT Acts are basically nothing more than the author of Acts putting forth his own views in the mouth of Peter. (pp.66-67) This is a text-critical statement, highly relevant in the overall thesis of this book. Yet rather than give the reader some explanation, some supporting data for this extremely important point, Ehrman points you to another of his books on the New Testament in the first footnote.

[If you follow that footnote (I do not yet own that particular Ehrman text) you will likely find that he is referring to a famous passage of the fourth century Greek historian, Thucydides, in his "History of the Peloponnesian War," where he states that he will do his best in the lengthy speeches he records to give the reader the gist of what was said, but that he obviously cannot remember every detail word for word. Most biblical scholars believe that the author of NT Acts does this in the sermons recorded. Fine. But if Luke is the author he would not have been present for Peter's early sermons. It would do the reader good to know that the Greek in the early portions of NT Acts, especially the sermons, is quite different from the Greek in the latter part of Acts where the author is supposedly giving an eye witness account. The early sermons contain Aramaisms, phrases in Greek that are obviously translations of Aramaic. Luke's presentation in the early chapters of Acts most likely comes from early Aramaic sources. Ehrman knows this, or least is familiar with the theory, but has decided not to acknowledge it. As he argues, Peter is supposedly illiterate and it is likely that he
only spoke Aramaic - any writing attributed to Peter (all we have is in Greek) is likely to have been written by someone else, maybe Peter's personal scribe. Ehrman gives a good account of this in chapter one, then does an excellent job in chapter six, showing that it is highly unlikely for Peter to have written any document with his own hand. I laughed out loud in my study while reading his humorous sarcasm on page 76 - good stuff.]

The section on Paul opens in typical Ehrman style, showing how the three accounts of Paul's conversion in NT Acts have differences. Similar to the empty tomb accounts there are differences, yet the basic thrust of the story is the same: Paul is on the road and has a phenomenal (supernatural) encounter with the risen Jesus, and somehow this is witnessed by his traveling companions. Ehrman points out several items to illustrate that "Luke doesn't have the details right." (p.97) Ehrman cites examples that are disputed by other scholars, but he fails to mention this even in a footnote.

On page 98 he points to the sermon recorded in Acts 17 - Paul is speaking to philosophers and says that God has overlooked their ignorance. Ehrman says that Paul would have never said this, pointing to Romans 1: "Would he preach the opposite of what he believed?" Ehrman knows that in Romans 1 Paul is referring to those who "oppose" or "suppress" the truth and in Romans 2 Paul sounds very much like the "Lukan" message in Acts 17. He knows this - he just ignores it.

Another example is his treatment of the death of Jesus (pp.143-144). According to Ehrman, Luke portrays Jesus as wrongly put to death, a miscarriage of justice that leads men to feel guilty, which should then lead them to repentance and forgiveness. Paul, on the other hand, views the death of Jesus as necessary, as an atonement. While I basically agree with this argument, Paul makes statements very similar to those made in the Acts sermons about the death of Jesus (1 Thess. 2:14; 1 Cor. 2:8). My point here is that Ehrman finds problems where there might NOT be any problem.

Having pointed out a few places of disagreement, let me say that Ehrman's discussion on Paul is very good. There are many places where he sounds much like N.T. Wright, but many of these ideas are not new. He never references Wright, but then again, I have never seen Wright reference Ehrman (I have not read more than a couple works of either author).

The section on Mary Magdalene, in my opinion, is the best part of this
book. Ehrman shines brightest not when offering his take on New Testament passages, but when he discusses Gnostic writings. He reminds (or informs) the reader that "not much is said" about Mary in the earliest source documents. (pp.185-187) Mary Magdalene appears more frequently, and with more fantastic flare, as we move further away from the first century - Ehrman's presentation of this is excellent. (pp.248-249) What Ehrman succeeds in doing with this examination of the various Gnostic writings, contrasted with the NT documents, is to illustrate the struggle the early church had with the questions of gender, sexual relationships, and leadership.

Indeed, the early church leaders struggled with many issues as this new understanding of spirituality challenged old ideas of race, class, gender, and nationality. How difficult it must have been during the first century to understand (and apply) Paul's radical statement, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal.3:28) There were bound to be disagreements and struggles!

But let's not invent problems. Ehrman is obviously a proponent of gender equality - he makes equality statements throughout the book. Fine, but he basically accuses Gregory the Great of misogyny (pp.190-192) when he comments on Gregory's homily regarding the anointing of Jesus by the sinful woman. Gregory assumes this woman to be Mary Magdalene. Ehrman finds fault with Gregory's application of this text and states, "The only redeeming feature of her body is when it turns from its dangerous acts (dangerous, that is, to the men concerned) and falls to the feet of the man Jesus in repentance and sorrow. It is the sorrowful penitent who is acceptable; that is the kind of woman these texts seek." (p.192) Yes, Gregory is encouraging his hearers to be sorrowful in penitence, even to the point of falling on their knees...but not just women! In Luke 5:8 Peter does the same thing, falling at the feet of Jesus and saying, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" I am sure Gregory would have the same view of Peter's response.

In the end, I do like Ehrman's challenge to bible-believing Christians to re-examine biblical texts. Faith does not rest on the text, but on the resurrection of Jesus. It is also good to consider the message of various Gnostic writings. There were indeed reasons for many of the ancient documents to be rejected by the early church. Ehrman's examination of some of these extra-biblical documents helps to shed light on why many of these did not garner a significant following and were rejected.

R.A. Baker
Ph.D., Ecclesiastical History
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No, it's not perfect, but c'mon!, August 7, 2006
While I agree with the reviewer below that Ehrman's "Misquoting Jesus" is better than the present book, I disagree with several of Dr. Gardner's points about the "obvious errors" here. Ehrman is obviously writing a popular book, rather than a scholarly monograph, which likely is the cause for at least some of the "lack of precision" Dr. Gardner laments. (Some precision is left for the notes, which takes care of Dr. Gardner's complaint about "carpenter" on p.198.) However, some of Dr. Gardner's comments on Mark need clarification:

The word "messiah" does indeed appear in the Gospel of Mark; it's just usually translated as "Christ" instead of "messiah." "Messiah" is a legitimate translation of the same Greek word.

(And the word "prostitutes" does appear in the Gospels: Jesus himself speaks of "prostitutes" in Matthew 21:31, though it's often translated "harlots" instead.)

While Jesus claims in Mark 5:39 that the little girl is only sleeping, in 5:35 someone from the house says that she *is* dead. John 11:11-14 points up how "sleep" and "death" can be confused in ancient texts.

In Mark 14:33 it seems clear that the 3 are both present and awake when Jesus is "greatly agonized" - though they do fall asleep later.

Mark 15:25 does not explicitly mention that they "nailed him to the cross" but that is the usual interpretation of the verb Mark uses. Ehrman is in good company to understand it so.

The comment about "all our accounts" on p.222 ignores the context: this paragraph speaks of "the crucifixion narratives," i.e., the canonical gospels.

In short, Ehrman's book not perfect, but not nearly as poorly executed as Dr. Gardner claims.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ALL ABOUT JESUS'S CLOSEST FOLLOWERS, June 26, 2007
Professor Bart Ehrman has written another engaging and insightful book on early Christianity. He examines three of Jesus's most influential followers through the lens of historical perspective, the bible, and early external writings. He shows great insight in the influence each of these figures had on the history of the Western world. Did you ever think about the fact that the historical Peter had to have been an illiterate peasant who spoke Aramaic and it is impossible that he wrote perfect Greek Epistles that applied more to the later church than the 1st century? We must understand that Paul never met the historical Jesus and barely mentions any history of the real man, instead evidence points to the fact that he was the one who began the "Christ" myth. All the gospels and outside sources agree that Mary Magdalene was the first to witness the empty tomb or the risen Jesus, that makes her the first Christian and the pivot point that began the Christian religion. Buy this book for an education on these three figures and what we can really know about them and their impact on Christianity and Western Civilization. Curious minds will not be disappointed.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Real and the Remembered, June 29, 2006
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"Peter, Paul, & Mary Magdalene" is an exploration of how these three followers of Jesus are remembered in history and how that may compare to the reality of their lives. Bart Ehrman is an expert and the writer of several popular works on early Christianity. His smooth prose walks the reader through the complexities of early Christian history and legend.

Ehrman is quick to explain his challenge in writing this book. What we think we may know about famous persons from the past may be a function less of facts and more about how those persons are remembered. When the persons in question lived two thousand years ago and were at the center of the birth of a controversial new religion, what few facts are preserved in the historical record are often overlaid with myth, legend, and accumulated layers of theological dispute.

In the case of Peter, Paul, and Mary, the New Testament provides incomplete and often contradictory information about their lives and beliefs. Comparison of the New Testament accounts against each other and with accounts outside accepted scripture further suggests that their reputations have been "borrowed" from time to time by other writers as part of the ongoing struggle to define the meaning of the ministry of Jesus.

Most intriguing to this reader was the section on Mary Magdalene, whose relationship with Jesus got a fresh, and according to Ehrman, mostly fictional look in the popular novel "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown and in the movie of the same name. As Ehrman documents, there are no contemporary or near contemporary accounts that even suggest that Jesus and Mary had a relationship beyond teacher and follower. Ehrman does find that Mary Magdalene was a follower of Jesus, may have been the first to announce his resurrection, and was considered an apostle in the early Christian Church in Jerusalem. Her true role may have been obscured over the years because she was a women and therefore seen as less than the equal of her male counterparts in the Church.

This book is highly recommended to the reader interested in exploring the evolution of the early Christian Church and of our understanding of three of its leaders.
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54 of 76 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More DaVinci Mania, July 5, 2006
Mark Jones (Watkinsville, GA United States) - See all my reviews
Professor Erhman is an excellent writer and he crosses over to the mass-market well. His writing style is humorous, cogent and actually very informative. It is a study in the pursuit of Christianity and the Biblical history as an academic exercise void of theology or faith.

For that premise, Erhman is able to ignore the history of canonicity. He is able to ignore the analogy of faith that runs throughout Holy Scripture (the sixty-six book Canon). It follows that he would dismiss the internal attestations within the Scripture, such as the fact that the Pauline Epistles were already considered inspired and authoritative before Paul's Martrydom sometime around 60 AD. He is able to ignore the most ancient creeds of the New Testament which attest to the Deity of Christ.

Erhman is able to consider documents such as "The Acts of Peter" on par with the "Acts of The Apostles." the "Gospel of Thomas" is given equal footing and authority with any one of the four New Testament Gospels. The pseudepigrapha and Nag Hammadi "Gnostic Gospels" are considered just as authoritative as the Christian Scriptures.

The study is fascinating, and this work tends to be a good snapshot of these spurious documents which competed for the attention and affection of early Christians. What he neglects is the historical rejection of these pretenders by the Patristics from the earliest days of recorded church history.

Now what was interesting was FIVE (count'em) chapters on Mary Magdalene, one of the mystery ladies of Scripture! Erhman gets it right on this one. The popular notion that Mary was a prostitute and as some would assert, the woman found in adultery- has no basis in Scripture. I do appreciate Erhman's honesty in laying the axe to the root of the tree regarding Mary as Jesus' wife or girlfriend! DaVinci fans, take note!

I discovered from his debate with Dr. William Lane Craig that Dr. Ehrman is an agnostic. His writing indeed reflects that presupposition.

I'm a Christian and a Christian minister (and yes, my presuppositions shine through!) and I am becoming a fan. Bart Erhman is a quality writer and a world-class scholar. I learn a lot from his writings, and have no problem recommending them highly, with the caveat that they ignore the most basic elements of Christian theology while embracing a secularized history of the Church. It's also very important to remember the world of antithesis that will challenge Dr. Erhman's interpretations. But antithesis can make us sharp.

Thanks to Dr. Erhman and I look forward to reading more of his work.
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Peter, Paul and Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend
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