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The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings [Paperback]

by Bart D. Ehrman
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 1, 2011 0199757534 978-0199757534 5
Featuring vibrant full color throughout, the fifth edition of Bart D. Ehrman's highly successful introduction approaches the New Testament from a consistently historical and comparative perspective, emphasizing the rich diversity of the earliest Christian literature. Distinctive to this study is its unique focus on the historical, literary, and religious milieux of the Greco-Roman world, including early Judaism. As part of its historical orientation, the book also discusses other Christian writings that were roughly contemporary with the New Testament, such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Apocalypse of Peter, and the letters of Ignatius.


* A uniquely accessible and engaging writing style that vividly brings the New Testament story to life
* Descriptions and models of various methods for studying ancient literature
* Time lines, illustrations, maps, and more than 100 photos, including three photo essays
* Five types of text boxes: "What to Expect," "At a Glance," "Another Glimpse into the Past," "What Do You Think?," and "Take a Stand"
* An extensive glossary of key terms, which appear in boldface type the first time they are used in each chapter
* An updated Instructor's Manual on CD containing a media resources section, chapter summaries, key terms, pedagogical suggestions, PowerPoint-based lecture outlines, and a test bank with essay and multiple-choice questions (not included with book, available separately)
* An updated Companion Website at that provides students with links to media resources, chapter summaries, interactive multiple-choice self-quizzes, reading guides, flash cards, maps, and time lines
* A FREE 6-month subscription to Oxford Biblical Studies Online ( $180 value--with the purchase of every new copy of this text. Please contact your Oxford University Press Sales Representative at 800.280.0280 for details.


* A completely reworked chapter (2) on textual criticism, which now appears at the beginning of the book
* Take a Stand" boxes that are designed to help students synthesize the material in each chapter
* Expanded bibliographies featuring the most up-to-date research available
* New boxes on "Jesus and the Woman Taken in Adultery," "The Ending of Mark," and "The Laughing Jesus"

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The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings + HarperCollins Study Bible - Student Edition: Fully Revised & Updated + Synopsis of the Four Gospels, Revised Standard Version
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Editorial Reviews


"The overall quality of this text is far superior to others of the same genre on the market today. Its biggest advantage is its readability. Bart Ehrman has done a masterful job at developing what at times are the most arcane issues of early Christian textual studies in such an inviting and clear manner that he's able to not only keep students' interest, but also present the arguments in a clear, concise, and highly logical manner. Of special interest are the boxes, which have provided some of the best discussions for my students."--George Heyman, St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry

"Outstanding. This is the only book that students have told me they like."--Kenneth Atkinson, University of Northern Iowa

"From cover to cover, this book is packed with rich information. It's also a strength that Ehrman chooses a different methodological approach for each of the gospels as an illustration of the variety of ways that scholars can read a text. I have used this book for a long time and will continue to do so indefinitely."--Zeba A. Crook, Carleton University

"The text makes a special effort to acquaint students with recent developments in New Testament scholarship and offers responsible appraisals of scholarly opinions. I like very much the 'What to Expect' and 'At a Glance' features, which must be a great help to students in grasping major points."--Bradley Nystrom, California State University, Sacramento

"The presentation, especially the many boxes and the glossary of terms, is wonderful for students to grasp the vast project that any introduction to the New Testament entails. The book's pedagogical devices are generally outstanding and extremely helpful to students."--Robert A. Ludwig, Loyola University Chicago

"I especially like the approach of introducing critical methods for reading the Bible by demonstrating various methods along the way, reinforcing and reviewing by returning to a few methods in different chapters."--Janet Everhart, Simpson College

"When I first encountered this text, I felt that it was exactly the book I needed for the course. Ehrman writes with an admirable clarity and straightforwardness appropriate to his audience. He's clearly a good teacher and his classroom experience is constantly evident in his writing and general presentation."--Michael O'Connell, University of California, Santa Barbara

"The overall quality is excellent. The appearance of the word 'historical' in the title gets to the heart of the matter; the text is unapologetically historical and critical in focus. This is a major strength for a textbook that will be used in a state university context. The book is also very reader-friendly. The pedagogical devices are great and the overall design and layout is outstanding."--Mark D. Given, Missouri State University

About the Author

Bart D. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has published numerous books and articles, including The Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations (OUP, 2011); A Brief Introduction to the New Testament, Second Edition (OUP, 2010); and Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew (OUP, 2005).

Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 5 edition (July 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199757534
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199757534
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 7.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #69,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bart D. Ehrman is the author of more than twenty books, including the New York Times bestselling Misquoting Jesus and God's Problem. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and is a leading authority on the Bible and the life of Jesus. He has been featured in Time and has appeared on Dateline NBC, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, CNN, the History Channel, major NPR shows, and other top media outlets. He lives in Durham, N.C.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
242 of 261 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dream-textbook for teaching the New Testament December 12, 1999
By Stephen
Bart Ehrman's 'The New Testament' is a superb work for teachers seeking to assign their students a readable, reliable, and challenging introduction to the history of earliest Christianity and its literature. Incidentally, it would also be a fine first stop for intelligent readers who want to know what historians of early Christianity are saying about the birth of this religion and the origins of the New Testament. The work is engagingly written, with an occasional and not inappropriate first-person, and it has the merit of representing balanced, critical positions in the much debated-territory of New Testament studies. Ehrman's disinclination to accept a variety of trendy and dubious by-ways in New Testamental studies can be seen in his treatment of three areas. First, while not neglecting the Greco-Roman context, he positions Jesus squarely in the Jewish context and sees him as an apocalyptic teaching bent on internal reform of Judaism. Miracles are part of the picture, as they were for other charismatic Jewish teachers of the time (cf. the work of Geza Vermes). Ehrman declines to follow the scholars who with zeal and imagination claim to sort out editorial levels (and the communities or theological trajectories) in the hypothetical 'Q' document ('Q' = German 'Quelle' or 'source', i.e., the hypothetical sayings source lying behind the commonalities in Matthew and Luke and not in Mark). Thirdly in this regard, Ehrman refuses the common move of positing the existence of gnostic Christianity (or any 'gnosticism) prior to the first hard evidence for it in the late first or early second century. So this is a book that you can trust to pass on the generally accepted theories and to reject the more speculative moves of the field. Read more ›
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102 of 110 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A HISTORICAL Perspective July 28, 2005
In my view, Bart Ehrman writes with more clarity and strength than any other New Testament scholar. I have heard him speak, listened to his tapes and read his books. He exudes competency, frequently reminding us that his conclusions are those of a historian - then spends a little time explaining what that means. In the case of "The New Testament," it means he will examine authorship issues, content and revelancy of the various gospels, letters and apocolypses - inside or outside of the canon - differently than they might be examined from the pulpit. For example, issues of dogma are extensively discussed, but not endorsed nor advocated. Instead, they are examined for consistency within the whole context of the other books and the political setting in which the early church solidified its views. As a matter of fact, he is so non-committal it is impossible to tell exactly where he stands - although it is obvious he takes a liberal stance of some sort.

I had more than my share of fundamentalist preaching, yet values at home were those of inquiry and evidence toward the world in general. Ehrman's approach is more to my liking than reiteration of a dogma I've already heard, documented by passages from scripture pre-selected to prove a certain view. He compares the gospels, discusses the nuances of their differing themes and considers their probable authorship. The letters are treated similarly and the book of Revelations is subjected to a fascinating analysis. Consider the New Testament subjected to the kind of scrutiny one of Shakespeare's plays might receive from a college professor of western world literature - in which speculation is kept to a minimum and explanation is made as to the historical context of the story.
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325 of 380 people found the following review helpful
This book is well written and closely argued, but as an introduction to the subject matter it fails on at least one important level: Unlike, say, John Drane's "Introduction to the New Testament" or Raymond Brown's more detailed overview from the Catholic perspective, Ehrman does not introduce us to a representative sample of scholarly thought. Instead it mainly argues the case for Ehrman's own position, and in the process it takes for granted certain assumptions that are more widely contested than he seems willing to admit. In other words, there is a tendency to cite opinions that other equally reputable scholars would contest as though they were established fact.
Another difficulty with using this book as an introduction to the subject is that Ehrman does not give the reader enough assistance in investigating his influences and antecedents. He makes some quite radical assertions (e.g. challenging the traditional view that the oral traditions of pre-literate societies tend to be transmitted reliably) without the conventional footnotes quoting authorities and sources. Apart from some general further reading suggestions at the end of chapters, Ehrman's assertions along the lines that "recent research has shown" or "it is now accepted" have to be taken on his say-so alone.
Actually, Ehrman's antecedents are fairly obvious to anyone who has read theology - he continues the tradition of 19th century liberals like Wrede (and their 20th century disciples like Bultmann) who drew a sharp distinction between (i) the Jesus of history and (ii) the Christ of the Church's faith, and assumes that the Bible can only inform us about the latter.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
This is an excellent book by a biblical scholar who does a great job of explaining not only his perspective on the topic but how he came to that conclusion. Read more
Published 14 days ago by T. Hoffnagle
5.0 out of 5 stars A college textbook, but engrossing
This is written as a textbook and takes no official position on the religious validity of Biblically-based faith. Read more
Published 28 days ago by M.E.Anderson
2.0 out of 5 stars look for the 5th ed
The best edition is the 5th. Colorful pages, easy to read and understand.
Tools for the students such as: Quizzes, review questions and glossary.
Published 1 month ago by omar almonte
5.0 out of 5 stars Read me
Good overall book. I enjoyed the read and i do recommend it to all other people who like the subject area
Published 3 months ago by Greg Schmidt
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this..
This book is accessible, clearly presented, and factual. The author's opinions leak through, but if you're a christian you should be reading this for a challenge, and not to... Read more
Published 3 months ago by B. Stewart
5.0 out of 5 stars I am not required to fill in these reviews when I shop at a local...
I am not required to fill in these reviews when I shop at a local store; I simply do not return if something is wrong.
Published 4 months ago by Searcher
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholary and Insitghtful Guide to New Testament Reading
My first serious study of the New Testament was about 45 years ago as a young adult. When my current Sunday School class embarked on this adventure again, I asked my pastor to... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Karen Mitchell
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good introductory text
This is an undergraduate level college text book. Ehrman touches on the primary issues of New Testament scholarship in a very informative way without being pedantic. Read more
Published 8 months ago by James Kramer
5.0 out of 5 stars I love the text book & I do not think that I will buy a new text book...
I love it. The book came to my home early and in very good condition. I do recommend buying books this way when discussing text books purchases with my friends who are going to... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Charles F. McGrother, Jr.
1.0 out of 5 stars Using Human Reason for Biblical Interpretation
The Word shapes man's mind, not the other way around. Great book if you want to see the foolishness of worldly wisdom. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Zachary Viggers
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