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246 of 265 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dream-textbook for teaching the New Testament
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...
Published on December 12, 1999 by Stephen

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12 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive
This is a very comprehensive study of the New Testament. It thoroughly covers the historical context of the Gospels as well. The only negative aspect I noticed was that it has a secular viewpoint which isn't necessarily bad, only at times rather than explaining the New Testament writings the author seems to denounce them. Overall it is a well researched yet slightly...
Published on September 29, 2008 by Zachary M. Rickman


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246 of 265 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dream-textbook for teaching the New Testament, December 12, 1999
By 
Stephen (Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings (Paperback)
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. For those interested in using this work as a textbook in a New Testament or Early Christianity course, I recommend it highly, having used it for two years in a row with excellent results. It is very readable, has something of a personal tone, and includes Ehrman's own attempts to explain the process of learning to students, e.g., his claim that one learn by comparison. There is a 'history of religions' strain to the book, which comes out in his insistence on religion as an aspect of culture and human life, as well as in his recognition (commonplace in the field) of early Christianity having consisted in a variety of early Christianities. The book comes with nice illustrations, maps, reproductions of ancient art, etc. (limited to B&W, no doubt to keep the price down). The book has what to me is the merit of posing challenging historical questions about early Christianity that make students think hard about religion. At the same time Ehrman, according to his own design, is theologically neutral. He does not feel compared to do theology (or undo theology!) for his readers; he merely states largely accepted theories which the reader or professor is free to use as a basis for developing his or her own questions, be they theological or historical. Would that we had a text of this sort for teaching an introduction to the Hebrew Bible!
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103 of 111 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.

For example, he compares the teachings of the historical Jesus with the theological views of the apostle Paul: "Jesus proclaimed the imminent arrival of a cosmic judge from heaven, the Son of Man, and urged his followers to prepare by repenting and returning 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?"

Perhaps not for all readers, but certainly for that segment of curious Christians or non-Christians who wish to be exposed to a scholarly account of issues surrounding the New Testament - from a historical point of view - this is your book.
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330 of 385 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A RATHER ONE-SIDED INTRODUCTION TO BIBLICAL SCHOLARSHIP, January 25, 2002
By 
J. C. Bailey (East Sussex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings (Paperback)
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. And yet this view is already past its sell-by date; from the systematic reconstructions of Tom Wright at the conservative end of the spectrum to the liberal "cherry-picking" of the Jesus Seminar, the energies of the critical community are heavily focused on a "Third Quest" for the historical Jesus. There is nothing instrinsically wrong with Ehrman's scholarship, but once again it is one-sided.
A more serious issue is that Ehrman goes a stage beyond Reimarus, Wrede and so on in his assumptions that first century Christian thought was at least as heterodox as we know second century thought to have been, that the ascendancy of the orthodox "brand" of Christianity was simply by a process of natural selection, and that generations of "proto-orthodox" NT redactors constantly and consciously changed and added to the texts as they went along - their intention being to filter out any ideas that seemed to challenge their prejudices and to provide ammunition in the fight against "heresy". This position is not systematically spelled out in the book under review (for that, see one of Ehrman's other books, "The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture"), but it needs stating here because these assumptions inform his whole approach to the subject.
This is more radical than it may sound, because it would imply that the four canonical Gospels are not necessarily any more authoritative as insights into the historical Jesus than the Gnostic and other apocryphal writings of the second century such as the "Gospel of Thomas". In fact, the very starting point for Ehrman's main discourse is the non-uniqueness of the traditionally-supposed key points of Jesus' life: He begins by recounting the miraculous birth, life, death and resurrection of a man the readers is allowed to assume is Jesus, but then (surprise!) turns out to be Appollonius of Tyana, a mythical miracle worker whose exploits are chronicled in the "histories" of Philostratus.
Ehrman's book has many good points. Its discussion of Marcan priority is the most lucid summary I have read, and its assessment of the historical background to each of the biblical Gospels and the Pauline writings is also outstanding. My problems with the book arise from its shuttered perspective. In the context of a more open discussion, and with greater care in documenting his sources, the author could have argued his own opinions just as coherently and with less danger of giving the inexperienced student a one-sided view of the issues.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Basic Text about the New Testament, January 21, 2006
Author Ehrman's "The New Testament" seems to be designed as a textbook for advanced undergraduates. Thus, the writing is accessible and informative rather than inciting and exciting. Ehrman goes through the books of the New Testament systematically, examining the origin and meaning of each. He looks also at some of the writings and traditions that didn't make the "cut" and were excluded. The book contains a goodly number of maps and illustrations. In the wake of the "Da Vinci Code" women will be pleased to see a chapter about women in early Christianity -- although the most famous of them, Mary Magdalene, gets only one mention.

The book is clearly written; the author does not intrude his own beliefs; and the scholarship seems sound. Whether intended or not, Ehrman reinforces my suspicion that Christianity might better be called Paulism, as the Apostle seems to have taken the early Church in directions that its symbolic founder could hardly have envisioned -- and perhaps would not have sanctioned.

For the believer, the greatest miracle of all is that this religion headed by an obscure Jewish peasant and his rag-tag followers survived and flourished. Ehrman offers some insight as to how this miraculous event might have transpired. "The New Testament" is worth your time and can be read cover to cover or dipped into for information on specific topics.

Smallchief
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53 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Getting to Know the New Testament with clarity, March 31, 2003
By 
W Fuchs (New York, NY) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings (Paperback)
What does Jesus mean to you and why is it important to you as a human being living 2000 years after the death of Jesus? Why is Jesus viewed and interpreted by scholars in so many different ways? How do the four Gospels of the New Testament explain the life and mysteries of Jesus as a man, prophet, messiah and divine being? These and a host of questions of this nature are clearly explained by Professor Bart D. Ehrman in his excellent book, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. This is a thorough examination of the New Testament. Although the title suggests a "historical introduction", it's that and much more.
Too often, scholars tend to express historical events in high brow theoretical frameworks and confusing, elaborate paradigms. As a student or just someone who may be interested in learning about the New Testament, you're presented with a lucid, terse and imaginative outline on the New Testament reading Professor Ehrman's book. All 29 chapters are presented coherently with logical historical descriptions and analysis that clearly explains every facet of what it means to analyze a complex and controversial subject.
It was such a pleasure to read through the material with ease, comfort and with clear explanations. Professor Ehrman carefully walks you step by step through non-canonical and canonical sources for the "creation" of the New Testament. In addition, you're given the ideas behind each gospel and what the "author" of each gospel portrayed using a variety of historical methodologies. You're given a succinct groundwork to help you understand how you get from point A to point B of each gospel and their connections. There are no quantum jumps in theoretical ideas to confuse the reader.
I have thoroughly read 13 other books on the "Historical Jesus" and reviewed 43 other ones. Professor Ehrman's book is by far the best ever written on the subject. Although the book is used as a text book for the Historical Jesus and the New Testament for undergraduate students, it could easily be read as a book on it's own. You learn not only the history of Jesus; from varying sources, but you get in depth lessons on ancient history which connects everything together so well.
I would highly recommend this book over Professors E.P. Sanders', The Historical Figure of Jesus (Penguin Books, 1993), which I feel is an excellent book on the same subject.
The price of the book is worth every penny. You will never read the four Gospels the same way after reading Professor Ehrman's tremendous book. This book along with his other book, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (Oxford University Press, 1999) can only help the reader to clearly understand the Historical Jesus from so many perspectives with clarity beyond imagination. Any reader who does NOT enjoy this book and/or comes away with a better understanding of this subject has not read other convoluted books on this subject.
The reader would do well to go through the four gospels first (a few times) before reading Professor Ehrman's book so that you can appreciate his analysis as he quotes verses from scriptures in each gospel.
The cliché, "read any good books lately?" certainly applies to this book.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great historical explanation of the NT, March 10, 2006
By 
Ehrman explains the New Testatment clearly from a historical point of view. He does not offer "faith-buster" arguments but takes all sides of the argument into consideration. This is extremely helpful while reading the New Testament, since it explains many of the nuances and wordings that you may not have otherwise understood or picked up. Even if you're not reading the New Testament, Ehrman gives you a strong understanding of the historical context of the New Testament, the differences and similarities among the Gospels, the possible rationales and theories behind those discrepancies, etc. Ehrman is not a difficult read and is actually quite fascinating, particularly for those who never considered Christianity in a historical light before.
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36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is an excellent intro to the New Testament, July 25, 2001
By 
This review is from: The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings (Paperback)
I'm an undergraduate who had to buy this text for a course last year, and still find myself turning back to it months after the course has finished.
Ehrman writes with great clarity, and covers a lot of territory. He tends to take the mainstream position on a number of issues (Markan priority, the Two-Source hypothesis, etc). An exception to this, perhaps, is his insistence that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet (which Ehrman has written an entire book about). I totally disagree with him on that one.
Ehrman also provides a good overview of the debate over the alleged Pauline authorship of 2 Thessalonians, Colossians, and Ephesians, and his explanation of why Paul could not have written the Pastoral epistles should leave no one unconvinced.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for mindless followers, October 11, 2003
By A Customer
This book will raise questions and allow you to examine the Bible on a historical persepective not a faith based perspective. It is a teaching text not a bible/christian faith reinforcement text allowing a person to view the events and the history in a manner which may not have been introduced to them. In various classes there have been problems with those of the fundamentalist view point as well as rigid adherents to Christianity.
It will allow a second viewpoint which is not introduced into most religious settings today. If you are seeking warm fuzzy reinforcement of beliefs then this is NOT the book for you then read and learn then I suggest those authors who reject all in favor of faith.
If you are seeking to learn more about the historical background and the references found in other text of the time which may either reinforce the Christian view or not
He provides references for his claims and sources.
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54 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Help for a doubting Thomas, March 5, 2000
By 
Bruce Springsteen (Port Washington, WI) - See all my reviews
I loved this book! It enabled me to understand why there are so many contradictions in the bible. I was a fundalmentalist, but I couldn't accept the explanations that I was hearing about why there were numerous contradictions in the bible. I was taught that God doesn't make mistakes, so why were there contradictions in the bible? It seemed to me that too many Christians just accept what they hear/read without really questioning what they are hearing/reading. It was enlightening to discover Ehrman, who takes a practical approach towards reading scripture and asks questions that many might shy away from. Mark's gospel always shows Jesus asking "WHAT DO YOU THINK?". I believe that God wants human beings to think and Ehrman does just that: think. However, Ehrman just doesn't think alone, he actually researches the many points of views and other data available regarding scripture to build a framework for better understanding the new testament.
I am in my twenties and like many other younger people today, I am searching for a deeper meaning to life and a better way to live it. A literal reading of scripture just doesn't cut it for a lot of us. Maybe it's because we were brought up to question things. Mistrust is prevalent throughtout our American society today. Ehrman enables those who are skeptical about the gospels to better understand them. Hopefully, this understanding will lead the individual(s) reading it in the best direction for them.
Thank you Mr. Ehrman!
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Book!!, February 7, 2003
By 
Don Smith (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings (Paperback)
I have been rather actively reading Early Christian and New Testament books over the past five years or so and this book is far and away THE best in its class!
It's introductory but not shallow, historical not dogmatic, attempts to summarize many viewpoints without bogging down, and is an easy read.
I cannot recommend this book enough to anyone who wants a historical introduction to the New Testament.
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