- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 31, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 019512474X
- ISBN-13: 978-0195124743
- Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 0.7 x 5.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 114 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,826 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium 1st Edition
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"Very readable. Useful especially for undergraduates and interested public."--Blake R. Grangaard, Heidelberg College
"Jesus is a superb example of how scholarship can be as full of suspense and surprises as a well-plotted mystery."--The Los Angeles Times
"As fine and succinct a gathering of the voluminous Jesus scholarship as you're likely to find."--The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"An elegantly written, much-needed book....Ehrman's should be the first book for any lay reader interested in the historical Jesus."--Kirkus Reviews
"[Ehrman's] warm, inviting prose style and his easy-to-read historical and critical overviews make this the single best introduction to the study of the historical Jesus."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
About the Author
Bart D. Ehrman is Bowman and Gordon Gray Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is the author of many books, including The New Testament: A Historical Introduction and The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture.
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This is hard reading for Christians because Ehrman, formerly a Christian, methodically examines other historical sources along with the oldest surviving materials of the New Testament to make informed, rational, evidence-based arguments consistent with proven principles of scholarship. He's not pulling this stuff out of the air — fact, much of it has been long-proved but ignored — and he's well aware of the crisis this awareness can cause. But evidence in the text and subtext of Jesus' message shows that Jesus’ life was altogether human. His story, however, made a compelling impression that took on a life of its own almost immediately. Ehrman traces where emphases, errors and additions were made to the Jesus story from the start, possibly while he was still alive. (Possibly, even by him.)
But it became a powerful story, one that his followers couldn't let go of. Many of us still can't.
Ehrman's point is that the actual Yeshua from Nazareth, however, was simply not the character that emerged through First Century fan fiction. The legendary Jesus Christ stands the test of time because, for good and for ill, the canonical gospels allow believers from different times, cultures and contexts to emphasize those parts of the official story that they most crave. And even with all the tampering the story soon received as a result, the actual, mortal Yeshua from Nazareth did give us a lot to work with over the subsequent twenty centuries. The world was sorely ready for the actual man's radical ethical message -- all the more contagious because he mixed it with an equally radical license of apocalyptic urgency. That was a powerful combination, but flawed. The actual Yeshua believed that the world, a mistakenly tiny world, was about to end in a spectacle of doom and magic. He wasn’t the first cultural prophet to bet his life on such beliefs, and to be wrong. History wasn't over. He was in fact writing history, in ways he himself never imagined.
So the personal question Christians are left with after considering Ehrman's work is: What do we do with God, without Jesus as God? For some, faith dies without religion. Ehrman went from being an evangelical fundamentalist "Bible college" Christian to a moderate, literate Christian, and ultimately an agnostic heavily influenced by the New Atheism. He had very good reasons for this, and his journey was painful and real. But the same route isn't for everyone.
The truth is, if you're a Christian who has seriously read Ehrman's work then you've already crossed the Rubicon into literate faith. Literal faith is over for you, whether you recognize it or not. You probably don't need a textual historian to convince you that Earth is more than 5700 years old, that theocracy is disastrous, that the Left Behind series is reckless huxterism. You may have already come to the conclusion that God wants you to be rational and intellectually honest, and that loving God -- however less certainly you view God now -- involves doing so with the mind you were given. Sometimes faith dies. But as the Jesus legend demonstrates, sometimes that's also how we experience faith anew. Consider that it's possible that Ehrman's theses have been on your spiritual reading list all along; that it's your time to encounter these facts about the faith, and to be further changed into the thinking spiritual person you're meant to be.
If so, welcome again to the Emmaus Road, where God no longer has the face you knew. For what it's worth, you're not traveling alone.
As a historian, Ehrman is called upon to reconstruct what we can actually know about the historical Jesus and his teachings. As such, Ehrman uses the earliest sources to tell the reader about Jesus and what he did. He dissects which aspects of the Gospel we can fairly conclude as historically accurate. Ehrman utilizes three tools along the way: (1) Multiple attestations [i.e., are the sayings attested to in many of the earliest sources (or, those sources least likely to be effected by future Christionization)?], (2) Dissimilarity (do the sayings/deeds go against some Christian teaching or at least not further a Christian agenda?), and (3) does it make sense in a historical context (given what we know about the first century, does what is said to have happened make sense?).
Ehrman makes the case that it is absolutely essential that we understand Jesus in his context. Too often we hear Christians attempting to make sense of Jesus in modern terms. That just can’t be sustained, because as a historian, Ehrman wants to know what Jesus actually did and said.
Although many Christians won’t like what Ehrman has to say, his conclusion is substantially backed up by the evidence we have: Jesus was a Jewish apocalyptic preacher. Jesus taught that the world was going to end in the lifetime of his followers and people better heed his warning.
Anyone interested in Jesus from a purely historical (and not theological) perspective could not start at a better place.
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