From Publishers Weekly
There is a bit of irony in the subtitle of this terrific book. Ehrman, chair of the Department of Religious Studies at UNC–Chapel Hill and author of several well-received volumes including Lost Scriptures
and Lost Christianities
, struggles with the very issue of how to separate history from legend, whether it can be done at all and whether it matters. He contends "it is often easier to know how the past was remembered than to decide what actually happened." By shifting focus from the tales to the tellers, Ehrman enters the ongoing discussion of biblical literalism and reliability, insisting that we're not arriving at satisfactory answers because we're not asking the right questions. Drawing widely from history, scripture and extra-biblical writings, he studies the many stories of the lives of the first-century "Peter, Paul and Mary," arguing that inclusion of some accounts in the canon should not elevate these texts above the others, some of which were accepted early on by the church but later excluded from the canon. As with his other works, Ehrman presents his case clearly and succinctly. So, are the biblical stories more reliable than those outside the canon? The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind. (May)
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*Starred Review* Prolific biblical historian Ehrman has titled his book with a wink and a nod to the beloved folksingers, but he makes the point that they sang about injustice, oppression, and other issues that were also concerns of early Christians. Here he presents three of the best known and most important of Jesus' followers and does so in a way that is uncompromising in its scholarship yet utterly engaging for general readers. Ehrman uses New Testament texts, other historical writings, and, interestingly, legends and myths to define his subjects; in the latter case, he examines the stories that sprang up around this trio, noting that they all expressed the "beliefs, concerns, values, priorities, and passions" of Christians. Ehrman has quite a lot to work with in his discussions of Peter and Paul--whose lives are well documented--and he delves deeply into the characters of both men as well as their beliefs, arguments with one another, and roles in the early church. As for Mary, he notes that though little is actually known about her, she has become the "media star" of the group. (Ehrman also covered this aspect of Mary in his book Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code
, 2004.) Throughout, Ehrman asks questions and makes readers think about the answers. This interactive technique, paired with a highly readable, entertaining style, will garner a wide popular audience for a book whose subject often leads to work that is dense and arcane. Ilene CooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved