- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (April 7, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199640297
- ISBN-13: 978-0199640294
- Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 0.8 x 5.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,385 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Who Chose the Gospels?: Probing the Great Gospel Conspiracy Reprint Edition
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"Interesting and appealing...Hill's presentation of early Christian sources is informative, easy to follow for the layman, and offers a much needed counterbalance in scholarship. It cogently argues for the early ascendancy of the four canonical Gospels and lacks the sensationalism that pervades many recent studies of early Christianity."--BYU Studies Quarterly
About the Author
C. E. Hill is Professor of New Testament at the Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida.
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Top customer reviews
It is pretty informative and well written book. I think it treats the historical material fairly and honestly.
I think it gets harder to read toward end, but first chapters are hard to put down. I am not sure if that was me, or authors writing style..
Whatever the case, if you really interested in the subject of who choose the Gospels, or which were the "candidates" and how many. As author says, there are some contemporary weird theories (which of course after reading this book, or looking at history objectively will simply fall apart) that say that Gospels where popping into existence like rabbits. Ancient writings like Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Peter, etc etc are presented to general audience as legitimate competitors to Christian Canon. To see if this is the case, and why, let's not be lazy and read the book. ;)
1. There were many books used by Christians in the first and second centuries. The books that eventually made it into the New Testament were chosen late -- during the fourth century -- and were chosen largely on the basis of their support for what had become orthodox Christian doctrine.
2. The text of the New Testament as we have it reflects significant changes made to support orthodox doctrine.
C.E. Hill's book addresses the first of these claims. Ehrman is an excellent writer and his books have been best sellers. So, the truth is that whatever the merit of Hill's arguments, he is unlikely to have nearly the impact that Ehrman has had. While I've found Ehrman's books to be interesting and informative, I've always had some doubts about his claims. The other early Christian books seem to contain much more material of a legendary nature -- this is particularly true of the non-cannonical Gospels -- compared with the books included in the New Testament. So, leaving aside all other considerations, they seem weak candidates to have been included in the New Testament. Similarly, although Ehrman can point to many changes that seem likely to have been made to the text of the New Testament, none of the changes seems truly central to the Christian message. So, I was looking for a book that directly addresses some of Ehrman's arguments written by someone with a strong grounding in the relevant texts and a knowledge of the academic literature.
Hill makes a strong case that from a very early date, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were considered authoritative by Christian writers, largely because they were the Gospels that were associated with the Apostles or with their immediate followers. In fact, their connection with the Apostles was so strong that Hill argues no one needed to "choose" the Gospels because they were so widely believed to be handed down from the Apostles and their followers that they were from the late first century widely used by early Christian churches. Hence, by the fourth century, the church was simply ratifying their use, rather than choosing them from among many competing Gospels. Hill makes what seems to me to be an effective argument that the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Mary, and other non-cannoncial Gospels were never accepted as authentic accounts of Jesus' life by any significant number of early Christians. Hence, Hill rejects the argument of Ehrman and others that the four Gospels were imposed on the Church by a conspiracy of orthodox writers and church officials.
I lack the expertise to evaluate the evidence put forward by Hill on the one hand and by Ehrman and his supporters on the other hand. So, in that sense I run the risk of being convinced by whatever book I happen to have read most recently. But Hill's arguments seem convincing to me because they buttress the doubts about Ehrman's arguments that occurred to me as I was reading Ehrman's books.
Hill writes well, although he does delve more than I think he needs to into the minutiae of different early Christian authors and what particular extracts from their work may or may not have meant in the context of their time. As I say, for the average reader, these arguments are difficult to evaluate. One of the keys to Ehrman's popularity, I think, is that he avoids burying the reader in too much detail. Hill doesn't quite hit the happy medium where the basis for the argument is presented, but the finer points are not gone into at excessive length. It's also evident that Hill sees himself as part of a beleaguered minority in the current academic debates and that he believes that those on the other side are pursuing a political agenda. This may well be true, but I think that bringing it up multiple times distracts the reader and weakens his case. Finally, although it's a minor point, Hill should pick up a copy of White and Strunk's "The Elements of Style" and read the section on when to use "which" and when to use "that." I would guess that he uses "which" when conventional usage indicates "that" should be used at least 100 times. A failure of copyediting at Oxford University Press, I would guess.
Anyone who is interested in the ongoing debate over early Christianity should definitely read this book.
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Then let this book lovingly blow that nonsense out of the water for you.