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Showing 1-10 of 130 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 239 reviews
on July 17, 2016
The book was content-heavy. Not a difficult read, but I did need more breaks than when I read a couple of other Ehrman's books, such as, Misquoting Jesus and How Jesus Became God. Sometimes books have what I call, "filler" in them that take up your time but have no meaningful content. This book had no "filler". It was jam-packed with information about the different sects of Christianity--Ebionites, Marcionites, Gnostics, etc... It explained what each Church Father believed was the "right" way to view Jesus' divinity and what each one of them considered heretical. The pacing of the book was steady and maintained my interest all the way to the end. Excellent book.
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on July 23, 2014
One of Ehrman’s best, I think. Thought-provoking and speculative, yet grounded, this book explores alternative early Christianities before “Proto-Orthodox Christianity” won the battle and shoved the rest aside. You’ll read about the Ebionites, the Marcionites, Gnosticism, and the evolving orthodox church. Ehrman puts all on even ground so that each has an equal voice, because recent discoveries such as the Dead Sea Scrolls have proven just how diverse Christian practices really were back in the first and second centuries.

Ehrman doesn’t mince words when he discusses the “forgeries” both in and out of the Bible, so do be aware the topic gets plenty of ink. This does lead to some interesting conversation, though. The Secret Gospel of Mark, the Pastoral letters in Paul’s name, and the Gospel of Thomas come under scrutiny. Small wonder that in the battle for supremacy between the various Christian branches, the claim for apostolic succession played a central role. Quickly in orthodox church tradition, our 27 books of the New Testament are all tied directly to the apostles or companions, while other Christian writings are denounced as inauthentic.

So what are the repercussions of the victory of proto-orthodox Christianity? How has our world been shaped by this? Ehrman feels the significance of this victory can scarcely be overstated. Christianity would surely have no doctrine of Christ as both fully divine and human, and of course no Trinitarian doctrine. But the effects would have been felt far further than Christian debates, and the book’s final chapter left me with much to think about.

Definitely recommended.

Oxford University Press, © 2003, 294 pages

ISBN: 0-19-514183-0
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on January 9, 2014
For any one interested in the history, authenticity of the New Testament books, this is a must reading. The author successfully makes the reading interesting and, more importantly, very readable. There are occasions of repetitiveness but aside from that I highly recommend the book but it needs to be approached with a great deal of openness and an absolute lack of religious bias. This is not a book for the dogmatically religious person for whom any writing that deviates from a perceived perspective is, a priori, false and inaccurate. The author gave me a wonderful sense of the inner conflicts and dynamics that early Christianity had to endure before becoming the standard and established religious dogma. It also gives an invaluable perspective on the various prejudices and struggles that religious leaders had to encounter in order to retain their views of historical truths as they interpreted the existing documents at the time. I personally could not put the down and was enthralled by it. Highly recommended.
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on July 9, 2016
I saw this book recommended by Matt Dillahunty of The Atheist Experience. It's a well written book, unbiased and doesn't come across as trying to undermine Christianity. Instead, it gives voice to early Christian groups that were sincere and trying to understand Jesus' messageb but who had very different interpretations than the group that formed the new testament.

I'm no longer Christian, and the book helped me to see the early Christian groups in a more understanding and positive light , as they sincerely looked to grasp and interpret the teachings associated with Jesus. I found it very helpful to see that the interpretations and theology that's in the new testament are just one group's take on things. Other sincere (and very sizable) early Christian groups had very different interpretations based on the same teachings from Jesus. These groups were reframed by the group that won as small in size and representing some wild, heretical perspective; this book corrects this and shows the truth. Interestingly, I thought of how my rejection of what's in the new testament may very well be rejection of a specific group's misinterpretation of Jesus & that I could find alignment with other early Christian groups. It also served to resolve a question of mine with respect to the historicity of Jesus (so many different and sincere groups with different interpretations and their own Scriptures make me fall squarely on the view that Jesus was a historical figure).
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on December 22, 2013
Part of Ehrman's series on the history of the New Testament and Christianity, this book presents what is undoubtedly an interesting version of the history of early Christianity. It's readable and fascinating, exploring the different strands of Christianity which emerged before a dominant central Christian hierarchy emerged. My only qualm with the book is that, as with other popular history books revisiting well-trodden historical subjects, it appears to exaggerate the significance of the issues it deals with; in this case, the various unorthodox, and sometimes bizarre sects of Christianity which existed in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE. Can Gnostic-Christian cults in Egypt and other such streams of early Christianity really be tied to the heretical groups repressed by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages? Seems like a bit of a stretch.
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on June 21, 2017
Excellent overview of the early Cristianities---proto-orthodox and its many heretical cousins.

I've read 10+ Ehrman books, another 10+ historical/critical bible studies and dozens of pieces of atheist literature. I think those reads assisted me in fully enjoying and understanding this book; my previous reading experiences "greased the rails" for this book. Perhaps you won't need that assist, but I'm glad I had it.

Again, this is MANDATORY reading for a person who wants the true story, rather than faith's cockeyed version.

Ehrman doesn't say it, but he certainly suggests that the following idea is true: Today, no one practices the religion practiced by Jesus, and Jesus never practiced any of the religions practiced today. Christians today are generally clueless regards their roots, but through no fault of Ehrman's. He cannot force people to read well-researched and authoritative texts.

Score another point for Ehrman on the playing field of religious research geared toward the common man.

Please write another, while I track down the dozen-or-so Ehrman books I've yet to read.

Thank you, Bart.
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on February 11, 2015
The general description and positive comments are very much agreed.

On the negative, it really does plod along in great and too often repetitive detail. Thus, yes, it makes it hard to follow. I wish that it could have been more concise, with perhaps a large appendix that would wallow through some of the detail.

I got it on Audiology also, and it took a long time to get through.
Now I want to go back and get the main points, sort of like bullet points, out of it.
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on October 31, 2014
This excellent study describes the various belief systems that sprang from the initial Christian movement and jostled for power until, in the 4th century, the Roman Catholic Church (its power no longer really Roman) established its canon, branded its heretics, wrote its declarations of faith, and otherwise repressed the remarkable era of religious speculation that Ehrman describes.
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on October 19, 2013
I am thoroughly enjoying this book. It is very interesting to know that the early Christians had the same questions and concerns about Christianity as we do today. My father often wondered how the God of the Old Testament could order the mass slaughter of non-Jews and then be the same god of love in the New Testament. I was brought up in the Christian church with no real knowledge of how the Bible was written. As an adult, I learned about the Nicene Conference. I would caution the reader to be well grounded in your awareness of a higher spiritual force in your life in order to read this book or your belief system could be shaken to the core. It is better, however, to have the opportunity to understand the history of Judaism and the Christian faith. I do recommend this book to the thoughtful reader.
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on May 19, 2014
If you're curious about early forms of Christianity and how the proto-orthodox form triumphed, this book is for you. Ehrman covers the Gnostics, Marcionites, and Ebbionites quite thoroughly and mentions other less popular forms. Even if you have no prior knowledge about the subject, you won't be overwhelmed. The book is written in a clear, easy-to-read style and includes intriguing details about the early Christian churches. It's a fascinating read.
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