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Peter, Paul and Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend [Paperback]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   285
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.94" Width: 5.87" Height: 0.73"
Weight:   0.94 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Mar 24, 2008
Publisher   Oxford University Press
ISBN  0195343506  
EAN  9780195343502  

Availability  131 units.
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Item Description...
Bart Ehrman, author of the highly popular books Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code, Lost Christianities, and the New York Times bestseller Misquoting Jesus, here takes readers on another engaging tour of the early Christian church, illuminating the lives of Jesus' most intriguing followers: Simon Peter, the Apostle Paul, and Mary Magdalene.
What does the Bible tell us about each of these key followers of Christ? What legends have sprung up about them in the centuries after their deaths? Was Paul bow-legged and bald? Was Peter crucified upside down? Was Mary Magdalene a prostitute? In this lively work, Ehrman separates fact from fiction, presenting complicated historical issues in a clear and informative way and relating vivid anecdotes culled from the traditions of these three followers. He notes, for instance, that there is no evidence to suggest that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute (this legend can be traced to a sermon preached by Gregory the Great five centuries after her death), and little reason to think that she was married to Jesus. Similarly, there is no historical evidence for the well-known tale that Peter was crucified upside down.
A serious book but vibrantly written and leavened with many colorful stories, Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene will appeal to anyone curious about the early Christian church and the lives of these important figures.
"An informed but breezy look at the myths surrounding Jesus' most influential followers.... This book contains valuable historical scholarship. It also encourages readers to approach the Scriptures with fresh and enlightened eyes."
--Christian Science Monitor

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More About Bart D. Ehrman

Bart D. Ehrman Bart D. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He came to UNC in 1988, after four years of teaching at Rutgers University. At UNC he has served as both the Director of Graduate Studies and the Chair of the Department of Religious Studies.

A graduate of Wheaton College (Illinois), Professor Ehrman received both his Masters of Divinity and Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary, where his 1985 doctoral dissertation was awarded magna cum laude. Since then he has published extensively in the fields of New Testament and Early Christianity, having written or edited twenty-four books, numerous scholarly articles, and dozens of book reviews.

Among his most recent books are a Greek-English edition of the Apostolic Fathers for the Loeb Classical Library (Harvard University Press), an assessment of the newly discovered Gospel of Judas (Oxford University Press), and four New York Times Bestsellers: Jesus Interrupted (an account of scholarly views of the New Testament), God’s Problem (an assessment of the biblical views of suffering), Misquoting Jesus (an overview of the changes found in the surviving copies of the New Testament and of the scribes who produced them) and Forged (discusses why some books in the New Testament are deliberate forgeries). His books have been translated into twenty-seven languages.

Among his fields of scholarly expertise are the historical Jesus, the early Christian apocrypha, the apostolic fathers, and the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.

Professor Ehrman has served as President of the Southeast Region of the Society of Biblical literature, chair of the New Testament textual criticism section of the Society, book review editor of the Journal of Biblical Literature, and editor of the monograph series The New Testament in the Greek Fathers (Scholars Press). He currently serves as co-editor of the series New Testament Tools, Studies, and Documents (E. J. Brill), co-editor-in-chief for the journal Vigiliae Christianae, and on several other editorial boards for journals and monographs in the field.

Professor Ehrman lectures extensively throughout the country. Winner of numerous university awards and grants, he is the recipient of the 2009 J. W. Pope “Spirit of Inquiry” Teaching Award, the 1993 UNC Undergraduate Student Teaching Award, the 1994 Phillip and Ruth Hettleman Prize for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement, and the Bowman and Gordon Gray Award for excellence in teaching.

Professor Ehrman has two children, a daughter, Kelly, and a son, Derek. He is married to Sarah Beckwith (Ph.D., King's College London), Marcello Lotti Professor of English at Duke University. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.

Bart D. Ehrman currently resides in Chapel Hill, in the state of North Carolina. Bart D. Ehrman has an academic affiliation as follows - Department of Religious Studies, The University of North Carolina, Cha.

Bart D. Ehrman has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Loeb Classical Library
  2. New Testament in the Greek Fathers
  3. Studies & Documents (Paperback)

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Anyone who wishes to learn more about the apostles and the New Testament will find this very interesting and an easy read.
Peter I know, and Paul I have heard about, but who is this Mary?  Dec 26, 2007
His use of the legendary counter-cultural rock group aside, there are
very few new ideas in this book for those who have already read other Bart
Ehrman books. He opens this work taking familiar passages from the New
Testament, standing them next to passages from extra-biblical documents and asking, "Does the historian accept what is found in the Scripture as being historically accurate and what is found outside of it as inaccurate? On what grounds?" (Introduction, p.xiv) He rightly reminds the reader that every writer, both ancient and modern, has an agenda that must be understood if you are to correctly understand the document, "This is especially true of the early Christian Gospels." (p.10)

Let me state from the outset, I like Bart Ehrman. He is an accomplished scholar; he is a good writer (I enjoy reading his work and typically read every word); and he is a charismatic lecturer (I have sat in on one of his lectures). I agree with many of Ehrman's thoughts and I especially applaud the fact that he is forcing us to think more critically about the New Testament. *sigh* Glad I got that out of the way.

Ehrman challenges you to read the NT gospels "horizontally," meaning to compare stories from Mark's gospel to the same story in Matthew or Luke. His purpose is to make you see the various differences and to question which version is trustworthy. He cites a few examples to get the discussion rolling, something he does in his other books, but his objective is not just to "help" you understand better. I would recommend that a reader have some other materials in front of him when reading Ehrman, thus reading him more horizontally. He has a tendency to present data with only his desired emphasis. Yes, Bart Ehrman has an agenda.

He begins with Peter. The discussion on Peter is not as potent as that on Paul and Mary Magdalene, but he does bring out the various extra-biblical documents regarding Peter which is good for anyone interested in this subject matter. Ehrman always does a good job of introducing extra-biblical works and these are the texts he uses in his study of Peter: the Gospel of Peter, the Acts of Peter, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Letter of Peter to Philip, and the Pseudo-Clementine writings. He gives a good overview of why scholars have doubted the Petrine authorship of the NT documents 1 and 2 Peter. He also does a nice job of illustrating from the early church writings why Peter should not be called the first pope, or even the first bishop of Rome. There is not much else in the section on Peter that demands comment. It is here, however, that I must offer my first scholarly critique - Ehrman consistently points to his other works in footnotes without any explanation. I realize these works are meant for a popular audience and not to be academic writings, but he could do a better job here. For example, Ehrman makes it clear that he believes the sermons of Peter contained in NT Acts are basically nothing more than the author of Acts putting forth his own views in the mouth of Peter. (pp.66-67) This is a text-critical statement, highly relevant in the overall thesis of this book. Yet rather than give the reader some explanation, some supporting data for this extremely important point, Ehrman points you to another of his books on the New Testament in the first footnote.

[If you follow that footnote (I do not yet own that particular Ehrman text) you will likely find that he is referring to a famous passage of the fourth century Greek historian, Thucydides, in his "History of the Peloponnesian War," where he states that he will do his best in the lengthy speeches he records to give the reader the gist of what was said, but that he obviously cannot remember every detail word for word. Most biblical scholars believe that the author of NT Acts does this in the sermons recorded. Fine. But if Luke is the author he would not have been present for Peter's early sermons. It would do the reader good to know that the Greek in the early portions of NT Acts, especially the sermons, is quite different from the Greek in the latter part of Acts where the author is supposedly giving an eye witness account. The early sermons contain Aramaisms, phrases in Greek that are obviously translations of Aramaic. Luke's presentation in the early chapters of Acts most likely comes from early Aramaic sources. Ehrman knows this, or least is familiar with the theory, but has decided not to acknowledge it. As he argues, Peter is supposedly illiterate and it is likely that he
only spoke Aramaic - any writing attributed to Peter (all we have is in Greek) is likely to have been written by someone else, maybe Peter's personal scribe. Ehrman gives a good account of this in chapter one, then does an excellent job in chapter six, showing that it is highly unlikely for Peter to have written any document with his own hand. I laughed out loud in my study while reading his humorous sarcasm on page 76 - good stuff.]

The section on Paul opens in typical Ehrman style, showing how the three accounts of Paul's conversion in NT Acts have differences. Similar to the empty tomb accounts there are differences, yet the basic thrust of the story is the same: Paul is on the road and has a phenomenal (supernatural) encounter with the risen Jesus, and somehow this is witnessed by his traveling companions. Ehrman points out several items to illustrate that "Luke doesn't have the details right." (p.97) Ehrman cites examples that are disputed by other scholars, but he fails to mention this even in a footnote.

On page 98 he points to the sermon recorded in Acts 17 - Paul is speaking to philosophers and says that God has overlooked their ignorance. Ehrman says that Paul would have never said this, pointing to Romans 1: "Would he preach the opposite of what he believed?" Ehrman knows that in Romans 1 Paul is referring to those who "oppose" or "suppress" the truth and in Romans 2 Paul sounds very much like the "Lukan" message in Acts 17. He knows this - he just ignores it.

Another example is his treatment of the death of Jesus (pp.143-144). According to Ehrman, Luke portrays Jesus as wrongly put to death, a miscarriage of justice that leads men to feel guilty, which should then lead them to repentance and forgiveness. Paul, on the other hand, views the death of Jesus as necessary, as an atonement. While I basically agree with this argument, Paul makes statements very similar to those made in the Acts sermons about the death of Jesus (1 Thess. 2:14; 1 Cor. 2:8). My point here is that Ehrman finds problems where there might NOT be any problem.

Having pointed out a few places of disagreement, let me say that Ehrman's discussion on Paul is very good. There are many places where he sounds much like N.T. Wright, but many of these ideas are not new. He never references Wright, but then again, I have never seen Wright reference Ehrman (I have not read more than a couple works of either author).

The section on Mary Magdalene, in my opinion, is the best part of this
book. Ehrman shines brightest not when offering his take on New Testament passages, but when he discusses Gnostic writings. He reminds (or informs) the reader that "not much is said" about Mary in the earliest source documents. (pp.185-187) Mary Magdalene appears more frequently, and with more fantastic flare, as we move further away from the first century - Ehrman's presentation of this is excellent. (pp.248-249) What Ehrman succeeds in doing with this examination of the various Gnostic writings, contrasted with the NT documents, is to illustrate the struggle the early church had with the questions of gender, sexual relationships, and leadership.

Indeed, the early church leaders struggled with many issues as this new understanding of spirituality challenged old ideas of race, class, gender, and nationality. How difficult it must have been during the first century to understand (and apply) Paul's radical statement, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal.3:28) There were bound to be disagreements and struggles!

But let's not invent problems. Ehrman is obviously a proponent of gender equality - he makes equality statements throughout the book. Fine, but he basically accuses Gregory the Great of misogyny (pp.190-192) when he comments on Gregory's homily regarding the anointing of Jesus by the sinful woman. Gregory assumes this woman to be Mary Magdalene. Ehrman finds fault with Gregory's application of this text and states, "The only redeeming feature of her body is when it turns from its dangerous acts (dangerous, that is, to the men concerned) and falls to the feet of the man Jesus in repentance and sorrow. It is the sorrowful penitent who is acceptable; that is the kind of woman these texts seek." (p.192) Yes, Gregory is encouraging his hearers to be sorrowful in penitence, even to the point of falling on their knees...but not just women! In Luke 5:8 Peter does the same thing, falling at the feet of Jesus and saying, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" I am sure Gregory would have the same view of Peter's response.

In the end, I do like Ehrman's challenge to bible-believing Christians to re-examine biblical texts. Faith does not rest on the text, but on the resurrection of Jesus. It is also good to consider the message of various Gnostic writings. There were indeed reasons for many of the ancient documents to be rejected by the early church. Ehrman's examination of some of these extra-biblical documents helps to shed light on why many of these did not garner a significant following and were rejected.

R.A. Baker
Ph.D., Ecclesiastical History
and what did I learn ...  Aug 22, 2007
Yep we get it, its hard to figure out exactly what happened 2000 years ago. So why write a book about it?

Sorry Prof., I've got to think your classes are snoozers not shockers. (but then I don't live in the bible belt.}
Whether one agrees with Erhman or not this is a fascinating read. He is a scholar who knows the Fundamentalist mind (with Moody Bible Institute in his background), and he takes the biblical text very seriously. He's a great writer and this book is easily accessible to the one who is not a professional.

From the Introduction: "Historians do their best to reconstruct past events based on surviving evidence, but history is not an empirical science that can establish high levels of probability based on assured results obtained by repeated experimentation. History is as much art as science" (xiv).

From Chapter 7: "Has there ever been a Christian figure as controversial as the apostle Paul? It was a new understanding of Paul's letters that led Martin Luther to split from the Catholic Church, leading to the Protestant Reformation and a division within Christendom that continues down to our own day. Churches of all description continue to wrangle over Paul's teaching: some insist that his writings oppose women in the ordained ministry, while others argue just the opposite. . . . Debates over Paul--and over who can claim him--are not, however, a product of the modern age: they go all the way back to New Testament times. . . " (89).

Seminary students are not educated until they're read stuff like this--and not just to laugh and snicker and poke holes. Calvin Theological Seminary, where I was given the boot ("My Calvin Seminary Story") sends students out without seriously interacting with such literature. Here is a good book to seriously explore.
Professor Bart Ehrman has written another engaging and insightful book on early Christianity. He examines three of Jesus's most influential followers through the lens of historical perspective, the bible, and early external writings. He shows great insight in the influence each of these figures had on the history of the Western world. Did you ever think about the fact that the historical Peter had to have been an illiterate peasant who spoke Aramaic and it is impossible that he wrote perfect Greek Epistles that applied more to the later church than the 1st century? We must understand that Paul never met the historical Jesus and barely mentions any history of the real man, instead evidence points to the fact that he was the one who began the "Christ" myth. All the gospels and outside sources agree that Mary Magdalene was the first to witness the empty tomb or the risen Jesus, that makes her the first Christian and the pivot point that began the Christian religion. Buy this book for an education on these three figures and what we can really know about them and their impact on Christianity and Western Civilization. Curious minds will not be disappointed.

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