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The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings [Paperback]

By Bart D. Ehrman (Author)
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Item Specifications...

Pages   560
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.06" Width: 7.48" Height: 1.02"
Weight:   1.94 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jul 31, 2003
Publisher   Oxford University Press
ISBN  0195154622  
EAN  9780195154627  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
This new edition of Bart Ehrman's highly successful introduction approaches the New Testament from a consistently historical and comparative perspective, emphasizing the rich diversity of the earliest Christian literature. Rather than shying away from the critical problems presented by these books, Ehrman addresses the historical and literary challenges they pose and shows why scholars continue to argue over such significant issues as how the books of the New Testament came into being, what they mean, how they relate to contemporary Christian and non-Christian literature, and how they came to be collected into a canon of Scripture. Distinctive to this study is its emphasis on the historical, literary, and religious milieu of the Greco-Roman world, including early Judaism. As part of its historical orientation, this text also discusses works by other Christian writers who were roughly contemporary with the New Testament, such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Apocalypse of Peter, and the letters of Ignatius. The volume is enhanced by two color inserts, one on illuminated manuscripts and the other on archaeology.
New to this edition:

* Additional material on archaeology, including a new eight-page color insert

* "What to Expect" and "At a Glance" boxes that provide summaries of the material covered in each chapter

* A Website Study Guide at, offering chapter summaries, glossary terms, guides for reading, and self-quizzes for students.

* Several new "Something to Think About" and "Some More Information" boxes

* More extensive treatments of Judaism and of the role of women in the history of early Christianity

* Nine new illustrations

* An Instructor's Manual containing chapter summaries, discussion questions, and possible examination questions

Ideal for undergraduate and seminary classes in the New Testament, Biblical Studies, and Christian Origins, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, 3/e, is an accessible, clearly written introduction that encourages students to consider the historical issues surrounding these writings.

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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. New Testament in the Greek Fathers
  2. Studies & Documents (Paperback)

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Great for open-minded readers  May 5, 2008
My professor had us buy this book for a NT class. I must say, the required readings were interesting and I enjoyed Ehrmans' non-biased views. I would highly recommend this book for any professor looking for a new textbook.
Obvious bias  Feb 16, 2008
Ehrman's agenda is crystal clear. I cannot recall ever having read a more biased piece of "historical" text than this.

Ehrman claims (in his disordered "Historian vs. Believer" section) that he will not try to persuade the reader into believing one thing or another about what he presents. With Ehrman being a proclaimed agnostic ("deconverted" from Christianity, I might add, for the very reason of being exposed to the historical approach that this book is based on!), it is hard to believe that such a statement could hold true. Upon reading the book, one can easily find out that it does not. The reader does not even have to proceed past the first chapter to witness the first signs of Ehrman's lack of committment toward any type of neutrality. The other one-star reviewers are entirely correct in their statements that Ehrman presents a particular idea, and speculatively accepts it as fact. He then proceeds to base entire sections of the book on these perceived historical "truths," for many of which there is no possible way ever to prove them as being so, such as the claim that "Jesus' disciples never do come to understand who he is," an idea that holds as much historical truth as it's counter-claim; yet Ehrman does not only accept the idea as being obviously true, but uses it to establish a whole other set of "truths," each of which have their own ignored flaws. I must ask in light of this particular claim, how does Ehrman consider the passage:

But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "You are the Christ."

Well, Ehrman concludes that Peter perceived Jesus "only dimly" as the Christ. How? Because Peter rebukes Jesus after he states that he must suffer and die. Therefore Peter misunderstood what kind of messiah Jesus was.

Yes Peter rebuked him, but what if it was only a dissaproval? What if Peter was setting his mind "not on divine things but on human things" through his earthly desire to keep Jesus alive as a good friend? Does this necessarily mean that Peter misunderstood Jesus' messiahship? Ehrman concludes, surely. Others surely doubt it. The fact that Erhman remains so one-sided reveals his true agenda (or at least his ignorance).

Another particular example is Ehrman's claim that "It does not appear that the authors of the early Gospels were eyewitnesses to the events that they narrate." Whether this is true or not, Ehrman not only fails to provide proof of such a claim, let alone some substantial evidence, but continues from that point on as if it were a definitive fact. This is most likely because if he approached the idea correctly (as well as the entire subject of the historical Jesus), as if it were not definitive, the majority of his book would have to be rewritten. Considering who Ehrman is, this would require writing a book that goes against his worldview.

What one gets from reading the book, is that Jesus was just another miracle-working "son of God," claiming to be the messiah (not a crime according to Ehrman), talking about the Son of Man yet to come (also not a crime). So how does Ehrman deal with the fact that Jesus is crucified for blasphemy? Easy. Jesus never commited blasphemy! Rather, the Gospel authors made up that he did because of their own beliefs! So now, what can this say about what Ehrman thinks of Jesus' execution? The obvious answer: either it never happened, or it happened for no apparent reason. This doesn't seem to fit with how scripture reads, but it sounds like a pretty accurate conclusion for someone who takes the Gospels as nothing more than 4 guys making up stories. Remember, these are narratives, but not "real life," as Ehrman states assuredly.

Ehrman also states that ancient writers were not concerned with historical facts but rather with conveying a particular moral truth, simply because modern society is. In addition to such an absurd, ungrounded claim, Ehrman tries to defend the idea using the story of George Washington admitting to cutting down his father's cherry tree. The event never happened, but we Americans today use the story to establish a moral truth (namely, not to lie). Ehrman then concludes that because this story exists, Americans today care more about main ideas than historical accuracy. He then further concludes that this tendency was the same 2000 years ago. Since this is automatiicaly true in Ehrman's mind, it then makes sense to him that historical facts were not only omitted in the New Testament, but "made up"! What's worse than this gross generalization is the obviousness to which Ehrman reveals his agenda...the underminding of Christian scripture, and subsequently Christianity.

Ehrman's technique in persuading the reader towards skepticism is not blatently outright, but rather subtle. He uses specific phrasing, shaky logic, incomplete descriptions and ideas, insufficient development, and somewhat odd organization to create an overall sense of skepticism when considering the accuracy of Christian scripture. He does not challenge Christian scripture outright, but uses gradual development of inconclusive ideas to undermine it's credibility, while completely leaving out any crucial ideas that would support biblical accuracy, or at least other types of biblical inaccuracy. His methodology is very unprofessional, and frankly, somewhat childish. The sad part is that not only is it completely illogical to state that the New Testament is inaccurate as a whole, but the manner in which Ehrman goes about trying to do this is appalilng. I could go on for volumes citing examples of Ehrman's obvious bias, but I find it more important to inform any Christian, and any person (Christian or not) concerned with neutrality within such a genre, to consider another text on the historical approach to the New Testament...not as if any true Christian would be interested in such a subject in the first place.

It is important to realize that most of the historical approach to Jesus can never be definitive in any sense. While it is a "historical" approach, it can never become "history" (unless other ancient manuscripts pop up sometime in the future). Rather, it is grounded wholly on speculation and hypotheses (hence the Four-Source "hypothesis"). MANY prominent scholars and institutions reject the Synoptic Problem and Four-Source hypothesis (including the Roman Catholic Church). There are MANY different solutions to the Synoptic problem. Any "historian" would have to at least acknowledge them. Ehrman fails miserably at maintaining this necessary neutrality.

By now, you are probably steaming. So please, go ahead and click the "No" button next to "Was this review helpful to you?", not because you disagree with the review, but because you're just another internet secularist blindly opposing anything that criticizes ideas representing your worldview, whether the criticism is valid or not. Also, please feel free to comment negatively for the very same reason. Most importantly, realize that if you do either or both of these things, you are simply confirming what I have just put forth. The more the better. Thanks!
The New Testament  Jan 29, 2008
My textbook was in excellent shape and is just what I needed for class. Thanks a lot.
Qualified Very Good  May 6, 2007
Dr. Ehrman gave me a good review/update. I needed this very much as I earned my degree from seminary in 1958 and so much has happened since then. The book was very readable; it was in tended for his students. I appreciated his bibliography. As an historical overview it does not cover all the material that is necessary for a rounded education. Sometimes his conservative Christian theology creeps in to his evaluation of material. I find his insistance that Jesus is an apocalyptic prophet is unconvincing, and it pervades a good deal of his findings of other New Testament books. That John the Baptist was apocalyptic and that the early Christians had among them people who were apocalyptic is not proof of Jesus' position. I feel it is possible, but nopt probable. Read Crossan or Funk for another view.
General Comments  Nov 10, 2006
The book provides a wealth of background information on the New Testament and New Testament Apocrypha from a strictly historical perspective.
Bart. Ehrman is clearly a master of his subject which he treats from a stictly orthodox point of view.

It is not a "commentary", i.e. it does not take the books verse by verse, and it avoids drawing theological conclusions.

It is a book which needs to be read and not merely used for an occasional references.

It would very useful to1 students who are just beginning a course on theology.

Bart Ehrman is clearly a master of this subject.

Write your own review about The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings

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