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CH101 Book Reviews

CH101 Book Reviews
Pagan Christianity, by Frank Viola
Retrieving the Tradition & Renewing Evangelicalism, by D.H. Williams
CH101 Interview of D.H. Williams

Primitive Christianity and the New Testament
Did Jesus Exist?, by Bart Ehrman
Peter, Paul & Mary, by Bart Ehrman
Lost Christianities, by Bart Ehrman

A History of the Early Church, by Hans Lietzmann
Men and Movements, by F.F. Bruce

Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up, by David Bercot
A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, by David Bercot

The Doctrine of the Trinity, by Anthony Buzzard
The Christian's Secret to a Happy Life, by Hannah W. Smith
Flea Market Jesus, by Arthur Farnsley II

Music Review: The Collection
Movie Review: End of the Spear

Bart Ehrman Book Reviews

Bart Ehrman attended Moody Bible Institute, Wheaton College, and Princeton where he earned his M.Div. and Ph.D. His training and expertise is the New Testament and Early Christian History. He was a teenage born-again fundamentalist and is now a self-proclaimed, post-Christian agnostic. Ehrman challenges many ideas taught by conservatives and has become something of a pariah. It appears to me that Ehrman's main complaint is the doctrine of inerrancy.

I have visited one of Ehrman's classes to hear him lecture. His classes typically meet in one of the largest lecture halls on campus - he packs it out and is very popular with the students. Ehrman is a very charismatic man. Although I disagreed with some of what he said, I thoroughly enjoyed his lecture. I like the basic direction he is taking; I appreciate the challenges he is presenting and I think Christian scholars need to address his concerns. You can read my reviews below: I am critical of Ehrman, but I think I am fair.

Purchase the Book

Did Jesus Exist?, The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth
by Bart Ehrman

Without question this is my favorite Ehrman book thus far. I must admit that I have not read any of his strictly academic works, but I have read four of his more popular works. This page has three of my reviews.

Generally speaking I like Ehrman's work. I have plenty of disagreements with his presentations, but I do think he is pushing some needed arguments which is why I read him and write these reviews. When I say this is my favorite Ehrman book thus far it is not solely because it agrees with my position - this is a great introduction to the earliest documentary evidence for the life of Jesus. There are many points of data that a conservative/evangelical Christian might disagree with, but it is good to at least hear and think about the data.

Ehrman tells the reader up front:
"I know that some readers who support agnostic, atheist, or humanist causes and who typically appreciate my other writings will be vocal and vociferous in rejecting my historical claims. At the same time certain readers who have found some of my other writings dangerous or threatening will be surprised, possibly even pleased, to see that here I make common cause with them."

I guess I am one of the latter, except that I do not see Ehrman's work as "dangerous or threatening." On the contrary, I appreciate what Professor Ehrman is doing and I think conservative/evangelical scholars and Christians who interact with critics of our faith need to grapple with his ideas and the data he presents. I just heard from a young man taking an NT class at university - his textbook is an Ehrman text. Evangelicals ignore this man at our own peril; many young people have heard his ideas and we need to have good answers to his objections. Historical data is never dangerous for our faith - some of Ehrman's interpretations of the data (at least in his popular books) are skewed in my opinion, but I would shy away from calling it "dangerous" unless a young person accepts his work without question and without reading critical reviews like mine.

Ehrman consistently addresses points made by "mythicists," those who do not believe the man known as Jesus of Nazareth even existed. They believe this whole Jesus (Christian) message was fabricated for socio-political, and maybe even some religious reasons - the whole thing is a myth.

Chapter 2: Non-Christian Sources
Ehrman rightly points out that ancient history is like putting a puzzle together knowing that we do not have ALL the pieces. Critics of the New Testament and the mythicists argue that the only historical data we have for the life of Jesus are the NT documents. Ehrman cites one example (p.44) to illustrate why this is a pessimistic way of viewing history and leads to a skepticism that is just not reasonable. We read about Pontius Pilate in the NT gospels and how he presided over the arrest, punishment and trial of Jesus. We learn from the Jewish historian Josephus that Pontius Pilate ruled Judea for 10 years, from 26-36 A.D. As Ehrman points out, Josephus is the only significant historical record of Pilate outside the NT documents. (Antiquities XVIII.3 and 4) Philo the Jew mentions Pilate and (as Ehrman tells the reader) Tacitus names him in passing - "And what is striking is that we have far more information about Pilate than about any other governor of Judea in Roman times." (p.45) This is unfortunately how we find ancient history - we do not have as much data as we would like which often leads to an abundance of speculation.

Ehrman deals with each of the non-Christian texts where we find reference to Jesus of Nazareth. The mythicists discount almost all of these documents, claiming each text was edited/redacted by later Christians to support the myth of Jesus. The reader will appreciate Ehrman's presentation here as he gives arguments against the conspiracy claims of the mythicists.

• Roman Governor, Pliny the Younger
• Roman Biographer, Suetonius
• Roman Historian, Tacitus
• Jewish Historian, Josephus

While some of these documents were obviously edited, Ehrman gives solid scholarly reasoning for why these documents must still be considered as historical evidence.

Chapter 3: The Gospels as Historical Sources
Ehrman's treatment of the historical background for what becomes the NT gospels is well done. (Ch 3, pp.69-93) This chapter, in my opinion, is the most important section of this book. In brief, Ehrman shows the high probability that all four NT gospel writers had other sources for their work, both written and oral. In this section Ehrman reports what is generally agreed upon by most NT scholars: there is probably some kind of source (written and/or oral) behind each NT gospel account. Scholars refer to Matthew's main written source as "M," Luke's main written source as "L," and so forth. Ehrman does not list the prior source for Mark but he does give "J" for John. He also reminds the reader that most scholars believe there was a "Q" source that is attested to in Matthew, Luke and the Gospel of Thomas.

To be clear, what Ehrman presents here is a theory. Historians must take the existing data and try to fill in the gaps from missing pieces. What Ehrman does here that I have not seen before is to clearly explain the position that not only do the synoptic writers have a prior source, but that each one appears to have had either an early written or oral Aramaic source. This is a commonly held position, but Ehrman does a very good job of laying out the basic data. One of my favorite NT scholars, F.F. Bruce, presents this position regarding Luke/Acts (Men and Movements), but Ehrman's presentation here is excellent.

"To dismiss the Gospels from the historical record is neither fair nor scholarly." p.73
Although I am happy to read this comment, it is one of my loudest complaints while reading this book - unlike what he has done in previous books, Ehrman presents the NT gospels as credible historical documentation and evidence. As I have argued in other reviews, Ehrman consistently gives more historical credibility to extra-biblical texts than he does the NT texts. In other writings Ehrman consistently sounds like he does NOT view the NT gospels as historical evidence, yet in this book he brilliantly presents the argument FOR reading the NT gospels as historical data. One might say (indeed, my bet is that Ehrman would say this) "This is just your perspective. You brought a critical attitude to the other books while you are reading accurately in this book because you agree with Ehrman here." This is certainly possible, but reviews from mythicists say the same thing. Nonetheless, this is a great chapter...and MY favorite chapter of ALL Ehrman books I have read.

Chapter 4: Evidence for Jesus from Outside the Gospels
In this chapter Ehrman presents the evidence from the earliest Christian writings: Papias, Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Rome, and the various non-gospel writings in the NT. Again Ehrman presents the evidence for early Aramaic sources used in the Acts account. He also shows the independent sources for Paul's writings. Recently James Tabor has argued that Pauline writings actually influenced the early gospels (Paul and Jesus). Ehrman seems to argue against Tabor and I tend to agree with Ehrman.

There is a section in this chapter where Ehrman presents the writings of the Apostle Paul as historical evidence for the life of Jesus. This is also a good section. Ehrman walks through some of the evidence to show that Paul's knowledge of Jesus is not from the written gospel accounts. Paul tells us that his gospel came directly from Jesus, but he also tells us that he spent 15 days with Cephas (Peter) and met James, the brother of Jesus. (Gal 1:18-20) This is another good section for understanding the earliest history of the Christian Church.

The remainder of this book is good reading, but did not interest me as much. Ehrman concisely presents the arguments of the mythicists, then he presents his argument against their points.

After this Ehrman spends the last three chapters explaining how he sees the historical Jesus. He has just taken over 260 pages to explain how we can have some certainty about the historical nature of Jesus; now Ehrman gives his explanation for how he, as an agnostic historian, understands Jesus.

Chapters 8 and 9 are interesting.
In Chapter 8 Ehrman goes over the historical context in first century Palestine. The reader is introduced to the four Jewish sects current during the time of Jesus: Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes and the group typically called Zealots (called the Fourth Philosophy by Josephus). In Chapter 9 he presents Jesus as the first century Jewish apocalyptic preacher. I believe these two chapters are instructive for any serious reader of the New Testament.

Apocalypticism was a very influential movement in Judaism from around the second century BC through the first century AD. Jesus and Paul both preached "the end is near." The serious NT reader must grapple with "why" this message was preached and then "why" the end did not appear to happen as predicted. I am familiar with the various conservative/evangelical explanations and I basically hold to the idea that the "end" was the destruction of the Temple with another "end" sometime in the future. Having said this, when one reads Jesus and Paul it certainly appears that they are not expecting this age to last until 2013. Just something to think about.

Towards the end of this chapter Ehrman makes the kind of statement that seems inconsistent with how he operates in other instances. He says that we cannot trust the accounts of the trial of Jesus since we have no eyewitness from the trial. (p.330) He makes this statement even though the trial is attested in every gospel and has the evidence of dissimilarity (please correct me here if I am wrong). If every gospel tradition records the trial, it could be that an eyewitness to the event later becomes a believer...like Nicodemus. Nicodemus may have been a pseudonym for such a person. Hard to think all the gospel writers who seemed to stick close to their sources would fabricate this important event.

The Conclusion is quite interesting and entertaining. Ehrman exposes the "mythicist" attacks as something of an emotionally-based "bee in their bonnet" as the Scots say. He urges this agnostic/atheistic group to stick to good history. What's the point of attacking religion all the time?

From page 335,
Jesus would not recognize himself in the preaching of most of his followers today. He knew nothing of our world. He was not a capitalist. He did not believe in free enterprise. He did not support the acquisition of wealth or the good things in life. He did not believe in massive education....He knew nothing of social security, food stamps, welfare, American exceptionalism, unemployment numbers, or immigration....Jesus was a first-century Jew...

Interesting comments sent by Steve S. - 2013-06-13
The point of the quote above appears silly to me at its foundation. i believe Messiah came in semi-stealth mode the first time to accomplish a mission (succeed in perfect sinless living fulfilling law which would make Him a perfect sacrifice to atone for the failure of Adam who represent[s] us all)....if one can believe He came the 1st time (i.e. He is historical), i would think it no stretch to believe He will come again as He said. i think it is more than clear all the above questions will be answered at His 2nd appearing. when He gets back, He will most certainly talk politics at length! if i read correctly, He will also kick considerable ass when He comes back (no more sweet Jesus here!). we have had so much mercy and grace from Him we think that's all He has and we would be WRONG on that idea. in the end, Justice will win the day. as 1st mission objectives dictated, the first coming required He "empty Himself" and become like those who's culture He entered at a point in time (to me, this "empty" part includes the loss of knowledge of what He left behind for His time in flesh). Since His point in coming here in human form the 1st time was not to do/validate/confirm ANY of the things mentioned in the quote above, how can those who say He failed His mission because He didn't clarify politics or do "culture fixing"? He was not here for that reason so it can't be said He "failed" in a mission He was not on at that time. if we can agree He DID come once, the question now becomes "why did He come" and "is He coming again". if we can just get together on the 1st point, at least we will be talking apples and apples with these critics for the present. the second point is another issue. maybe this is the divide between the "what He did" vs "who He is" thing....i would think the rebuttal answer to the quote above is "He didn't come to do any of those things on 1st mission, so what is your point?"
My Reply to the above:
Jesus did not come back to engage in all that stuff...at least it does not seem so to me. Our transformation of Jesus, WWJD, into being concerned with everything like these issues is taking Him out of context to some degree. I think Ehrman is speaking more to the point that we need to understand Jesus in his original historical context before we start offering what WE THINK He would say/do in OUR context 2000 years later. And I agree IF this is indeed what Ehrman is saying.

I have written this several times on this site: "Jesus was a first century Jew, living under the Law speaking to first century Jews who were (or were supposed to be) living under the Law." I am not sure Jesus fully understood His mission as the reader has indicated above WHILE He walked the earth -- Jesus was a man and if Paul is giving us the right info in Philippians 2 (by revelation I am thinking), Jesus did not have His eternal nature and powers during His earthly visit.

So, we need to work to figure out what Jesus meant in His original historical context before we leap to assumptions about what Jesus would say or do in our modern era. Let's face it: He surprised His contemporaries both by what He said (and did not say) AND by things He did (and did not do). Does it not make sense that He would surprise us in our context?

In the end, I highly recommend this book for any Christian seriously interested in a deeper understanding of how our New Testament gospels came to be and a good introduction to first century Christian history. If you have never been exposed to this kind of information you might need to read it 2-3 times. I probably will.

R.A. Baker
Ph.D. Ecclesiastical History

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You can send an email to directly to me Al Baker, CH101.
CH101 retains the right to edit and post comments/questions unless you specifically ask that your comments NOT be posted. Comments that are personal or private are never posted...only questions about Church History, the Bible, etc.

Peter, Paul, & Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend, by Bart Ehrman

(This review was posted on Amazon.com - December 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

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The Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew, By Bart Ehrman

(This review was posted on Amazon.com - January 20, 2004)Probably due to an undercurrent of anti-Catholic sentiment in the USA that began with the Puritans and can still be found among Protestant fundamentalists, there remains a dearth of knowledge and understanding of early Christianity. Ehrman, like a hide-n-seek friend jumping out from behind a bush, overwhelms the uneducated with a dizzying array of texts and obscure references from the first two “Christian” centuries. His point (which I agree with) is that these texts should not be so obscure, but have been “lost” or rejected by what he calls the “proto-orthodox.” This designation refers to the dominant Christian group in the first three centuries - church leaders and theologians, speaking for an accepted faith, and standing against abberant viewpoints. “Proto-orthodox” because some of the views of this primitive group ultimately were rejected by later orthodoxy as theological issues continued to be defined.

Ehrman successfully illustrates the diversity of early Christianity. This diversity began with the apostles and is alluded to in the first Christian history, the Acts of the Apostles. Chapter 15 of Acts indicates some resolution in what was a growing problem for the early Church - was the Christian message to be separated from Judaism, or were converted Gentiles required to follow the laws of Moses? Ehrman documents how this struggle continued into the next two centuries.

In particular, Ehrman reviews some of the evidence for the Ebionites (an early Jewish-Christian sect), Marcionites (an anti-Jewish/Old Testament and somewhat Gnostic sect), Christian Gnostics (as depicted by various documents advocating extreme asceticism), and the Montanists (a sect given to ecstatic utterance and apocalypticism). In addition, Ehrman cites various texts that did not make it into the New Testament canon and further illustrate the diversity of belief in the first three centuries: The Gospel of Peter, Acts of Paul, Didache, The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Thomas, The Epistle of Barnabas, The Shepherd of Hermas, and The Gospel of Truth - this only represents around half the documents Ehrman cites.

While Ehrman does a fine job of introducing these various sects and documents (one of his stated goals), some of his underlying assumptions are dubious. Throughout this study he states that these non-canonical texts were rejected, scorned and burned. Clearly there were times when documents were rejected and burned, but every document has its own story for why it was not accepted, or disappeared. Ehrman says as much in the chapter on how the NT canon came to be, and he consistently gives a fair historical synopsis when he discusses a particular text, but he misrepresents this historical period by consistently commenting on documents being “lost, rejected, and/or burned.” It seems clear that Ehrman’s commentary is predicated on the thesis that these non-canonical texts were discriminated against in a patristic conspiracy. As Ehrman states in the chapter on the NT canon, there were a few NT documents that only made the canon after years of debate and consternation. In an alternate space/time continuum Ehrman (and others) would be moaning about the “lost” Christianities due to the rejection of the Gospel of John, Hebrews, and that strange little letter attributed to the brother of Jesus, Jude. These NT books contain shades of Philo/Middle Platonism, ebionitic christology, and Judaistic apocalypticism respectively. There was no way to have a canon that contained all the texts claimed by “Christians” - the only practical option was to “accept” the best texts and allow the others to drift slowly into the sands of time. There are too many conflicting pieces of evidence in both the non-canonical texts and in the patristic record for the conspiracy theory to hold up.

Another dubious assumption Ehrman makes is to assign more historical validity to these non-canonical sources than to the accepted NT texts. Against the NT record and all the writings of the early fathers, Ehrman wants us to believe the Acts of Thomas and the Gospel of Thomas which both claim Thomas as the twin brother of Jesus. Although Ehrman does not think this Thomas really authored the gospel in his name (p.57), he appears to accept the claim that Jesus had a twin brother, Didymus Judas Thomas (didumos being “twin” in Greek). But, if this Thomas was in fact a twin, he could have been the twin of James, rather than of Jesus. The twin brother theory is never even alluded to in the NT and, as far as I know, is not supported in any of the early fathers.

Again, in the Acts of Paul and Thecla we see extreme asceticism that goes against the Pauline record (1 Timothy) in the NT. Though Thecla is known to be a forged document, Ehrman believes these stories were not completely fabricated, “there are reasons for thinking that he [the forger] compiled stories he had heard, oral traditions that had been in circulation for years” (p.32). Belief in the conspiracy keeps Ehrman from granting the same latitude to the NT documents. Ehrman sees the Thecla stories to be more in line with NT Paul and the motivating factor for “Paul” to write 1 Timothy (p.39). So, we should consider the oral traditions behind Thecla to be more reliable than the oral traditions recounted by the fathers for Paul’s authorship of the Pastorals. Why? The Conspiracy.

More examples could be cited, but Ehrman states his presupposition, “Where did we get our New Testament Gospels in the first place, and how do we know that they, rather than the dozens of Gospels that did not become part of the New Testament, reveal the truth about what Jesus taught?” (p.93)

The victors write the history and there were socio/geopolitical struggles that influenced the NT writers, but does that mean we disregard anything they tell us? Five hundred years from now someone will find twentieth century Neo-Nazi writings defending the Nazi party of the 1940’s. Why would anyone believe this testimony over the writings of Winston Churchill or Dwight Eisenhower? Yet this is exactly what Ehrman seems to be advocating in Lost Christianities.

R.A. Baker
Ph.D. Ecclesiastical History

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Constantine and the Sunday Law
Tertullian Paul as False Apostle
Apostolic Succession-Early Church
Athanasius the Black Dwarf?
Apocalypse Revelation Interpretations
Church History - New Testament
The Apocrypha - New Testament
New Testament, Faith, and the Resurrection
New Testament and Tithing
Pagan Influences on Christianity
Hellenized Jews and Pagan Influences
Sabbath Day and Sunday Worship
Baptism in the Early Church
Emperor Constantine - Christianity
Constantine Led an Army?
Did Paul or Apollos Write Hebrews?
Constantine Council of Nicea 325AD
Jesus Words Only - Del Tondo
First Century Apostolic Succession
Was Saint Athanasius Black?
Church History Book Reviews
Bart Ehrman and Gnostic Texts
Bart Ehrman New Testament
David Bercot and Heretics
Hannah Whitall Smith
David Bercot and Church History
Keeping the Sabbath
Baptismal Practice - Early Church
Emperor Constantine the Great
Who Wrote Hebrews? Paul or Apollos
The Real Story of Constantine vs Donatists
Role of Constantine in Development Christianity
Douglas Del Tondo and David Bercot
Gonzalez and Athanasius