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The early Christian Church was a chaos of contending beliefs. Some groups of Christians claimed that there was not one God but two or twelve or thirty. Some believed that the world had not been created by God but by a lesser, ignorant deity. Certain sects maintained that Jesus was human but not divine, while others said he was divine but not human. In Lost Christianities,The early Christian Church was a chaos of contending beliefs. Some groups of Christians claimed that there was not one God but two or twelve or thirty. Some believed that the world had not been created by God but by a lesser, ignorant deity. Certain sects maintained that Jesus was human but not divine, while others said he was divine but not human. In Lost Christianities, Bart D. Ehrman offers a fascinating look at these early forms of Christianity and shows how they came to be suppressed, reformed, or forgotten. All of these groups insisted that they upheld the teachings of Jesus and his apostles, and they all possessed writings that bore out their claims, books reputedly produced by Jesus's own followers. Modern archaeological work has recovered a number of key texts, and as Ehrman shows, these spectacular discoveries reveal religious diversity that says much about the ways in which history gets written by the winners. Ehrman's discussion ranges from considerations of various "lost scriptures"--including forged gospels supposedly written by Simon Peter, Jesus's closest disciple, and Judas Thomas, Jesus's alleged twin brother--to the disparate beliefs of such groups as the Jewish-Christian Ebionites, the anti-Jewish Marcionites, and various "Gnostic" sects. Ehrman examines in depth the battles that raged between "proto-orthodox Christians"-- those who eventually compiled the canonical books of the New Testament and standardized Christian belief--and the groups they denounced as heretics and ultimately overcame. Scrupulously researched and lucidly written, Lost Christianities is an eye-opening account of politics, power, and the clash of ideas among Christians in the decades before one group came to see its views prevail....

Title : Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew
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ISBN : 9780195141832
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 320 Pages
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Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew Reviews

  • Skylar Burris
    2019-04-22 08:41

    Here is a sentence from "Lost Christianities" that provides a clue to why the book is not really very sensational, as well as a clue to Ehrman's perspective: "It comes as a bit of a shock to most people to realize that the Church has not always had the New Testament." Perhaps it once came as a shock to Ehrman, but it does not come as a shock to any Christian with an inkling of Christian history. I am reminded of Alexander Pope's phrase, "A little learning is a dangerous thing." Ehrman seems to have once taken a small drink from the well of Christian history, drawn a startling conclusion from it, and then attempted to shove all future research into the mold of that pre-drawn conclusion. This book often plays a "what if" game. What if orthodox Christianity didn't win out? What if the Gnostics or the dualists or the Marcionites or the Ebionites won out? Well, it's an amusing hypothetical, I suppose, but it's rather like saying, "What if the Constitution didn't become the standard for the U.S. but instead the Communist Manifesto did?" Ehrman's fun speculations still beg the question as to which form of Christianity most accurately represents Christ, which form of Christianity is most true. This question, perhaps the most essential question, is one Ehrman seems to regard as unimportant. He explores why the so-called proto-orthodox "won" out, offering reasons that range from geography to forgery and slander, but he does not spend much time asking whether their theology is more accurate, more true, than the theology on offer by the other "varieties" of Christianity. Is it likely that a sect teaching that the God of the Old Testament is evil has grasped a true representation of the 1st century Jew Jesus? Is it likely that a sect teaching there are twelve gods has grasped a true representation of the 1st century monotheist Jesus? Is the theology of a gospel written over 100 years after Christ's death to be trusted more than the theology of a gospel written within less than thirty years of his death? To Ehrman, these are irrelevant questions. What is relevant is that these "varieties" existed and that their adherents claimed to be followers of Christ, and therefore, presumably, the orthodox have no reason to claim they are orthodox. Ehrman leaves the reader with the impression that the "proto-orthodox" are but one group of Christians among many, no more likely to have grasped a true understanding of Christ and his teachings than any other group of self-labeled Christians. Perhaps the reason Ehrman does not much explore the question of which group most accurately portrays Christ is that the most likely answer is not sensational. While all of these diverse writings are interesting to read about, it seems highly likely that the earliest manuscripts written by near-contemporaries of Christ and chosen for inclusion in the canon after an application of a strict set of standards more accurately represent the views of Christ than do works written 100+ years after his death. It seems likely that the proto-orthodox interpreted Christ's teachings more accurately than did the Manicheans or the Gnostics. The existence of a wide variety of sects, gospels, and epistles is all very interesting, but it is not SENSATIONAL, and Ehrman seems to be trying to make it sensational. In Ehrman's sensational version of events, the proto-orthodox, through their "machinations," destroyed these other forms of Christianity, which are themselves occasionally portrayed as more virtuous or liberating than orthodox Christianity. But, how, exactly, do the proto-orthodox, who at the time had no state power and were occasionally subject to persecution, carry out their "machinations" except by intellectual persuasion and accepted authority (which itself implies that orthodoxy was established earlier than Ehrman suggests). Ehrman proceeds almost as if these "lost" writings were lost because the "proto-orthodox" collected every existing copy and set them ablaze in a giant bonfire, and not at all because they were the product of unconvincing religions that ultimately died out after failing to adequately portray Christ to the world. Most of these "varieties" are not so much lost Christianities as dead Christianities. Despite all this criticism, I give the book two stars (an "okay" rating) because it contains so much information, all in one place, on early Christian and Gnostic literature, early sects, and the history of Christianity. I cannot give it more because the information comes obviously processed and arranged to persuade the reader that orthodox Christianity has no more reason to consider itself orthodox than any other form. Religious labels need some definition to be useful at all. If we say the orthodox Christians (those who canonized the Bible, those who established the creeds, those who spread the church throughout the world) have no more right to define Christianity than anyone else, then the Muslims and Unitarians are Christians too; they're just Christians who view Christ differently than orthodox Christians, and so the religious term becomes meaningless. It's almost as if someone started speaking of the "varieties of Judaism" and began behaving as though the Samaritans and the Christians had as much authority to define Judaism as the Jews. "Lost Christianities" could have benefited from better organization and less backtracking, and, when it comes to textual claims (i.e. about whether or not a verse is original, for instance) it would be helpful if he discussed the dissenting opinions in some detail rather than simply presenting his own perspective as near fact. I suggest that anyone who reads this also read the second half of Timothy Paul Jones's "Misquoting Truth" for two different perspectives. Also of interest are the actual noncanonical texts, many of which can be found collected in "Lost Books of the Bible." Finally, I recommend the slim volume "How We Got the Bible" for a clearer, concise, factual historical overview of why and how the canon was selected.

  • Ken Robert
    2019-04-10 13:42

    Ebionites, Marcionites, and Gnostics. Oh my.This is a great introduction to the history of the competing theologies and practices of early Christians as can best be determined from ancient texts that have been passed down and rediscovered.The author Bart D. Ehrman, professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, argues and, in my opinion, demonstrates that early Christianity was anything but a monolithic religion and that the beliefs that eventually came to be called orthodox were more a matter of evolution than revelation.Who was Jesus? Was he fully human, fully divine, a mix of the two, or both things at once? Is there one God, two gods, or many gods? Is the earth the creation of a Supreme Being or the work of a bumbling and perhaps evil quasi-supreme being?To be called a Christian, did you first have to be Jewish? Are the Hebrew scriptures sacred? Are they relevant? Which of the many books in circulation (gospels, epistles, apocalypses) were inspired, apostolic, and worthy of preserving? Which of them were heretical, dangerous, and worthy of destruction?These and many other questions had differing answers depending on who you asked and at what point in time you asked them.Whether you're a Catholic, a mainline Protestant, an Evangelical, or, like me, a secularist, it's an interesting read.

  • Justin Evans
    2019-03-23 08:49

    When you search for this book on Goodreads, the first two results are Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol,' and Milton's 'Paradise Lost.' Not sure what to make of that. As for Ehrman's book, I do know what to make of it. Ehrman is a solid scholar who seems to have decided that he needs that cash money baby, so he writes more or less respectable books in such a way that they sound like a Hollywood movie. So nobody argues with a person when they disagree with each other, instead, they "set out" to destroy/annihilate/banish etc etc... them. Arguments are not conducted with any sense of rational or historical validity, they are more or less wars in which discussants have an arsenal or weapons and use tactics rather than syllogisms. In the grand tradition of late twentieth century academia, Ehrman assumes that the other is good, no matter its constituent parts, and that what wins out is bad, no matter its (comparative) rational or historical accuracy. Therefore, the only way the winners can become winners is if they *force* the others to accept their viewpoint. I don't doubt that force was involved in the winners becoming winners, but it certainly wasn't the only thing involved, which this book may suggest. So, if you're aware of all this, and can translate out of academese on the fly, LC will be very interesting. If not you may be very puzzled, or even disgusted by the way he casts this 'battle,' or his preference for the more ludicrous early Christian doctrines. In either case, it's a quick, easy read, and parts one (on the discovery of non-canonical early christian texts) and two (on the varieties of early christian thought and practice) are well worth your attention. Only those Christians whose knowledge of Christianity is bounded by Billy Graham in the past and the Apocalypse in the future will be shocked to learn in part three that people argue about religious texts. But those people don't read anything anyway, so it's really a superfluous hundred pages.

  • Tyler
    2019-04-12 08:32

    Of the four main strands of Christianity prevalent before the fourth century, only one had what it took to emerge as the religion we know today. Theology students are no doubt familiar with this history, but seldom does it make its way past the pulpit. So as a general reader, I found this survey of the earliest years of Christianity informative. The book, for example, takes up the subject of gnosticism, an early Christian theology that considered matter itself to be evil. Lost Christianities discusses a score of other books beyond the 27 of the New Testament, books circulated far and wide throughout Christendom, even after the Council of Nicaea. The author traces out why these other books never came to be included in the official canon, and discusses how the Bible might have turned out differently from the one we know. While the what-ifs get a little too speculative, the documentation provided and the history covered in Lost Christianities provide an informed foundation for understanding the evolution of the religion we know today.

  • P.D. Bekendam
    2019-04-15 10:36

    Most people who self-identify as “bible believing Christians” operate under a certain understanding of the history of Christianity. Whether their view of this history is learned or assumed, it usually goes something like this in a nutshell: "The canonized scripture is the inerrant word of God. The New Testament was formed sometime shortly after Jesus Christ’s resurrection and ascension—most of it from first-hand witnesses to Jesus’s ministry. Because Jesus’s teachings were so clear, and his great commission so compelling, the early church quickly formed and mobilized to spread the gospel around the world. While there may have been false teachers around this time trying to pollute the teachings of Jesus, they were few and relatively insignificant. Orthodox Christianity was the earliest and truest form of Christianity, and the creation of this religion is precisely what Jesus set out to do, which is why orthodox beliefs survived while the rest faded from memory."While this view of church history is certainly neat, tidy, and faith affirming, it couldn’t be further from the truth. The truth is far more interesting. If you want to start learning the truth, Ehrman’s Lost Christianities can serve as a very nice jumping off point. But before you take that leap, you might want to check your reserve chute—especially if your view of history mirrors the summary in the preceding paragraph.So what is this particular work by Ehrman about? The dust jacket sums it up rather nicely: “…a compelling look at the early forms of Christianity and how they came to be suppressed, reformed, or forgotten…Ehrman examines in depth the battles that raged between ‘proto-orthodox Christians’—those who eventually compiled the canonical books of the New Testament and standardized Christian belief—and the groups they denounced as heretics and ultimately overcame.”Before I continue with my review, it might be helpful if I introduce the author a little more. From his website: "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."And a little more of his biography from his book, God’s Problem, includes the following: As a young boy he was baptized in a Congregational church and reared as an Episcopalian, serving as an altar boy from the age of twelve through high school. He became very serious about his faith after attending a Youth for Christ club and eventually decided to train for ministry at Moody Bible Institute, where he earned a diploma in Bible and Theology. He completed his college training at Billy Graham’s alma mater, Wheaton, where he learned Greek so he could study the New Testament in its original language. He couldn’t get enough of this, so he went off to Princeton to complete a master of divinity and then a Ph.D. in New Testament studies. While he pursued these credentials he was actively serving in different churches, from being a youth pastor at an Evangelical Covenant church to serving a year as interim senior pastor of the Princeton Baptist Church. And after all this, he eventually lost his faith. Not, says he, because of problems he has with the Bible, but because he realized he could no longer reconcile the claims of faith with the facts of life—in particular the problem of suffering.Now that you know a little more about Ehrman’s life journey, impressive academic credentials, and probably more importantly, a little about his faith journey, I shall proceed with this review.If you take a look at the customer reviews for this volume on Amazon, you’ll find that many people awarded this work less than 3 stars, mostly because they viewed it as an attack on their faith. So why does this book make Christians so upset? The answer is simple. Erhman brings up some seriously tough issues. He forces the reader to consider the possibility that their understanding of Bible (along with their particular brand of faith) might be rooted in something other than the Truth. And for many people, this is a very threatening notion.In my own faith journey, I see myself as a truth seeker. Most Christians don’t view themselves this way. Most of them are quite certain they already know the truth, even to the point that they can justify legislating their moral beliefs so that the rest of society must conform (hence the righteous battle for a ban on gay marriage.) Where do these Christians point when asked about Truth? To canonized scripture, of course.But what if some of the Truth was forged? What if the Gospels we cherish left out some of the essential details about who Jesus really was? What if there really was a secret version of Mark, a longer version with tantalizing homoerotic undertones that some first-century scribe edited out because those parts didn’t fit with the particular brand of Christology currently popular in his region? What if, and here I’m directly quoting Ehrman from another one of his works, “rather than being an inerrant revelation from God, inspired in its very words, the Bible is a very human book with all the marks of having come from human hands: discrepancies, contradictions, errors, and different perspectives of different authors living at different times in different countries and writing for different reasons to different audiences with different needs?”These are all really big what ifs. Christians can respond with the bumper sticker slogan “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it,” or they can actually start investigating the origins of their beliefs. In Lost Christianities, Ehrman offers an accessible overview of these origins, and in my view, reading this work is only the beginning of an essential journey that every person who claims to know the Truth should take. But if you want to take that journey you’d better buckle up first.I give Lost Christianities 4.5 out of 5 stars. High marks for clarity, accessibility, degree of thought-provocation, and tantalization. Only wish it had delved deeper in some areas, as it was a little narrow, but as I said before, it makes for a great starting point.

  • Russell
    2019-04-09 07:29

    This book provided quite an educational and eye-opening experience in learning of some historical aspects of the creation of the New Testament. The subtitle of the book appropriately describes "the Faiths that We Never Knew" and primarily focuses on their co-existence (and eventual congealment with the early proto-orthodox church). I was fascinated at the variation of beliefs, forgeries, disagreements and incredible amount of scholarly exploration.I continuously wondered throughout the course of the book why his material is relatively "hidden". That is, it seems as though the knowledge of creation of the New Testament is rarely given much attention and neither are the turbulent periods prior to its official canonization. I found it intriguing that canonization "officially" occurred during the Council of Trent, though a letter dated 367AD by Alexandrian bishop Athanasius which states, "in these alone the teaching of godliness is proclaimed. Let no one add to these; let nothing be taken away from them." (p 230). And yet, as Ehrman explains, there continued to be debates and disputes even in his own church. These sort of statements, and additional material covering related events, kept causing me to think about the fact that there was _never_ a clear leader, only many disparate bishops (how many self-appointed, bought or otherwise gained power and monetary support) that appear to have espoused their own agenda prior the creeds. In my opinion and observation, clearly no prophetic leader nor priesthood authority.There are many, many lost/heretical/non-canonized texts that Ehrman mentions and frequently references his other works in the end notes (in addition to many other sources he cites, I appreciated his thorough and thoughtful notes and references). He specifically covers 44 texts and their role during early Christianity. I felt that he gave ample attention to each in order to cover its relevance, at the same time he avoided providing all of the text in detail (which appeared to not really be necessary).There was some disturbing material as well in terms of what some of the more off-the-path sects believed. This is no real surprise given Satan's ability to twist and thwart principles of righteousness by contorting them to supply justification of immoral activity.Lastly, I think this book makes it very clear, in its short 294 pages, that: * there are NO original manuscripts of the New Testament writings, only "copies made from copies of the copies of the copies of the original"(p. 217) * there are possibly hundreds of thousands of differences that occurred during the thousands of copies created during the centuries * many of the accepted books of today's New Testament are suspected forgeries * the proto-orthodox church engaged in its own modification of the canonized texts * sects were incredibly diversified in accepted texts and belief systems, there was rare unification until the creedsI underlined a lot of paragraphs I found particularly interesting in this book. Because this is the first historical analysis on early Christianity I've read, including the texts and creation of New Testament, I'd eagerly recommend it to those already having an interest in scripture study. In the perspective of The Restoration, I found it to be quite a source of corroboration in terms of lost truth, lost scripture and lost faith.Because of the some the disturbing content (in terms of morality and my sensitivity threshold, which maybe equated to a full page) I rate this at 4/5

  • Steven Stark
    2019-04-19 09:42

    If you are interested in early church history, then this a book for you. The followers of Christ were more diverse over the first few centuries of the Christian religion than they are even now. From the Ebionites, who followed the laws of Judaism and used only a version of Matthew as their gospel, to the Marcionites, who only used the letters of Paul and Luke and NO old testament, there were many different interpretations of the religion. This book explores these two groups plus the Gnostics and the Proto-orthodox (they weren't "orthodox" yet) through their writings. This is difficult business because once one group came to dominate the others, most of the writings of the other groups were destroyed. In fact, many gospels and letters are only preserved through letters quoting them in order to condemn them. And many of the writings have only been rediscovered in the 20th century.Of course, anyone with a New Testament knows how diverse views were in the early church. You just have to read the many references to "false teachers" in the NT to see that. Surely these "false teachers" also felt that the writers of the NT had it wrong. Paul's disagreements with Peter (Galatians) and with the so-called "super apostles" (2 Corinthians) are also good examples. My favorite part of the book is where Ehrman describes the Jewish origins of Gnosticism. He does so in a very brief and effective way tracing Jewish views of God from the Exodus and the Davidic monarchy through the classical prophetic line of thought, to the emergence of apocalyptical literature, to the arrival at Gnostic thought where the material world is evil and not the product of the "true" God ( represented by Christ) but is rather the creation of the "demiurge" (Yahweh), an imposter God who thinks that He is the one and only God. Ehrman is thorough and open-minded in his discussion of ancient texts and beliefs. He speculates on why the proto-orthodox view of Christianity "won". The Ebionites required circumcision for conversion - not promising for winning converts. The Marcionites ignored the Old Testament in a culture where ancient authority was revered - nobody wanted another cult with no history. The Gnostics were not into organization and hierarchy - a problem for growing and sustaining a religion. And they were into seriously symbolic stuff - difficult for many to accept. Ehrman also discusses ancient forgery, both inside and outside of the New Testament, including one example (The Secret Gospel of Mark) where many scholars are very divided on its authenticity. It's all really interesting, and Ehrman is at time humorous and rarely, if ever, boring. This review, of course, is only scratching the surface of the surface. If you're interested in this subject, this is a great read.This is a good companion book to the works of Elaine Pagels since she focuses almost exclusively on early Christians Gnosticism. Ehrman rounds things out nicely.

  • Rich DiSilvio
    2019-04-08 09:38

    Another excellent book by Bart Erhman. Not only are the historical facts that he presents fascinating--and challenging to many diehard Christians-- but they're "crucial" for ALL to read and understand. Religion is a very tough and sensitive topic. I know from my own book, which dedicates several chapters to religious beliefs and how these deep ideologies shaped the minds and actions of many great- and also evil -leaders. The broad array of Christian sects that immediately sprouted up after Jesus' crucifixion, that were in a fervent struggle to dominate their rivals who supposedly interpreted the Jesus message wrong, is not mere opinion, it is based upon hard scriptural evidence. Bart painstakingly presents that. Moreover, the disturbing story of how human intervention often reinterpreted and distorted the initial message is something that most Christians today are unaware of. This book, and others by Ehrman, have been crucial in not only getting that message out, but also very crucial in my own research, as a historical author and as a spiritual person seeking truth. As Jesus said, "Seek and ye shall find." Therefore, I entreat you all to begin seeking....

  • Pamela Tucker
    2019-04-22 12:51

    I admit I am an admirer to Bart D. Ehrman and read a lot his books. There are other sources that reveal the hidden books that were among the Christian and their writings that in my opinion most of what is written by Christians to some degree are inspired by the Holy Spirit. Most believers will confess they walk a better life when looking to what the leading of the Holy Spirit will teach.In his book he shows that different religions since the time of Christianity, but what is missing is fundamentalism of the main gospels and the letters were placed in their to prove Paul's case before Rome. Luke his dear friend would right to his political friend in hopes that when PAUL stood before court he would be released. At least he was the first time. Since then religions were popping up everywhere, and most of the letters or information were forever destroyed this was their way of communicating long distance at the time.With the founding fathers aware of this they began to have their creeds written to give the church strength which it was for at least 50 years. In this book the collections did not happen during this time, but there were many who were being destroyed for pure pleasure of the Romans non faith in anything really.Many of these letters are held sacred today in Orthodox versions of their bible. Historians kept a point of view on how they saw the new faith in a man professed to be God.This will include letter fragments from authors such as Mary Magdalene which I think wrote Hebrews or it could have been any one of the women that followed Jesus. Every since women have had a time of it just trying to be educated and knowing the Lord to be able to preach the word. Which when led my the Holy Spirit all things are possible with God. Who knows how many women have had a walk that was rejected by men who thought of them higher in position than what they ought.I think Jesus was rejected because of his odd behavior as a child, God being so pure and seeing men as they really are gives way to condemnation. So some may have experienced the wrath as God was developing his human side to conform with the spiritual. This is why I think he went away from the age after 12 to 30 to be educated and influenced in the eastern way of life only to develop truth so that each people could understand truth. The people then were not Christians and were very evil and more so as were the children. Heathens, and they were influenced by their own lusts and desires, and thought of no one but themselves. I believe it is possible for an earthly Jesus to not accept evil of others and did not understand the concepts of blessings until he met his mentor(s) as Zachaeus heard the wisdom and understood he was different than others. Jesus destroyed other demons later written in the gospels...he also matured to understand it was demons to be cast away not people to be punished, and that he was destined to do much more than that. There are many instances that will give the mind something to expand into the unknown truths of God and how the human side is vulnerable to many things in life.I have read many books similar to this book, so I just leave it up to the Holy Spirit to guide me through all that the world is and hope to see truth in all things.Why couldn't there be other writings on Christians we read them everyday walking into bookstores and even writing them ourselves...of course we all have growing stages to go through. Jesus was not so different when it came to his human side. He just grew quicker than most and God sent him to learn. That is why he was so pleased with him as Jesus became the son and man God could really hope for.

  • Jim
    2019-04-06 12:51

    Audio download of 24 lectures, 30 minutes each, and an 144 page lecture guide.Before widely available written texts about the teachings of this relatively unknown Jesus of Nazareth in the first century CE, there were many different opinions about the true meaning of this man. Was he a man or God, or just a spirit of piety? Dr Erhman examines the history behind some of these questions, fairly, in my opinion. While it is pretty clear that Bart has an agenda, I think he lays out the fact so that the reader/listener can reach their own conclusions. Conclusions about what? Well, how did Christianity come to be one of the most dominant religions in the world? In a world of mostly illiterate, desperately poor people, how was 'the word' spread...and who spread it?Dr Erhman holds a mirror to the face of Christianity and asks the questions about the origins of the New Testament and how it fits into the Bible we know today. I've read many of the reviews for these lectures and fail to see why anyone could be offended. After all, we have many different varieties of Christian practices today...Catholic, Mormon, Protestants, 7th Day Adventist, Baptists...all having major philosophical differences, why not in antiquity? Apparently, the New Testament was a sort of group effort, in which many different points of view from many different authors were categorized as either good (acceptable doctrine), or bad (not so acceptable doctrine). Most recognized Jesus as special, but just couldn't agree on how his message fit in with his Hebrew origins in a pagan world. The good Professor wonders what the canon would be like if one of these (slightly) different set of texts had been incorporated into the Bible we know today. (What if one of those texts had been written by L. Ron Hubbard...or Stephen King?)Like all of the other Teaching Company (The Great Courses) lectures, this course opens topics that allow the individual to dig a little deeper...learn a little more. Do you have to agree with everything presented? No, but you should want to find out the facts that allow you to reach your own conclusions. That's why we listen to these lectures...to learn more.Recommended...Dr Erhman is an entertaining, highly knowledgeable lecturer, with whom I agree (pretty obviously). Wait for a sale and a coupon...he's not that good to pay full price.

  • Siria
    2019-04-08 07:41

    This is an okay introduction to the history of the construction of the Christian canon, and a discussion of some of the theological ideas held by various ancient Christian sects which didn't survive antiquity. I did learn some things which were new to me—about the Marcionites and Ebionites—but never really got into the book otherwise. Ehrman's not a particularly good writer on a technical level (I don't think it's necessary to be that repetitive even in a work of popular history on a sensitive topic), and I itched to go through the introductory chapter with a red pen and strip out all of the rhetorical questions. Some of the presentation also seems more designed for hooking readers than scholarly accuracy—I'm uneasy about how/when he uses the word "forgery" in an ancient context, and (admittedly working from my knowledge of comparable medieval religiously-motivated texts) think the array of motivations he provides for these "forgers" is incomplete. I also know just enough to know that his discussion of Christianity's gradual assumption of dominance within the Roman Empire is either outdated or so simplistic as to be inaccurate.

  • JP
    2019-04-04 09:34

    What I liked most about this series of lectures was the substantial context it provided about the ancient writings that were included or rejected from the canon we now know as the Bible. Ehrman maintains an objective tone, though you can tell he doesn't support some of the interpretations that are common today. I found his approach to be thoughtful and enlightening. A few most notable insights for me included that the 27 books we know as today's New Testament were originally selected by one man (and supported because of the consistency they provided). It's also noteworthy that our current Bible is based on over 5,000 partial writings that contain as many differences as there are words. The early divisions of Christianity included some potential options that could have produced a very different set of beliefs, such as if the Gnostics has become the dominant system. For me, this course reinforced my appreciation for the Bible as an orthodox source, while at the same time showing how much the current doctrine was defined by those desired to and succeeded in shaping it along the way.

  • Христо Блажев
    2019-04-03 08:34

    “Изгубените християнства” – истинската история на религията, която никога не е била единна: http://knigolandia.info/book-review/i...Никога не съм разбирал защо се говори изобщо за християнство, след като то се проповядва в толкова различни варианти от десетки и стотици големи (католицизъм, православие, протестанство) и малки (мормони, Свидетели на Йехова, адвентисти и какви ли още не) секти. Пълна мешаница от антагонисти, всеки от които претендира за монопол върху върховната, неоспорима (разбира се, недоказуема и непознаваема по рационален път) Истина и жадува налагане на собствените си ОКР-та като единствен правилен начин на живот на тая планета. Помежду си те се мразят и взаимно се отричат, а същевременно техните паства също копират подобно поведение като нормално, дори и да противоречи на собствените им канони. Но както казва самият Барт Ърман: “Ние сме склонни да спорим най-често и най-разпалено с онези, чието мнение е най-близко до нашето.”Издателство "Изток-Запад"http://knigolandia.info/book-review/i...

  • Rose
    2019-04-19 12:55

    Really really good book. It has finally given me the motivation to start reading The Bible and gave a really interesting history of early Christianity. I think the author did a great job of keeping the book very academic and factual, especially with such a sensitive topic as religion. It did this without ridiculing the religion so it was overall a very enjoyable read.I think the author did a good job of making this accessible to the lay person. Most obscure academic terms are spelled out and I never found myself getting bogged down in any of the explanations of things. I think most people who are interested could pick this up and not have too much trouble following what is going on. My only desire is that it might have included more of the apocrypha, but I suppose I can go read them on my own time and that too much inclusion of the texts might have made this long and overbearing. Highly recommended.

  • Becky
    2019-04-13 09:45

    A comprehensive and very accessible introduction to biblical history and early Christian sects from one of the leading researcher's on the subject. I particularly enjoyed the discussion on textual differences- those that happened by accident and those that were inspired by a need to bring the text into line with non-heretical philosophy, and the detective work done by scholars to distinguish which is which. The last chapter which dwells hypothetically on what if one of the other forms of early Christianity had survived dragged on a bit and seemed unnecessary. I would give the book 3.5 but rounded up because I do think it's a subject that more people need to be informed on.

  • Jc
    2019-03-30 07:39

    As an introduction to the various forms of christianity, e.g. Gnosticism or Marcionism, that existed in the first few hundred years of this odd spin-off of Judaism. Ehrman, a recognized authority of early christianity also is a skilled writer, making this a fine introduction to the early chaos that in time coalesced into the christian orthodoxy. If happen to believe in churchy stuff, or just have an interest in the early history of the most influential religious movement in the history of especially Euroamerican civilization, this is a very informative read.

  • Justin
    2019-03-29 11:52

    Biased scholarship, misleading turns of phrase, superficial understanding of Christianity and heresy. It is an embarrassment that a scholar would write this.

  • Kristopher Swinson
    2019-04-11 07:28

    I can't recommend this to anyone lacking a thorough familiarity with the pitfalls in higher criticism, which can ultimately lead one to question everything and believe very little. (I've often said I would heartily shake hands with anyone who'd read J. Reuben Clark's Why the King James Version, of their own accord.) For one, even where there's an ambiguity over the authorship of Hebrews within the LDS faith (see Szink, in How The New Testament Came to Be), the inspiration thereof was never a matter of dispute. There's similar support for the authenticity of the Book of Revelation, and many other instances where latter-day revelation offers direct support for verses they would discard as spurious, thinking them unsupported in the "earliest" manuscript variations. (I share Philip Mauro's objection to undue deference given the intact New Testament Codex Vaticanus, which was doubtless "carefully treasured in the Vatican," because "it contained errors and textual corruptions favorable to the doctrines and practices of Rome.")I've even seen this particular leprous form of scholasticism infect a BYU student, who was not unlike Marcion in his desperation to divorce the God of the New Testament from the God of the Old. The primary factions described throughout were incontestably heretical, but he oversimplifies a bit in the degree to which one side or another held certain beliefs--with a subtle huzzah for underdogs solely because they differed, and not so much in recognition that some minority out there not belonging to any of the sects may have been most correct. He also overrates the unanimity of Nicea, for which I've seen attendance projections as only approximately 6% of Christendom's bishops--when a council in 305 (see Nibley, Apostles and Bishops, 122-123) had already realized that all present were guilty of compliance during time of persecution--attended, with an intensely lopsided favoring of the East. Even the attendees were not so much in agreement, and some subsequently felt the hot displeasure of Rome.I just felt I had to toss in a few words by way of caveat, and am now too fatigued to comment favorably on what WAS interesting. I like his observation at 229-231, 236:It comes as a bit of a shock to most people to realize that the Church has not always had the New Testament. But the Christian Scriptures did not descend from heaven a few years after Jesus died. The books that eventually came to be collected into the sacred canon were written by a variety of authors over a period of sixty or seventy years, in different places for different audiences. Other books were written in the same period, some of them by the same authors. Soon thereafter the Church saw a flood of books also allegedly written by the earliest followers of Jesus, forgeries in the names of the apostles, produced for decades, centuries even, after the apostles themselves were long dead and buried. Virtually all of this other literature has been destroyed, forgotten, lost. Only a fraction of the early Christian writings came to be immortalized by inclusion in the sacred canon. . . . The process did not take a few months or years. It took centuries. . . . And so, when we talk about the "final" version of the New Testament, we are doing so in (mental) quotation marks, for there never has been complete agreement on the canon throughout the Christian world. . . . [T]here is no evidence of any concerted effort in proto-orthodox Christianity (or anywhere else, for that matter) to fix a canon of Scripture in the early second century, when Christian texts were being circulated and ascribed authority.

  • Jim
    2019-04-19 10:41

    Audio download of 24 lectures, 30 minutes each, and an 144 page lecture guide.Before widely available written texts about the teachings of this relatively unknown Jesus of Nazareth in the first century CE, there were many different opinions about the true meaning of this man. Was he a man or God, or just a spirit of piety? Dr Erhman examines the history behind some of these questions, fairly, in my opinion. While it is pretty clear that Bart has an agenda, I think he lays out the fact so that the reader/listener can reach their own conclusions. Conclusions about what? Well, how did Christianity come to be one of the most dominant religions in the world? In a world of mostly illiterate, desperately poor people, how was 'the word' spread...and who spread it?Dr Erhman holds a mirror to the face of Christianity and asks the questions about the origins of the New Testament and how it fits into the Bible we know today. I've read many of the reviews for these lectures and fail to see why anyone could be offended. After all, we have many different varieties of Christian practices today...Catholic, Mormon, Protestants, 7th Day Adventist, Baptists...all having major philosophical differences, why not in antiquity? Apparently, the New Testament was a sort of group effort, in which many different points of view from many different authors were categorized as either good (acceptable doctrine), or bad (not so acceptable doctrine). Most recognized Jesus as special, but just couldn't agree on how his message fit in with his Hebrew origins in a pagan world. The good Professor wonders what the canon would be like if one of these (slightly) different set of texts had been incorporated into the Bible we know today. (What if one of those texts had been written by L. Ron Hubbard...or Stephen King?)Like all of the other Teaching Company (The Great Courses) lectures, this course opens topics that allow the individual to dig a little deeper...learn a little more. Do you have to agree with everything presented? No, but you should want to find out the facts that allow you to reach your own conclusions. That's why we listen to these lectures...to learn more.Recommended...Dr Erhman is an entertaining, highly knowledgeable lecturer, with whom I agree (pretty obviously). Wait for a sale and a coupon...he's not that good to pay full price.

  • Lee Harmon
    2019-04-16 12:35

    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 pagesISBN: 0-19-514183-0

  • T. K. Elliott (Tiffany)
    2019-03-28 05:46

    I can unequivocally recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn about the early history of Christianity and How It Got The Way It Is.Ehrman writes from the perspective of a historian, not a theologian, so he is not trying to push one particular view as "true" - his intent is to discuss what all these disparate people, who all called themselves Christians, actually believed. What we have nowadays, he makes plain, is the result of a sort of last-man-standing war of attrition.There's probably something in this for anyone who hasn't already made a reasonably in-depth study of the period, and plenty for anyone who hasn't. I admit that the parade of different groups (Marcionites, Ebionites, etc) makes one feel a bit as though one's head has turned into Euston Station, with all these people milling around, pushing and shoving, but Ehrman's writing style makes this more than tolerable.Bart Ehrman has the gift of writing in a very engaging way in a subject that might, in other hands, be dry. Reading this, I had the feeling that I was sitting in a warm study with him, with a log fire and probably also crumpets, listening to him chatting about the first four centuries or so of Christianity (yes, while my head felt like Euston Station). This is a book you can curl up with for relaxation, not something you have to tackle with trepidation.

  • Rossrn Nunamaker
    2019-03-27 13:27

    I had read this book around ten years ago and decided to re-read it.I'm not a theology student, but for whatever reason I find the period of time of Jesus' death and the two centuries immediately following very intriguing.This interest led me to reading several of the books that never made it into the New Testament, which led me to wonder why?Bart Ehrman's "Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew" introduces some answers and explanations to that question.Ehrman works from the simple principle that history is written by the victors, therefore it is hard to know what the true history was. He points out that "recent" finds such as the Nag Hammadi Library have provided us with additional insights into unaccepted thinking from various early christian groups.He also looks at accepted Christian thinkers' arguments and extracts that the argument must have been made to oppose one or more of the opposing views, therefore these other groups or sects of these groups must have had these beliefs.Overall I enjoyed the book as an introduction to some of the early Christian groups, but don't expect to learn to much about any single group. This really outlines at a high-level how 'consensus' was ultimately won and consolidated into what we know today as the New Testament.

  • Stacy
    2019-03-25 11:39

    Growing up in a Christian family, the Bible just was. It existed, it was the word of God. But how did that come to be? The first time I learned about the authorship of the Bible was interestingly enough, in my Catholic High School's Freshman Religious Studies class. I learned about the source material for the Gospels (Q) and other interesting tidbits. Still, it wasn't discussed much, or in great detail.As it turns out, there were many forms of early Christianity. Their teachings varied widely from each other. Roman Catholics and Baptists are practically identical compared with some competing Christian churches in the ancient world. This book discusses those versions of Christianity, where they came from, what they believed, what religious texts they used, and ultimately, why they died out by about the 4th Century.The author is a well regarded professor of Religious Studies who focuses on early Christianity, so his angle is purely academic and not religious. This may offend people who didn't realize that the church did not spring fully formed when Christ ascended. This book also discuss theological questions, nor does it claim which version of early Christianity was the One True Church.I found the book fascinating and the writing clear. I just had one minor annoyance - it would have been helpful if he used footnotes instead of end notes.

  • Chuck Springer
    2019-04-12 12:39

    I must say that this book was a great follow-up to " Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why" by Bart Ehrman. I would highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the origins and early evolution of the Christian religion. Essentially, in the years that followed the life of Jesus Christ, a wide variety of beliefs went under the name "Christian," including many later denounced as heresy. This book opens the reader's mind to the possibility that the traditional "orthodoxy" may not accurately reflect the original teaching of Jesus. Furthermore, the New Testament (as we know it today) did not exist in early Christian times. It slowly evolved, and was used as a weapon in the battle for dominance among various factions. It served to unite many diverse churches and belief systems into a what is now known as orthodoxy. But, that orthodoxy necessarily negated the views of those whose "scriptures" weren't included in the New Testament. The New Testament is a collection of writings that support a particular set of views of Christianity. Ehrman explains why this is both a good thing and a bad thing.

  • Robb Bridson
    2019-04-11 05:30

    This is a book that reveals some of the "sausage-making" of religion. To the nonbeliever, it's an amazing history lesson, but I'd imagine to the believer, it is a challenge to faith-- not so much to faith in God but certainly to faith in the institutions that claim to speak for Him.That said, the book makes it clear why the Pauline model succeeded and the others failed (the book goes perfectly with Rodney Stark's classic "How New Religions Succeed") and gives an eye-opening glimpse into how not only Christianity, but all social institutions develop.I can't recommend this book enough to those who want a more nuanced look at religion than the popular blind faith and so-called "new atheist" models. Ehrman doesn't judge. He simply tells how it happened, bringing to our typically simplistic religious dialogue a more complex assessment.

  • Neil Hanson
    2019-04-12 10:42

    Ehrman is very good at speaking in plain and understandable language about topics that folks often try and make complex and hard to understand. Folks who want no part of asking hard questions about the modern western orthodoxy will not like this or others of his books. You can see this plainly in the reviews and comments folks leave regarding his books.However, if you're someone who asks the hard questions and you're willing to evolve and grow your faith as you learn more, then you'll very likely enjoy his books.In this one, he focuses on the different early forms that Christianity took, prior to the Romanization of the religion when it was melded with official Roman state authority in the 4th century.

  • Мартин Касабов
    2019-04-14 08:29

    Барт Ърман задълбава в първите векове от н.е, в изследване на корените на християнството. Какво е било то преди Новият завет да бъде изобщо съставен? В какво са вярвали ранните християни и как са поддържали така желаното от тях единомислие? Колко версии има за Христос и какво е останало до ден днешен. Какви са били първите ереси и какво всъщност е ерес? Със сигурност, независимо дали сте вярващ или атеист, тези теми трябва да представляват интерес за вас, защото ние малко или много сме продукт на тази религия и е полезно да познаваме корените й. Цялата рецензия: http://izumen.blogspot.com/2014/01/45...

  • Russell
    2019-04-05 08:55

    This is a fascinating book about the diverse early christian cults that existed in the decades immediately following the death of Jesus. Ehrman is a careful and insightful scholar who not only offers well thought our opinions on the subject, but also explains how the majority of scholars have reached such conclusions. My only hesitation in recommending this book is for those who have read some of Ehrman's other works. This is because some of the information contained here is repeated from earlier works, especially his great book "Misquoting Jesus". However, in spite of this repetion, there is enough new information here to make "Lost Christianities" worth reading.

  • Naum
    2019-04-21 10:31

    Excellent read on nascent currents in early Christianity, delivers an overview of the various Factions -- ebionites, marcionites, gnostics and proto-orthodox (author label for the segment that eventually emerged victorious). Describes content of various apocryphal gospels, epistles and revelations used by the various factions, focusing on the "lost" manuscripts, many of which surfaced in 20th century as a result of dead sea scrolls and nag hammadi discoveries.

  • Elizabeth R.
    2019-04-03 11:39

    I found this book to be in large part a refresher about how the Scriptures (New Testament) did not emerge whole and perfect upon the death of Jesus, but were compiled over a prolonged period of centuries. On the one hand, it's interesting material. On the other hand, it does seem to be more trouble than the subject is worth. It's not like this is new news.