Read Peter Paul and Mary Magdalene by Bart D. Ehrman Online

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Bart Ehrman, author of the highly popular Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code and Lost Christianities, here takes readers on another engaging tour of the early Christian church, illuminating the lives of three of Jesus' most intriguing followers: Simon Peter, Paul of Tarsus, and Mary Magdalene. What do the writings of the New Testament tell us about each of these key foBart Ehrman, author of the highly popular Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code and Lost Christianities, here takes readers on another engaging tour of the early Christian church, illuminating the lives of three of Jesus' most intriguing followers: Simon Peter, Paul of Tarsus, and Mary Magdalene. What do the writings of the New Testament tell us about each of these key followers of Christ? What legends have sprung up about them in the centuries after their deaths? Was Paul bow-legged and bald? Was Peter crucified upside down? Was Mary Magdalene a prostitute? In this lively work, Ehrman separates fact from fiction, presenting complicated historical issues in a clear and informative way and relating vivid anecdotes culled from the traditions of these three followers. He notes, for instance, that historians are able to say with virtual certainty that Mary, the follower of Jesus, was from the fishing village of Magdala on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (this is confirmed by her name, Mary Magdalene, reported in numerous independent sources); but there is no evidence to suggest that she was a prostitute (this legend can be traced to a sermon preached by Gregory the Great five centuries after her death), and little reason to think that she was married to Jesus. Similarly, there is no historical evidence for the well-known tale that Peter was crucified upside down. Ehrman also argues that the stories of Paul's miracle working powers as an apostle are legendary accounts that celebrate his importance. A serious book but vibrantly written and leavened with many colorful stories, Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene will appeal to anyone curious about the early Christian church and the lives of these important figures....

Title : Peter Paul and Mary Magdalene
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ISBN : 9785777702463
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 190 Pages
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Peter Paul and Mary Magdalene Reviews

  • Mike
    2019-03-30 00:24

    Can Bart Ehrman even write a bad book? No. No, he can't. This book, like every other of his that I have read, is so beautifully precise in its scope, so judiciously edited and authoritatively sourced, that I was sorry to come to the end of it. Ehrman's prose is carefully chosen to convey exactly what he means to convey, and he makes his points while maintaining all the subtleties and caveats that come with writing about first century people. This book is divided into three parts, dealing with the apostles Peter, Paul of Tarsus, and Mary Magdalene. He treats each by examining what can be known (or reasonably assumed to be true) about each of them from the records they wrote or what was written about them, and then following their continuing legends through the lens of storytelling about them for the next 2,000 years. The historical Paul is especially interesting, and Ehrman highlights the difference between the six Pauline letters that are believed to be authentic and the forgeries in the New Testament. What is fascinating about Paul is that based on his vision of a Jesus after his death - and knowing that he never met Jesus in life (so how would he know what he looked like?) - Paul creates the entire essential Christian theology of the sacrificial Messiah, who wins by losing, out of whole cloth and an intensely close reading of a very small subset of Old Testament verses. Amazing, really, considering the effect that this ghost-sighting and after-the-fact rationalization has had on subsequent human history. Mary's reputation has changed the most from its gospel sources. Ehrman first dispels her conflation with the woman taken in sin, the prostitute, the woman who anoints Jesus' feet, etc. He then focuses on her likely role as one of the people who first believed (and told others) that Jesus was raised from the dead. Finally, he discusses the interesting idea that based on this role, Mary could be considered the first apostle and even the first Christian. This is a great book, full of interesting history, theology, heresy, and records of the way important people's legends accrete more tales as their stories are told over time.

  • Jc
    2019-04-02 01:33

    As usual, I find Ehrman somewhat frustrating due to his claims of academic scholarship (claims I do not generally doubt) mixed with a tendency to not separate himself completely from his former evangelical/born-againer home. But, I still read his works because he [mostly] has a good feel for the proto- and early-christian history of the first few centuries c.e. However, I was very disappointed by Peter, Paul and Mary as I don't feel he followed through with his promise to look into the legends through the century that cycled around these three figures. Instead, he spends most of the book stretching out what little material there is in the christian Canon, and other documentary evidence from first couple of centuries of christian history. He speaks more of his interpretation of the legends than of the development and varieties of those legends. This is especially true with his discussion of Mary, for whom there are almost no N.T references, and very few other references until recent centuries. The book just felt like an attempt to cash in on the post "Da Vinci Code" pop-chat. In fact, Ehrman's earlier "Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code" is much better written, and far more informative [also check out Robert Price's "The Da Vinci Fraud: Why the Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction"].

  • Bob Buice
    2019-03-27 03:41

    Bart Ehrman, a Professor of Religious Studies, a fundamentalist Christian turned agnostic, and a highly published author, writes in a way that clarifies his own agnostic beliefs, but shows no contempt for the faithful. In fact, in many ways his writings might appear to encourage the faithful. Dr. Ehrman’s justification of the need to understand history is quite convincing. He says, “That is to say, at the end of the day, no one has a purely antiquarian interest, an interest in the past for its own sake. Instead, we are interested in the past because it can help us make sense of the present, of our own lives, our own beliefs, values, priorities, of our own world and our experience of it” and “The most unfortunate aspect of history is that it is gone forever. Once something happens, it is over and done with, and while there may be traces of past people and events, these traces are always incomplete, partial, slanted, vague, and subject to a range of interpretations.” Moreover, Dr. Ehrman’s frequent explanations of the techniques used in researching history enhance the meaning of his entire presentation.Dr. Ehrman presents a truly scholarly account of early Christian beliefs and of three essential New Testament figures.The first century theology of “lateral dualism”, describing an earthly “Kingdom of God” that was “at hand” and was soon to appear. The shift to a “horizontal dualism” – the belief that the Christian reward would be in an afterlife rather than on earth – that came about in the second century after the earthly “Kingdom of God” had not appeared.The fickle, impetuous, and vacillating apostle Peter, the unschooled and illiterate Peter, who spoke only the Aramaic language of the common people. The Peter whom Jesus rebukes, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” The Peter who claims to be willing to die for his master, but then denies Him three times.The well educated, Greek speaking, apostle Paul, who took the message to the gentiles. Paul, the hero of the Acts of the Apostles, but whose teachings in Acts differ substantially from his teachings in his own epistles.Mary Magdalene, often misunderstood and incorrectly presented, who is mentioned only once during Jesus’s ministry (Luke 8:2) and only during and after the crucifixion in the other three gospels. The Mary Magdalene about whom history has left very little information, yet who has become a major figure in sermons and religious literature, not to mention Broadway plays, Musicals, Movies, and TV shows.Dr. Ehrman considers himself an agnostic. However, despite his personal beliefs, the knowledge I have gleaned from reading five of his books has strengthened my Christian faith far more than any sermon I have heard.

  • Dee
    2019-04-03 01:16

    When I started this book, I was skeptical. This historian from Univ. of NC Chapel Hill talks of legends and history, offers his own opinions, I believe calls himself an agnostic. However, he presents a good case of realism about Peter, Paul and Mary Magdalene - the three famous followers of Jesus. He separates fact from fiction and backs up how he deciphers fact from fiction. He is well versed in the cultures of the early centuries C.E. (he prefers this over A.D.) He is recognized as a scholar of early Christian literature. He is an excellent conversational writer. Easy to read. The pictures he presents are of sincere people with common personality traits, how they react to knowing Jesus and how their lives interact and change. Overall the book reinforced my own beliefs in Jesus and clarified some questions that come up in life with other people. For example, he presents a good picture of Peter and his temper. He clarifies how some of Paul's letters don't sound like Paul and he shows how Mary Magdalene is NOT a prostitute. I would recommend this book to anyone, just because it is easy to read and understand. It doesn's have to be just for the scholar.

  • Charles
    2019-04-10 00:26

    I have found Ehrman's writings on the New Testament utterly fascinating, but I have also found that the more of them I read, the less there is that is new to me. This makes it difficult to say whether PP&M is not as good as Ehrman's previous books or if I have simply reached a point of diminishing returns with Ehrman. Perhaps it's a bit of both. Of all the books I've read by Ehrman, this has the least compelling premise, being the story of three significant figures in Christianity who appear to have been chosen simply so the book could be titled after a sixties folk act.I didn't even make it through the first of the three. The book utterly failed to hold my interest.I'm not giving up on Ehrman yet, but I am worried that I'm at a point where anything I read by him will be at least half things I've read almost verbatim in earlier books. I am hoping this is simply a lesser Ehrman book and that the next one I read will win me over yet again, but since the Goodreads rating on this book is similar to that of the others I've read, I am not hopeful.

  • Paul Cool
    2019-04-17 05:44

    Bought this in 2006 and finally got around to reading it. I wish Bart Ehrman's work was available when I was taking "religion" on high school and "theology" at university. The questions of what Jesus actually said and meant, and who PP&M actually were and what they might have said or done, become a lot more problematic when you deconstruct, unpack, break down and figure out that a lot of legend has been superimposed upon the original and no longer available New Testament texts. For example, of Paul's 13 letters in the NT, he appears to have written only 7, while the other 6 were written by others using his name, and not infrequently reversing his opinions while using his name. How the Catholic Church can understand Paul's true position on women and Mary M's importance as effectively the first apostle and first Christian and still assign women to lower positions within the church is beyond me. Written in the most accessible manner possible. Recommended, whatever your beliefs.

  • Karen Floyd
    2019-04-13 21:20

    What do we really know about Jesus' most famous followers, Peter, Paul and Mary Magadalene? Not much, it turns out. Most of what we think we know about them is folklore that accumulated after their deaths. We can't even trust what we read in our Bibles because of the many errors accruing from the original writings (the earliest of which were not written down until decades after Jesus' death) being copied over and over between their first appearance and the modern invention of the printing press. Scribal error is not the only problem. Copiests added their own thoughts and opinions to make the disciples say what they thought should have been said. Ehrman teases out these tangles, endeavoring to show us what little we do actually know, and what we really don't. For instance, Paul did not say that women should be silent in church, a statement which makes no sense given Paul's praise and encouragement of the many women in the churches he corresponded with. That was a later interpolation, in the middle of a sentence that otherwise makes sense. And all the stories and guessing about a relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus? Folklore. The only contact between the two shown in the Bible is after Jesus died. There's nothing to indicate any particular relationship between them while he lived, just people assuming they must have had a "special" relationship to explain why he appeared to her first after his resurrection. Human beings don't like not knowing the why's of things, don't like not knowing the answers. As a result our brains will go to great, often preposterous, lengths to come up with explanations, however illogical.

  • Roger Rosenberg
    2019-03-27 00:18

    Thought-provoking discussion of what we can know about Peter, Paul, and Mary from the canonical record and other documents, some recently discovered. Also some intriguing comments about differences in the canonical gospels that some may find troubling. This scholar and historian is well worth reading for insight into the Bible as enhanced by other documents and writers.

  • Gregory Klages
    2019-04-15 04:19

    I've read several of Ehrman's books intended for non-specialist audiences, and found this to be one of the better options. This work provides solid research that extends beyond the biblical canon, providing useful points of comparison and insight against the dominant narratives most Christians inherit. Ehrman also includes a degree of speculation, which he clearly identifies, and that doesn't serve to undermine the conclusions established by his research. A solid, readable, and thought-provoking work.

  • Susan O
    2019-04-17 22:39

    Review to come.

  • Ilya
    2019-04-02 23:20

    After Jesus, Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Mary Magdalene are the most important figures in the history of Christianity. Jesus had twelve closest disciples, who traveled with Jesus, whom Jesus instructed separately, and who would sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel in the coming Kingdom of God. Of the twelve, Simon Peter, James the son of Zebedee, and John were the closest; they would go to places together with Jesus and witness miracles. Of these, Peter was the closest. A fisherman on Lake Kinneret, Simon, nicknamed "rock" ("Cephas" in Aramaic, or "Petros" in Greek) was one of Jesus's first apostles, and the leader of them all. Although after Jesus's arrest Peter denied having to do with his master three times, he made up for it by being a great missionary to the Jews, and making it possible for a non-Jew (an Italian centurion) to be Christian. Peter could not have authored the epistles attributed to him because he was an illiterate uneducated Aramaic speaker. The Acts of the Apostles are in the New Testament, and other books describing Peter are not, but this was a decision made by the Church Fathers centuries after these books had been written, before Biblical criticism had been invented. In the canonical book, when Peter passes sick people on a sunny day, his shadow heals them; in a non-canonical book, Peter resurrects a smoked tuna fish, makes a dog talk, and causes a magician who was flying over Rome to crash and break his legs. Peter could not have been the Bishop of Rome because the Christian community of Rome seems not to have had a single leader until a century after Peter's death; it was when this community became very powerful that it rewrote history to say that it had been founded by Jesus's favorite disciple.Paul was a Greek-speaking Diaspora Jew, a Pharisee; the Acts of the Apostles has three contradictory accounts on how he converted to Christianity. He did more than anyone to make it possible for a non-Jew to become Christian, declaring that it is not necessary for a male to be circumcised, and journeying around the Roman Empire converting people, establishing Christian communities, and corresponding with them. 14 letters attributed to Paul are included into the New Testament, of these, scholars consider only 7 genuine. They paint a different picture of the man from the Acts of the Apostles. In Chapter 1 of the Epistle to the Romans Paul says that the pagans see the truth of Christianity, but willfully choose to reject it; in Chapter 17 of the Acts of the Apostles Paul preaches in Athens, presuming that his audience is ignorant of the religion he is preaching.Mary Magdalene was Jesus's most important female disciple, and may have been the first person to (claim to) see Jesus after the resurrection. She was not a prostitute - this was an insinuation made by a sixth-century Pope who confused Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany and the "sinful woman" (whose sins are unspecified) who anointed Jesus. Bethany, home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, was a village near Jerusalem, but according to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus met Mary Magdalene while preaching in rural Galilee; "Magdala", "the tower" in Aramaic, was a Galilean town mentioned by Josephus. Though Mary Magdalene is scarcely mentioned in the canonical gospels, she figures very prominently in gnostic literature. A passage in a gnostic gospel says that Magdalene was Jesus's companion. A character in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code builds a theory from this passage and the supposed fact that in Aramaic, the word for "companion" means "spouse". What Brown may not have known is that this gospel was composed in Coptic, not Aramaic, and the relevant Coptic word is actually a borrowing from the Greek meaning "associate" or "companion", not "spouse" - and we already know from the canonical gospels that Mary Magdalene was Jesus's associate. Another passage goes, "And the companion of the [gap in the manuscript] Mary Magdalene. [Gap in the manuscript] her more than [gap] the disciples [gap] kiss her [gap] on her [gap]." However, other parts of this gospel discuss kissing for spiritual, not sexual purposes.When the author lectures on the New Testament, Mary Magdalene is a much more popular subject than Peter and Paul. People ask him, whether she was married to Jesus. He answers that if it were so, why don't any of the gospels mention it?

  • Nathan Dehoff
    2019-04-03 05:42

    I quite enjoy Ehrman's books on early Christianity, and this one is no exception. Published in 2006, it discusses the historical data we have on three of the most significant early followers of Jesus, with six chapters devoted to each of them. It's clear that most of the materials we do have were not written by eye witnesses, and even works credited to them were sometimes forged by someone trying to cite a voice of authority to make a point. Two of the books in the New Testament are attributed to Peter, but textual analysis suggests he almost certainly didn't write them. In fact, it's likely he was illiterate. We do have genuine letters from Paul, but they are combined with ones that are likely forged, and leave a lot out. The book of Acts provides narrative accounts of the apostles' deeds, but its author seems to have purposely glossed over a lot of the in-fighting among the followers of Jesus. For instance, it presents Peter and Paul as being in accord on matters on which Paul himself said they weren't at all. There's also a lot of apocryphal material, and while most of it isn't accepted as either religiously or historically accurate, it gives valuable information as to how these figures were viewed. And the apocryphal story about Peter bringing a fish back to life isn't really any more unbelievable than the canonical one about how people were cured of illness merely by being in his shadow. Also, stories like how Peter started the church in Rome and was crucified upside down by Emperor Nero are still pretty widely accepted, despite not being in the Bible.It's interesting that accounts of Peter seem pretty consistent about his character, in that he typically comes across as impulsive and fickle, hardly the rock that his nickname indicates. I suppose that, just like in the Monkees, Peter is always the dummy. Seriously, though, while he changes his mind constantly, he does stand pretty firm on Jesus being the Messiah. Paul was a very charismatic individual, attracting both fervent support and terrible enmity. His main contribution was to bring Christianity for the Gentiles, arguing that they could be saved by Jesus' sacrifice without following the Jewish law, a quite controversial position at the time. Ehrman points out that Mary Magdalene is by far the most interesting to popular culture, even though we have even less information about her than about the others. He mentions how The Da Vinci Code popularized the idea that she was Jesus' wife, a possibility also explored in a dream sequence in The Last Temptation of Christ. Some apocryphal Gospels do present Jesus and Mary Magdalene as being particularly close, with the Gnostic ones often presenting her as understanding Jesus' teaching much more readily than the male apostles. The Gospel of Philip says that she was his companion and that they kissed a lot, but whatever modern readers might read into this, there's no indication that this would have indicated a sexual relationship at the time it was written. Even sticking with the Gospels, Mary is often conflated with an adulterous woman Jesus saves from a stoning and another Mary who anoints Jesus' feet and is the sister to Martha and Lazarus. The fact that this character is called Mary of Bethany suggests she isn't the same, as Magdala and Bethany are different places, and the whole point of using the place name was usually to tell two people with the same name apart. In Catholic tradition, however, the two Marys are considered the same. It's also not consistent among Gospels whether Mary went alone to Jesus' tomb or with another woman, and whether she was the first to see him after the resurrection. Regardless, they all agree that she played a major part in this and was one of the first (if not THE first) to believe Christ had risen, making her an important figure in Christianity even if nothing else that's said about her is true.

  • Timothy
    2019-04-05 04:40

    I have read all of Bart Ehrman and this is the book I would recommend as possibly his best.

  • José Monico
    2019-04-05 22:34

    This was a very surprisingly entertaining read. Most of the information was not too new for me; but the conciseness of Ehrman's biographical depth on the Peter and Paul were absolutely fascinating. And there it goes to show that there is something always new to learn; even if it's just the opinion of the author. Simon Peter, or "Rocky" to Jesus; an illiterate, poor, fisherman from the non-eventful village of Bethsaida. A fickle, curious and overstepping man to Jesus. Wholly devoted, nevertheless-- even though he never truly knew what his devotion would entail. Regardless of the ambiguity of what type of foundation Peter would hold, post-resurrection, it's quite obvious Jesus had no qualms on his mission. He would end up being chief among the apostles; taking on the mission of taking his message of apocalyptic salvation to the Jews.Contrasting Peter, was Paul. Using his Jewish stature, literacy and Roman citizenship to become an absolute beacon of progress for the Christian ideology during the Apostolic age. And prior, probably one of the most prominent converters since that time. Since the apocalyptic notion was ever fervent; Paul preached hasty need to convert for all gentiles-- where the need to follow the Jewish code was seen as redundant. Jesus was the only prerequisite for deliverance, now. What Bart could get out of his dissection of Mary Magdalene's life was very adequate for someone we knew very little about. In turn, he writes how this was a recipe for absolute disarray in the narrative, and film world. More recently - for the book's time - the explosion of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. Where the ever-juicy Mary-Jesus love affair is central. So, most of this short section is dealt with attacking and denouncing many of those claims. Including biblical passages where there might be implications of something more than platonic closeness. So, we have a time when messianic pretenders, miracle practitioners and apocalyptic preachers were not a rare thing during the first century AD. But what did Jesus preach that was absolutely so enticing? He proclaimed a world where those the world cradled - the rich - were doomed to be dethroned in this world by a new fleshed out kingdom of God. Ruled by the lowliest, and poorest, and women; no more worries of injustice, sin-- bountiful in food, drink and stability. All this no longer just for his chosen people; but to all that conformed to a new idea-- simply the acceptance of the Christ - one amongst them - in heart and mind.

  • Lee Harmon
    2019-04-06 05:40

    This may be my favorite among Ehrman books. It details the legends of three of the most important followers of Jesus in the Bible.Few of the stories told are considered historical; even stories that derive from the Bible are not considered literally true by Ehrman. For example, many of our stories come from the book of Acts, and about a quarter of Acts is made up of speeches by its characters, mostly Peter and Paul. But the speeches all sound about the same; Peter sounds like Paul and Paul sounds like Peter. This may seem a bit odd, given the fact that Peter was an illiterate peasant who spoke Aramaic, whereas Paul was a well-educated, highly astute author raised in a Greek-speaking environment. Ehrman handles these situations with characteristic bluntness: “When we examine what Peter is alleged to have preached, we are in effect seeing what different authors imagined him to have said—which may come down to the same thing as seeing what authors would have wanted him to say.”Nevertheless, even knowing that nearly all we have about these characters is legend, the legends are fascinating and the book is fun to read. Ehrman takes a shot at unraveling which epistles are written by these three (a few of the Pauline epistles is all) and he dives into a number of second-century non-canonical Christian writings, presenting his findings in three parts: One part for each character. The section on Peter is absolutely fascinating; the section on Paul is argumentative, and not so original (Ehrman’s usual chip on the shoulder regarding pseudonymous writing makes an appearance); and the section on Mary will leave you bewildered, definitely thinking differently about her and the role of women in early Christianity. Ehrman puts it like this:“The Christian religion is founded on the belief that Jesus was raised from the dead. And it appears virtually certain that it was Mary Magdalene of all people, an otherwise unknown Galilean Jewish woman of means, who first propounded this belief. It is not at all far fetched to claim that Mary was the founder of Christianity.”

  • Andi
    2019-03-26 23:30

    I learned all sorts of fun stuff that I was never told growing up in a Lutheran grade school. For instance, the apostles Peter and Paul didn't like each other and weren't on the same page with many of the things they believed/preached. That was certainly news to me! I'm fascinated by the differences present within the Bible itself, as well as just how different Christian religions are now from what they apparently started out to be.As expected, the sections on Peter and on Paul were robust and full of information. The section on Mary Magdalene - not so much. I say this is not surprising because we actually know very little about her. Most of what we know is legend. How long does it really take to discuss this? Apparently about 75 pages. It could have been done in about 25.What strikes me about this book, having now read books by Ehrman, is the tone. It would definitely appear that Peter and Paul are passionate topics for Ehrman, who gets a very tiny bit snarky when talking about some of the ideas that people have about these apostles. One of the most noteworthy things in his other books, at least to me, was how personal opinion was absent from the tone of the book (different, of course, from the content). This was certainly not the case in Peter, Paul, and Mary.When all is said and done, I enjoyed this book. I learned things that I did not know, but find relevant given my Lutheran upbringing. I'm glad to have read his other books Jesus, Interrupted and Misquoting Jesus before reading this one, as they introduced many of the ideas that he builds upon in PPM. (It's NOT necessary to have read his other works first. It simply helped me become familiar and comfortable with things that are contrary to what I had previously learned.)

  • Christopher Selmek
    2019-03-27 03:43

    Erhman is definitely an expert on historical Christianity. As per the title, this book does not touch on Jesus at all, but instead expounds on the lives of three well-known figures associated with him. However, in the case of Peter and Mary, I wish he had cited the Bible more often.Erhman makes the claim that he can say little about these historical figures, but instead aims to show how they were remembered in eras after their death. However, he does so by focusing almost entirely on extra-canonical texts, stating only in passing that Peter may have influenced the author of Mark (in fact, Mark may have dictated Peter’s preaching exactly). He mentions that Paul was a controversial figure even in his own time, as he is today, but again he does not quote from any of Paul’s letters included in the Bible, instead dwelling on unrealistic and unverifiable accounts of his adventures. Mary’s section essentially says that there is very little anyone can know about her. He devotes many pages to refuting “The Da Vinci Code”, but adds that it is impossible to say for certain she wasn’t married to Jesus.Altogether, I feel Erhman is encouraging doubt among people interested in Christianity by deliberately obscuring truthful sources and highlighting the inaccurate ones. His tone is not combative or antagonizing, but instead dry and focused on historical documents that are not relevant for anyone seeking after Christ today. I would recommend Erhamn for history buffs, but someone interested in practical Christianity would be better of reading C.S. Lewis or John Piper.

  • Colleen
    2019-04-06 22:18

    Having finished Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography not too long ago - and rediscovering my distaste for Bruce Chilton's approach to early church history, I wanted to refresh my palate with a reliable favorite.Peter, Paul, & Mary Magdalene does that admirably, as I knew any book by Bart D. Ehrman would. Ehrman remains accessible and interesting throughout. Of particular interest in this book, Ehrman looks not only at what we know about the early apostles (precious little), but also what those extant legends say about the people who told them. This lends a fascinating glimpse into the early Christian sects and their feuding. Also, as per usual with Ehrman, he brings his extensive knowledge of gospels that were not included in canon, which is always intriguing.Sadly, as has been the case since it was published, Ehrman has to contend with the legacy of The Da Vinci Code, spending far too much time refuting the claims made in a mediocre piece of fiction. Because of that, I found the sections on Peter and Paul much more interesting than Mary's. Indeed, the highlight of the book may have been Ehrman's discussion of the rivalry between the head of the Church to the jews, and the head of the Church to gentiles.

  • C.C. Thomas
    2019-04-06 04:28

    I have loved all the other Ehrman books I've read and so respect his writing style and research. Hhe goes step by step through his research and thinking processes for each of the points he's trying to make, then he lets the reader decide for him/herself. He doesn't just beat you over the head with facts and his opinion.The book is divided into thirds, about one third about each of the apostles Peter, Paul and Mary Magdalene, and the contributions each made to the formation of the church and organized religion. Much of this felt like rehashed version of his others books and this one felt a little pushy. More like a diatribe than just merely informative. Much of what I read here, I have read in some of his other books. In many places, I just wasn't convinced by Ehrman's research. His convictions and passions, yes! His research seems to be lacking here. Of course, he's digging through things thousands of years old, so there probably isn't much to go on in the first place. However, I just wasn't swayed.The book was also a little boring. Although equal amounts were given to each of the Big 3, Paul's section drug on a bit and the Magdalene's section didn't really have any new revelations. However, it was my favorite section. If you're wanting to learn anything significant about these three power players or the beginnings of the early church, you should probably start somewhere else.

  • Hilary
    2019-03-30 22:42

    Two stars was about right for this book for me.Bart D. Ehrman is probably my favorite author when it comes to New Testament scholarship, and his books never fail to hold my interest. That having been said, this book was a rather large missed opportunity in my opinion. Much of what is said is repeated from section to section, and later traditions are not treated at all. I understand the purpose of this book was to explain what historical figure lies behind the traditions, but the traditions could have been treated more thoroughly prior to pulling back that mask.Also missing were quotations from the texts themselves. I'd more highly recommend a book like Lost Christianities or even Misquoting Jesus for this sort of information. This book could easily have been much better.

  • Sarah -
    2019-03-31 22:20

    My Book Blog ---> http://allthebookblognamesaretaken.bl...I read Ehrman's books, not for his opinions but for the facts he presents in relation to the New Testament, of which he obviously knows thoroughly. However, our faiths differ greatly, again obviously.His writing style is easy to follow, but there is so much background information here that he used word-for-word in other texts, that gets a bit tedious. And his habit of repeating himself also gets tiresome.Here he presents Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene as both historical and legendary figures in an accessible fashion, giving each their due turn in the spotlight. I don't put much stock in the Gnostic Gospels, though Ehrman references them frequently. Nor can we really put a lot of faith in other gospels and writing excluded from the Canon as we know it today. But still this makes for an interesting read about three of the most important figures in Christianity - without whom it would not exist had they each not done their part after the crucifixion and in the ensuing years.

  • Emily
    2019-04-18 01:40

    This book took me forever to read because it just isn't one of those books that you can sit and read for long periods of time. It is a thinking book, and it had to be chunked up. However, once I got to the part about Mary Magdalene, I really had a hard time putting it down, and I think it is the strongest part of the book. The author's thoughts and opinions about women show through clearly in this part, and his idea of how women are portrayed and used in the Bible and as part of Jesus's work is quite moving to me. Feminists would be impressed as well. I am not going to recommend that everyone should go out and read this book, but if you have ever wondered about these three figures and their influence on Christianity, then this is a book you should read. Question his ideas and compare as well, but read it. It is also one of the best smelling books ever. I had to stop frequently and sniff it - pure book nerd joy.

  • John Lamberth
    2019-04-15 01:44

    This is one of Ehrman's best. He goes into great detail about the lives of St. Peter, St. Paul, and Mary Magdelene, from the legends to what the Bible tells us. It is in depth and extremely comparative.Folks that believe in the inerrancy of the Bible won't like it, since it points out continuity errors in the New Testament, but for everybody else, it should provide some interesting new ways of looking at the lives of Jesus' most "well-known" followers.And if it doesn't at least somewhat change your views on what you thought you knew about these three figures, then you are either two close-minded to have even bothered with it or you are way too learned on this subject and should just go teach.3 stars because, as engaging and interesting as this is, it took me forever to read it. Very small print made for very few pages read at each sitting. Might have been better as three separate volumes.

  • Amy
    2019-04-16 03:22

    The premise of this book seemed appealing... a look at the historical figures of Sts. Peter and Paul, and Mary Magdalene. Unfortunately, source material is hard to come by and the Ehrman was left repeating himself in chapter after chapter. Some of the assumptions he made about the reader's understanding of historical, biblical documents were off the mark and could have been fleshed out more descriptively. It was also very readily apparent that Ehrman has an axe to grind with Dan Brown's fictionalization of several aspects of biblical history. While I enjoyed exploring aspects of the bible and the non-cannonical texts describing the events of these saints and the characters surrounding Jesus' ministry, I found this book to be a dull slog rehashing the same points in every chapter.

  • Robert
    2019-04-13 22:30

    Not Ehrman's best. His "just a historian" persona limits the breadth of his analysis and leads him to a lot of repetition and unnecessary jibes as conspiracy and popular writers. His How Jesus Became God is a better analysis of the meaning of the historical record embedded in the scriptures. Here, he avoids any serious exploration or speculation as to how and why the stories got (re)told the way they did. Finally, his dismissal of the gnostic tradition without seeing how it reflects the mystic tradition that keeps reappearing in the Christian churches, despite the "victory" of the proto-orthodox wing, is a serious failure.

  • KathyPetersen
    2019-04-16 22:22

    I was disappointed, but I didn't hate it. What I definitely disliked was the repetition of often inconsequential and unsubstantiated—by the author's admission—details of these three important persons in the history of Christianity. After all these centuries it is difficult to pursue and define them, so Ehrman had to pad what would have been quite a good, solid article into a book-length publication. (And why, oh, why does the most assuredly fictional DaVinci Code have to rear its silly head in every discussion of Mary Magdalene!!

  • Kolumbina
    2019-04-08 01:41

    What a good book. In my view an excellent explanation of Bible and Christianity. I loved it. It makes sense and a lot of information and interpretations by B. D. Ehrman made my understanding of Christianity and history behind Christianity more clear. Perhaps there are quite a few repetitions through his book but it is unavoidable in that kind of book. I really like the writer's historical comparisons with popular bestseller "Da Vinci Code". Also the style of writing and sense for humour make this book a fairly easy read.

  • Michael Murphy
    2019-04-07 21:35

    Terrific piece of work - liked it a lot more than I thought I would. Does a nice job of bringing in the noncanonical material (like the gnostic gospels), and pointing out areas of inconsistency, and sorting out some persnickety authorship issues (like which bits Paul likely did and did not write). Some readers may find his sense of humor a bit too biting. My main reason for not giving it 5 stars is that his section on Mary Magdalene duplicates a lot of stuff that he's previously published (or at least it seemed to).

  • Edward
    2019-04-03 05:35

    This book is a very illuminating look at what is known, speculated and disputed about its three subjects. Ehrman does a great job at sticking to the topic and really diving into the detail on these figures. And as usual he treats the subject with historical and scientific rigor and does not give undue deference to tradition. My one criticism is that this, like some of his other books, contains a fair amount of repetition and could easily be cut down for a more condensed and streamlined read.

  • Sarah Finch
    2019-03-27 03:24

    I've been a fan of Bart Ehrman since I was a college freshman, and this is one of his best works. With surgical precision and welcome flashes of wit, he cuts through the clutter and the Dan Brown-inspired speculation to examine Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene through accessible exegesis. While the subject matter is too dense, Ehrman nonetheless provides an enjoyably breezy tour through the texts surrounding these three seminal figures from the dawn of Christianity.