Early Christian beliefs and texts; Gnosticism;
Lost Christianities and Christian Scriptures:
Books by Bart D. Ehrman.


God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer

The least gripping of the books (read so far) by Ehrman, possibly because it centers on the single philosophical point of suffering in the world and how this lead theologist Bart D. Ehrman to agnosticism.

Lost Christianities: Christian Scriptures and the Battles over Authentication

(24 half-hour lectures.)

Lecture Titles

Part 1

  1. The Diversity of Early Christianity: Second and third century beliefs, up to the Council of Nicea.
  2. Christians Who Would Be Jews: The Ebionites.
  3. Christians Who Refuse To Be Jews: The Marcionites.
  4. Early Gnostics Christianity - Our Sources.
  5. Early Christian Gnosticism - An Overview.
  6. The Gnostic Gospel of Truth.
  7. Gnostics Explain Themselves. Ptolomy's Letter to Flora and the Treatise on the Resurrection.
  8. The Coptic Gospel of Thomas.
  9. Thomas' Gnostic Teachings.
  10. Infancy Gospels.
  11. The Gospel of Peter.
  12. The Secret Gospel of Mark.

Part 2

  1. The Acts of John.
  2. The Acts of Thomas.
  3. The Acts of Paul and Thecla.
  4. Forgeries in the Name of Paul.
  5. The Epistle of Barnabas.
  6. The Apocalypse of John.
  7. The Rise of Early Christian Orthodoxy.
  8. Beginnings of the Canon.
  9. Formation of the New Testament Canon.
  10. Interpretation of Scripture.
  11. Orthodox Corruption of Scripture.
  12. Early Christian Creeds.

Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions of the Bible (and Why We Don't Know Them) (2009)

A thoughtful and scholarly introduction to the methods and findings of historical criticism of the Bible. Chapters:

  1. A Historical Assault on Faith.
    Introduces the value of historical criticism and a historical (contrasted with devotional) study of the Bible.

  2. A World of Contradictions.
    Addresses "some of the important and interesting discrepancies of the Bible that emerge when it is examined from a historical perspective" [p.19] because "one should always know what the data are before deciding too quickly what the data mean" [p.20]. Discrepancies are clear between New Testament versions of various stories. There is conflicting testimony.

  3. A Mass of Variant Views.
    "The lesson that I have found most difficult to convey to students — the lesson that is the hardest to convince them of — is the historical-critical claim that each author of the Bible needs to be allowed to have his own say, since in many instances what one author has to say on a subject is not what another says" [pp.98-99].

  4. Who Wrote the Bible?
    "Students taking a college-level Bible course for the first time often find it surprising that we don't know who wrote most of the books of the New Testament." [p.101]. "Of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, only eight almost certainly were written by the authors to whom they are traditionally ascribed: the seven undisputed letters of Paul and the Revelation of John, which could be claimed to be homonymous, since it does not claim to be written by any particular John" [p.136].

  5. Liar, Lunatic, or Lord? Finding the Historical Jesus.
    The historians can resolve little here: "Historians can only establish what probably happened in the past, and by definition, miracles are the least probably of occurrences" [p.179].

  6. How We Got the Bible.
    Among the various sects of early Christianity, "who, really was right? The formation of the canon [the 27 books of the New Testament] is in some sense a movement to decide that issue. The final decision was not a fore-gone conclusion. ... But eventually, by the beginning of the fourth century, the options were narrowed in proto-orthodox circles; somewhat later there were no options at all. ... one canon of Scripture finally emerged, centuries after the process began" [p.223].

  7. Who Invented Christianity?
    "For most Christians [worldwide as opposed to just in the USA], Christianity is about believing in Christ and worshipping God through him. It is not about belief in the Bible. ... In traditional Christianity the Bible itself has never been an object of faith" [p.227] ... until now.

    "In many ways, what became Christianity represents a series of rather important departures from the teachings of Jesus. Christianity, as has long been recognized by critical historians, is the religion about Jesus, not the religion of Jesus" [p.267].

    "The ultimate emergence of the Christian religion represents a human intervention" [p.268].

  8. Is Faith Possible?
    "People need to use their intelligence to evaluate what they find to be true and untrue in the Bible. ... Everything we hear and see we need to evaluate — whether the inspiring writings of the Bible or the inspiring writings of Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, or George Eliot, of Ghandi, Desmond Tutu, or the Dalai Lama" [pp.281-282]. "Then why study the Bible? ... The Bible is the most important book in the history of Western civilization. It is the most widely purchased, the most thoroughly studied, the most highly revered, and the most completely misunderstood book — ever! Why wouldn't I want to study it?" [p.282].

The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot: a New Look at Betrayer and Betrayed

Possibly the best of his books in terms of helping the lay reader understand how the New Testament, including the images of Judas, was shaped to match doctrine.

Misquoting Jesus: the Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

Reviews the manuscript sources of the Christian New Testament scriptures from:

Even if God inspired the original words [of the Bible], we don't have the original words.

... If He [God] hadn't gone to the trouble of preserving those original words, it is less likely that He had inspired those original words.

... Meaning is not inherent in the text. Texts don't speak for themselves [but each person makes one's own interpretation].

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