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Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth Hardcover – 20 Mar 2012

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Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth + Forged: Writing in the Name of God--Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are + Jesus Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don't Know About Them)
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 361 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (20 Mar. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062204602
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062204608
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 608,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By K. Winters on 2 May 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Professor Ehrman is, above all else, a fair scholar. Yes, evidence requires some amount of interpretation. There are competing theories and sometimes one theory does a better job in accounting for the available facts than others. There are conclusions drawn from evidence over which reasonable people can disagree. The vital contribution Ehrman makes in this book, written for a popular audience, is to demonstrate that there is a complete lack of evidence to support the speculation there was never an historical Jesus.

By first reviewing the mythicist literature and noting the tendencies of some authors to make completely unsupported assertions, to a serious critique of writers such as Robert Price, Ehrman demonstrates mythicists lack of evidence to conclude that Jesus was never an historical person and was, instead, a complete myth. He then uses patient precision to review the extensive evidence for an historical person named Jesus, what the evidence states and what we can know about him.

For anyone who has wondered if there is any substance behind a purely mythical Jesus, I recommend this book. Special attention should be paid to how we come to know something about a person in history. After completing it readers should feel better prepared to ask mythicist proponents for their evidence. Not merely to point to the lack of evidence for the details of the life of Jesus, but rather evidence that supports he was purely constructed. They should also feel more confident citing the evidence in favor of an historical Jesus and why that evidence can considered a valid basis for drawing conclusion.

What must first lead our theories is the evidence. Once we have gathered evidence we can attempt to interpret it. Ehrman does this in his usual deliberate and yet engaging writing manner in defense of an historical Jesus.
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58 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Ashtar Command on 22 April 2012
Format: Hardcover
"Did Jesus Exist?" is a book by Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar and out-spoken agnostic-atheist. Despite his private ideological leanings, Ehrman does believe that Jesus was a real historical person, and that the NT contains reliable traditions about him.

To simplify somewhat, Ehrman's Jesus is the Jesus of the Gospel of Matthew, but even more Jewish and without the miracles. Thus, Ehrman actually has a rather "conservative" view of Jesus. To psycho-analyze an author you've never met is a risky business, but personally I suspect that Ehrman (a former evangelical Christian) still feels some kind of psychological connection to the Bible in general and the Gospels in particular. But then, the position he is arguing against could be connected to an equally strong psychological aversion to the very same scriptures!

As the title makes obvious, Ehrman's book is a polemic against a group of authors he dubs "mythicists", who claim that Jesus never existed. While most Bible scholars hold that the Jesus of the Gospels is at least "freely based on a true story", the mythicists claim that everything is made up. The Gospels are purely mythological, and hence similar in character to pagan legends about Hercules, Dionysius, Osiris, etc. A popularized version of mythicism can be found in "The Jesus Mysteries" by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy. More scholarly versions are argued by Robert Price, Richard Carrier and others. (Incidentally, Sweden has spawned a native mythicist in the persona of Alvar Ellegård. So yes, this debate feels strangely familiar!)

Personally, I consider Ehrman's book to be a very mixed bag. He constantly attacks the mythicists by using "the argument from authority", claiming that virtually all scholars in the relevant fields reject their positions.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Parkes on 20 Oct. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bart Ehrman is one of the worlds leading New Testament Scholars. His journey from Conservative Evangelical Christianity to being a liberal Agnostic is well documented and he has debated a number of leading Christian thinkers on issues related to the NT and Jesus. As with the rest of his work this book is very enjoyable to read as Bart is a gifted communicator.

The content of this book is what has drawn a lot of flack from people who don't normally attack Ehrman. Instead of Conservative Christian folk it's the atheists and Jesus "Mythicists". He hasn't converted to Christianity but rather argues for the view that Jesus existed. He engages with the work of those who deny his existence and shows very clearly why they are mistaken. It's an excellent popular level book and the case is very well built. He builds a positive case for the existence of Christ (the highlight being the chapter "Two Key Data for the Historicity of Christ") as well as showing why those that deny Jesus' existence are wrong. The last part of the book explores what we can know with relation to the historical Jesus.

Some of the criticisms are unfair on the book. With regards to him using an "appeal to authority" in saying that almost all people qualified in this topic would say Jesus did exist I think this is a fair comment. If someone isn't knowledgeable in this subject they be unaware of just how radical a view it is to deny Jesus' existence. If you meet someone who is a young earth creationist most people at the beginning would point out that all scholars in western universities deny young earth creationism. They then go on to show why. This is what Bart does, he points out the unanimous opinion of those teaching in academia and then shows why they have that opinion.
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