Shop now Shop now Shop now  Up to 70% Off Fashion  Shop all Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Shop now Shop now
Customer Review

78 of 89 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A RATHER ONE-SIDED INTRODUCTION TO BIBLICAL SCHOLARSHIP, 31 Jan. 2002
This review is from: The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings (Paperback)
This book is quite well written and closely argued, but as an introduction to the subject matter it fails on at least one important level: Unlike, say, John Drane's "Introduction to the New Testament", it does not introduce us to a representative sample of scholarly thought. Instead it mainly argues the case for Ehrman's own position, and in the process it takes for granted certain assumptions that are more widely contested than he seems willing to admit. In other words, there is a tendency to cite opinions that other equally reputable scholars would contest as though they were established fact.
Another difficulty with using this book as an introduction to the subject is that Ehrman does not give the reader enough assistance in investigating his influences and antecedents. Thus he makes some quite radical assertions (e.g. challenging the traditional view that the oral traditions of pre-literate societies tend to be transmitted reliably) without the conventional footnotes quoting authorities and sources. Apart from some general further reading suggestions at the end of chapters, Ehrman's assertions along the lines that "recent research has shown" or "it is now accepted" have to be taken on his say-so alone.
Actually, Ehrman's antecedents are fairly obvious to anyone who has read theology - he continues the tradition of 19th century liberals like Wrede (and their 20th century disciples like Bultmann) who drew a sharp distinction between (i) the Jesus of history and (ii) the Christ of the Church's faith, and assumes that the Bible can only inform us about the latter. And yet the impressive work of N.T. (Tom) Wright, founder of the so-called "Third Quest for the Historical Jesus" raises at very least the possibility (and for many people the near-certainty) that the supposed dichotomy between Jesus and the Christ results from a flaw in post-Enlightenment intellectual methodologies (the very flaw against which post-modernity is a dangerous over-reaction).
A further problem is that Ehrman goes a stage beyond Reimarus, Wrede and so on in his assumptions that first century Christian thought was at least as heterodox as we know second century thought to have been, that the ascendancy of the orthodox "brand" of Christianity was simply by a process of natural selection, and that generations of "proto-orthodox" NT redactors constantly and consciously changed and added to the texts as they went along - their intention being to filter out any ideas that seemed to challenge their prejudices and to provide ammunition in the fight against "heresy". This position is not systematically spelled out in the book under review (for that, see one of Ehrman's other books, "The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture"), but it needs stating here because these a prioris inform his whole approach to the subject.
This is more radical than it may sound, because it would imply that the four canonical Gospels are not necessarily any more authoritative as insights into the historical Jesus than the Gnostic and other apocryphal writings of the second century such as the "Gospel of Thomas". In fact, the very starting point for Ehrman's main discourse is the non-uniqueness of the traditionally-supposed key points of Jesus' life: He begins by recounting the miraculous birth, life, death and resurrection of a man the readers is allowed to assume is Jesus, but then (surprise!) turns out to be Appollonius of Tyana, a mythical miracle worker whose exploits are chronicled in the "histories" of Philostratus.
Ehrman's book has many good points. Its discussion of Markan priority is the most lucid I have read, and its assessment of the historical background to each of the biblical Gospels is also outstanding. My problems with the book arise from its shuttered perspective. In the context of a more open discussion, the author could have argued his own opinions just as coherently and with less danger of giving the inexperienced student a one-sided view of the issues.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
  [Cancel]

Comments

Track comments by e-mail

Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 15 Apr 2011 19:01:14 BDT
E. Clarke says:
This is a clear and well argued review, with good pointers to alternative perspectives on the historical focus of this work. There is some implicit (if somewhat grudging) recognition of the quality of scholarship displayed in the book, and in other work by the author. I think faithfull people will be better able to access the spirtitual treasures of the New Testament with an enriched understanding of the worldly circumstances of its genesis, production and dissemination. If you also have a worldly interest in the career of texts, you'll be lost in admiration for this excellent introduction to these precious texts.
‹ Previous 1 Next ›

Review Details

Item

Reviewer


Location: East Sussex United Kingdom

Top Reviewer Ranking: 13,589