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.
©2003 Oxford University Press (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
While I enjoyed Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus, I think I like this one was even better.
Here we are taken through a tour of the first generations following the death of Jesus and the many forms of Christianity that they practiced. He discusses why some flourished (able to claim ties to the antiquity of the Hebrew scriptures) and why some sects floundered (disagreements over the role of women.) It was very easy to follow along and see how each event contributed to the scripture and the forms of Christianity that have been handed down to us today.
I was just as fascinated with the stuff that almost made it into the New Testament (letters from Clement, Titus for example) as those that did.
Ehrman goes on to provide a clear context to understand the books of the Apocrypha as well. A lot of verses I never understood before suddenly made perfect sense when I was oriented in the right cultural beliefs. For example, in the Gospel of Thomas (alleged to have been written by Didamus Judas Thomas, Jesus's twin, but debunked by scholars) it says that women must become men to reach the Kingdom of God, Ehrman explains that Neo Platonists did not see the human race as having two genders, but only one. Ancients believed that women were males who never developed properly! Needless to say, that had never occurred to me. Suddenly, all became clear.
While this book may be too introductory for experts, it was fascinating to a lay person like me. Recommend.
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