From the late Roman Empire all the way to our own time, no continuously existing institution or belief system has wielded as much influence as Christianity, no figure as much as Jesus. Worshipped around the globe by more than a billion people, he is undoubtedly the single most important figure in the story of Western civilization and one of the most significant in world history altogether. Yet who was Jesus of Nazareth? What was he like? It's a question that's been pondered by people and groups of varying convictions for more than 2,000 years. And everyone with even the faintest knowledge, says Professor Ehrman, has an opinion - with those opinions differing not only among laypeople but even among professional scholars who have devoted their lives to the task of reconstructing what the historical Jesus was probably like and what he most likely said and did.
This series of 24 lectures from an award-winning teacher and scholar approaches the subject from a purely historical perspective, with no intention of affirming or denying any particular theological beliefs. He explains why it has proven so difficult to know about the "Jesus of history" and reveals the kinds of conclusions modern scholars have drawn about him.
He begins with a discussion of the four New Testament Gospels - our principle source of knowledge about Jesus - and other sources, explaining what they are, how they came to be written, and how biblical scholars plumb them for historical understanding, before integrating them into the historical context of Jesus' life and a scholarly reconstruction of Jesus' words and deeds in light of the best available historical methods and evidence.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.
©2000 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2000 The Great Courses
If you've read Reza Aslan's book on Jesus, or Bill O'Reilly's, and want to see a recognized expert on the historical Jesus at work, check this out. It's not current; comments on the audio make it clear that it was recorded pre-2000; but it's aged well, and to date remains the most comprehensive summary of the subject available on audio.
Bart Ehrman has strong opinions on the subject, and he's not shy about voicing them here. But he returns again and again to the historical evidence and to the methodologies historians have developed for dealing with that evidence. These are the footnotes Aslan left out (and the ones Bill O'Reilly, in his rush to market, never bothered to look up). Ehrman's lectures are solidly grounded and delivered with the enthusiasm of someone who loves what he's doing.
About those strong opinions. Jesus was, says Ehrman, a millennial prophet (that was, in fact, the title of one of his first books on Jesus). Jesus expected God to intervene in history in his own lifetime and bring about the Kingdom, a Kingdom in which Jesus himself expected to play a prominent role. He expected his 12 disciples to play significant but subordinate roles: in Ehrman's view, statements made by Jesus about his disciples judging people from the four corners of the earth are to be taken literally as a description of his agenda. Unfortunately - says Ehrman - Jesus was wrong, and his mission was a failure.
This isn't the Jesus most believers want to hear about, but it's the Jesus who appears from a dispassionate examination of the evidence. It's the Jesus most consistent with the work of John the Baptist who preceded him and the apostle Paul who followed him. It's the Jesus of mainstream New Testament scholarship and has been so for a hundred years.
Traditionalists aren't the only ones whose ox is gored by Ehrman. The Jesus Seminar - a group that argued Jesus was an inoffensive philosopher of the Greek Cynic persuasion - comes in for a strong dose of forensic dissection. John Dominic Crossan's reliance on the gospels of Thomas and Peter is discussed and criticized at length. Scholars who argue for a multilayered "Q" document, earlier layers of which are non-millennial, are resoundingly refuted. Over and over again, Ehrman demonstrates how the view of Jesus as a millennial prophet makes better sense of more evidence than any of the rival views.
Every statement Ehrman makes in this "great course" is backed up by citations of evidence, a clear explanation of pros and cons, and careful reasoning. I'm not sure this is the first place to look if you want an easy introduction to the subject, but if your appetite is already whetted, Ehrman will give you a well researched and coherent vision of Jesus.
(Last time I'll say this, though: Great Courses - please - enough with the canned applause already.)
These lectures are fantastic. I couldn't get enough. Dr. Ehrman builds a very well-reasoned and carefully constructed case which explains how the historical evidence for JC clearly depicts him as an apocalyptcist.
I am thoroughly agnostic, and listened to this because I realized I had no good reason to believe that Jesus was God, but I also could not satisfactorily explain him any other way. After reading some Christian apologetics, like Lee Strobel's "Case for Christ," I didn't feel satisfied, so I pursued a more "scholarly" route.
Ehrman is a great narrator with solid facts. He doesn't appear to suffer heavily from confirmation bias, as do the militant atheists and Christian apologeticists. I am happy with what I have taken away from this series, and would highly recommend it to anyone dissatisfied with their knowledge of the historical (rather than purely theological) validity of the accounts of Jesus' life.
Big fan of Ehrman's work. His knowledge of the subject is impeccable, as is his research. His delivery is authoritative yet easy for the lay person to understand. Highly recommended.
As a Christian I was glad to listen to this historical view of Jesus. This does not attack my faith and explains well the Historical Approach.
This was a thoroughly fascinating listen. Anyone with an interest in what history can say about the life of Jesus would love these lectures although those with an unshakeable theological agenda may have difficulty with Professor Erhman's historical perspective.
Myth and contradictions obscure our sense of who the real Jesus was. For one thing, the sources can be clouded by the agenda of the writer. Furthermore many of us come to the subject with agendas of our own. Professor Erhman meticulously describes the criteria used by the historian to evaluate the record. Then he patiently examines that record (biblical and non-biblical) to create a picture of the world in which Jesus lived and the task which Professor Erhman believes the Jesus of history hoped to accomplish. Professor Erhman then explores the way in which the death of Jesus compelled his followers to re-evaluate that task and re-make the message and meaning of Jesus's life and teaching.
This isn't a novel so the question doesn't apply. But I think that my favorite part was the convincing case Professor Erhman makes for an apocalyptic Jesus.
I wandered everywhere I could in my daily life with my earphones in so that I could keep listening. I do regret that I am not one of Professor Erhman's students because, as I became so engaged with the topic, I began to want to ask questions myself and explore the topic further.
Erhman covers a lot of ground in this series, and starts from absolute scratch. His goal for the first few lectures is clearly to shake us loose from any baggage we may have coming into this, and get us acquainted with the source material. If you have some familiarity with the subject matter, you're just going to have to be patient with him - after almost five hours of this you'll be screaming at your ipad for him to get on with it. If you're less familiar, I'd recommend you just go along with it with the understanding that starting in lecture nine he will start talking about the historical method,- source criticism, text criticism, criteria of authenticity, dating approaches, etc - and revisit the more relevant sources with a more rigorous analysis. I personally think this would have been better right off the bat, not 1/3 the way through the course.
Once he gets into the analysis things improve.
I'm not sure it's possible to have a SPOILER in an historical lecture review, but if it is, I'm about to do it: Erhman's analysis is basically identical to Albert Schweitzer's. I wouldn't have mentioned this, except he never tells us it's identical to Schweitzer's. He mentions The Quest for the Historical Jesus earlier in the series, but when he presents his thesis he doesn't credit it. There is a jaw-dropping, palm to the forehead moment in Schweitzer's book concerning the betrayal of Jesus that Erhman presents as his own. Not cool. If he wanted to make it up to us, I'd ask him to do a series that unpacks that marvelous book for non-scholars. I'd certainly buy it.
If you have an interest in the subject, and a modicum of patience, I think this series is well worth the credit.
I love the GREAT COURSES, but will not partake of another Ehrman book. Don't get me wrong. Ehrman is knowledgable and a good speaker. I appreciate the distinction he makes between his role as historian versus the role theologian's role. I value his stated standards of evaluation. What I did not care for was the time he wasted in the last chapter of the book. He spent the entire final lecture talking about things that had nothing to do with the historical Jesus. I also object to his claiming to know the mind of Jesus. We have no writings of Jesus. We only have the commentary of some who might have known him and those who heard stories from those who might have known him. You simply cannot know the mind of a person based on that kind of detail. It makes me a bit suspicious of Ehrman.
Yes. It inspired me to drop other Ehrman lectures from my wishlist.
No, The information was great. Prof. Ehrman's discuss in length methodology and historical criteria used by scholars and historians. Most of the lecture was spent looking at discrepancies in gospels. It was very interesting, just not what I thought it would be.
Reading is not always about enjoy. I would be nice to include recent facts (if it is possible) discoveries, hypothesis about historical Jesus.
I have listened to several of the Great Courses Books on the Christian Church and have learned greatly how the culture and environment effected there views just as it does today. This book makes a strong case as to Jesus having a Aplostoic view and his belief that the Kingdom of God was coming and he and his discipiles would rule. A must read if your studying the early church.
When I drive, I read... uhm listen. I like SciFi, Fantasy, some Detective and Espionage novels and Religion. Now and then I will also listen to something else.
Before Prof. Ehrman became a real celebrity with works like "Misquoting Jesus," "Jesus Interrupted," "God's Problem" and "Did Jesus Exist?" or more recently "How did Jesus become God", he wrote a book called "Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium" (OUP: 1999). For me, this book towers above the others. "The Historical Jesus" course in the Great Courses series is based on this book.
Much of Prof. Ehrman's ideas seems somehow still fresh. So while it is one of the older courses in the Great Courses series, it is excellent and of great value. The lecture series starts of with the various ways in which people depict and think of Jesus, where after it looks at its sources to get to know something about Jesus. He discuss the historical criteria used by critical scholars and historians to discern who Jesus was. He then gives his own reconstruction of Jesus which include his early life, the context within which he lived, his apocalyptic message, his words and deeds and his last hours.
As an ancient historian he limits his understanding of Jesus to the natural phenomena that could take place, while Ehrman leaves the rest to 'theologians.' He follows in the German Albert Sweitzer's thesis that Jesus was a failed apocalyptic prophet.
What I like about this course, is that Prof. Ehrman gives a thorough and honest overview of the current state of Jesus research while he is empowering listeners to do their own investigation. But be warned, he might not be everyone's cup of tea. If you are a committed Evangelical for instance, you might find is lectures offensive.
Still, it is an excellent place to start if you want to find out more about the historical Jesus.
"An interesting concept, needs the visual element"
This was a very interesting lecture, with lots of intriguing concepts. It was very balanced and for such a sensitive topic the author/reader managed to keep most of his personal bias out it, which for such a topic is a monumental achievement.
Unfortunately the problem with the reader is that he is presenting in a visual medium and this is an audio recording. Irregardless the whole thing has ended up as a smooth finished product.
There is one or two chapters where the author/reader feels a little 'preachy' I urge listeners to try and cope with his presentation and push past these; it is well worth it in the end.
"Needed to Push Myself to Stick With It"
I would recommend it as it was interesting but it took a while to get there as the author spends an awful lot of time discussing methods of historical research in terms of what is reliable and what sorts of parameters are used to decide the reliability of documents. This does become quite tedious at times
The information regarding other people involved in the story was interesting. The least interesting part although relevant, was the constant discussion of the historical method
The narration was repetitive to reiterate points which was alright but again sometimes a little irritating
No, I think the author covered everything I anticipated based on the title and description
Good overall and glad I listened to it but at times I thought of fast forwarding or giving up entirely
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