Large numbers of atheists, humanists, and conspiracy theorists are raising one of the most pressing questions in the history of religion: "Did Jesus exist at all?" Was he invented out of whole cloth for nefarious purposes by those seeking to control the masses? Or was Jesus such a shadowy figure - far removed from any credible historical evidence - that he bears no meaningful resemblance to the person described in the Bible?
In Did Jesus Exist? historian and Bible expert Bart Ehrman confronts these questions, vigorously defends the historicity of Jesus, and provides a compelling portrait of the man from Nazareth. The Jesus you discover here may not be the Jesus you had hoped to meet - but he did exist, whether we like it or not.
©2012 Bart D. Ehrman (P)2012 HarperCollins Publishers
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.
By now Bart D. Ehrman, lapsed Evangelical Christian turned Agnostic with Atheist undercurrents, is well-known and well established as a populariser of 19th and 20th century critical Bible scholarship. In "Did Jesus exist?" Ehrman again brings the insights of critical scholarship to the table to engage (not with Evangelical Christians) but with Mythicists (atheists holding the believe that Jesus didn't exist) on the question of how historical Jesus Christ really was. Did he really exist or was he made up?
In my opinion Ehrman does a good job of confirming that Jesus was a real man of flesh and blood that lived in the first century C.E. He argues from a modernist historical perspective and makes a convincing argument that there are enough "reliable" sources to attest to a historical Jesus.
After he looked at some of the evidence for Jesus' existence he analyses some of the commonest arguments of leading mythicists. He convincingly shows that this group of people has an agenda that clouds good scholarship. He offers a convincing rebuttal for all their major arguments against Jesus.
He then offers a scholarly reconstruction of Jesus and offers a comfort prize to the Mythicists, the Jesus of the Christian Church doesn't completely correspond with the real Jesus. He illustrates by bringing together the different earliest sources that has been identified from the gospels that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet of his time.
Some of this may sound familiar, if you have read or listened to Ehrman previously. There are quite a lot of data and information that has been presented in different packages in his previous books.
One thing that bothered me a bit about Ehrman's reconstruction of the historical Jesus, was his insistence that Jesus didn't refer to himself when he spoke of the "son of Man." There is definitely not scholarly agreement on this theory and it is still hotly debated. Ehrman presents it as a well-known scholarly fact.
While this book repeats various of his arguments from previous books, it is still a worthwhile book. Ehrman is known for following his arguments through. This book is a must for anyone that is not convinced that there lived a historical Jesus.
Walter Dixon narrated the book superbly. He might become synonymous with Ehrman's future audio books.
One thing about the production that was bothering is that to the end one or two chapters of the book is repeated. This is probably the case due to a bad cut and past job.
This is vintage Ehrman, excellent but with a much needed acquired taste!
The author followed the evidence wherever it led. He was very convincing and his arguments were clear.
The reader did a fine job. However, 30+ minutes were inexplicably repeated near the end, which was quite jarring. I was not sure where the repeat ended and the new material began. That is why I did not give the performance a higher rating.
Although Ehrman concludes that a historical Jesus did live and was crucified by Pilate, he also concludes that this Jesus did not espouse many of the things we have been taught. For example, Ehrman concludes that Jesus was a Jewish apocalyptic who believes the Kingdom of Heaven would arrive in his lifetime, and so urged people to forsake their families and livelihoods in preparation. This is not the Jesus who values marriage and the family.
I am glad that I heard this side of the story.
In this book Dr Ehrman with some (but in my view not compelling) success tries to argue that Jesus did exist as a man and was executed as apposed to the view common amongst some groups of atheists that Jesus (man, god or both) was simply a myth and never existed at all.
The first argument presented is that the vast majority of biblical scholars believe that Jesus existed falls particularly flat, there has been many times in many fields where the vast majority of scholars in a field have been found to be wrong. Its an unhelpful argument and should have been left out.
Dr Ehrman calls those who don't believe Jesus existed in any physical form Mythicists. While I think the book succeeds in disposing many of the arguments of the Mythicists, it does not present any compelling arguments in the other direction. In the end no significant proof is presented that Jesus did exist other than the biblical sources. While Dr Ehrman presents some very good analysis of the biblical sources and makes a good argument as to the more historically plausible sections, at the end of the day one has to rely on the flawed and biased biblical sources as proof Jesus existed.
Based on this evidence, my opinion is that Jesus probably existed, but I am far from certain. After listening to this book I am actually less certain than I was, I was shocked by the lack of non-biblical references to Jesus in material dating to the first century.
Where this book shines however is Dr Ehrman's argument of Jesus as a Apocalyptic preacher similar to John the baptist. Its a well thought out argument and the most plausible argument as to who and what Jesus was I have heard. If you have read or listened to Dr Ehrmans other books and are short on time, I would suggest skipping to the final few chapters.
I've 'read' all of Bart Ehrman's audiobooks plus his lecture series offered elsewhere and viewed his Youtube lectures because the subject matter is interesting and entertaining.
The premise of this book is the least interesting to me because I already believe that Jesus did exist in the flesh.So this is preaching to the choir.
I did not enjoy the book at first for that reason, but in the usual Bart way it still hooked me -though it took longer. Ehrman responds to many writers -point by point- who don't believe Jesus really existed. His own belief is that a man named Jesus did exist and this is pretty much the view of biblical scholars.
I read a criticism that this book dismisses writers who are outside of academia and that those inside academia would not be there if they did not believe Jesus existed. So they are all biased. This is true. True in the same way that academic biologists all believe in evolution and are biased against creationism.
After discussing and refuting many of the arguments that Jesus was just a fabrication, and many of the beliefs held in that era, then we get back onto familiar turf with discussions of contextual criticisms, sources and a final look at what Jesus may have been like and actually said. (The good stuff).
The contextual criticism is covered in many other Ehrman works of course, but I still got quite a bit from this because one does not absorb it all the first time if one is not taking notes and reviewing it.
The principle discussion was informative too. It discussed what we know about Jesus and informed me of the arguments others make about Jesus being a fabrication along with many of the curious beliefs of that period which I did not know. If you like to hear about the early Jesus movement, this is more Ehrman gold, though not completely new. That is fine by me. What I really like about the writer is his scholarship and his pursuit of the truth no matter where it leads. The book comes across as a logical, fully informed work that doesn't have a particular agenda. Ehrman is not an agenda-bender.That is worth so much in learning about Jesus and why I like his work so much.
Postal Clerk @ Waite Park MPC.
Dr. Bart Ehrman has done his home work on this book. Reading it really brought out many of my beliefs and changed a few of them.
Mr. Dixon has a voice that is easy to listen to. He came through loud and clear on my MP3 player while I listened at work.
A simple and thought provoking look at a man that was made into a God.
Christians must remove their God glasses to really understand what the book says to us.
Point 1 - it isn't a 'story' but I gave it 5* anyway! Perhaps this shouldn't be mandatory because there is a lot of non-fiction here [thankfully!].
As an atheist who has believed for a very long time that Jesus was an actual person who did have quite a bit to say [or is said to have had] about the human condition it was nice to read a well researched [as always with this author] explanation that clarified my ideas. I suppose he was starting with a 'believer' so my enjoyment of the book was probably a 'slam dunk' anyway. What impressed me even more was the way in which the argument was explained always using examples from known texts. Using comparisons and a clear path of argument to enlighten the reader. I am slowly reading all of Bart Ehrman's books and, so far, I think this is the one I enjoyed [and understood] more than any other. This later fact was also down to the sympathetic reading which was clear, concise, and very easy on the ear. I shall look for this Narrator in the future.
A good introduction into Bart Ehrman's works and a very interesting book which is highly recommended to any person interested in the man which changed the world.
I Think Therefore You Are.
the author addresses all the issues which touch upon the question, but also explains why they are (or arn't) important. both mythicists views and the life of Jesus, the jewish apocalyptic preacher are explored, and it was scholarly enough to get me reading more. i wish the "works cited" of the book was also available somewhere for further reading.
Thorough, informative, entertaining
Dr Ehrman knows his stuff, and lays out the facts clearly. He is respectful to his opponents, but he has the authority of scholarship behind him. The book is far from dry, as he writes in a similar style to a news article.
The narration was clear, and had enough change in pitch and intonation to give the illusion that I was reading a novel.
I found myself going back to this book instead of the novel I was reading concurrently.
I can't wait for his next book on why Jesus came to be regarded as God.
As an atheist, I often wondered if the man Jesus actually existed. I feel that the book had some reliable proof of his existance, but it was presented in a long drawn out and sometimes redundant way.
Ehrman presents an indisputable case for the historicity of Jesus. This man's knowledge on the New Testament and early church history is staggering. I've read a number of his books multiple times and still find myself learning something new with each reading.
Ehrman's arguments are so strong, that for one to deny the historicity of Jesus would require a leap of faith equal to believing in Christ's divinity. Thus it shows the biases of mythicists like Richard Carrier, who are obviously intelligent enough to asses the evidence objectively, yet deny it in order to sell books.
The greatest shortcoming to this audio version is the rather drab and robotic narration, but I did eventually get used to it. This is not a book for Christian fundamentalists, nor is it for militant atheists, rather it's for the objectively intelligent reader who really want's the facts regarding the existence of the historical Jesus Of Nazareth.
"Good book but poor evidence"
Yes. I think you need to listen to this book several times in order to analyse the arguments and evidence. For me its not a book you read just once
I like and enjoy all Bart Ehrman's books. In my opinion he is an excellent scholar and teacher. In this book he sets down his case for a historical Jesus. Although his arguments are rational and reasoned there is an immense amount of speculation. In addition many of the arguments he gave were counter productive to the view of a historical Jesus. I feel in summary that the evidence he gives is tenuous at best. For instance he will say that the Gospels are corrupted sources that cannot be trusted but then turn to them to to show "evidence" for the historical Jesus. His use of speculative works like Q, M and L are relied on far too heavily. No modern scholar has ever seen theses books so how can see cite with any authority what is in them?
Before reading this book I was an agnostic with regards to the "Mythicist" argument and a believer in a minimalist historical Jesus. However after Bart's book I am now an agnostic (70:30 that he is a fictional figure) when it comes to the historicity of Jesus. In my opinion, from the arguments given, all that is left of a historically possible Jesus is that "there was a Jewish preacher called Jesus (or a derivative of that name) who was crucified" which could be paraphrased as "there is an English boy called Harry Potter". The picture given of Jesus is so far from the traditional view as to be meaningless for comparing that person to the one in the New Testament. Just because there is a boy called Harry Potter living in England would have no bearing on the historicity of J K Rowling's character. Nor would it be worthwhile using the Harry Potter books to find the real Harry Potter. In my opinion the New Testament is equitable to just such a fictional work. I think if the evidence for Jesus was applied to any other character in history than there would be no debate and most scholars would think he was just a legend. Whilst in my opinion this is the weakest of Bart's books it is well worth a listen if you are interested in Christianity and religion.
"Excellent historical scholarship"
This is an excellent book. The author's analysis of a complex and controversial subject is clear and well balanced. He presents and objectively weighs the available historical evidence for the existence of Jesus, and concludes - convincingly in my opinion - that such a person really did exist in the early part of the first century CE.
As a former student of history at university, I particularly liked the part of the book where he set out and explained the investigative methods historians of ancient history use. It was a very easily understandable summary and may be a help to anyone starting to study historical source material. It was also useful to see those methods applied to the case in point.
I would certainly recommend what I found to be a thought provoking and easy to listen to book to anyone interested in the biography of Jesus or the study of history more generally.
The main evidence offered for the historicity of Jesus was that it is what scholars think and so we should be happy with that. One loses respect for author of books which I have previously enjoyed, when they have a generous idea of what constitutes independent testament and try to defend the testamonium flavianum as true.
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