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Publisher's Summary

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

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Authoritative

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.)

49 of 56 people found this review helpful

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A compelling case for JC as an apocalyptic prophet

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.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Not bad, but not great.

Ehrman has covered much of the same material in several of his other books and/or courses in a better manner. If this is the first Ehrman course that an interested listener hears, then probably that listener will be satisfied. However, I was somewhat disappointed, mainly because some of his other books and courses are better. Also, I thought the last lecture did not belong in a course regarding the "historical Jesus." The last lecture was interesting, but not relevant to the course as a whole. I'm now about to begin another Ehrman audio book; hopefully it will be better. I find him fascinating and informative.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Should be re-titled

"The historical Jesus from an apocalyptic perspective"
This book provides great historical references, however, near the end of the book, prof. Ehrman goes on a wild goose chase on how he thinks Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet. This would have been an all-round five star rating if there was less opinion and more hard historical evidence. But, all in all, this was a very informative lecture that went over most (if not all) of the available historical texts that make mention of Jesus. First half of this lecture gets 5/5 stars.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Janet
  • Albany, CA, USA
  • 08-28-13

Scrupulous Examination of the Historical Record

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

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.

What did you like best about this story?

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.

Which scene was your favorite?

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.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

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.

12 of 17 people found this review helpful

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Not what I thought it would be

Would you listen to The Historical Jesus again? Why?

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.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

Reading is not always about enjoy. I would be nice to include recent facts (if it is possible) discoveries, hypothesis about historical Jesus.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great History of time and place

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.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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A Broad and Flawed Survey of a Fascinating Subject

Any additional comments?

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.

11 of 19 people found this review helpful

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Not what it claims

This book claims to be non-bias and he claims to look at only the facts with no opinions asserted. However, this is simply a book of lectures by one professor who thinks he knows everything. He does not look at the facts or the other side of the story he only looks at one side of the story and claims that it is the only way that you can historically look at Jesus is life.

In the opening chapter he states that he does not want anyone to go into reading this book or listening to these lectures with a presupposition of fate. He wants everyone to look at it simply by historical facts. This is fine until a few chapters in you recognize that he is allowing his presuppositions to influence what he is saying. Therefore this author and professor is being hypocritical.

In order to get an objective view no matter if you have the same view as this professor or different view you need to look to more books than just this morning. As this one just gives one opinion. He states other opinions but leaves no room for them.

If you want to read a book that dig some more deeply into the facts of history you need to read a case for Christ by Lee Strobel. He goes much more in debt rather than just talking about his opinion of things. Lee interviews many scholars who are considered elite in each of their areas. This professor liens and relies on his own knowledge rather then going to the sources into the professional elites.

I give this one star because it is not what it claims to be it is not a historical view of Jesus is life it is a man’s opinion on how we should view Jesus Christ. If it was simply history rather than his view on how we should look at the Messiah it would be a different story.

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Historia solida, seria

Con razón, libros del profesor Ehrman se dan como texto en universidades de prestigio.
Ademas, es muy ameno...

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  • Sam
  • 07-07-14

An interesting concept, needs the visual element

What did you like most about The Historical Jesus?

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.

Who might you have cast as narrator instead of Professor Bart D. Ehrman?

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.

Any additional comments?

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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • M. S.
  • 10-31-17

Who was Jesus?

Fascinating, detailed and well researched. Should be part of seminary. Absolutely worth listening to. The lecturer is clear and easy to hear, the contents easy to follow. No background knowledge necessary.

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  • Ellie
  • 01-13-15

Needed to Push Myself to Stick With It

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

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

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

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

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

The narration was repetitive to reiterate points which was alright but again sometimes a little irritating

Do you think The Historical Jesus needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

No, I think the author covered everything I anticipated based on the title and description

Any additional comments?

Good overall and glad I listened to it but at times I thought of fast forwarding or giving up entirely

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  • John Tower
  • 10-20-16

struugled to finish it

Author goes on about his sources the whys and wherefores more than the subject. boring.







0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-12-17

BRILLIANT lecture

This presentation is a master piece. The presenter cuts to the facts which is hard to do through the mists of time. I was surprised how many things we take as gospel have no historical grounding at all.