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Publisher's Summary

Without the presence of Christianity, our world would be considerably different. Whether we view it in religious, social, or political terms, Christianity has deeply and integrally influenced the Western worldview and way of life. Yet, throughout Christian history, compelling controversies have existed surrounding the faith's first three centuries, when it grew from a persecuted sect into a powerful religion. These controversies bring into question many commonly accepted beliefs about Christianity.

In this course, an award-winning professor and New York Times best-selling author offers a penetrating investigation of the 24 most pivotal controversies, shedding light on fallacies that obscure an accurate view of the religion and how it evolved into what it is today. In each lecture, you'll delve into a key issue in Christianity's early development:

  • Did the Jews Kill Jesus?
  • Was Jesus Raised from the Dead?
  • Did the Disciples Write the Gospels?
  • Did Early Christians Accept the Trinity?
  • Is the Book of Revelation about Our Future?
  • Who Chose the Books of the New Testament?
You'll delve into the conception of the meshiach (messiah) in Jewish tradition, and the basis for the core Christian claim that a suffering messiah was predicted in the Jewish scriptures. In grasping Paul's role in the early faith, you contemplate the key differences between the teachings of Jesus himself and the Christian view of his death and resurrection. And you trace the ambiguous role in early Christianity of the Jewish scriptures, and how these books came to be accepted as the Christian Old Testament. Explore these and other intriguing questions in this unique inquiry into the core of Christian tradition.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2013 The Great Courses (P)2013 The Teaching Company, LLC

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  • Kate
  • Dedham, MA, United States
  • 09-11-16

A remarkable look at early Christianity.

This is the second set of lectures I have listened to by Professor Bart D. Ehrman. The lectures were excellent. My time was well spent in familiarizing myself with the various controversies such as was Jesus really born in Bethlehem (unlikely) or that contrary to what many modern readers think, the Book of Revelation is not unique and the subject was the Roman Empire.

This book is not for all people - some have no interest in ancient history and for others, their faith may make this too sensitive a topic. Ehrman states early on:

"In these lectures, we will approach controversies of early Christianity not from the perspective of faith but from the perspective of history. We will not deny or affirm Christian belief or the approach to the Bible by faith; instead, we will take the approach of the historian— one who tries to reconstruct what actually happened in the past without assuming any particular faith commitments.

You may or may not feel that the conclusions we reach about controversial issues will have any bearing on your faith. But the fact that so many issues have been in dispute in Christianity from the earliest days of the faith is interesting in itself. What makes Christianity so subject to controversy on so many points? Why have those issues persisted for so long, and why have they so often been divisive? As we look for ways to resolve the disputes that are the subject of this course, we’ll look for answers to those fundamental questions, as well

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Wurm
  • Minneapolis, MN, United States
  • 12-20-13

Essential early Christian history

Ehrman is an erudite scholar of Biblical history, especially as it pertains to early Christian history. This course was so interesting and informative that when I finished it, I started it again. If you are interested in the topics in the above description, listen to this course.

Note: This is not a devotional course. It covers the topics from the perspective of a historian, not from a theologian.

16 of 18 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating journey through Early Christianity

This series of lectures explores some of the biggest controversies of early Christianity, ranging from the serious questions (do we still have the original New Testament?) to the borderline crazy (did Jesus have a twin brother?)

If you take it with a grain of salt, it's an interesting journey through some of the most hotly debated issues of the faith.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Excellent Ehrman

If you are already familiar with Dr Ehrman's work, nothing really stands out here. It's excellent work, but most of the information can be found in some of his other works.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • C. Telfair
  • Shepherdstown, WV, United States
  • 04-22-15

And the Controversies Go On!

The Great Courses offers several lecture series by Bart Ehrman and I have enjoyed each one I've encountered. He has great command of the subjects of early Christianity, and his approach is clear and understandable.

Ehrman begins the course with an explanation of his purpose. Not a religious interpretation, this is an attempt to explore the historical realities and the context in which early Christians lived, told their stories, and advanced their faith.

So the controversies include not only the questions Ehrman confronts about the historical probabilities of the Christian Bible and beliefs, but also about how listeners will react to the approach itself. As a scholar, the Professor challenges areas which most of us have encountered only in a religious context. If the listener's mind is not open to different ways of looking at Christianity, he/she will most likely not appreciate this course.

Anyone willing to listen will learn a lot.

8 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Sure interesting but long

Any additional comments?

What I enjoyed a lot was how he pointed out a lot of "facts" that didn't turned out to be facts at all, without disrespecting those who believe. <br/>I truly believe he is not out to prove the bible wrong, but to straighten facts out. <br/>I found it vey interesting, but a bit too long ( happens to me with most courses, so that might just be me....)

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Entertaining and Informative

Everything you ever wanted to know about Christian controversies is here in this excellent course from The Great Courses.

A course like this is exactly what is needed to break the stranglehold that religious fundamentalism still holds on certain aspects of American life. Greatly encouraged!

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Very Interesting

This is a very interesting topic and the speaker is excellent and obviously knowledgeable. There are, however, some flaws in his arguments. At points he uses parts of the biblical text to make arguments that undermine his earlier conclusions. Otherwise, excellent.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Very solid course with a good technique

If you could sum up The Greatest Controversies of Early Christian History in three words, what would they be?

Pluses:<br/>• The bookend approach of focusing on one controversy/question per lecture was an excellent presentation technique<br/>• Caused one to ponder Christianity and Jesus’ divinity with an open-mind<br/>• The convalescing of Christianity doctrine/theology in the early days of the religion was covered well<br/><br/>Minuses:<br/>• While it was good to view Christianity from an open-minded perspective, I got the sense the professor slanted a little too much to the other side and sounded pessimistic at times in faith with almost a hint of a Christian who became disillusioned/disgruntled over time <br/>

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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A Lackluster Survey

What disappointed you about The Greatest Controversies of Early Christian History?

Ehrman begins by presenting clear contradictions in the Bible and assessing them in terms of what possible truths might lay behind such inconsistencies. His lecture unfortunately degrades from this sort of analysis of the fractures within biblical canon into a survey and consideration of post-biblical Christian legends and what amounts to fan-fiction. He is overtly selective about what material he presents and analyzes in his treatment of each topic so as to present only the material that supports his presupposed conclusions. His lecture comes across as partisan and dishonest--more fitting to be read from a pulpit rather than a classroom.

What could The Great Courses have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

The course had the potential to be something interesting and worthwhile if it had avoided the assumptions and biases of faith in favor of evidence-based historical analysis focused around fact rather than opinion.

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

Attempts were made to acknowledge when opinions were being presented early in the series, but as the series progressed opinions were presented with increased frequency, and their acknowledgement as such became weaker and weaker. The overall tone was one of a sermon, often repeating ideas being presented as key points multiple times almost as if to convince the listener by means of insistence rather than reason.

18 of 33 people found this review helpful

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  • Rogayah
  • 12-09-15

Horizontal thinking

It is good to hear how thinking about Christianity was shaped, why and what actually happened in the life of Christ as can be gleaned from the gospels and other written evidence.

It will be interesting to follow this theme with more investigation.

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  • P
  • 10-02-15

Very well researched

Great research and held my attention throughout and doesn't duck the obvious questions except that if God is masculine what about the feminine God etc

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  • Karl
  • 12-31-14

Thank one of the gods for Bart Ehrman

What made the experience of listening to The Greatest Controversies of Early Christian History the most enjoyable?

For me, Bart Ehrman makes very deep subjects easy to understand and this set of lectures is very well broken down so the various topics are easy to access and replay as required.

What did you like best about this story?

It's not a story as such. As an atheist myself I liked the wealth of knowledge obtained from this to discuss with my Christian friends.

Have you listened to any of Professor Bart D. Ehrman’s other performances? How does this one compare?

I've several books by him...they're always wonderfully narrated and clear to understand. This is certainly one of my favourites.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

A film to hopefully make Christians actually read their books and think

Any additional comments?

If you are religious or an atheist like me, I recommend everything by Bart Ehrman.This is maybe not the best starter though.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Mariano
  • 10-10-15

compelling

What made the experience of listening to The Greatest Controversies of Early Christian History the most enjoyable?

Engrossing and eye-opening. Engaging narration.

What about Professor Bart D. Ehrman’s performance did you like?

Skillful narratation with a natural and engaging style.

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

Absolutely!

Any additional comments?

Should be manadatory for anyone that claims to be a devout Christian!