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The History of the Bible: The Making of the New Testament Canon

Narrated by: Bart D. Ehrman
Length: 6 hrs and 12 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (428 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

What different kinds of books are in the New Testament? When, how, and why were they written? And why did some books, and not others, come to be collected into what Christians came to consider the canon of scripture that would define their belief for all time? With these 12 lectures, get a fast-moving yet thorough introduction to these and other key issues in the development of Christianity. Designed to deepen the understanding of both Christians and non-Christians alike, this lecture series takes as its perspective the historical, rather than the theological, issues behind the development of the Bible. And it's an illuminating perspective, indeed, ranging across issues of language, oral history, the physical limitations of spreading the written word at a time when the printing press lay far in the future, and, of course, the theological forces that were shaping Christianity, molding a commonly accepted canon from the various expressions of the faith spreading across the ancient world. Professor Ehrman recreates the context of the times in which the canon was being assembled so that you can understand what the message of each written work would have meant to ancient Christians. You'll come to see how the diverse books of the New Testament were gathered together into the form we now know, whether it's the four canonical Gospels (whose authorship was only attributed by later Christians), the book of Acts, the 21 Epistles, or the book of Revelation (sometimes called the Apocalypse of John).

These lectures are a compelling introduction not only to the development of the Christian canon, but to all of the forces that would play a role in early Christian history.

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

©2005 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2005 The Great Courses

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An Abridged Version of "The New Testament" Course

MAIN POINT: The content should've been more focused on the "making" of the canon as opposed to a quasi-survey of the canon. Ehrman's "The New Testament" course covers almost the same exact material with just a little more detail.
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Ehrman starts the second to last lecture reminding listeners that it was (I'm paraphrasing) a long and detailed history leading up to the selection and discrimination of books. Yes, Bart! That's why I bought your course. I wanted to learn about that part of Christian history in particular. Problem is, he spends an inordinate amount of time (75%) walking listeners through historical discrepancies in the gospels, pseudonymous Pauline epistles, scribal errors, orthodox corruption, conflicting theologies, et cetera. All interesting topics.. WHICH SHOULD BE AND WERE COVERED IN DETAIL DURING 'THE NEW TESTAMENT' COURSE! Direct listeners, if they would like to learn more about those areas, to purchase that course.

This course could've briefly touched on those issues to show there are prior questions one should be asking of the New Testament as well, but it should've focused primarily on particular arguments, detailed interactions with patristic fathers and other "heretics", from the second to fourth centuries, culminating in the Athanasian canon.

Ehrman is a fine scholar of the New Testament and a great expositor of tricky textual and interpretive issues. I've learned a lot from him. But he has particular pet project areas he focuses on, and it seems to dominate his lecturing style. I feel like he is constantly trying to prove the same things over and over again, even when what he's looking to prove doesn't exactly fit the course aim.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Overlap beware

Any additional comments?

This book has too much overlap with other courses by this same lecturer. If you've already heard the others, it's not as good as his lectures on the early Christian church and the ones on the controversies of the Bible. I was hoping for new or more information than what I got in the other lectures.That being said, as a whole, good information. Ehrman is a good lecturer.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Very informative

I disagree a bit with the previous reviewer in that although there are iTunes U courses that are excellent, Prof. Ehrman is the top of his field. I very much enjoyed the lecture series, Prof. Ehrman is an excellent lecturer and presents information in a clear and interesting way. I enjoyed this course more than the books, but I prefer to hear history and science in lecture form.
I highly recommend this lecture series if you are interested in the subject. I feel prof. Ehrman presents the subject in a fair and objective light, he is only presenting his academic studies and is not teaching a sermon or ranting against religion.
Thank you

14 of 17 people found this review helpful

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Objective Historical lecture on the New Testament

A scholarly and historical (not devotional) perspective on how the New testament came to exist in its present form. The course is a lecture series given by premier Bible Scholar Bartrand Ehrman. If you're looking for an objective view into the history of the Bible and Christianity, I highly recommend this series.

6 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Interesting, but not conclusive

What did you like best about The History of the Bible: The Making of the New Testament Canon? What did you like least?

I liked the historical context of the lectures and how they detailed the writing of the books in the New Testament.

What I didn't like was that there seemed to be an undertone of doubt about the validity of any of the books. Prof. Ehrman began the lectures by stating that any two texts that were virtually identical in subject, writing style, or account could almost certainly be considered copies of eachother. (he went into a very convincing example in his lecture) He references several corresponding accounts in the gospels that he supposes had to be copied from other resources. Later, though, Ehrman references discrepancies in accounts of the same events in different gospels and uses this as reason to doubt the validity of scripture. I think a reasonable doubt is healthy when digesting any information, but you can't have it both ways. Ehrman is suggesting that similarities in scripture are reason to doubt their validity, and again later suggesting that discrepancies are reason to discredit.

These lectures are written from a historical perspective, not a theologic one. That said, it still seems that the goal of the lectures isn't only to educate about the writing, assembly, and preservation of the New Testament.

Would you ever listen to anything by The Great Courses again?

Possibly

What three words best describe Professor Bart D. Ehrman’s performance?

Knowledgable, Informative, Biased

Do you think The History of the Bible: The Making of the New Testament Canon needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

I would like to see a point by point rebuttal from a biblical historical perspective. After independently researching many points made in the lectures and finding that they weren't entirely based in fact, I would love to listen to lectures that are based on biblical explanations.

21 of 33 people found this review helpful

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A Good, Brief Intro to New Testament Canon History

I very much enjoyed this book. It was what I expected it to be, which is what I wanted. The professor does a great job teaching the history of the books that are now considered part of New Testament Canon. He also discussed other Gospels, Epistles, and Apocalypses, and talked about reasons why they are not part of the Canon.
I especially enjoyed the lecturer's dry sense of humor, and I was thrilled to hear brief mentions of textual analysis, paleography, and codicology (though he didn't use all of those terms.) I will be using an upcoming credit to get the author's book about the gospels we don't have - a longer instance of a Great Courses Plus offering.

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What we don’t know

I had heard that the myth that the Council of Nicaea involved voting which books to include was false but I hoped this lecture series would tell how it actually happened. It seems the answer is we just don’t know.

This series details many different views of early Christians and Ehrman depicts them very well. It seems that each competing group accepted books which seemed to agree with their understanding of Christ and rejected any others as heretical. Not surprisingly, the views of the dominant church in Rome won out. Our earliest list of books that matches the modern New Testament dates to several hundred years after the books were written.

So there it is, we found the list. But... how did it become official? If not at the Council of Nicaea, perhaps at another ecumenical council? Or decreed by some pope? Of course some things are just lost to history but this is so significant I had expected a more concrete resolution to the ultimate question of how the New Testament canon was made.

My only real criticism of Dr. Ehrman is that he made no comment on this. For all I know at the moment of finishing this lecture series, there may be an event where the canon was made official which Ehrman chose not to include here. Or perhaps there is no such recorded event in history. In either case I wish had addressed it.

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great history but strong bias against Christianity

the author provided a great run down on the history of various books in the Bible and the canonization of those books. But he demonstrated his belief that some of the concepts of the Christian faith as depicted in these books was unbelievable. Would have been better without him expressing his personal views in what he thought was unrealistic.

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Can't miss read

Bart Ehrman is a joy to listen to if you like learning new things. Like most Americans, we are aware of the Bible, but how many of us have read it? Do you even know who actually wrote it? Professor Ehrman treats the topic with professionalism and intelligence. It is an exciting story, and he is excited to share his understanding of the book. He does this most importantly from a standpoint of fairness and balance. If you have questions about the Bible, this is a great place to get REAL answers.

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Very informative, but some will find the truth hard to swallow

I loved this lecture series. Bart Ehrman provides a detailed account of the events that transpired to create the New Testament as we know it today. He also takes an entirely objective view, which many believers may find upsetting. This isn’t the history most Christians are likely hoping to hear, but it is what happened and he doesn’t sugarcoat the facts and evidence.

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  • B F.
  • 10-11-16

Great listen

Easy to listen to and riveting topic matter. Very happy I bothered! Loved the whole thing.

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  • Dave Kinsella
  • 10-11-16

Excellent Introduction

I love listening to Bart. Great depth, well presented. I'm not sure his audience is Christian as they didn't laugh at any of his jokes bar one and he was left awkwardly having to explain them, which I found amusing and endearing. Either way, highly recommended.

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  • swheelie
  • 05-28-15

An important and objective overview

Well argued ands=6,9??2÷@@@! clearly delivered. A far bit of overlap with the later book "The historical Jesus" but still enough different content to remain interesting and informative.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • FR THOMAS M ROUSE
  • 03-04-16

A fascinating study

This is a very clear and well researched study into the history of the New Testament. The presentations are appropriately structured and clearly presented. It also whets the appetite for more.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Janice
  • 01-11-19

Not Christian teacher

The teacher talks against the bible and is not a Christian. I am not happy.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful