After the New Testament: The Writings of the Apostolic Fathers

Course No. 6537
Professor Bart D. Ehrman, Ph.D., M.Div.
The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
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Course No. 6537
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  • You should buy video if you prefer learning visually and wish to take advantage of the visual elements featured in this course. The video version is not heavily illustrating, featuring around 30 portraits, photographs, and maps. Portraits give you a historical picture of apostolic fathers like Polycarp of Smyrna and Papias, while photographs of ancient scriptural texts lend a richer context to the writings of these fascinating individuals.
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Course Overview

The writings that make up the New Testament stand at the very foundation of Christianity. In these 27 books that represent the earliest surviving literary works of the young church, we have what eventually came to be regarded as sacred scripture, the canon of what was to become the most powerful and influential religion in the history of Western civilization.

But while Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the other books of the New Testament are known to almost everyone, the writings that Christians produced in the decades that followed these earliest compositions remain shrouded in virtual anonymity—even though they are crucial to understanding the development of a religion that was shaped largely outside the pages of the New Testament itself.

As Professor Bart D. Ehrman points out, numerous doctrines that are familiar to Christians today, such as that of the Trinity, are not explicitly found in the New Testament. Neither are the church structures around which various Christian faiths, from Roman Catholic to Southern Baptist, are organized. And the ethical positions that form such a central part of Christian life today, such as those involving premarital sex or abortion, are likewise lacking in specific scriptural reference.

A Window to How Christianity Was Shaped

Who exactly were the Apostolic Fathers? Why were they given that name? Most important, what windows into the shaping of Christianity's canon, church hierarchy, and creed are opened for us with an understanding of works that include the letters of 1 Clement or Ignatius, the Didache of the Apostles, or the Letter to Diognetus?

In After the New Testament: The Writings of the Apostolic Fathers, Professor Ehrman answers these and many other questions as he introduces us to what is considered the most important collection of post-New Testament writings.

"The writings of the Apostolic Fathers are extremely valuable for understanding proto-orthodox theology, practice, ethics, ritual, social structure, reaction to persecution, and [Christianity's] relationship to the outside world. Without these books, our knowledge of the early Christian church is seriously impoverished. They are precious to anyone interested in learning about the history of early Christianity."

Proto-orthodoxy is the term Professor Ehrman uses to describe the theological viewpoint that would eventually win out and become the church's position. It wouldn't be accurate, though, to refer to the views represented by the Apostolic Fathers as orthodox—literally, "right opinion"—because at the time these works were being written, the argument had not yet been settled. The positions of the Apostolic Fathers represented simply one competing version of Christianity among many, and their eventual categorization as "orthodox" would be a retroactive one.

"The Apostolic Fathers are our earliest witnesses outside the New Testament for proto-orthodoxy with respect to the development of the canon, the clergy, and the creed. This form of Christianity came to be dominant, and ended up determining the shape of the Christian religion for all time," says Professor Ehrman.

Despite this key role, though, these are works whose influence has largely gone unnoticed, not only outside the faith, but within it, as well.

Largely Unread ... a Treasure Trove of Insights

"Most of these writings were unknown and unread throughout most of the history of Christianity," notes Professor Ehrman. "And, I might add, most of them are unknown and unread by most Christians today. Most Christians have never heard of these books, even though they're extremely important for understanding the development of Christianity after the New Testament period."

Professor Ehrman is the ideal candidate to rectify that situation, for Christians and non-Christians. A prolific author and lecturer whose previous offerings for The Teaching Company have ranged across the New Testament, the history of early Christianity—including the "lost" versions of the faith that were dismissed as the orthodox canon was being shaped—and the historical Jesus, he presents the material in a format that helps ensure that the importance of each work in the framework of Christianity's history comes through as clearly as its content.

Moreover, his gift for being able to make his material feel approachable and contemporary, with no sense of dryness or the lingering dust of antiquity, leaves little doubt as to why he has won several teaching awards, including the Bowman and Gordon Gray Award for Excellence in Teaching. Though always respectful of the religious weight of his subject matter, he is never timid in putting forth ideas and theories, and the result is both fascinating and provocative.

He has designed the course for maximum clarity, presenting the writings of the Apostolic Fathers in pairs, with the first lecture of each pair examining a specific written work and the second exploring the broader implications the work reveals for the development of Christianity.

The Apostolic Fathers bear that name because 17th-century scholars believed them to be companions or followers of the apostles—people from the next generation who had known the apostles earlier in their lives.

Some of the 10 or 11 authors (the eleventh, Quadratus, is survived by only a single sentence) traditionally included in the collection of Apostolic Fathers are well known, including Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna; others are anonymous. But each of them casts invaluable light onto the shaping of the religion that eventually converted the Roman Empire and became the major religious force of the Middle Ages.

A Struggle for Power and the Beginnings of Church Hierarchy

The Letter of 1 Clement is written from the Christian church of Rome to the church in Corinth in reaction to a power struggle. The Corinth church's elders had been deposed by new figures of authority, and the letter seeks to restore the former elders. Since the Corinthians had been the recipient of two letters from Paul that were later to be included in the New Testament, and since those letters indicated the then lack of a governing board of elders, 1 Clement is extremely valuable in revealing not only the movement toward a church hierarchy that would be in place by the Middle Ages, but also the clear movement of the church of Rome, in barely half a century, toward the pinnacle of that hierarchy.

The Letters of Ignatius, the early 2nd-century bishop of Antioch, have a completely different flavor. Ignatius has been arrested for Christian activities and sentenced to face the wild beasts of Rome's arena. As armed guards are escorting him to Rome, he sends seven letters to the churches that have sent supporters to meet with him along the way—letters that reveal his deep concerns for the church he will leave behind.

Most major among those concerns is a warning against "false teachers"—those teaching the "Judaizing" forms of Christianity that insisted that being fully Christian required first becoming a Jew. Such teaching had been prominent from the church's earliest times, even within some of Paul's own congregations, and may, in fact, have been the earliest form of Christian belief. By the time of Ignatius, however, it was considered heresy.

In a fascinating sidelight later in the course, Professor Ehrman tells the story of a furious 17th-century pamphlet war waged over the subject of Ignatius's letters. The debate featured a virtually unknown 32-year-old named John Milton—writing more than three decades before his great classic, Paradise Lost—and Archbishop James Ussher, the most famous and respected biblical scholar of his time.

Milton challenged Ussher's use of quotations from Ignatius, alleging that the collection of 13 letters then attributed to Ignatius was actually replete with so many forgeries that there was no way of telling what Ignatius had actually said. In the end, the quotations used by Ussher were confirmed as accurate, but Milton also received some vindication, as the number of letters shown actually to have been written by Ignatius was reduced to the seven accepted today.

The 19th-Century Discovery that Electrified Biblical Scholars

But the coming together of the writings covered in this course didn't necessarily always involve controversy. Electrifying discoveries played a part as well.

Such a discovery was made in 1873, when a Greek scholar doing research in the Library of the Holy Sepulchre in Constantinople uncovered a manuscript that some early Christians believed belonged in the New Testament itself, but which had been lost for centuries. The book, The Didache of the Apostles, contained a wealth of information, compiled from other texts that may date back as far as the year 100, about how early Christianity was actually practiced.

The word "didache" means teaching, and the teachings it contains are allegedly those of the apostles themselves. In any case, the book provides information about early Christianity about which scholars would otherwise be totally ignorant, including details about church organization, the practice of religious rituals, and rules of Christian behavior. In fact, the Didache has sometimes been called a "church manual" because of its detailed instructions.

Sometimes, though, text in the early Christian world was treated in a very different way, as Professor Ehrman brings out in his discussion of the Letter of 2 Clement. Authored by neither Clement, the bishop of Rome, nor by the author of the Letter of 1 Clement, this misnamed book is really an anonymous sermon that is based on what Professor Ehrman calls a creative reading from the Old Testament's Book of Isaiah.

Dr. Ehrman shows how the allegorical mode of interpretation used in the sermon enabled the preacher of the sermon to make the words of the original text apply to the situation affecting his own congregation, even though the subject matter was dramatically different. This kind of "presentist" interpretation was not unusual then and persists to this day in the interpretations of so-called "prophecy experts." As Professor Ehrman points out, this practice of allegorical reading eventually came under fire, as church leaders came to realize that if the meaning of a text can be taken in nonliteral ways, such readings can be used to support "false" teachings as well as true ones.

An understanding of how those teachings evolved—and how Christians put them into practice—is one of the great benefits these lectures provide. After the New Testament: The Writings of the Apostolic Fathers is an extremely useful addition to the shelves of anyone who is fascinated by the history of ancient Christianity and its evolution into the dominant religion it is today.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Introduction to the Apostolic Fathers
    The lecture introduces a set of works from the decades after the writing of the books of the New Testament that give us important insights into how Christianity was developing in its earliest stages. x
  • 2
    The Letter of 1 Clement
    Though written anonymously, this letter, supposedly written by a bishop, is clearly written by someone in the Christian Church of Rome to the church in Corinth to solve a major problem in that community. x
  • 3
    Church Structures in Early Christianity
    The lecture discusses the obvious changes in church structure implied by 1 Clement when it is compared to earlier mentions of the community of Corinth in the letters of Paul. x
  • 4
    The Letters of Ignatius
    The letters of this early 2nd-century bishop of Antioch make interesting reading—they hold the final words of a Christian anticipating his death and imminent martyrdom. x
  • 5
    Doctrinal Problems in the Early Church
    This lecture examines "Judaizing" forms of Christianity in the early church—forms that came to be labeled heretical because they insisted that being fully Christian required becoming a Jew. x
  • 6
    Still Other Doctrinal Disputes
    We look at the problems raised by "docetic" views, which maintained that Jesus was so fully divine that he could not be a human with real flesh and blood, but only seemed human. x
  • 7
    The Letter of Polycarp to the Philippians
    One of Ignatius's letters mentions a possible act of embezzlement by a church leader. Ignatius appeals extensively to the Scriptures and argues that the love of money leads to evil. x
  • 8
    The Use of Authorities in the Early Church
    Polycarp's letter to the Philippians is significant for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the extensive use it makes of earlier Christian writings as authorities. x
  • 9
    The First Martyrology—Polycarp
    Polycarp of Smyrna is arguably the best known of the Apostolic Fathers. This detailed account of his arrest, trial, and execution as a martyr, evidently written by an eyewitness, is our first surviving example of Christian "martyrology" (account of a Christian's execution). x
  • 10
    The Persecution of the Christians
    The account of Polycarp's martyrdom introduces a broader consideration of the persecution and occasional martyrdom of early Christians, and discusses the accuracy of several commonly held beliefs, including whether Christians were, in fact, widely persecuted. x
  • 11
    A Church Manual—The Didache of the Apostles
    One of the most historically influential writings of the Apostolic Fathers, the Didache (teaching) of the apostles—a work written at about the time of the New Testament writings—gave Christians ethical instructions for how to live and practice their faith. x
  • 12
    Ritual in the Early Church
    This lecture considers the early Christian rituals described in the Didache, examining how they developed in the preceding decades, starting with the life of Jesus himself, and how they came to be fixed features in the life of the early Christian community. x
  • 13
    Barnabas and the Opposition to the Jews
    We examine this long and intriguing letter—which was allegedly written by Paul's traveling companion but dates, in fact, from the early 2nd century—and consider whether it is fair to describe it as an early instance of Christian anti-Semitism. x
  • 14
    The Rise of Christian Anti-Semitism
    This lecture traces the roots of anti-Jewish attitudes among some of Jesus' early followers in considering the reasons why Christianity was so quickly transformed from a sect within Judaism to an anti-Jewish religion. x
  • 15
    2 Clement—An Early Sermon
    Not a letter and not by Clement, this work is, instead, an anonymous sermon—the first surviving sermon outside of the New Testament to come down to us from early Christianity. x
  • 16
    The Use of Scripture in the Early Church
    This lecture examines how Scripture functioned for the early Christian communities, which, rather than taking a literal approach to text, often read it in figurative ways. x
  • 17
    Papias—An Early Christian Interpreter
    Questions of interpretation discussed in the previous lecture make a natural segue into the fragmentary writings of another Apostolic Father, Papias, including a number of legendary details about Jesus and his followers. x
  • 18
    Oral Tradition in Early Christianity
    This lecture considers the issue of oral tradition versus written text, including the problem of the oral circulation of traditions, as stories tend to be changed and embellished in the process of retelling. x
  • 19
    The Shepherd of Hermas—An Apocalypse
    This lecture focuses on one of the most popular writings among the Apostolic Fathers, particularly its persistent theme of whether a Christian can have a "second" chance with God if he or she sins after being baptized. x
  • 20
    Apocalypses in Early Christianity
    The Shepherd of Hermas is thoroughly imbued in apocalyptic thought; this gives us an opportunity to consider the major tenets of apocalypticism in both Jewish and Christian sources and the importance of apocalypticism for the early Christian movement. x
  • 21
    The Letter to Diognetus—An Apology
    The final writing of the Apostolic Fathers to be considered represents one of the earliest surviving instances we have of a Christian "apology," or reasoned defense of Christianity, aimed at the faith's despisers. x
  • 22
    Apologetics in Early Christianity
    This lecture considers some of the charges leveled against Christianity and explores how Christians not only defended themselves, but went even further, maintaining that only followers of Christ could inherit eternal life with God in heaven. x
  • 23
    The Apostolic Fathers as a Collection
    We consider several of the key issues that have emerged, with particular focus on what the Apostolic Fathers can tell us about the three pillars of the emerging church: Christianity's canon, creed, and clerical hierarchy. x
  • 24
    The Apostolic Fathers and Proto-orthodoxy
    This final lecture considers the historical significance of the Apostolic Fathers, whose writings reflected views that would ultimately win out in the struggle over what the Christian religion would eventually become. x

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Your professor

Bart D. Ehrman

About Your Professor

Bart D. Ehrman, Ph.D., M.Div.
The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Dr. Bart D. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He completed his undergraduate work at Wheaton College and earned his M.Div. and Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary. Professor Ehrman has written or edited 27 books, including four best sellers on The New York Times list: Misquoting Jesus: The Story behind Who Changed the Bible and Why; God’s...
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Reviews

After the New Testament: The Writings of the Apostolic Fathers is rated 4.1 out of 5 by 51.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Heterodox or Heretic For all those folks trying to decide whether they want to listen/watch these 24 lectures, first know that Dr Erhman (aka Bart) is very well prepared and organized. His friendly and conversational presentation style will make these lectures enjoyable and easy to understand. His subject is history, not religious dogma...this is not about belief, it's about the early christian church history as told by early Christians (10 of them in this series) writing from between about 100-150 CE...after the New Testament writings (Mathew, Mark, Luke and John...and Paul...written from 50-100 CE), but before those writings/books were 'approved' as canon by Christians in the 4th century CE. As Bart explains in his introduction: This body of work (aka writings from the Apostolic Fathers) "...is made up of different genres, written by different authors, at different times, for different purposes." Most did not become part of the canon, but all were influential in forming the doctrines of the Christians throughout the ages since their writing. Before signing up for these lectures, make sure you read the thumbnail summaries as they will give you a clear notion as to what you'll be hearing...just so, like (too) many reviewers, your expectations aren't focused on gaining spiritual insight...this is the wrong place for that. What you will get is a thorough discussion of early christian history through the eyes of early church leaders in the 1 or 2 generations following the death of Jesus. Dr Erhman presents the proto-orthodoxy of Christianity, as well as some hetero-orthodoxy, that the early church leaders struggled with to establish the 'true' doctrinal direction of the 'faith'. Highly recommended, especially when blessed with a sale and a coupon.
Date published: 2018-09-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Something to learn in every lecture Professor Ehrman's lecture style is very easy to listen to and follow. In my audio download course it seemed obvious that the professor is not simply reading word for word from a teleprompter or written notes, but that much is internalized from long study/ scholarly research. Most will learn a lot from every lecture, partly at least because of the nature of the subject matter discussed : this is not the kind of stuff, or the way they cover it, at any rate, in Sunday School or bible study. If you want to learn about the early development of Christianity, then this course will most likely be money well spent - esp if you get it at sale prices.
Date published: 2018-07-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Ehrman and the Apostolic Fathers Prof. Bart Ehrman provides an insightful, academic look at multiple sources attributed to the early church's "apostolic fathers" (those who were not apostles, but wrote influential letters, sermons, or revelations between 100 and 300 CE). From that perspective, this course is solid. However, it amazes me that man who teaches on the Bible (at least 4 of his courses included in the Great Courses library) seems to be unable to discern the most basic, fundamental Christian beliefs. For example, Prof. Ehrman claims that "the Romans crucified Jesus, because Jesus claimed to be 'King of the Jews'"--implying that Jesus was killed for political reasons, as some kind of a revolutionary threat to Rome. Yes, Christians believe that the Roman governor of Judea (Pontius Pilate) did insist on attaching a sign (in three languages) atop Jesus cross to proclaim that Jesus was "King of the Jews" (a sign that the Jewish authorities requested be removed; but Pilate is believed to have refused this request). Yet, as Ehrman properly notes in other parts of his lectures, Jesus did not proclaim an earthly kingdom; and he did not claim to be an early king (or a revolutionary threat to Rome--he even told the Jews to "render to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar," including taxes because coins commonly used in Judea at that time included the image of Caesar). Incredibly, Ehrman insists that Jesus "never proclaimed to be God"--yet this is EXACTLY why he was crucified. He needs to actually READ the passages in the Gospels of John and Mark that explain the reasons why the Jewish religious leaders plotted to kill Jesus (many times)--NOT because Jesus claimed to be their king; but because Jesus told them that "I and my Father are one" (John 10: 30-38); and when brought before the Sanhedrin to prior to his crucifixion (Mark 14: 60-63) the priests tore their robes and shouted "blasphemy" at Jesus words. Why did they do this? Because Jesus claimed to be "King of the Jews"--no, this would not be worthy of blasphemy. In fact, they understood his very words and claims that he IS the SON of GOD. This is why the Jews plotted with Pilate and roused the crowds to cry out (even when Pilate found no guilt and wanted to release Jesus), the Jewish religious leaders led the crowd to cry to release a known killer (ironically, also a political rebel, which Jesus was not) and to scream "Crucify HIM (Jesus)!" How a man as educated as Prof. Ehrman is unable to comprehend (and deny) the very deity of Christ pulls the rug from under the credibility of all he has to say about the Bible and its meanings.
Date published: 2018-06-23
Rated 1 out of 5 by from intellectually dishonest do not recommend anyone pay full price for his courses. luke timothy johnson otoh. i would recommend this course for someone interested in apologetics. dr e is intellectually dishonest, so far, in that the main point if the first lecture is that “one viewpoint of christianity won out.”. this is a false premise, as most historians know that “there was no winner”, not then and not ever, but instead many groups/versions of christianity survived, namely the east and west churches. also, the nt canon wasnt decided until long after these apostolic fathers wrote. my point is that, if as dr e says, “one version of christianity won out,” why is there such diversity of message in the nt? one theory he did not mention: jesus taught the apostles and they discipled others. (what would that look like historically?) in the first lecture dr e also says “acts” has one definition of an apostle that doesnt include paul, paul a different definition. its this type of intellectual dishonesty he is famous for in “misquoting Jesus”, creating pseudotensions where there are none. dr e knows full well half of “acts” focus is on paul, so, frankly, Im not sure what to make of dr e, in terms of his willingness to misrepresent what is plain in scripture in order to make a buck. im not saying paul didnt have opponents, im only saying that to lecture that luke was one of them is weak sauce. finally, the nt has over 300 times the HS, father the son Jesus are mentioned in overlapping attributes and actions, over and over and over again. seriously, over and over, by different authors over 27 books. over and over, those three interacting figures. to present the concept of a triune God as an invention much later just plain dishonest. i am willing to listen to the rest of the course, but felt the need to post since the first lecture was incomplete. at worst, hes just fighting windmills.
Date published: 2018-05-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Give Me That Old-Time Yet Non-Canonical Religion! The Christian Church in its first several decades was not the Church of today, whether Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant. It was a sect just emerging from Judaism, dominated by wandering preachers holding charismatic authority, like Saul/Paul of Tarsus, heavily dependent on word of mouth in preserving the memory and teachings of Jesus, obsessed with His imminent return to establish a Kingdom of God on Earth, wholly decentralized and having no systematic theology. Less than a century later the Church was dominated by bishops residing in the major cities, especially Rome. That Church had begun developing clear teachings about the nature of Jesus and God and gathering its own scriptures for a New Testament. It no longer accepted the validity of Mosaic Law or of the Jews’ claim to be God’s Chosen People and it no longer expected doomsday in any foreseeable future. As Professor Ehrman shows, the now-obscure writings of the Apostolic Fathers illuminate the changes from the primitive church to the one later accepted as orthodox. 1 Clement, for example, shows the Roman Church urging believers in Corinth to return deposed elders to leadership. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, warned in his letters against false teachings and commanded addressees to obey their bishops. The writings of Papias, which now survive only in extracts quoted by other authors, included the earliest known collection of stories about Jesus and showed evidence of belief that Jesus would return soon. Barnabas wrote an early screed against Judaism, claiming that Old Testament requirements for circumcision and kosher dining were merely metaphorical, not meant to be taken literally; his letter made it into some versions of the New Testament. In addition to these and other letters, the apostolic writings include a sermon, an apocalypse (the Shepherd of Hermas), a manual of Christian belief and organization (the Didache of the Apostles), and an apologia for Christianity against Judaism and paganism (Letter to Diognetus). Ehrman argues overall that the orthodoxies we take for granted today came to dominate Christian thinking only after they overturned older orthodoxies and stigmatized them as heresies. The process began with Paul’s rejection of circumcision and dietary laws as requirements for non-Jewish believers, yet other Christians later written off as heretics—the so-called Ebionites—continued to insist on adhering to the Mosaic Law, so Paul’s victory was not assured until pagan converts greatly outnumbered Jewish ones. Ehrman cites Walter Bauer’s 1934 Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity as the starting point for his view of the church’s development; according to Bauer the early Christians had no orthodoxy at all but an assortment of regional churches, each with its own views. Only Constantine’s conversion and support allowed the Roman Church to impose its doctrine on the others. Of course, its victory was never complete; Alexandria, Antioch and (later) Constantinople continued to assert their doctrinal and liturgical independence. Not being a biblical scholar, I spotted only one error. In the very first lecture Ehrman falsely claims that the New Testament says nothing about homosexuality. He must have forgotten or deliberately passed over Paul’s diatribe against it in Romans 1:26-27, among others. Otherwise, I highly recommend this course, which I have borrowed from a friend. I’ve also listened to and enjoyed audio versions of Ehrman’s courses on the New Testament and the Greatest Controversies in Early Christian History.
Date published: 2018-05-22
Rated 2 out of 5 by from disrespectful of his subjects I bought the course on video, and have seen several other Ehrman courses and found them informative and enjoyable. this one, however, is spent making fun of his subjects, smirking at the fact they were willing to suffer for their beliefs. the information would have been useful if he had stuck to his subject, but I really couldn't get past his amazement that people like Ignatius or Polycarp actually bought it. The fact that they were willing to be martyred for it seemed to indicate to him how deluded they were. I think this is my last Ehrman course. A far better choice is Lost Christianities, where he is respectful of his subjects.
Date published: 2017-10-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Ehrman Hits One Out of the Coliseum I digress before my review. Reading the reviews of any of Professor Ehrman’s courses is always both entertaining and frustrating. Entertaining in that many of the reviews both positive and negative contain quite colorful ways of supporting their arguments and frustrating in that so many of the negative reviews do not review the course but simply dislike a course on Christianity given by a non-believer. Although there were plenty of criticisms of Dr. Esposito’s course on Islam, none that I recall thought that Professor Esposito was or was not qualified to teach the course based on his religion. Likewise the reviews of Professor Muesse’s course on Hinduism consistently failed to comment on his religion or lack thereof. Professor Dorothy Armstrong, as much as she loves the legend of King Arthur manages to give 24 fascinating lectures on the subject without being required to believe in the King, just as Dr. Elizabeth Vandiver can examine Homer and Virgil without believing in Achilles or Aeneas. What I want in a course is for the professor to have a deep understating of the subject matter and a passion that is conveyed to those watching or listening. Belief in non-technical subjects is not the issue: scholarship is. Here Professor Ehrman delivers on all counts. While for me this course is not as fascinating as some other courses on religion (e.g. “How Jesus Became God”) I probably learned more than in most other TC courses on religion, no doubt because I knew less. As always Dr. Ehrman conveys his deep knowledge of his subject matter to his audience in fairly simple terms, without condescension. The course examines each of the Apostolic Fathers and their writings in turn, followed by a lecture (sometimes two) examining the implications of those writings on Christianity at the time, as well as how they may have influenced the religion over the years. For example the two lectures following Ignatius that examined the doctrinal problems occasioned by the early church were fascinating and informative. I would think anyone interested in the history of the early church, believers and non-believers alike would be interested in these accounts of the doctrinal disputes and how they came to be resolved in what is now considered to be orthodox or mainstream. The whole course contains one unknown gem (at least to me) after another. For example, I had not really understood the reasons behind Barnabas’ anti-Semitism and how that came to affect the church’s subsequent views on the Jews. And while I was familiar with some of the other early writings such as the Gospel of Thomas, the “Shepherd of Hermas” was entirely unknown to me, and that led to a discussion of Apocalypses in general that I found enlightening. Another subject that I would think anyone would find interesting, regardless of his or her religious belief. Just so with the discussion following the “Letter to Dionetus”, an early Apology. Professor Ehrman presents Apologies for Christianity in an evenhanded manner, that should offend no believers. Professor Ehrman’s delivery style is clear and easy to follow, although I do think that his occasional attempts at humor would fall a bit flat to many listeners, although I enjoyed them. If you listen to this course as you would a course on anthropology, that presents contrasting views of the subject under discussion some of which the professor believes and some of which arouses his skepticism, but both of which should be understood, you will be well rewarded.
Date published: 2017-07-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A thorough review of early apostolic writings Although the Professor did an excellent job presenting these writings, they were not what I thought they would be. I think I was expecting something more along the writing of St Augustine of Hippo. However I learned from the lectures and I am glad I purchased these lectures.
Date published: 2017-05-22
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