Lost Christianities: Christian Scriptures and the Battles over Authentication

Course No. 6593
Professor Bart D. Ehrman, Ph.D., M.Div.
The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
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Course No. 6593
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What Will You Learn?

  • Get an introduction to the Christians who would be Jews - as well as those who refused.
  • Take a deep dive into the thoughts and beliefs of Gnostic Christians.
  • Follow the biblical acts of John, Thomas, and Paul.
  • Trace the various interpretations of the Scripture - and where it was considered corrupted.

Course Overview

In the first centuries after Christ, there was no "official" New Testament. Instead, early Christians read and fervently followed a wide variety of Scriptures—many more than we have today.

Relying on these writings, Christians held beliefs that today would be considered bizarre. Some believed that there were two, 12, or as many as 30 gods. Some thought that a malicious deity, rather than the true God, created the world. Some maintained that Christ's death and resurrection had nothing to do with salvation while others insisted that Christ never really died at all.

What did these "other" Scriptures say? Do they exist today? How could such outlandish ideas ever be considered Christian? If such beliefs were once common, why do they no longer exist? These are just a few of the many provocative questions that arise from Lost Christianities: Christian Scriptures and the Battles over Authentication.

The Struggle Within Christianity

"This is a highly educational trip into the confusion that often existed in the early church and how the church moved from there to the point of a consistent creed," writes Harold McFarland, editor of Midwest Book Review. Professor Bart D. Ehrman, who has recorded The Historical Jesus and The New Testament for The Teaching Company, returns to lend his expert guidance as you follow scholars' efforts to recover knowledge of early Christian groups that lost the struggle for converts, and simply disappeared.

This course focuses on the remarkable fact that many of the struggles of early Christians were not against pagans or other nonbelievers but against other Christians. Professor Ehrman will introduce you to these groups.

The Ebionites were Jewish Christians who followed Jewish laws but accepted Jesus as the Messiah without believing he was divine.

The Marcionites rejected Judaism completely to the extent that they believed that the God of the Old Testament and the God of Jesus were two separate Gods.

And the Gnostics believed that there was one true God but that there were also many other deities. In addition, they thought salvation came not from Christ's death and resurrection but from secret knowledge, or gnosis, of who one really was, where one came from, and how one could return to the heavenly home.

Surprising "Other" Gospels, and a Remarkable Archaeological Find

The fascinating heart of this course is its exploration of the Scriptures that were read and considered authoritative by these Christian sects. Many now are either known or believed to be "pseudepigrapha"—forgeries written in the names of famous apostles.

Whatever their origins, these documents can be viewed as lost versions of the New Testament. They provide a fascinating opportunity to study little known and sometimes controversial Scriptures that might have become part of the Bible.

The Gnostic Gospel of Truth is one of the most powerful and moving expositions of the joy of salvation to survive from Christian antiquity. Ironically, its views are diametrically opposed to those that dominate Christian belief today.

The Infancy Gospels, such as the Proto-Gospel of James and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, describe events leading up to Jesus' birth and during his young childhood. Scholars are unsure whether they were meant to be taken seriously or merely served as entertaining fictions about a period of Christ's life for which other Scriptures provide little or no information.

The Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, unlike the book of Acts that is in the New Testament, focus on the lives and exploits of individual apostles. They provide legendary, imaginative, and entertaining accounts of the activities of Jesus' closest followers.

Among the Scriptures you will study are two that have gained a measure of notoriety. The Coptic Gospel of Thomas is the one Gospel outside the New Testament that has caused the greatest stir among scholars and public alike. Purporting to be written by the twin brother of Jesus, it consists of 114 secret sayings of Jesus that are the keys to eternal life.

Could this be related to the sources from which the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were written? Or is it a Gnostic Scripture that was drafted later? Professor Ehrman weighs in with his and other scholars' best guesses.

Even more tantalizing, perhaps, is The Secret Gospel of Mark. Evidence for this remarkable document—a possible second Gospel by Mark, written specifically for the spiritual elite—was discovered by a highly respected authority on Christian antiquity, Morton Smith.

Smith's discovery may truly be an astonishing find. Then again, it may be an amazing feat of forgery. Adding to the mystery is the fact that the letter has been locked away in a library in Jerusalem and is unavailable for analysis by other scholars.

In these lectures you will also hear about a remarkable archaeological event: the discovery in 1945 of a treasure trove of missing Gnostic Scriptures at Nag Hammadi, an Egyptian village near the city of Luxor.

Consisting of 13 leather-bound volumes unearthed in an ancient grave by Bedouin camel drivers (the full story, which you will hear, resembles the plot of a bestselling adventure novel), the Nag Hammadi Library, as it came to be known, was a watershed event in the search for lost Christianities.

It proved to be an invaluable collection of original writings by Gnostic Christians. Scholars had known many of these only through references in written attacks against the Gnostics by such church fathers as Tertullian of Carthage (A.D. 200) and Hippolytus of Rome (c. A.D. 200). As you will discover, the library verified much that had been known about Gnosticism but also revealed significant misconceptions.

Are There Forgeries in the New Testament?

But: If all of these Christian Scriptures existed, how was the New Testament we now know put together and approved?

Who decided which books should be included? On what grounds?

How do we know that those who selected the final books got it right? If many of these writings were forgeries, how can we be sure that forgeries weren't included in the New Testament?

These are questions that naturally arise from the search for lost Christianities, and which make it such a new and appealing subject to study.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    The Diversity of Early Christianity
    Modern Christianity is widely diverse in its social structures, beliefs and practices, but this diversity is mild compared to the first three centuries A.D., when Christians disagreed on such basic issues as how many gods there were, or whether Jesus was human, divine, both, or neither. x
  • 2
    Christians Who Would Be Jews
    This begins by considering key terms used in the course, such as orthodoxy and heresy, followed by an introduction to the Ebionites, who maintained Jewish practices while believing that Jesus was the messiah. x
  • 3
    Christians Who Refuse To Be Jews
    This lecture examines the Marcionites, a group of heretics diametrically opposed to the Ebionites. Using the apostle Paul as his source, their leader, Marcion, insisted that true Christianity had nothing to do with Judaism. x
  • 4
    Early Gnostic Christianity—Our Sources
    The Gnostics believed that special knowledge brought salvation to souls trapped in the evil, material world. Before 1945 and the discovery of the Nag Hammadi library, information about this widespread group of Christian sects came almost solely from the writings of Irenaeus, Tertullian, and other church fathers who opposed them. x
  • 5
    Early Christian Gnosticism—An Overview
    This lecture provides an overview of the Gnostic religions. It considers their possible origins within a Judeo-Christian tradition that maintained that God had created the world and controlled it. This was hard for some Jews and/or Christians to accept. x
  • 6
    The Gnostic Gospel of Truth
    One of the most intriguing documents from the Nag Hammadi library is the Gnostic Gospel of Truth. It does not relate stories about the life of Jesus, but instead celebrates the "good news" that Jesus brought. The views of God, the world, Christ, and salvation here stand in stark contrast with those that became orthodox within Christianity. x
  • 7
    Gnostics Explain Themselves
    This lecture considers two writings that attempted to explain the Gnostic system to outsiders. Ptolemy tries to show that neither the one true God nor the Devil could have inspired the Old Testament. In the Treatise on the Resurrection, the anonymous author insists that, contrary to the claims of proto-orthodox Christians, the resurrection is of the spirit, not the flesh. x
  • 8
    The Coptic Gospel of Thomas
    The Gospel of Thomas is the most significant Nag Hammadi document. It consists of 114 sayings attributed to Jesus, with no reference to his miracles, death, or resurrection. x
  • 9
    Thomas' Gnostic Teachings
    Understanding the Gnostic story can help explain the teachings in the Coptic Gospel of Thomas. Rather than the savior who dies for the sins of the world, Jesus is portrayed as the divine teacher who reveals the truth necessary for salvation. x
  • 10
    Infancy Gospels
    The Gospels of the New Testament say very little about Jesus' life as an infant and young boy. This "lost period" is the subject of several early Gospels, however, including the Proto-Gospel of James, and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. x
  • 11
    The Gospel of Peter
    A fragment is all that remains of the Gospel allegedly written by Jesus' disciple Peter. Early writings proclaim it a forgery. This description of Jesus' trial, crucifixion, and resurrection is both similar to, and strikingly different from, canonical accounts. x
  • 12
    The Secret Gospel of Mark
    In 1958 at the Mar Saba library near Jerusalem, scholar Morton Smith found a fragment of a letter supposedly written by the 2nd-century church father Clement. It indicated that a second edition of Mark's Gospel existed, and was intended only for the spiritually elite. Is this letter authentic or a modern forgery? x
  • 13
    The Acts of John
    To some extent, the noncanonical Acts are modeled on the Book of Acts in the New Testament. They differ, however, in that each is about only one of the major apostles in early Christendom: John, Peter, Paul, Andrew, and Thomas. x
  • 14
    The Acts of Thomas
    The Apocryphal Acts resembled the ancient romances (novels). While the Christian Acts use many of these conventions, their goal is to counteract the views that the romances embraced. x
  • 15
    The Acts of Paul and Thecla
    One of the most popular apocryphal accounts from Christian antiquity involved the conversion and exploits of Thecla of Asia Minor, an aristocratic woman who converts to the Christian faith through the preaching of Paul. x
  • 16
    Forgeries in the Name of Paul
    A number of letters survive that are credited to the apostle Paul, but which were clearly fabricated. This lecture considers two sets of such correspondence. Evidently forged in the fourth century, these letters were meant to portray Paul as equal to the greatest minds of his day. x
  • 17
    The Epistle of Barnabas
    The Epistle of Barnabas is not considered forged. Although later attributed to Paul's traveling companion Barnabas, it is actually anonymous. This is one of the most virulently anti-Jewish treatises of Christian antiquity. x
  • 18
    The Apocalypse of Peter
    This lecture examines an Apocalypse of Peter completely unrelated to the one previously discussed. This is a proto-orthodox composition that represents the first surviving narrative of a guided tour of heaven and hell, a forerunner of Dante's Divine Comedy. x
  • 19
    The Rise of Early Christian Orthodoxy
    The standard definition of orthodoxy was proffered by the 4th-century church father Eusebius. He maintained that orthodoxy was the view taught by Jesus and his apostles. x
  • 20
    Beginnings of the Canon
    Christianity was unique among religions of the Greco-Roman world in emphasizing the importance of belief instead of cultic practice, and in its insistence that it was the only true religion. The formation of the New Testament canon can be seen as a development among Christians to root their beliefs in the teachings of Jesus and his apostles. x
  • 21
    Formation of the New Testament Canon
    Contrary to popular belief, the canon of the New Testament's 27 books did not emerge at the very beginning of the Christian movement. Although written during the 1st century, or soon thereafter, it took 300 years before these books were declared to be canonical. x
  • 22
    Interpretation of Scripture
    Deciding which books to include in the canon was not enough to ensure the proto-orthodox understanding of the Christian faith. There were numerous ways to interpret the books of Scripture, and the early Christian centuries saw numerous debates over interpretation. x
  • 23
    Orthodox Corruption of Scripture
    Of the nearly 5,400 copies of New Testament writings that survive today (in the original Greek), no two are exactly alike. All of the available texts were copied by hand. Some of the discrepancies appear to have been intentional. x
  • 24
    Early Christian Creeds
    The final lecture considers the formation of the Christian creeds: statements of faith to determine what was true (orthodox) and what was false (heretical). The well-known creeds of the 4th century, such as the Nicene Creed, developed from earlier formulations known as the "Rule of Faith," and from confessions by converts before baptism. 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

Lost Christianities: Christian Scriptures and the Battles over Authentication is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 125.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly enjoyable. I didn't entirely agree with some of his interpretations, but as that was essentially the point of the course - the different interpretations of early Christians - that is fine.
Date published: 2018-01-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Solid content but it is repeated in other courses Very solid course as usual from Professor Ehrman. He is in the upper echelon of Great Courses professors. He is easy to understand and follow which goes a long way when evaluating a course. If a professor cannot communicate clearly and succinctly then the best content can be tough to get into. My one "but" about his works though has always been that there is much repetition between his courses. More on that in a moment. But first the good: This course offers a good look into the different types of Christianities and beliefs that existed in the first few centuries AD and how today’s orthodox views about Jesus and his life won out resulting in the formation of today’s accepted New Testament canon. The first three-fourths of the course center on Christian apocrypha and pseudepigrapha books (examples from all genres in the New Testament are included: gospels, acts, epistles, and apocalypses). The contents and messages behind the books are analyzed, illustrating the existence of earlier Christian belief systems that existed in parallel with today’s orthodox views in the first centuries AD. These included: o The Ebionites who believed that Jesus was human but not divine/God but he was the Jewish Messiah and that the Jewish law must be kept to by all o The Marcionites who believed that Jesus was divine/God but not human and gentiles did not have to follow Jewish law to be a Christian o The Gnostics who believed that the god of the Old Testament who created this earth was a corrupted offspring from another god and that secret knowledge of who we are and where we came from (the spark of divine in us) was the path to eternal life not Jesus’ death for sin redemption o Adoptionists who believe that God adopted Jesus as his Son at his baptism and left him at his crucifixion vs. him being eternally divine o Christians who believed that all committed believers should abstain from sex including those that are married Minuses: 1- While a number of gospels, acts, and epistle apocrypha books were examined, only one apocalypse was discussed (The Apocalypse of Peter) 2- A good amount of the information in the course (including much of the last fourth) can be found in other courses by the professor especially relating to how today’s New Testament canon came together and information on a lot of the apocrypha books. I understand the topics have overlap and there are listeners who would not have heard his other courses but I was hoping for something different or new in the last four lectures from this course but it was like re-listening to the “The History of the Bible - The Making of the New Testament Canon” course all over again. I feel like it shouldn't be so alike that you're left feeling like you've paid for the same course twice. Something is wrong there. Likewise the courses “The Greatest Controversies of Early Christian History” and "How Jesus Became God" have very similar info. To be honest this is one of the major reasons why I have shied away from purchasing course "The Historical Jesus" despite my high regard for the professor, his works, his conclusions, and his style. I just find it hard to believe that I will find anything of significant note there that I haven't already heard in his other courses. 3- While there was good discussion on the fact that today’s orthodox view and New Testament won out over other Christianities, there wasn’t much discussion of HOW it did so. I think he alludes to a reason or two and we can suspect why but I find it odd it isn't discussed in any kind of detail. All in all I would recommend this course to anyone interested in learning more about the early different types of Christianity. If you believe today's orthodox view has always been the dominant view or the ONLY view from Jesus' time to today then this course will certainly open your eyes to a fascinating topic.
Date published: 2017-12-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Eye-opening account of early Christianity Bart is one of the best lecturers I've listened to since purchasing courses from TGC. He really knows his subject, and draws on sources most of us are unfamiliar with that documented early alternative Christianities. This period is fundamental in understanding how Christianity became what it is seen to be today.
Date published: 2017-11-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very enlightening! I think the problem a lot of people have with modern organized religion is that a long time ago a bunch of people sat down and decided which books and teachings were true and which were heretical. This is a wholly political practice as anyone interested in finding the truth in the universe would never work to silence people who disagreed with them. This has been a course I've needed for a long time and I loved it.
Date published: 2017-07-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from PRIMEVAL ? CHRISTIANITY Reviewing some of his other Great Courses, I have already praised Prof. Ehrmann’s teaching style and method—my praise applies equally to this course too. Additionally, however, one should stress the fascinating and sensationalist nature of the textual material around which this course revolves. The logical starting point for the course is fully developed during the… final six lectures (esp. lecture 19) : what is nowadays considered heretical might, in reality, be of a much more ancient provenance than what passes as orthodox. And what is nowadays considered as not heretical, is not a godsend (OK this is Ehrmann, he is summarizing historical research and reflexion which is endeavouring to be as science-and not religion-like, as possible). What is nowadays considered as not heretical most likely does not reflect merely what the historical Jesus had taught but rather reflects what the victors, from the most vehement early ideological power struggle, considered as the proper doctrine for Christians. Were the said victors divinely inspired, is this why they won the contest? That’s not for this course to decide—it is certainly not for me to tell! How can we catch a glimpse of the beliefs entertained by these “early Christianities” –much like cosmologists are trying …well after the event, to go back to tiny fractions of a second after the Big Bang! Many of these beliefs are considered, since many centuries now, as the utmost of heresy. Well, the apocrypha—though produced likely later than our Gospels, etc., -- might offer such a glimpse, they might be the right, so to speak, “telescope” to explore the “early Christianities’. Indeed, Ehrmann goes over various texts written during the first few centuries A.D. analogous to the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles and the Revelation which contemporary Christians accept as most sacred books. Occasionally, the material which Prof. Ehrmann summarizes for us has to be reconstructed from polemics which are the only extant relevant writings. Ehrman tries (it seems very difficult) to present the apocryphal texts in a structured and organized way, i.e., to draw out the main ideas conveyed and to compare and contrast with the canon, i.e., present day Christian beliefs (in the process often illuminating these present day beliefs by setting them apart from heretical beliefs). Indeed, one needs his help otherwise one could easily be lost in these highly versatile and very florid, fantastic apocryphal writings to which some of the ancients must have been so attached!
Date published: 2017-07-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from stick with audio I got the video, and feel the audio would have been sufficient...
Date published: 2017-07-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating and Superbly Taught The story of how a religion - any religion - is born and develops is inherently fascinating. Christianity is a particularly engrossing case because, as Professor Ehrman explains, its emphasis on right belief, rather than on ritual practice or the adherence to religious laws, set it apart from all others in the Greco-Roman world. Also remarkable, and largely forgotten or ignored in today's world, are the facts that Christian belief developed over centuries before reaching something like the modern version, and that many systems of what are now considered heresies were once equally legitimate and competing schools of thought. It is these aspects of Christian history that are the primary subjects here. Professor Ehrman - as in all of his courses - is superb. His speech is clear, eloquent, and expressive, and his knowledge and organization are outstanding. I consider him one of TGC's finest professors in all respects. Be aware that Lost Christianities - again, as is true of all Ehrman courses - is a historical study, not a religious sermon, and as such does not assume the truth of Christian belief, nor does it impugn such belief. The video has some helpful outlines of the points being made. Audio would also be fine. As should be clear, this course has my highest recommendation for anyone with an interest in Christianity or in the history of religion.
Date published: 2017-04-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from eye opener In still not finished with the DVD but so far it's information and interesting
Date published: 2017-04-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Absolute listen to for Christians I am just half way through but what I have learned has really strengthened my view of my faith. Words that are said in the creeds have come alive. I have done a lot of reading about the early church but this is been the best content and cutting to the chase. It is a must read for people that want to learn and not just listen. My church believes in baptism but the early church believed in learning just as much which is more than a lot of churches brush off today. First Class.
Date published: 2017-01-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from An average presentation It is said that the winner writes the history. This lecture shows who wrote the history of Christianity and how all opposing views were destroyed.
Date published: 2016-12-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The New Testament Amazingly detailed and addicting. Thank you Professor Bart D. Ehrman for making this very important history come to life.
Date published: 2016-11-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from So far so good. My only recommendation is that more visuals be incorporated into the presentations: they would complement and enhance it.
Date published: 2016-11-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thought-provoking Fascinating lectures on well-chosen topics that combine for an excellent course! Many different points of view of early Christians are explained, both individually and how they differed from what became the Christian orthodox view of the events and meaning surrounding Jesus' life, death, and to most but not all of these early understandings, his resurrection. Professor Ehrman clearly explains the great underlying differences that defined groups in the first centuries after Jesus. He walks course participants through both the physical documents and interpretations of the varying writings these groups believed to be scripture. He also considers forgeries (done with good intentions or not), copy/edit errors found comparing sources, and the far-from-robust process used to choose the contents of what today is the New Testament. think this course would be interesting to Christians of many flavors and also to people who do not consider themselves Christians but are interested in either the historical Jesus or ancient writings in general. I highly recommend the course. My wife and I listened to the audio version.
Date published: 2016-09-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course and Professor I am impressed by Dr. Ehrman's thorough understanding of the material. Ehrman presents various chapters that were not included in the New Testament. He does a good job of showing how the material in various chapters related to changes in the world; for example the story became less apocolyptic over time.
Date published: 2016-08-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from More than it seems I got this one in hope of reading about strange and unexpected apocryphal books of early Christian belief. I got that, but there was more context than I had expected. The entire early tree of Christian churches, sociological and ethnic differentiation, conflicts and battles for dominance, the importance of the surrounding Roman culture and political framework, all were extra, fascinating content that I hadn't expected. Just two examples: The role of competition with Gnostic and other schools in encouraging early mainstream Christians to create a codex, and the position of early Christians vs. existing Jewish communities in the extended Roman empire as driving early Christian anti-Semitism. This is fascinating stuff!
Date published: 2016-08-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Solid Piece of Work The content is fascinating--a fine window into a very strange world. Dr. Ehrman is a passionate presenter. I did find the pace a little slow and the amount of internal review a little more than optimal. I found myself occasionally thinking "Yes, you told us that already now lets get on with it." Perhaps Dr. Ehrman is not fully considering the difference between the Great Courses consumer and the undergraduate students he may typically deal with. We just don't need quite as much "scaffolding". The graphics that were included were quite useful, but their number a bit sparse. The course would have benefited from more visuals. I would also be curious as to which, if any, of the visuals were supposed to be accurate portraits of the various authorities. Overall, this course was well worth both the time and money.
Date published: 2016-06-02
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting but unsatisfying This course is interesting as far as it goes, but I could not help wondering as I listened what agenda lies behind it all? "I know what others don't" hubris? "I need to take a contrarian position to other scholars specializing in the same field?" The Gnostic documents presented as victims seems to shed much of its' probative force when examined in the context of consensus among other mainstream scholars. Must admit, I drank the professor's cool aid. I should have stopped there. But, I kept reading. I learned that most other scholars formed very different conclusions on some of the same information, with far more compelling and fair-minded supportive evidence. So, my initial fascination with this professor's position on the scriptural basis of the Christian canon, now leaves me feeling somewhat misled, if not betrayed. By all means, buy this course. Learn from it. Just don't stop there.
Date published: 2016-05-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very well done The course was very well done, balanced, and interesting. I studied some of this material in college (not by this professor, of whom I was unfamiliar before the course), and I thought these lectures were better, and certainly better for a more general audience. The professor provides a balanced, informative presentation and clearly separates what's known and what's conjecture. The course is an interesting and efficient way to learn about this period from someone who obviously knows his field. While the course is geared to the novice in the topic, even someone with quite a bit of background can learn a lot from these well constructed lectures. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2016-03-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course I love the presentations done by Prof. Ehrman and bringing to light the historical knowledge of his subject matter. I highly recommend his courses.
Date published: 2016-03-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Well done, informative This course is well produced and informative. I found the presentation a little superficial and repetitious. Nevertheless, the professor held my interest and satisfied my curiosity about differing beliefs among early Christians.
Date published: 2016-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A controversial subject for some Any time you have a subject which talks about "Lost Christianities", it will generate a large amount of controversy in certain segments of Christianity. However, those who are not afraid to challenge their beliefs in order make their faith stronger will not be offended and will actually welcome the chance to know more about the Bible and how Christianity that we know today came to be. I had previously read the book "Misquoting Jesus" by Dr. Ehrman and found it to be very interesting and thought provoking, so when I saw this course, I knew that I had to immediately buy it. I was not disappointed. There were so many items that I wanted to write down and remember for my future gospel study that I lost track after awhile. When I get time again, I will have to re-watch the entire course and take better notes this time.
Date published: 2015-08-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Christian Reflection Audio download. Before widely available written texts about the teachings of this relatively unknown Jesus of Nazareth in the first century CE, there were many different opinions about the true meaning of this man. Was he a man or God, or just a spirit of piety? Dr Erhman examines the history behind some of these questions, fairly, in my opinion. While it is pretty clear that Bart has an agenda, I think he lays out the fact so that the reader/listener can reach their own conclusions. Conclusions about what? Well, how did Christianity come to be one of the most dominant religions in the world? In a world of mostly illiterate, desperately poor people, how was 'the word' spread...and who spread it? Dr Erhman holds a mirror to the face of Christianity and asks the questions about the origins of the New Testament and how it fits into the Bible we know today. I've read many of the reviews for these lectures and fail to see why anyone could be offended. After all, we have many different varieties of Christian practices today...Catholic, Mormon, Protestants, 7th Day Adventist, Baptists...all having major philosophical differences, why not in antiquity? Apparently, the New Testament was a sort of group effort, in which many different points of view from many different authors were categorized as either good (acceptable doctrine), or bad (not so acceptable doctrine). Most recognized Jesus as special, but just couldn't agree on how his message fit in with his Hebrew origins in a pagan world. The good Professor wonders what the canon would be like if one of these (slightly) different set of texts had been incorporated into the Bible we know today. (What if one of those texts had been written by L. Ron Hubbard...or Stephen King?) Like all of the other Teaching Company lectures, this course opens topics that allow the individual to dig a little deeper...learn a little more. Do you have to agree with everything presented? No, but you should want to find out the facts that allow you to reach your own conclusions. That's why we listen to these lectures...to learn more. Recommended...Dr Erhman is an entertaining, highly knowledgeable lecturer, with whom I agree (pretty obviously). Wait for a sale and a coupon...he's not that good to pay full price.
Date published: 2015-07-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Learning Experience I think this course is an example of what listeners wish all such courses would be like. It is full of knowledge and the experience of the instructor, organized and taught in an easy to understand manner that seems more like conversation on his part. I was somewhat amazed by the depth of the course and the knowledge imparted by the eminently qualified instructor, and yet never felt overwhelmed due to the interesting nature of the sessions.
Date published: 2015-03-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lost Christianities The content is fascinating. Dr. Ehrman is excellent; and has a wonderfully relaxed manner in the way he explains these ancient texts and their history. I feel almost as if I'm in the same room with him. The accompanying booklet is such a great complement to the CDs. Nice to refer to after listening. I bought the series simply for pleasure, and am enjoying every minute of it.
Date published: 2015-03-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting and informative course This is an interesting course on early Christian alternative documents. It provides a good introduction to the most important of these, and a good thematic approach to fitting them into how the orthodox Christian church evolved.
Date published: 2015-03-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating Subject I've always wondered why people believe a book that was passed down by word of mouth for centuries receives so much praise for it's authenticity. The instructor doesn't touch upon this, but he did verify that the book is just a compilation of stories told for years around campfires.
Date published: 2015-02-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Opens your eyes to a very much neglected period of western intellectual history. The professor peers into a void for us here and we are all the better for it.
Date published: 2015-02-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Revealing and Thought-Provoking As an older Christian, I welcome this very fine course with enthusiasm, for it aptly shows that -- from the very beginning, that is, from the earliest writings from Jesus-followers that we have (namely, Paul's) -- many good people have ALWAYS differed over the same kind of questions we wrestle with today: Who was Jesus, really? To what extent was he "divine" and, equally important, what is it we mean when we say "divine"? How authentic -- and how accurate -- are the books that now make up the New Testament? What truths or insights can we discern from alternative understandings of Jesus, the church, and other once thought sacred writings? I had long known of Professor Ehrman's reputation before I took this course, but was quite pleased to discover that his reputation, if anything, is too modest. Because of the engaging way he taught this course, including carefully explaining many concepts that strike our modern ears as a tad exotic, while always being respectful concerning the views represented by these long ago folks, I found myself better understanding both the subsequent evolution of teachings and church structures over the succeeding centuries as well as appreciating why so many of those teachings became "frozen" in doctrinal -- supposedly unchanging -- statements of "truth." I believe this course has value for any person interested in understanding how Christianity evolved from this remarkable Jewish man Jesus, especially given that -- in many respects -- what became official Christian doctrine seem to have drifted far from Jesus' profound Jewishness. It is discouraging, too, to learn of how very early the seeds of virulent anti-semitism are to be found in supposedly "Christian" writings. How these early followers of a man of peace, non-violence and love could so easily acquire such often vituperative tongues is amazing! Differences between and among various religions continue to be a cause of distrust, derision, and all too often even violence in our own time. As this course makes clear, there are insights we can gain from even those with whom we seem to disagree if we but make the effort to "put on their heads" for a while to see how the world appears to them. This is not only an ultimately rewarding endeavor, but a respectful one as well. For, looking back 2,000 years, we can sympathize now with those who were once so certain that they were "right," not knowing that in centuries to come their interpretations would be both disregarded and even forgotten. Can we be so certain that future generations will not treat our own current passionate interpretations of "facts" and "truths" any differently? I suspect that issues raised by this wonderful course will abide with me for some time, repeatedly prompting me to view anew what others (even myself) may insist is "proven" or "true." Thank you, Professor Ehrman, and theTeaching Company as well for such nourishing mental food!
Date published: 2015-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Story Behind the Story This is an excellent documented overview that does not over promise. Dr. Ehrman has captured the details and chronology of not only the assembly, sources and development timeline of Christianity as we know it, but also elements of Christianity that many are not familiar with. His presentation begs the question of why modern day discoveries of ancient Gospel texts have not been added as new books to the New Testament. He has exposed an ancient creative battle for authenticity that is still a work in progress today. Following Christian teachings is in itself a work in progress, so adding documented text would revise and update the Standard Version with a more inclusive content.
Date published: 2015-01-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Schism Happens All religions have suffered schism(s) and this enlightening course is a virtual eye-witnessing of the birth of Christianity from an unstable Jewish nation under Roman rule. Professor Ehrman skillfully guides the listener through the turbulent sequences of establishing a new/modified belief system, from its initial fracturing, through the chaos of competing factions, to a new stable institution. Into this period of religious unrest, a new theology of peace was introduced by Jesus of Nazareth and His followers, offering salvation through His death and resurrection. The New Testament basically starts out with a 30 year old male, unattached, no record of public teaching, that mysteriously returns to his boyhood home after a long absence – Matthew 13:54-58, and after 3 short and eventful years again vanishes leaving a new theology that many have since sought to capitalize on - then as well as now. The Lost Christianities tells the painful process of Christianity’s original diverse beginning, and the gradual focusing of sincere efforts to correctly integrate Christ’s teaching into a tight, solid, and endearing document of Faith. This seeking to establish authority and the authentication process needed to secure the ‘faithful’s’ acceptance, was wrought with human foibles (out of a background of fear, ignorance, and vanity) in becoming “sacred scriptures” is four centuries in the making and masterfully told by Dr. Ehrman. In doing an excellent job of explaining the width and breath of this complex subject, I was greatly impressed by the volume of historical material and the thoroughly unbiased analysis. I enjoyed Lectures 19 and 20 the best, because these brought this teaming mass of information to a focal point and clearly bound all the threads into a strong rope of understanding I could hold on to. But what I was personally hoping to learn, being a student of philosophy was the origins of Jesus’ theology, which seems to have a strong Indian-Buddhist influence, but this course did not favor me with even a hint about the 18 missing years.
Date published: 2014-11-30
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