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Table of Contents

preface 1: The End of History as We Know It 2: Who was Jesus? Why It's So Hard to Know 3: How Did the Gospels Get to Be This Way? 4: Looking about a Bit: Non-Christian Sources for the Historical Jesus 5: Looking about a Bit More: Other Christian Sources for the Historical Jesus 6: Moving on to the Past: How Can We Reconstruct the Life of Jesus? 7: Finding a Fit: Jesus in Context 8: Jesus the Apocalyptic Prophet 9: The Apocalyptic Teachings of Jesus 10: A Place for Everything: Jesus' Other Teachings in Their Apocalyptic Context 11: Not in Word Only: The Associates, Deeds, and Controversies of Jesus in Apocalyptic Context 12: The Last Days of Jesus 13: From Apocalyptic Prophet to Lord of All: The Afterlife of Jesus 14: Jesus as the Prophet of the New Millennium: Then and Now notes bibliography index

About the Author

Bart D. Ehrman is Bowman and Gordon Gray Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is the author of many books, including The New Testament: A Historical Introduction and The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture.


At the end of the millennium, there are as many views of the historical Jesus as there are scholars who writing about him. In his engaging study, Ehrman, associate professor of religious studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, argues that Jesus can be best understood as a "first-century Jewish apocalypticist...who fully expected that the history of the world as he knew it was going to come to a screeching halt and that God was going to overthrow the forces of evil in a cosmic act of judgment." The author contends that this portrait of Jesus, first proclaimed by Albert Schweitzer in The Quest of the Historical Jesus (1906), has been overlooked in the rush to draw Jesus in the images of whatever scholarly or popular movement is painting Him. Ehrman examines carefully noncanonical and canonical sources as he reconstructs the life of Jesus. He uses already established critical criteriaÄindependent attestation, dissimilarity, contextual credibilityÄto determine what elements of the Gospel accounts of Jesus' life can be considered authentic. For example, according to the evidence, he asserts that we can seriously doubt that the virgin conception, Jesus' birth in Bethlehem and the story of wise men following a star are historical events. Ehrman then proceeds to provide a lucid overview of the turbulent political and religious times in which Jesus lived and worked. Finally, the author provides a detailed examination of Jesus' words and deeds to show that they present the work of a Jewish apocalyptic prophet who expected universal judgment and the coming Kingdom of God to occur within his own lifetime and that of his disciples. While Ehrman's provocative thesis will stir up controversy among scholars, his warm, inviting prose style and his easy-to-read historical and critical overviews make this the single best introduction to the study of the historical Jesus. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Ehrman admits that there are "something like eight zillion books written about Jesus." Then why add another book to this mountain of verbiage? Because, according to Ehrman, very few of these books are aimed at a popular audience; most are "inexcusably dull and/or idiosyncratic"Äthey don't consider the evidence and they scarcely show the view that is held by "the majority" of scholars. Unfortunately, this comes dangerously close to the pot calling the kettle black. Although Ehrman's writing is lively and thorough, he glosses over scholarly debate, making heavy use of phrases like "almost all scholars" and "most historians" and wrongly giving an illusion of certainty and agreement where there is none. He finds very little of historical value in the Gospels, seeing them as theological documents pasted together from a patchwork of sources after decades of oral change. A more balanced look at the scholarly debates can be found in Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?: A Debate Between William Lane Craig and John Donimic Crossman (LJ 1/99). Those desiring a more intensive introduction to the questions discussed here will find that Raymond Brown's An Introduction to the New Testament (LJ 2/15/98) repays the extra effort. Still, this is a well-written exposition of one side of an important scholarly debate; recommended for public and academic libraries.ÄEugene O. Bowser, Univ. of Northern Colorado, Greeley Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

"Very readable. Useful especially for undergraduates and interested public."--Blake R. Grangaard, Heidelberg College "Jesus is a superb example of how scholarship can be as full of suspense and surprises as a well-plotted mystery."--The Los Angeles Times "As fine and succinct a gathering of the voluminous Jesus scholarship as you're likely to find."--The Atlanta Journal-Constitution "An elegantly written, much-needed book....Ehrman's should be the first book for any lay reader interested in the historical Jesus."--Kirkus Reviews "[Ehrman's] warm, inviting prose style and his easy-to-read historical and critical overviews make this the single best introduction to the study of the historical Jesus."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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