What if Marcion's canon-which consisted only of Luke's Gospel and Paul's letters, entirely omitting the Old Testament-had become Christianity's canon? What if the Ebionites-who believed Jesus was completely human and not divine-had ruled the day as the Orthodox Christian party? What if various early Christian writings, such as the Gospel of Thomas or the Secret Gospel of Mark, had been allowed into the canonical New Testament? Ehrman (The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture), a professor of religion at UNC Chapel Hill, offers answers to these and other questions in this book, which rehearses the now-familiar story of the tremendous diversity of early Christianity and its eventual suppression by a powerful "proto-orthodox" faction. The proto-orthodox Christians won out over many other groups, and bequeathed to us the four Gospels, a church hierarchy, a set of practices and beliefs, and doctrines such as the Trinity. Ehrman eloquently characterizes some of the movements and Scriptures that were lost, such as the Ebionites and the Secret Gospel of Mark, as he outlines the many strands of Christianity that competed for attention in the second and third centuries. He issues an important reminder that there was no such thing as a monolithic Christian orthodoxy before the fourth century. While Ehrman sometimes raises interesting questions (e.g., are Paul's writings sympathetic to women?), his book covers territory already well-explored by others (Gregory Riley, The River of God; Elaine Pagels, Beyond Belief), generating few fresh or provocative insights.
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"Ehrman's style is marked by the narrative thrust of a good story or even a sermon."--Christian Science Monitor
"A charting of the full theological kaleidoscope would take volumes, but it is possible, using Ehrman's book as a jumping-off point, to examine some of the more striking and widespread of the Christian roads not taken."--Time Magazine
"A fascinating look at how Christianity was molded."--Dallas Morning News
"Ehrman displays expert knowledge of the texts and the best modern scholarship, as well as sound critical judgment about their content. His balanced exposition of the Gospel of Thomas, with its careful delineation of the different materials in it, is outstanding. His essay on the Secret Gospel of Mark, with its suggestion that the text may be a modern forgery (perhaps even by its learned editor, Morton Smith), reads like a detective story. Studying a text in Lost Scriptures and reading Ehrman's discussion of it can be both informative and engrossing."--America
"The author of more than ten books on New Testament history and early Christian writings, Ehrman has established himself as an expert on early Christianity. These two works should soundly solidify his stature, as they illuminate the flavor and varieties of early Christian belief."--Library Journal (on Lost Christianities and Lost Scriptures)
"History, it's often said, is written by the victors. Bart Ehrman argues in a pair of intriguing new books that the same could be said of the Bible's New Testament. That Ehrman makes his case without pushing into territory considered heretical by many mainstream Christians shows a deft touch with the most volatile of subjects.... Will shock more than a few lay readers. The 27 New Testament gospels, epistles, acts, and revelations, it turns out, were only a handful of the letters, arguments, visions, and accounts of Christ's life in wide circulation in the early centuries of the religion. And they were hardly the only ones to claim direct ties to the Apostles.... Presents the major strains of early Christianity and explains how each feuded bitterly with the others. He also discusses how and why the group representing the closest thing to modern-day Christianity ultimately won out."--Scott Bernard Nelson, The Boston Globe
"A well-crafted, scholarly tale of forgeries, burned books, doctrinal feuds, and other episodes in the making of the New Testament and the early Church. Or better, Churches."--Kirkus Reviews
"This book offers a fascinating introduction to an astonishing range of 'lost Christianities' that flourished at the time when the Christian movement began. Bart Ehrman has the rare gift of communicating scholarship in writing that is lively, enjoyable, and accessible."--Elaine Pagels, Princeton University
"Ehrman eloquently characterizes some of the movements and Scriptures that were lost, such as the Ebionites and the Secret Gospel of Mark, as he outlines the many strands of Christianity that competed for attention in the second and third centuries. He issues an important reminder that there was no such thing as a monolithic Christian orthodoxy before the fourth century."--Publishers Weekly
"Highly readable and based on up-to-date scholarship, Ehrman's book provides an excellent introduction to early Christianity's diversity and the means by which early orthodoxy, and the New Testament canon, developed from it. This lively study will prove eye-opening to a wide variety of readers."--Elizabeth A. Clark, John Carlisle Kilgo Professor, Duke University