From the late Roman Empire all the way to our own time, no continuously existing institution or belief system has wielded as much influence as Christianity, no figure as much as Jesus. Worshipped around the globe by more than a billion people, he is undoubtedly the single most important figure in the story of Western civilization and one of the most significant in world history altogether. Yet who was Jesus of Nazareth? What was he like? It's a question that's been pondered by people and groups of varying convictions for more than 2,000 years. And everyone with even the faintest knowledge, says Professor Ehrman, has an opinion - with those opinions differing not only among laypeople but even among professional scholars who have devoted their lives to the task of reconstructing what the historical Jesus was probably like and what he most likely said and did.
This series of 24 lectures from an award-winning teacher and scholar approaches the subject from a purely historical perspective, with no intention of affirming or denying any particular theological beliefs. He explains why it has proven so difficult to know about the "Jesus of history" and reveals the kinds of conclusions modern scholars have drawn about him.
He begins with a discussion of the four New Testament Gospels - our principle source of knowledge about Jesus - and other sources, explaining what they are, how they came to be written, and how biblical scholars plumb them for historical understanding, before integrating them into the historical context of Jesus' life and a scholarly reconstruction of Jesus' words and deeds in light of the best available historical methods and evidence.
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©2000 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2000 The Great Courses
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If you've read Reza Aslan's book on Jesus, or Bill O'Reilly's, and want to see a recognized expert on the historical Jesus at work, check this out. It's not current; comments on the audio make it clear that it was recorded pre-2000; but it's aged well, and to date remains the most comprehensive summary of the subject available on audio.
Bart Ehrman has strong opinions on the subject, and he's not shy about voicing them here. But he returns again and again to the historical evidence and to the methodologies historians have developed for dealing with that evidence. These are the footnotes Aslan left out (and the ones Bill O'Reilly, in his rush to market, never bothered to look up). Ehrman's lectures are solidly grounded and delivered with the enthusiasm of someone who loves what he's doing.
About those strong opinions. Jesus was, says Ehrman, a millennial prophet (that was, in fact, the title of one of his first books on Jesus). Jesus expected God to intervene in history in his own lifetime and bring about the Kingdom, a Kingdom in which Jesus himself expected to play a prominent role. He expected his 12 disciples to play significant but subordinate roles: in Ehrman's view, statements made by Jesus about his disciples judging people from the four corners of the earth are to be taken literally as a description of his agenda. Unfortunately - says Ehrman - Jesus was wrong, and his mission was a failure.
This isn't the Jesus most believers want to hear about, but it's the Jesus who appears from a dispassionate examination of the evidence. It's the Jesus most consistent with the work of John the Baptist who preceded him and the apostle Paul who followed him. It's the Jesus of mainstream New Testament scholarship and has been so for a hundred years.
Traditionalists aren't the only ones whose ox is gored by Ehrman. The Jesus Seminar - a group that argued Jesus was an inoffensive philosopher of the Greek Cynic persuasion - comes in for a strong dose of forensic dissection. John Dominic Crossan's reliance on the gospels of Thomas and Peter is discussed and criticized at length. Scholars who argue for a multilayered "Q" document, earlier layers of which are non-millennial, are resoundingly refuted. Over and over again, Ehrman demonstrates how the view of Jesus as a millennial prophet makes better sense of more evidence than any of the rival views.
Every statement Ehrman makes in this "great course" is backed up by citations of evidence, a clear explanation of pros and cons, and careful reasoning. I'm not sure this is the first place to look if you want an easy introduction to the subject, but if your appetite is already whetted, Ehrman will give you a well researched and coherent vision of Jesus.
(Last time I'll say this, though: Great Courses - please - enough with the canned applause already.)
"Great History of time and place"
As a Christian I was glad to listen to this historical view of Jesus. This does not attack my faith and explains well the Historical Approach.
"A compelling case for JC as an apocalyptic prophet"
These lectures are fantastic. I couldn't get enough. Dr. Ehrman builds a very well-reasoned and carefully constructed case which explains how the historical evidence for JC clearly depicts him as an apocalyptcist.
I am thoroughly agnostic, and listened to this because I realized I had no good reason to believe that Jesus was God, but I also could not satisfactorily explain him any other way. After reading some Christian apologetics, like Lee Strobel's "Case for Christ," I didn't feel satisfied, so I pursued a more "scholarly" route.
Ehrman is a great narrator with solid facts. He doesn't appear to suffer heavily from confirmation bias, as do the militant atheists and Christian apologeticists. I am happy with what I have taken away from this series, and would highly recommend it to anyone dissatisfied with their knowledge of the historical (rather than purely theological) validity of the accounts of Jesus' life.
Big fan of Ehrman's work. His knowledge of the subject is impeccable, as is his research. His delivery is authoritative yet easy for the lay person to understand. Highly recommended.
"Scrupulous Examination of the Historical Record"
This was a thoroughly fascinating listen. Anyone with an interest in what history can say about the life of Jesus would love these lectures although those with an unshakeable theological agenda may have difficulty with Professor Erhman's historical perspective.
Myth and contradictions obscure our sense of who the real Jesus was. For one thing, the sources can be clouded by the agenda of the writer. Furthermore many of us come to the subject with agendas of our own. Professor Erhman meticulously describes the criteria used by the historian to evaluate the record. Then he patiently examines that record (biblical and non-biblical) to create a picture of the world in which Jesus lived and the task which Professor Erhman believes the Jesus of history hoped to accomplish. Professor Erhman then explores the way in which the death of Jesus compelled his followers to re-evaluate that task and re-make the message and meaning of Jesus's life and teaching.
This isn't a novel so the question doesn't apply. But I think that my favorite part was the convincing case Professor Erhman makes for an apocalyptic Jesus.
I wandered everywhere I could in my daily life with my earphones in so that I could keep listening. I do regret that I am not one of Professor Erhman's students because, as I became so engaged with the topic, I began to want to ask questions myself and explore the topic further.
"Brilliant historical analysis"
It shows how History making is not babble, or just putting together facts in a linear sequence. History making has a methodology and set of rules that are serious and rigorous. The application of those distinguish real and professional historians and academics from those who aren't , The way you treat the sources is what gives credibility to any hypothesis on any given historical research. This is especially relevant when speaking about the figure of Jesus of Nazareth. I'm quite picky with the use of historical sources and I found that the whole discourse was flawless from the point of view of a historian.
This is the first serious book I read on Jesus as a historical figure, so I cannot compare it to others.
No favourite scene as such, but the whole course is mind blowing. Even if you are a faithful Christian, it can help you to understand better who Jesus really was and what is what you believe on really like. What is the value of your beliefs. Of course, if you believe the writings of the Gospels to be God's word, and that Jesus is God, this course is not for you!
I like Ehrman's presentation, but I thought that he has a bit too long silences, rushed a bit other times, and stumbles upon his own words a others. He sounded a bit nervous. Also, I though the boxed applause was unnecessary and a bit ridiculous!Regarding contents, I found the last lecture redundant and off topic. Good if you are interested in apocalyptic movements in general, not if you are interested in Jesus. I would have preferred he devoting some time or discussion to theories about Jesus having not resurrected, but surviving resurrection and preaching in India. The so-called Unknown Years of Jesus. At least presenting the theories and dismissing them or not, and on which grounds. I would have loved that! The course was recorded in 2000, and so was the companion book, and the biblio is per force a bit behind. It would had cost nothing enlarging the PDF book for the audible edition.
Such a fascinating and enlightening series of lectures. Helped me to clear up decades worth of confusion in regards to Jesus and Christianity. Course would be helpful for Christians and non-Christians alike to understand the historical perspective of Jesus, his life, and his teachings. Highly recommend this- don't miss it.
"what I always wanted to know"
this is what I wanted to hear in church but never did. well done.
"Not what I thought it would be"
No, The information was great. Prof. Ehrman's discuss in length methodology and historical criteria used by scholars and historians. Most of the lecture was spent looking at discrepancies in gospels. It was very interesting, just not what I thought it would be.
Reading is not always about enjoy. I would be nice to include recent facts (if it is possible) discoveries, hypothesis about historical Jesus.
"Pre-Celeb Scholar Ehrman - One of his best"
Before Prof. Ehrman became a real celebrity with works like "Misquoting Jesus," "Jesus Interrupted," "God's Problem" and "Did Jesus Exist?" or more recently "How did Jesus become God", he wrote a book called "Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium" (OUP: 1999). For me, this book towers above the others. "The Historical Jesus" course in the Great Courses series is based on this book.
Much of Prof. Ehrman's ideas seems somehow still fresh. So while it is one of the older courses in the Great Courses series, it is excellent and of great value. The lecture series starts of with the various ways in which people depict and think of Jesus, where after it looks at its sources to get to know something about Jesus. He discuss the historical criteria used by critical scholars and historians to discern who Jesus was. He then gives his own reconstruction of Jesus which include his early life, the context within which he lived, his apocalyptic message, his words and deeds and his last hours.
As an ancient historian he limits his understanding of Jesus to the natural phenomena that could take place, while Ehrman leaves the rest to 'theologians.' He follows in the German Albert Sweitzer's thesis that Jesus was a failed apocalyptic prophet.
What I like about this course, is that Prof. Ehrman gives a thorough and honest overview of the current state of Jesus research while he is empowering listeners to do their own investigation. But be warned, he might not be everyone's cup of tea. If you are a committed Evangelical for instance, you might find is lectures offensive.
Still, it is an excellent place to start if you want to find out more about the historical Jesus.
"An interesting concept, needs the visual element"
This was a very interesting lecture, with lots of intriguing concepts. It was very balanced and for such a sensitive topic the author/reader managed to keep most of his personal bias out it, which for such a topic is a monumental achievement.
Unfortunately the problem with the reader is that he is presenting in a visual medium and this is an audio recording. Irregardless the whole thing has ended up as a smooth finished product.
There is one or two chapters where the author/reader feels a little 'preachy' I urge listeners to try and cope with his presentation and push past these; it is well worth it in the end.
"struugled to finish it"
Author goes on about his sources the whys and wherefores more than the subject. boring.
"Needed to Push Myself to Stick With It"
I would recommend it as it was interesting but it took a while to get there as the author spends an awful lot of time discussing methods of historical research in terms of what is reliable and what sorts of parameters are used to decide the reliability of documents. This does become quite tedious at times
The information regarding other people involved in the story was interesting. The least interesting part although relevant, was the constant discussion of the historical method
The narration was repetitive to reiterate points which was alright but again sometimes a little irritating
No, I think the author covered everything I anticipated based on the title and description
Good overall and glad I listened to it but at times I thought of fast forwarding or giving up entirely
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