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By now Bart D. Ehrman, lapsed Evangelical Christian turned Agnostic with Atheist undercurrents, is well-known and well established as a populariser of 19th and 20th century critical Bible scholarship. In "Did Jesus exist?" Ehrman again brings the insights of critical scholarship to the table to engage (not with Evangelical Christians) but with Mythicists (atheists holding the believe that Jesus didn't exist) on the question of how historical Jesus Christ really was. Did he really exist or was he made up?
In my opinion Ehrman does a good job of confirming that Jesus was a real man of flesh and blood that lived in the first century C.E. He argues from a modernist historical perspective and makes a convincing argument that there are enough "reliable" sources to attest to a historical Jesus.
After he looked at some of the evidence for Jesus' existence he analyses some of the commonest arguments of leading mythicists. He convincingly shows that this group of people has an agenda that clouds good scholarship. He offers a convincing rebuttal for all their major arguments against Jesus.
He then offers a scholarly reconstruction of Jesus and offers a comfort prize to the Mythicists, the Jesus of the Christian Church doesn't completely correspond with the real Jesus. He illustrates by bringing together the different earliest sources that has been identified from the gospels that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet of his time.
Some of this may sound familiar, if you have read or listened to Ehrman previously. There are quite a lot of data and information that has been presented in different packages in his previous books.
One thing that bothered me a bit about Ehrman's reconstruction of the historical Jesus, was his insistence that Jesus didn't refer to himself when he spoke of the "son of Man." There is definitely not scholarly agreement on this theory and it is still hotly debated. Ehrman presents it as a well-known scholarly fact.
While this book repeats various of his arguments from previous books, it is still a worthwhile book. Ehrman is known for following his arguments through. This book is a must for anyone that is not convinced that there lived a historical Jesus.
Walter Dixon narrated the book superbly. He might become synonymous with Ehrman's future audio books.
One thing about the production that was bothering is that to the end one or two chapters of the book is repeated. This is probably the case due to a bad cut and past job.
This is vintage Ehrman, excellent but with a much needed acquired taste!
23 of 25 people found this review helpful
What did you love best about Did Jesus Exist??
The author followed the evidence wherever it led. He was very convincing and his arguments were clear.
What three words best describe Walter Dixon’s performance?
The reader did a fine job. However, 30+ minutes were inexplicably repeated near the end, which was quite jarring. I was not sure where the repeat ended and the new material began. That is why I did not give the performance a higher rating.
Any additional comments?
Although Ehrman concludes that a historical Jesus did live and was crucified by Pilate, he also concludes that this Jesus did not espouse many of the things we have been taught. For example, Ehrman concludes that Jesus was a Jewish apocalyptic who believes the Kingdom of Heaven would arrive in his lifetime, and so urged people to forsake their families and livelihoods in preparation. This is not the Jesus who values marriage and the family.
I am glad that I heard this side of the story.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Would you listen to Did Jesus Exist? again? Why?
Yes. I think you need to listen to this book several times in order to analyse the arguments and evidence. For me its not a book you read just once
What was one of the most memorable moments of Did Jesus Exist??
Which scene did you most enjoy?
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
Any additional comments?
I like and enjoy all Bart Ehrman's books. In my opinion he is an excellent scholar and teacher. In this book he sets down his case for a historical Jesus. Although his arguments are rational and reasoned there is an immense amount of speculation. In addition many of the arguments he gave were counter productive to the view of a historical Jesus. I feel in summary that the evidence he gives is tenuous at best. For instance he will say that the Gospels are corrupted sources that cannot be trusted but then turn to them to to show "evidence" for the historical Jesus. His use of speculative works like Q, M and L are relied on far too heavily. No modern scholar has ever seen theses books so how can see cite with any authority what is in them?
Before reading this book I was an agnostic with regards to the "Mythicist" argument and a believer in a minimalist historical Jesus. However after Bart's book I am now an agnostic (70:30 that he is a fictional figure) when it comes to the historicity of Jesus. In my opinion, from the arguments given, all that is left of a historically possible Jesus is that "there was a Jewish preacher called Jesus (or a derivative of that name) who was crucified" which could be paraphrased as "there is an English boy called Harry Potter". The picture given of Jesus is so far from the traditional view as to be meaningless for comparing that person to the one in the New Testament. Just because there is a boy called Harry Potter living in England would have no bearing on the historicity of J K Rowling's character. Nor would it be worthwhile using the Harry Potter books to find the real Harry Potter. In my opinion the New Testament is equitable to just such a fictional work. I think if the evidence for Jesus was applied to any other character in history than there would be no debate and most scholars would think he was just a legend. Whilst in my opinion this is the weakest of Bart's books it is well worth a listen if you are interested in Christianity and religion.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
This is an excellent book. The author's analysis of a complex and controversial subject is clear and well balanced. He presents and objectively weighs the available historical evidence for the existence of Jesus, and concludes - convincingly in my opinion - that such a person really did exist in the early part of the first century CE.
As a former student of history at university, I particularly liked the part of the book where he set out and explained the investigative methods historians of ancient history use. It was a very easily understandable summary and may be a help to anyone starting to study historical source material. It was also useful to see those methods applied to the case in point.
I would certainly recommend what I found to be a thought provoking and easy to listen to book to anyone interested in the biography of Jesus or the study of history more generally.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
Did Jesus Exist?
If just asserting a premise was the standard of a thesis, than Professor Bart Ehrman has written a tour de force. He states no less than 7 times in the opening chapter that Jesus 100% did exist, and then again about once every five minutes for good measure. The question mark in the title is rhetorical.
Bart introduced me to this fascinating topic and thus deserves some respect. And that sentence was it. Because with this almost offensive offering he has all at once made himself irrelevant.
Ehrman may claim to have broken away from his faith years ago, but his thinking has remained as dogmatic as a 4th century bishop. (Altho its possible Ehrman may take that as a compliment)
I don’t mind the snobbery of professors, in fact I expect it. But Ehrman has mistaken his position as educator for that of a parent. He seems concerned we will all get bogged down in uncertainty, so he claims it for us and tells us not to be so skeptical.
If this is the best there is then this field needs an inquest immediately.
5 stars - for writing so badly, so completely void of logical honesty, that this is sure to stimulate many more books in a genre begging for talent. Ehrman sets the bar so impossibly low, that everyone should feel encouraged to have a crack.