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Prof. Bart D. Ehrman is a well-known New Testament Scholar whose fame started to spread with his book "Misquoting Jesus" in which he introduced Everyman to the Science of Textual Criticism and its results. He also wrote an essay in the first edition of National Geographic's "The Gospel of Judas" concerning Gnosticism. I have read of listened to most of his books, academic and popular (e.g. Jesus, Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium; Lost Christianities; Forgery; The Apocryphal Gospel (with Zaltko Plese) and How Jesus became a God, to name but a few) ... which might be the reason that I find this book to be much of the same old same old...
In this book he moves behind the gospel texts to the memories of Jesus that was carried by oral tradition, before the process was started to write it down more or less 40 years after Jesus' crucifixion. He first discusses memory using insights from psychology, anthropology and other academic disciplines. He maintains that the gospels contains true, false, selective, changed, communal and other memories. Starting with some late apocryphal gospel stories, he ends up discussing the canonical gospels. He actually gives quite an interesting overview of memory. Then he casts insights of critical New Testament Scholarship over the last 200 years into the memory mold. While he argues convincingly that memory are not that dependable, even in oral culture, I thought something didn't fit.
I think the book was not written for the right audience. Maybe he should have engaged more actively with the scholarly community before giving a popular account of memory. For me the book felt very much like the difference between a research proposal and a thesis, being the first.
That said, I thought his overview of the Gospel of Mark was excellent. I believe that those not familiar with the apocrypha might find the stories about Jesus as a child very interesting. Maybe, this can even be a good starting point to read books of Ehrman if you do not know his scholarship.
Be that as it may, I am of the humble opinion that Ehrman have build a following among some readers, and that readers might be expecting something new or different. Currently, it seems to be very much of the same, with little new impetus.
In terms of narration, the book deserves five stars. I think Joe Barrett is excelled in his interpretative reading. By now most listeners to Ehrman might be used to Walter Dixon's voice. I thought Barrett was a welcome change. He was able to keep my attention, even when the subject matter was not that interesting.
I recommend this book to anyone who have not listened to anything from Bart D. Ehrman or if you are interested in understanding memory and how the story of Jesus was changed by the memories of his followers to reflect what we have in the gospels today. However, do not expect too many clear answers.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
this was another good book from Professor Ehrman. I always enjoy reading his books, I particularly enjoy listening to them on Audible. I usually go over them multiple times, own a printed copy, making notes for my individual study. His ideas have helped me to view scripture and religion with new eyes and a broader depth.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
An historical investigation of the life of Jesus through the literature of the canonical and non-canonical gospels. Explored in depth and would be of interest to both liberal Christians and non-believers as it offers a number of intriguing perspectives on Jesus and Christianity utilising many academic disciplines including psychology and what we know about human memory and anthropology.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful