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The New Testament  By  cover art

The New Testament

By: Bart D. Ehrman,The Great Courses
Narrated by: Bart D. Ehrman
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Publisher's Summary

Whether taken as a book of faith or a cultural artifact, the New Testament is among the most significant writings the world has ever known, its web of meaning relied upon by virtually every major writer in the last 2,000 years. Yet the New Testament is not only one of Western civilization’s most believed books, but also one of its most widely disputed, often maligned, and least clearly understood, with a vast number of people unaware of how it was written and transmitted.

But now a distinguished religious scholar is available to help you gain a carefully reasoned understanding of not only the New Testament itself, but of the individuals and communities who created its texts.

Drawing on modern biblical scholarship, recent archaeological discoveries, and careful literary analysis - and approaching his subject purely as a historian, with belief or disbelief suspended - Professor Ehrman has crafted a series of 24 fascinating lectures that trace the history of the New Testament and the early Christian faith community. He discusses not only the 27 books included in the New Testament, but also many of the significant texts that were excluded as he addresses key historical questions around the issues of authorship, circumstance, audience, content, meaning, and historical accuracy.

"Our ultimate goal," he notes, "is to come to a fuller appreciation and understanding of these books that have made such an enormous impact on the history of Western civilization and that continue to play such an important role for people today."

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2000 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2000 The Great Courses

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If you want a balanced overview this is not it

Any additional comments?

For a few years I have heard of Professor Bart Ehrman and wanted to hear for myself. After listening to this series I have to say that I am underwhelmed. Maybe if he were teaching a particular topic in depth it might make a difference but I’m not going to spend the time to find out. For anyone who already has a decent background in Scripture studies, you will hear a lot of what is already familiar but outside of that you will constantly be saying to yourself, “He’s stretching it there”. If you have no knowledge of the scope of Scripture studies you might be led to believe that his opinions are generally accepted without question when they are actually not.
The main problem is that he makes so many leaps and presents them as if they are the accepted position of most or all scholars. Much what he says is basic scholarship, such as the Pastoral Epistles are most likely not authored by Paul, there are many variances, John is different from the synoptic Gospels, etc. You can get this basic information by reading any respected Bible overview. What is problematic is how he inserts his worldview, philosophy, and opinions into the text and passes it off as if should be accepted in the same vein as greater scholarship.
I’ll offer one example of many: He assumes that Jesus was an apocalyptic Jew (granted, Jesus did often teach an apocalyptic message) who did not teach as a Sadducee, Pharisee, or Essene (Huh? He had clear elements of the last two and practiced Temple worship. He clearly wasn’t “just” an apocalyptic teacher.) who was pointing to a future Messiah to come who was not him (Huh? Then the clear references to Jesus being the “son of man”, the Church’s consistent teaching, and the historical patterns that Jesus considered himself the Messiah should all be ignored as a later “invention”?). Well, wait, what about when Jesus says, “The son of man will be delivered over, be crucified, and rise…” like he does in all three synoptic Gospels? He never mentions it. I’m thinking he would say that was “invented” by the later church. That’s my main issue. When something agrees with his overly critical worldview it is left unchallenged. When something might not, it is ignored or glossed over as “changed by the later church.” Why not come to a different conclusion that Jesus considered himself the Messiah, the disciples understood that and retold it as a sacred history, the New Testament writers had differences for various reasons (different communities, theologies, cultures, times, etc.) but all recorded Jesus as believing and being the Messiah, and the Church as a whole preserved and passed that down intact even if other sects strayed and some details changed. Why not? Not so controversial, provocative, sensationalistic, critical, novel, or new? Regardless of why Ehrman comes to his conclusions just be aware that they have many more hurdles than he would like the listener to believe. This is just one example of many.
Another odd thing is that he throws in odd fundamentalistic Christian theology as if they are what Jesus or Paul taught. For example, he says Paul says “faith” is clearly defined as “trusting in the cross.” Again, this is an element of “faith” as Paul describes it as a whole but hardly complete. Boiling down faith to this minimum standard works in the early 1900s but it hardly explores the fullness of Paul’s understanding of "faith working in love" in first century Christianity. On the other end of the spectrum, I was surprised by how black and white he was about theories that are either complex or ones that had varied possibilities. He did offer some additional theories at times but usually only the safe ones that kept his perspective firmly in place.
So here is his basic theory: Jesus was an apocalyptic Jew who never claimed to be the Messiah. After he died people claimed to “see” him. The church was so chaotic that they could not have preserved any real or accurate history of Jesus so they created his divinity and Messiahship. All that can be known of the Historical Jesus is what is discovered by skeptical literary methods combined with a secular worldview. Paul “saw” him and made up another belief system that was in some ways similar but essentially different from the other disciples and churches. Paul taught that there wasn’t a participation in the Kingdom until Jesus came back. The New Testament varies so much that it isn’t reliable for an accurate historical assessment of who Jesus really was and taught… but Ehrman somehow is because he has these great modern insights! This is the worldview he reads back into the New Testament. For a balanced study, this is not a good starting point.
I was continually waiting for a legitimate insight. There were a few. What I found too often was a professor who shaped his teaching around his personal beliefs that were revisionist and secular while at the same time maintaining a fundamentalistic thread. If you do listen to this series, don’t think that it is the last word or a balanced take. Luke Timothy Johnson has a series that does a much better job of presenting current scholarship while alerting the listener of his personal opinions.

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Excellent Historical Critical Perspective

A fantastic course on New testament history conducted by Bart Ehrman. This work addresses such questions as:

Who wrote the Gospels?
When were the Gospels written?
In what order were the Gospels written?
What discrepancies are in the Gospels and why?
Who the wrote the Pauline epistles?
How can we tell who wrote these books?

Ehrman is erudite and well-regarded among Biblical scholars. This work does not disappoint and I highly recommend this and other Great Courses by Bart Ehrman.

Note: This work is from a historical-critical perspective, not a devotional perspective. It is academia, not religion.

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Should have a different title

The information was great but most of the lecture was spent looking at discrepancies in what we consider the New Testament today. A better title would be "Finding the Original New Testament" or "Inconsistencies in the New Testament". All in all, it was really interesting, just not what I thought it would be.

119 people found this helpful

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I wasn't even interested...

I thought I should listen to this book, since my brother married a very religious woman. I was brought up Catholic, but still knew very little about The New Testament and wasn't even sure if I was interested. This book was fascinating, the teacher had a great delivery. I read the PDF to my Mother who was amazed at the content. Well worth listening to. I think almost anybody would find this course really interesting and well worth their time.

75 people found this helpful

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Skimps on Evidentiary Support at Logic's Expense

I love the Great Courses, but this one doesn't work. He breezes through arguments in a way that creates logical weak spots unnecessarily. It may be that there is more support for the claims, but it's not provided, so as an intro course or one designed to fill in your gaps, it's unsatisfying.

For example, he argued that there isn't any evidence that Luke wrote Acts because the part in Acts where he speaks in the first person was probably just copied directly from something Luke actually write. But he gives no evidence for assuming some other Luke document is out there in the face of Occam's razor suggesting the more direct conclusion---that the author was speaking in the first person because he was the author.

Likewise, he argues that the synoptic gospels don't corroborate each other because they all arise from a single source, known as Q. This is a common belief in the field, but the only evidence he gives the listener for the existence of Q is how closely the three books align. So his argument is essentially that the three books don't corroborate each of because they corroborate each other so closely that there is probably some other document out there they source from. Again, that's fine, but without providing additional evidence for Q to exist, it doesn't survive Occam's razor and is likely to strike listeners as unsatisfying.

If you want a more rigorous and only slightly more lengthy study, I recommend NT Wright's biography of Paul. It gives you a better view of the historical Jesus, historical Paul and analysis of the Epistles.

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Don't waste your money

What disappointed you about The New Testament?

Prof. Ehrma has nothing positive to say about the NT. Is is clear he is another secular academic with an agenda.I purchased this with hope of being inspired, but with his efforts to debunk the NT lecture after lecture, this was not the case.

Would you ever listen to anything by The Great Courses again?

Yes, but not by this person.

Any additional comments?

I’m a pretty big fan of The Teaching Company’s Great Courses audio lectures. I’m purchased a few and I’ve loaned a few from the library. I especially enjoyed The Catholic Church – A History, Reason and Faith, and St. Augustine – Philosopher and Saint, to mention a few.

But I must express a warning about the lecture series called the New Testament by Professor Bart D. Ehrman. Mr. Ehrman is your preverbal secularist academic who finds nothing of positive value in the NT. He goes out of his way to constantly find inconsistencies and tried to use logic or reasoning to pooh-pooh whatever book he is addressing. We are all aware that there are inconsistencies. They were written by humans relying on either their own eyewitness of events, oral stories being passed on, and early extant and non-extant written documents. He doubts the four evangelists wrote the gospels citing they did not contain the name of the author. Yes, the common practice at the time was not to name the work or identify the author, though at times the name of the work and or author would be written on the rolled scroll. So again he argues Mark, Matthew, Luke and John did not write the gospels.

He indicates there were no living eyewitnesses when the books were written. This is not true, some of the early church fathers regularly conversed with some eyewitnesses. John the youngest apostle could have been alive we into the 90s A.D.

There is a diatribe as he argues Paul taught a completely different religion than did Jesus. Well, Paul was not an eyewitness to Jesus. What Paul learned was learned from other Christians. There was tremendous growth and development in these early years and he ignores that the church was being led by the Holy Spirit. But he tries to use this to debunk both Jesus and Paul.

Do not waste your money and time on this. His unspoken agenda is clear. This is the kind of education our children are being taught in our institutes of “higher” education. A shame. No matter why our youth are turning away from faith. And I’m sure this secularization is pervasive in academia including “catholic universities.”

60 people found this helpful

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Incisive

Bart Ehrman is my favorite writer on New Testament topics, and fortunately he is also an engaging teacher. The result here is a first-rate introduction to the history and content of the New Testament. Of particular interest are his account of the four gospels and his interpretation of Revelation (which he sets firmly in the context of Roman history). I've read a lot on this subject over the years, but Ehrman always manages to surprise me with new information or incisive analysis. Depending on what you're looking for, this may be an excellent addition to your library; but you should note that Ehrman is writing as an historian, and his approach is more skeptical than some people of faith will be comfortable with.

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Very interesting!

The narrator does a fantastic job of addressing a controversial subject with care. Keep in mind that this is a historical discussion of the New Testament, not a theological discussion.

28 people found this helpful

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A rigorously and down to earth summation of what we know from a historical perspective...

This is a great course for those just beginning and wanting a historical/Literary criticism of what we know today from scholars. NOT THEOLOGIANS, APOLOGISTS OR DEVOTIONAL INTERPRETATION.

I find it interesting how those who only want the “truth” to be their truth, write comments that try to undermine or discredit scholars like Ehrman, yet their criticism only reflects their ignorance.

Ehrman goes out of his way many times to reiterate that his perspective and objective is from a historical/literary criticism point of view.

He is a master teacher and a voice that should be upheld and included in any study of the Christian sacred texts.

24 people found this helpful

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  • 09-16-16

Not what I expected from The Great Courses

Most of the Great Courses I have heard have been characterized by academic excellence and engaging presentation. This has been a remarkable exception to that pattern. The first half of the book is reasonably good - the professor gives references and a variety of points of view (which would suggest a good academic foundation). At the half way mark, the professor takes an entirely different tack - and in the remainder of the course, speaks from a specific Protestant dogma with no references to other points of view. In addition, his presentation style takes the form of a really bad sermon which was annoying to hear!

If you are looking for a better understanding of the New Testament from an academic point of view, keep looking. This professor has allowed his personal religious bias to overshadow any attempt at an even handed representation of what is admittedly a book with very few ancient copies to which an academic could refer. I finished listening - hoping that things would improve, and was disappointed that it continued to deteriorate to a rather sputtering conclusion.

22 people found this helpful

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  • Martin De Court
  • 12-24-15

It's an atheists view

Would you try another book written by The Great Courses and Bart D. Ehrman or narrated by Professor Bart D. Ehrman?

Christians Beware: this course is given by an atheist looking to dismiss the Christian message.Professor Ehrman's atheism may distress some Christian readers but he is a respected scholar and for those with a strong faith there is some content the robust believer will find helpful. One wonders who else might be interested, in fact. Why would an agnostic or atheist waste their time on such an in-depth study of the New Testament?

Any additional comments?

Ehrman presents his own arguments clearly but does not really consider many of the alternatives to his viewpoint. He implies that Christianity chooses to overlook many of his challenges whereas they have been tackled often over the centuries. For example, Pope Benedict XVI's books 'Jesus of Nazareth' deal with the inconsistencies in the resurrection narratives. Differing accounts from various reporters are hardly proof of falsehood and who would expect the evangelists to be neutral in their portrayal of events when objectivity eludes most historians! For all but the most ardent of biblical fundamentalists this is hardly an impediment to faith.

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  • Jonathan
  • 11-23-14

Utterly Compelling

A lecture course about the New Testament may sound a bit dry, but in the hands of Professor Ehrman it is the audiobook equivalent of a page-turner. This course is history not theology and would work equally well for Christians and non-Christians. The lectures progress through the New Testament discussing the historical basis and relevance of the material; for more detail on the content I recommend looking at the Great Courses website which has a list of lecture titles. My interest in the bible is as a cultural and historical source, and I found the insights provided by these lectures absolutely fascinating. I cannot recommend this course highly enough. One final point -- there is another Great Courses lecture series called "Great Figures of the New Testament" which has a slightly different focus but if you are deciding between the two I strongly recommend Professor Ehrman's course.

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  • Bilberry
  • 12-10-19

Excellent

Pragmatic, reasonable, well delivered, enjoyed it a lot

Makes me want to read more about this and Im atheist



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  • A. K. Love
  • 11-03-19

Well presented

Scholarly examination of the New Testament. Presented in an easy listening manner. Well worth the listen.


3 people found this helpful

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  • Claire
  • 06-15-18

Fascinating and Educational

I bought this after reading Ehrman's recent book, "The Triumph of Christianity", and really enjoyed his unique perspective. Every lecture on this course was packed full of information, but never felt over-loaded. I have a library full of Great Courses audiobooks, and this is among the best!
Would highly recommend!

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  • James McGhee
  • 08-02-20

prospective

educational thought provoking
interesting good 👍 listening 👌 looks at new testament in a different light

2 people found this helpful

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  • Neil and Helen sheppard
  • 06-06-19

Bart Erhman

Loved it. it was clear and concise as well as extremely informative. Very happy to recommend this book/lecture.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-16-22

A very nuanced academical review

The author analyses the historical value of the Bible. An interesting read! I also respect the fact he's not going against the idea of the faith or religions as a whole, but rather looking at the books as just that: books.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Kerry
  • 07-31-21

Interesting

I did think this was a book not a lecture series. But I really enjoyed this format.
The information was presented in a clear and understandable manner.
I learnt a lot of new information and a different way to look at the new testament.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Dawn
  • 02-08-19

a must listen!

Bart is great at presenting his work. I appreciate his timing and emphasis...It’s a large body of information based upon a seemingly dull subject but, as always he presents information that brings the subject to life.
Was sad to hear it end and look forward to listening to another of his books.
Listen, learn and enjoy !

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-30-17

A really fascinating series of lectures

I thought I had a handle on the New Testament. I mean the general gist of it. Was I wrong! This series provided a really interesting historical perspective of the group of documents that have come to be known as the New Testament. The presenter, prof. Bart Ehrman, made the material much more enjoyable to cover as he has quite a personable and witty character, and this manages to filter through the technology of the audio format. He was always respectful of the fact that there are many millions of people whose religious life emanates from these texts. He never disparaged or criticized Christianity as a faith. Nonetheless, there is also a lot of myth-busting going on throughout these fascinating lectures. I found the course to be empowering, interesting and beautifully crafted. Thank you Bart.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-28-20

So Good!

I didn't receive any religious education growing up as an atheist. I knew very little about the New Testament. This audiobook has provided me some useful base knowledge from which I can now build on.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 01-05-19

Well Presented. Easy for layman to understand.

Great course from a very knowledgeable lecturer. I learnt a lot from this course and would recommend it to a listener of any background. Historical context rather than religious context is very interesting.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Sejin Pak
  • 07-11-21

A good critical intro to NT to a non Christian like me.

A good critical intro to NK to a non Christian like me.
Too schematic, so requires accompanying reading, ie his textbook to more details. But a good first step. The notes are also useful.
Would also be good for Christians to reexamine their understanding of NT and their (unreflective) belief.

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  • myra colecliffe
  • 12-29-20

Intelligent and engaging

A really interesting and accessible evaluation of the New Testament appropriate for non christians. Great for these interested in history.