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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

What listeners say about The New Testament

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Good stuff

This was Interesting and educational for me. It was a basic over view and I enjoyed it. #Audible1

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Excellent Overall

Professor Ehrman presents his content in an enjoyable and well thought out manner. I would recommend this to anyone who does not come from a fundamentalist Christian background, as they would likely just be exasperated by the facts presented. Respectfully, my only criticism would be that I found Professor Ehrman made certain claims based on what seemed to be faulty logic. These instances were, however, far and few in between, so I was quite pleased with this purchase overall. Thank you Professor Ehrman for your substantial contributions to this field of study.

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  • Nancy
  • 2019-03-02

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.

45 people found this helpful

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  • Wurm
  • 2013-10-03

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.

116 people found this helpful

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  • RGO
  • 2019-07-27

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.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Des W
  • 2019-08-31

Excellent!!!

Just a wonderful HISTORIC review of the new testament. Finished the lecture and immediately started the journey again. Can not recommend this enough, Bart Ehrman lays out a very concise historic view that is so clear anyone can get on board.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Kris Heap
  • 2015-03-18

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.

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  • Antonio M.
  • 2019-09-23

great overview of new testament

Keeping in mind that the author is agnostic, the arguments are always consequencial and well exposed. Many common sense ideas about new testament are dissected, still a good completion that is missing would be a recap of the teachings of Jesus that are supposed to be filologically reliable.

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  • Kelly
  • 2015-02-18

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.

25 people found this helpful

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  • Paul
  • 2019-07-02

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.

34 people found this helpful

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  • Tad Davis
  • 2017-01-13

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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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2016-02-27

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.

215 people found this helpful