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Oxford University Press
Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew

Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew

by Bart D. Ehrman
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The early Christian Church was a chaos of contending beliefs. Some groups of Christians claimed that there was not one God but two or twelve or thirty. Some believed that the world had not been created by God but by a lesser, ignorant deity. Certain sects maintained that Jesus was human but not divine, while others said he was divine but not human.

In Lost Christianities, Bart D. Ehrman offers a fascinating look at these early forms of Christianity and shows how they came to be suppressed, reformed, or forgotten. All of these groups insisted that they upheld the teachings of Jesus and his apostles, and they all possessed writings that bore out their claims, books reputedly produced by Jesus's own followers. Modern archaeological work has recovered a number of key texts, and as Ehrman shows, these spectacular discoveries reveal religious diversity that says much about the ways in which history gets written by the winners. Ehrman's discussion ranges from considerations of various "lost scriptures"--including forged gospels supposedly written by Simon Peter, Jesus's closest disciple, and Judas Thomas, Jesus's alleged twin brother--to the disparate beliefs of such groups as the Jewish-Christian Ebionites, the anti-Jewish Marcionites, and various "Gnostic" sects. Ehrman examines in depth the battles that raged between "proto-orthodox Christians"--those who eventually compiled the canonical books of the New Testament and standardized Christian belief--and the groups they denounced as heretics and ultimately overcame.

Scrupulously researched and lucidly written, Lost Christianities is an eye-opening account of politics, power, and the clash of ideas among Christians in the decades before one group came to see its views prevail.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780195182491
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 09/15/2005
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 223,796
Product dimensions: 9.20(w) x 6.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Bart D. Ehrman is Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the author of The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings and Jesus, Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium.

Table of Contents

Chapter One: Recouping Our Loses
PART ONE: Forgeries and Discoveries
Chapter Two: The Ancient Discovery of a Forgery: Serapion and the Gospel of Peter
Chapter Three: The Ancient Forgery of a Discovery: The Acts of Paul and Thecla
Chapter Four: The Discovery on an Ancient Forgery: the Coptic Gospel of Thomas
Chapter Five: The Forgery of an Ancient Discovery? Morton Smith and the Secret Gospel of Mark
PART TWO: Heresies and Orthodoxies
Chapter Six: At Polar Ends of the Spectrum: Early Christian Ebionites and Marcionites
Chapter Seven: Christians "In the Know": The Worlds of Early Christian Gnosticism
Chapter Eight: On the Road to Nicea: The Broad Swath of Proto-Orthodox Christianity
PART THREE: Winners and Losers
Chapter Nine: The Quest for Orthodoxy
Chapter Ten: The Arsenal of the Conflicts: Polemical Treatises and Personal Slurs
Chapter Eleven: Additional Weapons in the Proto-Orthodox Arsenal: Forgeries and Falsifications
Chapter Twelve: The Invention of Scripture: The Formation of the Proto-Orthodox New Testament
Chapter Thirteen: Winners, Losers, and the Question of Tolerance

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Lost Christianities 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
JosephNicholas More than 1 year ago
In Lost Christianities, biblical scholar and author Bart D. Ehman thoughtfully explains the evolution of Christianity. It is fascinating to see how the competing sects of Christianity clashed and conquered. It is an invaluable read, especially for Christians.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book after hearing the author speak on NPR. I was very impressed by the book and would recommend it to anyone who really wants to learn about the early Christian church. You will find many surprises!! I compared the book to many other sources and found it 100% accurate.
Winterlight00 More than 1 year ago
Ehrman has a great writing style, fresh and lively. The guy obviously has a passion for his subject and it comes out in this book. While easy to read this is not a light weight book, you'll get real depth here about the varieties of early christian text and thought along with plenty of footnotes and references if you want to dig deeper. A great even handed introduction to early christianity for laymen amd scholars alike.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ehrman writes with a fascination towards the discoveries and controversies surrounding the protorthodox assembling of the New Testament. While there is obvious temptations to attack the divinity and integrity of the New Testament, Ehrman sticks to the facts. As he outlines the historical conflicts and controversies surrounding the formulation of the canon, what occurs to me is that it is more than amazing that we are left with a book(New Testament) that actually makes sense.
Rick_in_Brick More than 1 year ago
Ehrman provides details on many of the books that did not make it into what is now the sacred canon for the Christian relegion. He explains what is known of the believes of the early church and how they and the written materials were excluded from what we now call Christianity. This will be news for many who think the Bible contains everything that was written by the early church.
Nsp88 More than 1 year ago
I find the early Christian era fascinating, and worth researching to understand the early battles that shaped the world's largest religion. This book does well to explore this subject without becoming to scholarly or boring. Overall if this is a subject that interests you this is worth reading.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of Ehrman's best efforts at providing a historical framework for why certain books did not make it into today's Bible. He is at his best when he sticks to historical data rather than biased interpretation. He is often accused of pushing Agnosticism on evangelicals, but I do not find that here. Instead, he provides an excellent contextual lens withbwhich to understand the "hows" and "whys" of being sects formations and why they were considered heretical in light of today's church. For the reader that perhaps wishes to go beyond mere devotion and actually get some rich history behind Scripture, I thought this was an excellent read. Ehrman is a better professor of Christian history than a critic of it. Good read.
Doubles More than 1 year ago
I am slogging through it. It is difficult reading from my layman's point of view, but I find it very interesting. I am quite curious to finding out how Christianity achieved it's present form and what was "lost".
davidpwithun on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's hard to say whether I actually liked this book or not. I will say that it was exactly what I expected from Dr. Ehrman, being familiar with his writing. As always, his facts are flawless, his conclusions and hypemanship are worthless. He's a great read on early Christianity if you can skim past the hype and BS and get to the meat. I'd love to see him write an unbiased, nonjudgmental, truly scholarly work. I haven't seen one from him yet.
ncnsstnt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent overview of early Christianity, before it was decided which 27 books would form the New Testament canon that we have today. Ehrman is very readable and does a great job of explaining what happened as well as offering brilliant insights as to why.
dickmanikowski on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not only am I not a biblical scholar, I never read the Bible. But I still was fascinated by this story of how historical evidence points to how very early Christian churches initially diverged along varying interpretations of underlying doctrines before the movement that the author calls 'proto-orthodoxy' gained enough authority to set what we now see as the Christian agenda. Much of this story is framed in how the 27 scriptures that now comprise the New Testament were selected from a much larger pool of writings, and how even some of them were altered from their original form to resolve doctrinal disputes.It's not always easy reading, and I know I skimmed through portions of it. But this book was definitely worth starting and finishing.
GeekGoddess on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ehrman, who frequently appears on History Channel and the science stations. This book is a discussion of some of the different churches and beliefs of Christians during the first century. A main point of this history is that the present form of Christianity, that we tend to think of as the 'right' or orthodox viewpoint, is merely the one that won the debates. The winners get to write history, while the losers have their books destroyed, lost, or declared heretical. The religion could have just as easily turned out to be Peter's Jewish form rather than Paul's Gentile Christianity; Gnostic; Ebonite, or any of the other 40 or so verifiable church beliefs during the first two hundred years.
stacyinthecity on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Growing up in a Christian family, the Bible just was. It existed, it was the word of God. But how did that come to be? The first time I learned about the authorship of the Bible was interestingly enough, in my Catholic High School's Freshman Religious Studies class. I learned about the source material for the Gospels (Q) and other interesting tidbits. Still, it wasn't discussed much, or in great detail.As it turns out, there were many forms of early Christianity. Their teachings varied widely from each other. Roman Catholics and Baptists are practically identical compared with some competing Christian churches in the ancient world. This book discusses those versions of Christianity, where they came from, what they believed, what religious texts they used, and ultimately, why they died out by about the 4th Century.The author is a well regarded professor of Religious Studies who focuses on early Christianity, so his angle is purely academic and not religious. This may offend people who didn't realize that the church did not spring fully formed when Christ ascended. This book also discuss theological questions, nor does it claim which version of early Christianity was the One True Church.I found the book fascinating and the writing clear. I just had one minor annoyance - it would have been helpful if he used footnotes instead of end notes.
ablueidol on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have been interested for years in "lost voices". The cliché is that history is written by the winners so what were the strands of Christian practice and thought that were removed by the mainstream church that emerged from the post roman empire world? The source of my interest is a)what if or counterfactual history b)critical view of the authoritarian nature of mainstream Christianity c) rejection of the theological position of most Conservative Christians d)Wanting to remove from Christianity its historical and cultural baggage so that it can have an adult conversation with the 21st Century. This book walks you through the different strands and gives you their views rather then the edited views of the victors. It gives an honest view of why in some cases they remained marginal and what was lost at some of the suppressions. Jesus clearly was a Jew and not here to found the Christian/catholic church this was a consequence of many religious-political decisions and circumstances of the first 400 years of the church. However, I also read the book to give me a view of what the mainstream church was like to balance the views of the modern Gnostics who are critical of the "Literalists" as they see the church as now. As a Quaker I am drawn to this pre Nicene /Constantine world and the Gnostics and gospels such as Thomas. But the current criticism whilst important forgets that the spiritual groups of all the main monotheistic groups remain non mass movements or monastery based as say in Buddhism. We must not assume that the literalist mass movements are about fooling the people most of the time. Each religious impulse has its hope and despair side including the non-literalists. The issue is how to hold these impulses in a single community so that they enrich each other. They reflect the whole us!
jontseng on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The majority of the book is a compelling mixture of hardcore hermeneutics and engaging exposition. Spoiled somewhat by the author's conspiracy theories about the spread of "orthadox Christianity". Occam's Razor may have been a simpler alternative.
reannon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ehrman in this book writes about the broad variety of Christian viewpoints in the early centuries after the life of Jesus and the apostles. It was not until the 4th century that the books of the new Testament were finalized, and it was around the same time that what Ehrman calls the proto-orthodox views of Christian belief overcame the other views to become the orthodox Christian standard views. As the other sects of early Christianity lost out, their writings were, for the most part, lost. Over time, some of these writings have been found again, most notably with the Nag Hammadi discovery in the 1940s.Thus a new vision of early Christianity is required, one in which there were many competing doctrines, with proponents of each having lively debates with each other, and in which each church might have its own set of works it considered sacred Scripture. There's some unexpected humor in the work. Look at page 146-7 to find out what one early author thought was the relationship between weasels and oral sex.,Ehrman is a decent writer, which is necessary, as he is a scholar writing about scholarly topics, which can tend to get rather dry. Yet the topic is quite fascinating, to see a new picture of a particular period that had so much influence on our world today, unfold. Recommended.
Arctic-Stranger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If you are looking for proof that Dan Brown got it right in the Da Vinci Code, this is NOT the book for you. But if you are looking for a serious, but readable tome on the varieties of Christianity in the years before the Council of Nicea, you could not do much better than Ehrman. This is a compliment to his [Lost Scriptures], which a collection of early Christian "Bibles." Ehrman gives a cogent, historically accurate account of the different early Christian traditions; how people took the story of the life, ministry and death of Jesus, and used it as a touchstone for belief.
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