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Picking up where Bible expert Bart Ehrman's New York Times bestseller Misquoting Jesus left off, Jesus, Interrupted addresses the larger issue of what the New Testament actually teaches—and it's not what most people think. Here Ehrman reveals what scholars have unearthed:

The authors of the New Testament have diverging views about who Jesus was and how salvation works

The New Testament contains books that were forged in the names of the apostles by Christian writers who lived decades later

Jesus, Paul, Matthew, and John all represented fundamentally different religions

Established Christian doctrines—such as the suffering messiah, the divinity of Jesus, and the trinity—were the inventions of still later theologians

These are not idiosyncratic perspectives of just one modern scholar. As Ehrman skillfully demonstrates, they have been the standard and widespread views of critical scholars across a full spectrum of denominations and traditions. Why is it most people have never heard such things? This is the book that pastors, educators, and anyone interested in the Bible have been waiting for—a clear and compelling account of the central challenges we face when attempting to reconstruct the life and message of Jesus.

Topics: Jesus, The Bible, Gospel, The Romans, Conspiracy, Secrets, Ancient Times, and Literary Criticism

Published: HarperCollins on
ISBN: 9780061863288
List price: $10.99
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Maybe one of the only popular books on biblical scholarship I have ever seen.more
I never did figure out what the title of this book is supposed to mean, but it doesn't matter. The secondary title is most relevant. Ehrman is a biblical scholar in the "historical-critical" school and he really knows his stuff. Scholarly but quite readable, fascinating, and provocative.more
Bart Ehrman is on a roll. A scholar of the New Testament (NT) at the University of North Carolina, Ehrman has published a new book on the history of early Christianity, NT, or the historical Jesus every other year or so since 2005. Ehrman's recent output has tended toward the popular rather than the scholarly. I haven't yet read any of Ehrman's more scholarly works (I mean to, I will), but I assume that books such as Jesus, Interrupted: Revaling the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don't Know About Them) (2009) are more accessible distillations of his academic monographs.Ehrman's thesis in Jesus, Interrupted is that the NT, early Christianity and, consequently, modern Christianity, is riddled with “hidden” contradictions. As Ehrman himself repeatedly points out, there is nothing “controversial” about the notion that the NT contradicts itself. It is obvious to any observant reader that the Jesus portrayed in Mark is different from that in Luke, and both versions of the Nazarene radically differ from the one in John. Ehrman notes that even readers familiar with the NT might miss such differences since they tend to read the books sequentially rather than “horizontally”; that is, they read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the order they appear in the Bible rather than comparing aspects of the stories to one another (for instance, Jesus' birth).Having established the varied perspectives of the Gospels, Ehrman goes on to discuss issues of interest to both scholars and the reading public. In light of the differences in the Gospels, what can scholars say about the historical Jesus? Who wrote the NT? How was it compiled? Who were the early Christians and what did they believe? Readers unfamiliar with history or religion (as academic disciplines), or who consider themselves versed in the NT (without really having read much of it) might be surprised or disturbed by Ehrman's points. I read one user review that said something along the lines of, “As usual, Ehrman's facts are flawless but his conclusions are biased and totally off-base.” The conclusions to which the user was referring were unclear (Ehrman touches on a variety of topics, after all), but Ehrman builds arguments that, although sometimes based on a paucity of evidence and a heap of speculation, seem sound. Remember that this is not an academic work; Ehrman is permitted leeway in terms of expressing his “guesses” and “intuitions.”Some readers will be concerned about the implications Jesus, Interrupted will have for faith (their own, Christians in general). My impression is that such readers needn't worry. Ehrman takes pains to point out that he is not attacking Christianity, nor is he interested in subverting anyone's faith. Ehrman began his academic career as an evangelical Christian and is now an agnostic. Lest anyone suspect that Ehrman's fall from grace is proof of the perversions rife in academe, he notes that his abandonment of Christianity had nothing to do with his studies and everything to do with his inability to reconcile the notion of a loving deity with the suffering evident in the world. Ehrman points out, rightly, that the discipline of history can neither prove nor disprove the assertions of faith, although it can inform particular schools of belief. Evangelical Christians who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible may find Jesus, Interrupted a difficult pill to swallow.I will end on a personal note, a liberty I take in light of Ehrman's frequent personal asides. I am a Jew. I am not in any way invested in the truth of Christianity. (Although, I think, it would be sad to see my Christian friends and neighbors abandon their faith en masse as a result of the scholarship Ehrman shares.) That said, I completely embrace Ehrman's assertion that scholarship can enhance one's faith and one's understanding of one's religion. Liberal Jews have known this since biblical studies began in earnest in the nineteenth century. The majority of my fellow (liberal) Jews do not recognize Moses as the author of Torah, as tradition states. We are aware that Torah was compiled by at least four sources (“authors”) and put into its final form by a Redactor (or, if you prefer, redactors). The literary-historical approach to the text opens a vista of interpretations, understandings, and meanings. We find the multiplicity of meanings not threatening, but liberating. I don't presume to tell our Christian friends how to approach the NT, but to see them study it the way liberal Jews do Torah would provide us all a common ground from which to speak to one another.more
I think the subtitle of this book is a little misleading. There's really only one chapter that focuses primarily on "revealing the hidden contradictions in the Bible, "and that one only offers up a smattering of examples, all of them from the New Testament. (In fact, the book as a whole focuses almost exclusively on the New Testament, that being the author's area of expertise.) What it really is, rather than a list of contradictions, is an introductory overview of the historical-critical approach to the Bible, in which the texts are examined in an analytical fashion, in their proper historical context. So, we do get a chapter that talks about how the various accounts of the life and death of Jesus contradict each other and how those contradictions reflect the individual authors' own theological concerns. But there are also discussions about who wrote the various books of the Bible (which often turns out not to be who they're attributed to), how some writings were accepted as part of the biblical canon while others were left out, what we can conclude (or reasonably speculate) about the historical Jesus based on the writings we have, how Christian theology changed in the centuries after Jesus and affected the biblical texts, and so on.I imagine a lot of this is likely to be quite eye-opening for those raised in a tradition of Biblical literalism (assuming they're willing to hear it out). For heathen unbeliever me, though, some of the basic points have a certain "well, duh!" quality to them. Of course reports of events written by different people decades after the fact are going to differ significantly, and all the more so if differing religious agendas are involved. Many of the historical details are quite interesting, though, especially when you consider the incredible, massive influence the Christian Bible has had on all of western civilization. And Ehrman's writing is very clear and readable, covering the subject matter well without getting too bogged down in fiddly academic disputes, and providing just enough examples to make his points without letting things get too tedious. He also doesn't make any unwarranted assumptions about his readers' personal beliefs, or expect more than a basic, general familiarity with the Bible going in.more
Read all 26 reviews

Reviews

Maybe one of the only popular books on biblical scholarship I have ever seen.more
I never did figure out what the title of this book is supposed to mean, but it doesn't matter. The secondary title is most relevant. Ehrman is a biblical scholar in the "historical-critical" school and he really knows his stuff. Scholarly but quite readable, fascinating, and provocative.more
Bart Ehrman is on a roll. A scholar of the New Testament (NT) at the University of North Carolina, Ehrman has published a new book on the history of early Christianity, NT, or the historical Jesus every other year or so since 2005. Ehrman's recent output has tended toward the popular rather than the scholarly. I haven't yet read any of Ehrman's more scholarly works (I mean to, I will), but I assume that books such as Jesus, Interrupted: Revaling the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don't Know About Them) (2009) are more accessible distillations of his academic monographs.Ehrman's thesis in Jesus, Interrupted is that the NT, early Christianity and, consequently, modern Christianity, is riddled with “hidden” contradictions. As Ehrman himself repeatedly points out, there is nothing “controversial” about the notion that the NT contradicts itself. It is obvious to any observant reader that the Jesus portrayed in Mark is different from that in Luke, and both versions of the Nazarene radically differ from the one in John. Ehrman notes that even readers familiar with the NT might miss such differences since they tend to read the books sequentially rather than “horizontally”; that is, they read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the order they appear in the Bible rather than comparing aspects of the stories to one another (for instance, Jesus' birth).Having established the varied perspectives of the Gospels, Ehrman goes on to discuss issues of interest to both scholars and the reading public. In light of the differences in the Gospels, what can scholars say about the historical Jesus? Who wrote the NT? How was it compiled? Who were the early Christians and what did they believe? Readers unfamiliar with history or religion (as academic disciplines), or who consider themselves versed in the NT (without really having read much of it) might be surprised or disturbed by Ehrman's points. I read one user review that said something along the lines of, “As usual, Ehrman's facts are flawless but his conclusions are biased and totally off-base.” The conclusions to which the user was referring were unclear (Ehrman touches on a variety of topics, after all), but Ehrman builds arguments that, although sometimes based on a paucity of evidence and a heap of speculation, seem sound. Remember that this is not an academic work; Ehrman is permitted leeway in terms of expressing his “guesses” and “intuitions.”Some readers will be concerned about the implications Jesus, Interrupted will have for faith (their own, Christians in general). My impression is that such readers needn't worry. Ehrman takes pains to point out that he is not attacking Christianity, nor is he interested in subverting anyone's faith. Ehrman began his academic career as an evangelical Christian and is now an agnostic. Lest anyone suspect that Ehrman's fall from grace is proof of the perversions rife in academe, he notes that his abandonment of Christianity had nothing to do with his studies and everything to do with his inability to reconcile the notion of a loving deity with the suffering evident in the world. Ehrman points out, rightly, that the discipline of history can neither prove nor disprove the assertions of faith, although it can inform particular schools of belief. Evangelical Christians who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible may find Jesus, Interrupted a difficult pill to swallow.I will end on a personal note, a liberty I take in light of Ehrman's frequent personal asides. I am a Jew. I am not in any way invested in the truth of Christianity. (Although, I think, it would be sad to see my Christian friends and neighbors abandon their faith en masse as a result of the scholarship Ehrman shares.) That said, I completely embrace Ehrman's assertion that scholarship can enhance one's faith and one's understanding of one's religion. Liberal Jews have known this since biblical studies began in earnest in the nineteenth century. The majority of my fellow (liberal) Jews do not recognize Moses as the author of Torah, as tradition states. We are aware that Torah was compiled by at least four sources (“authors”) and put into its final form by a Redactor (or, if you prefer, redactors). The literary-historical approach to the text opens a vista of interpretations, understandings, and meanings. We find the multiplicity of meanings not threatening, but liberating. I don't presume to tell our Christian friends how to approach the NT, but to see them study it the way liberal Jews do Torah would provide us all a common ground from which to speak to one another.more
I think the subtitle of this book is a little misleading. There's really only one chapter that focuses primarily on "revealing the hidden contradictions in the Bible, "and that one only offers up a smattering of examples, all of them from the New Testament. (In fact, the book as a whole focuses almost exclusively on the New Testament, that being the author's area of expertise.) What it really is, rather than a list of contradictions, is an introductory overview of the historical-critical approach to the Bible, in which the texts are examined in an analytical fashion, in their proper historical context. So, we do get a chapter that talks about how the various accounts of the life and death of Jesus contradict each other and how those contradictions reflect the individual authors' own theological concerns. But there are also discussions about who wrote the various books of the Bible (which often turns out not to be who they're attributed to), how some writings were accepted as part of the biblical canon while others were left out, what we can conclude (or reasonably speculate) about the historical Jesus based on the writings we have, how Christian theology changed in the centuries after Jesus and affected the biblical texts, and so on.I imagine a lot of this is likely to be quite eye-opening for those raised in a tradition of Biblical literalism (assuming they're willing to hear it out). For heathen unbeliever me, though, some of the basic points have a certain "well, duh!" quality to them. Of course reports of events written by different people decades after the fact are going to differ significantly, and all the more so if differing religious agendas are involved. Many of the historical details are quite interesting, though, especially when you consider the incredible, massive influence the Christian Bible has had on all of western civilization. And Ehrman's writing is very clear and readable, covering the subject matter well without getting too bogged down in fiddly academic disputes, and providing just enough examples to make his points without letting things get too tedious. He also doesn't make any unwarranted assumptions about his readers' personal beliefs, or expect more than a basic, general familiarity with the Bible going in.more
I give this book a half star not because Mr Ehrman is a bad writer, or that he didn't have enough to say. I actually recommend this to Christians that are well grounded in their faith. Mr. Ehrman sees the Word of God as a human book because he is using “deep and penetrating historical, literary, and textual analysis” to examine the outside of the package not the truth that is contained inside. Mr. Ehrman’s academic and historical perspectives have led him to the wrong conclusion. However, I will give him credit. He is a talented writer and intellect, for it is difficult to write so much and so well about something that is so wrong.more
The author is an academic professor whose job is to examine critically the New Testament as a collection of works written in the 1st-2nd century, rather than as a collection of Holy Books, and understand the aim and the worldviews of their authors.And this book is just, that, an examination of the contradictions among the books of the New Testament and of the differences between the theologies of the early Christian communities that held them precious.more
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