Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Stories of Their Savior

Bart D. Ehrman. HarperOne, $27.99 (326p) ISBN 978-0-06-228520-1
With his typical humor, passion, and vivacity, Ehrman (How Jesus Became God) explores the ways that memory shapes, distorts, changes, and preserves the stories of Jesus passed along by the Christian community. He points out, for example, that the numerous accounts of Jesus circulating before and after his death each portrayed a very different man, one shaped by the tellers' own religious and cultural concerns. Ehrman locates the empirically verifiable memories of Jesus that inform the gospels—he was an itinerant teacher; he had a number of followers; he was born and raised a Jew—and then examines the ways that early Christian literature preserves or invents its own memories of Jesus. Engaging in a close reading of Matthew's account of the Sermon on the Mount, he illustrates that the event represents a "collection of sayings of Jesus that the writer of the gospel has shaped into a long and memorable sermon." Before readers get too uncomfortable, Ehrman convincingly points out that the remembered Jesus—the figure whose existence is shaped by the memories of him handed down through time—is the one who made history. Ehrman's provocative book raises engaging questions that drive readers back to the sources of our information about Jesus, challenging them to read the gospel with fresh, skeptical eyes. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/14/2016
Release date: 03/01/2016
Genre: Religion
Ebook - 336 pages - 978-0-06-228523-2
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-06-244520-9
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-06-228522-5
Compact Disc - 978-1-5046-9616-6
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Audio book sample courtesy of HarperAudio
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