Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend

Bart D. Ehrman, Author . Oxford $27 (285p) ISBN 978-0-19-530013-0

There is a bit of irony in the subtitle of this terrific book. Ehrman, chair of the Department of Religious Studies at UNC–Chapel Hill and author of several well-received volumes including Lost Scriptures and Lost Christianities , struggles with the very issue of how to separate history from legend, whether it can be done at all and whether it matters. He contends "it is often easier to know how the past was remembered than to decide what actually happened." By shifting focus from the tales to the tellers, Ehrman enters the ongoing discussion of biblical literalism and reliability, insisting that we're not arriving at satisfactory answers because we're not asking the right questions. Drawing widely from history, scripture and extra-biblical writings, he studies the many stories of the lives of the first-century "Peter, Paul and Mary," arguing that inclusion of some accounts in the canon should not elevate these texts above the others, some of which were accepted early on by the church but later excluded from the canon. As with his other works, Ehrman presents his case clearly and succinctly. So, are the biblical stories more reliable than those outside the canon? The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind. (May)

Reviewed on: 03/13/2006
Release date: 05/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
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