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History of the Bible: The Making of the New Testament Canon

Delve into a thorough introduction to key issues in the development of Christianity in this course designed by an award-winning professor.
History of the Bible: The Making of the New Testament Canon is rated 4.0 out of 5 by 149.
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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Falls Short This course focuses more on the content of the New Testament of the Christian Bible than how that New Testament was formed, despite the course title. When it does address formation of the New Testament canon it is good. It is important to note that Dr. Ehrman takes a critical approach to the content, which is an alternative to thousands of years of traditional scholarship. While this is a legitimate approach, he does not address what practitioners think of the content. (Dr. Ehrman has said elsewhere that he himself started college as an evangelical practitioner but he has abandoned that position.) He frequently presents misconceptions of 18-, 19-, and 20-year old students, implicitly holding them as the best of the practitioner scholarship. This approaches the straw man fallacy. He starts the course (12 lectures long) by discussing the New Testament in general and Paul in particular in two lectures. Then he discusses three of the four major genres within the New Testament (gospel, Acts, epistle, and apocalypse), summarizing their content in six lectures, allowing two lectures for gospels not found in the New Testament and the problem of pseudonymity. (Oddly, he glosses over Acts.) He closes with four topical lectures including developing church hierarchy and the problem of copying documents. He glosses over the synoptic problem, jumping straight to the conclusion without explaining the justification for his conclusion. Some of his important points: * He concludes that most of the New Testament books were written in the first century but he holds that some were written in the early second century, contradicting traditional scholarship. He does not explain why the two sides of the disagreement think as they do. * He denies that Paul of Tarsus wrote about half of the books attributed to him, again contradicting traditional scholarship. He does not explain why the two sides of the disagreement think as they do. * He concludes that the Gospels are historically unreliable, again not addressing those who disagree. Oddly, only one of the 12 lectures addresses the title of the course: Making of the New Testament Canon. The primary value of this course is for practitioners of traditional Christianity to learn how skeptics might critique their belief system. I do not think it would be of much value to skeptics of traditional Christianity because to be a credible skeptic, one must first understand what one is being skeptical about and this course does not provide much material to that end. The course guide is below average by The Great Courses (TGC) standards. It is written in outline format rather than paragraph format and thus neither supplements the course nor provides an effective reference to the material after the course is taken. It averages less than five pages per lecture, well below the TGC average. It has no graphics in the lecture material. It does have an appendix with a timeline, a glossary, biographical notes, and a bibliography. Dr. Ehrman wrote or co-wrote six of the 26 references provided in the bibliography; no other author wrote more than one of them. I used the video version. There are very few visual graphics that add to the content. Audio-only would work just as well, such as when exercising or commuting. The course was published in 2005.
Date published: 2024-03-09
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Atheistic Agenda propagated as so called "Facts" The problem with this course is that Mr. Erhman is gravely inclined on spoiling the reputation of the Bible and hence makes absurd self-intrested claims that are not at all implied by the bible and presents them as though they were facts. As a historian, this is really disappointing and highly propagandized message from a person who is confused with himself. The accuracy of Erhman's claims is laughable by the fact that he has so many contradictions in his teachings. Poor Course but kind of expected this from TGC with their anti-christian agenda.
Date published: 2023-09-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An older course but still relevant and informative This is my 3rd Great Courses series on this subject. This is apparently one of the earlier courses…production quality is definitely outdated, but the material hasn’t changed (although they were still using B.C. And A.D.). Professor Ehrman is an engaging and entertaining lecturer.
Date published: 2022-11-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding coarse. Ehrman is very knowledgeable and makes the topic interesting and worth listening to.
Date published: 2022-11-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Good Overview Course I have taken several of Ehrman's courses. I have enjoyed them very much and learned a great deal from him. But I must say there's a fair amount of overlap in the courses. So, there's less new and less value in each one. Having said that, I have learned things of importance in each, including in this course. To illustrate, there are important stories that people commonly believe are firmly and clearly rooted in the Gospels. But Ehrman shows in reviewing the history of the Gospels that there's an unclear foundation in some cases. The story of the adulteress, the story of Jesus' prayer over his executioners, and the story of Jesus' appearance before his disciples are three examples of where the ultimate text may not have been the original text. This presses us to wonder what was original, ask the significance of the changes, and ponder where we end up with them. I'm familiar with the criticisms of Ehrman, and I'm sympathetic. But I, also, differ with the critics in that, notwithstanding their concerns, I learn a good deal from him and have concluded that his knowledge, breadth of history, logic, and objective expertise make it well worth my time and effort and add value to my understanding.
Date published: 2022-10-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The New Testament Canon I learned so much from this course. I now understand the cultural situation with apocalypical gospels. Also how the gospels were picked for inclusion, essentially by one bishop in Egypt who announced 27 books.
Date published: 2022-07-16
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointing The title is deliberately misleading: it is designed to attract believing Christians only to smack them with a course that is merely written to attack the Bible's inspiration and accuracy. The teacher went as far as misquoting Bible verses on a respectable service like The Great Courses. Waste of money.
Date published: 2022-05-28
Rated 1 out of 5 by from A religious class taught by an atheist. To say I feel cheated is an understatement. To actually have an atheist teach religious classes is like a faith healer teaching surgery. You should be more than ashamed.
Date published: 2022-05-25
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Overview

The History of the Bible: The Making of the New Testament Canon offers you a fast-moving yet thorough introduction to key issues in the development of the New Testament. These include: its different kinds of books, the conditions in which they were composed, what they teach, who actually wrote them, and-perhaps most important of all-why and how some books and not others became part of the canon of scripture that would define Christianity for all time. With their scholarly approach, these insightful lectures provide a deeper understanding of the New Testament for both Christians and non-Christians alike.

About

Bart D. Ehrman

After his crucifixion, Jesus' disciples came to believe he'd been raised from the dead and made a divine being. What had seemed like defeat became for them the ultimate cosmic victory.

INSTITUTION

The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Dr. Bart D. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He completed his undergraduate work at Wheaton College and earned his M.Div. and Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary. Professor Ehrman has written or edited 27 books, including four best sellers on The New York Times list: Misquoting Jesus: The Story behind Who Changed the Bible and Why; God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question-Why We Suffer; Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don't Know about Them);and Forged: Writing in the Name of God-Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are. Professor Ehrman also served as president of the Society of Biblical Literature, Southeastern Region; book review editor of the Journal of Biblical Literature; editor of the Scholars' Press monograph series The New Testament in the Greek Fathers;and coeditor-in-chief for the journal Vigiliae Christianae. Professor Ehrman received the John William Pope Center Spirit of Inquiry Award, the UNC Students' Undergraduate Teaching Award, the Phillip and Ruth Hettleman Prize for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement by Young Faculty, and the Bowman and Gordon Gray Professorship (awarded for excellence in undergraduate teaching).

By This Professor

How Jesus Became God
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The New Testament
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Lost Christianities: Christian Scriptures and the Battles over Authentication
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The Triumph of Christianity
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The New Testament-An Overview

01: The New Testament-An Overview

The course begins by addressing some of the basic facts about the New Testament: which books it contains, when they were written, in what language, and by whom....

32 min
Paul-Our Earliest Christian Author

02: Paul-Our Earliest Christian Author

The Epistles of Paul are the earliest books of the New Testament, predating even the Gospels. In considering the realities of writing a letter in the ancient world, we discover some interesting issues that affect how we understand Paul's Epistles and the other writings of the New Testament....

31 min
The Pauline Epistles

03: The Pauline Epistles

This lecture looks at some of the major teachings of Paul's Epistles and shows how he shaped his theological and ethical views in light of the problems that had emerged in his burgeoning Christian communities....

30 min
The Problem of Pseudonymity

04: The Problem of Pseudonymity

This lecture considers the broad problem of pseudonymity, or forgery, in the ancient world, and applies our findings to the Pauline letters of the New Testament to see if any, in fact, were written by Paul's followers rather than Paul himself....

31 min
The Beginnings of the Gospel Traditions

05: The Beginnings of the Gospel Traditions

This lecture looks at the roots of the Gospel narratives in the oral traditions that were spread throughout the Mediterranean in the years after Jesus' death, examining how they might have been modified and what we can know about their historical accuracy....

31 min
The Earliest Gospels

06: The Earliest Gospels

This lecture examines the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, considering what sources of information were available to their anonymous authors, their overarching messages, possible discrepancies among these accounts, and whether they can be trusted as reliable historical documents....

30 min
The Other Gospels

07: The Other Gospels

There were many additional accounts of Jesus' words, deeds, death, and resurrection that were not included in the New Testament. This lecture discusses the reasons why they were excluded, and examines two of the most important of them in greater detail....

31 min
Apocalypticism and the Apocalypse of John

08: Apocalypticism and the Apocalypse of John

This lecture examines the Apocalypse of John, otherwise known as the Book of Revelation, explaining both the religious view known as apocalypticism and the way the book's symbolic descriptions would have been understood in the context of the times....

31 min
The Copyists Who Gave Us Scripture

09: The Copyists Who Gave Us Scripture

Why were the books of the New Testament circulated? What made Christians eager to read them? This lecture explores the rarity of a book-based religion in the Roman world and the significance to early Christianity of the decisions about which books to accept as authoritative....

31 min
Authority in the Early Church

10: Authority in the Early Church

The need to have written authorities for faith and practice is ultimately what drove Christians to construct a distinctively Christian canon of Scripture to add to the existing Old Testament. This lecture explores how Christian leaders decided which books to include in this canon....

31 min
The Importance of Interpretation

11: The Importance of Interpretation

Even as Christians began to agree on which books were to be accepted, they were confronted with the dilemma caused by differing interpretations. This lecture examines the ways early Christians interpreted these texts, with special note on the problems raised by "figurative," and not simply literal, readings....

30 min
When Did the Canon Get Finalized?

12: When Did the Canon Get Finalized?

The lecture examines how, why, and when the canon of 27 books was finalized, and includes a look at some that almost made it in, such as the Apocalypse of Peter-and some that almost did not, such as the Apocalypse of John....

31 min