The Historical Jesus

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Strong Historic Analysis Good review of materials and cogent argument as to who Jesus was.
Date published: 2020-01-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mindblowing! I am halfway through this course, I'm going slow and savoring every lecture. The scholarship and delivery are superb and are only surpassed by the extraordinary perspective Mr. Ehrman provides.
Date published: 2019-12-12
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Still waiting for it I can't really evaluate it yet. I TRIED to play it right away, but all four discs came up with an Error 1 message. I want to listen to it. I sent an email right away, but no one followed up on the first one. When I sent the second, someone said another course had been sent to me, but it has not yet arrived
Date published: 2019-10-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Course I bought this course because of a planned cross-country car trip. It made the trip so much easier. Interesting, well-researched, and engaging. Professor Ehrman organized and presented the information (and there was a lot of it) in a very logical way. I could not recommend the course enough. I will get others by Professor Ehrman.
Date published: 2019-09-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from great presentation The Instructor is extremely knowledgeable and makes his lectures interesting.
Date published: 2019-07-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Like a detective story Bart Erman is an engaging speaker. He tries to build the objective real story using some historical criteria. In this way, the course follows a course like the solving of a detective story. I recommend this course everyone who is interested in ancient history and the real story behind Jesus's life. It may not be so attractive for the adherent believers.
Date published: 2019-06-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good overview Enjoyed the lectures but the material was highly selective in supporting the conclusion that Jesus was just an apocalyptic preacher.
Date published: 2019-05-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course An excellent course, well worth the time. Great material and great presentation.
Date published: 2019-04-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Stating the obvious I have only completed the first 5 lectures, however if it is the professors attempt to debunk the gospels he is doing a fine job. It is well known that the gospels were not written until long after the death of Jesus. Consequently there will be omissions and contradictions and lots of disagreements. However, professor Ehrman points out these discrepancies as if nothing can be believed and the authors have made grievous errors that cast doubt on the authenticity of anything.
Date published: 2019-03-26
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Historical Jesus Bought the DVD edition. Should have saved my $$ and just bought the download audio edition. Little benefit to watching the professor stand before a lectern and talk. Had there been useful charts or graphics the DVD MIGHT have been worth the extra $$. Lecturer is adequately knowledgeable, but is only a B- presenter.
Date published: 2018-11-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from gripping detectivework This is a Great Course. It’s often said that history is detective-work, and usually everyone’s favorite part of a detective story is when the sleuth explains the steps gone through to piece together all the clues and evidence and arrive at the true solution to the mystery. That is precisely what Professor Ehrman does with this series. I actually found myself much more interested in his explanation of the source materials, and his approach to them, than I was in the actual conclusions he drew. --- That said, I can imagine there’s quite an audience out there who might not care so much for the “behinds the scenes” reconstruction of the past, and prefer to get to meat of the matter of the historical Jesus. Therefore a suggestion to the Teaching Company (and to Professor Ehrman): perhaps one of those mini-six-lecture courses that devotes perhaps a single lecture to an overview of methodology, criteria, etc., and then uses the remaining five to zero in on “what we can really know about the actual historical Jesus.” I’m not sure I’d buy such a course, but I bet a lot of listeners/viewers would.
Date published: 2018-10-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Learned not just about Jesus, but about life in the middle east at the time of his life
Date published: 2018-09-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Ehrman's exploration of the historical Jesus is done with such thoughtful precision as to make him one of the top in his field. Truly inspirational !!!
Date published: 2018-08-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting and well-presented evaluation! This is an evenly-presented and well-researched discussion of what we really know about the life of Jesus and how we know it. It doesn’t invoke or presume any particular religious beliefs about what Jeses’ life and acts mean to people. Rather, it is an evidence-based examination of the events and details of his life based principally on the Gospels.
Date published: 2018-08-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An engaging, clear and revealing course This is an informative, clear and engaging course. The lecturer is clear and persuasive in his view of Jesus as an apocryphal preacher who expected the kingdom of god to arrive shortly. The lecturer is very good at telling us how to sift the gospels for strong evidence of what Jesus actually said, and on what grounds we should discount some New Testament material. Whether we agreed with all their conclusions or not, the lectures give a compelling idea of Jesus the man. This is is a fine introduction to the historical Jesus and I recommend it.
Date published: 2018-08-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Perfect Title Purchased this course and was extremely pleased. The materials always great!
Date published: 2018-06-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Did not satisfy Felt the lecturer spent more time on disproof's then citing proven examples. My bias probibly based on my faith, not being a historian.
Date published: 2018-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Historical Jesus Bart Erdman is fabulous. I struggled a bit through the BA, an MA and a JD...more profs like Nart would have made a better student....keep ‘em coming!
Date published: 2018-05-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The life of Jesus is always a controversial topic to cover. A times the professor seemed belabour the point a bit, but as it is a topic that can never been known I enjoyed hearing the professor's views and he was thorough in laying out his research. I like to collect views on religion & religious figures so I thoroughly enjoyed getting another well reasoned take on the person of Jesus. You may need to check your personal beliefs at the door as it is not the standard religious viewpoint.
Date published: 2018-03-31
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Extremely Biased There is little or no logic or scholarship that went into this lecture series. Ehrman came up with a narrative and published it as if it were research.
Date published: 2018-03-19
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Flawed Mthodology I am not a Christian and listened to this with no axe to grind. Most of the methods used are of little value if Jesus is a myth. Most of the lecturer's prior work essentially points in this direction, but he appears reluctant to admit this. Most myths appear in many versions, so comparing "sources" leads nowhere. Other problems are use of imaginary sources like "Q" and reliance on conversations that often could not be witnessed, and which occurred 30 or more years prior to the event. He fails to mention the many historians of the time who had no knowledge of Jesus (such as Philo). The likely role of Eusebius, a known forger, in the famous Josephus passage, is never mentioned. In addition, when he discusses Paul, he fails to mention that there is no evidence whatsoever that he actually existed and that most scholars classify many of his letters as forgeries. Thus, one must assume there was actually a historical Jesus to prove there was a historical Jesus by these methods- a circular process. In summary, the methodology is so weak that this cannot be classified as real historical research. The reader must understand that this course and similar material is largely speculation. It may make you happy or anger you, but there is little definitive knowledge to be had.
Date published: 2018-02-15
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Skip This Course-Lecturer Has An Ax To Grind Years ago I read Prof. Ehrman's book "Misquoting Jesus" and found it interesting. I was excited to find his DVD lecture "Historical Jesus" in the Great Courses series. What a huge disappointment. Prof. Ehrman lets his atheism get in the way of his scholarship and does no one a service in giving insight into learning about what Jesus the man's life was like in the context of the world at the time. Ehrman gets so worked up focusing on disproving and showing discrepancies in the Gospels that he really looks and sounds like a nut job. I find it hard to believe this highly educated biblical scholar has never studied Hegel and Strauss and the idea of the symbolism of the NT and the universal truths of the stories. Trying to convince people that the NT is just a bunch of lies does no one any good and only comes off as biased and a reflection of the professor's own personal hang ups with Christianity. Don't waste your money on this DVD. And by the way, I am not a fundamentalist. Just your run of the mill mainline Liberal Christian. I watched this course with a friend who actually is an atheist and even he thought the professor was biased and contributed nothing to understanding Jesus within the context of his culture and times. Not up to Great Courses otherwise excellent standards.
Date published: 2017-11-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Required listening For those who want to distinguish the real Jesus from the pious (and self-serving) accretions to his story, this is a must. Though I went to a religious school through high school, many of the revelations came as a total shock to me.
Date published: 2017-11-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Ehrman Detangles the Gospel This is my second course given by Professor Bart Ehrman and I am very happy he has a consistent engaging pace and style. His presentation is easy to understand as he organizes people, places, and authors of the Gospels through logical discourse for the layman. You will easily cut to the chase on technical details of many well known Biblical passages as presented in this series.
Date published: 2017-11-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Rigorous and eye-opening Professor B. Ehrman explains very rigorously and clearly the methodology of historical analysis and its boundaries and then applies such criteria to bring out a plausible reconstruction of the historical figure of Jesus. This leads to a surprising, fascinating, and, in my opinion, convincing picture.
Date published: 2017-08-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Excellent Course I want to begin with this issue that has been raised by some of the critics of this course: the matter of the professor's personal agnosticism. I believe in God, and I assume most of the reviewers do, too. But I don't believe in diminishing credit in judging a course because of the professor's faith or lack thereof. I don't add or subtract in an evaluation of courses because of a professor's political or cultural beliefs either. I believe we should grade these courses on the basis of their intellectual value with respect to our learning goals. I will add or subtract based on the quality of the teaching - the use of evidence and reason, insights, discipline, creativity, lack of bias, and overall effectiveness in enhancing my learning. Based on those criteria, I believe Professor Ehrman has done a fine job here. The tests he applies for making historical judgments are sound and well grounded. He applies them in a rigorous, meticulous and careful way. It is true that one is never on entirely sure footing in the subject he's addressing, of course, but his hypotheses and, most important, the evidence he deduces from the texts to confirm them are strong. The professor offers several other caveats that are important, especially with respect to the full authority all believers have as to matters of faith and theology. Still, his overall goal in teaching the course remains a worthy one. It helps all people who think the life of Jesus is an extremely important matter to have the best sense possible of who Jesus was historically. Then one can take that knowledge wherever faith leads. In that respect, this course has great merit.
Date published: 2017-07-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not worth it Less a historical treaties on Jesus and more about what others wrote about him. Set up criteria for judging but used them rather loosely. Some of his sources are of dubious value. E.G. The gnostic gospel of Thomas. Used to differentiate some points it's gnostic authorships influence wasn't counted for much. One criteria was independent source but he multiplied 3 gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke into six source by including Q, M & L of which we have no copies. They are claimed to be source materials for the gospels but use is dubious as the gospels according to the teacher are derivative of them and we have zero physical evidence of them. All in all it was more like he had a point to prove than, as claimed, an objective scholarly evaluation.
Date published: 2017-06-01
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Just can't get engaged My upbringing has been in Eastern religions. My college focus was history and I found that by studying the historical Jesus, it's led me to a desire to understand Western religions more. Recently, I'd been watching THE STORY OF GOD and FINDING JESUS series. It combines great narration and scenes from biblical sites, artifacts, etc. I was looking forward to this course to give a more in-depth and structured perspective to religion from a historical view. So far, I've labored through Lesson One. The professor's speaking style is so uninspired and everything he says is pretty much contained in the guidebook. I've ended up reading Chapter Two rather than endure another DVD lesson . I consider myself at a "novice level" for this subject and as such, an empty canvas for this topic. I was so looking forward to this DVD, but this DVD has dampened my enthusiasm for the topic, as well as the other 2 Great Courses that I purchased at the same time.
Date published: 2017-04-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from On Point I have listened to several lecture series on the subject and two others by this professor. The concept of analyzing Jesus from an academically historical perspective is minimally rational and optimally illuminating. The series has been outstanding and well worth the study. I listened to several of the CD's in the set more than once. Well done, Professor.
Date published: 2017-03-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Historical Jesus is a hit I happen to have a couple of other audio books from this author....he's very good. I always learn something whenever I listen to him
Date published: 2017-01-26
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The Many Faces of Jesus
1: The Many Faces of Jesus

Jesus is undoubtedly the most significant figure in the history of Western civilization. Yet even scholars who have devoted their lives to studying the ancient sources about him come to widely varying conclusions. Working from a strictly historical perspective that neither presupposes nor disallows any particular beliefs, what can we learn about what Jesus most likely said and did?

32 min
One Remarkable Life
2: One Remarkable Life

To begin the study of the historical Jesus, it may be best to start by examining the world within which the Christian religion was born. That was a world largely populated by "pagans," i.e., people who, unlike the Jews and then later the Christians, believe not in one but in many gods.

30 min
Scholars Look at the Gospels
3: Scholars Look at the Gospels

Scholars have approached the Gospels in a number of ways. The monumental work of D. F. Strauss, a German writing in the 1830s, argues that the Gospels are best understood as containing history-like stories that intend to convey truth but did not occur as they were narrated. Why do most scholars today-who do not subscribe to Strauss's precise notion-still find his general approach highly illuminati...

30 min
Fact and Fiction in the Gospels
4: Fact and Fiction in the Gospels

Scholars question the historical accuracy of some gospel accounts not out of hostility toward Christianity-many are committed Christians-but because of historical evidence. What is this evidence, and how do historians assess it?

30 min
The Birth of the Gospels
5: The Birth of the Gospels

The Gospels-which do not claim to be eyewitness accounts-appear to date from 35-65 years after the events that they narrate. Thus for a generation accounts of Jesus were passed on by word of mouth. Is it possible for us to move "behind" the written accounts to learn more about this original oral tradition, and perhaps even about Jesus himself as a historical person?

31 min
Some of the Other Gospels
6: Some of the Other Gospels

In addition to the New Testament, other written sources about Jesus have come down to us from antiquity. What are these other, noncanonical Gospels like? Who wrote them, and when? What sources did they use? How much can they tell us about what Jesus himself actually said and did?

30 min
The Coptic Gospel of Thomas
7: The Coptic Gospel of Thomas

This book, unearthed in Egypt in 1945, consists of 114 sayings attributed to Jesus. Many resemble sayings in Matthew, Mark, and Luke; others are different. What were the sources for Thomas?

30 min
Other Sources
8: Other Sources

First-century pagan authors mention Jesus only twice, in passing. The rest of the New Testament outside the Gospels likewise adds little historical evidence. But there is a hypothetical source to consider-the now-lost document called "Q," from which both Matthew and Luke seemingly drew.

31 min
Historical Criteria-Getting Back to Jesus
9: Historical Criteria-Getting Back to Jesus

How can the available sources be used to recover the words and deeds of Jesus? Scholars apply three specific criteria for establishing historically reliable material. In this lecture you learn about the first of the three.

30 min
More Historical Criteria
10: More Historical Criteria

In addition to the criterion of "independent attestation," scholars use two others to help gauge the historical reliability of traditions about Jesus. From this lecture, you'll learn the logic behind these criteria and then you'll see how they apply to accounts drawn from both canonical and noncanonical sources.

31 min
The Early Life of Jesus
11: The Early Life of Jesus

Using the criteria outlined in the preceding two lectures, which traditions about the birth and childhood of Jesus can be said to be historically authentic?

31 min
Jesus in His Context
12: Jesus in His Context

The history of Palestine was a story of war and foreign domination. The Romans took over Israel about 60 years before Jesus was born. Different forms of Judaism had emerged too, though Jesus himself was aligned with no sect, and had deep differences with at least some.

30 min
Jesus and Roman Rule
13: Jesus and Roman Rule

Under Roman rule, some Jews embraced convictions that modern scholars group under the label "apocalypticism." According to this set of beliefs, God would soon smash the forces of evil and usher the chosen people into the divine kingdom. Did Jesus himself proclaim some such views?

31 min
Jesus the Apocalyptic Prophet
14: Jesus the Apocalyptic Prophet

Why have many scholars since Albert Schweitzer found this apocalyptic view of Jesus credible? How does it pass the three tests of historical credibility and help us to understand both the origins and the aftereffects of Jesus' public ministry?

31 min
The Apocalyptic Teachings of Jesus
15: The Apocalyptic Teachings of Jesus

Having assessed the case for considering Jesus in some sense a Jewish apocalypticist, you can turn to a consideration of some of the things he taught regarding the coming judgment and kingdom of God.

31 min
Other Teachings of Jesus in their Apocalyptic Context
16: Other Teachings of Jesus in their Apocalyptic Context

It is with good reason that Jesus is widely regarded as one of the greatest ethical teachers of all time. By radicalizing the Mosaic commands to love God and one's neighbor wholeheartedly, Jesus presented a different understanding of what it meant to follow the God of the Jews from other leading teachers of his day.

31 min
The Deeds of Jesus in their Apocalyptic Context
17: The Deeds of Jesus in their Apocalyptic Context

Some scholars have begun to question the view of Jesus as an apocalypticist. This lecture examines two ways scholars have sought to explain evidence that would support an apocalyptic understanding of Jesus.

30 min
Still Other Words and Deeds of Jesus
18: Still Other Words and Deeds of Jesus

Scholars need not deny the possibility of miracles to admit that historical research can never demonstrate their actual occurrence. Historians can, however, discuss recorded reports of miracles. Was Jesus widely held to be able to expel demons, heal the sick, and perform other miracles?

30 min
The Controversies of Jesus
19: The Controversies of Jesus

Jesus often met with opposition. This lecture explores the traditions of Jesus' rejection and some of his disputes with the Pharisees. How did Jesus' radical emphasis on the command to love sit with Scriptural demands for ritual purity?

30 min
The Last Days of Jesus
20: The Last Days of Jesus

There is better documentation for Jesus' final week than for any other period of his life. He went to Jerusalem at Passover. At the temple he caused a disturbance. Why? As Jesus kept preaching, local authorities arranged to have him quietly arrested. Jesus had a last meal with his disciples, warning them that his enemies were about to strike.

30 min
The Last Hours of Jesus
21: The Last Hours of Jesus

How precisely did Judas Iscariot betray Jesus? Jesus was not, after all, in hiding. Why did Judas betray Jesus? How did the local Jewish authorities investigate Jesus? Why did they turn him over to the Romans?

31 min
The Death and Resurrection of Jesus
22: The Death and Resurrection of Jesus

How good are the sources for what happened at the trial of Jesus? Can they help explain why the Jewish authorities handed Jesus over to Pilate, who ordered immediate torture and crucifixion? Despite discrepancies in their accounts of what transpired at Jesus' tomb, all of the sources agree in important ways.

30 min
The Afterlife of Jesus
23: The Afterlife of Jesus

The first Christians were Jewish apocalypticists. They believed that God would raise the dead in the end time, and that Jesus-the first raised-was a major figure in this divine triumph over evil. What happened when people from different backgrounds began to join the church?

31 min
The Prophet of the New Millennium
24: The Prophet of the New Millennium

If historians seeking to learn what Jesus said and did need to take his context into account as they examine his life, theologians and believers who are interested in appropriating that message need to scrutinize it in light of their own situations.

31 min
Bart D. Ehrman

Anyone who’s interested in understanding what the words of Jesus might mean in the modern world cannot take them at face value and apply them to the present situation without seeing how that situation is different from his own.


Princeton Theological Seminary


The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

About Bart D. Ehrman

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).

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