From Publishers Weekly
What if Marcion’s canon-which consisted only of Luke’s Gospel and Paul’s letters, entirely omitting the Old Testament-had become Christianity’s canon? What if the Ebionites-who believed Jesus was completely human and not divine-had ruled the day as the Orthodox Christian party? What if various early Christian writings, such as the Gospel of Thomas or the Secret Gospel of Mark, had been allowed into the canonical New Testament? Ehrman (The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture), a professor of religion at UNC Chapel Hill, offers answers to these and other questions in this book, which rehearses the now-familiar story of the tremendous diversity of early Christianity and its eventual suppression by a powerful “proto-orthodox” faction. The proto-orthodox Christians won out over many other groups, and bequeathed to us the four Gospels, a church hierarchy, a set of practices and beliefs, and doctrines such as the Trinity. Ehrman eloquently characterizes some of the movements and Scriptures that were lost, such as the Ebionites and the Secret Gospel of Mark, as he outlines the many strands of Christianity that competed for attention in the second and third centuries. He issues an important reminder that there was no such thing as a monolithic Christian orthodoxy before the fourth century. While Ehrman sometimes raises interesting questions (e.g., are Paul’s writings sympathetic to women?), his book covers territory already well-explored by others (Gregory Riley, The River of God; Elaine Pagels, Beyond Belief), generating few fresh or provocative insights. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
“A charting of the full theological kaleidoscope would take volumes, but it is possible, using Ehrman’s book as a jumping-off point, to examine some of the more striking and widespread of the Christian roads not taken.”–Time Magazine (cover story)
“A well-crafted, scholarly tale of forgeries, burned books, doctrinal feuds, and other episodes in the making of the New Testament and the early Church. Or better, Churches.”–Kirkus Reviews
“Ehrman’s style is marked by the narrative thrust of a good story or even a sermon.”–Christian Science Monitor
“This book offers a fascinating introduction to an astonishing range of ‘lost Christianities’ that flourished at the time when the Christian movement began. Bart Ehrman has the rare gift of communicating scholarship in writing that is lively, enjoyable, and accessible.”–Elaine Pagels, Princeton University
“That Ehrman makes his case without pushing into territory considered heretical by many mainstream Christians shows a deft touch with the most volatile of subjects…. Will shock more than a few lay readers. The 27 New Testament gospels, epistles, acts, and revelations, it turns out, were only a handful of the letters, arguments, visions, and accounts of Christ’s life in wide circulation in the early centuries of the religion.”–Scott Bernard Nelson, The Boston Globe