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NC Bookwatch: Lost Christianities

While I’m on the issue of early Christian diversity, I thought it might be useful to post a video that I did over ten years ago now on my first book written to address that theme, Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew” .  On August 29, 2004, I was invited to appear on North Carolina Bookwatch, hosted by D.G. Martin. [Episode: 239]. In the discussion I talked about early (alternative) forms of Christianity and about how they came to be suppressed, reformed, or forgotten. All of these groups insisted, of course, that they upheld the teachings of Jesus and his apostles, and they all possessed writings that bore out their claims, books reputedly produced by Jesus’s own followers.

D. G. Martin is the host of UNC-TV’s “North Carolina Bookwatch.” He is a really good guy, interesting and interested.  He is a retired lawyer, politician, and university administrator.

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  1. Avatar
    rivercrowman  July 9, 2015

    Thanks Bart, great interview. I have that book also,

  2. Avatar
    moose  July 9, 2015

    From my point of view, it looks like Pseudepigraphy was a common way to pass on theology in early Christianity – and perhaps it was the only way?

    You mentioned the Epistle of James as pseudepigraphic(and I agree). But who was this James? Was it James, the son of Zebedee, or was it James, the son of Alphaeus or was it perhaps James the Lord’s brother?

    Although this is a Christian letter, I think this pseudepigraphic Epistle of James puts words in the mouth of Jacob, the patriarch. The letter is an instruction from Jacob to his twelve sons. I’ll show you why:

    James 1: James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.(to Joseph?)
    James 3: Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
    James 4: What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.(…) Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it.
    James 5: Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Sabaoth.

    El-Shaddai was the Lord of Abraham, Isaak and Jacob.

    • Bart
      Bart  July 11, 2015

      I’d say there were lots of ways to pass along theology in early Christianity. The “James” behind the epistle is allegedly the brother of Jesus.

  3. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  July 9, 2015

    “Lost Christianities” is one of my favorite Ehrman books because it completely changed the way I understand early Christianity: “The Church” became “the Churches.”

    In your soon to be published “Remembering the Messiah,” you wrote an excellent section about how different people in different cultures remember the Civil War in different ways. You write that some remember it as being about “states’ rights” and others remember it as being about “slavery.” With regard to this issue, on the front page of the July 6th Washington Post is an article entitled “A Classroom Battle Over Interpreting the Civil War.” In essence, the article describes how the Texas Board of Education is remembering the Civil War as being about “states’ rights” with slavery being a “side issue.” This board is pushing a curriculum and a textbook which supports this “states’ rights” memory of history. The article contends that the Texas board is “molding the telling of the past to justify its current views.” In other words, the memory of the past is being shaped by the present which is one of the major themes of your upcoming book.

    The next day, the Washington Post published an editorial on this Civil War subject entitled “Whitewashing History.”

    Since both the article and the editorial relate to your discussion in your book, readers of this blog might find both of them of interest.

  4. Avatar
    Wilusa  July 10, 2015

    Very enjoyable!

  5. SBrudney091941
    SBrudney091941  July 10, 2015

    Well, it was nice to hear and was a good review of some material but your points did not, it seems to me, show in any way that Christianity was always diverse which I’m pretty sure you said (to the interviewer) was the case. You didn’t show that these various beliefs represented different first century Christianities. You’ve shown elsewhere how apparent it is, for those who take a closer, more objective look, that differing beliefs are represented in the first century writings that were eventually “harmonized” and canonized as the New Testament. It seems to me that that is the only way one could show that Christianity was not monolithic but diverse from the outset.

  6. Avatar
    Mhamed Errifi  July 10, 2015

    hello bart

    being an expert on the history of early christianity can you tell us with 100 % certainty that we know every single christian sect without missing single one that existed in the first century

    thank you

  7. Avatar
    shakespeare66  July 11, 2015

    Great interview. Great questions. Nice guy. How can I easily explain to those around me who want to know about early Christianity what the divergent views were? Can I say confidently that there were divergent views and that the orthodox view that we all know came to pass after a long period of wrangling? How would you express that is a succinct way?

    • Bart
      Bart  July 11, 2015

      Yes, that’s the short story. You might read my book and see if there are ways you can make the 5-second answer into a 1-minute answer, in case they want to know more.

  8. Avatar
    rbrtbaumgardner  July 12, 2015

    The discussion of the Gnostic passwords to pass through the different levels reminded me of the Mormon temple ceremony which very explicit teaches about levels of Heaven. Initiates need to know the proper gestures, handshakes, and passwords to pass from the lower to the higher. Brigham Young said, “Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell.”

    There is also in Mormonism the idea that people are “saved” as they gain secret knowledge. When I was in the fold a quote by its founder, “A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge” was frequently cited. In public the church only talks about salvation through Christ, but within the church there is this other aspect of being saved by secret knowledge. In a way, being Mormon was like belonging to two different churches. Of course, both of them are controlled by the authorities in Salt Lake, which prevents the degree of splitting in Mormonism that seems early Christianity experienced.

  9. Avatar
    Mhamed Errifi  July 12, 2015

    hello bart

    you said in the video some christians believed in 2 gods , 30 and 365 , but christian aplogists are saying those people were not considered to be christians so how do you reply to that

    thank you

    • Bart
      Bart  July 13, 2015

      If you *define* the term “Christian” so that it applies only to people who believe as you do, then obviously people who do not believe as you do will not fit the definition!

  10. Pattycake1974
    Pattycake1974  July 13, 2016

    Just finished Lost Christianities this week. I’ve read 4 of your books so far. 2 of them were lighter reads and 2 of them had heavier content. Not difficult, but I did need more breaks when reading the material.
    Just curious, what are your most successful trade books so far? As in the top 3?

    • Bart
      Bart  July 15, 2016

      By far the most successful has been Misquoting Jesus. After that, probably Jesus Interrupted. Then … they bunch up!

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