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My New Edition of After the New Testament

Several people have asked me what I’m working on these days. Answer: I’m doing a new, second edition of my college-level text-book/reader/anthology of ancient texts, After the New Testament. It is meant to be a topically-arranged collection of primary readings from after the New Testament period up to the time of the Emperor Constantine.

Before explaining what I am doing to make the second edition different from the first (I am revising it seriously), I should say something about what the first edition, published in 1999, was all about. To do that I give here the first part of the Introduction to the text. I’ll give the second part anon.

 

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Over the past century and a half, archaeological discoveries have played a significant role in our understanding of early Christianity. These include (a) the serendipitous discovery of entire libraries of ancient texts, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, found in the wilderness of Judea, and the library of Gnostic writings uncovered near Nag Hammadi, Egypt; (b) the equally fortuitous unearthing of individual documents, such as a non-canonical Gospel and an Apocalypse, both attributed to the apostle Peter, the newly discovered Gospel of Judas, and an early church manual called the Didache (the latter of which was “found,” actually, in a monastic library); and (c) the uncovery and excavation of buried sites, such as Dura Europas in Syria on the Euphrates, a city that housed the earliest surviving structure known to have served as a Christian church. These findings have enriched our understanding of early Christianity; but more than that, they have forced scholars to reconceptualize major aspects of the religion, leading to what is perhaps the most significant “discovery” of them all, made not in the sands of Egypt or the dirt of Mesopotamia, but in the private libraries of historians — the discovery that Christianity during the first three centuries of the Common Era was remarkably diverse.
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Comments

  1. Avatar
    toejam  January 13, 2014

    I only recently bought Eusebius’ “Ecclesiastical History” and have flipped through it. I was shocked to see in Book 1, Chapter 13, a supposed letter from Jesus to King Agbarus! I knew I had to everything Eusebius wrote with a grain of salt, but after this, it made me realise that a grain won’t be enough. No one actually takes this letter seriously, do they? And if not, how much confidence can we place in his other testimonies of letters and documents that we no longer have access to beyond his book?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  January 13, 2014

      Maybe I’ll post on that. I’ve done a new translation of the letters recently…..

  2. Avatar
    judaswasjames  January 13, 2014

    Bart,

    I am asking you here and now, formally, to open a Reader’s Forum, and to have as the first thread, the Gospel of Judas, since you have again brought it into the discussion here today.

    Misquoting Jesus: “What we need in religious discussion is a frank and brutally honest sharing of views, not simply an insistence that everyone comes to believe, or disbelieve, what we do.” page 249.

    And: “But readers who are interested in earliest Christianity are, as a rule, poorly informed concerning this literature; as a result, very few people, outside the ranks of the professional scholar, realize the diverse character of the religion in its earliest period.”

    I think it is high time you and your readers learned just what these texts really show regarding the canon.

  3. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  January 13, 2014

    !. I find these comments about Eusebius to be quite helpful.
    2. Also, I appreciate all that you have taught me about the diversity of early Christianity. Formerly, I thought that there had been one church with subsequent divisions over the centuries.

  4. Avatar
    Wilusa  January 13, 2014

    The Gospel of Judas had been found as long ago as 1999? I’d forgotten that – though I could, of course, look it up in your book about it! I really enjoyed that book. Began rereading it a few months ago, but got sidetracked.

    I’ve often wondered whether there were early authors, insisting they were Christians, who rejected the claims of a *miraculous birth* for Jesus as ridiculous. Or the claim that he was born in Bethlehem – perhaps even the notion that he himself had performed miracles. *Or* that he rose from the dead! I’ve guessed that if writings of that type ever existed, the “Church fathers” made sure they didn’t survive. *Are* there any writings disputing those claims? If not, do you think there ever were?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  January 13, 2014

      We don’t have any Gospels or writings from such people. There were Christians who denied the virgin birth, and I doubt if Bethlehem was important to all of them. And there were disputes about what it *meant* to say that he was raised from the dead (in body? in spirit? some other way?) What writings once were produced with such views is one of the most tantalizing of questions….

  5. Avatar
    Yentyl  January 13, 2014

    When will it be published? Thanks.

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