In just over a month now, my new book, Jesus Before the Gospels,  will be published.  As avid readers of the blog know, for a couple of years I was obsessed with issues related to human memory and oral tradition, especially as these relate to the question of how the stories about Jesus were being transmitted, shaped, altered, and invented as they were told year after year, decade after decade, before the Gospels were written.  It was these remembered/ altered / invented stories that the Gospel writers themselves inherited and then edited (and thus changed) when they wrote them down when producing our Gospels.   What does knowing about the processes of memory, and about oral cultures who transmit their traditions by word of mouth, tell us about the nature of the Gospels, the communities that stood behind them, and the historicity of the traditions they relate?  These are all questions I deal with in the book, reaching some conclusions that many readers will not suspect.

Please note: you can buy the book at discount already on Amazon (won’t ship until March 1).

If you have any questions you would like me to address about the book over the coming month, let me know.   I can spend some time here on the blog talking about all related matters!

My publisher, HarperOne, is now sending out a Press Release for the book.  Here it is, below.



 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                             Contact: Renée Senogles, ph: 415-477-4476

[email protected]

How Oral Tradition, Eyewitness Testimony, and Memory Conspire to Alter Our Understanding of Jesus and Meaning of the Gospels



Jesus Before the Gospels

How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed,
and Invented Their Stories of the Savior

By Bart D. Ehrman


Many believe that the stories of Jesus in the Gospels are based on eyewitness testimonies that were reliably handed down orally through numerous sources before being written. Few scholars, however, have examined these claims in light of what we know about human memory and oral cultures.

That is the approach taken by internationally known scholar Bart D. Ehrman in his exciting new book JESUS BEFORE THE GOSPELS: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior (HarperOne, March 2016). A New York Times bestselling author, Ehrman (Misquoting Jesus; Jesus Interrupted) examines extensive research from the fields of psychology, anthropology, and sociology on oral traditions and how memory works in order to see what light they can shed on our understanding of the New Testament Gospels and the historical Jesus. The study of memory not only calls into question widespread assumptions about the nature of the Gospels and their historical accuracy, it also helps us appreciate what memories of Jesus – whether faulty or accurate – can tell us about the Christians who passed them along.

In the book, Ehrman examines:

  • What psychologists have learned about how memory works, how we remember, how and why we forget, and how and why we form ‘false memories’ about the past – showing how ‘false memories’ may lie behind some of the stories of the historical Jesus.
  • What modern legal scholars and psychologists have learned about the reliability of eyewitness testimonies, how memories are often distorted and even invented, and how our biases shape what we think we remember – proving wrong the assumptions held by a lot of people (including scholars).
  • What cultural anthropologists have learned about oral traditions through studies in Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Ghana, and other places, which show conclusively that even in predominantly oral cultures traditions grow, shrink, and change every time they are told and retold.
  • What sociologists have learned about collective memory and how social groups remember the past in light of their own histories, issues, and concerns This is no less true for the early Christian communities who were transmitting their stories about Jesus in light of their own historical situations.


JESUS BEFORE THE GOSPELS is a compelling narrative that not only demonstrates Ehrman’s deep knowledge and meticulous scholarship, but also demonstrates how the study of memory can help us think about the historical accuracy of the Gospels, the historical Jesus, and the way we view history.


About the Author

BART D. EHRMAN is one of the most renowned and controversial Bible scholars in the world today. A master explainer of Christian history, texts, and traditions, his work continues to drive debate among supporters and detractors alike. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and is the author of more than twenty books, including the New York Times bestselling How Jesus Became God and Misquoting Jesus; God’s Problem; Jesus, Interrupted; and Forged. Ehrman has appeared on Dateline NBC, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, CNN, the History Channel, and top NPR programs, and he has been featured in Time, the New York Times, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and more. Visit him online at



How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior

By Bart D. Ehrman

HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers

Hardcover | $27.99 | ISBN: 9780062285201

On Sale March 1, 2016. Also available as an ebook and audio book.


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