I frequently get asked what I would recommend for people to read if they are interested in the study of the New Testament.   In my recent course on the Gospels (www.bartehrman.com/courses) I’m including as part of the supplement to the lectures an annotated list of suggested readings.   The idea is to provide people with some guidance for important books, some to start with and some for more advanced readers.  Here it is, for your perusing enjoyment!


The Unknown Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

Annotated Suggestions for Further Reading


Aune, David. The New Testament in Its Literary Environment. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1987. A superb introduction to the genres of the New Testament writings in relation to other literature of the Greco-Roman world.

Brown, Raymond. The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke. Updated ed. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1999. A massive and exhaustive discussion of the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke, suitable for those who want to know simply everything about every detail.

Brown, Raymond. The Death of the Messiah: From Gethsemane to the Grave. 2 vols. London: Doubleday, 1994. A detailed and thorough discussion of the Passion narratives of the four Gospels, in all of their aspects and for all of their verses.

Burridge, Richard. What Are the Gospels? A Comparison with Greco-Roman Biography, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004. A thorough study that emphatically argues that the Gospels are best understood as a kind of ancient biography.

Cadbury, H. J. The Making of Luke-Acts. 2nd ed. London: SPCK, 1968. A classic study that shows how the author of Luke and Acts used the traditions and sources at his disposal to produce a unified narrative. For advanced readers.

Carroll, John T. Jesus and the Gospels. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2016. A helpful, up-to-date introduction to each of the Gospels by an established and accessible scholar.

Ehrman, Bart D.  The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.  Seventh edition, 2020.  This book covers all the major scholarly issues connected with the historical study of the New Testament, with bibliographies, study questions, glossary, and so on.  Six of the chapters are directly connected with this course.

Ehrman, Bart D. and Michael W. Holmes. The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Questionis, 2nd ed. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2013. A collection of important essays that provide up-to-date discussions and bibliographies of every important aspect of New Testament textual criticism. For advanced readers.

Ehrman, Bart D. Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented their Stories of the Savior (San Francisco: Harper One, 2016). An exploration of the oral traditions about Jesus in the years before they were written down, examining how they were changed and even invented over time.

Ehrman, Bart D. Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. An examination of the early conflicts among various Christian groups (Ebionites, Marcionites, Gnostics, proto-orthodox) and the various “Scriptures” they produced—including noncanonical Gospels, Acts, epistles, and apocalypses.

Ehrman, Bart D. Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. San Francisco: Harper San-Francisco, 2005. An account of the study of the manuscripts of the New Testament and how they came to be changed over the centuries by scribes.

Gamble, Harry. The New Testament Canon: Its Making and Meaning. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985. A clearly written and informative overview of the formation of the New Testament canon.

Goodacre, Mark. The Case Against Q: Studies in Markan Priority and the Synoptic Problem. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2002. An interesting argument against the existence of the Q source.

Goodacre, Mark. The Synoptic Problem: A Way Through the Maze. London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001. An insightful discussion of all the ins and outs of the Synoptic Problem…

Harris, William V. Ancient Literacy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989. A brilliant analysis by a major classicist who seeks to determine how many people could read and write in the ancient world and what their reasons were for doing so. For advanced readers.

Hezser, Catherine. Jewish Literacy in Roman Palestine. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2001. The definitive study of what we know about Jewish education—and specifically who could read and write—in Palestine at the time of Jesus. For advanced readers.

Kloppenborg, John S. Q, The Earliest Gospel: An Introduction to the Original Stories and Sayings of Jesus. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008. A brief and highly insightful analysis of the major questions concerning Q, including why it appears to have existed and what its message of Jesus was.

McIver, Robert K. Memory, Jesus, and the Synoptic Gospels. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2011. An informed and insightful study of the oral traditions behind the Synoptic Gospels based on what psychologists and other social scientists have learned about the problems with eyewitness testimony and the faults of memory.

McKnight, Edgar V. What Is Form Criticism? Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969. A basic introduction to the study of how oral traditions about Jesus were formed and modified prior to the writing of the Gospels.

Metzger, Bruce M. The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development and Significance. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987. The authoritative discussion of the formation of the canon. For advanced readers.

Metzger, Bruce M., and Bart D. Ehrman. The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. All in all, the best introduction to the history, data, and methods of New Testament textual criticism. Portions of the book require a basic knowledge of Greek.

Nickle, Keith. The Synoptic Gospels: Conflict and Consensus. Rev. and expanded ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001. A brief and clear discussion of the Synoptic Problem.

Ong, W. J. Orality and Literacy. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge, 2013. An intriguing discussion of the social and psychological differences between oral and written cultures (i.e., between cultures in which traditions are typically heard and those in which they are typically read). For more advanced students.

Parker, David. The Living Text of the Gospels. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. A terrific little book, ideal for beginners, that shows how the changes made to manuscripts create new meanings for the Gospel texts themselves.

Powell, Mark Allan. Fortress Introduction to the Gospels. 2nd ed. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2018. A brief but helpful discussion of each of the four canonical Gospels.

Sanders, E. P., and Margaret Davies. Studying the Synoptic Gospels. Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1989. A detailed and thorough discussion of the Synoptic problem and of the major scholarly approaches to each of the three Synoptic Gospels. For advanced students.

Sanders, E. P., and Margaret Davies. Studying the Synoptic Gospels. Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1989. A detailed and thorough discussion of the complexities involved in the Synoptic Problem, including some of the major difficulties with accepting the existence of a Q source. Especially suited to advanced readers.

Senior, Donald. What Are They Saying About Matthew? Rev. and expanded ed. New York: Paulist Press, 1996. An overview of scholarly views of Matthew’s Gospel.

Sloyan, Gerard S. What Are They Saying About John?, rev. ed. New York: Paulist, 2006. A very nice introductory sketch of the modern scholarly debates concerning major aspects of John’s Gospel.

Smith, D. Moody. John Among the Gospels: The Relationship in Twentieth-Century Research, 2nd ed. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2001. A very clear discussion of the relationship of John and the Synoptics, as seen by scholars of the twentieth century.

Stein, Robert. The Synoptic Problem: An Introduction. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1987. A good book-length treatment of the range of issues involved in the Synoptic Problem.

Talbert, Charles. What Is a Gospel? The Genre of the Canonical Gospels. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977. A classic attempt to situate the Gospels within the context of Greco-Roman literature.

Vansina, Jan. Oral Tradition as History. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985. A classic and highly informative study of how traditions are transmitted and changed in oral cultures.

Viviano, Benedict. What Are They Saying About Q?. New York: Paulist Press, 2013. A brief and authoritative statement about what contemporary scholars are now saying about Q.

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2022-09-29T10:26:37-04:00September 27th, 2022|Book Discussions, Canonical Gospels|

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  1. RonaldTaska September 27, 2022 at 6:13 am

    Wow! Quite a list.

    By the way, I AM VERY PLEASED that you made the decision, a long time ago, not to have ads on your blog. Adware, not screened out by virus screens, is becoming quite a problem as scams are being attached to ads that look cleverly authentic.

  2. wrossi81 September 27, 2022 at 9:04 am

    This seems an appropriate place to ask a question that was on my mind, so: what do you think about the idea of a pre-Markan passion narrative? Do you think that such a narrative possibly pre-exists Mark, and if so would you think that it is in common with what is found in the gospel of John? Either way, what do you think are the best readings on the source(s) of the passion narrative?

    • BDEhrman September 27, 2022 at 11:14 am

      I’m not convinced that there is good evidence for it; but I don’t know a lot of evidence against it either. So I’m agnostic.

  3. KingJohn September 27, 2022 at 9:17 am

    I’m quite pleased to see the late Father Raymond Brown on the list! What an amazing scholar! Dr. Ehrman, your book on Heaven and Hell was utterly fascinating and quite informative! (Every Chrisitan, irrespective of denomination, should read it!) Why did you not include it in your list?

    • BDEhrman September 30, 2022 at 10:26 am

      Yes, he was a truly great scholar. I’m glad you liked Heaven and Hell. I didn’t include it only because I was giving the books of most relevance to what I talked about in the course, not all the books connected with NT/Early Christianity (As you know H&H isn’t principally a study of the Gospels). But I”m glad you thought it should be on there!

      • Miss Lorraine October 5, 2022 at 3:55 pm

        I read H&H. Is that the one where I learned about the annihilation of souls? It’s hard to remember what I read in which book…
        I appreciated the book. I have my own ideas re: spirituality, etc.; I was raised Catholic and then went exploring. I haven’t believed in Hell for a very long time, and I really appreciated reading about the topic.

  4. Jill_L September 27, 2022 at 9:46 am

    I guess one should start with whatever title is most appealing.

    • BDEhrman September 30, 2022 at 10:26 am

      Yup! Go with your interests!

  5. charrua September 27, 2022 at 10:57 am

    Woooow …What a list!!!

    Every single title is worth reading, but having to choose (excluding some Bart’s books I already have) my selection is:

    Cadbury, H. J. The Making of Luke-Acts

    Goodacre, Mark. The Case Against Q: Studies in Markan Priority and the Synoptic Problem

    McIver, Robert K. Memory, Jesus, and the Synoptic Gospels.

    Metzger, Bruce M., and Bart D. Ehrman. The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration

    Sanders, E. P., and Margaret Davies. Studying the Synoptic Gospels.

    Is there a way to purchase this pack of my favorite 5?

    • BDEhrman September 30, 2022 at 10:27 am

      Just individually on Amazon, I would suppose. Go for it!

  6. Em.Freedman September 27, 2022 at 2:05 pm

    Hi Dr Ehrman!

    Just watched your latest debate on “Unbelievable.”

    “The big problem throughout the history of Christianity is that women were not seen as equal to men”

    You are insanely cool!

    • BDEhrman September 29, 2022 at 6:36 pm

      Ha! Thanks. And in large chunks of Christianity today, they *still* aren’t!

    • fragmentp52 September 29, 2022 at 9:21 pm

      Hi. just wondering if you can provide a link for this ? I can’t find it anywhere.

      Thank you.

      • BDEhrman October 2, 2022 at 11:42 am

        Ah, it was posted just today! Sorry I didn’t get to your question sooner.

        • fragmentp52 October 2, 2022 at 4:20 pm

          No worries Bart. Thanks for that. Although I’m quite certain that this video is several months old, and was discussed on here at the time. Maybe just some comments in an older post, I’m not sure.

          At any rate, I fully concur with your eminently sensible wife, that these debates are pointless and generally a waste of time. The battle lines and conclusions are known well in advance. The pro apologetics crowd will boo and hiss at you and your arguments, cheer Glen’s arguments, and the pro Bart crowd will in all likelihood do the same.

          Oh well………..

    • AngeloB October 2, 2022 at 4:02 am

      Who did he debate?

      • BDEhrman October 2, 2022 at 2:18 pm

        It’s today’s post.

        • AngeloB October 2, 2022 at 8:08 pm

          Okay. I will check it out! Thanks.

        • AngeloB October 3, 2022 at 10:03 pm

          I started watching your Unbelievable debate with Scrivener! I have watched the first 40 minutes so far!

  7. nichael September 27, 2022 at 5:15 pm

    How nice to see Ong’s book on the list.

  8. giselebendor September 27, 2022 at 5:30 pm

    Impressive list!

    Raymond Brown’s ” The Birth of the Messiah” was the first or second book I got almost 40 years ago when I decided to learn about Early Christianity. What was I thinking? 😊 I didn’t know anything then. It’s still looking at me from its bookcase. Perhaps in a few months, as I continue to study, it might no longer seem such a daunting project.

    I just ordered Ehrman-Holmes’ ” The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research”. We’ll see if I can tackle it when I’m through with other readings.

    • BDEhrman September 29, 2022 at 6:40 pm

      It’s a big ‘un (Brown’s). Ehrman-Holmes will, well, probably not be to your taste. Most of it is pretty technical stuff not of much interest to normal human beings (as opposed to ancient manuscript nerds)

      • AngeloB October 2, 2022 at 4:04 am

        Brown’s book is over 700 pages!

        • BDEhrman October 2, 2022 at 2:18 pm

          An, truth be told, there’s not a lot of fat in it!

  9. cherylmlyle September 27, 2022 at 7:06 pm

    This is an exhaustive list. Thank you. Have you ever done a talk or writing on ancient virgin births?

    • BDEhrman September 29, 2022 at 6:41 pm

      Ah, it’s scratching the surface! I’m planning on giving a talk on just that topic in December, not for the blog — but I’ll mention it here.

  10. matthew September 27, 2022 at 8:00 pm

    One of my personal favorites is Ched Myers’ “Binding the Strongman.”
    Thanks for the list!

  11. TomTerrific September 27, 2022 at 9:45 pm

    Will we have access to the presentation on the trinity you made today?

    • BDEhrman September 29, 2022 at 6:42 pm

      If you’re a platinum member!

  12. AngeloB September 27, 2022 at 10:10 pm

    Thanks for an entire lifetime of fun reading! 🙂 I have already started some of the readings.

  13. Moshe September 28, 2022 at 4:05 am

    Thanks, Bart, for sharing this useful list with us.

    Note, however, that you’ve included Sanders, E. P., and Margaret Davies. Studying the Synoptic Gospels twice, with almost identical comments.

    • BDEhrman September 29, 2022 at 6:43 pm

      It’s *that* good! 🙂 In scribal terms, that’s called dittography….

  14. Beemerman2k September 28, 2022 at 8:16 am

    Just read the Gospel according to Mark and I am hugely disappointed with the book. Countless ideas are raised without explanation! Son of God, impure spirit, kingdom of God, good news (still don’t know what this good news is supposed to be, Jesus having to die in Jerusalem as it is written? Where is this written? WHY is the death necessary? Ransom? To who? Why?). Mark points out the Jesus and his disciples had both a message and miracles. So what’s the ultimate message and where are these miracles? Repent because an undefined kingdom of god is coming? And I care, why exactly?

    Jesus speaks of rewards for those who left everything to follow him and punishments for others for whatever reason, how? When? Who? Is this all imaginary punishments and rewards? Mark never says. Terribly incomplete book.

    • BDEhrman September 29, 2022 at 6:45 pm

      Ah, it’s a terrifically intriguing book once you dig down. It took me about 50 readings before I started to get it! I’ll be doing a course on it, probably in the Spring, as one of my online courses on How Historians Understand the Bible

  15. charrua September 30, 2022 at 11:32 am

    Editorial fatigue in Matthew 14:9 ,Do you agree?

    Well, I finally found a copy of “The Case Against Q…” in an online library.
    What extraordinary work!

    But I have my doubts about the so called “Editorial fatigue” particularly when applied to Mat 14:9

    Mat 14:9 it is odd in that :
    1) Matthew uses “king”(βασιλεuς) instead of “tetrarch”(τετρααρχης) even when in Mat 14:1 he correctly uses “tetrarch” and not Mark’s “king” (Mark 6:14).(Very odd!!)

    2) The mention of the “king’s grief”(λυπηθεὶς ο βασιλεuς) make no sense in an account in which “Herod wanted to put him to death” Mat 14:5.(Even more odd!!)

    Goodarce explanation is that “Matthew is working from his Markan source ,making characteristic changes in the early stages which he fails to sustain throughout ”

    It does not convince me .At all.

    The “early stages” is 14:1 and he fails to sustain the changes just in 14:9 ???

    Matthew 14:9 is very similar to Mark 6:26 BUT it has modifications.
    For instance Matthew uses “συνανακειμενους” for Mark’s “ανακειμενους”, as far as I understand both means something like “ those who sat with him”.
    So why he didn’t change also “tetrarch”(τετρααρχης) for “king”(βασιλεuς) as in Mat 14:1 ???

  16. charrua September 30, 2022 at 11:32 am

    My own “explanation” is that there was a different Matthew 14:9 without those oddities but in a very early step of copying this “proto-Mattew” somebody changed it mixing the original with Mark 6:26( or something like that).

    My question is, do you accept the concept of “Editorial fatigue” to explain Matthew 14:9 oddities? And what about general scholarship?

    • BDEhrman October 2, 2022 at 11:44 am

      I think it *can* explain some things, yes; but I’m afraid I haven’t looked long and hard at this particular instance.

  17. peterstanbridge October 1, 2022 at 3:58 am

    Thank you – I always love seeing reading lists from professionals. Dr Price has a great list in his website. Very useful that it is annotated too. It would be great to see a list of NT and OT books beyond just Gospels one day. It helps us focus our reading via scholars we can trust.

  18. jcanthony October 1, 2022 at 9:49 pm

    I was expecting to see some of John Meier’s books, or possibly N.T. Wright. Any reason they didn’t make the cut?

    • BDEhrman October 2, 2022 at 2:02 pm

      Meier’s books are more about the historical Jesus than about teh Synoptic Gospels per se (except his more technical work on Matthew); Wright’s most significant books are as well, and his “short” book on the Synoptics are not as valuable over all as teh ones I’ve listed (in part becuase they are in fact so short and basic)

  19. charrua October 1, 2022 at 10:58 pm

    Early christianity development, disruption in local economies and the dating of Luke’s Acts.

    Reading again Pliny’s letter to Trajan I was wondering what exactly the christians of Bithynia did for having been brought before Pliny.

    I think the explanation is in:

    “It is beyond doubt that the temples, which have been almost deserted, are beginning again to be thronged with worshippers…and that the food for the sacrificial victims is once more finding a SALE, whereas, up to recently, a BUYER was hardly to be found”

    If a BUYER is hardly to be found the one who SELLS has a problem….and so the taxes upon that SALE.

    That’s exactly what happened with Demetrius in Acts 19:23-41.

    Demetrius had no BUYERS for his “silver shrines of Artemis” just as the Bithynia’s traders had no BUYERS for “the food for the sacrificial victims”.

    So christians with their new ideas were affecting long established businesses and obviously they were facing retaliation.

    But, how many christians have to be in a city/area to disrupt in such a degree a long established business?

    • BDEhrman October 2, 2022 at 2:04 pm

      I think you also need to take into account that he was trying to convince Trajan that he had taken the necessary steps, and was not averse to exaggeration (as frequently happens in such contexts; “The enemy is massive and dangerous! We must take action!” Thus, for example, LIvy’s account of the suppression of the Bacchae in Rome and Tertullians claims about the number of the Xns in the Empire)

      • charrua October 3, 2022 at 11:13 am

        “LIvy’s account of the suppression of the Bacchae in Rome”

        I read about that (Maybe it was in your “Triumph of Christianity” or here in the blog) .
        The reports were very disgusting but was it all exaggeration or bad press?
        I’m not so sure, here in Latam there were carnival party’s going so crazy it reminded those of the Bacchae in Rome…
        Are the reports of thousands of child abuses by religious personnel only exaggerations?

        The same with the atrocities committed to christians , for instance the one reported by Tacitus during the great roman fire. “Bad press on Nero” some historians say.
        Well, we could think the report of Nazís atrocities also was “bad allied press”.
        Atrocities do happen today (see Ukraine war) and you don’t need a war (see Maduro’s regime).
        I don’t think in ancient times it was different, probably it was worse.

        So why to discard those reports as exaggerations?

        • charrua October 3, 2022 at 11:14 am

          Once you live in a relatively stable democracy system you see the world with very special glasses, but sometimes things change …

          My own country was once known as “the american Switzerland” an island of democracy and civil rights in a somehow turbulent continent.
          But in the middle of the cold war after an economic crisis a left-guerrilla movement arose and the police and military fought them,all kinds of atrocities were committed.
          It’s all an exaggeration ! We are not a Banana Republic, people said.

          Also if by 2010 someone would have written a novel about a mob storming the Capitol led by a half naked man with buffalo hornets killing police servicemen in the process… obviously every American would think it was all fiction !

        • BDEhrman October 4, 2022 at 8:42 pm

          Yup, lots of exaggerations in ancient texts dealing with religions. These exaggerations are not dismissed out of hand — historians look at every claim there is, examine it, compare it to other informatoin from the authors and other sources, and render a judgment. In the casee of Livy, his narrative and the oration to the Roman senate make it appear that the Bachic rits were infecting the masses of Rome and were in danger of taking over the city leading to overwhelming chaos. When he actually indicates the number of people involved, though, it is less than 7/10 of 1% of the population.

          • charrua October 5, 2022 at 10:43 am

            Yes in ancient times there were exaggerations (and exaggerators), of course, just like now.

            What is strike me the most about these reports is that they were similiar in nature with the reports of rapes, murders , riots and so on during the carnival that led authorities to even forbid it (https://www.infobae.com/sociedad/2022/02/22/cuando-rosas-prohibio-el-carnaval-crimenes-violaciones-y-el-temor-de-que-los-unitarios-hiciesen-de-las-suyas/ )
            (when Rosas forbid carnival, murders,rapes …)

            I don’t think the perpetrators of those crimes were inspired by Livy.

            About “ is less than 7/10 of 1% of the population” well, 0.7 % of the population is a real problem !

            How many Americans died in mass shootings ? Probably far less than 0.7 % of the population.

  20. charrua October 1, 2022 at 10:58 pm

    My question to Bart are:

    Do you think that in Paul’s times his followers were so numerous as to spark “The Riot in Ephesus” in relation to the fall in the silversmith’s sales?

    Is it Luke describing a kind of problem that in fact arose after Paul times?
    Is it Luke describing a second century problem (as the one in Bithynia) and not a first century one?

    • BDEhrman October 2, 2022 at 2:06 pm

      1. Definitely not. IN my book Trumph of Christianity I show why there are reasons for thinking that there were only 1000=1500 Xns in the entire empire around 60 CE. 2. It’s never actually attested as a problem. This is Luke trying to explain how amazingingly significant the Xn movement was.

  21. jeffrey.d.cochran January 14, 2023 at 12:49 pm

    Yes! Exactly what I was looking for. ❤️

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