Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Ehrman, Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene

Bart Ehrman, Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend (OUP, due April 21, 2006), 288 pages, $27.00, ISBN13: 978-0-19-530013-0 / ISBN10: 0-19-530013-0.

From OUP website:

'Bart Ehrman, author of the highly popular Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code and Lost Christianities, here takes readers on another engaging tour of the early Christian church, illuminating the lives of three of Jesus' most intriguing followers: Simon Peter, Paul of Tarsus, and Mary Magdalene.

What do the writings of the New Testament tell us about each of these key followers of Christ? What legends have sprung up about them in the centuries after their deaths? Was Paul bow-legged and bald? Was Peter crucified upside down? Was Mary Magdalene a prostitute? In this lively work, Ehrman separates fact from fiction, presenting complicated historical issues in a clear and informative way and relating vivid anecdotes culled from the traditions of these three followers. He notes, for instance, that historians are able to say with virtual certainty that Mary, the follower of Jesus, was from the fishing village of Magdala on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (this is confirmed by her name, Mary Magdalene, reported in numerous independent sources); but there is no evidence to suggest that she was a prostitute (this legend can be traced to a sermon preached by Gregory the Great five centuries after her death), and little reason to think that she was married to Jesus. Similarly, there is no historical evidence for the well-known tale that Peter was crucified upside down. Ehrman also argues that the stories of Paul's miracle working powers as an apostle are legendary accounts that celebrate his importance.

A serious book but vibrantly written and leavened with many colorful stories, Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene will appeal to anyone curious about the early Christian church and the lives of these important figures.'


  1. Ehrman is a fellow with some strange reasoning. There might be many reasons for unbelief, but the existence of textual variants is not one of them. Why should inspiration or the verity of the biblical account be thought to hang on the miraculous preservation of every de or ouv, or uios vs. theos reading? I daresay that if we adopted every one of Ehrman's preferred readings, the message of Christianity would not really change one whit. So every word might not have been unmistakably preserved, but the message has been.

  2. Ehrman established his reputation as a top-notch scholar with his Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. But everything he has written since then has been variations on the same theme. Some people, I think, overestimate his importance. The fact that he keeps writing (or rearranging his old material into) new books does nothing to buttress his standing. When the dust has settled, Orthodox Corruption will be the only book of his scholars won't be embarassed to have visible on their bookshelves. He's no Bruce Metzger. I'm not even sure if he's a Neusner.

  3. Hi,

    Ehrman is one of the top textual critics in the world at the moment. The fact that you are unaware of his numerous publicatins does not impact his standing as reflected in the opinion of his peers.

    You said, "Orthodox Corruption... embarassed to have visible on their bookshelves."

    I suggest you ability to identify the relevant literature is lacking, otherwise this childish statement would have stayed in your mind as opposed to finding its way into written form.

  4. You said, "Orthodox Corruption... embarassed to have visible on their bookshelves."

    Actually, no I didn't. Why did you remove my original negation of this claim?

  5. There is rarely any reason for a scholar to be embarrassed of something on their bookshelves.

    Ehrman clearly is a high-calibre scholar in terms of his knowledge and abilities. Of course, comparison with someone as great as Metzger does not really help anyone to look good.

    We should not forget the importance of Ehrman's book on Didymus the Blind, his work on citations in Origen, his Loeb edition of the Apostolic Fathers, etc., as well as many editing achievements. There is, of course, truth in the observation (of the 6:04 p.m. Anon) that there has been a change in the sort of book that Ehrman produces.