Foremost, the historical introduction to the early Christian writings book was written by Bart D. Ehrman, an of professor religious studies at the University of North Carolina. Arguably, he is an author of several books and articles in the field of literature and history of early Christianity. In the book historical introduction to the early Christian writing, he has written a total of 28 chapters mainly talking about the early Christian writings. Therefore, this paper seeks to review all the chapters pointing out the major arguments as well as the critics as critically analyzed in the book.
The author starts with a question, what is the new testament? in chapter one. Besides, the chapter talks about the literature of the early Christians. He argues that Christianity in the contemporary world is a broad phenomenon. Further, he asserts that Christians have a different understanding of the term Christianity which raise much conflict among believers. Some historians hold that Christians spread their ideas terming them as true because Jesus himself (Ehrman, 2000) wrote them. The author opines that New Testament is made of several books written by apostles of Jesus and therefore stand to be the true word. Ideally, he assumes the books supporting other ideas other than those peened down by the apostles of Jesus are mere forgeries and should not be used to in modern Christianity. Still, in chapter one, the diversity of early Christianity is explored where several forms are investigated such as Jewish-Christian Adoptionist, Marcionite Christians, Gnostic Christians and Proto-orthodox Christians as the dominant groups of Christians in the New Testament.
Moreover, the chapter one has also explained the New Testament canon of scriptures as pointed out in the historical introduction of early Christian writings. He argues that the New Testament comprises of twenty-seven books written in Greek by different authors who addressed individual communities and between 50 and 120 C.E. The first four books in the New Testament are referred as gospel which means good news. Chapter two begins by talking about the world of early Christians and traditions. For instance, it exhausted on the environment of the New Testament regarding religions in the Greco-Roman world. Here, a divine pyramid is drawn to help Christians comprehend the Greco-Roman religions (Ehrman, 2000). The chapter makes people in the contemporary world believe that there is an afterlife after the present life is over. It is pointed out that magic and mystery characterized the Greco-Roman religion in Roman Empire.
Moreover, chapter three is interested in the traditions of Jesus in the context of Greco-Roman where the rationale of oral traditions in the gospel is prioritized. Arguably, the author asserts that early gospels were super eyewitnesses to the activities they narrate. They acknowledge that they have stories about Jesus himself. Some early Christians opines that the modern Christian world has changed some stories that happened to Jesus. They claim that most of the events have been changed during the time of retelling what happened then. Further, the chapter asserts that the authors of gospel books are Jesus himself assisted by his apostles. Additionally, chapter four expands on the literary and historical introduction of the Christian gospels. The New Testament gospels are regarded as the ancient biographies by contemporary scholars. Chapter five is about the suffering of Jesus as explained in the book of the mark. The gospel book, mark refers Jesus as the Messiah which according to Jews meant that he would be the king of Israel (Ehrman, 2000). According to Bart, Jesus was the authoritative son of God since he depicted him as the supremely authoritative.
Further, in the same chapter leaders claimed that Jesus was not the son of God which led to incessant conflict until His death. Later in the gospel of mark, the leaders came to realize that Jesus was the son of God especially by the way he used to perform miracles. At the end of the end of the book of the mark, Jesus suffered at the hands of Jewish leaders until he died. In chapter six, the author embarks on problems of understanding the gospel books. He argued that there be methods for studying the four gospel books since they contained identical stories concerning Jesus. The author opines that there was a problem in agreeing which gospel to be followed because Luke and Mathew could not agree. For instance, the four gospel books had different versions of beatitudes and Lords Prayer. Chapter seven is talking about Jesus as the Jewish Messiah as opined by the gospel of Mathew. It argues that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah and that it is the fulfillment of their scriptures (Ehrman, 2000). According to Mathew, Jesus was to be baptized in river Jordan by John the Baptist. This narrative contradicts the one put forward by mark who argues that during the baptism of Jesus some Sadducees came for the exercise. It is still in the same chapter where the author argues that the Jewish leaders rejected Jesus.
Ideally, the author asserts that Jesus is the savior of the world according to Luke. According to Luke, the message of salvation in the world was said to the Jews. The author opines that Luke said that the salvation would be rejected by people in the city of God. He further portrayed Jesus as the prophet rejected by people. Later in the Gospel of Luke, he recognizes Jesus as the prophet sent by God. Chapter nine introduces the acts of apostles to show what happened to the followers of Jesus after his death. The whole chapter talks about the numerous speeches that took place especially the one at the Jerusalem council, on the day of Pentecost and the speeches of believers. According to Bart, chapter ten is mainly about Jesus as the man sent from heaven by God as written by John in his gospel. The gospel of John opines that most of the activities performed by Jesus demonstrated that he was a man sent from heaven by God. Notably, the numerous miracles he performed demonstrated that he was a supreme being with authority from God.
Similarly, chapter eleven advance the book by explaining how epistles were used during the advent of early churches. It involves letters as a form of communication in the ancient world. The epistles in the New Testament were written by Christian leaders addressing individuals and communities to point out the problems affecting the society people. The letters could be used as a method of interpreting the story in the four gospel books in the New Testament. Moreover, the Johannine Christians group experienced ideological differences in the form of Jesus Christ (Ehrman, 2000). Jesus is viewed from different perspectives by other Gospels in early Christianity as opined by the author in chapter twelve. For instance, the gospel of Hebrews, Ebionites, Jewish-Christians, and peter viewed in different perspectives depending on their interpretation the bible scriptures. Chapter thirteen is concerned with the problems of sources of historical information about Jesus. There are some of the sources that are unreliable since they contain forgeries and not the true story about the son of God. Ideally, the non-Christian sources cannot be trusted according to by Bart.
Nevertheless, chapter fourteen mainly talks about the problem of a miracle in the contemporary world. For instance, most people think that performance of miracles by individuals is a supernatural violation of the law of nature. The author asserts that people incessantly criticize miracles and therefore makes scientists less confident of what they perform. Additionally, chapter fifteen shifts to Jesus as the apocalyptic prophet. It also points out the teachings Jesus conducted throughout his ministerial life as well as his association with the common people (Jews). The events and the incidents in the temple and the apocalyptic deeds are explained in the chapter. Chapter sixteen starts with the resurrection of Jesus which shocked many Christian believers. It opines that Jesus died according to the scriptures from the four gospel books.
Mainly, chapter seventeen explains the man and his mission according to Apostle Paul who was a controversial person among the contemporary Christians. It points out the teachings of Paul in his book, acts as well as his life as a Pharisee. Nonetheless, chapter eighteen advance the work of Paul notably, the founding of the church in Thessalonica. The author asserts in chapter nineteen that the church founded by Paul experienced many problems as witnessed in the Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians and Philemon readings (Ehrman, 2000). Arguably, the contemporary church was started by Apostle Paul. Moreover, chapter twenty still talks about the occasion and the aim of the letter written by Paul to Romans. The purpose of the epistle was to inform the Romans that he wanted to share the gospel of God with them. Chapter twenty one is mainly expounding the relationship between Jesus, James Thecla, and Theudas. For instance, the church of Paul told stories about the earthly Jesus.
Nonetheless, chapter twenty-two is centered on the post-Pauline epistle letters which were after the death of Apostle Paul. Arguably, the Pauline Christianity exhibited diverse feature just like the early churches. The main argument in chapter twenty-three according to the author is the women oppression in the early church. Interestingly, in Pauls church, the women were treated as equal beings as their male counterparts. Similarly, in the church of Pauline, women were very active and could be elected to head some commissions in the church. Chapter twenty-four is all about the rise of anti-Semitism Christianity as opined by the epistle of Barnabas. Additionally, chapter twenty-five discusses the existence of Christians and pagans as seen in the early Christians writings. The arguments are explained in the book of first peter. The author goes ahead to give an example of Christians who were sentenced to death.
Ultimately, the relationship between Christians is argued in chapter twenty-six whereby according to the author, there existed much conflict among the early Christians. Some of the conflicts arose from the Christians and Jews deemed to be pagans. Bart asserts that early Christian communities were characterized by incessant conflicts (Ehrman, 2000). Chapter twenty-seven is about the end of the world and what John had predicted. It gives hope to Christian believers. The last chapter starts by asking whether the original new testament was established. The answer is that we do not have the original texts as opined by the author because most of the text has been changed in the event of transmission.
Ehrman, B. D. (2000). The New Testament: A historical introduction to the early Christian writings. Oxford University Press, USA.
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