Review: Did Jesus Exist : The Historical Argument For Jesus Of Nazareth – Bart D. Ehrman

My version: Paperback
Genre: Non Fiction, Religion, Christianity
Harper Collins
First published: 2013
ISBN: 9780062206442
Pages: 368

In Did Jesus Exist? historian and Bible expert Bart Ehrman confronts the question, “Did Jesus exist at all?” Ehrman vigorously defends the historical Jesus, identifies the most historically reliable sources for best understanding Jesus’ mission and message, and offers a compelling portrait of the person at the heart of the Christian tradition.
Known as a master explainer with deep knowledge of the field, Bart Ehrman methodically demolishes both the scholarly and popular “mythicist” arguments against the existence of Jesus. Marshalling evidence from within the Bible and the wider historical record of the ancient world, Ehrman tackles the key issues that surround the mythologies associated with Jesus and the early Christian movement.
In Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth, Ehrman establishes the criterion for any genuine historical investigation and provides a robust defense of the methods required to discover the Jesus of history.

From the title, you should be (“The Historical Argument For Jesus Of Nazareth”) aware that Bart D. Ehrman does believe in a historical Jesus. Just not (completely) the one presented in the four canonical gospels of the bible. Bart’s books always tread that fine line between stating what he believes, that the bible is a collection of fairy tales, and upsetting people have been taught to believe differently and don’t want to investigate their ‘faith’ too much. I’m thinking that he’s thinking of his American audience a lot of the time, as I’m pretty sure people in Wester Europe (at least), aren’t that bothered one way or the other. Which is, as an aside, why books that had ‘will rock Christianity to its core,’ didn’t.

So, lest we forget, this is what the book, and Bart and the others, are up against:
There is no evidence that Jesus existed.
No contemporary historian wrote about Jesus.
No contemporary official made a note about Jesus that entered the record.
No archaeology has pointed to something that belonged to Jesus.
Christians claim the tomb has been found – but they keep finding it over again every few years, the same way they keep finding Noah’s Ark.
There is the claim that there were 500 witnesses to the resurrection, but we don’t know who those witnesses were or what their testimony was.

However, Bart gives short shrift to the Mythicists – those that say Jesus didn’t exist at all – and reckons there’s enough, even in the bible, to work out that there was a real person behind the later legends. The Mythicists do, in my limited experience, have some good arguments, though Bart often hangs his hat upon the idea that some of the bible, going against either its stated aims for Christianity, or contradicting itself, or just being unusual, must have a core of truth, because otherwise, why would they put – whatever it was – in? That doesn’t give everything a free pass, not by a long chalk. It’s just that Bart feels there is enough in there, and the various writings that are not in the bible, to suggest that there is a historical figure at the heart, or behind, it all.

I’d say you need to be pretty sure in your beliefs – for or against – to be able to properly read books like this. I can’t see how, were I a believing Christian, I wouldn’t have my beliefs undermined by such well presented comprehensive, no scroll unturned, excellent books as Bart writes.

You can buy Did Jesus Exist? from The Book Depository

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.