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Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth

3.80  ·  Rating Details  ·  951 Ratings  ·  167 Reviews

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 wi

Hardcover, 1st edition, 368 pages
Published March 20th 2012 by HarperOne
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Jul 03, 2013 Trevor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
Probably not the best idea to be annoying a sky god on the evening before I begin a flight to London – I do understand that, but so be it.

When I was growing up I was told by my atheist father that there was no evidence that Jesus had ever existed. I was told all of the texts that concerned Jesus (the gospels and so on) were all written about 100 years after he had, supposedly, died. There was also no evidence of anyone called Pontius Pilate – the whole thing, in every detail, was completely made
Rod Hilton
Sep 11, 2012 Rod Hilton rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion, audiobooks
I'm a huge fan of Bart Ehrman. I've learned more from reading his pop-history books than the work of any other individual author, and I've found him to be a fascinating and engaging writer. I have looked forward to every single book he's released in the last 10 years, eagerly awaiting the day it's available and devouring it.

Because of my admiration for Ehrman and his work, it brings me a great deal of pain to admit that "Did Jesus Exist?" is Ehrman's worst book, at least of those I've read. And
Lee Harmon
Apr 01, 2012 Lee Harmon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not too long ago, I was asked in a religious forum whether I believe Jesus really existed. I said yes, I'm 99% sure. I meant precisely that: I'm a numbers guy, and I estimate the odds that Jesus never existed to be somewhere around one chance in a hundred. After presenting a parallel (a Bible historian who is forced to make sense of his research in light of a nonexistent Jesus would be a bit like a research biologist who shows up to work one day and is told that evolution is a lie) I gave an exa ...more
Shelley Ettinger
I wasn't really looking to be persuaded about this book's titular question, hadn't ever really doubted it before, just wanted to learn some stuff. Not only did I learn very little, but this guy tipped me toward skepticism about the existence of the historical Jesus when before reading it I'd assumed it as fact. That's how slipshod his methodology is, how circular his reasoning, how thin and flimsy his sourcing. I mean really -- Q, M, & L prove such-and-such a point, when Q, M, & L are hy ...more
Nov 09, 2013 Greg rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If you are looking for a book tht weighs both arguments, analyses the strengths and weaknesses of both the hisoricist position and the mythicist position, this is not it. If you are looking for a book, that uses the evidence to determine if Jesus was a historical figure, this is not it. If you are looking for a book that uses the fact honestly and relies on valid logical thinking to show that Jesus was historical, this is not even that. If you want to know why even secular historians accept Jesu ...more
Steven Belanger
Nov 04, 2014 Steven Belanger rated it it was amazing
Remarkably easy-to-read and interesting account of the accumulated (by Ehrman and many others, but mostly by Ehrman, who self-refers almost to the point of annoyance) evidence of the actual, historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth. This stuff is usually very dense, very academic, and a real snooze if written badly. But Ehrman--an intelligent person, versified in ancient Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, and an acknowledged (and, truth be told, self-acknowledged) expert in ancient Christianity and Judais ...more
Samuel Proulx
This book is packed with interesting and useful information. Unfortunately, the Arrogance and unnecessarily confrontational style of the author really get in the way. Perhaps he has spent too much time in online debates on this subject; read as a collection of forum posts in an online discussion, it would be fine. As an informative nonfiction book, however, this style of writing is much less to my taste.
May 27, 2012 Mankey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

This is a decent primer into the reasons the majority of New Testament scholars believe in the historical personage of Jesus. It's a very basic book, but accomplishes it's goal of debunking the various claims put forth by "mythicists" who see Jesus as just a myth, and not ever a flesh and blood man. This book does not prove (or even argue) that Jesus was the "Son of God," it simply argues that he was an apocalyptic prophet.

I've enjoyed Ehrman's books for the better part of ten years, but wow, hi
Mar 27, 2012 Jennie rated it really liked it
I was introduced to the author a few years ago via The Great Courses DVDs. Brett, my parents and I went to a Religions of the World course about 4 years ago where we watched a few of these courses and I became fascinated with the author. Since then Brett has read a few of his books and my parents have seen him speak in person. When I saw this book on the TLC Tour list I had to sign up.

With such a sensitive and heavy topic as this book carries, one might expect the text to be overpowering in scho
George Paul
Jan 29, 2013 George Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York: HarperOne, 2012). $26.99, 361 pages.

A small but prolific group of agnostics and atheists argues that Jesus of Nazareth did not exist. Many of them are cranks and conspiracy theorists. A few of them are scholars, though generally not with expertise in the relevant fields of New Testament studies. They refer to themselves as “mythicists,” i.e. people who believe that Jesus was a myth.

In Did Jesus Exist?, Bart
May 07, 2013 Todd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Did Jesus exist? As noted New Testament scholar and admitted agnostic with atheist leanings, Bart D. Ehrman writes in his excitingly readable book, Did Jesus Exist? – The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth, the answer is a strong yes. Ehrman is quick to point out that despite what debunkers of the historical Jesus would have you believe, the overwhelming majority of scholars believe such a person did in fact exist. And these scholars include a fair number of agnostics, atheists and skepti ...more
John Brown
Apr 06, 2014 John Brown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’m going to talk a bit about some murderers in Detroit, Jesus, and a couple of books I recently read that I think are just awesome.


So, the murderers.

Let me start by asking this question: can you establish the truth in a court of law?

Is that what the judge and jury are deciding? The Truth, with a capital T?

Think about Tommy and Ray Highers, brothers from Detroit. They were convicted of murder. Open and shut case. No parole. They were two nasty buggers that shot a man down over some dope.

Keith Akers
Feb 25, 2014 Keith Akers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a convincing and mostly successful argument that Jesus did, in fact, exist. The idea of the mythical Jesus is alive, well, and actually growing among many secular humanists. The “mythicist” point of view is that there was never such a person as Jesus. Jesus is a legendary figure. Ehrman is himself an agnostic, and therefore in principle quite open to secular humanism, but does not agree. The question of whether God (a supernatural being) exists is one thing; but the question of whether J ...more
Mouldy Squid
Aug 12, 2014 Mouldy Squid rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: students of history, religion and early christianity
An excellent companion to Reza Aslan's Zealot. Where Aslan is more general in the presentation of textual evidence, Ehrman delves into the details. He spends an appropriate amount of time educating the reader on how textual evidence is weighed and investigated by biblical scholarship, which is fundamental for the reader to grasp the evidence he later presents. After this introduction to textual exegesis, Ehrman spends time presenting the various personalities of the "Mythicist" position and thei ...more
Adam Morva
Bart did a rather bad job of establishing a historical Jesus. Some of the arguments he rallied were sound, but they were not conclusive. He also brought into the fray some horrible, horrible logic and reasoning. He also misrepresented the so called "mythicists". The book did contain some interesting slivers of knowledge, so I think it deserves a 2/5 rating.
Joseph Adelizzi, Jr.
My reaction on first coming across Bart Ehrman's book “Did Jesus Exist?” was surprise that the existence of Jesus was ever in question. Well, as Ehrman points out, there is a group of “mythicists” who claim – and claim to have proven – that Jesus never existed. Ehrman spends much of the book explaining why the serious among us should give little time or attention to these mythicists and their unsupported arguments. Does he do a convincing job? I'd say so, but to be honest I don't really care. I ...more
Trey Nowell
Jul 22, 2015 Trey Nowell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very eye opening book that addresses whether there was a historical Jesus, stating that of the scholarly consensus vs. an emerging mythicist camp. I see Bart Ehrman as a bit inconvenient for both atheists and Christians because he does not have nearly the agenda seen in many writings. I felt the closing ten pages was an excellent summary of what I have always felt with regards to his meeting with other humanists at a convention and comparing it with modern day mythicists. He explains the indep ...more
Jun 20, 2014 Rob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bart Ehrman argues Jesus did exist. But he wasn't the Jesus we know of today. That guy's a myth.

It is upon that beam Ehrman balances, simultaneously building support for the reality of the Son of Man yet eradicating any notion that we know anything about him. Admitting he is neither a Christian or an apologist, Ehrman says "I have never attacked Christianity itself. I have attacked a particular flavor of it." And it is a favor most prevalent in the South (Ehrman teaches at UNC Chapel Hill).

James Arnold
Feb 17, 2014 James Arnold rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book. This is a must read book for anyone who really wants to get to the core of what the real history of Jesus is from a factual aspect point of view. This book does not try to change anything about what you believe which is what it should do. It also handles these issues very well. But the author, who is world renown, Just points outs the facts and makes his case through scientific means which are commonly excepted for all things in the academic world even those that are not religion. Th ...more
Tad Callin
Oct 18, 2015 Tad Callin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Confession time: this was my second attempt, and I still haven't read the whole thing. BUT, the main reason I haven't is because Ehrman convinced me of his premise early on.

He says in the introduction that the people who claim that Jesus did not exist confound him; as a Biblical scholar, it hadn't occurred to him to question the existence of this particular historical figure. In writing this book, though, he demonstrates the basic principle of skepticism by examining the evidence.

The evidence sa
Jun 10, 2015 Barry rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jesus
This book started out well enough - engaging, snappy, enlightening, and logically sound - but as the book progressed it contained less and less of those attributes, until finally it died a death as Mr. Ehrman did all the things he set out to show fatal to his opponents' theories.

The first third was well-written, flowed nicely, and had a lot of counter arguments to those who believe Jesus did not really exist as a historical person. Mr. Ehrman's main attacks included pointing out the mythicists'
Jan 18, 2013 Ilya rated it liked it
Imagine that 2000 years from now most records from the 20th century CE will have disappeared, and the most important piece of evidence about World War II will be a DVD with propaganda cartoons, mostly American (Warner Brothers' "Russian Rhapsody", "Herr Meets Hare" and "Tokio Jokio", Disney's "Der Fuehrer's Face") but also a few Soviet ones (such as "What Hitler Wants and What He Will Get"), ripped from YouTube 65 years after the war had ended. Imagine also that scholars will have built the nece ...more
Mar 27, 2012 Patty rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting question, eh? Now don't get your pants in a bunch. While I don't espouse to any particular religion I do believe that a man named Jesus walked the earth. This book looks to categorically prove that. Most of the religions built around Jesus accept that on faith and in fact according to Professor Ehrman the idea that Jesus did NOT exist didn't even enter into the conversation until the 1800s. Prior to that everyone thought he was a real person.

Who knew?

The book starts with a rather wel
B.K. Marcus
Jun 23, 2012 B.K. Marcus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whether or not you know the mythicists and their claims to the nonexistence of even a nonsupernatural, historical Jesus in 1st-century Roman Palestine, this book is a perfect introduction to the logic of the critical-historical method of biblical, scriptural, and documentary studies. Yes, says the author (and the vast majority of the scholars in his field), there was a man named Jesus in the 1st century: he was a Jewish apocalyptic teacher from Nazareth. Whether or not he said what the Gospels s ...more
Apr 25, 2012 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've given this book an extra star for the pure academic nature of his argument. He outlines the logic of his argument so well that it is a model for anyone with "beliefs" that are counter to truth. As an atheist I am as outraged by illogical myths posed by atheists as I am by those of evangelicals. Zealots on both sides need to learn from Dr. Ehrman how to argue their points and when to give up beliefs that cannot be substantiated. I might have given the book 4 stars just because it became tedi ...more
May 30, 2013 Patrik rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bart Ehrman, a trained scholar in the New Testament and early Christianity, who identifies himself as an agnostic, writes to dispel the myth that there never was an historical Jesus and other myths about him that exist within agnostic and atheistic circles. Many within these circles think that these myths are not myths at all and are actually historically accurate, whereas the real myth is the Christian belief that Jesus was a real person that actually existed. This book is about showing that th ...more
Nathan Dehoff
Feb 17, 2013 Nathan Dehoff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ve read several other books by Ehrman, a New Testament scholar who usually writes for a general audience, and always enjoyed them. In this book, Ehrman addresses the issue of whether Jesus existed at all, and comes to the conclusion that he does. Indeed, the argument that he didn’t is quite new and the position of a definite minority, regardless of religion. Ehrman outlines the sources we have that put Jesus into a historical context, and explains how we can use the Gospels, biased as they are ...more
Andrea Wenger
If Ehrman's purpose was to refute the mythicist argument that Jesus of Nazareth never existed, then he does so cogently in this book. He should have stopped there. Unfortunately, he ends the book by presenting his own biased theory about the true nature of the teachings of Jesus. It may be a theory that he reached after years of scholarly study; but he offers no arguments against, and offers no other possible interpretations of the data. That's his prerogative, of course; this isn't a scholarly ...more
Oct 29, 2012 G0thamite rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in apologetics
Shelves: apologetics
A thorough destruction of the claims of the Mythicists from someone who has studied the Jesus question for most of his adult life. Caveat: The Jesus of history that Ehrman claims existed is the same one that Albert Schweitzer described a hundred years earlier: Jesus was a self-appointed apocalyptic preacher. Ehrman dodges the resurrection question - dodges is perhaps a little strong, as it is not the subject of this book. But it is a question that demands an explanation - hopefully in an upcomin ...more
Peter Levi
This is a useful book for those unfamiliar with the topic--Ehrman goes over the various arguments against the existence of Jesus while dealing with the overall topic of how we assess what we can know historically. For those readers (like myself) who've read other works by Ehrman he deals with this issue regularly and the only new material is the debunking of specific arguments (as opposed to dealing with the topic generally). Ehrman's style is good, his organisation is good, and (like his other ...more
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Bart D. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. He came to UNC in 1988, after four years of teaching at Rutgers University. At UNC he has served as both the Director of Graduate Studies and the Chair of the Department of Religious Studies.

A graduate of Wheaton College (Illinois), Professor Ehrman received both his Masters of Div
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“The problem then with Jesus is that he cannot be removed from his time and transplanted into our own without simply creating him anew” 8 likes
“Most televangelists, popular Christian preacher icons, and heads of those corporations that we call megachurches share an unreflective modern view of Jesus--that he translates easily and almost automatically into a modern idiom. The fact is, however, that Jesus was not a person of the twenty-first century who spoke the language of contemporary Christian America (or England or Germany or anywhere else). Jesus was inescapably and ineluctably a Jew living in first-century Palestine. He was not like us, and if we make him like us we transform the historical Jesus into a creature that we have invented for ourselves and for our own purposes.

Jesus would not recognize himself in the preaching of most of his followers today. He knew nothing of our world. He was not a capitalist. He did not believe in free enterprise. He did not support the acquisition of wealth or the good things in life. He did not believe in massive education. He had never heard of democracy. He had nothing to do with going to church on Sunday. He knew nothing of social security, food stamps, welfare, American exceptionalism, unemployment numbers, or immigration. He had no views on tax reform, health care (apart from wanting to heal leprosy), or the welfare state. So far as we know, he expressed no opinion on the ethical issues that plague us today: abortion and reproductive rights, gay marriage, euthanasia, or bombing Iraq. His world was not ours, his concerns were not ours, and--most striking of all--his beliefs were not ours.

Jesus was a first-century Jew, and when we try to make him into a twenty-first century American we distort everything he was and everything he stood for.”
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