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

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  614 ratings  ·  129 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

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Hardcover, 1st edition, 368 pages
Published March 20th 2012 by HarperOne
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Trevor
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...more
Rod Hilton
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...more
Lee Harmon
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
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
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.
Greg
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
Mankey

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...more
Jennie
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...more
George Paul
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...more
Todd
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
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.

MURDER

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.

Bu...more
Keith Akers
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 4 of 5 stars  ·  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.
Rob
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).

His...more
James Arnold
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
Ilya
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
Patty
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...more
B.K. Marcus
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
Lisa
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
Patrik
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
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
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
Snowfire
Fast and easy read. Some repeated information if you've read Ehrman's other books, but that's understandable. Myself, I read it more out of interest for "okay let's see what the more respectable Jesus-Mythicist arguments are" as I'd run into a crazed mythicist type before who clearly thought that not realizing Jesus didn't exist was incredibly stupid and it was obvious he didn't exist at all. I was kind of disappointed with their arguments - unless Ehrman is misrepresenting them, which I doubt.

A...more
Beth
I have read three other books by Dr. Ehrman and I enjoyed this one the most by far. Perhaps, partly, because I retained a lot of useful info from the previous books and didn't have to look up references in this one; or because this book was shorter and to-the-point. I especially enjoyed the last few chapters summarizing Jewish sects of the first century, and the deeper description of the Apocalyptic views that were held by the "fourth group" that Jesus and John the Baptist belonged to.
Michael Brady
As a prelude to reading Bart Ehrman's most recent book, "How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee," I decided to read his previous book, "Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth."

Not everyone believes that Jesus is God, the Logos, a member of The Holy Trinity, the Christ, or even a prophet of Allah. However, many of us non-believers still believe there was a man in history around whom ancient experiences, stories, legends, myths, and dogma ha...more
Kristi Richardson
This was my first book by this author. He is an agnostic professor of biblical studies. I found the book interesting and easy to listen to. He tells you up front that he believes Jesus did exist and then goes on to prove his beliefs.

He takes many books by mythicists (people who believe Jesus was just a myth and never a physical human being.) and debunks them in simple terms.

He also brings up many areas for more study. He makes statements such as " the Bible is not literally true, as there are...more
Greg
Ehrman, in this books, sets out to disprove those authors of books claiming that Jesus was a mythical creation, and not a historical figure. That an entire book should be written on this subject is up for debate, as scholars in general, while debating the truthfulness of the religious claims Christians make about Jesus, do not seriously consider that a man named Jesus around whom the Christian religion was built never actually existed. There are people who do make this claim, however, and their...more
Mary Frances


Ehrman is always an interesting read, and he does a good job here of looking at the major arguments and evidence for the existence of Jesus. This is not a book about the nature of Jesus, so don't expect that. It is, refreshingly, a review of the historical evidence and thinking of biblical scholars- my kind of book.
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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...more
More about Bart D. Ehrman...
Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don't Know About Them) Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question-Why We Suffer Forged: Writing in the Name of God

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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” 7 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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