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Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene: The…
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Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and… (2006)

by Bart D. Ehrman

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This is one of Ehrman's best. He goes into great detail about the lives of St. Peter, St. Paul, and Mary Magdelene, from the legends to what the Bible tells us. It is in depth and extremely comparative.
Folks that believe in the inerrancy of the Bible won't like it, since it points out continuity errors in the New Testament, but for everybody else, it should provide some interesting new ways of looking at the lives of Jesus' most "well-known" followers.
And if it doesn't at least somewhat change your views on what you thought you knew about these three figures, then you are either two close-minded to have even bothered with it or you are way too learned on this subject and should just go teach.
3 stars because, as engaging and interesting as this is, it took me forever to read it. Very small print made for very few pages read at each sitting. Might have been better as three separate volumes. ( )
  RottenArsenal | Jul 28, 2014 |
Reading this book makes one suspect the author chose this topic not just because these are three of the most important individuals in Christian history, but also because he wanted to begin and end with Peter, Paul, and Mary songs from the 1960s. That said, the book was a well-written look at what we do (and don't) know about the three ancients of the title. He explores the actual biblical documentation, as well as extra-biblical texts such as the Nag Hammadi library and other texts that have turned up throughout the years. He examines what role each played in the development of what is now the world's largest religion, and tries to separate what is real from what is mythological, while acknowledging that this is very difficult to do with any degree of certainty. He discusses not only the writings that were left behind (Paul is the only one who left behind any writings that we can be certain were his, and Mary left none at all), but those that were composed in their name. He also explores how they were remembered in legend and myth, and discusses how that was both because of theological evolution and driving theological evolution. Overall, a satisfying book, but with a few weaknesses in use of sourcing (he tends to ignore those sources that don't agree with him) and also in some historically questionable statements, such as thinking that historians are in agreement that Nero burned Rome and blamed it on the Christians. Final summary: good, but could be better. It is great to see a work that collects history, myth, and legend on these three charismatic Christian leaders in one handy source. ( )
  Devil_llama | Jun 28, 2013 |
Ehrman's book gives a rich history of the Early Church and parses through many documents about Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene to give a truer portrait than is popularly conceived. I liked this book a lot because it gave Church history without being overly didactic or intolerant. ( )
  NielsenGW | Jan 12, 2012 |
This may be my favorite among Ehrman books. It details the legends of three of the most important followers of Jesus in the Bible.

Few of the stories told are considered historical; even stories that derive from the Bible are not considered literally true by Ehrman. For example, many of our stories come from the book of Acts, and about a quarter of Acts is made up of speeches by its characters, mostly Peter and Paul. But the speeches all sound about the same; Peter sounds like Paul and Paul sounds like Peter. This may seem a bit odd, given the fact that Peter was an illiterate peasant who spoke Aramaic, whereas Paul was a well-educated, highly astute author raised in a Greek-speaking environment. Ehrman handles these situations with characteristic bluntness: “When we examine what Peter is alleged to have preached, we are in effect seeing what different authors imagined him to have said—which may come down to the same thing as seeing what authors would have wanted him to say.”

Nevertheless, even knowing that nearly all we have about these characters is legend, the legends are fascinating and the book is fun to read. Ehrman takes a shot at unraveling which epistles are written by these three (a few of the Pauline epistles is all) and he dives into a number of second-century non-canonical Christian writings, presenting his findings in three parts: One part for each character. The section on Peter is absolutely fascinating; the section on Paul is argumentative, and not so original (Ehrman’s usual chip on the shoulder regarding pseudonymous writing makes an appearance); and the section on Mary will leave you bewildered, definitely thinking differently about her and the role of women in early Christianity. Ehrman puts it like this:

“The Christian religion is founded on the belief that Jesus was raised from the dead. And it appears virtually certain that it was Mary Magdalene of all people, an otherwise unknown Galilean Jewish woman of means, who first propounded this belief. It is not at all far fetched to claim that Mary was the founder of Christianity.” ( )
2 vote DubiousDisciple | May 7, 2011 |
It is bound to happen - the more I read of Mr. Ehrman the more his books start to overlap. This one had some pretty interesting stuff on Peter and Paul that I didn't know, so that was good. The stuff on Mary Magdelene was somewhat informative but mostly speculative. Interesting book and I'm glad I read it but it didn't have the impact on me as the previous books by him that I've read. ( )
  ncnsstnt | Apr 10, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0195300130, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:17 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Historian of religion Ehrman takes readers on a 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? Ehrman separates fact from fiction, presenting complicated historical issues in a clear and informative way and relating anecdotes culled from the traditions of these three followers.--From publisher description.… (more)

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