Synopses & Reviews
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.
"[U]tterly engaging....Throughout, Ehrman asks questions and makes readers think about the answers. This interactive technique, paired with a highly readable, entertaining style, will garner a wide popular audience for a book whose subject often leads to work that is dense and arcane." Booklist (Starred Review)
"In attempting to determine which aspects of their lives are historically accurate and which are pure legend or have been embellished or misconceived, [Ehrman] provides intriguing information on these New Testament personages." Library Journal
"With penetrating insight, backed up by first class scholarship and communicated in comprehensible English, Bart Ehrman examines in a new light the interpretive process that gathered around Jesus and his followers both before and after the gospels were written. In so doing he opens new wide vistas into the origins of Christianity and sets the stage for a dramatic rethinking of the Christian creeds. It is a terrific book for open minds seeking truth in ancient religious formulas, but a frightening book for those who think they already possess infallible or inert truth." John Shelby Spong, author of The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible's Terrible Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love/i>
"Bart Ehrman has done it again! He has marvelously succeeded in producing a riveting but historically credible account of three of the most important early followers of Jesus, shedding important new light on the very foundations of early Christianity. Ehrman is a master at telling his story, at separating fact from fiction, and carefully weighing all the evidence. He has done more than any scholar of our time to share the fascinating results of responsible historical investigations with the wider public." James D. Tabor, author of The Jesus Dynasty: A New Historical Investigation of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity
"Bart Ehrman offers a startlingly fresh look at three of the prime early followers of Jesus startling in its emperor's-new-clothes intelligence and Ehrman's envigorating dare for his readers to confront him with the fact that he's often skating merrily on thin ice, but ice all the same. I read him always with addictive pleasure in his brilliance and his generous-hearted eagerness to tell us all he knows, which is very much indeed." Reynolds Price, author of The Good Priest's Son: A Novel, A Serious Way or Wondering: The Ethics of Jesus Imagined , and Kate Vaiden
"Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene
explores history and the legends that developed around all three. In a breezy style, Ehrman discusses how each is depicted in the New Testament, apocryphal, gnostic, and historical writings....This book contains valuable historical scholarship. It also encourages readers to approach the Scriptures with fresh and enlightened eyes." Jane Lampman, The Christian Science Monitor
(read the entire CSM review
About the Author
Bart Ehrman chairs the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. One of the major public experts on early Christianity, Jesus, and the New Testament, he is very well known in his field and to a general audience through his books Lost Christianities, Lost Scriptures, and Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code. He has appeared on A&E, the History Channel, CNN, and other TV and radio shows, and has taped several highly popular lecture series for "The Teaching Company."