This book is a fascinating read for anyone interested in the origins of Christianity. It also sheds a vivid light on the evolution of religious beliefs and the vicious battles that have been fought over the prevalence of conflicting creeds.
Fabulously researched and yet extremely accessible, it explains how the modern Catholic Church evolved from the original chaos of contending beliefs that was the early Christian Church.
“Some groups of Christians claimed that there was not one God but two or twelve or thirty. Some believed that the world had not been created by God but by a lesser, ignorant deity. Certain sects maintained that Jesus was human but not divine, while others said he was divine but not human.”
“Each of the early Christian groups insisted that they upheld the teachings of Jesus and his apostles, and they all possessed writings that bore out their claims, books reputedly produced by Jesus’ own followers.”
Modern archaeological work has recovered a number of key texts that were heretofore lost to us, notably the Dead Sea scrolls and the Nag Hammadi Library. These have shed a new light on the origins of Christianity. As Ehrman shows, these spectacular discoveries reveal a religious diversity that says much about the ways in which the “winners” get to write history.
Ehrman’s discussion ranges from considerations of these and other “lost scriptures” – including forged gospels supposedly written by Simon Peter, Jesus’ closest disciple, and Judas Thomas, Jesus’ alleged twin brother – to the disparate beliefs of such groups as the Jewish-Christian Ebionites, the anti-Jewish Marcionites, and various “Gnostic” sects.
Ehrman examines in depth the battles that raged between “proto-orthodox Christians” – those who eventually compiled the canonical books of the New Testament and “standardized” the Christian belief system – and the groups they denounced as heretics and ultimately overcame.
Scrupulously researched and lucidly written, Lost Christianities is an eye-opening account of politics, power, and the clash of ideas among Christians in the decades before one group came to enforce its beliefs, which would prevail for centuries to come.
Note: Review adapted from the book cover and Amazon’s description.