Audiobook Review: Great Courses: After The New Testament: The Writings Of The Apostolic Fathers: Part 2

Great Courses:  After The New Testament:  The Writings Of The Apostolic Fathers:  Part 2, taught by Bart D. Ehrman

The only times I am even remotely fond of the professor of this course, whose work I am familiar with, is when this author introduces me to new texts to read and interpret for myself.  I care little for his interpretations, and we are on very different sides of the larger dispute over faith and the meaning of religious texts [1], but we do share a deep interest in ancient books and desire that these books be better known, if not necessarily to be agreed with or to be viewed as authoritative, at least to be understood as the raw material from which our view of history must spring.  And although I do not consider myself a particularly generous-minded person when it comes to viewing people with radically different worldviews than my own, or even different political views within a larger worldview agreement, I do consider our shared love of ancient texts and our shared perspective as outsiders to be worthy of at least some fondness.  To the extent that the author genuinely wrestles with these texts and seeks to understand and not merely view them as being convenient for his own ulterior motives and agendas, we have at least some ground of common discourse and interest if not necessarily belief, and that is worth something, at least

This collection of lectures is, like most of the ones within the Great Courses series, made up of twelve lectures of 30 minutes apiece on six cds, for ease of listening.  This section of the course begins with a discussion of the Epistle of Barnabas and its opposition to the Jews [13] along with a discussion of the rise of Christian Anti-Semitism during the second century [14], although the lecturer does not discuss how the Jews contributed to this through their rejection of Sabbatarian Jews within the synagogue through the so-called “blessings” which included a curse on Jesus Christ.  After this the author discusses 2 Clement as an early sermon [15] and looks at the use of early scripture and its complexity in the early church, at least as the professor understands it [16].  Following this is a discussion of Papias as an early interpreter of oral tradition within early Christianity [17] after which follows a discussion of his millennial views (quite congenial to my own) and the opportunity the professor has of bolstering his negative view of oral tradition [18].  A humorous discussion of the lengthy apocalypse the Shepherd of Hermas follows [19] along with a look at the importance of apocalypses (and not just the canonical books of Daniel and Revelation) in early Christianity [20].  A discussion of the last work of the Apostolic Fathers follows, the letter to Diognetus [21] along with a look at the importance of apologetics in early Christanity [22].  The course concludes with a look at the Apostolic Fathers as a collection [23] along with a look at their contribution to our understanding of proto-Orthodoxy as it developed in the period after the Apostles [24].

As can be said of any of Ehrman’s works both as an instructor as well as an author, he is at his best when he is encouraging others to read and become familiar with ancient texts and at his worst when he presumes to speak as an authority upon said texts.  Ultimately, the author’s worldview and perspective and his favoring of Gnostic ideas and his general lack of piety makes him a poor interpreter.  Even so, this series of lectures is at its best when the author shows a good-humored appreciation of the writers and writings he talks about and a love of appreciating ancient literature that few people understand and not many care to become familiar with.  As a result, if it is impossible to agree with everything, or even with very much, of what the author has to say about the Bible and about these texts that are worthwhile and edifying nonbiblical texts, it is at least possible to share with Ehrman an appreciation of these works and a desire that they be better known, a worthwhile endeavor to join in for those of us who do value a better understanding of early Christianity and where things went wrong.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Book Reviews, Christianity, Church of God, History and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Audiobook Review: Great Courses: After The New Testament: The Writings Of The Apostolic Fathers: Part 2

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  13. Pingback: A Modest Proposal For The Collection Of The Writings Of The Apostolic Fathers | Edge Induced Cohesion

  14. Pingback: Book Review: The Fragments Of Papias | Edge Induced Cohesion

  15. Pingback: Book Review: The Second Epistle Of Clement To The Corinthians | Edge Induced Cohesion

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