The New Testament

Discover how historical research can illuminate the New Testament in this riveting course that combines biblical scholarship, archaeology, and literary analysis.
The New Testament is rated 3.8 out of 5 by 296.
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Rated 2 out of 5 by from Careful..... Before watching his courses be aware that Bert Erhman has been a self-proclaimed agnostic/atheist since the mid 1980’s. Inevitably his courses are taught from this perspective as his approach to the subjects he teaches ultimately reflect his own beliefs concerning them. Frequently during his courses it is hard to distinguish actual facts presented from his own personal conclusions. He is a very engaging instructor as he deftly leads you in the direction he has chosen to take you. If you are looking for everything that can be picked apart in the ancient manuscripts that make up the records of the Christian church this might be for you. However, if you are looking for courses to deepen your understanding of material presented in the Bible don’t be misled by the course titles, these are probably not for you.
Date published: 2021-05-27
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Engaging but flawed Interesting series on the New Testament. Bart Ehrman is an engaging speaker and communicator. However, he is clearly antagonistic to the Christian faith. That should be fairly obvious to anybody watching this. Particularly, he is absolutely deadly to evangelical fundamentalism, so be warned. He repeatedly points out discrepancies and contradictions in the Bible. On the other hand, while certainly thought-provoking, I think he ultimately fails in his attempt to fully undermine Christianity at large. The main reason is that while he acknowledges that Christianity began with a rapidly expanding number of communities which radically believed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he fails to provide an adequate explanation as to how or why any of this occurred. It's almost as if the early Christians got into a stash of magic mushrooms. First, there are the disciples of Christ who came to believe all this, but whatever radicalized them after the death of their leader really makes no sense. They should have dissolved and disbanded as soon as he died, but perhaps they stumbled into some magic mushrooms causing them to believe that their leader was still alive. Ok, fine. We'll go with that. But then Paul? He was of a totally different background than the disciples. He was a strict Pharisee, violently opposed to the early disciples of Christ. So why did he come to believe in this so strongly himself and then bizarrely turn into the movement's most radical missionary? It's absurd enough for the disciples to have eaten the mushrooms, but then Paul too? So somehow he also got into the magic mushrooms. Lightning strikes twice. But if that's not crazy enough, there's more. You now have this crazy man Paul running around the Gentile world, going from city to city to city, staying usually for only a matter of months, without any institutional or textual support whatsoever, somehow getting all these pagan polytheists to abandon their centuries-old idols to adopt this bizarre new teaching of a resurrected Jew. How the heck did that happen? Bart Ehrman can't seem to explain why they bought into it. He suggests Paul must have been pretty charismatic and persuasive to pull this off, but then why didn't these newly founded communities simply fall apart as soon as he left? Yet somehow these communities persisted. How? Why? Bart Ehrman has absolutely no explanation for this. Did Paul hand out more magic mushrooms to all these communities? I suppose that's what he thinks. It makes no sense. Bart Ehrman can split the Bible into a zillion pieces but he misses the 800 lb gorilla in the room. From a sheer sociological, psychological, and anthropological perspective, there is simply no way this religion took off without some sort of divine energy or power driving this thing. That's where I think Bart Ehrman falls short in his critique on Christianity and where the Christian faith remains firmly intact for those who cherish it.
Date published: 2021-05-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best I've seen. Dr. Ehrman certainly doesn't need my endorsement but this lecture series is outstanding. He is vey thorough and supports his views very well. I think that anyone who carefully considers these lectures will benefit greatly from his extreme knowledge. Of course it's not Sunday School. What were you expecting? There are only a few areas for improvement and at least one area where he is clearly wrong: a Mazda Miata is NOT a sports car! I could normally let this sort of thing go but because he lives in the south, I wouldn't want him expressing this view at, for example a NASCAR event. (I'm guessing he's not a conformist in the "bible belt" anyway but... Seriously though, this is so thorough and informative that it renders some of his other related lecture series repetitive. My only real criticism. I hope he makes a New Testament 201 series that assumes we've already seen this one. I'd be first in line for that one.
Date published: 2021-04-03
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Awful I have learned through working on my master’s degree in Christian apologetics that has been since I purchased this, that Bart E. is quite the atheist and it shows through in his presentation of the gospels. His presentation ruined so much of it for me. The “Q” theory in scholastic circles is not even recognized as legitimate. All I can say is that it’s a good thing that I was a strong Christian before watching these. I won’t waste my time on the epistles of Paul. My concern is that he fuels doubts in the minds of those who are sitting on the fence. Why not get a Christian to teach Christian literature? You missed the mark here Great Courses!
Date published: 2020-12-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Respectful, Clear, Informative Presentations Prof. Ehrman is an excellent speaker who takes great care to be respectful to the audience, believers and non-believers. Whether you agree with his views or not, they are based on evidence and presented logically and rigorously. Everyone can learn from such a presentation. In particular, Ehrman does an excellent job comparing the gospels as literary works and explaining the writings of Paul. I am personally less convinced by some of the arguments about the historicity of particular gospel sayings, but they are presented fairly and clearly and reflect much current scholarship. The general discussion of Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet is thoroughly convincing and extremely clearly explained, however. This course is neatly complimented by Luke Timothy Johnson's course on the gospels, which takes a very different perspective but is also worth watching.
Date published: 2020-10-03
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Course Theme: Do Not Trust the New Testament Ehrman describes the New Testament as being composed of unreliable and inconsistent fables. Most people want both sides of a matter presented, and there could be more than two sides. This class offers an extremely one-sided review of the authorship and writing of the New Testament. Justifications of the New Testament's accuracy are notably omitted. Ehrman works at destroying faith in the credibility of the Bible. Numerous scholars disagree with his views. Better Great Courses are: Phillip Cary, History of Christian Theology; and, Craig Koester, Reading Biblical Literature.
Date published: 2020-08-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the better courses I have taken on The Grea I've completed the course, and it was full of enlightening information on the New Testament, keeping in mind it is a survey course. Dr. Ehrman is certainly one of the foremost experts in the field. I would recommend having a copy of The New Oxford Annotated Bible on hand as a reference. Unfortunately, the format of the Great Courses doesn't allow Dr. Ehrman to have a live audience, because if you've ever watched any of his on line debates or lectures, you would be able to more fully appreciate his oratory skills, than what the Great Courses format allows. I also find the "stage sets" of the Great Courses dreadfully artificial, cheap looking, and painfully dull, why not just have a university classroom setting? It would be more honest. That being noted; I still highly recommend the course.
Date published: 2020-08-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A spectacular take on the New Testament After reading the Bible from Genesis through Revelation, I began watching Teaching Company courses to help me understand what I'd just read. After watching two courses on the Old Testament, I embarked on my journey through the New Testament. Bart D. Ehrman is a first-rate scholar and a close analytical reader of the 27 books which comprise the New Testament. Contrary to what some negative reviewers have written, I believe this course will not dissuade religious viewers from their faith. Ehrman deepens one's knowledge of the texts through his scientific, analytic, and scholarly approach. I'm still processing the information he provided so I won't go into detailed descriptions of his lectures but I will say Ehrman did a good job of differentiating the apocalyptic views held by Jesus and those held by Paul. Their outlooks on the end times were not precisely the same. Ehrman's final lecture focused on the question: Do we really have the actual New Testament? He detailed the history of the surviving manuscripts and explained how copies differ from one another. I watched this course after watching "Understanding the New Testament" by David Brakke. Brakke's course is newer and may contain developments in New Testament scholarship that have transpired since Ehrman recorded his course but I noticed more congruence than divergence between the two courses. I recommend taking BOTH courses for maximum enlightenment as each of these professors focused on different aspects of the texts.
Date published: 2020-05-14
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Whether you consider it a book of faith or a cultural artifact, the New Testament is among the most significant writings that the world has ever known. This course sheds the light of purely historical research on the New Testament-its form, the methods of its composition, its authors and their original audiences, and the larger historical context. Mindful of the limitations imposed by the available historical evidence and methods, Professor Bart. D. Ehrman brings impressive expertise to the task of reconstructing the life of Jesus and the early Christian community.


Bart D. Ehrman
Bart D. Ehrman

Anyone who’s interested in understanding what the words of Jesus might mean in the modern world cannot take them at face value and apply them to the present situation without seeing how that situation is different from his own.


The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Dr. Bart D. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He completed his undergraduate work at Wheaton College and earned his M.Div. and Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary. Professor Ehrman has written or edited 27 books, including four best sellers on The New York Times list: Misquoting Jesus: The Story behind Who Changed the Bible and Why; God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question-Why We Suffer; Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don't Know about Them);and Forged: Writing in the Name of God-Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are. Professor Ehrman also served as president of the Society of Biblical Literature, Southeastern Region; book review editor of the Journal of Biblical Literature; editor of the Scholars' Press monograph series The New Testament in the Greek Fathers;and coeditor-in-chief for the journal Vigiliae Christianae. Professor Ehrman received the John William Pope Center Spirit of Inquiry Award, the UNC Students' Undergraduate Teaching Award, the Phillip and Ruth Hettleman Prize for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement by Young Faculty, and the Bowman and Gordon Gray Professorship (awarded for excellence in undergraduate teaching).

By This Professor

The New Testament


The Early Christians and Their Literature

01: The Early Christians and Their Literature

In our strictly historical study of the New Testament, our overarching questions will include: Who were the actual authors? To whom did they write?

32 min
The Greco-Roman Context

02: The Greco-Roman Context

Why must anyone who hopes to interpret the New Testament understand its historical context? What was the religious environment of the Greco-Roman world like? How was ancient paganism different from what people today think of as religion?

31 min
Ancient Judaism

03: Ancient Judaism

Judaism, into which Jesus was born, was like other religions of the Greco-Roman world in some respects, but very different in others. At the time of Jesus, it had several sects. Many Jews embraced apocalyptic ideas, maintaining that God would soon intervene in history, crushing evil and bringing about his kingdom on Earth.

31 min
The Earliest Traditions About Jesus

04: The Earliest Traditions About Jesus

Even though the earliest traditions about Jesus go back to eyewitnesses, the Gospels were not written down for several decades. Why do scholars think that during this period, some traditions about Jesus came to be modified or even created?

31 min
Mark-Jesus the Suffering Son of God

05: Mark-Jesus the Suffering Son of God

Mark is the shortest and oldest of the four Gospels. Its unknown author had access to oral traditions about Jesus. Mark orders these traditions into a portrait of Jesus as the authoritative but almost universally misunderstood Messiah and Son of God, whose mission is to suffer and die for the sins of the world.

31 min
Matthew-Jesus the Jewish Messiah

06: Matthew-Jesus the Jewish Messiah

Because Matthew, Mark, and Luke share so many of the same stories, they are often called the "Synoptic" Gospels. Their similarities are usually taken to mean that one, Mark, served as a source for the other two. One of the ways to study Matthew and Luke is to compare them to Mark, looking for evidence of modifications. Matthew in particular stresses Jesus' Jewish identity and his relatio...

31 min
Luke-Jesus the Savior of the World

07: Luke-Jesus the Savior of the World

Luke emphasizes Jesus as a Jewish prophet. Jesus knows that it is God's plan for his salvation to go out to the whole world, and hence does not predict the imminent end of the age. The message of salvation must first go out to the Gentiles, which will take time. Since the church will be in the world for a long haul, Luke puts a special stress on Jesus' "social" message of compassion for ...

31 min
John-Jesus the Man from Heaven

08: John-Jesus the Man from Heaven

In John's strikingly singular account, Jesus' own identity is the core issue. Rather than simply being a misunderstood representative of God's will, or a rejected prophet, or a Jewish messiah sent from the Jewish God in fulfillment of the Jewish scriptures, John's Jesus is himself divine, equal with God, an incarnation of God's own Word through which he created the universe.

31 min
Noncanonical Gospels

09: Noncanonical Gospels

More than 20 Gospels survive that did not make it into the New Testament. Most are highly legendary and use earlier written accounts as sources. They can be categorized as either narrative or "sayings" Gospels. In this lecture, you will examine examples of each, including one that is among the most exciting archaeological finds of modern times: the "Gnostic" Gospel of Thomas un...

31 min
The Historical Jesus-Sources and Problems

10: The Historical Jesus-Sources and Problems

In this lecture, you move beyond a discussion of the early Christian Gospels as literary texts, each with a distinctive portrayal of Jesus, to consider their value as historical sources. How can sources that appear to contain discrepancies and that have their own theological agendas be used to achieve a historical reconstruction of the life of the man who stands behind them all?

30 min
The Historical Jesus-Solutions and Methods

11: The Historical Jesus-Solutions and Methods

What criteria do scholars use to determine which surviving traditions about Jesus preserve historically reliable information? This lecture explores these criteria at greater length, explaining the logic behind each and exploring several examples of how they can be applied.

31 min
Jesus the Apocalyptic Prophet

12: Jesus the Apocalyptic Prophet

Why does careful research indicate that the historical Jesus is best understood as a 1st-century Jewish apocalpyticist? What are the beliefs that fit under the rubric "apocalypticist," and how do the words and deeds of Jesus reveal his relationship to them?

31 min
The Acts of the Apostles

13: The Acts of the Apostles

Written by the evangelist Luke, Acts narrates the growth and spread of the church, starting from just after Jesus' ascension. In this lecture we will explore this narrative, examine the historical accuracy of some of its accounts, and discuss Luke's perspective.

31 min
Paul-The Man, the Mission, and the Modus Operandi

14: Paul-The Man, the Mission, and the Modus Operandi

Apart from Jesus, the most important figure in early Christianity was the apostle Paul. For various reasons, a clear picture of his life and teachings is elusive. Yet a careful reading of his letters and the book of Acts reveals significant information about the life and work of this highly religious Pharisaic Jew who became a Christian missionary, intent on spreading the Gospel among the Gentiles...

31 min
Paul and the Crises of His Churches-First Corinthians

15: Paul and the Crises of His Churches-First Corinthians

Why can we take Paul's first letter to the Christians at Corinth as representative of all his writings? What are the problems besetting this community of believers? What is the Apostle's impassioned response?

31 min
Pauline Ethics

16: Pauline Ethics

Paul's writings are pervaded by a concern for upright, moral living. He believes that even the Gentiles should strive to follow the ethical laws of the Jewish Scriptures, especially the command of Leviticus 19:18 that one should love one's neighbor as oneself. Given Paul's teaching that salvation cannot be gained through observance of God's law, does his ethical concern represent a paradox? Finall...

30 min
Paul's Letter to the Romans

17: Paul's Letter to the Romans

What is unique about the letter to the Romans? What are the two different models of salvation through Christ that Paul propounds here? And what part does God's revealed law, given to the Jews and preserved by them in the Hebrew Bible, play in God's ultimate plan of redemption?

31 min
Paul, Jesus, and James

18: Paul, Jesus, and James

In previous lectures we have examined the teachings of the historical Jesus and the theological views of the apostle Paul. In this lecture we will compare what we have found, adding the views of the apostle James to gain a rounded sense of the diversity of early Christian beliefs.

31 min
The Deutero-Pauline Epistles

19: The Deutero-Pauline Epistles

This lecture considers some of the Deutero-Pauline epistles, so called because scholars accord them a secondary place within the Pauline corpus. Writing in someone else's name was a well-known practice in the ancient world, and could be a good strategy for getting one's work read. In this lecture, most of our attention will focus on Ephesians, which speaks eloquently of the unity of Jew and Gentil...

30 min
The Pastoral Epistles

20: The Pastoral Epistles

What makes the letters 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus pastoral epistles? Why are scholars convinced that Paul himself could not have written them?

31 min
The Book of Hebrews and the Rise of Christian Anti-Semitism

21: The Book of Hebrews and the Rise of Christian Anti-Semitism

Did you know that the so-called epistle to the Hebrews is neither an epistle nor addressed to the Hebrews? To whom is it addressed, then, and for what purpose? Why does it teach what it does about the superiority of Christianity to Judaism, and why did the early Christians include it in the canon?

31 min
First Peter and the Persecution of the Early Christians

22: First Peter and the Persecution of the Early Christians

This lecture briefly discusses 1 Peter and its teachings on suffering for the faith. Then it explores more broadly the issue of persecution in early Christianity. What was the status of Christianity under the Roman empire? Why were there outbreaks of persecution against Christians, and how systematic were the abuses inflicted on followers of Christ?

31 min
The Book of Revelation

23: The Book of Revelation

The Revelation of John is probably the most fascinating book in the New Testament, and almost certainly the most widely misunderstood. This lecture explores apocalyptic writing as a symbol-rich literary form, and argues that this particular Christian apocalypse is best read within its own historical context of religious persecution under the Roman Empire.

31 min
Do We Have the Original New Testament?

24: Do We Have the Original New Testament?

No original manuscript of any book in the New Testament appears to have survived. There are thousands of handwritten copies in Greek, but most date from centuries after the originals, no two match completely, and all are filled with mistakes.

30 min