The History of the Bible: The Making of the New Testament Canon. Twelve lectures by Professor Bart D. Ehrman. The Great Courses. Chantilly, VA.

The twelve lectures are: 1) The NT: An overview; 2) Paul—Our earliest Christian author; 3) The Pauline Epistles; 4) The problem of pseudonymity; 5) The beginnings of the
Gospel traditions; 6) The earliest Gospels; 7) The other Gospels; 8) Apocalypticism and the Apocalypse of John; 9) The copyists who gave us scripture; 10) Authority of the early church; 11) The importance of interpretation; 12) When did the canon get finalized?

Also included is a timeline, glossary, biographical notes and a bibliography. He is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and is a graduate of Wheaton (B.A., 1978) and Princeton (M.Div. and Ph.D.).

There is a great website on Ehrman that brings you up to date on what Ehrman has done since 2005 (when this series was published). His web address is and if you look at his curriculum vitae you will see many of his article that can be read on-line.

His chapter on the copyists reminds us that the Bible was not copied widely until the first century, so that the society at the time was an oral one. This is why some of the “same” stories in the N.T. are “different” and some material was added later (e.g. the first part of John 8 and the alternative endings of Mark).

Of course we do not have the original manuscripts of Paul and the Gospels are “according to” Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, meaning that someone other than those men put the stories of the life of Christ together.

Ehrman does not get into “plenary inspiration” or other doctrines that we hold to, which makes sense because we do not have the original writings and it was sometime in the 300s (Athanasius) before a list of what was to be included in the NT was generally accepted. Some of the other books came close and Ehrman gives a running account of them.

I think Ehrman’ s lectures have implications for storytelling, particularly to those who hold that nothing in the story can be changed from the “original” literal texts—which are not original nor literal.

I am now (January, 2015) looking at another series of lectures he gave called “From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity” (24 lectures). There is a great deal of redundancy between the two sets of lectures.