Notes: Overview of Ehrman's Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium

Outline of Ehrman’s Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium

The Big Picture: Chapter 1 does the stage-setting and states the book’s main thesis: Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet. Chapters 2-3 explain why we can’t take the gospels at face value. Chapters 4-5 sift the sources for the historical Jesus to determine which sources are the most credible. Chapter 6 states and explains the core historical methodology scholars use to reconstruct the historical Jesus from these sources. Chapters 7-12 apply the lessons and historical methodology laid out in chapters 2-6: we can apply the historical tools of source criticism and the criteria of authenticity to reconstruct the historical Jesus.Chapter 13 sketches an account of how the church’s conception of Jesus evolved from that of an apocalyptic preacher to the Son of God.

Part I: (Ch. 1) The main thesis introduced: Jesus was an apocalypticist.

Ch. 1: Christians from the present all the way through the past have believed that the end of the world would occur in their generation. There is a good reason for this: Jesus thought so, too.

Part II (Ch. 2-3): We can’t take the canonical Gospels’ portraits of Jesus at face value
Ch. 2: There are clear cases where the gospel authors modify their sources to score a theological point.

Ch. 3: The gospels were written anonymously, 35-65 years after the events they describe, by Greek authors who are using second-, third, fourth-hand information that was based on oral traditions about Jesus.

Part III (Chs. 4-5): Despite this, the canonical gospels are the best sources we’ve got

Ch. 4: The non-Christian sources from the 1st century (whether pagan or Jewish) contain virtually nothing about Jesus.

Ch. 5: The Christian sources outside the canonical gospels are of two main sorts: (a) the other New Testament documents, and (b) extra-canonical writings. The information in (a) about Jesus’ earthly ministry can fit on a 3x5 notecard, and while there are lots and lots of (b)-type sources, they are much later, are obviously derivative, and unreliable.

Part IV (Ch. 6): Happily, we have historical methods that can help us reliably reconstruct the historical Jesus from our sources

Ch. 6: We can reconstruct the historical Jesus by (i) isolating our earliest, most reliable sources about him, and (ii) applying criteria of authenticity to them, to see which units of material within those sources probably go back to Jesus’ life and ministry.

Part V (Chs. 7-12): Reconstructing the historical Jesus: Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet
Ch. 7: Stage-setting chapter: a sketch of Jesus’ environment in 1st-century Palestine
Ch. 8: The basic case for Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet
Ch. 9: A closer look 1: the apocalyptic prophet hypothesis makes best sense of his core teachings

Ch. 10: A closer look 2: the apocalyptic prophet hypothesis makes best sense of his ethical teachings

Ch. 11: A closer look 3: the apocalyptic prophet hypothesis makes best sense of his actions

Ch. 12: A closer look 4: the apocalyptic prophet hypothesis makes best sense of his last days

Part VI (Ch. 13): How his followers’ conception of Jesus evolved

Ch. 13: His followers’ conception evolved from apocalyptic prophet to Son of God as it spread from 1stcentury Palestine to the outer Roman Empire.

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Daniel Johnson reviews the book for NDPR .