Lost Christianities : The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (12 ratings)


The early Christian Church was a chaos of contending beliefs.

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.

In Lost Christianities, Bart D. Ehrman offers a fascinating look at these early forms of Christianity and shows how they came to be suppressed, reformed, or forgotten.

All of these 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's own followers.

Modern archaeological work has recovered a number of key texts, and as Ehrman shows, these spectacular discoveries reveal religious diversity that says much about the ways in which history gets written by the winners. Ehrman's discussion ranges from considerations of various "lost scriptures"-including forged gospels supposedly written by Simon Peter, Jesus's closest disciple, and Judas Thomas, Jesus's 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 Christian belief-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 see its views prevail.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320 pages, numerous halftones
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: History of religion
  • ISBN: 9780195182491



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Showing 1 - 5 of 12 reviews.

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I have been interested for years in "lost voices". The cliché is that history is written by the winners so what were the strands of Christian practice and thought that were removed by the mainstream church that emerged from the post roman empire world? The source of my interest is a)what if or counterfactual history b)critical view of the authoritarian nature of mainstream Christianity c) rejection of the theological position of most Conservative Christians d)Wanting to remove from Christianity its historical and cultural baggage so that it can have an adult conversation with the 21st Century. This book walks you through the different strands and gives you their views rather then the edited views of the victors. It gives an honest view of why in some cases they remained marginal and what was lost at some of the suppressions. Jesus clearly was a Jew and not here to found the Christian/catholic church this was a consequence of many religious-political decisions and circumstances of the first 400 years of the church. However, I also read the book to give me a view of what the mainstream church was like to balance the views of the modern Gnostics who are critical of the "Literalists" as they see the church as now. As a Quaker I am drawn to this pre Nicene /Constantine world and the Gnostics and gospels such as Thomas. But the current criticism whilst important forgets that the spiritual groups of all the main monotheistic groups remain non mass movements or monastery based as say in Buddhism. We must not assume that the literalist mass movements are about fooling the people most of the time. Each religious impulse has its hope and despair side including the non-literalists. The issue is how to hold these impulses in a single community so that they enrich each other. They reflect the whole us!

Review by

The majority of the book is a compelling mixture of hardcore hermeneutics and engaging exposition. Spoiled somewhat by the author's conspiracy theories about the spread of "orthadox Christianity". Occam's Razor may have been a simpler alternative.

Review by

If you are looking for proof that Dan Brown got it right in the Da Vinci Code, this is NOT the book for you. But if you are looking for a serious, but readable tome on the varieties of Christianity in the years before the Council of Nicea, you could not do much better than Ehrman. This is a compliment to his [Lost Scriptures], which a collection of early Christian "Bibles." Ehrman gives a cogent, historically accurate account of the different early Christian traditions; how people took the story of the life, ministry and death of Jesus, and used it as a touchstone for belief.

Review by

Ehrman in this book writes about the broad variety of Christian viewpoints in the early centuries after the life of Jesus and the apostles. It was not until the 4th century that the books of the new Testament were finalized, and it was around the same time that what Ehrman calls the proto-orthodox views of Christian belief overcame the other views to become the orthodox Christian standard views. As the other sects of early Christianity lost out, their writings were, for the most part, lost. Over time, some of these writings have been found again, most notably with the Nag Hammadi discovery in the 1940s.Thus a new vision of early Christianity is required, one in which there were many competing doctrines, with proponents of each having lively debates with each other, and in which each church might have its own set of works it considered sacred Scripture. There's some unexpected humor in the work. Look at page 146-7 to find out what one early author thought was the relationship between weasels and oral sex.,Ehrman is a decent writer, which is necessary, as he is a scholar writing about scholarly topics, which can tend to get rather dry. Yet the topic is quite fascinating, to see a new picture of a particular period that had so much influence on our world today, unfold. Recommended.

Review by

Ehrman, who frequently appears on History Channel and the science stations. This book is a discussion of some of the different churches and beliefs of Christians during the first century. A main point of this history is that the present form of Christianity, that we tend to think of as the 'right' or orthodox viewpoint, is merely the one that won the debates. The winners get to write history, while the losers have their books destroyed, lost, or declared heretical. The religion could have just as easily turned out to be Peter's Jewish form rather than Paul's Gentile Christianity; Gnostic; Ebonite, or any of the other 40 or so verifiable church beliefs during the first two hundred years.

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