Friday, December 6, 2013

Professor Bart D. Ehrman's Lectures for the Teaching Company

In an effort to get back to the core of Christian faith, I have noted that the Bible is the primary source for the tenets of that faith.  In my last post, I shared some insight from a book that focuses on the history of the Bible, and among other things explains how it has changed over time.

That was an insightful book, but I've also studied a number of resources on the "historical Jesus" that are also useful to the current focus of this blog.  I'll write soon more about this term "historical Jesus."  And in coming posts, I'll be focusing on two resources by the same scholar and published in the same media.  They are two lecture series by Professor Bart Ehrmann for the Teaching Company.  In this post, I just want to give you some background before we jump into consideration of Dr. Ehrmann's lectures.  I think it is helpful to know something about both Dr. Ehrmann and the Teaching Company.

Dr. Ehrmann completed his undergraduate degree at Wheaton College and his graduate degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary.  He currently teaches at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Wheaton is a well-respected Evangelical college founded by an abolitionist and with a history of impressive academic outcomes.  It counts Rev. Billy Graham among its alumni.  Princeton Theological Seminary was founded under the auspices of Princeton University and is now the second-oldest seminary in the United States.  It is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). 

Though Dr. Ehrmann received his degrees from private, Christian schools, his teaching career has been spent at public institutions where it would be unconstitutional to support or promote any particular faith tradition.  His teaching and scholarship thus focus on the study of the Bible from a more objective, less personal, more scientific perspective.  Dr. Ehrmann is a prolific scholar, having written or edited several dozen books.  He has done a number of lectures for the Teaching Company, but I listened to just two: New Testament and Historical Jesus.

In his youth, Ehrmann was a fundamentalist Christian.  Prior to beginning his bachelor's degree at Wheaton, he studied for three years at the Moody Bible Institute, where he earned a three-year diploma.  During his graduate studies, he became more aware of problems with a literalist approach to the Bible, and no longer considered himself a fundamentalist.  He had not lost his faith entirely, at that time and considered himself a non-literalist Christian for over a dozen years thereafter.  Later on, however, he became an agnostic.

The Teaching Company is a business that is focused on providing audio and video materials for adult learners.  Its primary target audience seems to be adults of a range of educational achievements who have a lot of intellectual curiosity and want to learn.  The business's materials provide non-credit "courses" by notable scholars from a range of backgrounds.  The philosophy of the materials is learning just for the pure enjoyment of it. 

The lectures by Dr. Ehrmann that I listened to were provided via the business's "Great Courses" series.  The are available at the following link: