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Lost Christianities

The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew

Bart D. Ehrman

Publication Date - 15 September 2005

ISBN: 9780195182491

312 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

A revealing look at the Early Church and the intense struggle to form the canon of the New Testament


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.


  • Shows how early forms of Christianity came to be suppressed, reformed, or forgotten
  • Provides an eye-opening account of politics, power, and the clash of ideas among early Christians
  • Analyzes key texts recovered from modern archaeological work

About the Author(s)

Bart D. Ehrman is Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the author of The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings and Jesus, Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium.


"A fascinating look at how Christianity was molded."--Dallas Morning News

"Ehrman's style is marked by the narrative thrust of a good story or even a sermon."--Christian Science Monitor

"A charting of the full theological kaleidoscope would take volumes, but it is possible, using Ehrman's book as a jumping-off point, to examine some of the more striking and widespread of the Christian roads not taken."--Time Magazine

"Ehrman displays expert knowledge of the texts and the best modern scholarship.... His balanced exposition of the Gospel of Thomas, with its careful delineation of the different materials in it, is outstanding."--America

Table of Contents

    Chapter One: Recouping Our Loses
    PART ONE: Forgeries and Discoveries
    Chapter Two: The Ancient Discovery of a Forgery: Serapion and the Gospel of Peter
    Chapter Three: The Ancient Forgery of a Discovery: The Acts of Paul and Thecla
    Chapter Four: The Discovery on an Ancient Forgery: the Coptic Gospel of Thomas
    Chapter Five: The Forgery of an Ancient Discovery? Morton Smith and the Secret Gospel of Mark
    PART TWO: Heresies and Orthodoxies
    Chapter Six: At Polar Ends of the Spectrum: Early Christian Ebionites and Marcionites
    Chapter Seven: Christians "In the Know": The Worlds of Early Christian Gnosticism
    Chapter Eight: On the Road to Nicea: The Broad Swath of Proto-Orthodox Christianity
    PART THREE: Winners and Losers
    Chapter Nine: The Quest for Orthodoxy
    Chapter Ten: The Arsenal of the Conflicts: Polemical Treatises and Personal Slurs
    Chapter Eleven: Additional Weapons in the Proto-Orthodox Arsenal: Forgeries and Falsifications
    Chapter Twelve: The Invention of Scripture: The Formation of the Proto-Orthodox New Testament
    Chapter Thirteen: Winners, Losers, and the Question of Tolerance