When: Sat., April 14, 2 p.m. 2012
When he's not writing arcane tomes for a few other academics, UNC religious studies professor Bart Ehrman regularly drops by The New York Times bestseller list to splashily synthesize the latest scholarship for us laypeople. In popular books such as Misquoting Jesus and Forged, Ehrman separated history from myth in the collection of writings—Aramaic oral traditions first written down in Greek, then tinkered with for centuries—that we know as the Bible. He's at it again in Did Jesus Exist?, sleuthing out the plain facts on Roman Palestine's most famous illiterate anarchist carpenter.
Ehrman sets up the diametrically opposed arguments of Christian apologists and skeptical "mythicists," then gently knocks them down, arguing persuasively for a historical Jesus about whom little can be known, but who certainly existed. Ehrman paves his moderate way with a genial tone, a wealth of fascinating evidence and an impulse for neutrality in a field where it is scarce. He's not interested in throwing out the baby with the bathwater—he just wants to know where one stops and the other begins. His work to accessibly clarify the contents and provenance of such an influential, misunderstood document is invaluable. Maybe he could take a crack at the Constitution next? Ehrman reads and signs at 2 p.m. —Brian Howe