After dry, moth-eaten and rusty book about the same subject by George Robert Stowe Mead (published 115 years ago) Ehrman comes as breezy, friendly and warm contemporary writer who speaks the language that I can understand, reference the things I know about (at one point even movie The Exorcist) and basically comes across not as a museum piece but as a someone from my own time who happens to know a lot about this subject and I would probably like to have him as a company on a desert island.
I read some of Ehrman previously ("Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth") where he claims that there is no reason why we shouldn't believe there was a historical figure at certain point, but this is the first time I became aware how important it is to actually face contemporary writer instead someone who lived a century ago - Mead was fine for his time, I guess, but his writing style is D-R-Y and long winded for a modern reader - in comparison, Ehrman sounds like a good, knowledgeable friend. I just started and already enjoying the book very much - so far it explains that in ancient world it was not unusual for mortals to afterwards be worshipped as Gods, from Greek mythology to Roman emperors, but Ehrman promises to later go to the centre of problem and explain how did it happen that living, mortal figure of wandering preacher came to be recognised not as God's son but God himself. I was always sure there were lots of embellishments obstructing the real message of early Christianity and find the subject absolutely fascinating.
Finished - it got somehow tangled in the second part but this was to be expected as the whole myth grew bigger and more elaborate with time. Ehrman believes at the very bottom of the story there was a historical person who got executed by Roman officials - now comes the most interesting part: a most crucial link in the story (resurrection) might have been a complete fiction because "Roman practice was to allow the bodies of crucified people to decompose on the cross and be attacked by scavengers as part of the disincentive for crime." Taking in account that Pontius Pilate was known as a harsh and brutal governor who had no time for niceties - he famously looted Jewish temple to finance building of aqueduct and didn't wink at protests of locals - there is absolutely no logic in believing that he would do something against his will (as later Christians made him) or that he would allow body of executed criminal to be taken down from a cross and buried. Christians also invented a figure of wealthy Joseph of Arimathea who allegedly buried Jesus - "“a respected member of the council” (read: same Sanhedrins who previous night voted for Jesus execution) who suddenly changes his mind and asks for the body so he can bury him. This sounds like a complete fiction and has no logical or historical bass whatsoever - as a member of the council who previously insisted on execution, this person risks to much + earliest Gospels claim the whole council voted on execution, to make a long story short, it seems like from the moment of crucifixion the story takes another life and changes directions according to whoever had power and agenda at the time - and basing everything on the fact that the body disappeared from the grave, which might be a falsehood in the first place.