For years, nonbelievers rejoiced at the publication of a new book by New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman, relishing the professor’s pugnacious attacks on the cherished beliefs of evangelical Christians.

But in his latest offering, the University of North Carolina historian and author of such provocative titles as “Misquoting Jesus,” “Forged,” and “Jesus Interrupted,” targets the very crowd that formed the bulk of his audience.

In “Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth,” Ehrman soundly refutes the arguments — sometimes made by atheists, agnostics and humanists — that early storytellers invented Jesus.

As Christians prepare to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, Ehrman, an agnostic, convincingly demonstrates in clear, forceful prose that there was a historical Jesus, a Jewish teacher of the first century who was crucified by Pontius Pilate. As for the so-called “mythicists” who argue otherwise, Ehrman has some choice words: “sensationalist,” “wrongheaded,” and “amateurish.”

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