An elegantly written, much-needed book. Studies of the historical Jesus abound, concedes Ehrman (Religious Studies/Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) from the first pages. Can a historian possibly have something new to say about the carpenter from Nazareth who lived two millennia ago? No--but Ehrman isn't trying to say anything new. Rather, he has written a synthesis of the prevailing scholarship, making digestible for a general audience Albert Schweitzer's view that ""Jesus is best understood as a first-century Jewish apocalypticist"" who believed the end times were imminent and the Kingdom of God was at hand. Ehrman travels territory familiar to those acquainted with New Testament scholarship: many of Jesus' apocalyptic teachings, from the exaltation of the poor to the notion of a universal judgment, were not that different from the teachings of the prophets of the Hebrew Bible. But even those teachings that were not reminiscent of the Hebrew prophets can be illuminated by Ehrman's apocalyptic framework, as can Jesus' baptism, the miracles he performed, and his death and resurrection. He notes that the New Testament contains many stories, such as the census in Luke, that are not historically accurate; sometimes early Christians told a historical falsehood in order to get at a theological truth. Ehrman also not only does history, but shows his reader how history is done: in the fourth chapter, for example, he walks his reader through all of the sources that a scholar might use in examining the historical Jesus, explicating the limits to which scholars can use, say, rabbinic texts, the Gospel of Thomas, and the synoptic Gospels as sources for the inquiry into the historical Jesus. Ehrman's should be the first book for any lay reader interested in the historical Jesus.