Friday, December 27, 2013

Jesus, Interrupted

On Christmas Day, I obtained a copy of Dr. Bart Ehrman's Jesus, Interrupted, a book that explains most of the discrepancies of the gospels and the Acts of the bible. It also takes a very hard look at who the authors of these books were. While I was very familiar with the works of Ehrman through other writers quoting him and from seeing some of his lectures on YouTube, this was the first opportunity I had to read one of his books.

I enjoyed his writing style as it was very conversational (a mark of a good non-fiction writer), though at some times he was forced to be monotonous and repetitive because of the subject matter. There are only so many times you can say "this gospel is different than this gospel," but his reasons are sound. When dealing with indoctrinated readers, it's not easy breaking through their walls to help them see the truth. So he wants to hammer home enough discrepancies to show these gospels were anything but historically accurate.

He employs a style he dubs "horizontal reading." This means taking the four gospels and putting them side by side and comparing them, instead of the traditional "vertical" reading of top to bottom and front to back. He contends people don't catch these significant errors and discrepancies because they read the bible from front to back or at the very least one at a time and never next to each other.

I admit, heading into this book I knew much of what he was going to say as I have done this research myself, but there were some other tidbits he provided that surprised me. He is the world's leading expert on bible study, especially the NT, having been a strict fundie for years and years, studying in some of the finest seminary schools and bible colleges there are. One thing he said was that all pastors/priests know about these discrepancies, especially the ones that can't be reconciled, and he surmised the reason the average person doesn't know about them is that these religious leaders don't want their parishioners to overreact and start questioning their faith. Of course they don't, otherwise they'd be out of a job.

I read this book because I was brushing up on my debating skills for this very subject. I am currently embroiled in an email debate on whether MMLJ wrote these gospels and when. Despite my efforts to prove the evidence exists to show these gospels weren't written by MMLJ nor were they written at the time of the events, my opponent just refuses to believe it. Remember what I said about being monotonous to break through the indoctrination? The gospels themselves give the best evidence they were written decades after the "fact" but that still may not be enough for this person. So I have new ammo to use if the next correspondence still doesn't result in a point conceded.

Finally, on the history of authorship, Ehrman makes a great point that any rational human being could arrive at if they gave it enough thought: Jesus, if he existed the way the bible tells it, was surrounded by illiterate goat herders who only spoke Aramaic. The gospels were written by very literate people who spoke and wrote in Greek. There is no way MMLJ spoke and wrote fluently in Greek, nor would they have taken those decades afterward to learn that language for the purposes of recording Jesus' time here on earth.

Anyone looking to learn the truth about the gospels should pick up (or download) this book. He also discussed the historicity of Jesus and how the bible came together. Good stuff.

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