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This review is from: Jesus Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don't Know About Them) (Paperback)
If you really want to know how and why and how the holy book of the Christian commonly known as the Bible has been written you should definitely read the magnificent book by Bart. D. Ehrman called Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them).
Bart D. Ehrman tells in this book what the modern biblical scholarship really knows of the process that did in the end produce a collection of wildly differentiating and often even strongly contradictory texts, which was magically transform into a book by the simple act of collecting them under the same covers and giving them a common name.
The most fantastic part of this all is that Bart D. Ehrman is an American New Testament scholar and works currently the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
He has been a evangelical Christian and has spent whole of his adult life in study of the Bible and all things relating to it. All in all he is a serious, heavy-wight professional biblical scholar and not a some atheist dilettante on a Sunday cruise in biblical lands.
So, Bart D. Ehrman is not an embittered atheist trying to undermine the Christian faith at its foundations. He is a biblical scholar who just has realized during the long years spent studying this book that it is a purely, utterly and completely human work that was produced to market and promote a struggling new faith in its infancy.
This is a book about the New Testament and what the modern biblical scholarship knows about the contradicting messages of the different authors of the book. It is also about the near complete lack of information on who really has written these texts that the later Christians did collect to form a book.
Bart D. Ehrman tells how we quite certainly know that not a single one of these texts was written by a person who would had known the Jewish preacher called Jesus personally or even known his closest companions.
Modern biblical scholarship is quite united in the view that these texts were written by people speaking a different language and they were most certainly written in a different country by people coming from a very different social class of people than the original followers of this preacher. Jesus and his disciples were Aramaic-speaking lower class fishermen, carpenters and handymen, when the writers of the gospels were Greek-speaking people with a working knowledge of philosophy and other higher learning.
The early part of the book is spent on studying the endless, apparent and in fact very easy to spot contradictions that are found in all of the biblical texts. He also spends time explaining why these apparent problems are overlooked and forgotten so easily by the believers.
Bart D. Ehrman also explains how the different gospels are products of different theological views that did fight for supremacy in the early Christian church. He tells how the development in theological ideas has transformed the later gospels so that their main character is hardly recognizable for the readers of the first gospels.
Bart D. Ehrman shows convincingly how the writers of the gospels were at best transmitting old oral traditions that had been circulating for decades among early Christian before the writing down of these short stories.
He explains also how things tend to change and become all more colourful with every new telling and how oral tradition really is not a reliable source of anything really.
Bart D. Ehrman goes also through the process that did lead to inclusion of certain texts in to the current Bible and the exclusion of others quite similar gospels with a quite similar antiquity.
He explains how the the early extremely diverse and rich Christian movement was turned into a monolith with only one allowed and accepted truth.
My own two cents is that this all happened mainly because the Roman Emperors did decide that this new religion could be used as a tool to forge a really united empire out of the rag-tag collection of conquered lands that the Roman Empire in the end was at the time.
Bart D. Ehrman does tell how the accepted gospels do represent the theological ideas of this winning faction, that was ultimately backed to win by the might of the Roman Empire and the Emperor.
Without this outside help the ultimate winners could also have been for example the powerful group of Gnostic's, who revered quite different texts as their only truth about the life of Jesus.
Bart D. Ehrman also looks what are the real facts about the central character of the Bible that can be discerned from the bible by cross-examining and comparing the textual evidence and finding out the parts that really could tell about the real-life Jesus.
The end result is that real Jesus was a quite typical Jewish preacher of apocalypse of his time, who did sincerely believe that the world would come to an end during the lifetime of his own direct followers.
He did evidently gather a base of followers, but when he was a unexpectedly killed by the authorities and no apocalypse was forthcoming, his stubborn followers had to re-think it all.
In this process the new ideas of sacrifice of the only son of the god and redeeming all sins were invented. Decades later new gospels were written to support these grand ideas and this originally quite simple figure became in every new telling more and more embroidered in mystical qualities.
IN this process his death was transformed from a terrible loss to the faithful to a winning proposition. Most of all the new ideas of heaven and hell and the ideas of getting to heaven only be believing in Jesus did emerge, which did give a great boost to the marketing of the faith.
Bart D. Ehrman tells in the end how he slowly lost his own faith and is now an agnostic professor of Biblical studies, even if he is adamant in claiming that the revealing of the true nature of the Bible and Jesus were not the deciding factor for him, but the idea of how God can allow the suffering in the world if he would really exist.
Jesus Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don't Know About Them)