05.04.2010 – Jesus, Interrupted – A Quick Review
I just finished reading Jesus, Interrupted by Bart D Erhman. It was one of the easiest reads I’ve done in quite a while. Not because it was over-simplified or non-scholarly. It is quite the opposite really. I think it was so easy for me, because it’s a topic that I find great interest in and one that I was deeply immersed in from childhood through young adulthood. In this book, Erhman discusses the many inconsistencies and discrepancies within the New Testament. These inconsistencies are not only in the actual words within the various manuscripts that we have of the books, but also its major theological themes between the various writers of the books (many of which are anonymous, contrary to popular belief).
Erman discusses how this information is found through the historical-critical method of biblical study. This is what all seminary students are required to learn. He outlines how we have no original manuscripts of the gospel books. And the versions we do have were passed down via word-of-mouth for several decades after the supposed death of Jesus before they were written down by people who never even knew Jesus. He also discusses the evidence that shows that Paul didn’t actually write many of the books that are actually attributed to him.
While I already knew of a lot of the inconsistencies and the history of how the bible was put together, Erhman’s scholarly approach was very interesting. The information he presented in the book is widely accepted throughout the world, by biblical scholars, as legitimate.
Erhman is a self-proclaimed agnostic even though he was raised as a fundamentalist Christian. He maintains throughout the book that the historical-critical study of the bible did not lead to his loss of faith. The last chapter of the book is dedicated to a high-level explanation of what led him, ultimately, to disbelief.
What amazed me most from what I read in this book is what I mentioned in an earlier paragraph: That all seminary students are presented with the historical-critical perspective as a part of their religious education. Ehrman explains, most Christian parishioners that he has talked to over the years, have never heard this information from their pastors. Why is it that pastors chose a devotional/emotional approach from the pulpit rather than ever discussing the history that they’ve been taught? Are they afraid of losing some of their congregation due to the obvious questions that would result from finding out that the bible is not the inerrant word of God? Are they merely history deniers? I wonder what the reasons would be. I know that in all the many years that I spent in church, I never heard this information until I started digging for myself, and from my perspective this information just goes to further secure what I’ve already been questioning for many years.