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Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them) Hardcover – March 3, 2009
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“Ehrman’s ability to translate scholarship for a popular audience has made the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill a superstar in the publishing world” (IndyWeek)
“For both scholars and the masses who read about religion, Bart D. Ehrman needs no introduction . . . He adds the personal to the scholarly for some of his works, detailing how he went from a Moody Bible Institute-educated fundamentalist evangelical to an agnostic . (Durham Herald-Sun)
“There’s something delicious (for nonbelievers, anyway) about the implacable, dispassionate way that Ehrman reveals how the supposedly “divine truth” of Christianity was historically constructed.” (Salon.com)
From the Back Cover
Picking up where Bible expert Bart Ehrman's New York Times bestseller Misquoting Jesus left off, Jesus, Interrupted addresses the larger issue of what the New Testament actually teaches—and it's not what most people think. Here Ehrman reveals what scholars have unearthed:
- The authors of the New Testament have diverging views about who Jesus was and how salvation works
- The New Testament contains books that were forged in the names of the apostles by Christian writers who lived decades later
- Jesus, Paul, Matthew, and John all represented fundamentally different religions
- Established Christian doctrines—such as the suffering messiah, the divinity of Jesus, and the trinity—were the inventions of still later theologians
These are not idiosyncratic perspectives of just one modern scholar. As Ehrman skillfully demonstrates, they have been the standard and widespread views of critical scholars across a full spectrum of denominations and traditions. Why is it most people have never heard such things? This is the book that pastors, educators, and anyone interested in the Bible have been waiting for—a clear and compelling account of the central challenges we face when attempting to reconstruct the life and message of Jesus.
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Top customer reviews
Until recently, I've always been kind of wary of Dr Ehrman because of his agnostic leaning and I thought this would come through in his writing. I can happily say I was wrong. He even explains that his shift from faith isn't because of his findings while researching the NT texts and contradictions, rather he is not able to reconcile the problem of evil with aloving God. While I believe his presuppositions of who God is supposed to be is the main issue, nevertheless he states more than once that the textual issues needn't interfere with ones faith. I agree with this statement as my faith in Christ isn't solely packaged in a collection of ancient texts.
This book will inevitably rustle the theological jimmies of more fundamentalist Christians as they need the Bible to be literally factually true in order for their belief system to stay intact. Unfortunately for this group, facts don't lie, and as more and more research is conducted, they do and will find themselves increasingly appealing to "mystery", "tension", and "paradox" in order for them to remain theologically obtuse to the facts that are presented.
If you can understand that the Bible is imperfect, written by people who are just as fallible as you or I, then I feel this will be a rewarding read. In fact, knowing about the different motivations of the different authors has actually brought the text more to life as applicable spiritual lessons rather than a cold, dead literalism. This my first book by Dr Ehrman, and it won't be the last.
He begins with a rather dry chapter comparing the versions of events and theological notions between different texts as well as within them. In this way, it leaves absolutely no doubt, in my opinion, that the Bible is not infallible or even necessarily coherent, but is a work of literature that should be used as such. Ehrman goes on to prove that there are fabrications, authors faking their identities, and not least, a huge array of "gospels" that did not make it into the canon but which may well be valuable sources on early Christianity. That means it was men who chose what was in the canon, that is, the Bible is a human document and Christianity can be viewed as a human-invented religion rather than divine.
Interestingly, Ehrman states that he has become an agnostic, but not because of what he concludes about the origins of the Bible. (It was the meaningless suffering of good people that did that.) He is steadfastly consistent in stating that, even as a human religion, everyone - even an atheist like me - can find much of value in the Bible. Again, I completely agree with this perspective, indeed I am fascinated by the figure of Jesus and the preachings attributed to him. I just don't believe they emanate from a God.
Once that is established, in about 140 pages that are a bit of a slog, the book gets extremely interesting as Ehrman seeks to explain the fundamentals of the Christian faith, including the nature of Jesus himself. Early Christianity, for example, had a number of different possibilities for the way Christianity might develop. There were 1) Ebionites, who argued that those who became Christian essentially had to become Jewish; 2) Marcionites, who "spurned all that was Jewish" and believed that the Old Testament proved the inferiority of the Jewish God, Yahweh, who was wrathful and vengeful rather than forgiving; 3) Gnostics, who believed that secret rites as revealed by Jesus would ensure salvation within a bizarre cosmology that argued that were many, perhaps hundreds, of Gods, including the deformed and flawed one that created horrible conditions on an earth that must be left behind through transcendence; 4) the proto-orthodox, who eventually won out, with a divinity of Christ that was "separate yet similar" to God.
Along the way, the reader witnesses how Christianity transformed itself from a Jewish sect into an anti-Jewish religion, how the notion of Christ's divinity was established (at a surprisingly late time), how heaven and hell were grafted on when the apocalypse did not come as prophesied. Most interestingly, Ehrman argues that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet who advocated a strict version of Jewish law and was viewed as human by himself and his followers, not even as the son of God. He lost credence with the Jews, according to this logic, because his gruesome death proved that the reign of paradise on earth would not be ushered in by him. It is a valuable portrait, leavened with Ehrman's reminders of how little we can know because the sources were written, then transmitted and added to, decades or centuries after the death of Christ, i.e. questionable as historical sources.
As a non-believer, I was comfortable with this perspective. I can see how believers would feel defensive about it, but Ehrman is at pains to introduce fundamentalists to the value - and respect - of his methods. I warmly recommend this book to atheists, agnostics, and believers.