After encountering a recent misquotation I decided to bump this one to the top of the queue, and I'm glad that I did. Normally, when I pick up any material on or associated with the topic of religion I can expect a high degree ennui to inevitably be attached. It just seems to come with the turf. But with this one I can say that I was pleasantly surprised. Not only was it an interesting read, but very informative as well. I was left with a few takeaways and maybe even a new region of insight on a subject that continues to elude me.
His primary focus is what's known as textual criticism and in the process he delivers a sort of basic outline which I found the most helpful. The cultural aspects of the time period had a larger effect on the rendering of this sacred text than I initially anticipated. Alterations like key omissions to ensure that women are not elevated to a status equal of men. Or changing the text to provide less ammunition for the opposing force in debates. In fact, it is suggested that there are entire sections that have been fabricated to suit the agenda of the scribes charged with the task of reproducing these Holy words in their authenticity.
Like the part with the adulteress that everyone seems so fond of. Well, sorry but that guy didn't write that. Someone added that in afterwards for dramatic effect. I did discover a possible theory as to the riddle of what Jesus carved into the ground. According to ancient tradition, he wrote down the sins of the accusers. Having seen their indiscretions exposed, they retreated in embarrassment. It's a great story filled with pathos, too bad it's fake.
And those last 12 verses of Mark. Namely, the ones used by Appalachian Snake Handlers in their famous ceremonies..
“These are some of the signs that will accompany believers: They will throw out demons in my name, they will speak in new tongues, they will take snakes in their hands, they will drink poison and not be hurt, they will lay hands on the sick and make them well.” Mark 16:17-18 (Message)
Well sorry, but that guy didn't write that, either. Someone added that in afterwards to give the story an ending. So, if you're one of those people that thinks it's okay to play with lethal animals in the name of the Lord, you might want to think about that the next time you decide to dangle a highly venomous reptile in front of you.
|Four writers with animal symbols |
highlighting their portrayal
Matthew as a man (humanity)
Mark as a lion (royalty)
Luke as an ox (servility)
John as an eagle (divinity)
I feel like I've come away with a better understanding of the subtle nuances that are involved with attempting to interpret this text correctly. I studied this book pretty thoroughly. Even went as far as to jot down a few notes just in case I want to revisit any of this in the future. I kind of wish I had read this book a little sooner, I might have had a slightly different approach, like maybe reading a little more of the old bible. But I still get the gist of it, I believe. In short: God is angry.
Mr. Ehrman provides a certain level of objectivity in his discussion that I can appreciate, leaving room for new ideas and possible theories which I find refreshing. It seems to work on many levels. From the lay Heathen like myself to advanced scholars. And his skill with prose makes the subject matter a lot easier to digest. I learned a little more about the bible and did not at all have the urge to hang myself in the process. As far as I'm concerned that makes this book a success.