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Jesus Interrupted (2009)

de Bart D. Ehrman

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1,3444813,979 (3.98)39
Religion & Spirituality. Nonfiction. The problems with the Bible that New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman discussed in his bestseller Misquoting Jesus??and on The Daily Show with John Stewart, NPR, and Dateline NBC, among others??are expanded upon exponentially in his latest book: Jesus, Interrupted. This New York Times bestseller reveals how books in the Bible were actually forged by later authors, and that the New Testament itself is riddled with contradictory claims about Jesus??information that scholars know... but the general public does not. If you enjoy the work of Elaine Pagels, Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, and John Shelby Spong, you'll find much to ponder in Jesus, Int… (mais)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 47 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
Once again, a book club book that I read after the fact.

Wow, what a fascinating book. It really is NOT an anti-religion book but more of a historical look at Christianity and the Bible. After growing up Catholic and then studying the bible myself quite a bit, there was so much I still learned. The author is a former evangelical Christian that teaches biblical history. He is now agnostic but also states many times in the book that you can know and believe the things he teaches and still believe.

I found so many things interesting in this. The contradictions that were brought up were interesting and I was surprised how I had never noticed some of them but what was more interesting to me was the evolution of the religion. How it started, the various forms of Christians before it was an official religion and accepted worldwide as it is now. When the parts of the bible were written and by whom and how they figure these things out.

Absolutely intriguing and fascinating. I know many people that would probably enjoy this book. ( )
  KyleneJones | Jan 3, 2024 |
Probably the best book of Ehrman's (with the worst title) if you have to choose just one; it covers the bases of his familiar arguments that he delves into deeper in other books. You get an overview of early christianity, of the reliability of oral traditions, the battle to settle the first canon, the early heresies and competing christianities, as well as what it says on the tin about contradictions. Very well rounded book. ( )
  A.Godhelm | Oct 20, 2023 |
Bart Ehrman never explains his title. It reminds me of the title of the book and movie "Girl, Interrupted" about a teenage girl whose life is interrupted by her attempted suicide and consequent hospitalization. Can one find any connection between that and Ehrman's idea?

Certainly one theme of this book is that there seems to be a discontinuity between who Jesus starts out to be and who he becomes in the hands of Christian writers of the New Testament, especially if we read the scriptures "horizontally" instead of "vertically" as Ehrman puts it. Ordinarily we read as if we were reading a scroll vertically from the beginning of a book to the end, and this is a valid way of reading, but, in scriptures, there is often repetition from section to section or book to book and it is useful to read by comparing different accounts of the same or similar stories as well as different pronouncements on the same topics or issues. That is reading horizontally.

If you read the gospels in the order in which they are presented in the New Testament, you see Matthew first, and his version is probably pretty reminiscent of what your Sunday school teacher taught you. So far, so good. Then you read Mark, and it seems awfully pared down but essentially the same story you just read in Matthew. Next you read Luke. It might seem similar to Matthew, and also brings up memories of the gospel according to your Sunday school teacher or at least as told by Charles Schultz and Snoopy, but you might have forgotten by now that Matthew mentioned things that Luke is not saying and that some of the things that Luke is saying were not mentioned in Matthew. This is where it becomes helpful to go back and compare Matthew, Mark and Luke to see whether or not they really are telling the same story. Whether or not you do this, when you go on to read the Gospel of John, you find that for all the differences between Matthew, Mark, and Luke (called the "synoptics" because they see Jesus and the events of his life in more or less the same way) Jesus in John's account does not seem the same at all.

Ehrman picks out several discrepancies between Biblical texts that are difficult or impossible to reconcile. The conclusion of least resistance is that each gospel narrator saw Jesus differently from the others and so wrote something different about him even when describing similar events. Jesus' personality, experiences and teaching seems slightly-or sometimes greatly-different in each book. Most strikingly, it is only John that tells us that Jesus Christ is God. You can read the other gospels and think that they agree, but other interpretations are possible because they do not actually say that he is God. If Jesus is the Son of Man (Son of Adam) or even the Son of God, are we not all God's children? John alone among the evangelists makes a claim to divinity for Jesus in no uncertain terms. And yet, as Ehrman points out, there are passages in John that seem to hark back to a time when his community saw Jesus as more human, and these statements are mixed among the statements of his divinity.

So, the mixing of visions can occur not only between texts but, often, within them, and these contradictions are not only about Jesus. Acts (The Acts of the Apostles), the fifth book in the New Testament, not only adds to the plethora of statements about who Jesus was, but it tells stories about the early church that formed after the death of Jesus. Much of this focuses on Paul, one of the pivotal figures in the history of Christianity. Now, Paul himself wrote letters that are included in the New Testament (and the historical Paul actually wrote some of them). If we compare what he says in his letters (such as Galatians and 1 Corinthians) to what is written about him in Acts, we find that there are irreconcilable contradictions. For example, while both agree that Paul met a disembodied Jesus on the road to Damascus, Acts says that Paul immediately went to Jerusalem and conferred with the apostles, Peter, James and all of the rest; but Paul says that he went away from Jerusalem and did not go there for three years, at which time he only met Peter and James and did not meet any other apostles. One gets the impression from Acts that early Christianity was one big happy family, whereas Paul's own letters give an impression of uneasy alliance, discord, and even petty jealousy.

Ehrman represents an approach called historical criticism that has been around for a few hundred years ever since scholars began to examine many of the oldest copies of the Bible they could find and compared them. They found thousands of discrepancies, and while many were not significant, enough were to make them reassess the notion of Biblical inerrancy. The analytic approach they developed is historical and critical in the sense that one is looking for evidence of what actually happened by comparing what is said in the texts, looking for the areas of agreement and consistency as well as discrepancy. Sometimes it is not possible to find an answer to the question of what really happened, but often there are clues in the texts that suggest one. For example, take the question of whether or not Jesus really existed. Though Ehrman uses the "criterion of dissimilarity" to discover the most basic historical facts of Jesus' life, the same criterion also argues in favor of his existence: While there are many heroic myths surrounding Jesus that put him in the same camp with Hercules and other legendary/mythical personages, consider the fact that all four gospels agree that Jesus grew up in Nazareth (though two of them claim that he was actually born in Bethlehem). Now, Nazareth was a little village of little account in the backward province of Galilee. If you were going to invent a hero, would you have him grow up in Nazareth or would you invent a sexier stomping ground? Why not have him grow up in Bethlehem, a town near Jerusalem, where he could have rubbed shoulders with the movers and shakers of Judea? But no, the gospels all admit that he was from Nazareth despite the unflattering baggage of being a country bumpkin that this conveyed to anyone in the ancient world who knew the difference between the first-century equivalent of a house in the suburbs and a shack in Tobacco Road. From this we can conclude that Jesus not only lived in Nazareth but that, considering this and numerous other unflattering biographical facts that slip out in the course of the gospels, he really lived.

In his subsequent book, "Forged," Ehrman discusses the question of authorship of the books of the New Testament, and he goes over much of the same ground in a couple of chapters here. Suffice it to say, most of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament were not written by the persons to whom they are ascribed. In perhaps most cases, this is not the fault of the authors who often wrote anonymously. None of the gospels claims within its text to be written by the person we have come to regard as its author. For example, a claim is made at the end of John that this book was written by the "Beloved Disciple" mentioned only by that designation in the text, but -besides the suspiciousness of this claim being made in the third person as if someone other than the author tacked it on as an editorial postscript-the fact that this book originally existed without a named author means that we do not really know who the "Beloved Disciple" was; we are really only following a pious second century tradition when we say that the author was John. On the other hand, several letters in the New Testament claim to have been authored by apostles like Peter and Paul when they often are actually forgeries intended to fool readers into thinking that the hidden authors' opinions should be taken seriously because they were "really" written by apostles. Only seven of the thirteen letters attributed to Paul were probably actually by him. Among the hints that the rest are forgeries are discrepancies both in style and message. Neither of the two letters credited to Peter are really by the apostle, who in real life was an "unlettered," Aramaic-speaking, Galilean fisherman who could not have written in the elevated Greek of 1 and 2 Peter.

Ehrman allows that the Book of Revelations may be fairly ascribed to someone named "John," which was and is a common name, and that it was not the author's fault that later churchmen assumed that he was the same as the apostle. Likewise it could be claimed that other books might have been innocently ascribed to James or Jude when the authors did not necessarily mean to imply that they were first century Christian celebrities. (On the other hand, it is possible that they did mean to give readers this false impression.)

The New Testament, as Ehrman is fond of pointing out, did not fall from the sky all at once, but developed out of a centuries long debate over the canon -the books that should be included as scripture. (There are still churches outside the purview of Western Christianity that use Bibles with a slightly different canon.) Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria, a long-lived and major figure in the development of Christianity, published a list of twenty-seven books that should be read in the churches. While this list was neither the first nor the last word on the subject, it demonstrates that the canon was becoming fixed by the end of the fourth century.

Ehrman next turns to the history of Christianity itself. While many Christians today think that Christianity is belief in the Bible, Ehrman shows that historically it is more importantly belief in and about Jesus. And contrary to the story of the homogeneous and unwavering progress of the Truth related to us by the fourth century church historian Eusebius of Caesarea, Ehrman argues that the real history of Christianity is something more like this:

Jesus was an apocalyptic teacher who probably believed he had a special connection to God. His followers may have believed that he was the "Son of Man" who would judge the world after the apocalypse, but not an (or the) actual God. As a result of the crucifixion and as Christianity spread to various communities all over the Roman Empire, many Christians assigned Jesus loftier titles. Many regarded him as the Messiah, another concept from Judaism, which title was translated into Greek as "Christ." They became convinced that the Hebrew Scriptures allowed for a Suffering Messiah even though this contradicted traditional Jewish expectations, which more often involved the Messiah's kingship. Eventually, the idea that Jesus was in some sense divine spread along with the new religion even though this idea did not originate with Jesus or his first followers. The belief took widely different forms as some Christians understood it in a more Jewish context while others, especially the growing population of gentile Christians, thought of it in terms of what "Son of God" meant in the Greco-Roman religion: a man who was half human and half god because one of his parents was a denizen of Mount Olympus and the other a mortal. These several different understandings of what Christ's divinity meant led to the rush hour of conflicting Christologies (theological explanations of the nature of Christ) in the second century and afterward. So while the church's official history of its development is that originally there was a correct understanding of Christ's nature but then all sorts of heterodoxies branched off and perverted the Truth, this was belied by an inconvenient fact: If the nature of Christ was already known from the beginning, why did the bishops of the church have to meet at least three times over subsequent centuries to figure it out?

As the idea that Christ was God developed variously without agreement about how it worked, the doctrine created more problems than it solved. What did the idea of Christ as God do to the doctrine of monotheism? If God the Father and God the Son are both gods, are there two gods? If they are two divine beings but represent only one God, how do they do that? Not until the Council of Nicea in 325 did the bishops decide on a formula. Unfortunately, it was a hastily agreed upon formula that still allowed for some ambiguities. It took at least two more councils over the next couple of centuries to straighten out the remaining ambiguities.

Ehrman's historical designation "proto-orthodox" for the Christian point of view that ultimately triumphed seems a bit unsatisfactory but I cannot think of anything better. One could call it Nicene or even Athanasian, but these terms would only apply to it during or after the fourth century. Before that, it was one of the competing forms of Christianity albeit one of the best organized. The proto-orthodox Christians had a hierarchical system of bishops in many of the cities around the Mediterranean Sea. Yet even among themselves they did not always agree on doctrine. Doctrines that would later be seen as heresies captured many bishoprics. Some embraced a doctrine called Patripassianism that held that God suffered through Jesus on the cross. (To show how tricky this all gets, it was equally problematic to suggest, as some did, that Jesus did not suffer at all.) The doctrine called Arianism held that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were not equal but formed a hierarchy and consisted of similar but not identical substances. This was very popular and even came to rule Rome at the end of the fifth century. But eventually the Nicene Creed held sway. Thus Christian history is not a story of smooth sailing with but a few occasional side contests with unruly dissidents; rather it is a story of debate and often violent clashes over what Christians should be required to believe.

Finally, Ehrman gets personal, although the end of the book is not the only time he does so. In the middle of the book, he gives some of his critics a tongue lashing for suggesting that the discrepancies in the Bible are not important. (One has to give him some latitude since this is not a text book, per se; still, had he no better avenue for answering his critics?) Toward the end of the book, he discusses his own response to what he has learned about the Bible during his career. He denies what many of his critics have suggested, that his study of Biblical discrepancies led him to his current agnosticism. Instead, he maintains that many of his colleagues in the historical criticism field agree with his assessment of the Bible without losing their faith. (I find it interesting that he suggests that people are free to choose any interpretation that resonates with them; I wonder if this might extend to those who cherish the books that Ehrman considers to have been forged, such as Paul's Letter to the Ephesians, which resonates with so many Christians.) In any case, he says, it was not his study of the Bible that eventually led him to agnosticism but the wider question of why any loving God would allow us to suffer. An interesting implication of this inquiry is that Ehrman seems to feel that study of the Bible raises this issue but does not answer it, but that is the topic of another book by Ehrman: "God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question -Why We Suffer."

I found many typos in this book, and I also wish that it had an index, but, otherwise, I found it the best overall statement of Ehrman's views yet. (I have read and reviewed several of his other books.) His sweeping history of the development of Christianity with its "orthodox" innovations is the concise description of church history that I have been trying to formulate in my own head with a much less satisfactory result. ( )
  MilesFowler | Jul 16, 2023 |
The first thing to know about Bart Ehrman is that you should ignore the titles of his books. I don't know if he comes up with him or if it is his publishers, but I do know that the titles are meant to grab eyeballs. The books are much less sensationalistic than the titles or the publisher's blurbs -- Ehrman mostly covers academically mainstream, vanilla views of the Biblical as a historical and literary text. These books, like pretty much anything that looks at the Bible as a historical and literary work, are going to be unpleasant for literalists.

The second thing to know about Ehrman is that he is one of those authors whose books cover the same topic repeatedly from different perspectives. Thus, you probably only need to read one Ehrman book to get the general gist of what he has to say. The other books give more depth for those interested in that.

Jesus, Interrupted has a wide scope. It covers the history of the Biblical text, questions of authorship, historicity, and the much richer views of the Biblical texts that arise if each text is allowed to speak with its own voice instead of being forced to synthesize with the other texts.

I would strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in gaining more background on the Bible. In addition to having better content than some of Ehrman's other books, Jesus Interrupted has a better style. One particularly nice improvement is that in this book, Ehrman started using a method that encourages more discovery by the reader. Instead of saying, for example, that certain passages are incompatible, Ehrman encourages the reader to place the two passages side-by-side and compare them. It's a fun technique. ( )
  eri_kars | Jul 10, 2022 |
Once again, a book club book that I read after the fact.

Wow, what a fascinating book. It really is NOT an anti-religion book but more of a historical look at Christianity and the Bible. After growing up Catholic and then studying the bible myself quite a bit, there was so much I still learned. The author is a former evangelical Christian that teaches biblical history. He is now agnostic but also states many times in the book that you can know and believe the things he teaches and still believe.

I found so many things interesting in this. The contradictions that were brought up were interesting and I was surprised how I had never noticed some of them but what was more interesting to me was the evolution of the religion. How it started, the various forms of Christians before it was an official religion and accepted worldwide as it is now. When the parts of the bible were written and by whom and how they figure these things out.

Absolutely intriguing and fascinating. I know many people that would probably enjoy this book. ( )
  KyleneJones | Apr 25, 2022 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 47 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
In the end, Jesus, Interrupted can be best summarized as a book filled with ironies. Ironic that it purports to be about unbiased history but rarely presents an opposing viewpoint; ironic that it claims to follow the scholarly consensus but breaks from it so often; ironic that it insists on the historical-critical method but then reads the gospels with a modernist, overly-literal hermeneutic; ironic that it claims no one view of early Christianity could be "right" (Walter Bauer) but then proceeds to tell us which view of early Christianity is "right"; ironic that it dismisses Papias with a wave of the hand but presents the Gospel of the Ebionites as if it were equal to the canonical four; and ironic that it declares everyone can "pick and choose" what is right for them, but then offers its own litany of moral absolutes.
adicionado por Christa_Josh | editarWestminster Theological Journal, Michael J. Kruger (Sep 1, 2009)
 
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Religion & Spirituality. Nonfiction. The problems with the Bible that New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman discussed in his bestseller Misquoting Jesus??and on The Daily Show with John Stewart, NPR, and Dateline NBC, among others??are expanded upon exponentially in his latest book: Jesus, Interrupted. This New York Times bestseller reveals how books in the Bible were actually forged by later authors, and that the New Testament itself is riddled with contradictory claims about Jesus??information that scholars know... but the general public does not. If you enjoy the work of Elaine Pagels, Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, and John Shelby Spong, you'll find much to ponder in Jesus, Int

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