Did Jesus exist? As noted New Testament scholar and admitted agnostic with atheist leanings, Bart D. Ehrman writes in his excitingly readable book, Di...moreDid Jesus exist? As noted New Testament scholar and admitted agnostic with atheist leanings, Bart D. Ehrman writes in his excitingly readable book, Did Jesus Exist? – The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth, the answer is a strong yes. Ehrman is quick to point out that despite what debunkers of the historical Jesus would have you believe, the overwhelming majority of scholars believe such a person did in fact exist. And these scholars include a fair number of agnostics, atheists and skeptics. The author is not just presenting the case of a myopic fundamentalist theological position. This is the work of a noted historian respected in his field.
Bart D. Ehrman’s book is not apologetics. He takes the reader with great lucidity through the methodologies used by New Testament scholars and historians (sometimes dubbed the historical method) that allow them to reach the conclusion that Jesus existed. Whether or not the miracles or resurrection took place is another matter, and as Ehrman points out, before you can discuss these things you need to establish that such a person did exist in the first place. Again this work is not theology and it’s not apologetics. It’s a discussion of the historical method applied to the question of Jesus of Nazareth
I’m an atheist and something of a mythicist when it comes to Christianity and the story of Jesus the Christ. However, unlike many debunkers of Christianity, I find it completely reasonable and plausible that there was an historical person on whose shoulders the traditions of the majority of the extant Christianities is based on, however loosely that may actually be. It’s the mythical claim that said historical person rose from the dead after being dead for 3 days and the attendant theology that has emerged from that highly implausible assertion is where I part company with Jesus and his followers.
Ehrman is honest about the limits of the historical evidence. He understands that we are missing the clichéd smoking gun that archeology and other disciplines have not been able to provide. He also understands the problems and limitations of what we do have. This discussion is no “ignore the man behind the curtain” chicanery of much of what passes for scholarship in conservative circles.
I’ve always found the allegation that the early church fabricated the historical Jesus to be rather strange. Given what we know of the economic, political and religious realities of First Century Palestine simply dismissing Jesus as a fictional character takes the special brand of temerity usually exhibited by the conspiracy theorist and paranoiac. Most of the mythicist's work available to the general reader is written by non-professionals in the fields of scholarship necessary to weigh in on the subject. In fact many of the authors are not scholars at all and the wild conclusions they often draw make this apparent.
These are points that Ehrman employs to his advantage. However, he is a little too quick to dismiss the mythicist’s viewpoint even though he does offer begrudging respect for Robert Price ( the one scholar he allows that actually possesses the credentials required to make his opinions worth considering) and Richard Carrier ( a personal favorite of mine), who is credentialed at least in parallel disciplines. Nonetheless, not all mythicist material is pure conspiracy nincompoopery. However, what Ehrman does do is offer some cogent counterarguments to a few of the more common arguments presented against the historicity of Jesus.
Finally, even though scholars have not conclusively proven that Jesus of Nazareth is a man of history, Did Jesus Exist?, demonstrates that it is not only reasonable to believe he was real, history is not nearly as silent on the matter as is often supposed. This is a great book for the skeptic and the atheist. Most Christians should be able to read it as well. It’s the fundamentalist and the mythicists who will have the most trouble putting their biases aside to consider the contributions this book makes to the general public on the subject of Jesus’ existence.
This is a helluva lot of fun as long as you take it as the tongue-in-cheek inside joke it is meant to be. Richard Castle is the titular character of t...moreThis is a helluva lot of fun as long as you take it as the tongue-in-cheek inside joke it is meant to be. Richard Castle is the titular character of the ABC show Castle. This is the first in the Nikki Heat series that Castle (Nathan Fillion) bases on his foil (or muse), Detective Kate Beckett. If you love the show and don't set your hopes on pretentious you will "get it" and have some fun in the process. (less)
Megan Chance’s, The Spiritualist is generally a well executed murder mystery set in pre-civil war New York. The novel is satisfying on more than one l...moreMegan Chance’s, The Spiritualist is generally a well executed murder mystery set in pre-civil war New York. The novel is satisfying on more than one level. It’s an excellent character study as well as a meditation on the effects of modernity and the persistence of the irrational on the staid culture of high society as well as the perception of class.
The Spiritualist is also a fine atmospheric murder mystery that pits the rational and proto-feminist Evelyn Atherton, accused of murdering her society husband, against the mountebank Michel Jourdain, who uses the occult fad of the time to take advantage of his patroness. The dynamic tension between these two characters is first rate as Jourdain attempts to draw Evelyn into his confidence game as they both begin to realize that her skills as a medium may actually be real. Michel sees opportunity whereas Evelyn is distressed by the possibility that her materialist view is not as solid as she assumes.
Jourdain is truly an enjoyably despicable character whose oily attempts at seduction and fear are truly menacing. Evelyn is sympathetic and heroic as she struggles with her revulsion to Jourdain as she attempts to discredit the man she believes is truly responsible for her husband’s murder. Megan Chance’s novel is more than just a mere moody, atmospheric period thriller. It’s a perverse comedy of manners. This an American Jane Austin on Madeleine soaked in a decoction of lime flowers. (less)
I should have liked this book more. It's science fiction and a detective mystery. These are two of my favorite genres and Jack McDevitt is a great wri...moreI should have liked this book more. It's science fiction and a detective mystery. These are two of my favorite genres and Jack McDevitt is a great writer, but it just didn't hold my short attention span. (less)
I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...I hope I can...I did it. I knew I can, I knew I can, I knew I can. I'm done with French literature for a...moreI think I can, I think I can, I think I can...I hope I can...I did it. I knew I can, I knew I can, I knew I can. I'm done with French literature for awhile(less)
Green Girls is a well structured and breathtaking thriller. It's more about the protagonist and his relationships then about the whodunit. Add a skosh...moreGreen Girls is a well structured and breathtaking thriller. It's more about the protagonist and his relationships then about the whodunit. Add a skosh of jealousy addled psychos and a South American Kogi Shaman, who escaped from prison to presumably kill his ex wife and you got a genre piece that doesn't get lost in the formula clichés. The sentence structure and pacing are fabulous. Intelligent(less)
I never thought I would be caught reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s, Eat Pray Love. It seemed one of those giddy, fashionable girl books that are adored by...moreI never thought I would be caught reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s, Eat Pray Love. It seemed one of those giddy, fashionable girl books that are adored by Oprah Winfrey and the multitudes of all women book clubs. But, I am reading it. I’m reading it willingly and thoroughly enjoying every wonderful page of it.
Gilbert is a smart, literate and a completely engaging writer (if not a bit self-absorbed. But, hey, I wend through a bitter life changing divorce too)and I find my enthusiasm for her work matching the critical and popular acclaim afforded the book. Eat Pray Love works on a couple of levels. It can be read as a travelogue to the ancient and enduring cultures of Italy, India and Indochina.
I have to admit that after reading the section regarding the author’s travels in Italy I was ready to learn Italian and go on my own “no carb left behind tour” as one of Elizabeth Gilbert’s friends teased. This is the earmark for quality writing. It makes you want to scoot off the couch and have your own adventure.
Eat Pray Love is also the spiritual memoir of an affable, neurotic, intelligent women who woke up one day and found that everything she ever wanted wasn’t what she wanted at all. Woman or man many of us can relate to this existential malaise of our hypercompetitive post modern world. I love the spiritual memoir genre. I find the personal stories and experiences of others to be far more instructive and insightful than most of the books you will find in the New Age, Spirituality and Self-Help sections at Barnes and Noble.
However, not all spiritual memoirs are created equal. Gilbert has something genuine to offer. She never evangelizes or takes on the haughty air that many a spiritual seeker often adopts. She never assumes that somehow she is “spiritual” or a better person than her reader. In fact, despite her career achievements and adventures she never comes across as anything but an “everywoman” attempting to make sense out of her divorce and attendant existential pain and heartbreak. (less)