Chungsoo J. Lee's Reviews > Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible & Why We Don't Know About Them

Jesus, Interrupted by Bart D. Ehrman
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Recommended to Chungsoo by: NPR
Recommended for: all Christians

Every Christians should read this book. “Have courage to read this book,” as Sartre said about Fanon's The Wretched Of The Earth. As Ehrman says, the book contains information which is nothing new. He only organized very lucidly the updated scholarly findings regarding the New Testament which are widely taught in the top 10 seminaries in the U.S.A. for the last 20 to 50 years. But American layman is completely in the dark due to pastors not teaching them in the Sunday schools about the historical and critical reading of the Bible. The penultimate Chapter contains convincing arguments and evidence--again nothing new--about Paul's relationship to Jesus, how the theological distinction the early Christians made to identify themselves apart from Judaism (from the Johannine community to the third century) lead to the origin of antisemitism, and about how Christology and the doctrine of Trinity evolved. The findings (again nothing new) are indisputable: that Jesus did not intend to create a new religion, that Jesus was a Jewish apocalypsist who (along with Paul and almost all of the contemporaries) believed that the End of the World would come in their life time, that there were many versions of Christianity which were reduced into a single and unified theology centering around Paul's interpretation and application of the Good News that Jesus has risen (the apocalyptic belief on resurrection was common among the Jews, including the Pharisees), that only 8 books out of 27 in the New Testament were written by the authors we know, etc.

The development of Christology is worthy of note in particular. Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God. He may have been called the Son of Man, the common but distinguished title for apocalyptic figure after the Book of Daniel, which is written some 200 years prior. Paul makes him Christ, worthy of worship as God, at the moment of and because of his Resurrection. In Matthew, Jesus is presented as the Son of God beginning from his baptism. In John, he is pronounced as being equal to and with God in the beginning of the world. At the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 Christ is defined as having the same substance (homo-ousia) with God, not a similar substance (homoi-ousia). Based on the difference of the "i" how many hours were spent and how many lives lost for years to come!

What comes loud and clear in the book is that the Bible is a human book, made up of many manuscripts handed down, edited, and selected by later leaders in the religious establishment to present a unified version; that Jesus was human who preached the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God with particular vigor, piety, and originality and whose death was particularly shocking. Ehrman's own thesis about Paul is convincing: that Paul adopted and developed (not created and dominated) the common view of the earliest followers of Jesus who believed that Jesus was risen from the dead by God as the sign of the end time, that his death and resurrection was to vindicate injustice in the world and to usher in the Kingdom of God, that his death and resurrection was to atone the sins of the world and to bring about the salvation of the world--the belief which became dominant at the time of codifying the written Gospels and canonizing the New Testament and which accounts for many redactions and emendations of the Gospels.

Christianity is not an invention of one man, Paul, but a creation of Jewish apocalyptic belief held by the followers of Jesus who were attempting to come to grips with the catastrophe of the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and many other historical disasters and sufferings surrounding them at the time and the prior time. Who would not believe in the resurrection of the righteous who has been unfairly and innocently crucified? 'God must descend to earth to establish his kingdom' was and still is a palpable longing the religious people had then as well as now.

The concluding chapter, "Is Faith Possible?," is a disappointment. Ehrman only refers to his personal journey into agnosticism--not due to his knowledge about the Bible but, he says, due to the problem of evil—and how other like-minded scholars and colleagues still fervently believe in Christianity. Ehrman does not push his (scholars') findings about the New Testament into logical conclusion: that the findings would change Christianity as we know it. He does not have to because he is no longer a practicing Christian. But he does emphasize that the finds should not turn Christians into non-believers either. So, the question must be asked: What becomes of Christianity if Jesus is no longer believed to be divine? What happens to Paul's teaching if Jesus had never been raised from the dead? Is Christianity possible without the centrality of death and resurrection of Jesus? If we reject Paul, what do we have left to follow in the New Testament? To be fair to the author, Erhman does not propose rejection of Jesus' resurrection or of Paul's teaching. He sees no problem in accepting them as myths, which help to address life's conundrums for the believers. (He ended up rejecting the myths all together due to the unresolvable problem of evil. The myths no longer make sense, he says, in light of suffering in the world.)

But whether to have faith or not is not the question in light of the facts presented in the book that would destroy the foundations of Evangelical Christianity. For the evangelical Christianity is not the ultimate. The question is: whether we should only read the Bible as the ultimate. Why not read the Nag Hammadi Scriptures, the Qur'an, Bhagavad Gita, Tripitaka, Tao Te Ching, and many other religious texts as being on equal footing?

The informed view of Christ (Jesus retrieved after the historico-critical method) would not exclude but embrace other faiths. Christ is the model of the faithful, humility, and of compassion, and the acme of suffering. Resurrection (or reincarnation as Hindus would say) represents hope beyond all hope, a new beginning despite and in spite of all that is fallible in humanity.
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Reading Progress

May 28, 2010 – Started Reading
May 28, 2011 – Finished Reading
May 29, 2011 – Shelved

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Kenny Bell PLEASE READ* Does Bart Erhman provide the resources or evidence to where he claims "We don't have the original bible" and "we dont know who wrote the bible"? He just says this thing without pointing readers where to look this up. And it was also weird to me that if we dont have the original bible then what did they use to translate to English?

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