Matt'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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really liked it

I generally avoid the religion section of the bookstore, not for lack of interest but because of a general fear of accidentally picking something up that basically wants to preach one way or another. In that sense, it's not a lot different than the political aisle. Some years ago I stumbled into the work of Elaine Pagels and I liked several of her books. But with religion, most books are guilty until proven otherwise.

But I took a flyer on this one. I became familiar with Ehrman because he's one of the superstars of the Teaching Company's "Great Courses", the audio/video courses seen advertised in highbrow magazines. So I've heard a few of his lectures, and indeed, he takes what he calls the historical-critical approach to theological research. And he's pretty sharp.

And lo and behold, it's a very easy and fun read. Ehrman teaches at the University of North Carolina, and I suspect a lot of this material comes straight out of his undergraduate New Testament course. Which explains why it's such an easy read. (Sorry, I couldn't resist a jab at the Heels.)

What this book sets out to do is give a broad overview of the different viewpoints of the different authors of New Testament writings, highlighting the variety of viewpoints and beliefs proposed by each, and even contrasting those views with gospels that never made the canon and beliefs that are held today. All of this is framed as being the result of the broad consensus on scholarship today.

And for me, raised in a liberal church and retaining a rather hazy recollection of the general accumulation of the Jesus story, it's really interesting to hear a lot of this spelled out. Sure, I knew the book of Revelation offers a theology vastly different than the book of Psalms. But I didn't realize just how different John and Mark are, and I learned a lot about what scholarship says about the historical Paul. I already knew a lot about the essentially political debate in the early church about how to portray the Jews and Romans in the crucifixion story, but I didn't realize how intense the debate was over whether it was important for followers of Jesus to obey Jewish law. And the book pays off with a lot of these details. Furthermore, it tries to set everything into proper context regarding the historical development of the church and the battle of ideas that was ensuing in the several centuries after the death of Jesus.

What I really liked about this book is that while it doesn't explain with volumes of footnotes how scholars and historians have arrived at their conclusions, it doesn't simply parrot their findings either. Ehrman puts some effort into describing the background and logic of their methodology.

And ultimately, this is a really quick read. There's a lot of repetition, but I feel like I learned a bunch and it didn't outlast my attention. For someone really into this stuff, a more in-depth volume might be called for, but for the 8th grader, or the Carolina undergrad, or me, this was a real fun book to motor through.
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Started Reading
November 3, 2009 – Shelved
November 3, 2009 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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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?

Matt You should check out "Who Wrote the Bible?" by Richard Friedman. It's a very deep discussion of the question, and not just one guy's opinion, but a summary of a wide range of scholarship.

Kenny Bell I still dont understand that all we have are copies. The earliest copy of Mark is dated to 70 Ad-- 40 yrs after Christ. In the middle of those 40 yrs were oral tradition(telling about Christ) Until someone wrote them down. Who is to say that the copy that we have of mark now is the original copy?

Chris Preaches one way or another? Doubt you approach your bank statement that way. I digress. He offers no sources! None! Zero! It is all his opinion. God bless.

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