Title: Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don’t Know About Them)
Published by Harper One, and imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. 283 pages.
This is the most challenging of the religious books I’ve read in the past few years as I’ve studied what’s becoming known as the New Paradigm: most notably (for me) the works of Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan.
In the current book, Mr. Ehrman talks about the historical-critical approach to the bible. The basic premise is that the Bible (and Christianity for that matter) is a product of people, not necessariy the inerrant word of God.
In studying the gospels he takes them horizontally, showing how Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John tell the stories differently. Some examples are how Jesus came to be born in Bethlehem; what day did Jesus die, was Jesus in despair and doubt on the way to the cross (Mark) or calm and in control? Many of the books of the New Testament were not written by the people whose names are attached. Many other writings were considered for inclusion in the New Testament and were not, for various reasons. There were many variants of Christianity in the early church.
He also shows that Paul’s understanding of Christ was not necessarily the same as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Interestingly, he points out that most pastors in the mainline Protestant pulpits today have studied the bible using the historical-critical approach, agree there are discrepancies, understand the discrepancies, but don’t talk about it in their churches. Mr. (Dr?) Ehrtman himself went to Princeton Theological Seminar; he arrived as a fundamentalist, evangelical Christian and came out as something, someone, else entirely.
Nevertheless, this approach does not mean we have to give up our faith. We can look at how the individual authors of the New Testament approached Christ’s life and see what message we can take away.
For me, I think it highlights one of the primary messages of the gospels: we just can’t comprehend who Christ was/is. Over and over again in the gospels, the disciples just don’t understand Christ, they squabble among themselves, jostle for attention and just don’t get it. How could they? How can we? God is God and we are human; we can’t understand God.
It’s no wonder that as time goes on there became different interpretations. But we can still look at the Bible and get some value from it.