Book Review: Zealot by Reza Aslan

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Aslan, Reza - ZealotI posted my review of No god but God a few days ago because I feel it’s important to contextualize my discussion of ZealotNo god by God seems to be fairly unanimously considered awesome, with many reviewers saying that they use it as a reference. In fact, I read it after John Green said in a video that it was his recommended primer on Islam.

Yet I found many instances where Aslan was fudging. Either he slipped some piece of information in casually that really needed a more detailed treatment, or he’d use linguistic tricks to shift perception. I don’t want to repeat my whole review (you can go read it for yourself), but my point is that many of the complaints I’ve seen of Zealot are not at all unique to that book.

The Infamous Interview

A few months ago, Aslan did an interview with Lauren Green on Fox News. The interview is awful. Not to be too “Leftist,” but it pretty much encapsulates every complaint made of Fox News. It’s almost so extreme as to be a thing of beauty. Really, watch it, if you haven’t already:

Green’s awkwardness is very distracting, but a little fact checking reveals that Aslan doesn’t come out of this interview so well either.

As Matthew J. Franck points out, Aslan misrepresented his qualifications:

Aslan does have four degrees, as Joe Carter has noted: a 1995 B.A. in religion from Santa Clara University, where he was Phi Beta Kappa and wrote his senior thesis on “The Messianic Secret in the Gospel of Mark”; a 1999 Master of Theological Studies from Harvard; a 2002 Master of Fine Arts in Fiction from the University of Iowa; and a 2009 Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

None of these degrees is in history, so Aslan’s repeated claims that he has “a Ph.D. in the history of religions” and that he is “a historian” are false.  Nor is “professor of religions” what he does “for a living.”

More importantly, Larry Hurtado points out that Aslan is a:

PhD in Sociology of Religion, and with his own marketing firm, and with a university connection in creative writing, but no training or demonstrated expertise in ancient Judaism, early Christianity, Roman history, or any of the subjects relevant to the book in question.

Green’s question of his qualifications to write this book was absolutely warranted, she just focused on a completely trivial and irrelevant reason. (Not that, of course, Aslan wouldn’t have the right to write this book or even be taken seriously, but the fact that he misrepresented his qualifications to lend himself additional authority is very concerning.)

This issue is in the book, as well. Within just a couple pages, we get:

…two decades of rigorous academic research into the origins of Christianity… (p. xix-xx)

…two decades of scholarly research into the New Testament and early Christian history… (p. xx)

And then Aslan’s Acknowledgements page begins:

This book is the result of two decades of research into the New Testament and the origins of the Christian movement…

Pro tip: If your Acknowledgements begin by mentioning all of your own hard work, you’re doing it wrong.

I can’t remember ever seeing a purportedly scholarly book dwelling so much on all of the author’s hard work in putting together the research. It’s a distraction, completely irrelevant to the quality of the research, so why even mention it?

As an amateur Bible-enthusiast, I don’t have a lot of tools at my disposal to distinguish between good sources and bad sources. This kind of pontificating on one’s qualifications is a huge red flag.

The Book

Aslan is a fantastic writer. His use of language is extremely effective and he can, as they say, bring his subjects “to life.”

But his writing ability isn’t necessarily a good thing for his readers. As I pointed out in my review of No god but God, he uses subtle linguistic tricks to predispose his readers for/against certain ideas, and he does it so well that I find myself needing to read his books on constant high alert – reading slowly and making sure to note every single word.

It’s exhausting.

While I lack the expertise to judge most of Aslan’s assertions, my suspicions were raised early on when he states that “crucifixion was a punishment that Rome reserved almost exclusively for the crime of sedition” (p.xxviii). Given that a large part of his argument rests on this fact, I felt that it warrants far more than just a throw-away line. And, as it turns out, the use was not nearly so clear-cut.

I found the construction of Aslan’s notes to be worrisome. Facts are stated outright throughout the book, often without attribution. The notes, rather than being proper end notes, just summarize the research Aslan did for each chapter, provide a little more discussion, and recommend further reading. That is not enough. I need to fact check his statements, and the format of the book does not, in most cases, facilitate that.

Even in cases where he uses a contemporary document to bolster his claims, he frequently fails to name the document (which might be Google-able). Instead, the notes simply refer me to journal articles hidden behind paywalls – something that most of his audience will obviously not have access to.

I was also concerned by how easily he shifts back and forth between dismissing the gospel accounts and reading into them to find a nuance that supports his claims, or using them to feed the biographical narrative. Often, there is no attempt to explain why some passages are apparently reliable and others aren’t. Even when there is an attempt at an explanation, it’s only say that obviously the gospel authors changed that bit because they were writing from a post-destruction vantage – circular reasoning at its finest.

But, like I said, I really do lack the expertise to give the content of the book any kind of real rebuttal. Instead, here are some reviews that I think make compelling counter-arguments and, at the very least, offer up food for thought:

Conclusion

Overall, it’s a fun read and I found the depictions of first century Palestine very informative. But without the pre-existing bank of knowledge to sort the wheat from the chaff, I’m very hesitant to absorb any of the information Aslan presents.

Book Review: No god but God by Reza Aslan

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Aslan, Reza - No god but GodI don’t want this review to be about whether or not I agree with Aslan. For one thing, I simply do not know enough about the subject to do this well. Secondly, whether a book is good or not does not depend on whether the reader agrees with its conclusions; my own feelings on the matter are therefore irrelevant. Having resolved myself in this way, I will be restricting this review to an internal critique only.

Overall, I did rather enjoy the book and found that Aslan writes persuasively and is clearly very knowledgeable about his subject. However, I fear that he may have fallen prey to being unable to reconcile his beliefs with his evidence.

This manifests itself most when he attempts to justify the actions of Muhammad. Perhaps the most grievous illustration comes in Aslan’s discussion of Muhammad raiding caravans: “In pre-Islamic Arabia, caravan raiding was a legitimate means for small clans to benefit from the wealth of larger ones. It was in no way considered stealing…” This is followed, one paragraph later, with: Muhammad’s followers “effectively disrupted the trade flowing in and out of Mecca. It wasn’t long before caravans entering the sacred city began complaining to the Quraysh that they no longer felt safe travelling through the region” (p. 82-3).

In other words, everyone did it so it was okay (which, alone, is a disturbing argument and one that isn’t sitting well with me at all in my Bible readings either), but at the same time the early Muslims are clearly doing it to an extent that would have been abnormal.

A few pages later, we read that Islam teaches peace and that only defensive fighting is permissible (except when raiding caravans). Aslan then goes on to say that: “It is true that some verses in the Quran instruct Muhammad and his followers to ‘slay the polytheists wherever you confront them’ (9:5); to ‘carry the struggle to the hypocrites who deny the faith’ (9:73); and, especially, to ‘fight those who do not believe in God and the Last Day’ (9:29). However, it must be understood that these verses were directed specifically at the Quraysh and their clandestine partisans in Yathrib” (p. 84). These “clandestine partisans” being the people that Muhammad suspected “at once” of treachery, though there were “many possibilities” (p. 89). In other words, Islam is a religion of peace, unless you suspect someone on circumstantial evidence of being in cohoots with guys its okay to attack because Muhammad just really doesn’t like them. That Aslan, a seemingly intelligent and thoughtful individual, should fail to see the obvious issues in his arguments is frightening.

Aslan expends much ink talking about how Islam never forces conversion or treats non-Muslims unfairly, and yet an equal amount of ink appears to contradict this. Whether he talks about all the groups who rebel and refuse to pay the religious tax as soon as Muhammad dies (p. 110), or the public conversion of Muhammad’s old enemy, Hind, who “remained proudly defiant, barely masking her disgust with Muhammad and his ‘provincial’ faith” (p. 106). He even mentions the “protection tax,” or jizyah, forced onto all non-Muslims living in Muslim-controlled areas as though this were a perfectly acceptable way to treat human beings (p. 94).

Sometimes, it is a problem of omission: “[F]rom the earliest days of the Islamic expansion to the bloody wars and inquisition of the Crusades to the tragic consequences of colonialism…” (p. xvi). Things the Christian West has done are “bloody” and “tragic” while things the Muslim East has done receive no adjectives at all? (And, as is common in discussions of the tension between the East and West, there is no mention of the initial Muslim attempts to expand into Europe and the retaliatory flavour of the early Crusades – an omission that I’ve always found a little disturbing.)

Sometimes Aslan chooses positive words to describe acts that clearly couldn’t have been all that positive. For example, he writes that Jews were expelled “peacefully” from a Muslim community, and then that: “only slightly more than one percent of Medina’s Jewish population” were killed during this expulsion. Perhaps our definitions of “peaceful” differ.

And then there are his translations. Having no Arabic of my own, it is difficult for me to comment in any depth, but when I read a translation of a seventh century text that uses words like “atom” (p. 213), my anachronism flag is raised.

One of the grossest and most reprehensible examples appears in his (brief) discussion of the veil. As the only voice for the idea that the veil is a sexist tradition, Aslan refers to Alfred, Lord Cromer. Rather than dismissing his arguments (which is given so little page room that I can only assume they are inadequately presented), he writes: “Never mind that Cromer was the founder of the Men’s League for Opposing Women’s Suffrage in England” (p. 73). As though this one man and his personal character embodied the whole of the argument against the veil. As though discrediting a century old British lord was a legitimate way to respond to an argument that has so many promoters – many of whom are women, many Muslim, and many both. This is such a dishonest tactic that it even has its own name – the ad hominem fallacy.

This is an interesting book of apologetics from a more ‘moderate’ Muslim and it brings up quite a few interesting ideas and arguments. The problem, however, is all the little tricks – conscious or unconscious – that twist the evidence Aslan is presenting.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Islam, or to Muslims wanting to learn about different perspectives. However, this is definitely a “reader beware” book.

[I’ll be reviewing Aslan’s latest book, Zealot, in a few days.]

Book Review: Good Book by David Plotz

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Plotz, David - Good BookI’ve been quoting from David Plotz’s blog project quite a bit, so I thought it was about time to see the product that issued from it: Good Book.

For the most part, the content is the same as the blog. The only additions are an introduction, a conclusion chapter called “Should you read the Bible?”, a chapter about Plotz’s travel to Israel, and a rather amusing appendix with various quick reference passage lists.

Why read this book?

As Plotz himself admits in the introduction, he has little to offer the discussion. He’s an agnostic Jew who has, prior to beginning this reading project, merely gone through the motions of his faith without bothering to look too deeply into their meaning. He can’t offer learned commentary, as many others have.

As a fellow amateur reader, I’m in much the same situation. Why should I bother blogging my reading when so many others with a far more knowledgeable vantage point, are doing the same? Like Plotz: “I had one – and only one – advantage over the experts: the book was fresh to me” (p.4).

That’s precisely what I’ve been enjoying about Plotz’s writing. He hasn’t had a chance to rationalize or to explain away (or, from the other side of the fence, to accentuate ) what he reads. He has to take it as it is, black on white. And, though he and I differ in our perceptions on many points, I’ve found it quite nice to have someone else reading it for the first time from the same general vantage point of having only had very superficial instruction.

Where it’s different from simply reading the Bible for myself is that Plotz, as a Jew, has had some different cultural instruction than I have, and so points out different things. He’s also a different person, so he’ll spot or highly things that I might not have noticed on my own.

Why read the bible?

In the final chapter, Plotz gives his reasons for why he thinks it’s a great idea to read the Bible. He hits on most of my own reasons: that it’s the basis for so much of our culture, both in law and in literature, and it’s good to understand where that’s coming from. I would add that when many people working against social justice issues – such as LGBTQ rights – are talking Bible-speak, we are most effective in opposing them when we are able to speak the same language. Maybe not for the leaders, but the younger generation is more likely to listen, I think, to arguments couched in a framework that they can understand.

Lists

Plotz finishes off the book with quote lists, and these are quite funny. There’s the 12 best pickup lines, God’s 11 best miracles (plus a bonus very lame one), 11 heroes you don’t want to be named after, and so forth. It’s a cute way to end the book.

Book Review: The New Illustrated Companion to the Bible by J.R. Porter

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Porter - The New Illustrated Companion to the BibleI found this book while looking through my library’s catalogue for a book cited in Manners and Customs of the Bible, which is always a little risky without having the background knowledge to really be able to assess the quality of the statements. I didn’t find anything in The New Illustrated Companion that seemed to contradict what I’ve learned through other sources, so I’m assuming that it’s – at least in major part – in line with current scholarly consensus.

Much of the content of the book is simply retelling the stories of the Bible, occasionally relating the information to outside sources (such as the writings of other Near Eastern cultures, archaeological finds, etc), though the “extra info” boxes that appear on nearly every page contained far more detailed discussions. This was particularly true in the portion of the book covering the New Testament, and I was able to find quite a bit of food for thought.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, though, what really set this book apart was the illustrations. Every page has photographs of the relevant landscape or archaeological sites, diagrams, or paintings, and these were great fun to flip through.

Lastly, I quite enjoyed that Porter steps out of the scope of the Bible itself to, towards the end of the book, discuss Christian art and the development of beliefs in the early Church.

Though I do think that this would make a lovely coffee-table book, there were some pretty terrible editing issues, such as info boxes that end mid-sentence and a punctuation philosophy that borders on anarchism.

If you are looking for just a general primer to familiarize yourself with the stories of the Bible and with some of the context, I think that The New Illustrated Companion is as good a choice as any. The editing issues are a real detriment, but I do feel that the illustrations make up for it.

Book Review: Manners & Customs in the Bible, 3rd edition by Victor H. Matthews

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Matthews, Victor - Manners and Customs in the BibleIn Manners & Customs, Matthews covers the major periods of biblical history, from the Ancestral Period down to the Intertestamental and New Testament Period. In each section, he covers some of the historical background of the period, such as what was going on politically both in Hebrew lands and nearby regions. This is followed with specific discussions of construction methods and styles, marriage customs, clothing and adornment, weapons and military technology, and more.

I found the text interesting, particularly in its range, though I was a bit disappointed by how heavily it relied on the books of the Bible for its sources – mainly because I already have easy access to those same passages. What I wanted was more information on what other texts from the period and the archaeological evidence have to say. Though I suppose I might have been unreasonable given that the title of the book specifies that the manners and customs are in the Bible.

It also led to some issues where Matthews took the Bible at face value in the absence of any corroborating outside evidence, but he was using the same matter-of-fact voice he uses elsewhere when there is corroboration. So, for example, he talks about the exodus as a discrete event, as it’s presented in the Bible, without mentioning the possibility of a folk tradition that glomped together multiple migration events, or simply a cultural memory of Egyptian occupation.

All in all, I found it to be an interesting read. There are better introductions to “biblical times” resources, though I appreciated Matthews’ focus on domestic customs – even though I found these to be far more sparse than the title had led me to believe.

Book Review: The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb

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The Book of Genesis presents the text of Genesis in graphic novel form. It’s an interesting – but dangerous – project. The Bible is so important to such a large number of people (on all sides of the Great Theological Divide) that it’s pretty much impossible not to offended someone. I think the comments on Amazon.com illustrate this. Here’s two quotes from one-stare reviews:

I have not purchased this book, but have read the first chapter online. As a Jew, I am personally affronted by picturing God as an old man with the flowing beard and robes. God is noncorporeal and God’s name ineffable, and the Ten Commandments warns us against any kind of god-imagery, which can lead to idolatry.

Crumb’s illustrated Genesis is quite an amazing illustration accomplishment, but I’m afraid it’s NOT quite a success. The artistry certainly is eyeball-boggling, but Crumb is so overly respectful of the source material that he doesn’t add anything to it. There’s no breath of life to it at all. My honest opinion is that it lacks in personality, just as the Bible itself does (for me).

Between these and all the people who thought that it must be a book for children because it involved pictures and we can see where the issues lie.

Crumb, R - Book of GenesisThat being said, however, I found that Crumb handled his subject with great fairness. There’s no dearth of commentaries/illustrations that poke fun at the Bible, or that use paraphrasing or illustrations to make the stories seem more ridiculous than they are. I mentioned in my discussion on the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible that there seems to be too great of a focus on that site to find “gotcha” moments, even to the point of ignoring context. But Crumb’s illustrations remain pretty straightforward and literal. Where interpretation is required, I found him to be rather uncontroversial.

The format is quite interesting. Rather than paraphrase the text, Crumb has essentially just stuffed it into a graphic novel format, so that speech is presented in speech bubbles and narrative text gets text boxes. The result is that the text of Genesis is presented nearly in its entirety in what appears to be a pretty solid translation (he primarily uses Robert Alter’s The Five Books of Moses, though the breadth of his research shows and he mentions consulting with Hebrew-speaking friends as well).

The art style is quite gorgeous. It’s very detailed, but also stylized in a way that accentuates musculature even in the female characters. The use of lines reminded me of the woodcuts used to illustrate old King James editions, which really worked in this context. And, though I’m far from being an expert, I was quite impressed with the presentations of culturally-specific details such as clothing, hair styles, and buildings. There is quite a bit of nudity, but it isn’t too gratuitous (although all the nipples showing through shirts might be a bit much).

Crumb also includes commentaries at the back of the book that I found quite interesting. He presents a theory – which he found in the book Sarah the Priestess by Savina Teubal – that many of the tales in Genesis are actually remnants of the battle between the matriarchal/matrilineal and the patriarchal/patrilineal cultural influences in early Hebrew culture. He doesn’t delve into too much detail, but I found his arguments interesting and I’d love to get my hands on Teubal’s book!

If you’re thinking of reading through Genesis for yourself but are feeling a bit daunted by the writing style, I don’t hesitate to recommend that you give Crumb’s book a try.

Book Review: The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, annotated by Steve Wells

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I’ve been linking back to The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible quite a bit and, apparently, my track back spamming has succeeded in getting the attention of the site’s author, Steve Wells. He was nice enough to send my a physical copy of the SAB book to review.

(So, obviously, full disclosure, I did get a freebie, but I’ll try to be as honest as I can be in the face of free stuff.)

But first, some thoughts on the site:

My process when I’m reading a chapter in the Bible is first to read through it once quickly. This is just to give me an idea of the angle I want to take with my post. My next step is to read through more slowly as I take notes on more specific things that I want to say. Then I hit the external sources.

Image Credit: SAB

Image Credit: SAB

I have a number of websites and books that I consult on a regular basis – I’ve linked to many of the websites at one time or another, and the books can mostly be found on the Texts page (the one-offs only get in-post mentions). These sources help me flesh out my own impressions, or give me new issues to consider. Some of them also help me answer the questions that I’ve been asking. This is where the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible comes in.

The site is a very broad net, and that can be dangerous. I find myself having to think quite hard (and check the verses in their context), because I feel like the site’s author was, in a sense, trying to find problems. Often, he does find legitimate problems, but just as often he seems to be creating them by ignoring connotations of words, ignoring context, or accepting the problematic translation choices of the King James Bible (which makes complete sense for his purposes, but isn’t so useful for me), etc. I find myself disagreeing with his assessments just as often as I agree.

But I still find the site to be an invaluable resource. It is hands down the best concordance that I’ve found. When I read something that I kinda feel contradicts something I saw earlier – maybe months earlier – I could easily waste hours reading back trying to find a passage. But the SAB just gives it right to me. I don’t credit the site in these instances because that would make absolutely no sense whatsoever, but I really do want to acknowledge just how useful I’ve found it in writing for this blog.

It has, like all such resources, its own biases and agendas. But it’s such a thorough tool that it more than makes up for them.

And now for the book:

The book is a very good attempt to cram all the information from the website onto paper. The King James Bible is reprinted in its entirely with SAB‘s annotations in the margins, just as they appear on the site.

In addition, each book of the Bible is prefaced with a list of highlights – which I imagine would be very useful for an atheist who needs to look up a particular passage quickly while in the middle of engaging with a believer. The inside covers are used in the same way, listing a few of the more theologically troubling stories of the Bible for easy reference.

There are also two appendices: one is a list of all the apparently contradictions in the Bible, and the other is a list of every time God kills someone.

All in all, I found the hard copy version of the SAB very well organized for easy referencing, and the edition is quite aesthetically pleasing. If you are a fan of the website and want a version you can carry around with you, put on your shelf, or give as a gift, it’s a good buy.

If you’re interested, you can buy the book here.

Book Review: Don’t Know Much About the Bible by Kenneth C. Davis

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Davis, Kenneth - Don't Know Much About the BibleI found this book by skimming through Davis’s Don’t Know Much About Mythology, which I picked up at one of the book sales I frequent. When I saw the title, I figured it would be a perfect easy-reader overview to supply me with things to think about as I continue my journey through the Bible.

I think that it would make for a good introduction for someone who is steeped in Bible culture but hasn’t actually read the text for themselves (such as the very numerous North American “cultural Christians”). It provides an overview of each book in the Bible with a little summary of the content and, for many of the books, a more detailed discussion of the issues, themes, and scholarly thoughts. Davis also introduces some bible basics, such as the Document Hypothesis.

I found it to be a perfect little primer for anyone who is curious about the Bible but lacks the patience to slog through the actual text (I can sympathize!). I also think that it could work as a reference book for someone who talks or thinks about the Bible often enough to need a reference, but not often enough to have memorized the contents.

I found the information to be well presented and the writing style to be accessible. That being said, I did notice a few issues. Most notably, Davis seems rather intent on calling women in the bible prostitutes, such as Rahab (which is a little iffy). Worse, he presents their professions as if they were undisputed facts, stated explicitly in the text. I suppose he should get some credit for dispelling the myth about Mary of Magdala being a prostitute – though that correction is nearly more famous than the original myth by now.

Book Review: The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs

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jacobs-aj-the-year-of-living-biblicallyFor the last year, I have been working on a project to blog the Bible (and doing a terrible job of it for the last two months), so a book like The Year of Living Biblically struck a chord. Like A.J. Jacobs, I’ve also been trying to make sense of a book that is at once one of the founding pillars of my culture, and yet profoundly alien.

The Year of Living Biblically is, of course, a book of its genre: Stunt Journalism. Jacobs does kookie things like paint his door frames with lamb’s blood (or, rather, with lamb pan drippings) and throws pebbles at adulterers. And like any book in this genre, he concludes with his insights and feel-good message.

But in the midst of this formulaicism, I did find food for thought. There was a lot of discussion about what it really means to take the Bible literally, and how to deal with the application of the rules in a cultural context that is so foreign to any the Bible’s authors could have possibly envisioned.

One element I particularly enjoyed was Jacobs’s insistence on turning the Bible into a Self Help manual. Even when called out on this by a member of his “religious advisory council,” he goes right back to trying to draw life lessons!

One theme he kept coming back to is that everything happens for a reason. He explains early in the book that his wife believes this and part of his journey is coming to accept at least some version of this. Believing that there are reasons beyond chemical reactions and physical laws is, he declares, “certainly healthier.” This profound and far-reaching statement is given as a throw-away line in the middle of a broader discussion, and it never receives the serious discussion it deserves. Is it, truly, healthier to believe something that makes us feel good about ourselves without any evidence for it to be actually true?

Prior to reading The Year of Living Biblically, I’d heard complaints that it trivialises religion and makes it look bad. It’s all about legalism, and focuses on things like stoning adulterers rather than the broader moral teachings. But having now read the book, I haven’t found this to be the case at all. Jacobs gives a fair acknowledgement to the legalism of the Old Testament. The bulk of the book, however, is a discussion of the moral teachings and about the applicability and relevance of the book as a whole in a modern, North American cultural setting. Overall, I found his treatment of the Bible to be extremely respectful; perhaps, even, too respectful at times.

Jacobs has a very readable writing style and he’s generally quite good at finding the right balance between entertaining and provoking thought. I’d say it’s an important read for those who consider themselves to be Jewish or Christian, because it initiates a very important discussion that I think Western society really needs to have about what it means to be Judeo-Christian and what the Bible’s place should be in our culture.

Book Review: Misquoting Jesus by Bart D. Ehrman

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ehrman-bart-misquoting-jesusIt is often said that the Bible is the divinely inspired word of God. But which Bible?

In Misquoting Jesus, Ehrman takes the reader through some of the changes that have been made to the Bible over the years, both deliberate and not, and the techniques scholars can use in an attempt to uncover what the original might have said. He does an amazing job of making some pretty complex material accessible to a lay reader.

My first encounter with Ehrman was through his textbook, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. I was a Christian at the time, and, while I knew that the Bible had been translated and that it was therefore subject to the manipulations inherent in translation, I had no idea just how deeply the transmission errors lie.

As I read through Ehrman’s textbook and studied the material in class, I found my faith deeply challenged. Just as Ehrman describes in his introduction, our way of knowing God is through scripture. And if scripture is flawed or inaccessible, what can we truly say we know about God?

This thinking put me on a path that eventually led to my deconversion.

Misquoting Jesus is every bit as challenging as The New Testament. I find it rather interesting that the most damning argument against Christian belief comes from the Bible itself – from reading it, from understanding it within the context of its writing, and from learning just how fragile texts can be.

But Ehrman never argues against the Christian faith. He is by no means a Dawkins or a Hitchens. Rather, he simply presents the research and allows it to stand, or fall, for itself.

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