I Spent Holy Week Misquoting Jesus

April 13th, 2010


For part of my ‘Holy Week’ observance, I went to hear Bart Ehrman debate Craig Evans in Overland Park, Kansas.  Dr. Erhman is the author of the best selling book, Misquoting Jesus. He wrote the book as a result of thirty years of biblical scholarship which began when he became an evangelical Christian as a teenager in Lawrence, Kansas, took him to the Moody Bible Institute where he studied the bible in it’s original languages moved onto Wheaton College for his undergraduate degree, and eventually earned a PhD from Princeton Theological Seminary.  Ehrman is now a religious studies professor at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.  I read Misquoting Jesus on Easter Sunday a few days after the debate.  It is an interesting and easy book to read despite it’s heady material. 

Both the book and the debate centered on the ‘textual variants’ in the bible.  ’Textual variants’ is a fancy phrase for mistakes in ancient biblical manuscripts.  Due to a severe lack of copy machines in ancient Rome the books and letters in the New Testament were hand copied.  The scribes made mistakes.  They skipped lines. They were occasionally lazy or incompetent and sometimes they even made changes in the texts of the bible to fulfill a personal agenda.  There are literally hundreds of thousands of textual variants among the hundreds of ancient biblical manuscripts still in existence and no one has ever found an original copy of any of the books in the bible.  

One of the most striking examples of textual variants as told in Ehrman’s  Misquoting Jesus is the story of the woman caught in adultery.  This story contains the famous line of Jesus “whosoever among you is without sin, let him cast the first stone”.  Virtually all textual scholars of the bible agree that the riveting story of the adulterous woman being drug in front of  Jesus where he utters the famous line and finally intones – ‘go your way and sin no more’ was added to John long after the gospel had been in circulation.  Why do biblical scholars think this?  The story’s word usage and phrasing is very different from rest of the book as if it were written by a different author and the story doesn’t appear in the earliest copies of John that are still in existence.  

Another gut wrenching textual variant or mistake in the bible includes the last twelve verses of the gospel of Mark.  This passage contains the verses describing Christ’s followers as being able to ‘cast our demons, speak in tongues, handle snakes, and drink poison without harm’.  Without these final verses the gospel of Mark ends strangely and abruptly, yet it is obvious to textual critics that these twelve verses were added at a later date.  

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The debate took place in a massive church called First Family in Overland Park, Kansas. Despite it’s name, I don’t think this church has anything to do with Michelle and Barack Obama. Overland Park is located in Johnson County  which comes in third in the amount of disposable income per capita in the US.  By the look of the church, much of that disposable income is getting dumped into the offering plate at First Family.  In fact, the ushers at First Family passed the plate twice during the debate, once before and once after and it wasn’t even a plate!  It was a velvet bag with wooden handles (retails for $49.99 ).  Right before the debate began, the audience was instructed to try and remain seated throughout the debate as it was being filmed by three huge cameras on fifteen foot pivoting booms.  Several burly men stood around the perimeter of the church throughout the service, guarding the doors.  This directive and the guarded doors made me feel strangely panicky.   

The debate began.  Erhman answered each of the seven questions first, allowing Dr. Craig Evans, his opponent to tidily sweep up the sticky problems he presented among the various ancient manuscripts as well as among the four gospels.  Evans, a Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College of Acadia University, in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada did his job heroically often receiveing resounding applause after he assured the crowd that yes –  there might be a few problems in the ancient texts of the New Testament, but nothing that changes the major points of Christianity.  

Ehrman countered again and again saying that if the bible has clearly been added to, subtracted from, and edited throughout it’s first thousand years, can it really be called the inerrant word of God?  And if there is clear indication that the bible has been manipulated for a variety of reasons including everything from incompetent scribes to political maneuvering – should it really be treated as holy writ and have such a massive influence on society today? Should it influence public policy and school text books?  Should it determine who is a sinner and who isn’t?  And should it be used to deny certain individual rights based on one’s gender or sexual preferences? 

Ultimately, I suppose it depends on what a person considers to be a critical variant (or mistake) in the bible.  

If the bible is inerrant – is even one textual variant enough to make it scarily questionable?

What about two textual variants?

What about 200,000 textual variants?  

What if some of these variants concern the doctrine of the trinity?

What if they don’t agree about the details of Christ’s birth?

What if they don’t agree about the details of Christ’s death?

What if they don’t agree about his resurrection?

At what point do these textual variants become so problematic as to make Christianity just one more myth on the mountain of religious myths that have long plagued humankind?

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Here are a few photos from the debate…

Just one small wing of the massive church.

 

 

 

On my way to the sanctuary, I walked by an indoor ‘play place’ and two coffee shops!

 

 

 

The man in the striped tie is Dr. Craig.  Standing beside him is the pastor’s son who is currently studying something very holy-ish that involves staring in awe at ancient copies of the bible at Oxford.  

 

 

 

 

Bart Erhman is the one with the water bottle.  The pastor and his son are at the plexiglass podium.

 

 

 

Whenever Dr. Ehrman was speaking, the pastor and his son tended to look like they wanted to beat him up.

 

Smile boys!  You asked him to come!

 

At the end of the debate, the pastor and his son and Dr.Craig gathered a few of their buddies on stage and had a little bible love fest.  

Dr. Ehrman stood off to one side of the stage and hung his head.  He was kind of the Christ figure in this particular story.  

And the pastor and his cronies were kind of like the thugs who clamored for Jesus’s death.

 

There’s Bart… I mean Jesus.. I mean Bart - islolated, alone and alienated from the religious bigwigs who claim to have special knowledge about who God is and how his instruction manual should read.

 

 

See how Jesus… I mean Bart seems to know that he is doomed?

 

 

Finally, Jesus… I mean Bart was escorted off the stage by some of those burly usher types and the love fest continued without him.

The men on stage had a lot of patching up to do to make sure that the congregation understood that Erhman’s arguments were full of holes and that they could all be explained away in a few upcoming talks.

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I was hoping to purchase an autographed copy of one of Dr. Ehrman’s books after the event.  I hunted around the huge church for a while looking for a table full of books and a line of autograph seekers.  I saw one young man carrying around a copy of Misquoting Jesus and I followed him to a room off the sanctuary.  The door to the room was being guarded by one of the burly usher types.  A few of us waited outside the room, but after ten minutes, it didn’t seem that Ehrman was going to come out and since I didn’t have a book to autograph and there didn’t seem to be any available,  I left.  

I guess I can see why a church would not allow an author to sell a book in their massive lobby that questions their entire belief system, but it was kind of parsimonious not to allow a few fans to get an autograph from a best-selling author. Perhaps they could have arranged a meet-up for the fans of Ehrman at a nearby bar?  

Or maybe that is asking a bit too much.

Then again…

I would think a church with it’s own play place and TWO coffee shops would not be afraid of the occasional obtuse absurdity.

 
Judge for yourself.
The Ehrman/Craig Debate at First Family

 

Comments

  • M.A.:

    I can’t get over the play place and coffee shop aspect. I’m from the Northeast where churches are…CHURCHES! You get pews, altars and maybe a cry room. This is bizarre, like a little insulated city so its members don’t have to interact with other… oh, now I get it.

    I’m glad to see you back blogging.

  • LucyGolden:

    Very interesting post (I wasn’t able to access the video).

    I’m so glad you’re back…You make me think really hard about my “faith.”

    As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve pretty much been questioning my “faith” for a good part of my 50 years. When I question other people about theirs & how they reconcile the hunger, strife, wars, disasters, etc. that go on in the world with their faith, the most frequent answer I get is, “Oh, God has a plan. We just don’t know what that is yet.” That’s not a good enough answer for me.

    Bringing up the discrepancies in the Bible…Well, that’s another story!

  • Ted Powell:

    LucyGolden wrote: Very interesting post (I wasn’t able to access the video).

    Try again—it’s been fixed.

  • Anna:

    Welcome back Rechelle, it’s good to have you back.
    I must say the Pastor and his son look so very concerned in those pictures. Makes you wonder why they would even invite Dr. Ehrman?

  • DirtyKSmama - Nikki:

    Ugh. I just don’t get those places.

    I’ve had the same thoughts (forever) about the accuracy of the Bible and how much weight is put upon it’s words. Heck, with today’s technology and education, Oprah and her peeps were led to believe “A Million Little Pieces” was completely true, which led so many others to believe it. So 2000 years ago…?

    Kudos to Dr. Ehrman, and you, for being there. I bet it was so interesting, but the place (the purpose of such a building?) and the guys who remind me of the Mafia on stage and at the doors – just too creepy for me. Seems very controlled and manipulated.

  • My husband got this book on his journey out, and said I should read it. I’ve not done so yet, but I will.

    As for the church having coffee shops, well the one we attended shortly before the de-converted, had a coffee shop and was full of flat panel tv’s, but didn’t have a food pantry or a clothes closet for the needy. When we asked if they had these things because we wanted to donate items or our time they kinda looked at us like we were crazy. I was very turned off by that.

  • Carol:

    Why did they invite him? Sounds like an interesting time – and I’d be nervous about the doors being blocked by security guards as well as being told not to move!

  • Welcome back!

  • Nancy in AK:

    This was very interesting. i think I’ll buy this book.

  • Robbyn:

    I wonder if Mr Ehrman was pointing out the errors in the New Testament specifically. There’s a big difference between how the Hebrew writings (most folks call the Old Testament) and the Greek ones were handed down and compiled. I find the NT inconsistent with itself and errors all over the place. And church doctrines such as whether or not Jesus was God were decided by warring factions (who killed each other off when convenient) and oh yeah…by voting, at the council of Nicea. What documents were counted as scripture were voted in, too. It was a wake up call when I decided to read about the “church fathers” after being a christian for so many years. I’ve decided if jesus does return, most christians would never recognize him because he was a Jew who lived as a Jew and has little or nothing to do with what the church decided to turn him into in their mythology.

    Ok, well I’ll hush up now : )

  • Action Squirrel:

    Mega churches remind me of Vegas. Or any of those huge franchise restaurants.

  • Jumpin’ into the thick of things again, are we?

  • amy:

    Sweet! I’ve read 5 of Ehrman’s books and liked them all. His de-conversion story really resonates with me. I was like him–believing god’s truth could withstand any arguments to the contrary–only to find out I was wrong.

    The debates he’s been part of have always left me wishing he were a better debater, though. He presents his points well enough but he’s not particularly charismatic (and many preachers are charismatic and know how to put on a show).

    At one point Ehrman talked about wanting his next book to be about the question of whether Jesus actually ever claimed to be divine. I have marveled (since my de-conversion) at how little there really is in the bible that calls Jesus divine. You’d think, if that is almost THE major point of the bible, that it would be just a little clearer than, “Before Abraham was, I AM.”

    Thanks for the post and for the video. I’m eager to watch!!!

  • Gotta love how they invite a guy only to satisfy appearances that they allow discourse. It wasn’t actually about learning anything.

    Also when it comes to cafes and such in churches? Money changers in the temple much? Nothing infuriates more than the wealth and opulence of western churches… *brain fizzle*

  • Nadine:

    Oh boy, this debate is interesting. Ehrman seems to be speaking very clearly to me, while Dr. Evans seemed to sort of ramble on and say lots of things all at once. But I might be biased. :)
    This also reminds of a book I just read, “The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ” by Philip Pullman. More than anything, it’s about how stories become stories, and it’s very engaging. It’s not out here yet, but I ordered it from Amazon UK because I couldn’t wait.

  • Such delightful irony here. Here in North Texas, we have more than our fair share of church malls where the messages are served up in more or less the same manner. Thanks for the references for Dr. Ehrman. I am off the library, and then off to NW Kansas for my last visit. More irony, as I hope to have a couple of his books in my suitcase for the trip! You are the best, Rechelle! EFH

  • Papa Harry:

    I am constanly amazed by the faith you non-believers have. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God and the only salvation for mankind, but you all have much more faith than I have. Many of you believe in evolution, and that takes more faith than I have.Errors that have been caused by man in God’s word are so glaring to you, but error with the theory of evollution are just glossed over.
    Now thats faith.

    Assuming a human could somehow “evolve”, how would it reproduce?Reproduction in mammals requires a male and a female. Two humans had to evolve at the same time and place, having complex and totally different,but complementary reproductive systems — male and female. The physical componets of both systems had to be compatible, If one of the systems had a slight defect or wasn’t complete, reproduction would be impossible and the species would become extinct. The chemical and emotional systems of the male and female also had to be compatible for reproduction to take place. These same constraints apply to reproduction in plants and animals. reproduction is essential for life as we know it. I just do not have enough faith to believe that these things can happen without a creator.

  • tony:

    hairy papa:
    if god created our reproductive system, i wouldn’t hire him to plumb my house.

  • Dear Papa Harry,

    Your questions do not even merit an answer, because you obviously have never actually studied the scientific aspects of evolution. That’s like someone who never studied physics trying to argue why gravity is a faulty theory.

    In my experience, creationists who argue against evolution rarely have rarely actually studied evolution and instead are just parroting back what they hear from other people who have also never actually studied evolution.

    Valerie
    M.S., biological anthropology

  • Revyloution:

    Papa Harry, I think you need to go take a class on biology before you embarrass yourself more. You description of the evolution of sexual reproduction is like something from a cartoon. I don’t know where to even begin to explain your misunderstandings.

    There is some good information at talkorgins.org that might answer some of your questions.

    If you’re going to make criticisms of the theory, you should at least demonstrate that you understand it. After your remedial education, I would be sincerely interested in hearing about any ‘errors with the theory’ that you find.

    As for why I don’t believe in your god, it has nothing to do with errors in the bible. I was raised without any gods, so naturally I have none.

    Rechelle, glad to see you back!

  • Ted Powell:

    Papa Harry wrote: I am constanly amazed by the faith you non-believers have. …

    I’d like to suggest, if I may, not feeding this drive-by troll. He was last here on February 11th, with the same agenda, in the comments on CDW Sits in Ash Heap …. Just scan the comments for “harry” and you’ll see why attempting to lead him to factual information is a lost cause. Or go directly to this comment, which says in part:

    February 11th, 2010 at 8:50 PM
    dear Ted and Ron I am very sorry that I confused you when I asked the question about where man came from. I know the answer. I just put the question out there to get people to think about it. My source of information is the book of Genesis in the Bible.

  • Nadine:

    Papa Harry makes me think of a Tim Minchin line from “Storm” (yeah, lots of associative thinking for me today): “firing off cliches with startling precision, like a sniper using bollocks for ammunition.”

  • Papa Harry:

    dear Valerie Revylutuion and Ted Powell The no merit answer is quite common when an answer can not be found. Like I said your faith just amazes me

  • Rob:

    Re: non-believers having faith…

    If atheism is a religion, then not collecting stamps is a hobby. I also don’t speak French. Is there a name for that?

    -paraphrasing former radio talk show host Lionel.

  • Ted Powell:

    Papa Harry wrote: The no merit answer is quite common when an answer can not be found.

    He was given answers in February, but he refused to look at them. By his own words (quoted in my previous comment) he is not interested in an honest discussion.

  • Revyloution:

    If Papa Harry could phrase an answerable question that was grounded in reality, then I might be able to answer it.

    Papa, think about these questions please:

    Papa Harry, have you stopped molesting school children yet?

    Papa Harry, I don’t believe in your god because he wears clown hats and claims to have 4 left hands.

    —-

    I’m sure you think both questions are ridiculous. If I tried to make those claims about your god, you would rightly point out that my understanding of Jesus is so bizarre that you wouldn’t know where to begin to correct my misunderstanding. You might even suggest that I actually read the bible to correct my misunderstandings.

    If that example is clear to you, then you can understand how we feel about your questions. Your question about sexual evolution makes as much sense as my question about a 4 left handed clown hat wearing Jesus.

  • Papa Harry:

    Mr powell

    After hundreds of years the bible is still the most read book on the planet. The readings you recomended will all be relegated to the dust bin of history in a few short years, so why should I bother.

  • Ted Powell:

    Papa Harry wrote: After hundreds of years the bible is still the most read book on the planet.

    It seems that way because people keep buying copies—sometimes by the truckload—and giving them to other people as part of a perceived duty called “witnessing.”

    Another example of witnessing is reading blogs and posting what purport to be sincere questions “to get people to think about it.” The better witnessers make some effort to learn something of the subject matter of their questions first. Some just rely on cheap cop-outs to cover profound ignorance.

    By the way, Ring Species (e.g. Larus gulls, around the North Pole; Ensatina salamanders, around California’s Central Valley; the Greenish Warbler, around the Himalayas) will continue to exist long after any current articles about them are “relegated to the dust bin of history” and anybody who cares to can go to their habitats and check up on them, even though they are not described in the most-sold book on the planet.

  • Kay in KCMO:

    One of the mega-churches in OP was investigated by the KC Star a couple of years ago for financial hoo-ha (that’s a technical accounting term I wouldn’t expect you to understand). Was it this church? Jim Tompkin’s name is on the front of the church. Much ego there? Wait, I mistyped – it’s not a church, it’s a “family life center.” The whole thing is just grotesque. Coffee shops. I mean, really.

  • Ms. Heather:

    Whether or not the Bible is reliable, I do follow certain guidelines that can be found therein, but not because the good book says so.

    First and foremost, I treat others with respect. I don’t know why I read the comments on this post because I rarely do, but tonight I did. I find it very disrespectful and “uncrhistian-like” to come into the space of someone—a beautiful person who takes a risk and puts herself out there, brings spice and variety into my online life, and shares openly and honestly of herself—just to put down the author as well as others here to enjoy, discuss, and share in the discussion. Is sarcasm and derision the right course? If you have something to say in a negative manner, first ask: “What would Jesus do?” Would he persecute others as they persecuted him? Or would he engage in a conversation with meekness and tact?

    I guess what I’m really trying to say is if a visitor wants nothing more than to beat someone to death with a Bible while screaming at the top of his/her lungs so as to not hear a word of opposition, I suggest said person take it elsewhere. From what I can tell, very few of us who come here want, or even need, to be saved.

  • amy:

    I watched the debate yesterday. I was surprised at how animated Ehrman got with his answers. The format was, as you said, set up to make the believers have the last word. I found Craig to be somewhat obtuse with his answers. He liked to babble on at points and use complicated vocabulary to sound like he was actually saying something relevant. What the heck was all the yammering on about the gospel of Thomas? I also loved how the moderator’s (pastor’s) son inserted the book reference that claims there are numerous factual attestations to the life of christ outside the bible. Too bad he didn’t have to back that one up with actual evidence.

    I wish Ehrman would have shaken things up a little more and asked about those who supposedly were raised from the dead with Jesus (Matt. 28: 52-53) and how it is that not one source ever corroborated the many zombies that supposedly roamed the city. You’d think at least one historian would consider that a noteworthy event!

    I will say that times have changed and christianity must be in a little bit of turmoil these days to be inviting truly objective debate on their turf. I guess enough people have seen that the old apologetics aren’t working anymore.

  • OpenMind:

    People were aghast at the thought of coffee shops in libraries when I worked as a librarian in the 80s.

    Not sure about First Family (can’t say that I trust their accounting practices!) but at the mega-church I attend the proceeds support missions and ministries. They sell baked goods made by church members with special needs.

  • Open Mind – I think a coffee shop in a library is a fabulous idea. What did you do about the noise of the grinding and the steaming? I imagine that would drive some patrons batty.

  • Momofthree:

    I am afraid to comment, but will take the plunge. I have read many of Rechelle’s recommended readings (before I read this blog, in fact). I have not read Erhman’s book, but will soon correct that. I also believe that the bible was written by man. Therefore it is a book to be read carefully. If you believe in an awesome God then you should be able to believe that He has the ability to send a written message in a better way than how the bible was written (and translated many times over). Jesus, for all his glory, did not write any of his thoughts or lessons down. Heck, he didn’t even have one of his disciples do it. It is well accepted (by biblical scholars and Christians) that the first gospel was written 30 years after Jesus died. That being said, I still believe in a God. I am also a practicing Christian, only because that was how I was raised and I still get something from attending a church. I completely understand that by saying this I am opening myself up to disparaging comments by atheists and Christians alike. I struggle in my faith because I don’t believe in the “typical” Christian beliefs. I also am disgusted by the way many Christians choose to live their lives. And, although my church is small, I get very frustrated at the “church-centered” aspect that all churches seen to have. But that being said, I believe that Jesus was an amazing man with a connection to God (however you choose to define God) and to man, that most of us only strive to get. There are other humans that also have had that connection, and I understand that by stating that it makes me a “bad” Christian. The God I believe in is more a spirit of life and connections, then the angry and power-hungry God that is often depicted in the Bible and the Koran. I have loved reading Rechelle’s blog because although she has come to a different conclusion than I have at this point in our spiritual journeys, I think the questions she is raising are good ones. I only hope that at some point these questions can be raised without hate being spewed from or towards any group or individual. I think that we all question our faith, our spiritual beings, and what makes humans (and ourselves) “special”. We all struggle with figuring out how to make our imprint in this world, and whether there is more to come after our physical bodies are done here. Many of these questions will not have a specific answer, but we will all grow mentally, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually if we talk, discuss, and question together.

  • amy:

    Momofthree: I understand what you are saying but have to ask (since I have never truly understood this line of thinking)–if you don’t believe in the bible, how is it you believe in Jesus at all? If the bible isn’t reliable as the word of god then how do you even know Jesus existed (much less what he said or did)? If you want to believe in a god, why pick the god of one particular human-written and fallible book? Why not choose any number of other gods throughout history?

    Not meaning to antagonize at all–just truly curious how one with your beliefs would answer this question.

  • Momofthree:

    April (and all)

    I have no problem with you wanting clarity on my position. I only struggle to answer because as a commentator, I am afraid of how much space and time I take. I don’t blog because I don’t have the writing strength or the ego strength to do it! But I will try to answer as best and as short as possible.

    I believe Jesus existed as a man (just as Gandhi existed). I question how much of “God” he was; honestly, I don’t believe so much in Mark’s (the Gospel writer) take that he was God born. I think the story of Jesus is much more powerful if he was man and all man. The questions of how much God and Jesus are interwoven and the resurrection I will not address here because of time and space. But a lot of it is choice and faith. I have no problems with any one who does not believe in Christianity. I think that who you are and how you choose to live your life is much more important than your stated faith and beliefs. I also believe that there are many parts of the bible that are based on fact. But I believe that the bible’s function is not fact-based as much as lesson based. For example, the story of creation to me is a story to try to explain on the world came to be. I believe in evolution and the story in the bible. I can do so if I believe it is a story with a lesson and not literal. I get angry at those who believe the bible is literal and then pick and choose which parts of the bible to believe in. Most believers of a literal bible do not know or understand how the bible was written and/or translated over the years. We all pick and choose the lesson’s learned from writings, and there is an awful lot of good stuff in the bible…. as well as bad stuff. I think that if we are honest and don’t use the bible (or any other religious writings) as an “excuse” we can learn and think a lot from it. But it is a dangerous tool. And my choice of God is not just from the bible. Again, due to time and space, I will limit here for now, but the God I believe in seems to be interwoven from a bunch of different religions. I have not studied all the religions extensively, so I am careful what I say here. I base my belief in God more on faith and what I feel than what someone is telling me. My God is a feeling I get when I am at peace with the world around me. My God can be felt during meditation, during laughter, during quiet moments with those I love, during walks with my dog, etc. I use the bible as a guidance tool only. Agh….. it is another really long post. Sorry about that!

  • Momofthree:

    And I used the word “believe” WAY too much.

  • Momofthree:

    AND just realized I addressed you as April instead of Amy! See….. that is why I don’t comment or blog! Sorry, Amy!

  • OpenMind:

    Rechelle, I left before the library took the plunge and added the coffee shop. It was a loooong time coming and many of the “old school” librarians balked at the idea, for many reasons including the noise, the combination of books and drinks, the thought of selling things in a library. Now the library (downtown KC) has a coffee shop, though it is pretty separate from the reading rooms and isn’t as cozy as I’d always imagined!

    I kind of chuckle, though, at the open-minded atheists on here sounding as uptight about coffee shops in non-traditional places as the old fuddy-duddy librarians!

    And… just to present both sides of the story, in response to theagnosticswife saying their former mega-church had coffee shops and tvs, but no food pantry, etc…. the ‘Johnson County mega-church’ I attend (NOT 1st Family) has a massive food & household item collection center. We distribute food to over 20 area pantries. We even refurbish and donate 100s of old computers to needy agencies. Not bragging, just responding. ;-)

  • amy:

    No problem, Momofthree. I’m a mom of three as well :) Thanks for the response. I agree with you that how you live your life is what counts. I think my big beef with the christian faith is that I was once an evangelical. I went into full time christian work with a fundamentalist/evangelical ministry and got to see the inner-workings of that movement. As I came out of everything, I got to a point where I could no longer believe in any of it. If I can’t trust the bible then I have no reason to believe anything about Jesus. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • Ted Powell:

    For quite a while I’ve held the opinion that the teachings of Jesus were more-or-less hijacked by Paul. A couple of days ago I came across this article, How Christianity Lost Jesus, by the Rev. Howard Bess, that puts it better than I could, and indeed carries it further than I had thought to.

    FWIW, I found the article from a story on The Immoral Minority, a mostly-political Alaska blog.

    We call Chapters 5, 6 and 7 of the Matthew Gospel the Sermon on the Mount. It is without question our finest summary of the teachings of Jesus.

    While the gospels about Jesus are filled with the stories that he told and others about what he did, the Sermon on the Mount is different. The Sermon on the Mount is a collection of his aphorisms or short sayings.

    Under the critical analysis of our best Bible scholars, the Sermon on the Mount stands as authentic Jesus material. I have concluded that if people want to follow Jesus, they need to read and digest the Sermon on the Mount.

    Nothing was more basic to the society in which Jesus lived and taught than the declaration “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” The saying is a clear expression of the understanding of sin as a debt to be paid. …

    This concept was commonly applied to God. Break one of God’s rules and God will repay insult for insult. In the prevailing understanding of Judaism in Jesus’s day, sin was a debt that must be paid. Jews traveled long distances to Jerusalem to make blood sacrifices to pay God the price of their sin.

    Jesus argued against the prevailing system. Jesus did not believe that punishment cured the problem of sin. He rejected the concept of sin as a debt that must be paid. In this opinion, he joined a minority of Old Testament prophets who believed that the antidotes for sin were love and acts of kindness.

    It is my observation that in the 21st century the vast majority of Christians have embraced “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Not only have Christians embraced what Jesus denied, the western world has adopted the standard of “a debt must be paid.”

    Penalties are supposed to fit the crime and an offender must pay his debt to society. Christians have become what Jesus despised and rejected.

    How did this happen? Look no further than Paul, the author of about half of the material that we have in our New Testaments.

    I hope I’ve made a reasonable compromise between keeping it short and provoking your interest. I’ve stopped quoting short of the really interesting part.

  • Ted Powell:

    amy wrote: If I can’t trust the bible then I have no reason to believe anything about Jesus.

    I’ll agree if you’ll rephrase that as: “… then I have no reason to uncritically believe anything about Jesus.”

    Take as a hypothesis that the Sermon on the Mount, when it eventually got written down, was a composite of the sayings of several of the preachers of the time. Does that make it less valuable?

  • Ted Powell:

    In a lighter (and quite irreverent) vein, here is “The Adventures of God”.

  • Allison:

    I just watched the debate…beautiful!! Ehrman did a wonderful job and really held himself together considering that not a single question of his was directly answered.
    My parents attend First Family…bah…what a bunch of money hungry a-holes! Funny how the only time Jesus became furious was when he realized that people were selling their products outside of the temple…I’m pretty sure that there was a bat involved. But yeah, now everyone has a bloody coffee shop and bookstore! I guess they have to offer the people more than the nonsense they have to say.
    Anyways, I love love Ehrman. He changed my world. It was awesome when he talked directly to the crowd, pleading that they use their minds. I cried a little bit at that point, if only someone had encouraged me to do that, I would’ve been spared year of blindness.

  • I’m so glad you are still posting. I enjoyed these last few posts of yours, and especially this one. I have Erhman’s book on my wish list at my library. (I search for dozens of books I want to read and put them on my wish list, then I can request them any time. I now have about a dozen books signed out, so will have to finish reading a few before ordering more.)

    I wish I could have been there to applaud with you when Erhman made his well-researched and reasoned comments. I’d also love to grab your ticket to David Sedaris and join you to see Nate Phelps, but I am five states away, so I can’t make it.

    Thanks for mentioning Nate Phelps (in this and a previous post.) I’ve read quite a bit about him the past few weeks. I thought I grew up in a strict religious family, but, gees, I can’t believe Nate isn’t in a padded room after growing up in ‘that’ family. His father is a perfect example of how easily religion can turn to hate.

  • Jeff:

    This is a great debate. Well, worth watching. I agree with Dr. Ehrman about the discrepancies in the gospels, but let me make this point. If you study philosophy, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, their philosophies and views contradict each other dramatically even though they were students of the former. Plato was a student of Socrates, Aristotle a student of Plato, however their views are completely different. What is amazing to me is you have a tax collector working with a zealot, a fisherman, a physician, etc. all proclaiming the same message. Of course when the gospels were written over 35 years after Jesus death, they are not word for word with each other. Also they are each written from a different perspective, yet they all proclaim the same message…We have met the Christ, the Messiah…In a modern perspective can you imagine an accountant with the Isreali Army working with a member of the Taliban to proclaim a message to the world?

  • [...] read Bart Erhman’s Misquoting Jesus last Spring and then attended a debate in Overland Park that featured Bart and some other guy.  The two men debated whether or not the hundreds of thousands of editing mistakes (both honest [...]