Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Jesus, Interrupted (Preview)

Dr. Bart Ehrman, professor of Religious Studies at UNC Chapel Hill, has written several books that often cause a lot of conversation (and sometimes controversy) over the years. My first experience with him was reading Lost Scriptures (and its companion Lost Christianites) in my New Testament class. He deals with the books and manuscripts left behind in the canonization process of the NT. This book was an eye-opener for me because it made me (and through me, my class) ask the question, who gets to choose which version of Christianity "makes it" into the bible. There are many other traditions in our early Christian history that have all but been silenced though the canonization. One big question that this book made us wrestle with was, "did in fact the 'winners' get to choose our Christian beliefs, and what did we lose when we lost the views of the 'losers'?" Now many people will argue (and have argued...a lot!) that the process (which was messy and happened over a long period of time) brought forth the "true" scriptures and the heretical scriptures were weeded out. After reading many of those "weeded out" texts one begins to wonder what exactly we have lost in declaring them the "losers"? In essence, at that period in our history all of these groups and writings were struggling with the same questions: "Who was Jesus?", "Who are we as followers of Christ?" and "What exactly does it mean to be 'the Church'?". The answers may vary, but the questions are some of the same questions we struggle with today!

Among Ehrman's other publications, his most talked about have been Misquoting Jesus, where he explores the translation and preservation (copying) process and how that has impacted the Bibles we hold today. He sheds light on how messy and inexact the process is, and how what we read may not have been in the original texts.

His last book, God's Problem, dealt with the questions of pain, suffering and evil and how it is or isn't present in the Bible. Both of these books have brought equal amounts of praise and scorn from their readers. However, What I admire most about Ehrman, is that he brings these issues, which are commonly talked about in the world of Christian academia, and delivers them to the pews. Many people who read these publications (which are highly accessible to the average reader) are forced to ask, "is this true?" and, "Why have I never heard this talked about in church before?". Ehrman peels off the outer layers of the surface religion that is so common in American Christianity, and forces the reader to encounter, question (I would argue in a good way), and converse with the deeper parts of their own faith, assumptions, and beliefs. While I myself may not always agree with his conclusions, I highly respect and encourage his works and the dialog opportunities that they offer!

His newest book, Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them), is on its way via snail mail, and I will be reviewing it within a month of receiving. Until then, as with the last post, I offer these materials to help get us all pumped for the book.

This is a blogalouge debate on the problem of pain and suffering between Ehrman and NT Wright, also a revered New Testament Scholar.
This is a video:

And if all that doesn't tide you over, I don't know what will.
What are your thoughts on the books you've read by Dr. Ehrman?

UPDATE: New Media
Ehrman's Interview on Colbert
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Bart Ehrman
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorNASA Name Contest

An Ooze.com Viral Blogger post.


  1. There is a guy named Phillip Harland who teaches at Toronto University on Early Christianity. He has a blog that is poor splicing of recorded lectures, and his own interjections within said lectures, on particular topics surrounding early Christianity. Currently he is doing a series on Heretical groups and right now more specifically groups who we have evidence for in the Nag Hemadi (spelling?) sources. Check it out it is interesting. Oh, and that isn't the only thing he goes over, he went over the gosples as well, and some letters I believe.

  2. Thanks Tommy,
    I'll def. look into that. I any addditions to these converstions bridging the gap between academia and the pews. I am going to write on that soon, but I'll preview it here first. I think that the gap goes both ways. The obvious is that the academia is not filtering down into the churches well, but also the strength of the Church is the spiritual element. I think that the gap goes both ways and the bridge needs to be built from both sides. Just like you can't (or at least IMHO SHOULDN'T) have spirituality void of thinking, reason, responsible education, etc...; so too you can't (or again, shouldn't) get so focused on the academics of faith void of the spiritual element. I have a good quote on Apologists that I want to put up soon, not to pick on that group, but because I think it stands for what happens when we all become single-focused and narrow-minded... we find ourselves with something less than.

    thanks for your thoughts and reference.