Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman
DISCLAIMER: What follows is my personal opinion and in no way represents anyone’s scholarship but my own.
I’ve been making my way slowly through the book Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman and am more and more convinced that there is no such thing as a “true” text of scripture, let alone an inerrant scripture or a “verbally inspired” scripture. There ain’t no such animal. It’s all verbal and doctrinal gymnastics to keep the faithful ignorant. I think that’s precisely the dirty, little secret of textual critics or anyone else who’s been to a university not tainted by religious bias and committed to honest inquiry. There is no “text” of scripture at all, but several letters, treatises, gospels, and other bits and pieces that were chosen randomly by a bishop here or another teacher there according to their whims at the time. No women were allowed to choose the texts, even though women were apostles and prophets as well. God no more orchestrated the gathering of these bits and pieces together than Zeus orchestrated the gathering of all of his children from several different mothers for a family reunion of the gods in ancient Greece. Of course, I always knew this from my own studies. Ehrman just solidified it for me.
Ehrman began his career as a conservative Moody Bible College graduate who, after working his way to a Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary, realized that what he was taught as an ultra-conservative fundamentalist Christian just didn’t jibe with the facts. In fact, the tossing about of texts, the castigating of those of differing opinions, and the fighting over words went on from the very beginning of Christianity. This was no seamless growth of a new movement, with faithful martyrs, or wonderful conversion stories. From the beginning NO ONE AGREED on how the church should be organized, which texts were considered authoritative, or what the mission of the church was. Many claimed they knew, or had a sanction from God to have the right opinion, but they were no different than anyone else.
Jon is right when he writes that the reason the christian church is failing it’s mission is because it can’t agree on what the word “christian” means, what the word “church” means, or what is its actual “mission.” In fact, a cursory read of any history of Christianity will clearly show that Christians have been disagreeing since the death of Jesus, hardly a sign that God is directing it and a sure sign that it’s of human origin (as is every religion in the world). I’ve believed for some time now that we create the mythologies that help us cope with the world. Mine is a mix that works for me. Fundies call this the “cafeteria approach” which I see nothing wrong with. I’d much rather take that approach than the approach I call “here’s your dinner and you’d better eat all those damn peas or I’ll kick your ass six ways to Sunday!” approach. I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with believing anything that helps me move with love through the world. For me, as long as you harm none, live and let live, and leave a small footprint on the planet, you can believe pretty much anything you want! If the fundie God wants to send me to hell for that, so be it. I’ve lived according to my conscience.