Sunday, June 3, 2012

Forged

For a change of pace, I'm listening to the audiobook of Bart Ehrman's "Forged." My youth followed a trajectory similar to Ehrman's--as a teen, I was a devoted fundamentalist Christian, but when I read a textual analysis of the Bible, I could no longer deny that the Bible was the work of man, rather than the inspired (and inerrant) word of God. Like Ehrman, I became an agnostic.

Erhman's scholarship and logic are above reproach. Unarguably, the bulk of the books of the New Testament are, indeed, forgeries--written by later Christian scholars, not by the the apostles represented. Still, I find them interesting, because they present us with a snapshot of Christian theology as it is beginning to grow from localized sects into a world religion.

It's been thirty years since I studied the New Testament, so Ehrman's conclusions don't particularly disturb me, yet I am hesitant to recommend this book to a mainstream Christian. I don't think it's good karma to destroy the beliefs of good people, if the beliefs do them good. The Christian Bible provides a flawed, but useful, template of behavior and belief that, overall, tends to be positive even though, on the whole, it is not what it purports to be.

After all, what do we *really* know about the events in Palestine of the first century CE? Very little. I have a hunch that discoveries may be made this century that may have profound implications for Christianity and other world religions, but for now, I am content to continue my unorthodox research and not worry about the details.

To me, the biggest stumbling block that organized religion throws before us is the denial of individual and personal, mystical, and intuitive experience that can directly inform us of the nature of the "greater" non-physical reality. We don't need to study an ancient text of questionable authorship to discover this greater reality. We can experience it ourselves, daily. This message is very clear in the teachings of Jesus--those that have survived intact. I really doubt that Jesus wanted to create a religion. I suspect that his original intent was to create a path, a "way" to enlightenment, for those to follow as they wished.

2 comments:

  1. The Last PratorianJune 8, 2012 at 5:16 PM

    ..Of course the Bible was written by man and inspired by God himself... Jesus nor any mortal man would give his life for a " path, a way to enlightenment" Only for Salvation and eternal life with God.

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  2. You know, I considered the argument that while the Bible was not written by God, the contents were inspired by God... In fact, that argument keeps running through my mind as I listen to "Forged" (inspired, probably, by my early Christian instruction).

    What I personally believe (for what it's worth) is that "God" does not need a formalized text to teach the human race how to be human. When Christians believe that truth and salvation are confined to an ancient book, and that book alone, a greater truth is forgotten: that "God" speaks daily, to all creation, for those who have ears to hear. Truth is not the sole possession of a parsimonious priesthood, nor can "salvation" be granted through adherence to various behaviors. "Salvation" (as conventionally understood) is a birthright, and that this is the "good news" that the historical Jesus sought to convey. Strip away the forged texts, read between the lines of the authoritative accounts, and carefully consider the fragments of the teachings of the historical Jesus that have survived, and I believe that this is what one will find. While what has come down to us as the "New Testament" is heavily distorted, that kernel of information can still be gleaned.

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