21 November 2014

Ehrman on Bible scholarship

I just finished watching Ehrman's talk on Bible scholarship. It's a fascinating and readily accessible discussion. While I'm sure that many of the ideas are familiar, the overall picture of what the Bible really is contrasts sharply with the views of the general population that think of it simply as a book (with no or only a few changes) that was translated from another book. Ehrman makes the point that the ancient texts virtually all disagree in countless places in minor details and, in many cases, on major points. Some of the details are interesting. Toward the end of the talk, for example, he discusses passages that only make sense if we translate them back into Aramaic (the language that Jesus and the population of Palestine would have spoken). He brings up another passages (one about being "born again") that only makes sense if we keep it in Greek, in which case, the phrase has a double meaning. (This is highly problematic for the literalist since we know that Jesus wouldn't have been walking around speaking Greek to the Palestinian population even if he spoke Greek--which he probably didn't know.) More importantly, there are apparently entire sections of our current Bible (even in the Gospels) that were written much later than the earlier works. My advice to those who want to take any early religious text literally is to avoid learning about these matters deeply. If you scratch the surface, it's very clear that the idea of unaltered sacred texts from ancient times is nothing short of a hoax. I call it a "hoax" since Bible scholars, even those from conservative traditions, would all be aware that the nature of the text is being misrepresented in liturgical contexts.

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