I have finished Bart D. Ehrman’s “Jesus, Interrupted”. It was a good read, and there were a couple of interesting points from it that I wanted to note down.
Firstly, he brought attention to the differences between the different gospels in terms of the overall message. Luke in particular has an interesting message. The passages where Jesus is being taken to be crucified show him being very calm and collected, not distressed in any way. He is presented as the perfect martyr, and the purpose of his death to the author of Luke – as expressed through the book of Acts which is written by the same author – was to make people see they had erred, they had crucified an innocent Messiah, and to prompt them to repent. The centurion at the crucifixion scene states that Jesus was innocent, driving this point home. Luke’s gospel was based on Mark’s gospel, but Luke removed the part that said Jesus was to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), and the curtain in the Temple rips while Jesus is still alive – so not to demonstrate that his death provided a way for man and God to commune freely, but to signify that God had abandoned the Jews for crucifying their Messiah. I thought that was interesting.
Secondly, he showed contradictions between letters attributed to Paul, which are used by scholars to demonstrate that Paul didn’t write them all. For example:
“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Romans 6:5)
“having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12)
Little things like that interest me, because I assumed Christian doctrine was all clear-cut and thought I knew exactly what it was. Now I see that it really depends which book of the New Testament you read. When I read it, I will bear this in mind and not try to force it all to cohere.
There was also some interesting stuff in the book about the development of early Christianity and all the different movements that believed different things, and how the movement was transformed from Jesus’ religion to a religion about Jesus. I’m not going to quote anything but I recommend the book to anyone interested in that.