Thursday, August 28, 2008

Book Review

"The Birth of Christianity" (John Dominic Crossan) - This is a big book, 586 pages - plus appendices. All of it, winding mumblings overturned by its own statement:

Pages 110-111: "Mark was used by Matthew and Luke as the first of their major consecutive sources... Wrong there, wrong thereafter."

Furthermore, Crossan uses absurdly late dates for all canonical books (Mark at 70, and the other Gospels all later).

The absurdity builds, as he uses early dates for Gnostic texts (the "Gospel" of Thomas).

I did learn more about the so-called "Q Gospel", which has always given me a sense of unease (why does John Macarthur never discuss this thing?).

It's totally made up! It's based on the assumption that Matthew and Luke are late and copied from Mark (and ignoring the power of the Holy Spirit). But, they contain common material not in Mark, so some have supposed another shared source for Matthew and Luke - "Q". There is not one physical artifact supporting Q! It is an interpolation backwards from Matthew and Luke (assuming a copied source, an earlier source).

Crossan compounds his error by comparing Thomas to Q, inferring a new text (the "Sayings Tradition"). This is like trying to form a uniform story by combining a history of the Skunkworks with the ramblings of Roswell conspiracy theorists! (Worse, an interpolation of two independent histories of the Skunkworks, by an author inclined towards alien conspiracies)

Of course, there is a motive behind his twisting of Scripture - to override the plain reading. Crossan's angle is "social justice", all the rage in liberal circles. That is, don't preach sin and wrath and repentance. Instead, preach about the evils of the current government, in favor of the government that you would like in power.

An excellent example of this is on page 372: "as Christianity moved more and more into the public and governmental sphere, men had actively to retake such control from women. Women as Luke 10:38-42 put it, should passively listen like Mary rather than actively administer like Martha." (italics in original)

This is wrong is so many ways! Here is the text from Luke:
"Now it came to pass, as they went, that He entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard His word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to Him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."
This passage is contrasting distracted busyness with Godly dedication! There is no mention of men and women. That is, it applies equally to men.

Over and over, it is clear that Crossan has rejected the doctrine of the Bible as the Word of God. His theology (effective atheism) is corrupting his interpretation and application. He says it himself (page 524) in an exchange with a questioner at a book reading:
Questioner: "You said that the Barabbas story was created by Mark because, as he saw it, the Jerusalem crowd had picked the wrong savior, namely the brigand-rebels, in the war against Rome that started in 66 CE?"
Myself: "Yes."
Questioner: "Mark himself made it up? ... It's not true?"
Myself: "Yes."
Questioner: "Then why can't you just call it what it is: a lie?"
Crossan is unable to recall his immediate reply. But he justifies himself in the book:
"I have emphasized gospel as updated good news ... They are not straight history, straight biography, straight journalism." (italics in original)
So, lying is ok if you're writing a gospel. Convenient position for a gospel scholar, it allows you to pick and choose - because it's all lies anyways.


lynch-patrick said...

For what it's worth, Crossan admits that he's a Christian.

There may be an atheist conspiracy out there, but I think you're seeing things on this one.

Also, hi again. Guess I'm haunting your blog!

nedbrek said...

Sure, but there is more to being a Christian than just saying, "I'm a Christian".

There should be a "change of mind". That is, a total conversion is one's thinking. No Christian could say that the Gospel stories are lies. Crossan's theology is "effectively atheist". I divide all theologies into either "Christian" (related to God) or "atheist" (against God) :)

lynch-patrick said...

Only, if you do that without having a comprehensive understanding of your plaintiff's person and position, you're judging them, and unfairly at that.

Crossan isn't saying the Bible stories are lies. He's saying that he believes that, in the same manner that the Old Testament books came into being in a chronological order and the authors of them referenced the prior works that they had (Davids psalms reference in verse earlier books of the Bible, but obviously not later ones), the New Testament was assembled from a variety of accounts and sources by the Christian community so that they could have the best possible surviving record of Jesus' teachings with which to pass them on.

Doesn't sound "effectively atheist" theology to me.

In fact, it doesn't even sound like theology at all. It isn't; it's a kind of archeology.

In science, you advance positions based on evidence, and demonstrate their relationship. Some of your contemporaries find fault, and some agree with your positions.

Disagree strongly with the guy if you want, but assuming that you've had a "change of mind" and he hasn't isn't fair, especially when he's put his entire life into studying the Bible, and you don't really know much about him. You can't just assume that everybody whose scholarship disagrees with what you were taught is somehow an insult to the faith.