Saturday, December 17, 2005

Fresh Air Interview with Bart Ehrman

In case you missed it, there was an interesting interview on NPR the other day about Bart Ehrman's book Misquoting Jesus. I agree with many of his general conclusions about scribal transcriptions and our need to understand the personalities of the gospel writers and their audiences. Interesting though, how he ends up a self-described "agnostic" after his encounter with our human-transcribed scriptures. His underlying problem with belief in Christianity is easy to understand: how can you place stock in scriptures filled with "errors". In the end, you need something you can trust. Has Ehrman missed something? Wondering what you guys think.

13 comments:

Justin said...

Hard to say, really. I think it's human nature to want hard proof before believing, and to abandon such beliefs when proof suddenly seems shaky.

Ultimately, man will never fully understand God, and that fact bugs most men to no end.

Eric Orozco said...
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Eric Orozco said...

Thanks Justin, that's a good way of putting it. I think though, the proof is not shaky if we even use Ehrman's own "trust the harder reading approach"...What's remarkable is the fact that we have such diverse accounts. These point to the lack of early harmonization, and thus points to the enormous cross-cultural impact of the Cross, which thus points to its actual world-historical fact. What Ehrman-type people can never trust is the importance of human narrative...our need to interpret (see this great article by Stephen Fowl: http://thematthewshouseproject.com/
religion/narrativeofscripture.htm)

Funny how many unconcious smug slips Ehrman made during the interview. He sure made it clear he could only trust in his own knowledge...to the detriment of all others and all human experience in toto. Ehrman feels betrayed by the church, and hardly without his thinking about it, has imbibed wholesale what Fowl calls the narrative interpretive structure of "consumer choice Americanism", what I call "only me-ism".

Justin said...

Turns out my cousin bought me this book for Christmas. So, I should have it within the next couple of days.

He sure made it clear he could only trust in his own knowledge...to the detriment of all others and all human experience in toto.

This has been the downfall of God-only-knows how many people.

postmodernegro said...

eric,

The last meeting at Danielle's was cancelled right? I thought I got a voicemail from you saying that it was. Did we have a meeting tonite? If we did I would have been unable to...I had surgery today. I am a little achy.

Anyways...regarding the actual post about Ehrman's book.

Ehrman's comments about the "errors" in the bible being a a reason to question the entire enterprise of Christianity is, to be honest, weak. For most of Church history his question would have been irrelevant. But I guess his question would be relevant to those group of Christians who are committed to some hard version of 'infallibility of scripture'.

I would simply ask Mr. Ehrman what difference does it make that the scriptures are not a neat harmonization of texts? And...that the heart of the Christian faith is not an infallible perfectly harmonized text...but Jesus the Messiah.

Eric Orozco said...

Yep it was cancelled. We will probably attempt to meet again the second Thursday of Jan. Tamara and Bruce covered John's Prologue at Church a couple Sundays back. I want us to look at Tamara's intro to the Rabbinical concept "Hessed v'emet" in light of the Bridegroom passage at Cana. If you're game, I would love for you to present your study of the Woman at the Well passage. I'm praying you recover well!

postmodernegro said...

eric,

I'm down brother. I too really enjoyed Bruce and Tamara's talk coming from the prologue. The powerful thing about their choosing of that passage is that it was my Advent reflection earlier that Sunday morning.

Eric Orozco said...

Looking forward to it. We'll have to see what affinities "kenosis" has with the "practices of lovingkindnesses". ;-)

postmodernegro said...

Ah, you read that recent post on my blog?

Eric Orozco said...

Yes. I am tempted to respond. I recently have been sparked to thinking about Paul's "kenosis of self" due to my wrestling with Harold Bloom. In his Jesus and Yahweh he claims the notion is not "hebraic" (or at least certainly can't be ascribed to his limited notion of "Yahweh"). I doubt he is right, but it left me wondering that he may be partly right in ascertaining that apart from the 2nd Temple Period's search for the character of God in scripture, the notion of "kenosis" is impossible to find from a sheer literary reading of the Yahwist text (forget the notion that Jews did not read for a "J" text). The concept, remarkably, sprung from the traditions that batted around the concept of God's Loyalty to his covenanters...In the Hebrew, God's Hessed v'emet (lovingkindness and "trueness"). "Kenosis" rightly sprung from the foundation of "loyalty" or "solidarity". Kenosis-Solidarity is a ripe concept to discuss.

I am only kind to the poor, for example, only inasmuch as I am loyal to the poor...I am in solidarity with them. I cannot considered myself apart from them, better than them, beyond them. I myself am like them in all worthy respects. For I can be in their condition tomorrow morning. To understand that thoroughly, if I am wealthy, I need to empty myself. How? That's something I don't know how to begin to approach yet, I admit.

Eric Orozco said...

Just a clarifying note (I forgot to mention). I use Solidarity intentionally because Solidarity is not Condescension. Paul's kenosis is easily misundertood to be Condescension. That's not quite correct. God did not condescend but "solidaritized" (is there a word?) Himself to us...is the correct way to think about it.

postmodernegro said...

eric,

I see what you are saying. Because condenscenion connotes coming down. As if God is sort of an aristocrat. I see where solidarity would be a better word. This is what happens when you only read European theologians on issues like this. I need to further de-colonize my mind...right?

I like that..I will have change that word on my post.

Thanks and have a great New Years Day.

Ant

Eric Orozco said...

It may involve decolinization...I don't know. For me "to decolinialize" simply means to accept other modes on their own terms. Jewish thought especially. I don't have your background in more modern theology so I can't comment more than this. As I've continued to read scholarship of the gospels, I've learned to both value and critique all modes of thought. This is why Harold Bloom is on par with me intellectually with David Flusser, although I agree far, far less with Bloom (an unconscious hellenist). Bloom, yet another Onlymeist and G. Thomas fetishist, helps me see better through our mutual and acute disagreements.

But when it comes to Johannine and Pauline theology I'm accustomed to only thinking about the first century distinctions: essene/apocalyptic, rabbinic, hellenic (and its various shades), proto-kabbalistic/gnostic, hassidic. Johannince theology is both itself and a smattering of all these...but it is a manifestation of particularly the last one (it is not a true representative of Hellenistic Judaism as the majority opinion states). It is a mystical hassidicism (or hassidic mysticism?) that has adopted hellenist concepts simply for dialogical reasons. It is true that "Logos" in John is "foundational wisdom", but it has more to do with Rabbinic interpretation of Gen. 1/Prov. 8 and with Rabbinic theosophy than with anything that is continuing in the mode of Philo's Gnosticism. That's a key to understanding Kenosis-Solidarity in John.

For John, a proto-kabbalist, Kenosis stems from God's journey into "self-exile" for the purpose of redeeming creation. Mark is even more stark than John. For Mark, Kenosis is self-negating, self-forsaking. Mark is a more subtle mystic. For Mark, everyone forsakes Jesus...even Himself, God. At that moment, He is in absolute and total solidarity with David and with His people. His cry has become that of an Egyptian slave.

Unlike Mark, John is a talkative, grounded mystic who has rejected the practices of "those who descend to the Merkavah" (the rabbinic mystics). In John, we get a clearer picture of the Hassidic servant-sage. To use our terms, he "decolonializes" Rabbinic mysticism. For John, the Incarnation, by its very nature inverts mystic ascencion. It makes accessible the inaccessible...an absolutely stunning polemic.