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Sep. 18th, 2006 @ 04:37 pm why I haven't been posting anything interesting lately
aside from the busy, that isCollapse )
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Sep. 18th, 2006 @ 06:14 pm upon reading his correspondence, my opinion of yeats has changed considerably
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Sep. 18th, 2006 @ 08:38 pm sweet brother of jesus
Current Mood: indifferentwoogy
Current Music: Nobuo Uematsu - Final Fantasy VI - Dancing Mad
Instead of writing random response stuff on Yeats for class tomorrow, I spent the past hour in Mudd reading Robert Eisenman's James: The Brother of Jesus, a random book I picked out in the religious commentary section. It is a massive tome, maybe a thousand pages or so, but since it is intended for laymen as well as scholars, it is surprisingly lucid. In that one hour I barely managed to get past the introduction. But what an introduction! Eisenman holds nothing sacred--he challenges even the most fundamental assumptions we Christians have about our faith. He implies that Paul is a Roman plant (to cool down Christian outrage after the crucifixion), that Joseph did not exist, that the prophecies were retroactively inserted so that they would fulfill themselves, that the narrative of the life of Jesus as told in Matthew was conflated from tales of many different miraculous Jewish uprisings (and that Jesus had nothing to do with any of it), and so on and so on. And he has historical and scriptural evidence to back it all up. If this had been published two hundred years ago, Eisenman would have been burned at the stake.

And that's precisely what delights me about this book. He tests so much of what I take for granted, challenges me to question why I believe what I believe. Even from the maybe two thirds of a religion minor I've done I can identify some weaknesses in his theories--I don't buy them wholesale, or agree with even the gist--but this act of pissing me off to the point where I have to justify my theology; this is what Biblical scholarship should be all about, being appalled at the arguments at others and then discovering in the text that either you or the other person is wrong. God is above our petty opinions and scholarly consensuses and academic egos--in what other field will scholars convincingly admit, "Okay, my personal pet theory is bullshit?"

Eisenman does make some points that, although wildly against conventional wisdom, are solid enough that scholarly consensus agrees with him. An example: the theory that the founders of the modern Christian traditions, the apostles Peter and Paul, were not the central figures in the early church (as Acts and the Epistles would suggest), but merely the winners in a brutal theological power struggle between the many different sects of the Jesus Movement (not quite yet a Christianity). And history is written by the winners. Eisenman takes this theory one step further and proposes that James, not Paul, was the leading figure in the early church--the vast amount of extrabiblical information about James as a leader of the church, and not the minor figure he is in the New Testament, seems to confirm this--and he hypothesizes that the followers of Paul backstabbed him and rewrote history to cover their tracks. I'm not going to be qualified to have an opinion on that before I hear the other side of the story, but it certainly makes me think. And it makes a lot of sense, given the continuing history of the church. Muslims? Romans? Feh. Never been our real enemies. We've been Christian vs. Christian since the day we sold Jesus out--and possibly a good deal of the time he was still here in the flesh, as well.

For the record, Eisenman was one of the leaders of the movement to make the Dead Sea Scrolls available to academia outside of Israel (and he cites several of the Dead Sea Scrolls frequently in his work). If he's a crackpot, he's a very special kind of crackpot--the kind who knows enough about what he's talking about to be taken seriously. (In other words, not Dan Brown.)

Did you know that the messiah Jesus had a brother? His name was James, and he wielded political power far beyond that of mortals...

A black wind blows through you. All weapons dropped to level 1!
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