03 November 2007

ditty: (sung to the tune of Sam Cooke)

Posted by at 12:23 PM Read our previous post
I know a bit about history
Know a little biology
I get my facts from 'dem science books
Je me rappelle de le français que je étudié. . .
. . .

I was just thumbing through a paperback copy of one of the Keneth C. Davis' "Don't Know Much About . . ." series. I had previously read his "Don't Know Much About History" and found it to be a pretty good introductory outline of the players and events of American history. This one is called "Don't Know Much About the Bible". It's not bad. It pretty fairly presents the basic outline of the texts and some of the more explicit absurdities and controversial verses in a humorous way. Seems a pretty good synopsis (pardon the pun) for an "idiot's guide" type book ( it's the same genre, ¿non?).

Unfortunately, any such comprehensive condensation is bound to miss (or misrepresent) a thing or two.

For instance, this is the book's only mention of Q:
"Early Christians believed Matthew was written first and placed it first, but modern scholars now consider Mark the earlier book. Relying on literary and chronological clues, they believe the author of Matthew had read Mark, as well as the theoretical collection of Jesus' sayings called "Q." Some scholars believe Matthew was written in Palestine; others favor another early Christian center, such as Antioch in Syria sometime between 70 and 85 C.E."

This seems a huge oversimplification to me. Not only does it say essentially nothing about what Q is or why we would need a "theoretical" gospel (out of context, "Q" is but a meaningless letter), this might confuse the reader who is new to the synoptic problem, who would naturally ask, "What theoretical collection?"

Such limitations aside, it's a fun book to flip through.



  1. Any other good intro books that discuss the history of the bible? I'm especially interested in the evidence that leads them to their conclusions, so I don't know if the one you've mentioned would interest me or not.

  2. Yes, I would recommend this for a neophyte. It's written in a casual humoruous style, so it's a sweet pill to swallow. Y'know?
    If you want something a little heavier, read Jack Miles' "God: a Biography." It's a wonderful kind of psychoanalytical reading of YHVH as a literary character. He also did a followup book "Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God," in the same vein.

    Isaac Asimov wrote a two-volume "Guide to the Bible" that's a fairly good introductory survey of the books, albeit from a coldly skeptical viewpoint.

    If you want a good introduction to Christianity . . . hmm . . . things that I think might be up your alley:

    The First Coming: How The Kingdom of God Became Christianity by Thomas Sheehan. — it's online :)

    Jesus For the Non-Religious by John Shelby Spong

    trying to think of things that are topical but not too technical . . .

    Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time by Marcus Borg

    but then, I'm a heathen, and those suggestions might be a tad too liberal in scope for the "normative" believers, who are welcome to offer their own suggestions.

    If you are looking for the "evidence which leads them to conclusions", that's a toughie. I'm afraid that Christian faith doesn't really work like that. One of the earliest Christian writers, Tertullian, said, "I believe it because it is absurd!"
    It's literally a leap of faith—one which I have never made, I might add, though I'm not above correction should some evidence ever surface.



  3. I should have clarified. The evidence about the origins, ages and authors of the texts. ^/^ But you've provided me plenty to get started with. Thanks! (As a fellow heathen, I prefer stuff with at least SOME skepticism in it, too!)

  4. Your focus seems to be historiographic. In that case I'd recommend something like this link or this one.


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