Tuesday, May 29, 2018

A Miracle

Drawing by MEK
Once a month my library holds a book sale.  During the month, library patrons donate books for the book sale.  It is amazing how many books are donated--and every single month!  We raise quite a bit of money for the library this way.  The books are a bargain, selling at one dollar for hardcovers and fifty cents for paperbacks.  And this is where I need to begin.

What attracted me to the purchase was it's wrapping.  I know.  I know.  You can't judge a book by its cover, but at a dollar a book- it's worth taking a chance.  Besides, it's cover was new--unopened, in fact.  It was a package deal, i.e., a DVD and a guidebook wrapped together in cellophane.  It was a course from "The Great Courses".  It contained 24 lectures/30 minutes per lecture.  The lecturer was Professor Bart D. Ehrman, a scripture scholar.  (I repeat; the price was one dollar!)  It was practically calling me by name!

The course was From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity.  Since I enjoy reading scripture and history, I knew I would enjoy this course.  The lecturer seemed to be well known and respected.  I popped the DVD in, as soon as I arrived home, and opened the Course Guidebook.  I only listened to the first lecture, which was an introduction explaining the topics the lectures would cover.  However, this is all I watched.  In a way, Dr. Bart Ehrman was over my head.  He was asking questions I never heard before and I wasn't comfortable listening to his lecture.  I am not knowledgeable enough to question and I wasn't sure I was understanding him.  Dr. Ehrman questioned what Jesus actually said.  He said we don't know if Jesus claimed to be divine.  Modern historians have tried to reconstruct Jesus' life when Jesus is best understood to be a Jewish prophet calling the Jews to repent.  Dr. Ehrman asks how did the religion of Jesus become a religion about Jesus?

I stopped watching and reading.  I'm sure the lectures are excellent but I'm only a simple old lady fingering her rosary beads, who just couldn't follow along.

This is not the end of the story.  Not long after I gave up, I received a surprise in the mail.  It was a book with a note.  The note said, "You are the winner of our drawing ...!"

Yes!  I won something.  It was a book entitled The Case for Jesus by Brant Pitre.  I was thrilled but on second thought, "Jesus, again!  Will this be over my head, too?"  But I can take a hint (two books about Jesus).  I will have to try to read this book.

I didn't need to worry.  This book is not over my head.  It is simply written and clearly organized step by step proving (guess what) that scripture scholars like Dr. Ehrman are wrong.  I learned that there is a school of biblical interpretation that argue about the reliability of the Gospels, of which Bart Ehrman is a proponent.  It's a school of thought that endeavors to demonstrate that the disciples of Jesus weren't taking dictation, so by the time the gospels were written, the stories about Jesus were distorted, much like the original message in the children's game of Telephone.  This is called the form-critical approach.  In this school of thought, Jesus is not the Son of God, true God, and true Man, but just a teacher, a rabbi, an activist, and a good man.

No wonder I felt uncomfortable watching Dr. Ehrman's lecture.  He was introducing something new to me.  I didn't get it.  Reading Dr. Pitre's The Case for Jesus explained what Dr. Ehrman was proposing.  Of course, Pitre is refuting Ehrman, but in so doing Pitre has to explain what Ehrman is teaching. I finally understood Ehrman.

But it was Brant Pitre's clear, organized presentation that helped me understand both schools of thought.  I liked how Pitre gave his background in the opening chapter.  Like me, when he started studying religion at Vanderbilt he was so confused he graduated an agnostic/atheist.  But he didn't want to be.  He drove into learning Greek and reading the early church fathers. He continued learning until he ended up with a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies.  And he thinks the form-critical approach is wrong.  The Case for Jesus explains Pitre's thesis.

Dr. Pitre explains and uses internal and external evidence. He also interprets Jesus' words and deeds in a first-century Jewish context. Pitre proves Jesus was divine, He really was crucified and resurrected, He fulfilled the Old Testament prophesies, and the Gospels do actually record the substance of what Jesus said and did.

I found it fascinating.

I also consider winning The Case for Jesus, proof of divine intervention. Deo Gratias. 

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