Friday, March 6, 2009

The Bible Has Inconsistencies--Shocking!

Yesterday, I listened to an episode of NPR's Fresh Air that was so fascinating, I listened to it again later (ah, the joys of the Internet). Bart Ehrman talked about his Biblical studies and the inconsistencies he's noticed--and then he talks about why they might be there.

It did occur to me to wonder why I found this show so fascinating. It's not like Ehrman was pointing out something I didn't already know.

I occasionally have this tiresome discussion with atheists. They point out to me that the Bible is full of inconsistencies--how do I explain the difference in the stories of Jesus' birth or the fact that Jesus says different things with each Gospel? They fling these things at me and then sit back, with an expectant air, as if I'm going to say, "Oh my goodness! Inconsistencies in the Bible?!!! I hadn't ever noticed!!! Well, that's it, I'm no longer a believer."

And of course, I'm not going to say that. But how much of a history lesson should I give? How interested are they, really, in this area of Biblical studies? Depends on the atheist, I've discovered.

I grew up Lutheran, so we talked about these things in my churches, Sunday Schools, and my home. I have an old-fashioned liberal arts education, from a Lutheran college, so I'm not exactly unexposed to different ideas about the Bible and Christianity. I have a Ph.D. Granted, it's in the area of Literature (19th Century British Lit, to be exact), but I have a healthy respect for rigorous scholarship, even if it threatens my beliefs. I grew up in the last part of the 20th century, where it seems that every other week, some cherished belief about how we knew the world or what we knew to be true was overturned.

Ehrman grew up in a much more conservative environment, so it was interesting to hear about his faith journey. He also has an interesting view of Jesus, and what he thinks that Jesus thought about his ministry--it's a much more apocalyptic view of Jesus than most churches emphasize.

I spent the rest of the day humming "My Lord, What a Morning," which sounds like it would be a lovely way to greet the day, but which is really quite a hauntingly apocalyptic spiritual, with it's line about the stars falling from the sky.

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