Saturday, August 30, 2008

Misquoting Jesus - Book Review

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why
By Bart Ehram

"The Bible"-its use in the singular can gloss over the fact that we do not have access to the original text, but only to manuscripts of a relatively late provenance produced at different times and places and containing among them thousands of variant wordings. An accomplished scholar of early Christianity, Ehrman (religious studies, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) ventures out of the ivory tower in this accessible lay introduction to New Testament textual criticism. He sketches the development of New Testament literature, the gradual accumulation of errors therein through the accidental or intentional revisions of copyists, and attempts (beginning with Erasmus in the 16th century) to reconstruct the original text. Since mainstream study editions of the Bible have long drawn attention to the existence of alternate readings, the reasonably well-informed reader will not find much revolutionary analysis here. But Ehrman convincingly argues that even some generally received passages are late additions, which is particularly interesting in the case of those verses with import for doctrinal issues such as women's ordination or the Atonement.
Ehrman's book can best be described as an introduction to New Testament textual criticism for the beginners, in which he explains the subject in the context of his own background, relating his journey from being an Evangelical Christian to becoming a world renowned New Testament scholar. Besides D. C. Parker's "Living Text of the Gospels," Ehrman's "Misquoting Jesus" seems to be the only book on textual criticism designed specifically for the non-expert readers.

In short, Prof. Ehrman explains the copying practises of the earliest period and how the texts of the New Testament writings were corrupted as they were copied and recopied. He begins by introducing the diverse writings produced by the early Christians, such as gospels, Acts, apocalypses, Church orders, apologies etc. Briefly, the formation of the canon is also discussed and we are informed about the literacy level among the early Christians. Thereafter we are introduced to the world of the copyists and Ehrman explains how the early scribes copied texts and the problems associated with the copying of texts.

In a little over 200 pages, Ehrman gets to the point of how the New Testament came to be what it is today. No, it didn't just appear leather-bound, shiny, and new after Jesus' resurrection; rather, it was painstakingly cobbled together decades after Jesus' crucifixion from copies of copies of copies of (you get the point) the original writings of the New Testament authors, which were slowly altered over time by scribes that handed them down, sometimes by accident or othertimes intentionally by those meaning to "correct" things in the scriptures that didn't make sense.

Ehrman provides a clear presentation of how the New Testament from it's founding, transformations, and end result, today. The New Testament was copied, translated, edited, and altered, over centuries. He provides evidence of how many of the tenets of original Orthodox Christianity were lost, altered for political reasons, mis-translated, additions added, omissions removed.

For example, Ehrman tells us that NT manuscripts contain 200,000 to 400,000 "variations." Thanks to Amazon text statistics, we can learn that the NT has about 200,000 words. 1:1 or 2:1 is a pretty high rate of uncertainty!

Ehrman explains that the variations are due to accidental transcription errors, well-intentioned revisions, and revisions made to bolster doctrinal positions. The manuscripts that are probably closest to the lost original documents are papyri found in Egypt. There are 116 of them (Ch. 4, n. 24).

The much revered King James Version was based on a Greek version that was itself based primarily on a single 12th century manuscript (p. 79-83). Because of research conducted since the 1611 publication of the KJV, most manuscripts available today are better than the KJV source (p. 209).

He explains why so many discrepancies appear in what Christians consider to be the Word of God. Some are innocent enough: fatigue, a mishearing or misreading on the part of the scribe or the monk, and the not-so-minor problem created by a form of writing that included no punctuation and no spaces between words. Others, though, are more problematic: a monk forced to choose between two distinctly different meanings for the same word would likely be inclined to choose the meaning that best represented his own beliefs. Still others were blatant errors or additions that were introduced to alter the meaning of the text. Ehrman also offers clear and compelling examples of each kind of error, enough that even a skeptical reader would be hard-pressed to argue that what we have today is what was written in the first century.

One amusing graphic is a reproduction of a page from a fourth-century manuscript in which one scribe wrote this in the margin, apparently blasting a previous copyist: "Fool and knave, leave the old reading, don't change it!"

Another fascinating insights Ehrman offers is an explanation of the literacy rates at the time of Christ and later, particularly what it meant to be "literate" --- which sometimes meant little more than the ability to copy words. Yet, before the rise of monasticism, it often fell to a "literate" Christian in a given town to copy the gospels or the letters of Paul or other letters and writings of New Testament authors. Also important to note is that Jesus spoke "Aramaic" a language that has been a dead language for a long time. Many words from the Aramaic language cannot be transliterated nor translated to other languages.The potential for error was great, and that did not go unnoticed either within the church or without. Origen, a third-century church father, complained about the many mistakes he had found, while a pagan critic of Christianity wrote that Christian scribes had done their work "as though from a drinking bout."

My only gripe is that the book takes so long setting up preliminaries. I know that's necessary for readers without a familiarity with textual criticism and the particulars in the transmission of the English Bible. But it was a slow step through it and doubly so for the initiated. If I were re-reading this, I'd start in section three immediately.

This book was an eye-opener for me, because I had never considered that the scriptures we read today may not be the ones as originally written. The author presents an eloquent and persuasive case for that occurring. He shows quite convincingly how certain verses were changed, either accidentally or deliberately by the copiers of the earliest manuscripts. Many of the changes were incidental and neutral, but several were quite important and changed the whole message of that portion of the text. This is a book that everyone interested in New Testament studies should read.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

New Direction

AS I mentioned in my last post I am going to be taking this blog in a new direction. When I first started this blog it was an attempt to keep family and friends up to date on happenings in my life. Well since it seems that my life now revolves around going to the gym,spinning, and triathlon training and I have that covered with my other blog which I update on an almost daily basis (not that anyone really reads what I post. Anyway I have decided that I can use to this blog as a soapbox for other things (I have found that having a more focused blog helps me determine what to write).

So what am I going to be posting here? Well I think I will be talking about things such as politics, religion, politics and religion and reviews of documentaries and books that I have been reading much like I have been doing recently.

It should be an interesting peek into where I am in life and you might just learn somethings about me you never knew.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Vacation Final Thoughts

So I know everyone has been on pins and needles waiting for this post. BTW new name and format for the blog starting tomorrow


Saturday morning after going out for breakfast with my aunt and uncle, Todd and I left for Universal Studios Hollywood

Before heading to Universal Studios we stopped back down by Hollywood Blvd on the off chance that Christopher Dennis (Superman) was there...but no luck again. Also stopped at the Harley Davidson shop and bought my mother a shirt.

Once we arrived at Universal we got in line to get our tickets which was your typical huge line of people taking their good ole time, luckily I saw the “Do It Yourself” line which saved us about 45 minutes. The first thing we did was the House of Horrors which was interesting …the only thing that really got me was when this actor dressed in a “CHUCKY” outfit from a dark corner which I wasn’t expecting.

The next thing we went to was the Terminator 2:3D show. On the way over we passed this guy:

He was pretty good…blew air in his ear and everything and got not a flinch.

The Terminator show was okay…it was obvious it has been around for awhile and the 3D was not that good.

We then headed down to the Lower Lot and rode the Revenge of the Mummy indoor roller coaster. A bit shaky and definitely not made for people who have had back issues. The ride goes forward first then goes backwards and is a really short ride. Next we did the Special Effects Stage which was funny and then we went next door to the Backdraft show. I like fire so this was cool to see the pyrotechnic display was awesome.

The only ride we didn’t do was the Jurassic Park water flume. I just didn’t feel like walking around the park with my underwear soaked to the bone…not a big fan of chaffing.

So went back up to the Upper Lot and did the best (and newest ride) of the day: The Simpsons Ride…which replaced Back to the Future. As you can see from the pictures below I am a bit of a Simpsons fanatic. The ride was awesome and the wait was also not bad since they were showing clips form the show and some new stuff. So I tried to get pictures of everything (as you can see in the filmstrips below).



Of Course this is my favorite picture

Me thinks Lisa is showing too much af an "upskirt" shot though

I rode this ride twice…worth the wait in line both times.

After getting off the Simpsons ride we went to Shrek 4D which was both funny and good. It reminded me of the Muppets 3D movie in Disney World. Next we ran and caught the 5:35 pm WaterWorld show…which was better than the movie and had less plot holes and better acting…yeah and I got soaked which at that point felt good.

The last thing we did was the Studio Tour which was good except that the girl who was giving the tour, she got annoying after awhile and the fact the sun was blinding as it was setting. Anyway there was some cool stuff although it was disturbing that the Bates Motel was located behind Hooville (How the Grinch Stole Christmas). Didn’t get to see any “stars” or any filming take place but that was okay.

Now the best things about parks like this are the “photo opportunities” like these:

I did almost got in trouble because Spongebob was being a little bitch and wouldn’t hold still …he was going for my drink so I was holding the top of his head to get him to turn around and face the camera, needless to say the handlers didn't like me doing that. I found it odd that the park people let you take(even take them for you) pictures with the characters with personal cameras when they had people there taking ones you could buy. Speaking of which I also found it odd that they sold huge cans of beer and mixed drinks in the park…I guess it is to help the adults cope with the kids.

After we hit all the rides we went over to the City Walk to grab a bite to eat at the House of Blues which was no longer there so we left and went to the Belmont Brewing Co. back in Long Beach.

My favorite was the Strawberry Blonde.

By the time we got back to the apartment it was late so we fixed a few drinks and played some football on the PS3…I had a new concoction: a generous serving of Gin, a shot of diet Sprite and Dragonfruit Vitamin Water. It was actually not bad even though it looked like a “girly drink” (the dragonfruit is pink).

Then we watched the Gold Metal Basketball game and went to bed.

A full day to say the least


Anyway I enjoyed my time out in California and got to see my uncle and cousin who I had not seen in a long while and saw a lot of things while I was out there and hope to make it back out there soon.

Monday, August 25, 2008

I Knew This Would Happen

So I am back home and the East Coast is still here (unfortunately) and yet I am not tired and my internal clock is now on California time.

Flight got in around Midnight like it was supposed to but it took them forever to get the bags up to baggage claim...apparently everyone and their brother was coming in late this evening. So after my bag finally came up I had to wait for a shuttle to the economy parking lot which again with everyone coming late it took 2 shuttles before I was able to muscle my way onto the bus...only knocked over 2 old ladies.

On the way home I stopped and got gas and stopped by the store and picked up milk (I am sure the half full gallon in the fridge is bad by now) and some other things I needed for lunch tomorrow before heading on home.

I am still debating what I am going to do stay up or try and catch a nap. I think I might teach my Spin class which is in ~4 hours since I have an appointment tomorrow afternoon which means I need to be at work around 7:30 and if I go to sleep then I might not get up and then it is totally going to screw up my internal clock.

Well I think i will pack my gym bag, sort my dirty laundry and then see how I feel.

BTW: apparently terrorists are now wearing wetsuits. As is par with my flying since 9/11 I get "the business" almost every time I fly. The genius TSA guy had a hard time understanding why I had a wetsuit in my carry-on bag.

Okay final vacation pos tomorrow hopefully.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Leaving California....

So I am finally all packed and getting ready to leave for LAX soon.

I was up late last night watching the Re-Dream Team win the Gold metal in Basketball and for some reason Photobucket didn't upload my pictures correctly so I will have to post about Universal Studios when I get back to Albany (UGH) in between unpacking and getting ready to go to Boston for Labor Day weekend on Thursday.

So until then this picture will have to do until then:

Foreshadowing for my upcoming races????

Day 8 preview

So tomorrow I leave and go back to Albany...wahoo...not!

So Universal was a blast took over 100 pictures today so it I might have time to post tomorrow before I head out for my 2pm flight.

Where did the week go? I don't want to go home...

Working on uploading everything....still have to pack


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Day 7: Anaheim Angels

Hard to believe I have been here a week and I have to leave and go back to my crappy life in Albany on Sunday.

So today after the Spin Class and hanging out at the apt, Holli and I went to Anaheim for the Angels vs the Twins. Before the game we stopped at the Block which is basically a open area mall. There was this candy store that had these gianormous PEZ dispersers, I had to restrain myself not to buy all 5 of The Simpsons or the Star Wars ones:

We just walked around and also went to the Alcatraz Brewing Company.

I also lifted a pint glass for my ever growing collection. I am such a pro at this that I have a whole system down.
Afterwards we left for the Angels game. I think I like Angels Stadium better than Dodgers Park. I mean the beer was cheaper, the crowds friendlier, and the team better...except for tonight when they got blanked 9 - 0 but Boston won and the Yankees are almost out of post season contention (Yankees Suck!!!). My cousin thought that his boss might have had a box for tonight but it turns out he didn't which was alright anyway.


So we obviously didn't go to Mexico this evening but I was tired when I got back and it's a 2.5 hour drive and by the time we got there stuff would be closed.

I think tomorrow Todd and I are going to Universal Studios so that should be fun.

Okay so its 2 AM here 5 AM on the East Coast I guess I should get some sleep or at least try

Friday, August 22, 2008

Day 6: Huge Ass Margarita

So yesterday afternoon Holli took me out to Santa Monica

I didn't do the morning Spin class because my knee was bothering me and like a dumb ass I for got my Flector patches at home. So I got up went to Starbucks for some liquid breakfast and then came back to the apartment.

So we left for Santa Monica around 1pm and walked around. We walk down the 3 block shopping plaza then went out to the Pier.

The Pier was cool, they had a Ferris Wheel and Roller Coaster out on it. I went out to the end to look around and there was this bird (see filmstrip below) just walking around out on the lower level and I could have caught the thing. I think someone called the cops about the bird and the truck sitting on the pier was apparently a popular photo oppertunity. There was a restaurant on the end of the pier so I was a bit hungry so we went in for a snack and I ended up ordering the huge ass margarita.

This thing was huge.
CHAD vs. Huge Ass Margarita
Half way there...
Nothing like a sense of accomplishment!

So after my victory we left and came back to the house and Todd and I went out to have dinner at one of the local bars then we came back and I whooped him in Madden '09

Well gotta run...busy day today: First off to the morning Spin class, then down to Anaheim to see the Angels play the Twins then come back and head down to San Diego/Mexico for the night and tomorrow.

I don't want to go back to Albany

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Day 5

Yesterday was a slow day.

I woke up and was going to go to the gym and do the morning Spin class but I got half way to the car and realized I didn't have the key to the rental so I came back up to grab it. After 20 minutes of frantic searching I thought I may have left it in the car because I knew I left it here. So as I was getting ready to call AAA my aunt called and said that the key was next door at her place. She had to move the car while I was in LA. I was relieved to say the least.

In the afternoon I went to the Olympic swimming pool down the road.

I was looking forward to swimming the 50M lengths but apparently they divided the pool into 2 25M pools. So I swam laps in the diving/polo pool for an hour or so before heading to the gym for the evening Spin class.

It was a relaxing day

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Day 4: City of Angels

So yesterday I got up and did the 7 am Spin Class which was better then the one the night before and I felt a got a better workout. After the class I stopped and had a liquid breakfast of Starbucks Hot Chocolate and then headed home to get ready to leave.

Holli got here about 10am but before we left we had to make a quick trip to Enterprise. The remote for the car was not working and I wanted to have it fixed or get another vehicle. While it was a mild annoyance I wanted something that worked yet didn't want to seem like an @$$hole about something kinda trivial. I had called ahead and they told me to stop in and they would see what they could do. However, after we got there they said that they could either upgrade (= more $$$) or trade it out for a car that did not have power features I decided to keep the car.

After dropping my car back at the apt complex we headed up to L.A. for the day. The first stop was Hollywood Blvd. After lunch I wanted to see if Superman Chris Dennis from my favorite documentary Confessions of a Superhero (2007) was out doing his thing. As we exited onto the street there were two Batmen and a Spiderman that looked like he had just swallowed a bowling ball, and a Johnny Depp want-to-be pirate. We walked down the street to the Chinese theater where Dennis hangs out and we passed a Joker and Harley Quinn. To set the following exchange up I was being a geek and wore my Green Lantern t-shirt.

Joker: Oh know it's Green Lantern
Harley Quinn: Where's your ring?
Me: I lost it somewhere.
Joker: You better watch your back then

Now had I not been focused on meeting Christopher Dennis I would have stopped and had my picture taken with them but I was focused. So we walked to the Chinese Theater and I saw no Superman, there were two Supergirls but no Christopher Dennis. So we walked around and looked at the hand prints in front of the theater. So I was like ok I will go get that picture with the Joker and Harley Quinn, so we walked back and they were gone... so we walked up the street to the Scientology church and then stopped into Starbucks for a drink then we walked back up to the Theater to see if we could find either the Joker or Superman but no luck. There were two Spiderman's, a Wolverine, a Hulk (most likely not the one from the documentary) but not the ones I was looking for. So we left and headed to the Griffith Observatory.

Hollywood Blvd Slideshow:

So we left Hollywood Blvd and went up to the Griffith Observatory which was really cool:

So after hanging out at the Observatory we head out and drove around and drove back to Hollywood Blvd to see if Superman or the Joker/Harley Quinn had returned but alas it was not so...we saw Spongebob, a crappy looking Joker, Bart Simpson and Marlyn Monroe. I am still kicking myself for not getting the picture with Joker and Harley Quinn.

After driving around we decided it was time to head to Dodger Stadium to see the Dodgers play the Rockies. Parking at the stadium was great and so were our seats.
We were right next to the left field wall and had to keep alert during batting practice. The seats also allowed me to see Manny Rameriez, I wanted to heckle him but feared retribution from the Dodger fnas who had repeated "Manny-gasims." The one thing I didn't like $11 beers...outrageous...but I had 3 anyway and they are running quite the racket there they have regular size and large sized on their menu but don't carry the regular sizes only the large. So we watched the game until the end of the 8th inning since they were losing 8-3 plus I was tired from being out all day. When I got back I made that quick post and headed to bed.

All in all it was a fun day even though I was disappointed not to get to see Superman Christopher Dennis or get a picture with the Joker/Harley Quinn.