My first-year seminar on “Jesus in Scholarship and Film” is going extremely well. Last week I gave the students an exercise comparable to one I mentioned earlier on the infancy narratives of the Gospels; this one was on the passion narratives. They were to read each of the Gospels accounts of Jesus’ trial, death, and resurrection carefully, several times (Matthew 27-28; Mark 15-16; Luke 23-24; John 18-20). Then they were to choose two of the four, and compare them very carefully, noting all the similarities, all the differences, and any apparent discrepancies that they thought in fact could not be reconciled.
As a side note: probably three or four times a week I get an angry note from someone who has read one of my books or heard me give a lecture or listened/watched one of my Great Courses courses, who is upset because I am “trying to destroy Christianity.” I’m always completely baffled by this comment. (I got it yesterday from a retired Episcopalian priest; I would think an Episcopalian cleric would be the *last* person to think I was trying to destroy Christianity!) I’m baffled by this because in fact I’m completely *sympathetic* with Christianity and with thinking Christians. What I’m *against* is a fundamentalism that advocates the strict and literal interpretation of the Bible as without error and a guide to all of our beliefs and actions (like opposing abortion, prohibiting gay rights, defunding the government, or whatever).
But the other thing that puzzles me is that almost everything I say that is taken to be an “attack” on Christianity simply involves facts that anyone can see for themselves. I’m not the one who *made up* the idea that the Gospels are at odds with one another on crucial points. All you have to do is read the Bible carefully yourself and you’ll see it for yourself. I haven’t *invented* a single discrepancy in the Bible. The discrepancies are simply *there*; anyone can find them. All they have to do is *LOOK*, with an open mind.
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