Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Historical Jesus

I'm watching Introduction to New Testament History & Literature with Professor Dale B. Martin, one of Yale's open courses. It reminds me of being back in Sunday School. In small town USA in the 1960s, the only moderately intellectual pursuit open to an intelligent kid was Bible study, so I spent hours studying the Bible. I especially feel like I'm back in Sunday School when Professor Martin asks us to "Open your hymnals to..." (a mistake he's made three times when he meant to say, "Open your Bibles to...").

This isn't a class you can watch in the background while you're cleaning; you actually have to pay attention.

As an atheist, I found the most recent episode interesting and worth other atheists' perusal, so I'm embedding it below. If you don't want to watch the program, however, you can read through the transcript, which is online as well. My favorite quotation?

Now there's no way you can basically get these two narratives to fit together in any respectable historical way. Does that mean that nobody's ever tried to do it? No, of course you've got all kinds of very, very smart fundamentalists who believe that the New Testament has to be accurate in every historical and scientific detail or they believe then it can't be scripture. They will figure out some way to try to make sure that both these narratives can be fit together, but what I'm telling you is that no reputable historian will accept this because you just have to fudge the stuff too much; you have to fudge the data.

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