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On Requests for Generosity

January 2, 2010

I recently picked up a copy of Bart Ehrman’s Jesus, Interrupted—a STUPID title, by the way!—because I’m going to use a chapter or two in one of my courses this spring. As the book promises, it’s nothing new—it just rehashes some old matters for public consumption. But it does that pretty well, in my opinion.

Just for shits and giggles, I thought I would look around the web for reviews of the book. You can imagine what I found—page after page of denunciations of Ehrman’s character, his (lack of) expertise, his unwarranted bias, and so on. Probably the most common response was the suggestion that the contradictions he finds in the Bible are, of course, only apparent contradictions. If only he were a little bit more generous to the text, he could see how they could be reconciled.

Requests that others treat your favorite texts with a hermeneutic of generosity are great—as long as you are willing to offer the same to others.

How many of these people are willing to utilize a hermeneutic of generosity when reading the Gospel of Thomas, or Marcion, or the Qur’an? The Qur’an says that Jesus was one of Allah’s prophets, but wasn’t divine. Are they going to read claim that with generosity, and try to reconcile it with historical and other textual evidence?

Requests for generosity fall flat with me when they’re exceptionalist in nature.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Beelzebub permalink
    January 3, 2010 6:26 pm

    I was looking at the online Skeptics Annotated Bible recently and was a bit put off when I saw that one of the contradictions they pointed out was between something written in the Old Testament and something else written in the New Testament. I suppose there’s a point (being that you either have to accept the entire thing or nothing, which I don’t buy, though I am an atheist, so my opinion on that is a bit moot) in there, but it seems to me that it kind of ignores context.

  2. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    January 3, 2010 7:23 pm

    Yeah, if you’re not an evangelical who thinks the whole thing is infallible, there’s something silly about pointing out those sorts of contradictions.

  3. January 4, 2010 5:36 am

    I must confess I can’t see what all the fuss over contradictions is about. Isn’t that what literature is all about?

  4. Hector permalink
    April 8, 2010 12:38 am

    Exactly, stalinsmoustache.
    And I can only imagine how quickly our own contemporary heroes might diminish if later generations apply the same litmus test of contradictions to our current carnival of chroniclers (Fox News, MSNBC, New Republic, etc).

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