July 15, 2009

Biblical Studies - 3

This is a series on "Biblical Studies" books I tried to read, with varying levels of success.

The most recent book I purchased because of my desire to understand Biblical Scholars and the 'rules of their world' just arrived on Monday. It had been in my Amazon que since Nick Norelli recommended it a month or so ago - Jesus, An Historical Approximation, by Jose A Pagola. I don't remember what Nick said about it but the title alone demanded I purchase it.

So far, upon skimming the front and back matter, I already have a mixture of positive and negative reactions. First, I love the fact that Pagola writes openly and passionately as a believer and describes his struggle to stick as closely as possible within the historical critical framework. He's not shy in his opinions, calling some critical reconstructions of Jesus "science fiction" and yet I get a strong sense that this book isn't going to spend most of its time arguing against liberal theories and presuppositions. Pagola is trying to do responsible intelligent scholarship, and yet writing primarily for believers. All positives, imho.

The downside, on first impression, is that it's sooooo daaaang tttttttypical. Page 24 of the author's Preface: "The chapters of this book are not stages in an historical biography of Jesus. They should not be read as such, because as we know, it is not possible to write a 'biography' of Jesus in the modern sense of that word." Really, Pagoda? Really? I know Biblical Scholars all bow to that notion, but "not possible"? Really, Pagoda? Really? (Heavy Siiiiiiiigh)

He continues, "The first thirteen chapters bring him nearer by tracing his principle features step by step..." Honestly, I can skip quoting these. They're all valid, and beautiful too, but you can guess what they are. Pagoda goes on to explain how Christians and non-Christians might appreciate his chapters differently, justifies his 14th chapter [on the Resurrection], and his 15th [on challenging questions for Christians in response to the work].

Honestly, and I can't emphasize this enough, it's beautiful. If he does all he sets out to do in the rest of the book, it would be wonderful to read. I know I would love reading it. But will I read it? Not this week.

Why does the study of Jesus focus exclusively on aspects of his Identity as revealed in the Gospels, but never on events (except of course for the cross)? I'm so massively dissatisfied with that state of things I see no reason to become comfortable with "taking a ride" on absorbing the entire thought of anyone who accepts it. Besides, it's illogical.

Yes, there are chronological difficulties with reconstructing events from the Gospels. But how come we get to have a thousand complex theories on Gospel Source Theory and not a single one for a Sequence of Gospel Events? Not even a theory? I'm sorry, Biblical Scholars, but THAT is an asinine contrast. And I'm sorry, brother Pagoda, but reconstructing a historical biography of Jesus' life is far from "impossible".

So say I. Stay tuned...

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