Friday, December 30, 2016

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (a book review post)

To put it mildly, I am not overly fond of "Christianity" right now. To be clear, when I say "Christianity," I do not mean Christianity; I mean the modern farce that people pretend is Christianity, whatever that actually is. Because it's clear that there has been a division about what is or is not Christianity right from the very beginning.

Which has nothing to do with what "Christianity" is, and has been for the last several decades at least, in America today. "Christianity" is a religion of hate, exclusion, and fundamentalism; the religion that supported a man to the Presidency who is completely antithetical to everything Christianity represents. Or says it represents.

And, no, the book has nothing to do with modern politics, but it does deal heavily with how different a thing can be from the actuality, the truth, that it was based on.

I think the audience for a book like this is probably fairly small, and not because it's not good. It is. It's well written, well researched, and well supported. However, "Christians" will dismiss the book as, I'll just say, liberal propaganda, which is sad, because it's "Christians" who need this book more than anyone. "Christians" need to be challenged to think beyond the shallow tripe they are spoon fed on Sunday mornings. Of course, being a book ostensibly about Jesus, there's no reason non-Christians should have any interest in the book... unless it's someone just curious about the history.

I'm not going to go into detail about the book -- you can read the blurb from the book for yourself -- however, I'll touch on one part:
The latter part of the book deals with a division within the early church between James (the leader of the church in Jerusalem) and Paul, who was one step removed from being a heretic. Much of our modern church, modern "Christianity" is built around what Paul wrote, a man who never met Jesus, yet claimed to speak with greater authority about him than Jesus' own brother (the aforementioned James) and the rest of the apostles. The piece that history loses is that in his day Paul was an outlier, someone trying to peel off members from the main body of the early church with heretical teachings and who stayed in conflict with James for much of his ministry.

In fact, Paul was losing. And bitter.

Probably, we would know nothing of Paul today had not two things happened:
1. James was assassinated.
2. The Romans leveled Jerusalem, the side effect of which was destroying the central power structure of the early Church.
Basically, this allowed the Church to become a more gentile-centric organization than it would have been if it had remained centered in Jerusalem. It allowed the New Testament to become a book of Paul's teachings rather than a book of Jesus' teachings, and the current "Christian" church relies much more heavily on Paul than it does Jesus. Not that the representation of Jesus is completely accurate.

Anyway...
As a Truth seeker, I found the book fascinating and would highly recommend it.

17 comments:

  1. This actually does sound interesting. I'll put it on my list. Sounds like something to listen to on audio while driving.

    It's both comforting and disheartening to know that people have been claiming to know what a religion 'means' and what God wants since the days when God had actually been walking around telling people those things.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Briane: Actually, I find the idea that anyone would know anything about God or the mind of God to be rather abhorrent at this point in my life. I mean, it's impossible for little kids to understand what adults are up to and what adults are thinking and why adults tell them to do the things they tell them to do. The gap separating Man from God is so so much wider than that. It's beyond hubris for anyone to think they know or understand God.

      Delete
  2. PS: I was only in the hospital 2 hours. Blood clot in the leg. Turns out they're really casual about it: you get to drive yourself there, walk up to Xray (2nd floor), then are wheelchaired from Xray to ER, but after that you walk everywhere again.

    Mainly it's just a very painful leg -- swelling -- and shortness of breath, which I'm pretty used to. I've been more tired though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Briane: I'm glad you caught it while it was in your leg.

      Delete
  3. I've heard of this book, and was interested in reading it, but I haven't had a chance to do so. I think I'll have to bump it up closer to the top of the list.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jennifer: It's well worth it. Enough so that I want to read some of his other books, now.

      Delete
  4. I've seen this book in the shops, I might pick it up now. It's frightening just how many people call themselves Christians when most of their beliefs are fueled by hate and exclusion.

    Paul had a stick up his arse. I wish more of James's writings had made it into the New Testament.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mich: It's unclear if James did any actual writing. He was more than likely illiterate. The book we have with his name on it was almost certainly written by one of his followers sometime after his death.
      That said, James has always been my favorite book of the New Testament.

      Delete
    2. Also, it's amazing how many people call themselves "Christians" just because they happen to go to church every once in a while. It's amazing how many people call themselves "Christians" without ever bothering to pick up a Bible and read any of it. Including pastors.

      Delete
  5. Excellent thoughts! I'm a lapsed christian, but I never, ever, liked Paul much. He's always yelling at people and telling them they are wrong. Further, I'm disenchanted by the Bible in general. I'm no fan of a collection of books a bunch of priests voted on--that have been overwritten tons, to promote a narrow worldview. I grew up with one of those Red-Letter Bibles--the ones where Christ's words were marked in red ink. Christianity would be a better place if people followed those red letters and not Paul's letters.
    Thanks for sharing! I might pick this one up for my mom, who thinks my half-Jew kids have been done a moral and spiritual disservice by her faithless daughter. (Not even kidding about that...)
    Happy New Year!
    Veronica :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Veronica: Oh, I believe you. I've been involved in ministry, and I've heard all sorts of things. And known people who got kicked out of families.

      I know two things about Paul (well, okay, I know more than two things about Paul, but...):
      1. He was a deep thinker and, actually, rather brilliant. He's responsible for the thoughts that created Christianity, much of that thought being, as far as we can tell, original to him. [Which does mean that Christianity is way more about Paul than it is about Jesus.]
      2. Paul was a conservative asshole who hated women. I mean, you don't have to wonder about the inherent misogyny in Christianity, because Paul laid it right out there at the beginning.

      Delete
  6. Interesting book, but I'm not likely to pick it up. I've been disenchanted with 'religion' for quite a while. I do like that you identified how the meaning for a word can be changed over time, distorting the original to suit the needs of the person who wrote his interpretation. I'll stick with my science fiction reading material.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. D.G.: I don't know, some religious reading is great science fiction. ;)

      Delete
  7. Sounds fascinating. I am not a religious person but love religious history.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. TAS: Most of history is religious history of one sort or another.

      Delete
  8. Oh, I'm so glad to hear you liked it! It's been on my to-find list for years (ever since I read Aslan's No God But God and loved it; he does such good research, and his writing is so, so clear!). Just last Sept while in NYC I finally came across a copy. Dying to get to it—and when I do I'll post my own thoughts on it (and we can 'discuss', haha). As an atheist, I'm all for a good, hard look at the actual historical record—especially when it sheds light on how truth gets skewed (and skewered).

    Guilie @ Quiet Laughter

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Guilie: 'No God But God' is now a book I want to read. I'd heard of it but never looked into it but, after reading this, it's on my list to pick up.

      I'll look forward to hearing your thoughts.

      Delete