Thursday, 21 April 2016


Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the SaviorJesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior by Bart D. Ehrman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: The bestselling author of Misquoting Jesus, one of the most renowned and controversial Bible scholars in the world today examines oral tradition and its role in shaping the stories about Jesus we encounter in the New Testament—and ultimately in our understanding of Christianity.

Throughout much of human history, our most important stories were passed down orally—including the stories about Jesus before they became written down in the Gospels. In this fascinating and deeply researched work, leading Bible scholar Bart D. Ehrman investigates the role oral history has played in the New Testament—how the telling of these stories not only spread Jesus’ message but helped shape it.

A master explainer of Christian history, texts, and traditions, Ehrman draws on a range of disciplines, including psychology and anthropology, to examine the role of memory in the creation of the Gospels. Explaining how oral tradition evolves based on the latest scientific research, he demonstrates how the act of telling and retelling impacts the story, the storyteller, and the listener—crucial insights that challenge our typical historical understanding of the silent period between when Jesus lived and died and when his stories began to be written down.

As he did in his previous books on religious scholarship, debates on New Testament authorship, and the existence of Jesus of Nazareth, Ehrman combines his deep knowledge and meticulous scholarship in a compelling and eye-opening narrative that will change the way we read and think about these sacred texts. (Goodreads)

MY REVIEW: A brilliant book carefully argued. I found this very enlightening. I also heard Bart Ehrman recently debate an evangelical historian on this book’s ideas and Ehrman, in my view, definitely came out ahead. Ehrman writes with clarity and is very engaging to read. He makes sophisticated concepts easy to understand. Ironically, Ehrman is more respectful of the text as a critical historian than some fundamentalist Christians are when they try to make the biblical books perfect communications from God. If you are looking for a provocative, fresh approach to understanding the way in which the stories about Jesus developed over the decades following his death, check out JESUS BEFORE THE GOSPELS. Highly recommended.

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Wednesday, 6 April 2016

FREEDOM TO DOUBT by Charles Shingledecker

Freedom to DoubtFreedom to Doubt by Charles Shingledecker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: In his second book, Charles Shingledecker goes beyond The Crazy Side of Orthodoxy \[his first book] to look at the issues confronting all traditions of Christianity. He accompanies fellow believers on an entertaining and informative journey through the Bible, Church history, and the nature of Christian belief.

Narrow is The Way, Jesus said. It is a hazardous path, too, lined with obstacles and roadblocks that lurk in the shadows of naive fundamentalism. Chuck has bumped into many rough spots, surprised at the difficulties he never saw coming in a simplistic faith but also fascinated by the nuances of a more authentic one. Now he offers a candle to help light the way for others, to provide some comfort for those troubled Christians who feel isolated and alone in their doubts.

Chuck has discovered that the life of a Christian need not be plagued by guilt and fear. In this book, he shares his hard-won conclusion, that faith can and should be filled with the freedom to ask tough questions, the freedom to seek truth, and, yes, the Freedom to Doubt.

MY REVIEW: An excellent, radically honest, look at some of the troubling questions that thinking Christians struggle with — and that the author doesn’t resolve. This is not an apologetic book filled with contrived justifications, convoluted reasoning, or simplistic advice to bolster up preconceived beliefs. Shingledecker (what a great name!) is happy to have his readers honestly stare into the face of doubt and embrace it as an essential characteristic of faith. The author writes engagingly, transparently, with warmth and humour along with a deep understanding, drawn from his own experience, to wisely guide the doubting believer. This is a must read for anyone willing to be honest about the difficulties of faith or who has been burdened with guilt by believers who refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of doubt. An excellent read and highly recommended — even for non-believers in Christianity!

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