I respect the Bible as one of the world's greatest books, based on a magnificent body of oral poetry. It is a fundamental text that everyone, atheist or believer, should know. It speaks profoundly to everyone at each stage of life. And of course its hero sagas, from Moses to Christ, have been absorbed into the Western fine arts tradition.A performing artist with startling improvisational gifts? Does that cover the miracles (magic tricks?)?
But I do not accept the Bible as divinely inspired. Indeed, most scholars would agree that the New Testament was purposefully written as a point-by-point response to the Old Testament to prove that Jesus was indeed the Messiah whose arrival had been forecast for centuries. Therefore the details of Jesus' life and experiences were tailored and shaped to echo the language and imagery of the Old Testament.
Personally, I do believe there was a historical Jesus. The evidence is fragmentary but, to me, convincing that a charismatic, itinerant preacher of his name was swept up into the cruel politics of the Roman occupation of fractious, rebellious Judaea. Furthermore, as a literary critic, I hear a very distinct speaking voice in the sayings attributed to Jesus. This was a brilliant poet who was able to find simple, universal metaphors (a coin, a tree, a mustard seed) to convey spiritual truths to the masses. He was also a performing artist with startling improvisational gifts. Whether or not he himself thought he was the Messiah is unclear.
January 15, 2009
Responding to a reader who asks her to consider the possibility that The Bible is true, she writes: