Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Book Nook

I finished reading Joseph J. Ellis' fine biography of George Washington, His Excellency, several days ago. I've already spent a good deal of time riffing off of Ellis' insights into Washington and his times. So, I won't write more here. While I prefer Richard Norton Smith's treatment of Washington, I do recommend this book.

Not long ago, I mentioned having purchased The Gospel Code by New Testament scholar Ben Witherington III. In it, Witherington deals with the faulty notions on which a recent best-seller, soon to be a movie, is based. I'm about half-way through this book and I must tell you that I enthusiastically recommend it!

With the credentials and abilities of a scholar and the writing skills of a good columnist, Witherington convincingly dismantles the notions that inform Dan Brown's fatally-flawed, The DaVinci Code.

He points out, contrary to Brown's assertions, that:
  1. The Gospels found in the New Testament portion of the Bible (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) pre-date the so-called Gnostic Gospels. The Biblical works are closer to the actual events of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. Even the most skeptical of scholars agree that the latest of the four Biblical gospels, John, was written no later than 150 A.D. They therefore, were not repressed by the early church, as Brown suggests: they simply appeared, works of fiction, later.
  2. It's simply not true that Jesus was only declared divine as well as human under the prodding of Emperor Constantine at the Council of Nicaea. All of the New Testament material---from the Gospels to the letters of Saint Paul---view Jesus as being divine as well as human and they precede the Nicene Council by at least 175 years. (Check out Philippians 2:5-11; John 1:1-18; Hebrews 1: 1-4; Colossians 1:15-20) While the Council at Nicaea wrestled with the question of how Jesus was divine, that He was divine was never questioned.
  3. There is simply zero evidence to support the proposition that Jesus married Mary Magdalene.
  4. Witherington also points out that, contrary to Brown's apparent assumptions, Jesus being married would present no problem for the Christian witness that He lived a sinless earthly life. The Bible does not believe that sex is sinful or decadent. The Bible does believe that sex within marriage is a blessing from God. Therefore, it would not have been sinful for Jesus, truly God and truly human, to have been married. But the Biblical witness is that Jesus chose not to marry in order to focus on His mission of revealing God, dying on the cross for our sin, and rising from death to give those with faith in Him new life.
This is a fascinating book and I hope that all fair-minded people will read it.

Finally, I've just begun a book I've long wanted to read, London: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd. Until now, I found the cost prohibitive. But I was able to pick up a copy at Half Price Books for much less than half-price. Ackroyd is a wonderful writer and though I've only just made a modest dent in this massive book, I'm already enjoying it!

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