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ISBN/ASIN : 0060653752
Manufacturer : HarperSanFrancisco|
Release data : 01 May, 1994
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Four pillars or many?
The great structure of Christianity rests on four books. Four men, living at different times and in different places, each implying they were present during Jesus' travels and travails, penned their accounts of his life. From these narratives, dogmas were set and an orthodoxy established that has lasted for two millennia. When closely examined, these stories proved to have been written long after Jesus had died. What happened in the ensuing years?
According to Mack, after Jesus died [or disappeared], followers of this teacher formed "study groups" centred in Galilee and southern Syria. They devised sayings attributed to the teacher, exchanged texts, debated meanings, and discussed what they felt significant about his pronouncements. Analysis of the four books revealed some of these writings buried within the larger story. Excavated from the Gospels, these "Q" writings have marginalised the "historical" role of the four books. There must have been many versions of "Q" composed by the members of what Mack calls the "Jesus groups". Whether they were ever collated into a single document will likely never be known, but it's clear the "gospel" writers were aware of them and utilised them.
Resting much of his presentation on the work of John Kloppenborg, Mack shows the likely development of the Q writings in a solid historical setting. With Hellenistic scholars setting the norms for education and intellectual discourse, it's easy to see how the "Q" sayings were formulated. A glance at the social upheavals of the period reveals the environment that caused them to be written. Mack weaves these threads together effectively to produce a vivid picture of the times and the course the writings followed as events unfolded. It's arguable that the existence of Jesus was of less importance than the destruction of the temple. Yet, both events would lead to revised views of the world. The later Q documents lay the foundations for an apocalyptic view enlarged by the quartette that followed.
Mack is an effective and concerned writer. He's disdainful of fallacies, particularly transparent ones. The "Gospels", he shows, are largely fabrications. If there was a virgin birth, why did that notion not appear until nearly a century had passed? Why are there differing accounts of those pivotal events, the crucifixion and "resurrection"? According to Mack, these are the building blocks of Christian mythology. He insists this myth be examined on the same basis as any other myth. He contends if Christians wish to know their founder, a study of the "Q" writings is the starting point. The role played by the gospels as history must be abandoned and a more realistic approach taken. Perhaps, he stresses, returning to these "beginnings" might help alleviate the dogmas and intolerances the long, sordid history of Christianity has exhibited. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
this book should make you think
Only a closed mind could totally dismiss this book. Q or Quelle, is something that has been known in Biblical scholarship long before this book came out. Mack does quite a bit of interpreting and imagining about the community that follwed Jesus, but I found this fun. The case for the actual text of Q was strong and it should challenge traditional Christians. I was raised Catholic, but would consider myself leaning to pagan now-that is, I believe God and Goddess are in everyone, not just Jesus or Buddha or whoever.
Christianity: Man-made after all
The ideas in this book support a conclusion that can also be arrived at without them, namely that the New Testament as we know it is the result of different groups of people, who lived in different time periods and social circumstances, had different objectives for writing what they wrote, and whose collective efforts are best characterized (as this book does) as the making of the Christian myth. Compared to such a view, the idea that The Bible is "the infallible word of God" and that those who "believe" in it "have it right" while everyone who doesn't "has got it wrong", seems quite antiquated and naive. Indeed, when the Christian myth is recognized as just that, it becomes the equal of other religious myths, and the peoples who adhere to them, equal among equals. When the notion disappears that the Christian myth provides the ultimate context, the ultimate explanation, and ultimate destiny of mankind, perhaps then this world will have a better chance of becoming a paradise of sorts for its inhabitants. (Reflected in this book in the two biggest issues facing Christianity and its effective role in the world today: 1) "The long-standing practice of Christian mission with its implicit claim to know what is best for other people." and 2) "Problems concerning the use and abuse of power. ...we have not been able to imagine a social system capable of adequate constraints on the abuse of power, much less a society in which the exercise of power is rewarded for its programs in support of human well-being. Unfortunately, the Christian gospel does not seem to help, generating as it has the messianic vision of a powerful superhero to right the world's wrongs".)
- "For Christ's Sake", by Tom Harpur (McClelland & Stewart; ISBN: 077103945X)
- "Ishmael", by Daniel Quinn (Bantam Books; ISBN: 0553375407)
- "The Story of B", by Daniel Quinn (Bantam Books; ISBN: 0553379011)