Sometimes I feel like the “reviews” I write of books start writing themselves as I read. That was certainly the case here. I’ve read a handful of books on examining the bible from a historical context in the past—and while I’ve never read any of Ehrman’s other books, I’ve always intended to, as I also came from an evangelical background and ended up agnostic. Though, from reading this book, for somewhat different reasons.
Anyhow, we’ve got one main issue with this book in particular and a second issue about this “type” of book in particular—and by that I mean books written by academics for a general audience.
- This book reads, in large part, like someone said, “Remember your bookMisquoting Jesus? That made us buckets of money, write another one!” The phrase “In my book, Misquoting Jesus…” could be a drinking game here. There are also huge parts where you feel like he’s trying to day, “No, you didn’t understand what I was trying to say the last time!” Followed by sections where he’s directly answering critics of the previous book. Considering that he’s written a couple dozen other books of varying levels of scholarship—I find it annoying that this most recent book is merely a follow-up to the last one.
- It’s really hard for academics to write for a general audience. These are the days when I wish that I’d completed my liberal arts education rather than skipping off to art school. I don’t have the tools to gnaw on more academic works, but I have enough education to be frustrated by authors who are unsuccessfully trying to bring academic scholarship to a general audience. They end up trying to scale back their arguments in such a way that they feel entirely superficial and choppy.
Ehrman also seemed to get a bit outside of the scope I expected with two ambitious closing chapters, “Who Invented Christianity?” and “Is Faith Possible?”
Certainly, I don’t feel like the book delved deeply enough into the “Why We Don’t Know About Them” portion of the title, other than things that seemed obvious, even if you’ve only mostly read the bible as a devotional text.