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A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

From "Local Author Investigates Life Of Jesus In New Novel" by Elizabeth Van Wye:

The enormously popular success of the book and movie, "The DaVinci Code" triggered a worldwide interest in the historical figures depicted in the Christian Bible. As demonstrated by book and ticket sales, curiosity about the human Jesus of Nazareth and others of that era is at an all time high. And yet, according to author and part-time Chatham resident Harold Lorin, there is very little agreement among scholars about the historical Jesus.

Fifteen years ago, Lorin set out to find out more about the man. The result is "The Tin Merchant," a 260-page novel about Jesus and his family and how they coped in a troubled place in a dangerous time.

"The problem is," said Lorin, "everyone thinks they know the story and yet the whole subject is hotly debated among scholars…there is almost no common ground. The question I asked myself was, 'Can I put together a reasonable narrative that balances the existing ideas and paints a picture of this human being?'" "The Tin Merchant" is a novel, which while extensively researched is still fiction, Lorin stressed. "It was written to entertain, raise questions and create a character."

The narrative is based on a purported discovery of the memoirs of Jesus' cousin, Joseph of Aramithea. It unfolds in flashback fashion, "starting with the crucifixion up front and then going back and covering what led to it," Lorin stated. He added that the theme of the book is that the mission of Jesus was deeply influenced by his mother, Mary, and by the discovery that Joseph was not his birth father. He added that the novel does not either affirm or deny the central Christian belief that Jesus was the Messiah.

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"As a computer scientist, I’ve been well trained in critical research. I used the same methodology researching this book for 10 years," he said. Lorin has also published numerous books and articles on the technology and economics of computer science and technology.

While this is a admittedly only a novel, so was The Da Vinci Code, and I have two real problems with what I read in this article. First, while I agree that little agreement exists among scholars on the person of the historical Jesus, such a statement is made uncritically. Simply because there are parties on both sides of the equation, doesn't mean that their arguments are equally valid and compelling.(Anyone who disputes that but who opposes the teaching of Intelligent Design in the schools is going to have to explain the obvious double-standard to me.)

As has been pointed out numerous times on this blog and elsewhere, the view of historical Jesus supported by many of these scholars that think that Jesus was no more than a "itinerent preacher" or a "eschatalogical prophet" has many, many problems -- many more than the view that Jesus cannot be limited in those ways. Thus, it seems to me to be problematic that this author should be marketing his book by treating the disagreement among scholars as justifying a conclusion that we cannot arrive at a true view of Him.

Second, I have a problem with the idea that the novel neither affirms nor denies the central claim of Christianity -- that Jesus was the messiah. First, the central claim of Christianity isn't that Jesus was merely the messiah; rather, the central claim is that He was the Son of God. You may see that as a bit nit-picky because the Christian claim is also that Jesus was the messiah, but since the Jews expected the messiah to be a mere mortal man it's important to point out that Jesus claimed to be more. Second, I don't see how a novel could be written that neither affirms nor denies this real central claim. Perhaps he could be non-committal about the idea that Jesus was the messiah, but there is, in my view, no way to tell the story without being committed to the idea of whether Jesus was also God.

While Mr. Lorin is free to write about whatever topic he wants, I dislike seeing people writing historical novels about Jesus because the best histories of Jesus are found in the accounts of Matthew, John, Peter (as recorded in Mark) and Luke. Mr. Lorin's book, if it sells at all, will certainly be accepted by some people as somehow more accurate than the three first hand accounts found in the Bible (plus the account of Luke that records the recollections of various unnamed witnesses, but one of whom was probably Mary the mother of Jesus) because it's written by a guy who used his "critical research" skills to piece together the real history backgound of Jesus' life. If so, it is simply another book that sets itself up against a true knowledge of God, and that's a shame.

2 comments:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but Tom Wright in "Jesus and the Victory of God" goes to great critical-historical lengths to show that the title "Son of God" does not refer to any heavenly or quasi-divine figure, but refers to kingship and Davidic lineage and that Yeshua appropriated this to himself. Since there was no agreed upon definition of "The Messiah" in first century Judaism, but one clear identity marker was Davidic kingship--Son of God literally means The Messiah in Yeshua's own first century Judaic context. While "Messiah" has further meaning, any other meaning of "Son of God" belongs to later redefinition of Yeshua's own self-identification. I find it hard to call something Christian which seeks to re-define Christ in a way foreign to that which Christ himself iterated or implied.

Personally, I have never heard that. I will look into it, however, and see what I can find.

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