Friday, July 24, 2009

Being Misquoted

I apologise for not blogging for the last two days. But I finally threatened my computer with an axe and it started working again.

Last year someone bought me Bart Ehrman’s enthralling Misquoting Jesus – The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. Someone (I can’t remember who) asked me for a lend of it which I agreed to, they have never returned and I have lost a very good book. I am not a happy monk. In his book Ehrman not only gives an early history of what is probably the world’s most important book, he also tells of his own journey from Bible-belt certainty, to wavering, through doubt and finally to the abandoning of faith. Anyway, as something of a compensation, someone just sent me a link to a lecture Ehrman gave at Stanford University. Please look at it, you’ll find it absolutely fascinating. Very little he says is new but he says it in a way we laymen (and women) can understand. Some of what he says would apply to the Tipitaka, although to a much less extent. Few Buddhist doctrines are based on a single phrase or word and as the Buddhist scriptures are so large and contain so many repetitions, a mistake in one part can be corrected from another part. Ehrman’s lecture is also interesting from the Buddhist perspective because it pretty much neutralizes the old argument that the Tipitaka must be unreliable because it was not committed to writing for some centuries. Ehrman shows that, at least until the invention of printing, writing things down did not guarantee that they were accurately recorded.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cK3Ry_icJo

14 comments:

no said...

Many years ago I read a rather scholarly book that pointed out all the contradictions in the Bible, and I passed it on to a Christian friend. I later asked him what he thought. His reply was, "It is only his opinion." I was quite literally speechless. It made me realise that the beliefs which one has deeply held since young have emotional roots that cannot simply be uprooted by sheer logic. Our fears and hopes do not depend on logic, rather logic is more often used to serve our deepest beliefs. Whatever we find contradictory to our beliefs, it is quite easy to rationalise them away one way or another, so that the contradictions become "apparent contradictions", that is, they are not contradictions at the "deeper" level, only apparent.

Jamie G. said...

@ no,

True, true.

I was a zealous Christian and an ardent atheist/secular humanist/rational skeptic at differing points in my life. The use of logic to bolster one's position worked for both sides of the fence. In part, this is why I threw up my hands, chose pragmatism, and eventually found the Dharma.

@ Bhante Shavrasti,
Not only is the video you referenced pretty good, so are some of the response videos... like from Lee Strobel and Dr. Craig A. Evans.

Even if, and that's a strong if, the Bible were 100% inerrant and without contradiction, I still would never serve a god, if I were a theist, that condoned the murders of possibly billions of innocent children. I have stronger words for Yahweh, but I'll keep it civil.

Jamie G. said...

When I meant that the videos of Strobal and Evans were good, I meant good for a laugh.

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Jamie G,
Thanks for notice of the interesting (amusing)videos responding to book and lectures.

ah-ha said...

Logic will not change anything. Once you believe strongly, ardently, devoutly that a lamp-post is a tree, you would not change your stand even though it was so obvious. If you keep that believe to yourself, people may just said you are mad. But if you ask someone to believe the lamp-post is a tree, water the lamp-post, said the lamp-post will save you from some dreadful diseases, what do you think people will call you?

Cikgu Cheah Chin Chuan said...

Bhante,

I have ordered one for you. Wait for it to deliver and I will pass it to you when it arrived on Sunday.

wizwman said...

Many hang on to their beliefs because of ego? Having spent a big part of their live it is hard for them to accept that what they have been worshipping is con stuff.
I think there is similarity in Buddhism. Only a small percentage learns the original teachings. Try telling some `Buddhists' what they practise is not taught by Buddha and you will see the same attitude.

no said...

Actually, nowadays I understand my friend who said "It is just his opinion." Having done some observation of my own mind, I notice hardly anything I say isn't but just an opinion... :-)

Eterna2 said...

Fantastic link! Thanks

yuri said...

There is an apocrypha gospel by Thomas which gives secret teachings by Jesus. It was considered a heretical book and was destroyed by Orthodox christians? but in 1945 a copy of it was found in Egypt. No my surprise I found many similarities in it with Buddha's doctrine. Jesus taught that not faith but knowing theseleves was the way to learning all the secrets of the world. The interesting thing is that more than half of Jesus' sayings can be found in New Testament? but they are distorted for the sake of Christian dogmas. And Jesus practically denies that he is a Christ, a Messiah predicted by Judaist Prophets. It seems to me the Gospel should be carefully analysed by someone knowing Buddhism. It may turn out that 2 millennia of Christianity are 2 millennia of falsehood as far as Jesus' teaching is concerned.

Joe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe said...

I'll be a devils advocate here.

if by copying text people can make mistakes; how about memorising the teachings? and propagating is via virbalising it.

cos that's how our teachings are passed down for the first couple of hundreds years before any was written down.

remember that game we played as kids where a message is passed down...by the time it reached the 10th person....we laugh out hearts out how different the original message was and the final was transmitted to the 10th person is...

but my point is...whether the bible is accurate or whether the tipitaka is accurate is not impt.

watz impt is people around that person feels the positive vibes that person is radiatingg and how this person leaves its mark during this round of samsara

i am sure many would agree it's better to be kind-hearted christian than an evil hearted buddhist :)

Shravasti Dhammika said...

It’s better to be a kind-hearted anything than an evil-hearted anything. I don’t know what’s better than being a devil’s advocate but I'm sure there is a lot of them..

Supa Naga said...

I am the culprit who had borrowed your good book "Misquoting Jesus" a long time ago. I apologise for not returning after loan it for such a long time.

Nevertheless, I will be returning it to you after you are back to Singapore on Oct 20. In addition, I've bought for you " Jesus, Interrupted - Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (& Why We Don't Know About Them)" which is a follow-up of "Misquoting Jesus", & is also by Bart D. Ehrman.