Friday, October 22, 2010

There are Four, Dammit!

The Three Musketeers (Bantam Classics)The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well that's over. It took a long time to get this book read for bookclub, partly because of an injury that makes reading a bit uncomfortable. But the book wasn't helping. Shallow melodrama isn't really my cup of tea. It's like the script for a really long cartoon. Everyone's either wicked or honorable, with no middle ground, and why they might be good or bad is not delved into. They seemingly fall in love at the drop of a hat, but express it in the most overwrought language. The wicked people are ultimately more interesting than the honorable, but it's hard to care about any of them.

And anyway, there are four musketeers! And the fourth is essentially the lead character! Whatever dude-mas.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Rogue Scribes

Misquoting JesusMisquoting Jesus by Bart D. Ehrman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'd prefer to give this book 3.5 stars or something. The writing is super pedantic and repetitive. I listened to the audiobook and it was fairly easy to space out and not lose the thread because of his writing style. While the book might be disturbing for those who take the Bible literally and believe all of it is the inerrant word of God, for the rest of us, it's interesting as a history of the actual text of the Bible. Ehrman describes what we know about how the books of the Bible were written, which ones were chosen to be part of the New Testament, and how they came down to us, since the original manuscripts are unavailable. He goes into great detail about how the Bible was transcribed before the invention of the printing press, how the text was translated and changed over the centuries, and what kinds of variations can be found among the various early manuscripts. As a scholar, his goal has always been to try to recreate the original writings -- to the degree that's possible.

The variations and changes made by the scribes who copied the early manuscripts of the New Testament are not insignificant, but mostly related to matters of doctrine, it seems. I don't think they would change most people's main conceptions about Jesus and how he lived. But the book offers a great broad perspective on how Christianity grew from a Jewish sect into a major religion. And it gives important historical context for the compilation of what must be the most influential book in history.

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