Garry Wills - What Jesus Meant. Pulitzer Prize-winning Garry Wills (Lincoln) is a good philosopher and a very good theologian who brings home the meaning of Jesus' sayings and proverbs.
- Misquoting Jesus
. Bart Ehrman is one of the world's foremost biblical textual critics: i.e., he knows the history of the Bible, ancient Hebrew, ancient and classical Greek, Coptic, Aramaic and Assyrian. New archeological discoveries (like the Gospel of Judas) are always proffered to Erhman before most anyone. Misquoting Jesus shows us just how much Jesus may
have said and what was written later, translated, rewritten and re-translated. Probably the most valuable lesson on the Gospels and their discrepancies, Erhman tells the reader to read the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) horizontally
(e.g., all three first chapters, then all three second chapters, etc.). It's an exercise that will astound you!
Elaine Pagels - The Origin of Satan. Pagels is the world's pre-eminent scholar on the Gnostic Gospels, those writings which were discovered in 1947 from Gnostic Christians. In The Origin of Satan, Pagels shows that Satan, or Sai-tan was developed by Christianity as a means of demonizing Judaism.
- The Battle For God - A History of Fundamentalism
, The Bible - A Biography
, The Great Transformation
. Karen Armstrong is arguably one of the world's best scholars about all world religions. Admittedly, she is not an easy read, but once you realize what she is presenting and how she is presenting it, you feel richer for having read her books. Of particular note is The Great Transformation, which looks at the parallels of religions and societies during a particular time before Christianity. It's a fascinating study, but not for everyone.
In the end, we all have to realize that religious belief is serious stuff. Writers like me may joke about it from time to time (ok, I do it most of the time), but when belief is blind belief (as with Harold Camping's followers) it has the power to ruin believers' lives. Coaxing believers to read something contrary to their beliefs is difficult, but it may be the only strategy there is to put people's beliefs back on a safe, even keel.
And remember this:
Fundamentalism: it's Satan's greatest masterpiece.
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