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Monday, April 3rd, 2006

Time Event
7:14p
That's more like it ...
So, I needed something to get the ickiness of Angel Letters out of my head, but I wasn't quite ready to shift genres. Poking around on the "to be read" shelves, I found this slim volume of Serious Reading, and figured that it would just about do the trick!

Frankly, I should have probably read this one back when I was doing a lot of Dead Sea Scrolls reading (although the source material here was from the Nag Hammadi finds) ... especially in light of the formatting, with the Coptic originals presented across from their English translations. Actually, if I had a quibble with Marvin Meyer's The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, it would be in the format of the second and third sections, as in the second section the texts are presented across from the translations, but then you need to skip ahead fifty pages to the analysis of each of the 114 apothegms that comprise the text. I would have found it more useful/natural to have the Coptic text, the English translation and the notes thereto all in a column for each, progressing through the work that way ... but, again, that's just a quibble from somebody who used to get to design books.

While Meyer provides an interesting introduction placing The Gospel of Thomas within its historical, linguistic, and theological contexts, it's Harold Bloom's "interpretation" section that really makes this book a delight. Aside from asking the "elephant in the living room" question (which I'm paraphrasing here) of "if Jesus spoke Aramaic to his followers, how good a translation do we have in texts that were written in Greek a generation or more after the fact?". It is argued that the sayings quoted in Thomas are far closer to the actual teachings of whoever this Jesus person was than anything that later got cobbled together into the Bible!

If you look at the reviews on Amazon, the Biblical Literalists have the torches and pitchforks out for this book ... and I have come to expect that if a Bible Thumper is busting a blood vessel over something, that something probably has more Truth in it than the Thumper's favorite book!

Speaking of Amazon ... you can, oddly enough, get a new hardcover (remaindered) copy for a lot less than a used paperback (which is still in print) ... a couple of these are going for under $3.00, not bad for a $19.95 list price book! This is one that I'd definitely recommend to anybody with an interest in religious texts (or generally irritating the Fundies!).

P.S. -
I don't typically like to add on rants to these little reviews, but I was aghast to find out how a book that Bloom highly recommends, Burton Mack's A Myth of Innocence: Mark and Christian Origins, has been driven out of the market. Mack's book is one that takes that "Aramaic question" and runs it out to a very logical conclusion ... that Jesus didn't found Christianity, but that "Christians", decades after Jesus's death, invented the story of his life, ministry, divinity, etc., etc., etc., to support their cult (once it became clear that the initial assumption that Jesus was "coming back any day now" was off the mark). I'm assuming that this book has been systematically "disappeared" (much like John Allegro's remarkable The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross) by Christians trying to erase the "uncomfortable questions"! Mack's book had a list price of $26.00 (for about 440 pages) but it will cost you at least twice that to get a used copy, and some vendors are charging as much as four hundred bucks to get one! The only plausible excuse for this sort of "rarity" is that Xtian Fundamentalists are destroying any copies they can lay their hands on ... which I suppose IS a lot easier than having to face the questions that these books raise about their religion!


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