Tag Archives: C. S. Lewis

Larycia vs. Tashlan

A lot of virtual ink has been spilled this month regarding the issue of the Larycia Hawkins case at Wheaton College. To me the fundamental dynamics of the case are somewhat self-evident. I’m under no illusions that Professor Hawkins needs my help in the matter, but I do find it rather interesting all the same. I thought it would be worth writing a little about in that I see some little details of the case that other sources haven’t paid particular attention to yet.

hawkinsThe most surprising thing to me about the whole case is that Professor Hawkins made it as far as she did. By all reports we are talking about a brilliant young black woman (a decade my junior) from the deep south of the United States (Oklahoma) with strong social justice convictions and passions, who has followed those passions to achieve the position of tenured professor in the field of political science at one of the strongest academic bastions of evangelical activism in America. I can only speculate that this college originally saw in her a means of presenting a political and intellectual challenge to Obama-supporting black churches of the Martin Luther King Jr. tradition. Her official research interest in “Black Political Churches Outside the Black Church Milieu” hints in that direction. That would sit nicely with the orthodox white Religious Right mind set. But according to reports from the Chicago Tribune these defenders of the post-Reagan evangelical political status quo have already repeatedly questioned whether this young lady’s independent ideas might be more trouble than they’re worth to them. Her orthodoxy has previously been questioned for her stands in defense of the rights of women, blacks and sexual minorities, and now she goes and stands up for Muslims! “What were we thinking when we hired such a person?” they must be saying to themselves. “Isn’t there any way we can get her to leave quietly?”

The issue of contention here is whether Professor Hawkins violated the college’s doctrinal position required for all staff members in saying that she agrees with the popes on the matter of Muslims, “as people of the Book,” worshipping the same God as Christians. Experts far more accomplished and noteworthy than myself have already addressed this issue at some length; in particular Yale’s Professor Miroslav Volf. Suffice it to say as a summary of his argument that there is a strong tradition in Christian theology of at least respecting Islam’s sincerity in attempting to follow the god of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus; and if you’re going to say that Christianity’s God, the Father of Jesus, is a different god that Islam’s Allah, for consistency sake you also really need to acknowledge that Christianity’s understanding of God is so fundamentally different from the genocide-demanding JWHW of the ancient Jews as to be a different character entirely.

The token response to this from the evangelical side has come from a former Muslim by the name of Nabeel Qureshi, who claims that he still as warm relations with Muslim family members, and that as a convert he still used to believe that Christians and Muslims worship the same god, but not he has “outgrown” that position. It’s hard to understand what Qureshi actually means when he claims that “[t]he similarities between the God of Islam and the God of Christianity are fairly superficial, and at times simply semantic.” The Islamic understanding of God is every bit as derived from the Christian one as the Christian understanding of God is derived from the Ancient Jewish one. Islam also has elements derived from Muhammed’s direct contact with Jews, and it remains far closer to the Jewish understanding of monotheism than Christianity’s is to either, but whereas the Jews considered Jesus to be a blasphemous messianic pretender, Muslims revere him as a great prophet. How then can this be a matter of mere superficial and semantic similarity?

Qureshi’s superficial response to Volf’s position, which he claims “should be obvious to those who have studied the three Abrahamic faiths,” is that “the Trinity is an elaboration on Jewish theology,” whereas “Tawhid is a categorical rejection of the Trinity,” etc. What I actually see as obvious for anyone who has studied all three faiths, however, is first of all that modern Judaism (which is less a parent faith to Christianity than a feuding sister) rejects Trinitarian doctrine every bit as strenuously as Islam does. Beyond that I would say that there’s a fairly strong scholarly consensus among those who study the Bible for a living that reading Trinitarian intent into the writings of the Old Testament prophets takes a fair among of intellectual dishonesty. The best we can say for the origins of Christian dogma in that regard is that the best minds of the second through sixth centuries worked extensively on finding ways to harmonize the mysteries of Jesus’ persona with his deep respect for the Jewish scriptures and the Trinity is what they came out with. To call Qureshi’s position a weak argument is perhaps the understatement of the month.

Besides trying to intellectually justify Religious Right politics, another thing that would naturally put the powers that be at Wheaton at odds with someone like Professor Hawkins is their regard for C.S. Lewis as something akin to a twentieth century apostle. In this case it relates in particular to various interpretations of the theological intentions and revelations contained in the Chronicles of Narnia.

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It has been decades since I have read these classics, but some of the details regarding them have remained in my mind over the decades since my highly evangelical childhood. I remember in particular that, especially in the 70s, when I would have read these classics, with the “rapture” expectations that were sweeping through evangelicalism at the time, The Last Battle was considered to be the most theologically and culturally important of the seven volume series. This final book of the series aptly captured the end-of-the-world zeitgeist among evangelical Protestant Christians of the early rock-and-roll era in children’s fable form. This inevitably involved a battle between good and evil, with the primary force of evil in the story being the self-appointed religious rule of Shift, a deceitful Narnian (talking) ape, who devised a system for co-opting the religious reverence for Aslan (the Jesus-lion character) and blending it with the worship of Tash, the primary god of the Calormenes, Narnia’s neighbors and sometime enemies to the southeast. Thus the ape was able to get the other Narnians to work harder, for less pay, as part of the “will of Aslan” to prove their worthiness –– enabling the ape in turn to satisfy a number of his personal selfish desires at their expense.

PuzzleaslanTo pull off this deception Shift convinces a rather simple-minded donkey named Puzzle to dress up in a lion skin and pretend to be the real Aslan. This was said to work only because it had been many generations since they had seen the real Aslan, and they were desperate for something transcendent to believe in. It stretches the believability of the narrative to claim that even the most simple-minded of mythical creatures could believe that a donkey in a lion’s skin really was a supernaturally powerful lion, but that is rather Lewis’s comic point of the matter: It also rather boggles the mind that so many who claim to agents of the teachings and power of Jesus could be taken seriously, unless their followers have no concept of what the real Jesus was/is like, and they are painfully desperate to believe in something. But then Shift stretches their gullibility even further by claiming that Aslan is in fact the same person as the chief god in the Calormene pantheon, Tash. Thus he innovates a new name for this deity blending the two names together as Tashlan.

One common interpretation of Lewis’s intention in this story is to say that the Calormene people in Narnia’s magical world are supposed to represent the Muslims in our world. There are a number of problems with such an interpretation: First, that the Calormenes are polytheists, not strict monotheists like the Muslims. Second, the Calormenes believe in a myth of their leaders being the descendants of their gods, much like the Japanese Shinto followers prior to World War 2, but certainly not like the Muslims. Beyond that the Calormenes had a very specific physical form which they believed their god would take, again quite the opposite of Islamic teaching. But in spite of all of this it is entirely possible that, for mythical narrative purposes, Lewis took liberties of blending together different “other” cultures studied by “orientalist” academics of his generation in creating these enemies for the Narnians to fight against at the end of their world –– including a number of signature features of Islam as understood from a British colonial perspective.

Regardless of the problems associated with using The Last Battle as a justification for Islamophobia however, that is exactly what many around Wheaton and in its supporting evangelical spheres seem to be doing just now. They believe that the God of the Muslims must in reality be either a product of worshipers’ imaginations or, more probably, a demonic supernatural power that deceived their prophet into setting up a new false religion 1400 years ago. In the end of The Last Battle, the character of Tash, the demonic god of the Calormenes, actually comes to life and consumes his would-be representatives, before being banished by those representing the true authority of Aslan. In the same way these evangelicals are convinced that Allah is really a supernatural character of some sort from “the dark side” that is really out to destroy his followers, eventually to be banished by the Triune God of the Christians.

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To hold this sort of position requires a rather loose understanding of the theological dogmas of all three Abrahamic faiths, together with a tendency to take mythologized versions of early twentieth century British orientalism far too seriously. In some ways this just serves to demonstrate how much more powerful narratives are than theoretical lectures as means of instruction: the official teachings are forgotten, but the dramatic interpretations of them remain in people’s minds.

What Jews, Christians and Muslims officially agree about is postulating that the sort of God whose CV gives rise to “the problem of evil” really does exist: The God who is worthy of worship and praise must necessarily be personal, all-knowing, all-powerful, everywhere-present, and completely benevolent. Thus all three faiths struggle with the issue of how evil can still exist in our world if such a God exists. They have a long history of quite freely borrowing arguments from each other in this regard over the centuries. To say that, in spite of this, and in spite of the extent to which Islam appears to be derived from reinterpretations of early Medieval Christian teachings, the God of Islam must be a different character from the God of Christianity, has two possible implications: either there are a number of different omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent and omni-benevolent deities out there in competition with each other; or there is no such metaphysical object for our respective faiths “out there” and every religiously worshipped deity is really just a human creation. The former alternative is a logical impossibility; the nature of those divine characteristics precludes that they could be spread around between various competing gods. The latter position sort of defeats the whole purpose of having a dogmatic belief in any deity to begin with. Thus it is logically rather absurd to claim that the Christian God is real and the Muslims worship something entirely different. Either there is a real God with these attributes “out there” and both religions are, to the best of their understanding and abilities trying to comprehend something about this God, making efforts to please him and at the same time call out for his mercy; or there really isn’t any such god “out there” and Christianity and Islam are offering very different types of imaginary friends to their followers. It sort of has to be one or the other.

elephantBut then at this point someone usually takes out the old fable of the four blind men groping the elephant. (“It’s like a tree.” “It’s like a wall.” “It’s like a sail.” “It’s like a rope.” …all as interpretations of parts of the same animal.) In spite of the pictures that some of my Kenyan Facebook friends have put up associating me with elephants, however, that cliché example is fairly distant from my everyday life. What I’m more familiar with is the various sorts of interpretations of what sort of person I am from people who know me through very different connections. Some know me as the nasty teacher who gave their children lower grades than they were expecting. Some know me as the fine teacher who inspired particular students to pursue the academic careers in which they have since made their own mark. Some know me as the guy who makes pretty good pizza for house guests. Some know me as they owner of a particularly nice dog. Some know me as an inspirational speaker or writer. Some know me as the ex-boyfriend or husband of some woman who has come and gone in my life… Some of these people know me better or more thoroughly than others. Some of their interpretations are actually mutually exclusive: I logically cannot be all the things that various acquaintances say that I am! Even so, I would not accuse those with more unfriendly interpretations of my personality of (necessarily) having me mixed up with some other David.

When it comes to God it somewhat goes without saying that no religion, and no individual believer, knows him perfectly. On the assumption that he really is “out there,” we can say that some inevitably know him better than others. We can say that some religions are more helpful than others in enabling people to relate to their fellow human beings according a principle of manifesting the love of God, but none have yet to get that “entirely right”. We can say that some have missed the mark pretty thoroughly in practice, but in theory they mean well. Given where we are each at in those terms it’s far safer not to accuse others of worshipping the wrong god or of worshipping God wrong.

Our focus needs to rather be on each “getting it right” for ourselves in terms of rejecting the temptation to “do religion” as a means of justifying our hatred towards those who are too “other”. That was the essence of Jesus’ message that Christians in particular should be paying attention to. That is what Larycia Hawkins has got herself in trouble for standing up for yet again. That is why I respect her far more than her current opponents.

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Book Review: James’ Gospel of John

One of my more interesting virtual friends whom I have never met is James David Audlin. He was referred to me by a mutual friend who saw us both as strongly interested in philosophy, writing, personal spirituality, music, intercultural relationships, theology and comparative religion. It also turns out that he is a “dog person” and a long-term expat from the US who is rather frustrated with our home country’s human rights record at home and abroad. So yes, he and I have hit it off fairly well.

James is a former clergyman of a liberal Protestant persuasion who, after a bit of globe trotting, has settled in Panama these days. He apparently makes just enough off of book royalties from the various novels and poetry and essay collections that he has written over the years to provide for a simple life among the poor there, using the Internet pretty much daily to stay in touch with the “developed world”. As a divorced grandfather he has found a widowed local grandmother there to share his life with, and they officially married during the past year. James’ new wife is a Jehovah’s Witness, but according to him that group is far more mellow and dialog-oriented in that part of the world than their stereotype in the US and Europe. So in spite of cultural differences and technical challenges they seem (from this distance) to be quite happy together.

This year James has been working on finalizing a long-term project of his: an extensive re-formulation of the Gospel of John. Now to explain my perspective on this project, because there are so many Jameses in the gospel itself, I will have to switch over to referring to my friend James by his surname: Audlin.

The "mockup" for James' book's cover

The “mockup” for James’ book’s cover

Audlin is comfortable in his Greek and basic Aramaic skills, and back in his seminary days the bug of historical redaction critique got under his skin, so this project goes way back for him. As he figures it, the text of the fourth Gospel has at least 3 or 4 layers to it, and if it could be “restored” in the same way as the Sistine Chapel –– stripping away the extra layers and touching up the older layers underneath –– it might provide an even more beautiful and striking portrait of Jesus. The risk, however, is that he might end up “restoring” this portrait more along the lines of what was famously done this year to the portrait of Christ in Borja, Spain this year.

frescopicThis well-meaning labor of love on Audlin’s part stretches to some 600 pages in total, 120 of which are the “reconstructed gospel” itself, with 60 pages each for the Greek text and the English translation thereof, on pages facing each other. This is preceded by an 80 page summary of what was driving him and what sort of methods he is attempting to follow, and then there are over 350 pages worth of commentary and theoretical justifications for his conclusions in rearranging the text as he has. It takes a fairly serious commitment to such matters to read such a tome; one can only imagine what sort of effort it took to write it!

The starting premise here is rather uncontroversial in one sense: If you take the Gospels to be human creations based on some form of contact with the divine then the human mistakes they may contain, and the puzzles of how they came about in their current form, cease to be a threat to our faith and they turn into a fascinating puzzles. The different names given to key characters, the strikingly different chronology and the inclusion of entirely different episodes than the other three gospels make the Gospel of John a particularly fascinating puzzle. It almost seems as though someone dropped all of the pages in the manuscript on the way into the publisher’s office, leading to its page order getting scrambled, with a few of them lost. What if we could get things back in the “proper order”? It also seems as though someone in the second century may have done a re-edit of the text to put it into its current form. (Audlin suggests Polycarp of Smyrna as the most likely suspect.) What if he tried to take out some politically offensive elements and add in some more “orthodox” elements in the process? Would there be some way of undoing this process? Like the little boy in The Emperor’s New Clothes, Audlin has a sense of having nothing to lose, so he’s decided to give it a try.

Actually this reminds me of two different personal perspectives I have regarding research challenges. To start with redaction critique has always reminded me of the passage in book 3 of Gulliver’s Travels where the hero is among normal sized people for a change, who are so lost in their own theoretical world that they’ve lost all contact with practical realities. In particular it brings to mind the classroom in which a blind professor is trying to instruct a group of blind students as to how to tell the difference between colors of paint based on texture, consistency, smell and taste; but unfortunately their investigations into such sciences were in a rather “imperfect state” at the time when Gulliver had his chance to observe. So it seems when it comes to those who attempt to make a living at this sort of textual analysis.

Over the years I’ve done a fair amount of text editing myself, and it would be fair to say that I’ve developed my own relatively distinctive way with words in the process. But no matter how well someone might know my style and pour over texts that have my linguistic fingerprints in them, I have never met anyone that would presume to even hazard a guess as to which paragraphs and which sentences there were my own contributions and which parts were entirely from the authors’ original text. If they did I could readily confirm the “imperfect state” of their speculations, and this would likely prove too frustrating for them to continue with the method. But when it comes to Bible scholarship based on the early 20th century German tradition, they’re willing to give it a go pretty much continuously. Audlin is merely stretching the boundaries of this bizarre field of academic endeavor here.

So how might an ambitious newcomer to the game of redaction critique set about determining –– in terms of the above analogy –– which colors are which? He would have to employ some general theory of what the original author was trying to say and how he was prone to saying it, and how the style and message of the later editor would have significantly differed from this. This in turn involves identifying the main characters in the story, and reaching some conclusions about their relationships to each other, and the author’s relationship to each of them.

In the Gospel of John this provides a rather fascinating challenge. Is Nathaniel the same character that the other gospels call Bartholomew? Is Alphaeus the same fellow as Clopas/Cleopas? Is the sister of Mary, mother of Jesus seen at the crucifixion in John the same lady as the mother of the sons of Zebedee seen at the crucifixion in Matthew? And how are we to sort through all of the Johns, Jameses, Judases, Simons, Josephs and especially Marys that crop up in the tale?

To cut to the chase here, Audlin has concluded that the “Da Vinci Code” theory is correct: Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, and furthermore this Mary is actually the same person as Mary of Bethany, who is also the same person as the woman at the well in Samaria in John 4, and the same person as the prostitute who came to pay homage to Jesus by perfuming his feet in the house of Simon the Pharisee in Luke 7. To take this counter-intuitive leap to even greater heights, Audlin further theorizes that Mary was a single mother when she met Jesus, that she had worked as a temple priestess/prostitute previously (which her “five previous husbands” would have been a cultural reference to), that Lazarus would have been her son rather than her brother, that by her Jesus would have fathered John Mark, who went on to be the author of the second gospel, and that the “beloved disciple” on whose recollections the Gospel of John is based is none other than Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead.

Anointing of Jesus' FeetTo briefly summarize how he reaches all of these conclusions is a bit beyond my skills as a writer, but in many ways it relates to the second research challenge that this work brings to mind: About 7 or 8 years ago my son got me interested in tracing back our family’s roots in the Netherlands, and as it turned out, with recently published records on line, I was able to get much further in tracing my male lineage than anyone of my father’s generation ever had. But in these newly digitalized records from the 19th century there were plenty of confusions with first, second and third cousins sharing the same first names, and with family names changing as my pauper ancestors’ families acquired new farms that had family names attached to them. Also it seems that many of my ancestors from the 18th century were semi-literate at best, and the official records of their marriages, children’s baptisms, funerals and inheritance bequests often varied between 4 or 5 alternative spellings for both their given names and their surnames. Top that off with the fact that official surnames for Dutch peasants were effectively non-existent prior to the Napoleonic era and you start to see what sort of puzzle I became engrossed in for that time.

I know, for instance, that my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather’s name was Jan Hendrik, that his son was Arend (or Arent, depending on where you look), and that his son was again Jan Hendrik, and that his son in turn was Arend Jan. I know that within these clans there was something of a moral duty to keep other men’s names in circulation as well, including Fredrick, Gerrit, Albert, Willem, Derk and Lucas. What I still haven’t figured out though is who the original Hendrik in the lineage was, how closely the other Huisjens of the Ommen area were related to my family before they died out, whether my great-great-great-great-grandfather’s brother, who changed his name when he married into money, has any living male heir who would share my paternal bloodline still, and whether or not there were any associations between my ancestors and their village’s tiny Jewish community.  Even if I were completely fluent in Dutch and intimately acquainted with the geography, parish histories, economic history and local legends of the Overijssel, I still wouldn’t be able to do much more than speculate about many of these questions. The various speculations that Audlin tosses about in the process of his investigations into the Gospel of John strongly remind me of some of my earlier speculations in this personal genealogical project. The level of uncertainty in Audlin’s project appears to be much greater though.

Anyway, another major German speculation from the pre-Nazi period that Audlin has bought into is that Jesus as the God-man was something that Saul of Tarsus basically invented when he reinvented himself as the Apostle Paul, Jesus’ ambassador to the non-Jews; and that underneath this motif you can find a tale that is more authentically Jewish and historical.  Whereas the other gospels were written under Paul’s influence from the start, as this story goes, John started out with eyewitness accounts that originally weren’t so corrupted by Paul’s viewpoint. Jesus was just a fantastic moral teacher, a legendary local miracle worker and a friend of the poor –– a campaigner for “truth, justice and the Davidic way,” but without so many other Superman-like characteristics.

Alright, that theory inevitably means that there are certain things about the presumed divinity of Jesus that Audlin’s going to leave out on purpose because he’ll assume that they are later innovations on the text and he’s shooting for the “original”.  How does it end up working? In some ways not so bad as conservatives might expect.

Reading the actual gospel text in Audlin’s rearranged version is actually a rewarding aesthetic –– perhaps even spiritual –– experience unto itself. Though, for reasons given above, I’m not able to take it as the new benchmark in Johannine scholarship as Audlin might hope, taken more as a creative work of literature based on ancient texts –– read with the same sort of open-minded appreciation one would bring to a new musical based on the life of Jesus, for instance –– the text does have a punchy dramatic flow to it in this new form.

It is divided up into four acts, each with their own coherent themes and story lines within the overall plot. Much of it actually makes a lot of sense: for instance taking the final section of chapter 14 in the received text, ending with the words, “Come now, let us leave,” and putting it at the end of the whole Last Supper monolog rather than in the middle, makes complete dramatic sense. Many other sermons and debate sequences in the text receive a certain added impact through Audlin’s dramatic touch in rearranging the order of the text.

Where things run thin in terms of keeping the drama moving in a steady fashion –– where Audlin believes that the redactor has chopped out important parts that would have been necessary to the poetic flow of the original –– he patches in some bits and pieces from the Gospel of Mark and from some rather obscure papyruses. This provides one extra miracle to go together with the teachings of Jesus –– getting grain to instantly grow and ripen before his followers’ eyes by scooping out handfuls of Jordan River water and tossing it on the shore –– but other than that there are no significant surprises here. Overall one gets the impression that if Audlin doesn’t already have a musical score ready to play in the background as this text is being performed it wouldn’t take him long to write one.

Audlin is also kind enough to emphasize the way in which this gospel has Jesus repeatedly saying I AM in ways that imply a unique connection with God in terms of God’s self-description to Moses from the burning bush (Exodus 3:14. He points out quite correctly that within the text the narrator never refers to himself in the first person, adding to the mystery of his identity, but also leaving the expression “I am” to be used almost exclusively by Jesus. The only other character who utters this “I am” is the man born blind that Jesus heals: All of the townspeople see him afterwards and say to themselves, “No, that can’t be the same blind dude that always sits by the gate begging,” to which the formerly blind fellow says quite emphatically, “No, I AM the same guy!” But this is only possible for him in the narrative because of being so directly and powerfully touched by Jesus’ “I AM”. And the “blasphemous” implications of Jesus claims before the Pharisees that, “before Abraham was, I AM” (8:58) couldn’t really come out more come out more clearly than they do in Audlin’s version of the text.

In fact in spite of his efforts to dispose of Pauline “God-man veneers” in this gospel reconstruction, the resulting portrait of Jesus is one that ever more strongly brings to mind the famous claim of C.S Lewis that Jesus does not leave us with the option of thinking of him as just a good man: he must either be a stark raving madman: a psychotic megalomaniac on the level of someone who thinks of himself as a fried egg; or he must be the most cynical psychopathic con man that the universe has ever known; or he must be who he says he is: the unique, divine “anointed one” of God, sent to provide salvation to all who believe in him. Sounds pretty God-man-like to me!

So while I don’t agree with many of his starting assumptions or final conclusions, I greatly appreciate Audlin’s invitation to dive in and play with these ideas found there. Speculating about Jesus’ family relations, for instance, is almost as much fun as speculating about my own ancestry. For instance less radical than Audlin’s speculations would be the idea that Jesus grew up staying in touch with two sets of cousins: one set by way of Joseph’s brother’s family down in Judea, and another by way of Mary’s sister’s family in Galilee. These cousins could have accounted for as much as half of his original band of twelve disciples, and their immediate contacts could have accounted for the other half. Wouldn’t that be interesting! Such speculations aren’t particularly important theologically, but they’re interesting in their own way, and many of them I’d never stopped to think about before looking at Audlin’s version of the text.

But for some that is not as interesting by half as the possibility of shattering long-standing traditional ideas, such as Jesus being celibate, or Mary being a perpetual virgin, or even the well-established legend of John, son of Zebedee being the primary witness for the text of the Gospel of John. Trying to stake out his own radical ground in appealing to those interests is a big part of what Audlin seems to be doing here. That may or may not be the best way to start a conversation on the matter: many who could most benefit from reconsidering their presuppositions on such matters will be too offended –– or too tingly at the idea of having some new “scholarly critique” to toss at their traditionalist Christian opponents –– to actually stop and consider such matters. All in all then I’d be rather (though pleasantly) surprised if this work reaches a particularly wide audience.

So if you are the sort of person who likes intellectual literary analysis puzzles and theological speculations for their own sake, if you are not particularly thin-skinned about your presuppositions concerning the text of the New Testament and if you are facing a serious shortage of reading material for 2013 otherwise, I can heartily recommend Audlin’s new project as something to occupy yourself with. I don’t see it as earth-shatteringly important piece of scholarship in the sense that I don’t expect it will start any new major international debate among historical Jesus scholars, and I rather doubt that the target audience for such a work is as broad as my friend James might expect or hope, but for what it is and for those few who fit into the sort of reader profile I’ve outlined here, this is a fascinating reading project in its own sense. If you play around with analyzing Audlin himself as part of joining him in analyzing this gospel that would be fair game, and that makes the reading experience all the more interesting.

And whether or not you fit into this sort of profile, I wish my readers here one and all a very Happy New Year!

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