BOOKS: Popular new works re-examine Biblical History

The new, New Testament -
[I don't know what is more interesting, these books, or the fact that this article is in the NYPOST. amazing - Mary]
Whether your knowledge of the New Testament is passing or deep, the overarching narrative is most likely familiar: Born to the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ, son of God and man, is sent to save humanity through his crucifixion, death and resurrection.
Such is the foundation of all Christianity. Yet suddenly, a slew of true believers are arguing for a reconsideration of the Gospels — and the Old Testament — based on the predicate forever cited by atheists: The Bible doesn’t make any sense.
Jesus Wars: How Four Patriarchs, Three Queens, and Two Emperors Decided What Christians Would Believe for the Next 1,500 Years,” by Philip Jenkins, is just out in paperback, as is Kristin Swenson’s “Bible Babel: Making Sense of the Most Talked About Book of All Time, and Diarmaid MacCulloch’s award-winning “Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years.”
In January, Pastor Jennifer Wright Knust published “Unprotected Texts: The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions on Sex and Desire,” in which she attempts to explain why the Bible advocates both polygamy and celibacy, and both condones and condemns adultery and homosexuality. Last month, religion professor Timothy Beal published “The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book.” His counterintuitive thesis: The Bible is not a book of answers, but a book of questions. God wants it to be confusing, he says, on purpose.
“It’s not that the hundreds of people writing and editing the Bible were stupid and just ignored the contradictions,” Beal says. “If you think religion is about answers, it’s likely that when you face this material, you’ll reject it. So much of life is really about ambiguity — if you think it’s about the question, as I do, then it’s a richer place to explore.”
In many of these new books, the Bible has been re-framed in just this way, as a deliberately perplexing text meant to provoke self-examination. To many atheists — the fastest-growing minority in America and, according a recent Pew poll, the most Biblically literate segment of the population — this argument merely moves the goalposts, attempting to redefine an all-knowing, judgmental deity (“a celestial North Korea,” to quote Christopher Hitchens) into either a whimsical Socratic teacher or a schizophrenic.
“How do [believers] determine which passages are mistakes?” says Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanists Association. “And if they’re using a filter, does that filter look a lot like humanism?”
This recent spate of books, Speckhardt thinks, is mainly “an effort to hold on to a flock that’s leaving rather quickly.” He’s not wrong: The largest religious denomination in the United States is the Roman Catholic Church. The second largest group by religious identity? Former members of the Roman Catholic Church. “I think the more we learn about the history of the Bible,” Beal says, “the more we learn about how human-made it is... (read more above)