Liberating the Gospels by P-HarpercollinsPubl


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									Liberating the Gospels
Author: John Shelby Spong

In this boldest book since Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, Bishop John Shelby Spong offers a
compelling view of the Gospels as thoroughly Jewish tests.Spong powerfully argues that many of the key
Gospel accounts of events in the life of Jesus -- from the stories of his birth to his physical resurrection --
are not literally true. He offers convincing evidence that the Gospels are a collection of Jewish midrashic
stories written to convey the significance of Jesus. This remarkable discovery brings us closer to how
Jesus was really understood in his day and should be in ours.

Did it really happen?That is the question that people through the ages have always asked about the
beginnings of their religious traditions. Certainly that has been the question asked of the gospel tradition
of Christianity. Did it really happen? Did a virgin actually conceive? Did the heavens really open at the
time of Jesus' baptism? Did Jesus walk on water or feed the multitude with five loaves? Did he literally
restore sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and even more dramatically, life to the deceased? Did his
resuscitated body walk physically out of the tomb at the dawn of Easter some thirty-six to seventy-two
hours after his public execution? Did he rise from this earth and ascend into a heaven located just beyond
the sky?Traditionally, the only answers that these questions could possibly elicit were either yes or no.
"Yes" was the answer of the believer. "No" was the answer of the unbeliever. In the years of Christian
dominance in the Western world, the answer "no" was seldom heard in public places, for the pressure
against doubting or questioning the conventional religious wisdom was enormous. The Bible had been
proclaimed to be the literal Word of God. It was God's truth. It admitted to no error. Great theological
systems of doctrine had been erected on the basis of this revealed Word of God. Belief in that creedal
orthodoxy was equated with salvation. Unbelief was subject to condemnation.Liturgical practices had
been inaugurated by the Church so that these great objective moments of the gospel drama could be
lived out annually and thus be riveted upon our memories. So at Christmas we heard the story of Jesus'
birth, with all of its miraculous wonder that featured stars and angels, virgins, and close escapes into
Egypt. During Holy Week we relived the literal drama of Jesus' suffering, from the betrayal, arrest, and
torture, to his crucifixion on a hill named Calvary. At Easter we reveled in the stories of his restoration to
life, which were replete with tangible proofs of his resurrected reality. He was seen by his disciples. He
ate food before them. He invited them to handle him to make sure he was not a ghost. He opened the
wounds in his hands and side to their tactile examination. On the Sunday of Pentecost, we celebrated
the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church complete with accounts of a mighty rushing wind,
tongues of fire, and the ability to speak in the language of the hearer. Over and over, year in and year out,
the liturgy of the Church flowed over the conscious minds of the people until these events became part of
the cultural self-identity, thus enabling these concepts to be kept ever fresh in our memories.The liturgy
also served to make these defining moments in our faith story so dramatic and powerful that for centuries
it occurred to no one to suggest anything other than that these were the objective memories of
eyewitnesses who faithfully recorded them in the sacred text that came to be known as the Word of God.
So to the question, "Did it really happen?" the believer would assert with great confidence, "Yes, of
course. It happened just as the Bible says!"But the Christian dominance of the Western world began to
decline visibly by the sixteenth century, and with that decline the answer "yes" to the question, "Did it
really happen?" became less and less secure. Believers had to face the fact that other answers were
becoming conceivable. This shift did not happen quickly. At first, those few who would question or doubt
publicly did so at the risk of some very real danger to their lives. Some were ostracized, others were
excommunicated, and a few were even burned at the stake.
Author Bio
John Shelby Spong
John Shelby Spong was the Episcopal Bishop of Newark for twenty-four years before his retirement in
2000; he remains one of the leading spokespersons for progressive Christianity. He is the author or co-
author of some twenty books, including the bestselling Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A
Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture; Liberating the Gospels: Reading the Bible with Jewish Eyes;
Born of a Woman: A Bishop Rethinks the Virgin Birth and the Role of Women in a Male-Dominated
Church; Resurrection: Myth or Reality?: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Easter; Why Christianity
Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers in Exile; and A New Christianity for a New World:
Why Traditional Faith Is Dying and How a New Faith Is Being Born. Please visit’t miss the next book by your favorite author. Sign up now for AuthorTracker
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