Today on NPR they interviewed Bart Ehrman, the author of Misquoting Jesus, a book which I recently started. Between the reading and the hearing my head is spinning... the amount of key Gospel material that appears to have been added or changed comes as a surprise to me. The "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" story? An apocryphal late addition (though as Ehrman points out, it is a brilliant story. We're better off with it, late addition or no.) The passage in John Chapter One that's pretty much 99% of the scriptural support for Trinitarian theology? Probably shoehorned in by folks who had dreamed up Trinitarianism with no solid Scriptual support (And who'd burn your house down if you disagreed, as explained in "When Jesus Became God" by Richard E. Rubenstein.) Several passages about Jesus taking pity on lepers are actually about Jesus getting angry and curing them by striking them? Erm.
Ehrman also points out that the Gospels were each written as unique stand-alone texts, and we do them an injustice when we try to mash them all together as if they were fully compatable. This makes me want to reread the Gospels with an emphasis on the individual character of each narrative. Still, as one who believes in printing the facts and the legend both, I'm more in awe than ever before of the way the distinct tellings of the Gospel story are often melded together. Every Good Friday service I've been to weaves everything Christ's reported to have said during the crucifixion together into one story that has an astonishing arc to it... I have to honor that reweaving of the narrative strands as an artistic triumph, even if it has blunted our awareness of each Gospel's identity. I'm not troubled by apparent contradictions between the Gospels, since I imagine four biographies of JFK will have contradictions as well. Ehrman also asks if it's worth trusting that the original texts are divinely inspired when we don't have the original texts... one could argue that if God inspired the writing then God could just as easily inspire the rewriting.
Of course I also read an essay about Shakespeare's texts recently (in an introduction to my Twelfth Night script) that explained how the different existing folios of Shakespeare's texts are rife with inaccuracies and contradictions. It demonstrates how familiar Shakespeare passages are really best-guess editorial concoctions; when they had three different versions of the same passage they crafted an "official" version that didn't exactly match any of the folios. Of course as wonderful as Shakespeare is, no one claims it's the inerrant Word, so a little fudging isn't exactly a sin...
BTW in this radio interview Harold Bloom calls the works of Shakespeare, the works of Chaucer, and The King James Bible the three great works of English prose (or something like that) but flatly states that the New Testament in Greek is no match for the Talmud as far as its writing quality goes. I can't read Greek or Hebrew so I can't comment.
Enough profound and troubling stuff! Here's a few delightful websites:
Wonderful wacky musical downloads.
Online dictionaries speak the hits! My faves are Tomorrow Never Knows, And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going (from the Broadway musical Dreamgirls) and Anarchy in the UK.
Best of all: http://www.ubu.com/
Jam-packed with artsy films and audio i've wanted for years, all for free (and apparentlky legal) download.