Saturday, March 07, 2009

Meaning of life as an Agnostic

Here is a Fresh Air interview with Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman. He has a recent book out, Jesus Interrupted (you can read an excerpt here). Most of the interview is focused on the variation of stories between the different Gospels and what do they tell us about their authors. But the last 5-10 minutes of the interview are devoted to talking about Ehrman's own journey from being an Evangelical Christian at one point to an Agnostic. In particular, check out his answer about ethics and the meaning of life as an Agnostic (its right at the end of the interview).

On a related note, check out this bizarre story of identity theft dealing with the debate about the origins of Dead Sea scrolls. Here is the dispute first:

For decades, the origin of the Dead Sea Scrolls has been intensely debated.

The prevailing theory is that these ancient documents, which include texts from the Hebrew Bible, were written over the three centuries before 100 A.D. by a Jewish sect known as the Essenes, who were based in Qumran, a settlement at the northwest shore of the Dead Sea near the caves where the scrolls were found between 1947 and 1956.

An alternative theory, passionately proffered by a University of Chicago professor, is that the scrolls’ authors were not Essenes, and that the scrolls themselves were kept in various libraries in Jerusalem until they were hidden in the caves around Qumran for safekeeping during the Roman war of A.D. 67 to 73. Qumran, he has said, was not an Essene monastery but a fortress, one of several armed defensive bastions around Jerusalem.
Ok...so now you are saying - that's quite normal. This is like any other academic debate. But now wait for the Law & Order doink doink sound and keep reading further:

The professor, Norman Golb, has stood behind his theory despite significant criticism. His son, Raphael Haim Golb, has been one of his greatest allies.

But prosecutors said on Thursday that Raphael Golb took defending his father’s theory too far. Mr. Golb is accused of using stolen identities of various people, including a New York University professor who disagreed with his father, to elevate his father’s theory and besmirch its critics, Robert M. Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney, said at a news conference.

Mr. Golb, 49, was arrested Thursday morning and charged in Manhattan Criminal Court with identity theft, criminal impersonation and aggravated harassment. He faces up to four years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors said Mr. Golb opened an e-mail account in the name of Lawrence H. Schiffman, the New York University professor who disagreed with Mr. Golb’s father. He sent messages in Professor Schiffman’s name to various people at N.Y.U. and to others involved in the Dead Sea Scrolls debate, fabricating an admission by Professor Schiffman that he had plagiarized some of Professor Golb’s work, Mr. Morgenthau said. Raphael Golb also set up blogs under various names that accused Dr. Schiffman of plagiarism, Mr. Morgenthau said.
Read the full article here.