“This is not a religious book; it is a book about religion. Specifically, this work seeks to assess the Jesusgate phenomenon. The term Jesusgate, used herein, indicate that Christian leaders, by act of commission and omission, have seriously neglected their responsibility to share with the laity vital information about the origins of Christianity and the Jesus tradition. As a result, an incredible knowledge gap has ensued between what scholars of religion now know, as opposed to what lay people have been led to believe.”
The quote comes from the introduction of JESUSGATE: A History of Concealment Unraveled by Ernie Bringas.
But why should this knowledge gap matter to any of us, especially to those of us who have taken a step back from Christianity? But it does matter; it matters because the widespread ideas and beliefs of Christianity and the Jesus tradition prevail worldwide. Accordingly, all of us are affected by these traditional beliefs, be we Christian or not, beliefs that are no longer rational or defensible.
That's why Ernie Bringas’ book is so important. The ongoing reluctance to share mainstream religious scholarship with lay people, simply does not serve us. It has consequences. Over the past centuries, this knowledge gap—between scholar and layperson—has led us to bigotry, the persecution of Jews, murder, the oppression of women, the suppression of science and many other aberrations.
Bringas makes a clear case that the beliefs that most people have about Christianity are obsolete, and he exposes the reasons why people continue to splash around in the backwaters of a religious mind-set equivalent to that of the 17th century. Bringas breaks down these misconceptions step by step, and provides the knowledge that will help diminish that debilitating handicap.
He goes on to say: “Because scholars of religion utilize a scientific methodology, their fact finding record has proven remarkably productive.” He estimates that of the over two billion Christians worldwide, less than one percent of them know much about the findings of New Testament scholarship, rendering the majority of Christians and non-Christians alike, religiously illiterate. When Bringas speaks of “religious illiteracy,” he is not referring to what laypersons may or may not know about biblical content. Someone may well be able to quote you chapter and verse and yet be religiously illiterate; that is, totally unaware about the findings of religious scholarship.
This work doesn’t make any claims about supernatural subjects (e.g.,Does God exist?) that are outside of the scope of critical thinking. It focuses on the origins, development, selection, authorship, historical reliability, translation and transmission over the centuries, of the New Testament (NT). It also explores the issues surrounding the historical Jesus, the “divinity” of Jesus, prophecy, the status of women in the NT, and the influence of first-century religious and cultural worldviews on NT development.
Contrary to the seriousness of the subject matter, there is much humor in Bringas’ approach; he even throws in a few cartoons for good measure. This was a joy to read, on a very serious matter that affects us all, Christian or not.
Author Ernie Bringas has a Master of Divinity degree from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, and was ordained as a minister of the United Methodist Church. He served the Church for almost twenty years before venturing into academe, where he currently teaches Religious Studies at Glendale Community College in Arizona. Under their auspices, he previously taught these classes at Arizona State University. Interesting to note, during the early 1960s Ernie, with partner Phil Stewart, founded a rock group that came to be known as THE RIP CHORDS. Recording on the Columbia Records label, they placed five hit singles on the Billboard Hot 100.