Rev. Leith Anderson speaking at the interfaith press conference on
Capitol Hill - Nov. 2, 2011, a photo by Bread for the World on Flickr.
There are obvious problems: The 'gospels' are often in conflict with each other and with known historical facts--and often make dubious assertions. The gospel writers do not clearly state their distance from the events they are describing. Quotations written down long after the purported happenings--by unreliable, little-known writers--have to be treated with skepticism.
Instead of dealing honestly with the multiple challenges facing Jesus' biographer, Anderson chooses the gospel assertions he likes best, only rarely mentioning their inconsistencies.
In relating the story of Jesus' arrival, only two gospels mention the virgin birth. The fairest way to harmonize and integrate four biographical sketches, two of which make no mention of the subject's virgin birth--it would seem to me--would be to say 'while some have claimed Jesus was born to a virgin, two of the gospels make no mention of the claim, so we ought to view it with great doubt.'
In the event, Anderson dogmatically asserts the virgin birth, without caveat, and thinks it obvious, were one to accept Jesus' virgin birth, one would then be required to accept all Christian moral claims.
Throughout the start of Jesus, Anderson imposes his idiosyncratic favoritism, choosing the stories he likes best--and almost never basing his choices in secular historical research, which he considers of no interest. It gets worse:
Jesus [Anderson prefaces] uses a literary device currently popular in the writing of historical biography, adding descriptive language to conversations, emotions, and thought processes to facilitate the telling of the story.When I attended a service at Wooddale, then too I noticed Anderson's willingness to concoct conversations and ascribe invented emotions and thought processes to historical figures, without factual basis. The book's first paragraph let's us know what we're in for:
There was no good way to hurry the pregnant young bride as she traveled the caravan route from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Her husband, Joseph, may have wanted to encourage her to greater speed, but she already was doing her best.A footnote on page 13:
There is a tradition saying that Joseph was older than Mary and that he may have lost a first wife through death, though there is no historical evidence for such a theory.Given that there is no historical evidence for all kinds of Anderson's story-telling: Odd.
In his roles both as minister and author, Anderson assumes a perfect continuity between the emotional lives of ancient Jews and contemporary Eden Prairie evangelicals:
[Mary and Joseph] faced the same worries and panic shared by all parents of missing children. Perhaps their fear was greater because they understood he was a special child who had been entrusted by God to their care.Were an Eden Prairie blogger/congressional candidate to engage in Anderson's dishonesty and slop, he'd soon find himself a laughingstock.