As part of my ongoing attempt to bring myself up to the proper level of culture and general knowledge that I would be getting from a normal college, I have begun to read the New Testament. The following are my general thoughts on the subject, in no particular order. While none of them are particularly original, they all interested me at the time:
- There is no possible way that I can read this without a bias. Even ignoring any prior conditioning I have, I'm simply not reading this as an article of my faith that it is morally useful to appreciate. Quite the opposite. So any comparisons to Tanach are simply not going to be fair.
- That said, I'm not overwhelmingly impressed. It's nice. It's certainly nice and sweet and preachy, and just jam-packed with all sorts of quotable quotes. And that's it. I can see sweet, moral people being all inspired by its sweet, moral lessons, but it doesn't feel like it has any meat to it. For me, it's rather like my high school Navi class (and I'm sure they'd both love the analogy): full of pretty lines and "how can we apply this to our lives?" without firm guidelines or anything real. I'm sure there are people who like that sort of thing; I'm just not one of them.
- The story of John the Baptist's head is exactly- I mean uncannily- like the story of R' Yishmael the Kohen Gadol. I mean, isn't John even the son of the Kohen Gadol or something? And the girl and the face... There's got to be some copying or joint source there. I bet there's a doctorate somewhere out there on that very subject.
- Wow, there's a lot of stuff about faith and the world to come. A lot. I actually like worldviews that have less of an emphasis on both. Which seems to be more common in Tanach than in modern Orthodox society.
- It's quite repetitive, isn't it? I mean, aside from the Gospels being the same things in slightly different wording, each gospel has multiples of each story. Twice with the loaves and fishes, at least three predictions of the Crucifixion, countless lepers and demon-possessed. I wonder if there's Bible criticism on this stuff.
- They, like the gemara, are really, really big on Eliyahu. There doesn't seem to be any such emphasis in the later bits of Tanach, except for that one quote at the end of Zechariah.
- I keep getting annoyed at Jesus for being egotistical and self-centered and overconfident. And I know that when you're G-d, you're allowed to wander about and think that you're so special and that it's better for people to bathe your feet than help the poor and that loving their families more than you is evil and whatever, but it's still really annoying when it's coming from the mouth of a character who is technically human. (Maybe it's my sidekick sympathy kicking in) You just want to tell him to get over himself. And I guess one could have the same objections to G-d, but to me it's quite different when you're incorporeal and infinite and so forth.