Do We Recreate Biblical Characters In Our Own Image?

I was reading an interview with Peter Enns over at The Pangea Blog.  They talk about his book on Ecclesiastes.  Peter says:

"The main character of the book, called Qohelet, has some pretty harsh things to say about life as an Israelite. He is not simply skeptical. He is undone. He is in faith-crisis mode, and he pulls no punches letting us know it. His big beef is with God. Qohelet is angry with him."

That says a lot about what was going on inside Qohelet.  I'm not saying Peter is wrong (although I do have a different take on Ecclesiastes).  I think we can infer that type of thing from the text.  It just seems that some people (not necessarily Peter) are cautious when it comes to mirror-reading but have no problem reconstructing the psyche of someone.  I've heard many sermons where the preacher talks about how David felt this way, Abraham thought this, or Paul was this type of person.  They'll even talk about how God felt and what He thought even when it's not explicit in the text.  So, although they are leery of reconstructing the specific events that mirror-reading can bring to light, they embrace reconstructing the persons, personalities and psychologies of Biblical authors and characters.

I also recently listened to a debate between Reza Aslan and Anthony Le Donne on Unbelievable? with Justin Brierely. Aslan attempts to reconstruct the person of Jesus, although he excludes much of the New Testament text about Jesus.  

When we do this type of thing I wonder if we are driven by creating the characters in our own image.  It seems like Peter Enns has had his own crisis of faith and so Qohelet is also similar.  Aslan has a history of desiring political change, and so Jesus is a political revolutionary.  Are Enns and Aslan drawn to those characters because that's who they truly were, or are they reading their own personalities into the characters? To be sure, they offer evidence for their views, but I can't help but think that who they are colors their view.  They are also concerned with the original readers but stick with the broad historical context instead of the more specific situational context that mirror-reading can provide.  It is, of course, impossible to be completely objective, but I find it all thought provoking.

One of the reasons that I like mirror-reading is because it takes the focus off of trying to fit one's own situation or own theology into the text and focuses on the original reader's situation.  And yet, I wonder if my own personality is coloring my own conclusions. 

Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: Hernán Piñera cropped from original

Why Is John Different Than The Rest Of The Gospels?

You can see the similarities shared among the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke below:

On the other hand, only about 8% of the gospel of John parallels the other Gospels.  While the laity tend to favor John, scholars often give it a hard time for being so different.

I recently watched this video over at the Huffington Post with Peter Kreeft, Philip Jenkins, Peter Lillback and Reza Aslan.  Aslan is one of the scholars that sees John as being different because the story of Jesus evolved, and the author was crafting the story to support the theological views of the time.

Mirror-reading takes a different approach.  The Gospel narratives are not simply a recording of events but a response to the situations the authors were facing at the time.  It's not like Matthew, Mark, Luke or John sat down one day and said, "I think I'll write down all the things I know or believe about Jesus."  They all should be viewed as half of a conversation.  The Gospel of John was simply responding to a different set of circumstances than the other Gospels were.  That shouldn't necessitate that we view John with suspicion, or that his narrative is any less credible.   You can watch my video on mirror-reading narratives, or check out any of the narratives on the Books of the Bible page.

Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: Alecmconroy cropped from original