A Hitchhiker’s Guide To Jesus: Reading The Gospels On The Ground, by Bruce N. Fisk
This is a rather ambivalent book in many ways. The author combines a certain sense of openness with a desire to rise above orthodox certainty without being biased against the Bible. He comes to an appreciation of the Bible as literature, but in doing so manages to run afoul of Israeli settlers and shows up late but an honored guest at an Arab Israeli wedding and wrestles with a complicated response to the evidence he sees on the ground, which is continually being argued over by people with different ideas and viewpoints and perspectives. If the author comes off looking like a real person, he doesn’t exactly come off as someone whose opinion about the Bible is trustworthy, because he views himself a critic and a judge of the biblical texts (if in his mind a sympathetic one) rather than someone who views himself as being held accountable by God and Jesus Christ by the biblical text. And as a higher critic, no matter how mild, his views are simply not as authoritative as he would like them to be. But the author frames his story in such a way that one is intended to feel sympathy with him and with the Arabs of Israel and the West Bank, putting him squarely in the camp of those liberal Christians who do so much harm in the world at large.
In terms of its contents, if not its approach, there is much to like about the book. The author writes about a trip to Israel he took as a young adult, a trip interrupted by terrible news about the health of his mother, in order to help sort out what he felt about the Bible in light of the reality on the ground. The text is a bit more than 200 pages and is divided into seven chapters where the author sees ruins, deals with security issues, and gets to know people while pursuing his biblical investigations and does a lot of good reading. The book features a lot of notes about what other readers have said and sticky notes that add to the aesthetic appeal of the book as a whole, all of which offers considerable enjoyment. The author introduces his discussion of a crisis of faith after having studied religion in college (1) and looks for historical ghosts at the Jordan River (2). He seeks to find room at the inn in Bethlehem not only for himself but also for his worldview (3), and looks at the mist and mystery of Jerusalem (4) and the world of Galilee (5). He then closes with a discussion of the wall of tears (6) and what it is like being on this side of the tomb (7).
Throughout this book we witness the author talking about true love and dealing with others, from friendly Israelis to shady antiquities dealers involved in the black market. He discusses the Jesus seminar as if they were serious thinkers about the Bible and finds himself uncomfortable around orthodox believers, as well as dealing with the question of biblical prophecy and the relevance of scripture today. He shows himself a person who can read well but is not nearly as good a thinker–then or now–as he fancies himself to be. There are many people like the author, though, and it is probably not worthwhile to hammer them too much for their belief in their own approach to the biblical text. After all, everyone is justified in their own eyes, and that is as true of the author as it is of those who will read the book, likely with different perspectives and approaches than the author. Like the author, we are all faced with the responsibility of looking at the reality of the Bible on the ground  and in the text and to address where we stand and how we accept the judgment of God on our lives and on our deeds.
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