It’s March. Winter’s a bit long in the tooth. Spring? Hints now and then. Ice skating is fading. So, what am I reading?
Lost Christianities: The battle for scripture and the faiths we never knew, by Bart D. Ehrman.
If there ever was a jumpy house of competing ideas, it is Christianity, a religion with such disparate sects, you have to wonder you can call all these competing groups, “Christian.” And the Bible? There isn’t just one. The Catholics have the apocryphal books in theirs. Protestants? Per the apocrypha, they say “No way.” Bart Ehrman’s book deals with lost texts and ideas from the first few centuries of the Common Era, and the story is fascinating. Unless you’re a Biblical scholar, you’ve probably not heard of any of this, and he touches on topics such as “lost scriptures” written by Simon Peter and Judas Thomas (who was also Jesus’ twin, and mortal, brother), Gnostic sects, etc. It’s a story of a battle of ideas, politics and power.
Struggles and triumphs, by P.T. Barnum.
Phineas Taylor Barnum, that is. In the 19th century, he was America’s greatest showman, a man who dedicated his life to alleviating the “severe and drudging practicalness” of American civilization with a parade of curiosity museums, circuses, sideshows, divas and pioneered the use of advertising to sway the public’s interests. In many ways, his ideas presaged our world of mass entertainments. He was a bit of a wag, though. Allegedly, he plotted with Mark Twain to lease a comet’s tail to take a million passengers on a guided tour of outer space. Sign me up!
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