Amy-Jill Levine's recent CNN Belief blog post,"4 teachings from Jesus that everybody gets wrong", was rather entertaining. It is usually somewhat amusing to read theists go another round of linguistic and logical gymnastics but this one was exceptional in that she manages to imply standards that would in effect erase the Bible (both Old and New Testament) entirely. Her arguments were as subjective, ignorant, deluded, and self serving as they were just plain stupid.
Setting aside for the moment that the whole piece is simply a review of her opinions on specific sets of scripture backed by nothing beyond her own personal preference, the four sections of the post essentially self-destruct almost immediately. In the first part, "The 'Parable of the Prodigal Son'", one of her first objections and supposed proofs that "everyone gets wrong" is incredibly foolish and quite telling. Levine writes, "It is not, however, what first-century Jews would have heard. Jesus’ Jewish audience already knew that their “Father in heaven” was loving, forgiving, and compassionate."
It sounds rather innocuous until you think about what it implies. She seems to be saying that only original/unique messages are worthy of being written down and becoming scripture. Seriously?! Not only does she not establish that all Jews would have been familiar with the messages current theists favor, which is possible, but she never seems to notice that there were numerous cults, sects, and religions around both before and during the first century. Not all of those would fall under the label of Judaism or Christianity. How can she possibly determine the origin of any given concept or teaching given that every faith we are aware of has been built on the faiths that came before them and on their contemporaries. Many of the teachings did overlap and were by no means unique to any one faith.
The scriptures themselves are fairly repetitive on a number of points. If you follow this premise to its logical conclusion the Bible should not exist. Each "Testament" is internally largely redundant. The New Testament is in some ways even worse since it rehashes a number of stories, lessons, and concepts from its predecessor before restating them over and over again. According to Levine's low standards, the New Testament should be viewed as "wrong." That would be somewhat convenient since it negates the foundation of Christianity (she's Jewish) but it also basically destroys her arguments related to Jesus' teachings. She herself has to be "wrong" since her supposed insights are also not original. Even if you could still make the assumption Jesus existed without scripture, which you can't, his teachings are not unique. So why argue about others getting his messages wrong when there are no worthwhile messages or no messages at all to interpret?
Levine not only reinforces this flaw in her writing, she makes a number of similar ones. She clearly thinks she is helping people better understand the true nature of Jesus Christ. I believe she does actually mean well but that doesn't change the fact that it is just as clear that she really doesn't have a clue what she's talking about. She ends her piece by stating, "I am not a Christian, but I hear profound messages in these parables. If I as an outsider can be so moved by Jesus’ stories, surely people who worship him as Lord and Savior can appreciate them even more."
I have to wonder what her definition of "profound" is. I got the distinct impression that she wrote the piece for herself more than anyone else. She seems to need to convince herself of her own interpretations. Perhaps deep down she realizes that it really is completely subjective and devoid of any substance.