This blog is an attempt to figure out whether the so-called “Great Books” are really so great and to see if these old books have anything to say about modern life.

6 thoughts on “About

  1. Hi Benjamin,

    I was doing some research and noticed your blog. I’m also a former “hardcored christian” 🙂 🙂 and found your blog that way. I’m trying to figure out what I am now and enjoyed your review of Christianity in the first generation after Christ. I’ve sort of given up on the “main” religions and I’m half heartedly looking for others that sort of focus all their religious effort on the book of Mark (I believe that Paul was a sort of ‘self appointed’ apostle that never met Jesus… and therefore don’t put much creedence in his teachings). Anyway, I’d be interested to read/here what you have to say about the book of Mark and to hear what, if any, religion you currently practice?

    1. Kevin and Benjamin:

      I’m with you on the religion of Paul vs. religion of Jesus (or religion of Mark, as you put it.) You might want to track down a book called The Mark. Published in the 1970s I believe, and long out of print, it was written by someone whose name I’ve forgotten (I’m sure you can google it) Anyway he was a disciple of a couple of “esoteric” East European thinkers named PD Ouspensky and Gudjieff. Anyway, in The Mark the author basically claims that the gospels, most especially Mark, have a deeper symbolic meaning that is different from what conventional Christianity says, particularly insofar has he treats Jesus as a spiritual teacher whose sermons we are supposed to decode, as opposed to a divinity we are supposed to worship (Spoiler alert: the book is full of fascinating insights but beware if you like the book be aware you may be jumping out of the frying pan of religion to land in the fire, since Ouspensky and Gurdjieff are something of a 1970s cult, known for milking their followers for money, but I recommend the book nonetheless.)

      Among others who may be part of the anti-Paul camp: Machiavelli. For an obscure allusive reference, check out the Prince’s mention of a certain “Senor Paulo”. Ostensibly, the Senor Paulo in question is an Italian mercenary who, while acting as an intermediary between Cesare (Borgia) inadvertently leads his followers into a trap. Yet the more I read it in the context of numerous other biblical references in the Prince — all of which appear to endorse the Old Testament — I can’t help but suspect we have here a covert allusion to Saint Paul who, as you said, may have been a betrayer of the original Christian message of the gospels.

      There is much more that could be said on the subject.

  2. Hi, Kevin,

    Thanks for stopping by the site. Can you tell me more about why the Book of Mark is your focus? I have been focusing on the Great Books Reading List, and Mark wasn’t included, but I would be interested to know more.

    As for my religion, I don’t practice much of anything formally. Most of my attempts at the truth have been through reading.

  3. Hi Ben,

    Mark is regarded by scholars as the earliest New Testament text and the other Gospels are usually considered to have been based on it and possibly a second source referred to as “Q source”.

    Mark is a very simple and joyful telling of the life and teachings of Jesus. It ignores a lot of the “Magic” things Jesus supposedly did (for instance it doesn’t have a virgin birth story) and focus most of it’s attention on his teachings and the benefits that come from following his teachings.

    I grew up in a household that demanded lots of time and energy go into bible study and following a jillion nonsensical rules that are credited to the bible. In my adult life I read the DaVinci code and realized that I knew nothing about the origins of my faith.

    After several years of study and inquiry, I came to realize that most of the bible, written by Paul, is not credible to me as the words and teachings of Jesus. In my current belief, Paul was just a preacher with a large following, such as Oral Roberts is today.

    I envisioned what would happen if I ignored Paul and tried to use the incredible teachings of Jesus and found that “believing in” Mark made the most sense to me.

    As you might imagine, there are not many other followers of the “religion of Mark only” that I have come to believe in, so I also have not found myself at church much these days. But I admit, I would like the fellowship of being with others who believe in and practice the teachings of Jesus (but the people who believe in and practice the teachings of Paul drive me nuts!) 🙂 🙂

    I hope you’ll have a chance to read it and comment on Mark sometime.

  4. Just an fyi — Montaigne’s “Of the Cannibals” is often understood to be a critique of ethnocentrism, and by extension part of his skeptical critique of the limits of human knowledge. What makes Montaigne interesting is his project of representing his own self in alls its complexity, beauty, and contradictions. Read the first paragraph of “Of Repenting.” Good luck in your quest for knowledge.

  5. Excellent blog, really like the thinking and rationalization you have made across several of the great books

    Keep going!

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