A radical reconsideration of the historical relationship between the Old and New Testaments and, by extension, the Western theological tradition.
The term “Judeo-Christian” is necessarily a loaded one and presumes a settled continuity between two often divergent traditions. Problematically, what’s at stake in pinning down the descriptor is considerable since it’s often used thoughtlessly to encompass the whole of Western culture. Debut author Burnett tackles this issue unflinchingly, arguing that the New Testament is confected out of “typologies” already present in the Old Testament, borrowed from antecedent tradition. The connection, he says, is the book of Daniel, a kind of compendium of earlier Old Testament books and a principal source for the book of Revelation. A proper understanding of the book of Daniel, he says, turns out to be exegetically crucial to deciphering the New Testament. The author is unafraid of provocative iconoclasm and provides unconventional interpretations of the meaning of Mary’s virginity, Paul’s conversion, original sin (which he says doesn’t exist), the Ten Commandments, and other principal features of the Bible. Burnett’s aim is to challenge a “selectively literal interpretation” of the New Testament that places undue emphasis on Roman tyranny; he helpfully explains that the real concern, which also dominates Paul’s letters, is the split between the Pharisees and Sadducees, who were responsible for destructive imperialism of their own. All this scholarly labor is finally in the service of explaining how biblical incoherence has contributed to the decline of religion in the West. Overall, the analysis here is both complex and rigorous. Unfortunately, it’s delivered in a turgid prose that will stymie even the most seasoned reader of academic treatises. The tone is gratingly self-congratulatory, with the author repeatedly reminding the reader of the singular originality and importance of his own book: “We have now arrived at the last book of the Testaments, and the book is about to be opened. Never will it be closed again. Never will it be unfathomable. This is the moment that the patient, saintly scribes have long awaited.” There’s surely much that’s worthy of consideration here, but few readers will be patient enough to make it to the end.
A philosophically challenging attempt to explicate the continuity of the Bible that’s hampered by hard-to-read prose.