Remarkable new analysis of the source texts of the Bible seeks to revolutionise our understanding of the origins of Christianity and Judaism
One has long suspected that much of the Bible contains nothing more than a selection of folk tales and myths. Now, an incendiary new trilogy, A Bonfire of Inanities: The Bible Dismantled, by textual scholar Paul McGrane, looks set to bear out such suspicions by revealing the enormity of misrepresentations and misunderstandings that have been handed down for centuries.
The first volume of the trilogy, Ancestral Tales: The real truth about the ancient roots of Judaism and Christianity (Singular Books, June 2023), eminently readable and impressively and compellingly researched, represents an outstanding piece of hermeneutic detective work which, in the specific case of its subject matter and objectives — that of separating truth from fiction in the Bible — could be said to be essential scholarship long overdue.
McGrane applies his doctoral (Oxon) expertise in textual analysis in a quest for rationalist solutions to fundamental questions of Christian belief, offering a reinterpretation of Biblical chronology, people and events and fresh insights into their meanings. It sets the cat among the academic pigeons, and surely, such burning issues as McGrane raises can be ignored only by the wilfully blind.
His close reading of Biblical and contemporaneous texts highlights how historical events continually had meanings forced on them retrospectively, or aetiologically, obfuscating the purviews of original authors who were writing under differing historical conditions and for audiences of their times.
McGrane set out his initial findings in The Christian Fallacy (2017) which, he admits, attracted little attention and few readers — but, undaunted, he continued his research, and his monumental trilogy is the result, having involved revision and enlargement of his previous book.
A strong desire for senseless or meaningless passages in the Bible (and evidently there are many) to be cast into the flames after having been dissected by his intense textual and historicist criticism is reflected in the punning title he has given to the trilogy.