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Paul William Roberts

Teoksen In Search of the Birth of Jesus tekijä

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There's been a lot written about the Iraq war and Saddam Hussein, but the Demonic Comedy remains one of my favorite accounts of the build-up to, chaos of, and destruction after the war. This has a lot to do with Robert's writing style in the book, which features extremely informative historical and political backstory interlaced with personal anecdotes and reflections that often reach gonzo-like status. Roberts isn't afraid to reflect on the dark absurdities that present themselves in a war-torn dictatorship (His experiences at the Babylon Festival had me crying from laughing so hard), but is also comfortable examining the actions of both sides of the conflict. Equally thought-provoking and amusing, The Demonic Comedy offers a candid and personal account of a country's conflict with the world and the inhabitants stuck in the middle.… (lisätietoja)
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smichaelwilson | May 25, 2016 |
If you want to read an account of what it was like to be in Baghdad when shock and awe was breaking over everyone's heads then read this book. The author went on to experience a bizarre journey through a war landscape.
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maunder | Jun 20, 2008 |
River in the Desert is probably Robert's most enjoyable read; it's everything you want from literary travel: touching, exciting, funny, and evocative. It made me search out everything else of his I could find, though this will always be my favourite.

Do take the chapter on John Anthony West's theories with a grain of salt. Roberts is a true romantic (with great respect) and prefers the idea of ancient mysticism to the prosaic realities of Egyptology.

I mostly skip that chapter, and enjoy his portraits of Egypt and Egyptians. Like the Victorian author-adventurers, he's done things we'll never be allowed to do, but I feel lucky to read about them. Who can sleep on the Stonehenge altar now?… (lisätietoja)
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Cynara | Apr 8, 2008 |
Of Christmas it can be said, every year it is the same, every year it is different. That is as it should be. Through the years we have collected a whole shelf of Christmas books, many of them children’s books, ragged and stained with age, having survived years of reading and rereading. But most ever year we end up adding another one or two, some of them with quite a different twist.

In Search of the Birth of Jesus (Riverhead Books, 1995) by Paul William Roberts is, at its heart, a travelogue, I suppose. I think it might better be called In Search of the Magi. Stimulated by an old edition of Marco Polo’s Travels, which briefly refers to a spot where the Magi were said to be buried, Roberts undertakes a journey in which he hopes to trace the steps of the ancients from their “castle” in Iran to the village of Bethlehem. On one level, this book is an account of the risks of a modern trek in the Middle East, lightened by his relationship with his driver/guide, the crusty, foul-mouthed Reza. On another level, it is a quest, almost a religious pilgrimage, attempting to locate the origin of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions in their Zoroastrian roots. Both stories, Roberts tells in his own wry, sardonic style, at some times even sarcastic and cynical. The travelogue begins in the first chapter, called “The Journey,” at the conclusion of which Roberts — quite by coincidence — finds the “Castle of the Fire-Worshippers,” which Polo, in a neglected note, had identified as the home base of the Magi. He is led there, over the objections of Reza in “a Wagnerian hypoglycemic rage,” by a 24-year-old dentist and amateur historian.

The quest story actually begins in the second chapter, called simply “The Birth.” Using Dead Sea scrolls unearthed at Qum, that had recently been translated, he places the Magi in the context of the Essene or Mandean account of the birth, life, and death of Jesus. Heresy to the early Roman church, this version presents a Jesus who is both Messiah and fully human, “a man of flesh and blood and doubt and certainty and pain and joy.”

“Far from meek and mild, this three-dimensional Jesus is as often angry and violent as he is wisely compassionate, as often sick and tired of human beings as he is endlessly patient, and blazingly irrational just as frequently as he is coolly philosophic. By making him a deity the Church in fact detracted from his real greatness as a mortal, besides making it nearly impossible for us to ever understand who, why, and what he actually was.” (p. 59)

From the Essene point of view, Roberts identifies the Apostle Paul with a heresy designed to reconcile Christians with Roman political power and certain pagan religious practices; including, eventually, the selection of the winter solstice as the birthday of Jesus. Opposing Paul, according to this version, were James the brother of Jesus (as well as Thomas, Jesus’s twin). Their holy day was Epiphany, January 6, originally the time when Jesus was baptized and, hence, anointed a Davidic Messiah by John the Baptist, a Zadokite Messiah! To undermine this “heresy” the Roman church instead assigned January 6 as the day “the gentiles,” that is, the Magi, came to do obeisance to the Holy Family. Originally, the Zoroastrian Magi would have come, according to this Essene or Mandean version, to counsel against the undermining of Truth by a Lie masquerading as the Truth. The present-day Armenian church is closer to this original Essene gospel; it does not celebrate Christmas at all, but observes January 6 as the Nativity.

The quest, and the travelogue, continue with an Armenian bishop insisting that Roberts must visit Qom. “You go to Qom for the spee-ritt truth. For the wheeze-dom,” he says. From this point on, there are as many twists and turns in the story as their are in the journey. The reader has to be as patient with Roberts’ tone as Reza had to be with his impulsive decisions. And one has to read with a pencil in hand and a map that one devises for oneself to plow through Roberts’ prose and keep up with his hop-skip-and-jump travels. Much of his story, of course, depends upon speculation. No doubt it would infuriate both Evangelicals and Roman Catholics--perhaps even the radicals in the Jesus Seminar. But his quest is an intriguing story, and even if you can’t buy into it, you’ll find out what it was like to travel in the Middle East around the early 1990s.
… (lisätietoja)
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bfrank | Dec 4, 2007 |


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