I picked up three books in the last couple of days, all three written by Dr. Robert Price. Two of which are responses to more popular works, The Da Vinci Fraud, and A Reason Driven Life. The third book I picked up is The Pre-Nicene New Testament. This looks the most interesting, and is the longest. It's a new translation of, not just the 27 books in the canonical Bible, but 27 additional books which were excluded for one reason or another. This collection hopes to express the theological diversity of early Christianity through the earliest surviving writings.
Earlier this afternoon, I attended a talk on the Pagan Parallels to the Christ Story. It was interesting to hear how similar the writing was of the new testament with Greek and Latin writers of around the same time. Tales of people rising from the dead were not unique to the story of Jesus, or ascension to heaven, or even the story of Jesus telling men to not give up catching fish, to drop their net again, and there are 153 fish there.
Dionysus turned water into into wine at his wedding to Adriadne. 153 was a sacred number to Pythagoreans, its mathematical ratio called the measure of the fish. The story of Pythagoras performing a similar miracle, however, the specific number of fish was guessed by Pythagoras, but never revealed. Jewish mysticism is full of importance on numbers, and there is no reason that the bible would be exempt from the same treatment from time to time. For example, the mark of the beast being 666 in John's Revelations, is speculated to be Caesar Nero by some people. There is an example of using a number to hide the person's name in Pompeii. The graffiti on the wall said, "I love the one who's number is 545." Of course, lots of names can add up to 666, and no one can be totally sure whether 666 was meant to be one person or not.
I have much more reading to do this weekend.