United Brethren has retired.

Vermes on the conclave

Geza Vermes, a doyen of Dead Sea Scrolls and historical Jesus studies, has an interesting, if somewhat disingenous piece of advice for the Vatican conclave. In today's Telegraph, he demands that the cardinals return Christianity to the simple religion of Jesus.

He finds much to disagree with in the pontificate of John Paul II:

There was also a darker side to the highly influential reign of John Paul II....In the wake of papal encyclicals, leading Catholic spokesmen have gone on trumpeting, though without much practical impact on a large segment of the faithful, the intrinsic immorality of artificial contraception. They have waged war on the use of condoms even as a defence against HIV. They have decried homosexuality as the worst abomination (though speaking sotto voce when the culprits were paedophile priests). Reform of divorce, the abolition of compulsory priestly celibacy and the ordination of women were adamantly rejected by John Paul II.

He points out that Jesus (according to the Gospels) does not say much (or anything!) about contraception, homosexuality, celibacy, or women priests. He does decry divorce, but the import of this is softened by Matthew somewhat.

Vermes dreams that the new Pope will concentrate "on the authentic gospel of Jesus, on the message conveyed by him to his disciples, and not on the doctrine about Jesus developed by St Paul and two millennia of Christianity."

What annoys me slightly about this (and I tread carefully here as Vermes is a fellow Wolfsonian), is that Vermes has spent a career trying to persuade us that the Jesus of the Gospels is a phantom. In his model, surely Paul--whose writings predate the Gospels by a mile--is closer to the "real Jesus." Or does he want us to extract Q and throw everything else away, so we are left with only those sayings of Jesus which concentrate on social justice (a PC religion)?

I am an advocate of simple religion, "the existential relationship between man and man, and man and God", as Vermes calls it, but Vermes's sudden appreciation for the Gospels is strange. Perhaps I am missing something.

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Comments

Blogger Clark Goble said ... (April 18, 2005 9:13 PM) 

I have quite a few of his books, and I tend to agree with you. But then I find many aspects of his thinking problematic, for various reasons.

 

Blogger Stephen said ... (April 19, 2005 8:29 AM) 

Or does he want us to extract Q and throw everything else away, so we are left with only those sayings of Jesus which concentrate on social justice (a PC religion)

That is what an awful lot of people seem to want -- to deny any miracles (which is the way you edit out Peter and Paul and Christ's selection of them) and then change Jesus into a mouthpeace for the trite sayings that one wants to hear.

Quite appropriately described as heaping to oneself teachers, having an itching ear ;)

 

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