Friday, August 06, 2004

a couple of days ago....


Crucifixion - Emil Nolde

A couple of days ago, on my lunch break, I had a strong inclination to go down to the local Oxfam bookshop. I was glad I did, because I was able to pick up a nearly new copy of Geza Vermes' The Changing Faces of Jesus. I have barely had a chance to look at it, although I can tell you that Vermes is a former Catholic who converted back to the faith of his Jewish ancestry, before taking the helm as the most renown Jewish scholar in the search for the historical Jesus. His work comes highly recommended by many, and this small volume seems to be a very good introduction to his thinking - more commonly contained in large expensive hardbacks!

I mentioned yesterday that the discovery of historical Jesuses distinct from the Jesus of faith was very disconcerting at first. I'm sure it is for most Christians. However, when you run away from these things, you aren't being true to God. For God (as Gandhi often said) was at the very simplest level Truth. God is Truth, Truth is God. If something seems true, you had best investigate it, for God lies wherever Truth is found. Last year, I can remember being worried by other religions; I saw them as a threat to my faith in Christ. However, since then, I have learnt to embrace them, I have sought to understand them and I have been rewarded by learning much from them, and yet I still remain a Christian. I believe it to be a timeless truth that often what frightens you today, you will embrace tomorrow. The other thing to remember is what I said about the many voices. Vermes is only one. Marcus Borg and NT Wright are two of the other big players in the historical Jesus field, and they are both Christians. Borg is more liberal, whereas Wright is more traditional.

I've put off this historical Jesus stuff for far too long, and will report back on Vermes' book once I get to the end of Ralph Ellison's novel, The Invisible Man. Yet let me just say one thing about the historical approach. It is a fact contested by sages and saints up and down the course of religious history that God cannot be approached by reason alone. That isn't to say we should become mindless believers, far from it, but we must recognise the limits of human reason. This, I believe goes for the search for Jesus just as much. Seek history, and you'll find history, but precious little else. Seek God as well, and you might just find Christ. I have good quotation on this subject by Dom Laurence Freeman, but that will have to wait for tomorrow...!


Comments:
Thanks - I hadn't realised Vermes was a lapsed priest; I'd hitherto assumed he was a cradle Jew who'd developed an interest in Jesus. From Googling it appears he has a truly fascinating life-story!

--RobertB

 
Give us some links then! ;)
 
I don't know whether I can do links in blogger! Still, I guess I need to try sometime.

What I read was this radio transcript. I haven't found anything better - the next best appears to be this Independent article, but it doesn't really add anything to the first link. It appear Vermes has written an autobiography.

--RobertB

 
Thanks Robert. I especially like this quotation from the transcript:

"Well you can still see the Kingdom of God arriving in your own lifetime, and if you see this then the message of the New Testament is meaningful, and what I consider extremely important".

 
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