Monday, 21 May 2007
The Ratzinger Jesus
"The Real Jesus" was the title of Garner Ted Armstrong's 1970s book on the man from Galilee which, rather than standing the test of time, has justifiably been consigned to the rubbish heap of history. Ask an "expert" about Jesus, real (like John Dominic Crossan) or imagined (like Ted) and the portrait they'll come up with will be a remarkably convivial one - tweaked, one suspects, to their own prejudices.
No, not just Ted. The "Jesus Seminar" came up with a wise, enlightened Jesus just brimming over with liberal humanitarian values, the "Oberammergau" Jesus dripped with anti-Semitism, the KKK gathers around the bonfire to sing "The Old Rugged Cross," and so it goes. Now along comes the Lord Darth Vader himself, Joseph Ratzinger, with a new biography called Jesus of Nazareth, and it's no surprise if his Jesus also seems skewed by wishful dogma.
Ratzinger, AKA Pope Benedict XVI, has a few advantages over Ted. For starters, he's done the academic mileage, and he's not about to commit the bumbling pratfalls of a tithe-farming televangelist. But that doesn't guarantee much in itself.
If you want a stimulating, honest discussion about Jesus, ask a Jewish scholar. These guys lack the jingoistic self-interest of their Christian counterparts, and there's no-one more qualified than Geza Vermes. Here's a man who started out in life as a Hungarian Catholic, was ordained to the priesthood, become a world authority on the Dead Sea Scrolls, and quietly moved over into the Judaism of his forebears. It's worth sitting up and taking notice, then, when Vermes produces one of the first reviews of the Ratzinger opus. You can find it on the Times Online.
As for The Real Jesus, I've kept my copy as a curiosity. You can currently pick up your own on Amazon for the princely sum of 1c.