Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Isn't Jesus interesting...?

I'm reading Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan's The Last Week, an account of the final seven days of Jesus' life by two of the Jesus Seminar's superstars. It's brilliant and infuriating in equal measure, but well worth reading.

There's been no shortage of Jesus sories in the news over the past few days, such as the publication of the Gospel of Judas and James Tabor's new book on the Jesus Dynasty. I've not read the latter - though the book blurb and extracts that are online (get at them through Mark Goodacre's weblog at

The gospel of Judas tells us nothing about the events of the first Easter but gives us a fascinating insight into second century gnostic thinking.

All this comes in the wake of Dan Brown winning his high court action against the authors of Holy Blood and Holy Grail (or was that the other way round) and therefore keeping the Da Vinci Code hype going (and the tills churning).

Some Christians see this as a concerted attack on orthodox Christianity - and there might be some truth in this. Certainly the Jesus Seminar and the Westar Institute that set it up aims to raise questions about orthodox Christianity and show that traditional understandings of Jesus and Christian origins are plain wrong.

But this is also a great opportunity for Christians to talk about the historical origins of our faith and the credibilty of the records on which our faith is based.

For all the beauty of their writing, it seems to me that Borg and Crossan go out of their way to trash Christian doctrines that they disagree with but which the historical material they are dealing with (Mark's gospel) seems to uphold. In order to achieve this, they have to make theological judgments about which bits of Mark are accurate. Those judgments strike me as being extremely arbitary which makes me wonder if their assertions about other history are equally tendentious.

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