Tag Archives: Vermes: Changing Face Jesus

Paul’s “Mystical-Mythical” Christ the real — or rival? — foundation of Christianity

Géza Vermes is not a mythicist. He believes in the historical reality of Jesus to be found beneath the Gospels. But in the context of any mythicist debate what he writes in The Changing Faces of Jesus about the “myth” of Christ Jesus in Paul’s writings is noteworthy. It shouldn’t be. What he writes is noncontroversial. What makes his remarks noteworthy in the context of a mythicist debate is that he is not addressing mythicism at all and so his comments are not tainted with anti-mythicist polemic.

Consequently readers interested in an honest debate are free to see where traditional mainstream scholarly views and mythicist arguments do in fact coincide. One also encounters a reminder that certain stock responses to mythicist arguments are akin to tendentious “proof-texting”.

There are more things in the mainstream scholarly literature, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your stock anti-mythicist proof-texts.

Firstly, why are Paul’s views so significant? Vermes writes:

Paul can be seen as the father of the Jesus figure which was to dominate as the true founder of Christian religion and its institutions, and even such a sound and solid publication as The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church describes Paul as ‘the creator of the whole doctrinal and ecclesiastical system presupposed in his Epistles’. (p. 59) read more »

How easily do historical Jesus scholars drop in that “interpolation card” when it suits

Catching up with Géza Vermes’ The Changing Faces of Jesus I was surprised to find Vermes suggesting that the entire Philippian Hymn (2:6-11) is an interpolation inserted probably around the early second century!

I guess anti-mythicist crusaders have been on my back so much that I had begun to lose sight of what is acceptable and respectable fare in the works of mainstream biblical scholars.

For those not in the know Géza Vermes, according to the Wikipedia article (and I don’t apologize for using Wikipedia since, for all its many faults, it has been recognized by a study published in Nature as no less authoritative than the Encyclopedia Britannica in science articles, so we may reasonably feel entitled to some confidence in the rest) is described as:

a noted authority on the Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient works in Aramaic, and on the life and religion of Jesus. He is one of the most important voices in contemporary Jesus research,[1] and he has been described as the greatest Jesus scholar of his time.[2] (I retain the linked footnotes)

In the prologue Vermes reinforces his well-groundedness within the scholarly mainstream:

I have read a great deal over the years and learned much, positively and negatively, from other scholars. I have assimilated their learning and understanding and stored everything up in my heart. (p. 4) read more »