Friday, 1 March 2013

Beyond the Quest

Some weeks ago I read Thomas Brodie's surprising book Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus.  Surprising because it is a very personal, autobiographical account that engages in an almost peripheral way with the author's conviction that Jesus is a fictive character.

Brodie, an Irish Dominican priest, bares his soul.  Indeed, at times I flinched at the degree of self-discosure and vulnerability contained in the book.  Whatever else you might think about Brodie's views, it can hardly be doubted that here is a man who has little concern with appearing to be other than he is.  He is upfront about his troubled journey as a scholar, and he is unguardledly frank about the role of intuition in steering him on a radical path.  But then, the title is a strong indicator of content with the word beyond.

It is, in short, a singular work.  Brodie even goes so far as to cast doubt on the existence of a 'historical Paul' (chapter 16), but without making a case that would do much more than raise the eyebrows of his peers.  He is also unconvincing (at least to me) in some of the more detailed arguments he offers (in particular chapter 7). 

And yet I put down the book with a good deal of respect, and some measure of admiration, for its author.  It is, after all, more personal statement than theological treatise.  Brodie makes it clear from the beginning that he knows the risks involved in writing a book like this.  The Ratzinger-era church has not been gentle with those of its clergy and scholars who have failed to follow the party line.  While it might not be a tightly argued book, it is certainly intense in its own way as it follows the transformation of one man's faith from the bog-standard certitudes to something much more tentative and nuanced, and something altogether deeper.  For this reason alone I would, while not endorsing everything in it, warmly recommend it. 

Amazon link: Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus

1 comment:

  1. Jesus is the personification of the suffering servant symbol of Isaiah 53 and the name "Jesus"(Joshua) comes from Zechariah 3. I promised myself that I wouldn't repeat that anymore. But, Brodie is right, Jesus is old testament scripture personified.

    If Jesus was a real historical person, Philip could have preached Jesus in Acts 8:27-35 by telling about his life, miracles, death and resurrection, but, he didn't. Instead, he preached the symbolic suffering servant of Isaiah as Jesus.

    When the apostle preached about Jesus to the Thessalonians, they didn't go to Jerusalem to 'check it out' but instead, "they searched the scriptures" to see "whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11).