Saturday, 11 August 2012

Tom Brodie - Jesus Undiscovered?

Soon to be unleashed from Sheffield Phoenix Press

Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus
A Memoir of a Discovery
Thomas L. Brodie

In the past forty years, while historical-critical studies were seeking with renewed intensity to reconstruct events behind the biblical texts, not least the life of Jesus, two branches of literary studies were finally reaching maturity. First, researchers were recognizing that many biblical texts are rewritings or transformations of older texts that still exist, thus giving a clearer sense of where the biblical texts came from; and second, studies in the ancient art of composition clarified the biblical texts’ unity and purpose, that is to say, where biblical texts were headed.

The primary literary model behind the gospels, Brodie argues, is the biblical account of Elijah and Elisha, as R.E. Brown already saw in 1971. In this fascinating memoir of his life journey, Tom Brodie, Irishman, Dominican priest, and biblical scholar, recounts the steps he has taken, in an eventful life in many countries, to his conclusion that the New Testament account of Jesus is essentially a rewriting of the Septuagint version of the Hebrew Bible, or, in some cases, of earlier New Testament texts. Jesus’ challenge to would-be disciples (Luke 9.57-62), for example, is a transformation of the challenge to Elijah at Horeb (1 Kings 19), while his journey from Jerusalem and Judea to Samaria and beyond (John 2.23–4.54) is deeply indebted to the account of the journey of God’s Word in Acts 1–8.

The work of tracing literary indebtedness and art is far from finished but it is already possible and necessary to draw a conclusion: it is that, bluntly, Jesus did not exist as a historical individual. This is not as negative as may at first appear. In a deeply personal coda, Brodie begins to develop a new vision of Jesus as an icon of God’s presence in the world and in human history.

Thomas L. Brodie is Director, Dominican Biblical Centre, Limerick, Ireland.

978-1-907534-58-4 paperback
Publication September 2012 (not yet published)


  1. I'm sure I'm not the only one excited that by uncoupling the New Testament writings from the straight-jacket of a historical Jesus (regardless of who's HJ we're talking about), we can see more clearly the nature and purpose of these writings and develop a broader view of Christian origins that is in continuity with its predecessors — instead of relying on some Easter Big Bang to explain Christianity.

  2. Every now and then the cult of Yahwism needs to be "rejiggered"
    to meet changing social evolution. Like ~1000 yrs after its origins,
    along comes a savant Hellenist Jew, Saul, with modernizing reforms.
    Then Marcion, then Mohammad 600 yrs after him. Each new iteration leaves the
    preceding versions intact and the process of these "reforms" is always
    disorderly and bloody. Take the Mormon rejiggering for example:
    bloody? yes, and tough on their young girls being directed to the leaders
    (similar to previous example).