She blinded me with history

baptismofJesusNewsweek‘s Lisa Miller wrote an article for the May 21 issue that looks at the new book on Jesus by Pope Benedict XVI. Newsweek apparently had an exclusive excerpt of the book and Miller did an article about the book’s meaning, a portion of which dealt with Jesus’ baptism:

[T]he pope explicates Jesus’ baptism by John–a story that appears in all four Gospel accounts and that modern historians believe is at least partially grounded in fact.

This is just choice, if I may borrow one of my favorite words from elementary school. So “modern historians” believe that the baptism of Jesus is “at least partially grounded in fact”? Well that is certainly noteworthy to include in a story like this! What parts are we to believe, oh holy and infallible “modern historians”? Does that sentence even mean anything? Since when could historians even come to consensus on something like this? And on what basis? Who are these historians and why aren’t we told more about them? Are these Jesus Seminar types? Are these the ones who figured out Lincoln was gay? But beyond that, it is just so weird that Miller thinks some odd partial-verification of a story by “modern historians” is really key to understanding or shedding light on Benedict’s book. As if two millennia of systematic theology are really affected by what someone in that bastion of consistency and integrity — the academy — has to say about it. Sigh.

(Benedict is notably silent, though, on the Baptist as an apocalyptic preacher and on the probability that Jesus also believed that the world was about to end in flames. In a discussion elsewhere in “Jesus of Nazareth,” Benedict goes to lengths to show that when Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is at hand,” he didn’t mean the apocalypse. What he meant, the pope writes, is that “God is acting now–this is the hour when God is showing himself in history as its Lord.” This interpretation may be profound and in keeping with Benedict’s Christ-centered message; it is not, many scholars would say, historically accurate.)

Again, what? Jesus probably wasn’t referring to his own life, death and resurrection when he referred to the Kingdom of God being at hand? And Jesus probably believed the world was “about” to “end in flames”? What does that even mean? And how does she figure that Jesus believed this at all, much less say he did so with any degree of probability? And who in the heck are these “many” scholars who say that Benedict’s view — the orthodox Christian view, I might add — is historically inaccurate? And where can I find an editor who lets me use the word “many” to describe anything in any story? Much less anything of import?

Moving on:

What of the next part of the story? The part where Jesus rises from the water, the heavens part, the Spirit descends on his shoulders (in the shape of a dove) and God’s voice says, “This is my Son, the Beloved, in whom I am well pleased.” Does Benedict believe, as the fundamentalists do, that this literally happened?

Oh. No. She. Didn’t. Fundamentalists? Um, what? And yes, I hope you do see that I’m rather unable to respond to the complete lack of understanding here. When you’re talking about the Pope, is it better to compare his completely orthodox thoughts on the baptism of Christ “literally” happening to those of fundamentalists (that word! Gah!) or, say, every single one of his predecessors in the Pope seat? The presence of fundamentalists — a rather modern theological group — in this story makes no sense to me. As readers of this blog know, fundamentalist was a term used in the 1910s and 1920s to describe a specific type of religious believer in Britain and the United States who emphasized so-called “fundamentals” of the faith. The AP Stylebook says that reporters should not use the word unless they are using it to describe a group or individual that also uses the term to describe itself. But could someone explain why that group is included in a story about Benedict’s book?

Also, this snide and condescending mainstream media incredulity at the notion that Christians might actually believe that the baptism of Jesus took place as described in all four Gospels is just beyond words. I think more than a few barrels of ink have been shed over this very important moment. Unless Newsweek has only graduated to the journalistic equivalent of Chris Hitchens still expressing shock that billions of very backwards people believe in the transcendent. I mean, is that really news? That Christians believe Jesus to be divine? That Christians believe in the Triune God? For real? I mean, talk about your fundamentals!

Now what’s most disconcerting about this whole mess is that Lisa Miller is Newsweek‘s religion editor. I know that Newsweek is fond of that whole opinion-journalism-masquerading-as-regular-reportage shtick, but this piece reads like it was written by someone with disdain for orthodox Christianity and, much worse, not enough knowledge of the basic topics at hand. It reminds me of that horrible Newsweek International piece on Benedict a few weeks ago. Is that what the magazine is going for? Why?

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  • Jerry

    I started off agreeing with much of what you wrote until I actually looked at the article. I have to say that what you reviewed I saw as a distortion of what she wrote. There is so much left out of the post here that it’s hard for me to find a place to start. A couple of points. First, where is the acknowledgment of the central point of her story:

    One can almost hear Pope Benedict XVI roaring with frustration at this multiplicity of interpretations. Benedict, a theologian by training with an expertise in dogma, has been fierce in his condemnation of the creep of Western secularism, and the promiscuity of recent Jesus scholarship must seem to him another symptom of the same disease, all ill-founded and subjective claims. “We are building a dictatorship of relativism,”

    To me, that’s the central point of the review – that the book is his answer to theological revisionists and secularists. And I think that point came across very strongly in the article. I did not see that at all in your post except as what appeared to be an offhand comment in passing.

    One specific example where I think you went over the top:

    Since when could historians even come to consensus on something like this? And on what basis?

    My presumption is that the article refers to standard methods of historical scholarship and in the same was as historians would agree on Carthage having existed or Alexander the Great conquering much of the known world. So I read that as “science agrees with Christian doctrine on this point”. Sure I’d want to know answers to the questions you asked about who the scholars and historians are and have cites for the articles they’ve published, but to me that’s beyond the scope of a book review.

    I do agree that there are part of that review that should be criticized and you’ve done so, but it would be better to set that criticism in the broader context. Perhaps a little less wailing and gnashing of teeth might be in order? :-)

  • Mollie

    Actually, I’ll completely concede that the rest of the article is nowhere near as bad as what I excerpted. Some parts were even good.

    But that doesn’t excuse the awful nature of the parts I looked at.

  • C. Wingate

    You have to love this line:

    Mostly, though, “Jesus of Nazareth” will please a small group of Christians who are able simultaneously to hold post-Enlightenment ideas about the value of rationality and scientific inquiry together with the conviction that the events described in the Gospels are real.

    It’s immediately followed by a quote from N.T.Wright, which really puts him in his place, I suppose. Never mind that surveys consistently show that American Christians overwhelmingly are members of this “small group”.

    I also like the way she short-stops fact checking on this little editorial. For instance, she claims that “[the pope] more recently suspended an American priest for writing a book about Jesus that he said did not give sufficient credence to the resurrection.” Oh? And does this priest have a name, that we can check to see whether this is an accurate depiction of the circumstances?

    It’s not hard to see this as a lengthy editorial not about how the pope believes, but about how everyone else believes. And it’s particularly problematic because the evidence is largely that they don’t believe the way she claims they do.

  • Irenaeus


    You don’t need to concede jack squat. Lisa Miller is clueless. I read the piece this morning and was so miffed I’m letting my subscription expire this summer. I mean, where to begin? There’s so much in the article that is so subtly snide. For instance, in regards to the section C. Wingate quoted just above, many medieval saints (and patristic saints, for that matter) would be shocked to discover that rationality and scientific inquiry were valued after the Enlightenment!

  • Charles

    Molly, what the heck? “The Pope seat?” “Every single one of his predecessors in the Pope seat?” What is that? Idiom pulled from the writings of Melanchthon or Zwingli? What locals used to call the seat on the dunk tank at some county fair in rural Minnesota?

    “Pope seat” smacks of a slur to my ear. Wouldn’t the Papal see, Roman see, papacy, or even the Holy See, be preferable?

  • Mollie



    I think it’s pretty clear I’m not slurring anybody.

    An idiom is a figurative expression whose meaning can’t be deduced from the literal words used. I don’t think “the Pope seat” therefore qualifies.

    But rest assured that it’s a figure of speech that I came up with myself. You might notice that I use many other figures of speech as well.

    Anyway, my point is that everyone who has held the office of Pope would be in complete agreement with Benedict on this issue. If that “smacks of a slur to your ear” then you may need to lower your expectations (with me, at least) a smidge.

  • Fr. Greg

    “Pope seat” smacks of a slur to my ear. Wouldn’t the Papal see, Roman see, papacy, or even the Holy See, be preferable?

    Probably a reference to “hot seat,” I would imagine. In this context, “see” simply means “seat” or “chair”. In German, “The Holy See” is “Der Heilige Stuhl”, as noted in the front page of the website of the Vatican itself.

    Given the obvious presuppositions of the article, I personally am not all that disturbed. The presuppositions, however, which are pretty widespread in many circles, are disturbing, namely that no truly educated, scholarly person could possibly hold, on grounds other than “faith,” that events such as those described at Jesus’ baptism, could have actually happened.

  • Chris Bolinger

    Irenaeus is exactly right. And so is Mollie in her response to Jerry, whose defense of the article reminds me of the old joke: So, other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

    I am glad that Newsweek categorizes Beliefs as a part of its Society section. Perfectly appropriate.

  • Maureen

    Actually, “the Pope seat” (besides being the obvious extension of the American idiom “the X seat”, meaning “in X job”) features a nice literal translation of “sede” and “cathedra”, the Latin and Greek terms respectively for a bishop or pope’s chair (and hence, by extension, their authority and diocese).

    A teacher in the Greek/Roman world, you see, would give his lectures sitting down while the class would stand up respectfully (or sit down on the floor respectfully, if permitted). Bishops’ primary responsibilities lie in teaching, so they each have a teacher’s chair, from which they may give homilies.

    So when the Pope acts as a teacher, he is indeed sitting in the Pope seat.

    (Except when he’s not quite, as this book isn’t supposed to be part of the magisterium. But it’s scholarly, anyway.)

  • Eli

    This post is just too funny and totally spot on, methinks. The MSM needed a little spanking and Mollie gave them what they deserved. It’s always gotten my boxers in a twist when folks in the MSM would revere “modern historians” as though they had some bead on objectivity that others just…didn’t. In every historical accounting there has to be, by definition, some element of faith. It’s also so funny to me that “faith” has taken on a negative connotation. If being “faithful” is now bad, is being “unfaithful” then good?

  • James Davis

    Lisa Miller’s article appears to be a long, drawn-out book review. That makes her commentary valid, although Newsweek should have labeled it as such. But it reads like the work of a novice beat reporter who thinks she has it all down cold — even to serving as arbiter of valid or invalid viewpoints. The article makes me think of St. Augustine’s quote: “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”

  • John Remy

    Mollie, your criticisms prompted me to read the Miller’s article, and it seems that you’ve mischaracterized the entire piece and tossed out the important context by highlighting the couple of points you found offensive.

    Who is Pope Benedict writing this book for? What is he trying to accomplish? What are the larger theological trends to which he is responding? These are important questions (and newsworthy to a few of us) that Miller attempts to address, and her references to “modern historians” and “fundamentalists” fit well within the context of competing approaches and depictions of Christ that she lays out in her analysis. By removing them from and not addressing that context, I feel that you’re doing more of disservice that Miller. There are more substantive and controversial assertions worth tackling in there, like the following:

    Mostly, though, “Jesus of Nazareth” will please a small group of Christians who are able simultaneously to hold post-Enlightenment ideas about the value of rationality and scientific inquiry together with the conviction that the events described in the Gospels are real.

  • Dan

    Carl Olson took apart the Lisa Miller article here:

    He points out that the N.T. Wright who according to Miller herself is “perhaps the world’s leading New Testament scholar” agrees with Pope Benedict about what Jesus meant when He said that “the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

  • Jill C.

    Well, for those of us who can no longer stomach Time or Newsweek, there’s always World Magazine.

  • Larry Rasczak

    ” So “modern historians” believe that the baptism of Jesus is “at least partially grounded in fact”? Well THAT is certainly noteworthy to include in a story like this! What parts are we to believe, oh holy and infallible “modern historians”?”

    Oh Mollie… I love you!

    Hurray for C.Wingate and Irenaeus too!

    It is nice to see some smart literate people out there!!

  • C. Wingate

    re 12: Well, that’s just where her stab-in-the-back on N.T.Wright figures in this. In her world, he’s just somebody from “a small group of Christians”. In the real world, he is probably one of the most widely recognized (as opposed to notorious) theologians. She does nothing whatsoever to justify her assertion, not that she could. I’m sure that triumphalist “things no modern man can believe” liberals agree with her assessment, but the surveys say that she’s wrong.

  • Osvaldo Mandias

    Partially grounded in fact, huh?

    Well, gosh, who needs faith in the truths of the gospel when you have modern historians around to tell you exactly what happened 2000 years ago.

  • Str1977 (historian)

    Indeed this writer is clueless … about history as scholarship.

    I weren’t with Mollie when I read the first bit, in which the article said “that modern historians believe is at least partially grounded in fact”.

    Because the “at least” is the important thing. Historians are not gifted with a magical ability to recount past events but analyse sources. And they have come to the conclusion (though differing opinions would be interesting) that this and this and this and this can be confirmed by their analysis, regardless of whether one believes Jesus to be the Christ, But that doesn’t mean that the rest is nonsense and fiction. Only that it cannot be presented as the result of historical research. So when she later dismisses heavens opening etc. – how on earth should an historian be able to judge this apart from faith. To use the two extremes: an atheist historian will believe this to be rubbish – but it wouldn’t be historical scholarship, just his faith-based opinion. A Christian historian will believe this to be true – but it wouldn’t be historical scholarship, just his faith-based opinion. Both, in their honesty, would agree that it is beyond the scope of their field. Especially since heavens opening hardly leaves a trace apart from witnesses’ testimonies. It’s a bit different with the resurrection, which resupposes an empty grave. However, exactly that is a historical fact: the grave was empty – otherwise the Apostles would have got nowhere with their message.

    Note also, that “John as an apocalyptic preacher” is a rather questionable view, whereas not identifying the Kingdom with Jesus is rather an innovation, may I say a “Fundamentalist” innovation.

    Jesus indeed expected the world to go up in flames, but who says this will not happen? Did he think it to be imminent? Well, didn’t he say “that day only the Father knows, not even the Son”. And while were at it, she bases all these convictions on Bible verses – so why does she blast the Pope for accepting these Bible verses as true?

  • Osvaldo Mandias

    So the Pope believes all this dove and voice from heaven hokum? No way. Next think you know he’ll be hanging out with the crazies who think that some Jewish agitator 2000 years ago literally came back to life and was somehow God.

  • Str1977 (historian)

    To sum up my point:

    Historical research is not the sum of knowledge.

    The so-called “Historical Jesus” is the Jesus as far he can be deduced by historical methodology but NOT the Jesus as he walked the Holy Land 2000 years ago.

  • Jerry

    I looked at the Carl Olson web site.

    Why, oh why, do we have to care what “liberal Catholics” think? After all, it’s not as though they don’t have a couple of hundred books about a Jesus who is (pick one or two) a cat-friendly vegan, a registered Democrat, a social worker, a Jewish pen pal, a warm feeling in the tummy, a personal guru, a personal trainer, an inspirational man who didn’t actually exist, a neo-Marxist, an old-fashioned Marxist, a John Lennon fan…

    That’s a classic slur conflating liberal Catholics with atheists, cat lovers and hot warmed wine drinkers. Olsen clearly does not care what they think, but the internal issues within the Catholic church are of interest or should be of interest to those interested in religion since that goes to the heart of interpreting the gospel in today’s world.

  • Martha

    Oh, don’t get me started. I did kind of expect the reaction to the book to be one of “This just in! Pope believes Jesus to be God! More startling revelations on pages 9-11!” but some of the stuff… I just want to cry.

    Like this, from the online “New York Sun” (courtesy of Mark Shea of “Catholic and Enjoying It!” who posted a link to it):


    Benedict emphatically sets aside the view that faith amounts to a form of law, and insists that the relationship of the believer to God through Christ defines Christian belief. He does not acknowledge his debt to Martin Luther, but it is palpable. He also says nothing of the priest, Matthew Fox, whom Cardinal Ratzinger silenced for his views on the centrality of the mystical knowledge of God to Catholic teaching. Theology is sometimes a contact sport, and this may be an example of yesterday’s heresy becoming today’s orthodoxy. A considerable body of non-Catholic biblical scholarship now accepts that Jesus himself taught his disciples mystical union with God, on the basis of the Judaism of his time, so the the position Benedict describes is more widely founded than he indicates.”

    “A considerable body of non-Catholic biblical scholarship now accepts that Jesus himself taught his disciples mystical union with God” – wow, you don’t say? I never would have thunk it!

    Martin Luther as the Pope’s secret bedtime reading? Hmmm – ooookay, so what about those to whom Martin Luther might, maybe, possibly, be in debt to for his views, and in the tradition of whom Pope Benedict XVI comes? After all, Benedict is supposed to be inclined towards St. Augustine in his theology, which Martin would recognise.

    However – Matthew Fox? Matthew Freakin’ “The Dominicans Handed Me My Sandwiches Wrapped In A Road Map” Fox as an influence upon the thought of Pope Benedict XVI? I am (wo)manfully resisting the urge to type in all caps here, but dang, how do I express my incredulity in strong enough terms?

    Yesterday’s heresy becomes today’s orthodoxy. Orange is the new purple. We used to walk on the floor, now we walk on the ceiling. No, Bruce, somehow I don’t think so.

  • Kevin P. Edgecomb

    I’m currently reading the book, and it’s absolutely clear that Lisa Miller simply cannot have read it, or she would have realized how utterly, gobsmackingly, mouthbreathingly stupid her supportive reference to “modern historians” would sound in reference to this book. The foreword to the book specifically states that Pope Benedict is writing to counter the excesses of (post/hyper/etc-)modernism, and it follows from there quite pointedly.

    I suspect she simply flipped through the pages, plucked out a few quotes, and just assumed the rest would follow her presuppositions. It’s pretty despicable, even from a simply academic viewpoint, to claim her writing as a review of a book she hasn’t read entirely.

    Maybe I should buy a subscription to Newsweek just so I could cancel it!

  • Martha

    Charles – yeah, the Pope seat. You know, that big thingy he sits on when he’s carried by litter bearers above the crowd, usually accompanied by ostrich feather fans. Why, I have on my wall this very minute a photograph from the front page of the national newspaper at the time of the election of Pope Paul VI and he’s giving his blessing whilst sitting in his Pope seat :-)

  • Str1977


    or maybe it is the “infallible chair”. :) )

  • Larry Rasczak

    MArtha says

    “Yesterday’s heresy becomes today’s orthodoxy. Orange is the new purple. We used to walk on the floor, now we walk on the ceiling….

    I agree with you totally Martha!!

    I do think though you should add “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength” to your list. Modernisim is as Modernisim does after all.

  • Martha

    Str1977, yeah, but historical and factual accuracy is much less fun.

    Now, whether we wish to speak of the “sedia gestatoria”
    (see for nice picture and definition as follows:

    The sedia gestatoria is the portable throne on which Popes were once carried. It consists of a richly-adorned, silk-covered armchair, fastened on a suppedaneum, on each side of which are two gilded rings; through these rings pass the long rods with which twelve footmen (palafrenieri), in red uniforms, carry the throne on their shoulders.

    The Sedia gestatoria is an elaborate variation on the sedan chair. Two large fans (flabella) made of white ostrich feathers—a relic of the ancient liturgical use of the flabellum, mentioned in the Constitutiones Apostolicae, VIII, 12—are carried at the sides of the sedia gestatoria.

    The sedia gestatoria was mainly used to carry popes to and from papal ceremonies in the Basilica of St. John Lateran and St. Peter’s Basilica. The sedia was used as part of papal ceremony for nearly one millennium. Its origins are sometimes thought to date back to Byzantium where Byzantine emperors were carried along in a similar manner, but many sources indicate the use of the sedia is of a much earlier date, probably being derived from rituals accompanying the leadership of the ancient Roman Empire.”

    or whether we want to speak of the Pope defining matters of doctrine “ex cathedra”


    Literally “from the chair”, a theological term which signifies authoritative teaching and is more particularly applied to the definitions given by the Roman pontiff. Originally the name of the seat occupied by a professor or a bishop, cathedra was used later on to denote the magisterium, or teaching authority. The phrase ex cathedra occurs in the writings of the medieval theologians, and more frequently in the discussions which arose after the Reformation in regard to the papal prerogatives. But its present meaning was formally determined by the Vatican Council, Sess. IV, Const. de Ecclesiâ Christi, c. iv: “We teach and define that it is a dogma Divinely revealed that the Roman pontiff when he speaks ex cathedra, that is when in discharge of the office of pastor and doctor of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, by the Divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed that his Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals, and that therefore such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves and not from the consent of the Church irreformable.” (See INFALLIBILITY; POPE.)”,

    let’s face it, doesn’t your heart leap up and rejoice to think of the Pope sitting in his Pope seat doing Popish things? I know mine does ;-)

  • Martha

    Okay, getting to the serious point, which was the article written in “Newsweek”; first, I think it suffers from the same weakness as so many articles do, in that it appears to have been written by committee (at the start, it is said to be “By Lisa Miller” but at the very end, we get “With Julie Scelfo” – in what proportion we get Lisa to Julie, who knows? At least it’s not as bad as “Time”, when I have been flabbergasted by the list of ‘contributors’ to a story, often times rivalling in length the article itself).

    The second weakness is the ‘he said/she said’ model of writing, or the attempt at balance, which ultimately satisfies no-one. So, in the beginning of the article, we get “…a story that appears in all four Gospel accounts and that modern historians believe is at least partially grounded in fact.” and “This interpretation may be profound and in keeping with Benedict’s Christ-centered message; it is not, many scholars would say, historically accurate.”

    Point to be taken? Modern historians, trained in the new scientific methods of textual analysis, historical criticism and the divil an’ all, are now able to put these charming old myths under the microscope of science (actually, I feel I should type that as SCIENCE!!! with fireworks and trumpets) and dissect them for our edification and instruction.

    Modern historians tell us that “the things that you’re liable/to read in the Bible/it ain’t necessarily so”. Modern education – 1, Pope – 0.

    But – go down to the end of the article, and we get things like “…the historical method has so far gleaned very little in the way of facts. Jesus left no diaries, and he had no contemporary Boswell.” and “… “We learned from the search for the historical Jesus that the search for the historical Jesus is not going to take us very far,” says Alan Segal, professor of religion at Barnard College.” and “… while the search for the historical Jesus has given us very little about Jesus”.

    What – modern historians may not know every little bitty detail of things that happened 2,000 years ago? Stuffy old church guys might be just as right, going on musty old tomes and dusty old tradition? Zut, alors!

    The third big glaring weakness is the one Mollie reared up on her hind legs about, rightly so: the contrasting of ‘fundamentalists’ and ‘liberals’ with ‘moderates’ thrown in as, I dunno, referees holding the crazed fundies back from ripping out the throats of the poor, fearful liberals scared that the Pope was laying down the law.

    “Fundamentalist” used, not as a specific descriptive term, but rather as a catch-all for those who hold a traditional, orthodox, yep, supernatural stuff really happened, view of the faith – and not just that, but in a mildly patronising, even subtly pejorative way (ooh, those awful fundamentalists! can the Pope, who hasn’t yet burned any heretics at the stake that we know of, really have anything in common with them?) – bah. Sloppy at best, Lisa or Jane or whoever wrote the thing. Or edited it, and yes, I do think an editor should catcht this kind of thing.

    The same way an editor should have caught that we Romans, when cracking down on perfectly harmless theologians and dragging them off in chains to the dungeons of the Inquisition (otherwise known as “help(ing) John Paul II crush the liberation theologists in Central America in the 1980s” – oh, yeah, crushing Central American theologians, that makes me feel so good, baby), call ‘em “theologians” not “theologists” :-)

  • Martha

    Dear editors of “Newsweek”, just one quibble: when we grim Papists are “help(ing) John Paul II crush the liberation theologists in Central America in the 1980s”, we refer to them as “theologians” not “theologists” ;-)

  • cheryl

    In my experience, whenever a reporter throws the word “fundamentalist” into a story, it is a pretty safe bet that they have a good bit of distain for orthodox Christianity.

    It’s a handy little gauge that always works for me.

    By the way, I visited St. Peter’s Basilica for the first time recently and can attest to the fact that there is, indeed, a fancy “pope seat” there, right behind the main altar :-)

  • MaryMargaret

    Hmmmm, PBXVI “roaring”, “fierce”—I’ll go out on a limb here and guess this person has never listened to him even once (much less read anything that he has ever written). If it’s all the same to her, I think that, when it comes to Biblical scholarship, I’ll go with Pope Benedict XVI and N.T. Wright rather than anonymous “modern historians”. No offense to the “historians”, whoever they may be.

  • Str1977

    One more note on the anonymous historians:

    Many of those indulging in more positive statements (e.g. history tells us Jesus didn’t XYZ) are probably theologians or bible scholars, either with their theological axe to grind or just blinded by the smoke-screen of overdoing the historical-critical method of exegesis. It is they the Pope addresses in his book.

    Oh, and Martha:

    aren’t we popish papists. ;-)

  • Martha

    Indeed we are, Str1977, as we prostrate ourselves in our perjured prevaricating papistical popishness, prone before the peremptoriness of the proud prelates and perfidious primates of the perversely pontificating Papacy!

  • Will

    How DARE that Olsen associate people with cat-lovers?

  • Charles


    I realise this thread is no longer fresh, but I’ve been travelling this last week, and I have had little time for the internet. I have been thinking about this thread, though, off and on, and have more to say.

    First, though I appreciate your attempt at fraternal correction, there is another definition to the word idiom (check the OED)- namely, “a form or expression natural to a language, person or group..” So it seems to me phrases such as “pope’s nose” (referring to the tail of a plucked chicken) – or (as I imagined, hypothetically) “Pope seat” referring to something similar, like the pope’s hindquarters, or some other equally imaginative referent, like the cathedra Catholics noramlly refer to as the “Chair of Peter” or the “Holy See” – can (or hypothetically could) appropriately be called idioms commonly used in certain circles of Protestants.

    But you say that “Pope seat” is your own coinage, and not in common use amongst the congrgants of the Missouri or Wisconsin synods. I’m glad of that.

    In any case, I think that is ironic – to say the least – that a journalist, writing on a site that purports to care deeply about the proper reporting of religious issues would be so flip with words. I get the joke, the word play, but am still annoyed because I’m tired of people (often feigning) misunderstanding, mischaracterising, or studiously ignoring important aspects of Christian and especially Catholic/Orthodox history, culture & belief. I have personally experienced gross anti-Catholicism, and find most non-Catholics/Orthodox shockingly ignorant of the Church. So terminology used in places like this (where many non-Catholics visit) is important. It matters.

    Many people won’t get the “joke” – or else will appreciate the vularity of the turn of phrase, as being disrespectful of something Catholics venerate. Not cool. You know what we call it, what it is in fact called. You don’t have to call it the Holy See if that offends your Lutheran sensibilities. See of Rome or papacy work fine.

    That’s not school marmish (hah! I’m the farthest thing from!) Rather, respecting what people believe, as long as it is not demonstrably and dangerously false or offensive, is just common coutesy. Respect. I think I do have a right to expect that here. Or do I?

  • Carl Olson

    For the record, I own two cats; I might even be a cat lover. And during the Great Fast, I’m a vegan. Of course, my sarcasm, intended at those who want any Jesus but the Jesus of the Gospels, seems to have struck a nerve or three. Go figure. However, anyone who actually spends time on the Insight Scoop blog knows that I discuss atheism, divisions in the Catholic Church, and wine on a regular basis. Sheez.