Carl Olson comments here on Professor Geza Vermes’ patronising review of the Pope’s book on Jesus. Vermes is a Jew who was saved from the concentration camps by a Catholic family as a boy. He converted and was ordained a priest. Eventually he left the priesthood and the Catholic faith. Since then he’s made a career writing books saying that Jesus was just another fanatical Jewish itinerant preacher, and all that ‘incarnate God’ stuff was later interpretation and interpolation by the Christian Church that had been heavily influenced by Greek thought.
Why do people take these guys so seriously? Vermes’ scholarship is shoddy. I reviewed one of his books for Amazon some time ago, and was shocked at how much he begged the questions, built great theories on tenuous suppositions and whenever the text contradicted his theory he simply said, ‘that must be a later interpolation.’ Why? Because Dr Vermes says so. His assertions were not backed up with solid evidence. Every Biblical scholar I’ve spoken to about Vermes’ work is embarrassed by it. Still he churns out his popular ‘scholarship’ for an audience that wants to disbelieve the Christian gospel. In my opinion his ‘scholarship’ is only one step up from the DaVinci code.
Here’s the real scoop: if students applied the same critical tools and critical mindset to the work of the Biblical scholars as they are expected to apply to the Scriptures we’d get some really interesting results. As it is, we are supposed to doubt every word of Scripture because it was all written from a biased point of view, but we’re supposed to accept every word of the scholars because it must be objective, scientific and ‘scholarly’. I’m not buying it. Geza Vermes (and others of his ilk) are as biased as can be, and any first year theology student should be able to see it.