Olson and Vermes

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.

Modernistic New Testament scholarship is a house of cards. Sneeze and it all falls down.

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.

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  • 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’.Well stated, Father Dwight. These guys drive me nuts. Many of them (not all, of course) dislike any kind of authority, especially Church authority, but insist that everyone bow at their feet and agree with every single theory and notion they have, even though they often provide little to no evidence, or, as is the case, the evidence ignores everything to the contrary, or could be used against their theories, etc., etc. Vermes, who I know little about, seems to be an especially interesting case since he is a former Catholic priest, and who seems to have a real axe to grind with Catholicism in general and Church authority in particular.

  • What really eats me is that the guy is a professor at Oxford and a Fellow of the British Institute. When the ‘top intellectuals’ are so clearly biased and guilty of shoddy scholarship that one despairs.When I studied at Oxford and met this stuff it put me off an academic career for good. Funny–Bob Jones University taught me to be skeptial of the fundies. Oxford taught me to be skeptical of the liberals.

  • I agree, it’s outrageous and crazy making. My undergraduate degree is in science, earned at an Ivy League school in the 1970’s, and I cannot believe the degradation of scholarship that has occurred in 30 years, through the acceptance of bias. It was scholarly rigor to have an open mind and then prove your point through rigorous research. And going to “original sources” (in our example, the early Church fathers) was a foundation of sound research.I pretty much have ignored these types of “scholars”, actually. Here’s the example I use. Suppose Jesus Christ, before he ascended into heaven, created a steel bridge from earth to the moon with this plaque on it: “I Jesus Christ created this bridge so that you would remember who I am and what I did, and out of love in order to strengthen your faith in the doubtful times to come.” What would we be saying today? Aliens did it. It was always there. It’s not really there we just think it’s there. George Bush invented a secret time machine and went back in time in order to build the bridge to distract us from the war in Iraq. LOL. That’s why no proof will ever suffice than what was already done once for all.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for this article. I have bought the book and look forward to reading it on holiday next week. I read the article on Saturday, expecting it to be snooty and negative ( that’s normal in all British press all the time,) but didn’t know which particular axes this author was grinding.