Books

This ex-priest’s history of the gospels could unsettle the most faithful churchgoer

Damian Thompson urges us all to read the fascinating and provocative Christ Actually: The Son of God for a Secular Age by James Carroll

13 December 2014

9:00 AM

13 December 2014

9:00 AM

Christ Actually: The Son of God for the Secular Age James Carroll

William Collins, pp.352, £14.99, ISBN: 9780008103484

When James Carroll was a boy, lying on the floor watching television, he would glance up at his mother and ‘see her lips moving, only to glimpse the beads in her lap. I recall thinking that they slipped through her thumb and forefinger the way cartridges moved into machine guns’.

There was nothing unusual about this: in 1970s England, as well as 1950s America, most devout Catholic ladies carried a rosary in their handbag. If you walked into church while the Legion of Mary were at prayer, you’d be deafened by their Hail Marys. It was a competitive sport. Whoever prayed loudest and fastest — usually an Irish biddy with the gleam of the Taleban in her eye — could force the others to keep up with her frantic pace. ‘Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessedartthou… women… fruit of thy womb Jesus… Holy Mary, motherofGod, pray for us… [gasp for breath] now-
andatthehourofourdeath, Amen! Hail Mary…’ etc. Ten Hail Marys were a decade, with one decade for each of the five Joyful Mysteries of Christ. Repeat twice for the Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries. (Pope John Paul II added the Luminous Mysteries, which traditionalists regard as a bit dodgy, and don’t say.)

It did sound a bit like machine-gun fire, and it’s not surprising that Carroll — a bestselling American novelist and church historian — should reach for that particular analogy. His father, Lt Gen Joseph Carroll, ran the Defense Intelligence Agency during the Vietnam war. He had trained for the priesthood, but backed out at the last minute. James, on the other hand, did become a Catholic priest — one of those self-consciously radical clerics who opposed the war. Like nearly all of them, he left and got married. He’s still a Catholic, albeit one whose research into the historical background of the Gospels has left him with a heterodox understanding of Jesus.


Christ Actually — what a terrible title — is his attempt to explain his theology to his readers and also, one suspects, to himself. If he doesn’t quite succeed he has nevertheless produced a dazzling, page-turning synthesis of recent research that should unsettle even the most faithful churchgoer.

Warfare and slaughter are never far from his mind. ‘The character of the Jesus movement’s texts as war literature has never been fully reckoned with,’ he says. The first Gospel, that of Mark, was written around 70 AD . just as the Romans were destroying the Temple of Jerusalem and, with it, an entire religion. After that there were no high priests, no sacrifices. Over the next century Roman emperors killed at least 600,000 Jews, and out of the ashes grew two new Jewish religions: rabbinical Judaism, built around the absence of the Temple, and the ‘Jesus movement’, which — despite its Gentile following — remained part of Judaism for far longer than either modern Jews or Christians are prepared to acknowledge.

Christ Actually constantly prods the reader with inconvenient details that challenge both classical Christianity and the liberal scholars who think Jesus was just an itinerant Jewish preacher who got lucky —that is, was turned into a divine ‘Christ’ by anti-Semitic Gentiles. Carroll points out that St Paul, often called the founder of Christianity, was dead by the time the Temple was destroyed. He carried on praying there until he left Jerusalem. He preached the message of Jesus to non-Jews, but that wasn’t an earth-shattering departure. The Mediterranean world was already full of fellow-travelling Gentiles who followed the ‘Jewish cult’. Also, many Jews in the enormous diaspora — there were 50,000 in Rome — were classically educated and Hellenised.

We draw the line between Jews and Gentiles in the wrong place, argues Carroll, and misunderstand early anti-Semitism. Most of Paul’s anti-Jewish sayings were put into his mouth by Luke, the author of the Acts of the Apostles, who made the Jews the villains of his Gospel in order to get the imperial authorities off his back at a time when all Jews (including the Jesus variety) were being punished by Rome. By 100 AD, John’s Gospel was portraying ‘Jews’ as Satan — but this was still ‘one group of Jews demonising another’.

Moreover, Jesus’s ‘divinity’ was neither a bizarre leap of the imagination nor a development of doctrine that happened decades after his death. The historical Jesus said he was the Son of Man, a claim to sort-of-divinity that wouldn’t necessarily have been regarded as blasphemy. Jews at the time, excited by the apocalyptic images of the Book of Daniel, were constantly on the lookout for a supernatural Messiah.

Carroll’s argument is designed to help reconcile modern Jews and Christians. He skirts around the question of whether Jesus was God or rose from the dead — partly for diplomatic reasons, but also because he only ‘sort of’ believes in the central claims of Christianity. He has a bit of a nerve receiving Holy Communion at Mass every week, as he tells us he does. But then he has a bit of a nerve writing a book that tramples on Jewish and Christian sensibilities while ostensibly respecting their ‘faith traditions’. The result is fascinating and I urge you to read it.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

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Show comments
  • kentgeordie

    You urge us to read it but you don’t give us a very convincing reason for doing so.

    • Ayatolla Howmany

      Education? Curiosity? Willingness to consider possibilities?

      Not acceptable to the religious mind, obviously.

      • kentgeordie

        I am in favour of all the qualities you mention, but nothing in the review makes me think my time would be better spent on this book rather than say Bryan Ward-Perkins’ history of late antiquity, the Confessions of St Augustine, or the new Marilynne Robinson.

        • Ayatolla Howmany

          ‘Saint’
          Augustine-

          ‘Woman’
          signifies ‘weakness of mind’. In everything a wife is subject to
          her husband because of her state of servitude. Woman is not created
          in the image of God. Wives are subject to their husbands by nature.
          Women may not be given a liturgical office in the church. Women
          cannot become priests or deacons. Women may not teach in church.
          Women may not teach or baptize.

          The
          legal situation of women under the Corpus Iuris Canonici (1234 – 1916
          AD) has been summed up as follows:

          “By
          a principle of civil law, no woman can exercise a public office. By
          Church Law women are equally barred from all spiritual functions and
          offices.” “A woman can, therefore, not receive any ecclesiastical
          ordination. If she receives one, the ordination will not imprint a
          sacramental character . . . .” “No woman, however saintly she may
          be, may either preach or teach . . . .” “A wife is under the
          power of her husband, the husband not under the power of the wife.
          The husband may punish her. A wife is obliged to follow her
          husband to wherever he decides to fix his residence.” “A woman is
          bound to greater modesty than a man.” “A woman is sooner excused
          on account of fear than a man”

          Augustine’s
          view of sexual feelings as sinful impacted his view of women. His
          beliefs on this issue were so extreme that he considered a man’s
          erection to be sinful because it did not take place under his
          conscious control. Rather than resolve his internal struggle with his
          own sexuality, he blamed women for being “stimulating.” His
          solution was to place controls on women to limit their ability to
          influence men: “Thus the woman, but not the man, should veil
          herself to prevent her from causing this sinful response in the
          male.”

          Augustine
          viewed women not only as threatening to men, but also as
          intellectually and morally inferior:

          “It
          is the natural order among people that women serve their husbands and
          children their parents, because the justice of this lies in (the
          principle that) the lesser serves the greater . . . This is the
          natural justice that the weaker brain serve the stronger. This
          therefore is the evident justice in the relationships between
          slaves and their masters, that they who excel in reason, excel in
          power.”[133]

          Thomas
          Aquinas-

          Bertrand
          Russell criticized Aquinas’ philosophy on the ground that

          He does not,
          like the Platonic Socrates, set out to follow wherever the argument
          may lead. He is not engaged in an inquiry, the result of which it is
          impossible to know in advance. Before he begins to philosophize, he
          already knows the truth; it is declared in the Catholic faith. If he
          can find apparently rational arguments for some parts of the faith,
          so much the better; if he cannot, he need only fall back on
          revelation. The finding of arguments for a conclusion given in
          advance is not philosophy, but special pleading.

          Still a fan?? Sounds eerily like Islam’s attitude to women.

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          Augustine of Hippo? The joker that announced the world was flat, thus setting back science by some 1,200 years. Then there was Limbo, original sin, free will …
          A pseudo intellectual by any other name would smell just as much.

          • kentgeordie

            Good grief – you do have some odd notions. I’m not clear whether you are for or against original sin and free will.

            Care to tell us where Augustine declares the flatness of the earth? And explain why the rest of humanity took the word of an African bishop for the next 1600 years?

          • Athelstane

            It is probably a reference to Book XVI of the City of God, wherein St Augustine wrote, “But they do not remark that, although it be supposed or scientifically demonstrated that the world is of a round and spherical form, yet it does not follow that the other side of the earth is bare of water; nor even, though it be bare, does it immediately follow that it is peopled.”

            St. Augustine doesn’t really address the question of the shape of the Earth. He merely suggests that if we accept that it is round, as some claimed, it doesn’t follow that it is peopled, something he clearly doubts. He obviously was wrong about that, but given that no people from the Mediterranean world had ever visited the southern hemisphere, it’s hard to critical of him on this point. Otherwise we’ll be left to conclude that many great figures of the ancient world were “jokers” for failing to have modern scientific knowledge on such points.

  • “Carroll’s argument is designed to help reconcile modern Jews and Christians.”

    In fact, Jews knew who Jesus was during His three-year ministry, which is why they waited for three-years for the sign by Jesus that it was time for Him to die…

    The following explains what went on in 1st century Judea/Galilee-Perea/Decapolis. Using correct historical analysis of the Gospels and Acts, we acknowledge the Gospels and Acts to be the a-historical forgeries they clearly would have been KNOWN to be by Roman subjects living outside of the Levant, however it is this very a-historical reading of the Gospels/Acts that proves the Jesus narrative is fact…

    The reality of the Gospels and Acts narratives were known to be fact by Roman subjects outside of Judea and Galilee, otherwise Roman subjects would never have accepted the Gospels’/Acts’ narratives where (1) a Roman governor allows a charismatic figure such as Jesus (called rebels by Rome) to go about his business for three years with twelve disciples, attracting large crowds and claiming to perform miracles; (2) when Jesus approaches Jerusalem with the mob the governor refuses to stop what Rome called insurrection, and allows the mob to proceed into the city, even though the governor was in Jerusalem since the previous week to prevent just such an action pulled off by Jesus; and (3) after Pilate, the next nine Roman governors of Judea (37 AD – 66 AD, 66 AD being when the First Jewish Revolt occurred) refuse to arrest and execute Jesus’ apostles, who are still (i) attracting large crowds; and (2) claiming to perform miracles.

    Now you have proof, from an unimpeachable, unbiased source–gentile Roman subjects–that the Gospels narratives are indeed fact.

    We assume what is today known as the New Testament is fiction, then using proper historical knowledge for how the Roman Empire operated, we prove that the New Testament stories are fact because the stories were immediately known to be true, otherwise the stories would have ended there because even the most ignorant of Roman subjects 40 years after the fact would have been laughing at the obvious laughable a-historical lies the New Testament was pushing; the behaviors of the ten Roman governors of Judea (30 AD – 66 AD) towards Jesus and apostles are a hoot, and those laughable behaviors also prove that those ten governors’ behaviors weren’t individual, ad hoc, stand down policies towards Jesus & apostles, but instructions from the Emperor in Rome!

    Let’s perform a modern times analogy using a post World War II scenario where Germany won the war and rules the Western hemisphere:

    Germany has won World War II, and German governors rule the Western hemisphere, the Waffen SS being the equivalent of the Roman centurion.

    Though the war is over resistance to German occupation continues, including the French Resistance.

    Now, in France the leader of the French resistance and twelve lieutenants move openly about France for three years preaching rebellion and the German governor does nothing. After three years the leader of the French Resistance enters Paris with his twelve lieutenants and a mob and again the German governor refuses to arrest the thirteen, and roundup the mob.

    Finally the French mayor of Paris arrests the leader, but not the twelve lieutenants, and hands the leader over to the German governor who still doesn’t want to execute the leader, but does after left no other option.

    Now, after the leader of the French Resistance is dead not only are the twelve lieutenants allowed to live under that particular German governor’s remaining term of office, but aren’t touched by the next nine German governors to take office. In fact, the French Resistance is increasing by tens of thousands each year and German authorities simply sit by and watch.

    Now when one of those French Resistance travels outside France to spread the word of the rebellion in France, he is believed because everyone KNOWS the otherwise ludicrous story he’s telling is true. END OF ANALOGY.

    The above also tells us that the Jewish authorities in Judea & Galilee knew who Jesus was and were waiting for a sign from Him indicating that it was time for His death. The sign came when Jesus entered Jerusalem with the mob, a not-to-be-mistaken provocation towards Pilate, who was in Jerusalem since the previous week to prevent just this sort of religious fervor, but, as usual, again Pilate refused to massacre Jesus & disciples along with the mob. To ensure Jesus was indeed signaling it was time for Him to die, the Sanhedrin conducted three night time Q&A sessions with Jesus (not trails, as under the Law of Moses trials can only take place during daylight hours, thereby also precluding any possibility of punishment). Jesus’ silence informed the Sanhedrin that Jesus was indeed ready to die.

    Now you know why Jesus only asked Paul why he was persecuting His followers. Notice, it’s only Paul Jesus speaks to on this subject, because the Roman and Jewish authorities are turning a blind eye to the increasing numbers defecting to the Jesus Sect. In fact, Paul’s trip to Gentile Damascus was an excuse to get him out of Judea, because Paul was causing chaos in Jerusalem, though the Jewish authorities refused Paul’s requests for the punishment of stoning.

    The above is a discovery I made in 2012, proving that Jesus was the Messiah as assessed (1) by a proper analysis of the Gospels and Acts narratives; and (2) by the fact that Roman subjects outside of the Levant accepted what would have otherwise been known to be laughably bad forgeries.

    The Roman Empire provided God with three necessary arrangements to fulfill His major objectives on this subject, those being (1) a scapegoat people, the Romans, that would be the pawns who carried out Jesus’ execution; because (2) God, being omniscient, knew that the Jewish authorities would never go along with executing the Messiah; and (3) the peculiar administration of Roman governors would provide the proof that Jesus was indeed who He claimed to be.

    Merry Christmas, and let’s keep Jesus in our thoughts as that blessed day approaches! And the sentiment goes to the many Marxists that, suspiciously, read and comment on The Spectator.

    • Chris Morriss

      I think it’s quite possible, that if you took some medicine for your verbal diarrhoea, you might be able to string a few coherent sentences together.

      • “I think it’s quite possible, that if you took some medicine for your verbal diarrhoea, you might be able to string a few coherent sentences together.”

        Since your cognitive functions aren’t capable of understanding what is proved by ten Roman governors of Judea refusing to follow standard operating procedure towards what Rome called “insurrectionists”, any further “verbal diarrhoea” [sic] on this blockbuster discovery would be lost on you.

        • Chris Morriss

          Diarrhoea is the standard UK spelling. You rednecks omit the ‘o’ I believe. Just shows that you have no knowledge of the history of the word, like you have no knowledge of so much, as you regularly prove by your inane postings.

          • “Diarrhoea is the standard UK spelling.”

            I placed quotes around VERBAL DIARRHOEA, not DIARRHOEA, pointing to the general errant nature of your charge. As I wrote, “…Rome called “insurrectionists”, any further “verbal diarrhoea” [sic] on this blockbuster…”

            “…like you have no knowledge of so much, as you regularly prove by your inane postings.”

            Once more…

            Since your cognitive functions aren’t capable of understanding what is proved by ten Roman governors of Judea refusing to follow standard operating procedure towards what Rome called “insurrectionists”, any further “verbal diarrhoea” [sic] on this blockbuster discovery would be lost on you.

    • Addendem:

      The fact that ten Roman governors of Judea refused to follow standard operating procedure concerning what Rome called “insurrectionists” tells us that each governor wasn’t following his own ad hoc policy towards Jesus and disciples/apostles, but following Imperial policy as set by the Emperor in Rome!

  • It’s nothing very new or radical. The late Geza Vermes wrote far more convincingly in “Jesus the Jew” – which is well worth reading if you want to know just how Jewish the Christian faith really is.

    • Damian Thompson

      Well, I’ve read Jesus the Jew and other books by Vermes, and this (while not as scholarly) gives us a different and fascinating take on the same texts.

      • Again, try reading through St Mark’s gospel (almost certainly the earliest of the four) in one session. Jesus is “teacher” and the “Son of Man” but there is little of the Christological material which appears in the other gospels. The Jesus seen in Mark is very much a Jewish teacher.

        • tolpuddle1

          No one has ever said that Jesus wasn’t very much a Jewish teacher !

          “Son of Man” refers to a messianic figure in a vision in the Book of Daniel.

          The Aramaic text (now lost) of Matthew’s Gospel may well have preceded Mark’s; which is based on Simon Peter’s memories of Jesus’s ministry, i.e. a fisherman’s recollection, thus not terribly theological.

          • The question is whether the cosmological claims made about Jesus by the other gospels, especially John, bear scrutiny when the first gospel (in effect the work of Peter) knows nothing of such things.

          • tolpuddle1

            On your basis, the first history of a particular person, epoch or event is the only valid one, any later histories being disqualified.

          • You are attempting to define a principle to which I do not subscribe. The point is this: scholars think that Mark is actually the eyewitness account of the disciple who knew Jesus better than anyone – he was the one put in charge of the church by Jesus. Such a testimony is powerful evidence, and one has to ask why Peter does not allude to such religious claims which are central to – for example – the gospel according to John? Could it be that these articles of faith have no basis in the actual teaching and ministry of Jesus, as reported by St Peter?

          • tolpuddle1

            Er, no – it means that Simon Peter wasn’t someone who thought theologically.

            John and Matthew also knew Jesus well and were eyewitnesses to His ministry. John was the only Apostle present at Jesus’s crucifixion.

          • The authorship of Matthew and John is less certain, and possibly written decades later in their name by different local Christian communities. Some detect the hand of up to three authors in John’s gospel.

          • tolpuddle1

            Many opponents of Christianity have said what you say about the authorship and date of Matthew’s Gospel – but then, they would, wouldn’t they ?

            John’s Gospel is indeed later, probably c. 100 AD. It’s clearly based on John’s recollections and the likeliest scenario is that he completed part of the written text himself, with the remainder being completed from his notes or memory of his discourses after his death.

          • The best practice is to look for the earliest text, and ideally for a text written by someone as close to Jesus as possible – both of which makes Mark’s gospel the best candidate for providing an authentic understanding of Jesus, since St Peter appears to be the principal source.

          • tolpuddle1

            It’s an authentic understanding, but a limited one. The other three Gospels are equally necessary, equally valid.

          • And how do you know this? The evidence appears to be that Jesus knew nothing of the claims made later about him.

          • tolpuddle1

            The evidence seems to show the exact opposite.

          • Not according to Mark / Peter

          • Chris Morriss

            Very true. He obviously wasn’t omniscient for example, as can be seen from a number of things the gospels report him as saying. Mustard seeds into giant trees anyone?

          • Chris Morriss

            Aren’t scholars still attempting to reconstruct the ‘Q’ text?

          • Sam Martini

            I don’t think many scholars have believed the Q hypothesis since it was demolished Austin Farrer decades ago.

          • Damaris Tighe

            If John’s Gospel was written around 100 AD that is only 70 years after Jesus’s death. Analogous to someone today writing about WW2. Yet people assume that because of the Gospel’s date it’s somehow ‘late’ & therefore without authority.

          • normalfornorfolk

            Yes, that’s a good point.
            What intrigues me is why, given the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 was such a cataclysmic event for Judaism, none of the gospels (appear to) make mention of it. Possibly this suggests a date earlier than AD 70 for the gospels?

          • Damaris Tighe

            In fact only John is supposed to be written in 70 AD. It’s conceded that the other gospels were written earlier, ie, well within living memory of the events described.

            Re the destruction of the Temple, one possibility is that knowledge of that event was taken for granted & Jesus’s prophecies of the fall of Jerusalem were to be read implicitly as fulfilled.

            The other possibility is that, as you imply, the Gospels (including John) were written or at least compiled much earlier than is assumed. There may be an academic prejudice against conceding this, as the gospels would then have to be taken more seriously as accounts of Jesus’s life & contemporary beliefs about him.

          • True. It’s more or less certain we have copies of copies.

          • modernredeye

            The date ascribed to John is usually in the period AD 90-100. Mark is usually dated around 70AD and the others between these dates..

          • Damaris Tighe

            Which is exactly my point. At the latest, the gospels were written (note, written not compiled) between 40-70 years after the events they describe. This is analogous to writing about Thatcher becoming PM or about WW2 in 2014. Hardly outside living memory is it?

            Edit: and we also have to take into account the changes in memory capacity as technology gives us more access to information storage. In biblical times people had prodigious memories because they didn’t have notebooks. ‘Tricks’ were used to memorise data, which can sometimes be seen in texts.

            Since then with the advent of cheap paper & pens our memories declined through lack of exercise. And in the present age memory has withered even further because of the use of electronic media.

          • Damaris Tighe

            Sorry, I mistyped 70 AD when I meant 100 AD (I still had ’70 years after the events described in my mind’).

          • Sam Martini

            Matthew and Luke do. Mathew 24:1-3. The detail given in this passage is one of the standard arguments for dating Matthew later than AD70.

          • rob232

            I don’t think that your comparison is valid. WWII affected the whole world, lasted six years and left a wealth of historical records. Imagine better writing in 1800 the life story of someone who lived in 1730. Not so easy. Scholars have been investigating the life of Shakespeare for hundreds of years and still have not reached agreement. Not to mention legendary historical characters such as Robin Hood or King Arthur. I remember a report on CNN about a flying saucer crash in 1947 in Roswell. They interviewed eye witnesses but mainly friends and families of eye witnesses Some fifty years later. Difficult to work out what really happened.

          • You read differently to I – it’s all there, and, if you understand them, in the letters of Peter.

          • Sam Martini

            Peter never wrote those.

          • Sam Martini

            Scholars think no such thing.

          • Chris Morriss

            An influential minority of scholars think that John is actually the eyewitness account of the disciple who knew Jesus better than anyone. I suggest that we simply don’t know. It is also highly likely that Jesus’s younger brother James was in charge of the early Jerusalem Christians after the death of Jesus, not the grizzled old misogynist Peter. The fallacious myths of the modern Catholic church should be discounted as inventions from the time of Constantine.

          • Damaris Tighe

            John was the first gospel I read & I was very struck by its ‘eyewitness’ feel.

          • Eadweard Blameworthy

            The first Gospel you read – by the author of the ‘Last Gospel’ 🙂
            Anglican J.A.T. ‘City of Man’ Robinson came around to favouring an earlier dating.

          • modernredeye

            Knows nothing of such things? Mark 1.11:

            11″ And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
            Bear in mind that Paul’s letters take for granted the pre-existence of Jesus, and these were written nearly 20 years before Mark by conventional dating. And bear in mind that scholars have traced those ideas back to the earliest Jerusalem-based followers of Jesus. It is hardly likely that Mark was ignorant of such ideas even if his purpose was not to highlight such ideas as explicitly as later gospels.

          • Paul was not a disciple of Jesus, unlike Peter. What does Mark 1.11 mean? It is an affirmation of the authenticity of the ministry of Jesus, in the conventional terms of the cosmology of that time.

          • modernredeye

            No. For a glimpse of modern scholarship see:

            http://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/jesus-as-gods-chief-agent-in-mark/

            Note in particular the comment by the writer of the paper discussed in the blog entry. The writer sees Mark’s Christology as on the “same par” as the other canonical gospels.

            For further reflections by Hurtado, see:

            http://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2014/12/11/marks-christology-plausibility-factors/

            “Mark’s Christology–Plausibility Factors”

          • Sam Martini

            The idea of an Aramaic text Matthew is pure speculation.

          • tolpuddle1

            So are the slurs on the Gospels made by Christianity’s enemies.

          • Sam Martini

            I’m afraid I don’t understand what you’re saying.

          • kidmugsy

            Ooh, it was this big; honest, guv!

        • Sam Martini

          The argument that Mark’s Gospel is the dictated memories of Peter has very little to support it and is almost totally dismissed by scholars.

          • Quot homines tot sententiae

          • Sam Martini

            That’s true, but not many of them are peer-reviewed, and those that are dismiss the Petrine authorship.

          • Many of those engaged in so-called biblical scholarship dismiss many things, because they are predisposed to deny them.

          • Sam Martini

            Attacking scholars for alleged bias is no answer to their findings.

          • And you accept their findings uncritically? Not a recommended course of action.

          • Sam Martini

            You have absolutely no cause to come to that conclusion.

          • modernredeye

            Perhaps qualified academics just know more than you?

          • And you are a “qualified academic”?

          • modernredeye

            No it isn’t.

            Why do you think that the Gospel of Mark was apparently always included in the Canonical Gospels?

          • Sam Martini

            Well, just asserting that I’m wrong doesn’t answer my point. I don’t know of a single serious New Testament theologian who accepts Papias’s notion about Peter and Mark’s Gospel. Do you?
            The reason Mark was so easily accepted is because of its great lack of the miraculous. There are no infancy narratives, for example. The Early Fathers had quite a keen nose for the ridiculous. So, stories about Jesus sliding down sunbeams, or turning children into pigs were kept out.

          • modernredeye

            You are not much acquainted with scholarship? On Papias try Richard Bauckham:

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/inebriateme/2014/09/book-review-richard-bauckham-jesus-and-the-eyewitnesses/

            Mark’s “lack of the miraculous”? You are not much acquainted with the gospels either?

          • Sam Martini

            Bauckham is not respected in scholarly circles.
            Can’t you read? I gave examples of the kinds of miracles that Mark is too fastidious to include

  • Julie

    The excellent army prayerbook, distributed as a gift of ctsbooks.org – complete with camouflage cover – contains, like its civilian equivalent, the essential creed sung or said at almost every Mass: ‘Filium eius unicum ( the beloved son: asserted in two of the five luminous mysteries) …tertia die resurrexit a mortuis’.
    Ecumenical essays tend toward success when based on solid foundations;
    from the Fathers of the first five centuries, through the Council of Trent to the indispensable current Catechism: an entire diplomatic corpus in reserve, and one that does, clearly acknowledge an ‘irrevocable’ promise to the Jewish people.

  • Factcheck

    Since Christians almost exterminated the Jews reconciliation is a kind of sadistic joke.

    • Paddy S

      lies.

    • tolpuddle1

      You’re thinking of the half-pagan, half-secular Nazis, Factcheck.

      Check your facts, please.

      • red2black

        Hitler’s ‘Positive Christianity’.

        • Sam Martini

          I think you’ll find that Herr Hitler wasn’t exactly a Sunday School teacher.
          It was Christians like Sophie Scholl and Dietrich Bonhoeffer who opposed him, and died doing so.

          • red2black

            Trying to reinvent Jesus as an Aryan must have been quite a task for the ‘clergy’ involved as well. No doubt it was worth having at least some of the churches on-side in the battle against the atheist Reds.

          • Sam Martini

            Quite so.
            I don’t think there were many clergy who supported the idea at all. The worst that can be said for them is that they were cowards.
            (I say that, not thinking I would be likely to be any more brave than they were. Sadly, I don’t think I have the courage or faith of a Sophie Scholl.)
            I haven’t heard the Sacks quote before. It’s very good.

          • red2black

            Sorry about the intervening edit.
            I heard Jonathan Sacks on ‘Thought For The Day’ quite a few years ago.

          • Sam Martini

            Why? Did I miss something?

          • red2black

            I dropped the JS quote to make a different point.
            Obviously you saw it before I made the change.

          • Sam Martini

            Oh, ok.
            Shame.

          • red2black

            Jonathan Sacks on the concentration camps –
            “Not so much a case of ‘Where was God’?
            …more a case of ‘Where was Man?'”

          • Sam Martini

            Why are you posting this again now?
            Wouldn’t it be better to insert it into its original place?

  • Paddy S

    I would take issue Damian with only small part of your article. Fine otherwise, the idea that Johns gospel was so late, or that Luke was so anti Jewish I doubt.

    • Damaris Tighe

      It’s a common mistake to cite this or that gospel as ‘anti-Jewish’ in the sense we now understand such a term. In NT times a Jew, Judean or Yehudi in Hebrew, was simply an inhabitant of the area around Jerusalem. In the north of the Roman province there was the area of Galilee from where Jesus came. The Galileans were viewed as rude provincials by the Judeans which was one of the reasons the ‘Jews’ resisted Jesus’s ministry.

      Since that time the geographical name has come to cover all adherents to the Hebrew religion. This is why hostile comments in the Gospels about Judeans (‘Jews’) – analogous perhaps to hostility to ‘cosmopolitan Londoners’ – have been falsely taken to mean hostility to the Jewish religion or the Jewish people as a whole.

      • red2black

        I always thought ‘Yehudi’ was Glaswegian for ‘a hoodie’.

  • lookout

    You would be better with a couple of Chuck Missler YouTube teachings, at least he knows what’s what.

  • ardenjm

    So, in other words, Damian, a botanist expresses surprise that a full-grown oak tree doesn’t look much like the acorn it came from? And spends a long time pointing out how the acorn’s little hat can’t have anything to do with the full-leafed reality towering above him…

    I just don’t get people (practising Catholics!) failing to make acts of supernatural Faith in the continuity of that reality that a) started in the womb of the Blessed Virgin and b) is guaranteed in its Divinely-guided veracity by the present avuncular and theologically-woolly incumbent of the throne of St Peter (in spite of him, even, when he comes out with odd lines every few days.)

    On the other hand, I do get, more and more, what Jesus says in Luke’s Gospel:
    When the Son of Man returns will he find Faith on earth?

    No-one prays the Rosary any more.
    And that’s exactly the problem.
    And if you’ve lots of questions: well, study Aquinas and then pray the Rosary.
    I’m not sure Biblical Studies can be meaningful for Catholics if Biblical studies refuse to take in to account Living Tradition within which the Bible must be read. Just as, with Hebrew prior to the masoretic texts, the vowel readings were the living tradition of Hebrew speakers and didn’t need to be written down: bcs w dnt rlly nd vwls fr wrtng lnggs f w spk thm flntly.
    The living linguistic tradition and the text came together in the reading, celebrating, liturgical enactment of it.

    Catholicism isn’t much different. Except, of course, it is predicated on the Word made Flesh so both Bible and Tradition are ordered to the reality revealed in the Incarnation and perpetuated in the body of Christ that is the Church.
    Didn’t James Carroll ever get taught this at seminary?
    Truly, it beggars belief.

    When Liberal scepticism finally runs itself into the ground and its history is written we’ll see how its pernicious effects via German biblical studies, proved corrosive to all supernatural content. Hardly a surprise – since its Enlightenment philosophical assumptions are predicated on the supernatural’s impossibility in the first place!

    Jesus Actually?
    How about Jesus in Act?
    Aristotelian-Thomists – that one’s for you : )

    • Sam Martini

      So, in other words, a naturalist expresses surprise that swifts and swallows don’t sleep under water in the winter, when everyone can see that they do. And, by examining the evidence decided that they fly south for warmer climes.

      • billy pips

        That is a unbelievably moronic response. And yet, I do believe, you are a moron.

        • Sam Martini

          I see that you know nothing of either theology or Gilbert White.
          What a pity.
          Perhaps you’d like to explain where I have gone wrong in that post.

          • billy pips

            You took the first paragraph, and dealt only with that. Having that single idea of Gilbert White up your sleeve, you use it promiscuously, as it’s all you’ve got. And it’s a bloody useless idea at that, in that nobody (and don’t cite some tribal, ancient group who proposed this, because judging history beyond its context is utterly meaningless) actually ‘sees’, or could possibly conceive of swifts and swallows sleeping under water in winter. Which means your clever-boy quote actually says ‘A naturalist expresses surprise that something nobody actually believes occur doesn’t actually occur, and describes it’. That is unbelievably moronic.

            I think it was Chesterton who said that an atheist was somebody who didn’t get metaphor. The people who described the sleep of swifts under water got metaphor, and with it discerned something mystical, mythical and true about the human condition, and the material and immaterial world. Which is to say, that despite being horrible, superstitious primitives, they might have been more sensitive to the real, experienced, constructed nature of knowledge and of the world we dwell in.

          • Sam Martini

            You really need to learn something before you open your mouth. Until Gilbert White, everyone believed that swallows and swifts hibernated in the mud by ponds. Read ‘The Natural History of Selborne’ or the biography of White by Richard Mabey.
            All I did was take the botanist metaphor, use a different metaphor and overturn his conclusion.
            You’re very swift to call others morons, but I fear that you miss its application to yourself.

          • gillineau

            Wikipedia – it’s a hell of a drug.

          • Sam Martini

            I’m sure you’re right, but it’s no substitute for reading. I urge you to get a copy of Richard Mabey’s book on Gilbert White.It’s beautifully written and it evokes a lost age of English rural life, Church matters, and the lost world of gentleman scientists. The descriptions of Selborne and the ways that White worked are wonderful. Oddly, White’s own writing is less enthralling. ‘The Natural History of Selborne’ has its moments, though.

          • Angry Viking

            You went wrong by making a reference that very few of these commenters had any hope of getting, is how 🙂

          • Sam Martini

            I suspect you’re right, but it didn’t stop them jumping in and making fools of themselves, did it?
            Empty vessels…….
            😉

        • Ayatolla Howmany

          Good grief! Whatever happened to rational thought?

          OH, of course- it drowned in religious dogma!

  • tolpuddle1

    “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” says Simon Peter in Matthew’s Gospel; and is applauded by Jesus for doing so.

    “Before Abraham was, I AM” says Jesus in John’s Gospel (oops sorry, I forgot that it’s the main un-PC Gospel).

    Pretty well Divine, eh ? (as is the “Son of Man” in the Book of Daniel).

    What Carroll is serving up under the pretence of being original, is resuscitated Arianism, the dead and buried heresy of Arius, which was born in the liberal, synchretistic trading city of Antioch (now also dead and buried), a place much like today’s West. Plus ca change.

    That heresy – that Jesus is “divine”, but not God (at least, not pukka God) was defeated by the Church long ago. And the Church’s decision can’t be overturned, even if the Church wanted to.

    Carroll is surely erudite enough to know all this; he is merely one more persecutor of the Church from within its own ranks.

    • davidofkent

      Of course another way of looking at it is one set of religious adherents arguing about the basis of their religion with another set. That doesn’t make any of them correct. They are simply arguing.

      • tolpuddle1

        You mean – “both sides may be wrong” ?

        That’s true of any debate.

        Shut the UN and Parliament ?

  • tolpuddle1

    Carroll’s argument is designed “to reconcile Christians and Jews” – on Jewish terms, since it is only the Resurrection and Divinity of Christ that separate the two religions.

    Carroll “skirts round” (i.e. evades) these two issues, partly because it’s PC to do so, partly he wants to have it both ways.

    As for showing “nerve”, it nowadays requires precisely none to say what Carroll has said.

    Though his receiving Communion may be much braver – foolhardy, in fact, than he realises.

    • Chris Morriss

      No. The resurrection (or not) of Jesus is an irrelevance. His voluntarily giving himself up to be sacrificed is the important thing. If a heterodox Christian queries the resurrection, then it certainly doesn’t make him a Jew. Far from it.

      • Damaris Tighe

        You are right. The Suffering Servant is of central importance, which is why the crucifix of a tortured man is a key icon in western Christianity – & probably why some people find it so repellent. It reminds us that there is a painful reality to life that escapist beauty or emotion-numbing meditation fail to confront. The crucifix can take on the individual’s burden of pain which is what the original sacrifice was designed to do (going back of course to the ancient tradition of the scapegoat).

        • Chris Morriss

          Hmm, not so sure that the Hebrew scapegoat is really comparable. As far as I know the scapegoat was a form of “sin eater”, in that the sins of the populace were ritually placed on it before it was driven out into the wilderness. I may be wrong, as I can’t think of the word without being reminded of Holman Hunt’s lurid painting of the same!

          • Damaris Tighe

            All of Hunt’s paintings are revolting IMO! Much prefer Rossetti’s early work – no preaching, just good old medievalist escapism!

            Re the scapegoat. Pain & guilt are usually not far apart. The scapegoat was a primitive receptacle for guilt in the era before introspection. By Roman times people were moving from externalised religion to internalised spirituality (hence the dispute between Jesus & the pharisees, the popularity of mystery religions & gnosticism).

            ‘Sin’ became more than a matter of social shame – it was also a matter of personal guilt & pain. So when Jesus is said, like the scapegoat, to have taken away the sins of the world, he has also taken away the pain that goes with it for ‘modern’, neurotic, introspective man. I hope that makes sense.

        • Sam Martini

          The crucifix is a later development of the image of the cross. The earliest form with a figure was the Christ the King/Priest version.
          The crucifix led to the development of the mediaeval heresy of penal substitution.

          • Damaris Tighe

            Yes, I’m aware of the point in your first paragraph.

  • tolpuddle1

    “He who is not for me, is against me” said Jesus.

    Damian, are you for Him or against Him ? Are you gathering with Christ or scattering with Satan ?

    You seem to WANT to unsettle your fellow-believers, to make them forsake their faith (or at least make them enter a twilight zone of half-believing).

    Do you want to do so yourself ?

    If so you, and any other Christian who is “unsettled” by Carroll’s drivel (with St Luke – branded by Carroll as an anti-semitic liar and falsifier – the whipping-boy this time round) are almost as desperate to lose your Christian faith as those who lapsed because of Dan Brown (the title of whose tripe I can’t even recall).

    Many want to lose the Faith nowadays – comfortable and fascinating (and “liberating” of our will, intellectual pride and our carnality) to do so – in this world. But in the next ?

    • Brimstone52

      “”He who is not for me, is against me” said Jesus.”

      An observation used by many with less than good intent in the centuries since.

  • pearlsandoysters

    I believe that’s an absolutely useless book to read, the real debates rage completely elswhere. It’s a shame that such books are offered for readership.

  • justejudexultionis

    Thanks but I’ll stick to being an evangelical Protestant.

  • modernredeye

    Paul’s anti-Jewish sayings? But Paul, judging from his Letters was very proud of his Jewishness? He did not regard himself as ceasing to be Jewish. He did have heated disagreements with others from the Jesus movement who believed gentiles wanting to accept Christ had to be circumcised and follow Jewish dietary laws but that does not make him anti-Jewish. Paul did boast of numerous beatings from synagogue leaders, probably due to his High Christological views which can be traced back to the earliest Jewish followers of Jesus, still based in Jerusalem and worshipping at The Temple. Those views held by the earliest followers of Jesus were probably responsible for Paul being initially a persecutor of the followers of Jesus before his experience on the road to Damascus.

  • Ambientereal

    I always wondered if the name of Judas was real or was an indication of the anti Jewish character of Christianity.

    • Damaris Tighe

      Judas is the Greek version of Judah or Yehuda in Hebrew. It was a very common name at the time. If it’s not real but making a point, it simply denotes a resident of the area around Jerusalem (see my reply to Paddy S below) & the animosity between northern Galileans & southern residents of Judea (Yehud in Hebrew), who were associated with the establishment. Both followed the Hebrew religion. At its root, Judah means ‘praise God’ & could be a name for a Galilean or a Judean.

    • Chris Morriss

      Judas was simply doing what he had been instructed to do. I’m sure he didn’t wish to be selected as the person to ‘betray’ Christ.

  • Samson

    Sounds interesting. It’s so galling that so many middle class twits think that Christianity has been 2000 years of people being polite and English, everyone playing lawn bowls and singing a hymn once a week.

    • modernredeye

      Outside your imagination, who thinks that?

    • red2black

      Any thoughts on upper class twits and working class twits?

  • Carter Lee

    Religion is of course all silly nonsense, but some Christian music especially from the Protestant tradition is superb.

    • Sam Martini

      Cogent argument against faith.
      Do you perhaps have a philosophy degree?

      • Carter Lee

        The cogent argument would be that it is silly to believe in the paranormal, the supernatural, miracles and the equally foolish notions of the divinity of human beings, transubstantiation, etc., etc., etc.

        • Damaris Tighe

          Ah, I see, the sort of ultra-materialism that even particle wave physicists don’t subscribe to

          • Carter Lee

            What is the point of being a particle wave theoretician
            or struggling with quantum mechanics if you believe in mysticism? Find me a reputable physicist that believes
            in his heart in a virgin birth? My goodness there are ecclesiastics that privately don’t subscribe to the theater
            of religion.

          • kentgeordie

            Google John Polkinghorne.
            You are making the very unscientific assumption that just because something seems obvious to you, it must be true.
            Matter – life – consciousness: undeniably very mysterious.

          • Carter Lee

            Yes, I am familiar with Rev. John Polkinghorne, a delightful and interesting academic and now a ecclesiastical. However, I find his arguments very labored, sophomoric and thus unconvincing. Personally, I find as a counter to Polkinghorne the views of Richard Feynman far more substantial and persuasive.

          • Sam Martini

            ‘Sophomoric’, eh?

            The Rev Dr John Charlton Polkinghorne, KBE, FRS (born 16 October 1930) is an English theoretical physicist, theologian, writer, and Anglican priest. A prominent and leading voice explaining the relationship between science and religion, he was professor of Mathematical physics at the University of Cambridge from 1968 to 1979, when he resigned his chair to study for the priesthood, becoming an ordained Anglican priest in 1982. He served as the president of Queens’ College, Cambridge from 1988 until 1996.

            Polkinghorne is the author of five books on physics, and 26 on the relationship between science and religion; his publications include The Quantum World (1989), Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship (2005), Exploring Reality: The Intertwining of Science and Religion (2007), and Questions of Truth (2009). The Polkinghorne Reader (edited by Thomas Jay Oord) provides key excerpts from Polkinghorne’s most influential books. He was knighted in 1997 and in 2002 received the £1 million Templeton Prize, awarded for exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.

          • EricHobsbawmtwit

            Yes, there’s a Brief History of people misunderstanding Quantum Mechanics to support religious or mystical arguments. It’s a brief history mostly because the theory was only invented 100 or so years ago.

            It’s possible to be an atheist and still believe in the Transcendent I think but I don’t believe it’s possible to know, as those of a theological bent presume to, about things in themselves. QM isn’t very good at describing things as they appear to your perceptions, but it does describe things as they appear in experiments very well.

          • Sam Martini

            I’m pretty sure that Polkinghorne didn’t misunderstand anything. Nor do the many other scientists who are Christians.

          • Carter Lee

            “If one must have faith in order to believe something, or believe in something, then the likelihood of that something having any truth or value is considerably diminished. The harder work of inquiry, proof, and demonstration is infinitely more rewarding, and has confronted us with findings far more ‘miraculous’ and ‘transcendent’ than any theology.”
            -Christopher Hitchens

            “I would rather not know than not know the truth.”
            -Richard Feynman

          • Sam Martini

            Yes, I’ve noticed, there are some people who believe in God and others who don’t.
            Is this new to you?

          • Carter Lee

            Of course not. Peoples personal religious beliefs are none of my business. I was merely trying to have a discussion on this subject which is a far more interesting on a British forum such as this than any American venue I have discovered. Americans seem more religious than Britons or Europeans but have less understanding of their reasons for being so.

          • Sam Martini

            With respect, it’s not very interesting when someone opens their contributions with, ‘Religion is of course all silly nonsense’, and then produces nothing but quotes from other people and unsubstantiated attacks on learned scientists.

          • EricHobsbawmtwit

            I’m pretty sure he’s completely misunderstood it. Not unlike Michael Behe. Behe is a biochemist who completely misunderstands evolution.

          • Sam Martini

            And yet you still haven’t pointed out where he goes wrong.

          • Chris Morriss

            I’m sure he misunderstood EVERYTHING, just like all the rest of us do.

          • Sam Martini

            You may not understand.
            Check his CV. Compare it to your own.

          • Sam Martini

            You may misunderstand. Check his CV. Compare it to your own.

          • Chris Morriss

            I was pointing out that compared with a higher intelligence, all of us, even Sam Martini, is barely higher than an amoeba.

          • Sam Martini

            Ah, then in that case, I think I accept your point, up to a point. Is your higher intelligence a scientist, or God?
            If God, then to what extent does being made in God’s likeness place us somewhere above an amoeba (or a spirochete, which I think I learned about in the same term in Biology)? Aren’t we a little above the angels?

          • Chris Morriss

            It has to be God, though my understanding of that word is different from most of those that post here. Not having any personal experience or gnosis of God, I can only conceive of him (it?) as a transcendent universal intelligence. This is in spite of the fact that I consider it quite likely that Jesus was placed on earth by this God, though for a purpose that we cannot fully comprehend. The normal Christian statements about Jesus’s purpose on earth seem naïve in the extreme.

          • kentgeordie

            To disregard evidence which does not support your conclusions is a very effective defence against the onslaught of reality.

          • Sam Martini

            ‘Sophomoric and unconvincing’.
            This is from the man who brought you the searing analysis of religion that it’s ‘silly’.

          • Chris Morriss

            By all means read Feynman for his physics, but not for his rather bigoted Judaism. (Read some of the accounts of his treatment of his second wife for that)

        • Sam Martini

          All you’ve done is expand the list of what you consider to be silly, with no supporting argument.

        • kentgeordie

          So you dispose thereby of the dimension of spirit. We are simply matter, machines. But machines that imagine and believe that they are not machines. Oh dear.

        • That’s not an argument, it’s a statement based on assumptions you expect us to agree with.

  • Tom M

    I seem to remember listening to someone in Ireland a long time ago who had over a lifetime corrupted the Hail Marys to become “Hey Mary fuller graze Lord widder ye…..” Not being Catholic I can’t remember the rest which is a pity but the first line certainly didn’t sound right.

  • mariandavid

    Excellent review – fortunately I am not so frozen by petrified faith that I fear reading the book let it offend or even question my belief.

    • modernredeye

      Have you read it? How do you know that is an excellent review?

      • mariandavid

        there is a distinction between an excellent review and an excellent book – I draw that to your attention.

        • Sam Martini

          Correct.
          The review does what it’s supposed to do.
          It gives a brief description of the book and some background about the author. It looks at the main issues the book addresses, and it casts some doubt on the absolute authority of the author.
          It tells the reader of the review enough to let him/her decide whether this is a book he/she is likely to want to read.
          Good review.

        • modernredeye

          Yes, that is obvious. But this “review” seems to consist of some irrelevant background on the author and his mother, followed by some points from the book which would be well-known to anyone with an interest in early Christianity e.g. that Paul was dead by the time The Temple was destroyed. Other points e.g. Paul’s supposed anti-Jewish sayings, seem seem to sit uneasily with the fact that Paul is shown in Acts (as in his Letters) as quite boastful about his Jewishness: Acts, (21:39; 22:1).
          The book may be brilliant or at least informative, but I have no sense of that from this review.

          • mariandavid

            I think you miss the emphasis the reviewer placed on the impact of war and the ‘speculation’ (let’s call it that) that this affected the wording of the Later Gospels. Like you I question the position the book is quoted as taking on Paul (frankly I have always felt that the Acts and the Letters, especially the latter have been heavily redacted by later Christian leaders) but it was because the reviewer raised the issue that I admired the review, not because I agree with the conclusions of the book’s author.

          • modernredeye

            I think a good review needs to be by a reviewer who does not give the impression that the author is communicating fantastic revelations when the points the reviewer highlights seem mundane or questionable.

  • Mrs Josephine Hyde-Hartley

    For Jesus to describe himself as the son of man at that time , when everybody seems to have been very much preoccupied with the certainty of being sons of their particular earthly fathers, must have seemed really cheeky, if not impertinent.

  • Mrs Josephine Hyde-Hartley

    Most people skirt round the truth of Jesus being risen and being the son of God because they can’t understand it I think. It helps to remember the truth of the gospel and Jesus is not actually an issue..so it doesn’t need further explanation. from there one can stop trying so hard to prove things for this world and ” Let it go” .

  • How is this not just another ‘portrait’ of Jesus to throw on the ever increasing pile of those who suddenly have the inside scoop on who Jesus really was?

    the title is Christ Actually: The Son of God for the Secular Age but what this age does not need is (another) secularized Jesus. After all, that’s what people keep complaining that the Church in the West has already done to Him. Doesn’t make much difference if he is secularized into the sitz in leben of the 2nd or 21st century.

  • Rifleman1853

    Not being a scholar of either the Bible or fluent in Greek, I can’t speak for the truth of this, but came across a couple of interesting points in a book I read many years ago, written by a historian called Immanuel Velikovsky.

    First point was about Mary Magdalen; growing up in the Catholic Church, I was taught that Mary Magdalen was the prostitute. But, as Velikovsky pointed out, though the relevant passages talk extensively about both Mary Magdalen and the prostitute, nowhere does it say that the prostitute and Mary Magdalen were one and the same! So why the insistence on the part of my priests and teachers that Mary was the prostitute?

    Second point was the wedding feast at Cana. Why on earth would the steward at what was clearly a pretty lavish affair go and tell one of the guests that they had, most embarrassingly, run out of wine? Surely, the steward would speak to the groom’s father – or the groom?

    Third point; the way I was taught, Joseph was just a poor and humble carpenter. But Velikovsky said that this is a mistranslation from the original Greek text of the Gospel, and a more accurate rendition into English would be ‘master carpenter’ – in other words, a tradesman who was sufficiently prosperous to have his own business, to take on apprentices, and to employ skilled carpenters paid on a daily rate.

    From this, Velikovsky argued that the son of Joseph did not grow up in poverty, but in a prosperous family which would be well-respected in the local community. The son of such a family would be expected to behave in accordance with the social norms of that time and place, one of which was that such a man would be expected to marry, as a matter of course – and, if he did not, it would be a matter for public comment and approbation!

    Put the lot together, and what do you get?

    The embarrassed steward at the wedding feast at Cana, finding himself running out of wine, did the logical thing; he went and had a quiet word with the groom – Jesus! – whose mother prodded him into doing something about it, rather than letting his wedding guests go thirsty.

    And who was his wife? The woman who was beside him at his crucifixion; Mary Magdalen, who was no prostitute, but a respectable wife, and daughter-in-law of a prosperous tradesman.

    But maybe that picture was just a bit too human and down to earth for the zealots who wanted to kick-start a new religion and a new church, so – a couple of thousand years before the Soviet Union – the Gospel writers just air-brushed some ‘inconvenient truths’ out of the picture!

    • Sam Martini

      That’s a lot of maybes.

    • red2black

      Is the ‘water into wine’ story a metaphor for lay people being accepted into the priesthood (or something similar)? Do we take the stories literally and leave it at that, or is there more to it?

      • Damaris Tighe

        Good question. I think many of them are parables & symbolic ways of speaking used by the gospel authors, that would have been recognised by the readership of the time so didn’t have to be spelled out. They tell a truth, but not a literal one. Many of the symbolisms (eg the fig tree apparently represented Israel) have been lost to us.

        ‘Water into wine’ may have been a way of talking about the ‘second’ baptism of the spirit (see the story of Nicodemus). Water was associated with ordinary baptism which was used by the Jews (eg John the Baptist).

        • red2black

          I’m not religious, but… I attended a Christening at an Anglican church a week ago which included young children in the congregation. At one point the priest asked the children
          “What happens on Christmas Day?” to which one of the children answered “Santa Claus!”, prompting the priest to ask “And what else do we remember?” (tee hee)

          • Damaris Tighe

            There’s a post somewhere on the speccie that says even Santa is going down the pan!

          • red2black

            It happened at a Christmas party years ago, when one of the kids pulled Santa’s beard off and shouted “You’re not Father Christmas… You’re Mr Redsull!”
            (ho ho ho)

          • Chris Morriss

            As long as he arrives via the chimney!

    • modernredeye

      I think your reading has misled you. I doubt any priest nowadays would identify Mary Magdalene with a prostitute; she was present at the crucifixion and first witness to the resurrection. She bought the news of the latter to the apostles, hence her title of the apostle to the apostles.
      The miracle at Cana – it was Mary, mother of Jesus who told Jesus they had run out of wine. Possibly it was a relative of Mary’s whose wedding they were attending? The symbolic aspect of the account is that Jesus was the new wine and the master of the feast informs the bridegroom that he has kept the good wine until now.

    • Chris Morriss

      Naggar may mean carpenter in modern Hebrew, but the Greeks of old translated it to “Tekton”, which (possibly) had a meaning of a master craftsman.

      I believe you are correct in your interpretation of the wedding at Cana, though you demean your argument if the Velikovski you refer to is the same as the “Worlds in Collision” one!

      • Sam Martini

        Whatever the linguistic implications are, it’s a far cry from the traditional picture of Joseph’s workshop to something like Lord Linley’s business in Mayfair, which is pretty close to what Rifleman is getting at.

  • Richard French

    If one believes that Jesus/Yeshua, was sinless, and I do. Then He would have sinned for not rebuking those who fell and worshiped him, as even the angels have done when men tried to worship them. Just another proof that He was who He said He was.

    • Sam Martini

      Big ‘if’ at the beginning.
      Why would you believe that?

      • Richard French

        Because Jesus made Himself real to me, most likely because I was real to Him first.

        • Sam Martini

          That has no bearing on his sinlessness or otherwise.

    • Chris Morriss

      We are all born sinless. (The concept of ‘original sin’ is a very late addition). The question is then simply: Did Jesus sin in his life? I believe the question is meaningless is his case.

      • kentgeordie

        A late addition? Try Genesis 3.
        Or for a brilliant exposition of the doctrine, the Catechism of the Catholic Church starting para 396.

        • Chris Morriss

          Genesis 3? Yes, all about mankind having to till the soil, and for woman to suffer in childbirth, but original sin? I think not.

          • kentgeordie

            It’s about the Fall. Why do we suffer? Because we have turned from God. Because we have fallen, us and all creation with us. Original sin.

      • Damaris Tighe

        Yes, in one sense it’s true that we are all born sinless. But it’s also true that at a very early age we inherit the ‘sins of the fathers’, our parents, who in turn inherited the sins of their parents, back to the apocryphal first parents. Thus we are infected very early on by the failings of our parental line, which we carry into our adult lives. (“They f*ck us up our mum & dad”.)

        In this sense I think the concept of original sin is correct. And it would mean that Jesus was without this inherited ‘f*cked upness’.

        • Chris Morriss

          Yes, we certainly suffer from various failures of our parents, but more due to their inadequacies, rather than their sins. Cured in my case by not bringing any children into this world.

          I simply cannot subscribe to the concept of a God who loads up humankind with supposed sins of millennia ago.

          I argue that the concept is late, as it really originated with the infamous Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, in the early 5th century.
          ” They *uck you up, these early theologians” 😉

          • Damaris Tighe

            A full reply would take too long for this board, Chris. I too took the remedy of not bringing children into this world. I use the word ‘sin’ much more widely than the theologians & have been pulled up for this before.

            I don’t think God loads up humankind with ‘sins’/inadequacies. We have free will & we load them up ourselves because we are human. It’s ‘original’ as it goes back as I said to our metaphorical first parents. To be human is to be inadequate. Hence the mission of Jesus. But as you can see, I’m very heterodox in my understanding of the dogma 😉 I take on board our modern psychological language.

            Augustine of Hippo is a good example of an early modern of the type I described in another reply – introspective, full of conscience & beating up of self. He is very psychologically aware but didn’t have the language that we now do.

          • Damaris Tighe

            I edited my reply on the page to make it clearer (I hope).

      • kentgeordie

        A late addition? Try Genesis 3.
        Or for a brilliant exposition of the doctrine, the Catechism of the Catholic Church starting para 396.

  • Marvin

    Just a case of a semi-intelligent person who can see some of the nonsense in the gospels and the Bible, BUT! just cannot get off the fence and see all of the nonsense,
    hence he is still a hypocritical Catholic who is unable to see the whole big picture.
    In the end it is ONLY DOGMA.

    • Sam Martini

      That’s a simple assertion, not an argument. You advance no evidence for your claim.

      • Marvin

        One does not need evidence to prove what does not exist. People
        believe superstitious mumbo jumbo out of fear, ignorance lack of
        intelligence and education.

        • Sam Martini

          You’re still struggling to find an intelligent point.

          • Marvin

            Simply, in your beliefs in talking serpents, Seas that part for
            a certain tribe to escape death and destruction, men claiming
            Christ as the son of God and billions of ignorant follow this rubbish for thousands of years ignoring advances in science and technology, dead men becoming undead and floating up into the clouds and beliefs in Gods,pixies,and fairies, how would you understand any intelligent point.

          • Sam Martini

            As a Christian, I don’t believe in:
            a) Talking serpents.
            b) Seas that part to save tribes from death.
            c) Dead men becoming undead.
            d) Dead men floating up into the clouds.
            e) Gods.
            f) Pixies.
            g) Fairies.
            Neither do I ignore advances in science and technology.
            So, would you like to go and talk to someone intelligent and see if they can give you some rough sort of an argument?

          • Marvin

            If you don’t believe those things mentioned above then you are a spineless hypocrite with all due respect, because those are the foundations that Christianity is based on. You lot pick and choose between the Old and New Testaments and try to discard the fantasies and garbage that the Bible has in it, so how can you be a Christian if you don’t believe that Jesus resurrected and floated off to heaven. And educate me, give me a date when God created Adam and Eve, Exactly!

          • Sam Martini

            I see there’s no end to your ignorance.
            Allow me to choose one point at a time.
            There are two different creation stories in Genesis, from entirely different sources of spirituality and history, and at variance with one another. Neither is historical fact. They are both theology.
            Thats the fact of the case, and that’s what most Christians believe.

          • Marvin

            That is precisely why you dogma filled victims will never see the truth, because you make it all up as you go. You find excuses and new and wonderful reasons for all the garbage in the bible to justify the progress and reality that science makes. I assume you believe that god made us in his own image, so I wonder if he was black, white, Somali, Indian, Chinese, Aborigine, Red Indian or African, he can’t be all mixed up can he?

          • Sam Martini

            Wow.
            Just – wow.

  • TNT

    This review seems so vague – almost as if key explanatory paragraphs by the reviewer, or even isolated quotes from the book itself, are missing.

  • Derbydoll

    Another “scholarly” epistle elbowing its way into a tired old niche screaming “me!” “me!” by bringing down the existing order of things. Big yawn. If I could climb into my time machine and visit with Jesus, I am sure he would be like nothing like all the churches tell us he was. Which is probably why the Church grabbed the dead sea scrolls and keeps them locked away from the public so we won’t really know what people living close to that time had to say without translation through the priests. The Church never even approved of ordinary people reading the Bible and even in Britain burned people at the stake who transcribed it into common tongues (before King James ordered it so).

    • Sam Martini

      Every readable fragment of the srolls has been posted online.
      http://www.deadseascrolls.org.il/home

      People are invited to examine the fragments and see if they can identify anything which has so far not been linked to another fragment.
      If you are familiar with any of the languages of the scrolls you’re welcome to have a go.

  • Penny For The Guy

    Sounds like a very, very poor man’s Bart Ehrman, without Bart’s panache.

  • Jeffrey A Jones

    Thanx for the warning. That’ll be $25 well not-spent!! Where do these crack-pots who make up a personal theology out of thin air (sorry for the diss thin air) then puke it to the 15 or 20 people stupid enough to buy their vanity books come from?

  • “Carroll’s argument is designed to help reconcile modern Jews and Christians.”

    In fact, Jews knew who Jesus was during His three-year ministry, which is why they waited for three-years for the sign by Jesus that it was time for Him to die*…

    The following explains what took place in 1st century Levant, specifically 30 AD-33 AD. Using correct historical analysis of the Gospels and Acts, we acknowledge the Gospels and Acts to be the a-historical forgeries they clearly would have been KNOWN to be by Roman subjects living outside of the Levant, however it is this very a-historical reading of the Gospels/Acts that proves the Jesus narrative is fact…

    The reality of the Gospels and Acts narratives were known to be fact by Roman subjects outside of Judea and Galilee, otherwise Roman subjects would never have accepted the Gospels’/Acts’ narratives where (1) a Roman governor allows a charismatic figure such as Jesus (called rebels by Rome) to go about his business for three years with twelve disciples, attracting large crowds and claiming to perform miracles; (2) when Jesus approaches Jerusalem with the mob the governor refuses to stop what Rome called insurrection, and allows the mob to proceed into the city, even though the governor was in Jerusalem since the previous week to prevent just such an action pulled off by Jesus; and (3) after Pilate, the next nine Roman governors of Judea (37 AD – 66 AD, 66 AD being when the First Jewish Revolt occurred) refuse to arrest and execute Jesus’ apostles, who are still (i) attracting large crowds; and (2) claiming to perform miracles.

    Now you have proof, from an unimpeachable, unbiased source–gentile Roman subjects–that the Gospels narratives are indeed fact.

    We assume what is today known as the New Testament is fiction, then using proper historical knowledge for how the Roman Empire operated, we prove that the New Testament stories are fact because the stories were immediately known to be true, otherwise the stories would have ended there because even the most ignorant of Roman subjects 40 years after the fact would have been laughing at the obvious laughable a-historical lies the New Testament was pushing; the behaviors of the ten Roman governors of Judea (30 AD – 66 AD) towards Jesus and apostles are a hoot, and those laughable behaviors also prove that those ten governors’ behaviors weren’t individual, ad hoc, stand down policies towards Jesus & apostles, but instructions from the Emperor in Rome!

    Let’s perform a modern times analogy using a post World War II scenario where Germany won the war and rules the Western hemisphere:

    Germany has won World War II, and German governors rule the Western hemisphere, the Waffen SS being the equivalent of the Roman centurion.

    Though the war is over resistance to German occupation continues, including the French Resistance.

    Now, in France the leader of the French resistance and twelve lieutenants move openly about France for three years preaching rebellion and the German governor does nothing. After three years the leader of the French Resistance enters Paris with his twelve lieutenants and a mob and again the German governor refuses to arrest the thirteen, and roundup the mob.

    Finally the French mayor of Paris arrests the leader, but not the twelve lieutenants, and hands the leader over to the German governor who still doesn’t want to execute the leader, but does after left no other option.

    Now, after the leader of the French Resistance is dead not only are the twelve lieutenants allowed to live under that particular German governor’s remaining term of office, but aren’t touched by the next nine German governors to take office. In fact, the French Resistance is increasing by tens of thousands each year and German authorities simply sit by and watch.

    Now when one of those French Resistance travels outside France to spread the word of the rebellion in France, he is believed because everyone KNOWS the otherwise ludicrous story he’s telling is true. END OF ANALOGY.

    The above also tells us that the Jewish authorities in Judea & Galilee knew who Jesus was and were waiting for a sign from Him indicating that it was time for His death. The sign came when Jesus entered Jerusalem with the mob, a not-to-be-mistaken provocation towards Pilate, who was in Jerusalem since the previous week to prevent just this sort of religious fervor, but, as usual, again Pilate refused to massacre Jesus & disciples along with the mob. To ensure Jesus was indeed signaling it was time for Him to die, the Sanhedrin conducted three night time Q&A sessions with Jesus (not trails, as under the Law of Moses trials can only take place during daylight hours, thereby also precluding any possibility of punishment). Jesus’ silence informed the Sanhedrin that Jesus was indeed ready to die.

    Now you know why Jesus only asked Paul why he was persecuting His followers. Notice, it’s only Paul Jesus speaks to on this subject, because the Roman and Jewish authorities are turning a blind eye to the increasing numbers defecting to the Jesus Sect. In fact, Paul’s trip to Gentile Damascus was an excuse to get him out of Judea, because Paul was causing chaos in Jerusalem, though the Jewish authorities refused Paul’s requests for the punishment of stoning.

    The above is a discovery I made in 2012, proving that Jesus was the Messiah as assessed (1) by a proper analysis of the Gospels and Acts narratives; and (2) by the fact that Roman subjects outside of the Levant accepted what would have otherwise been known to be laughably bad forgeries.

    The Roman Empire provided God with three necessary arrangements to fulfill His major objectives on this subject, those being (1) a scapegoat people, the Romans, that would be the pawns who carried out Jesus’ execution; because (2) God, being omniscient, knew that the Jewish authorities would never go along with executing the Messiah; and (3) the peculiar administration of Roman governors would provide the proof that Jesus was indeed who He claimed to be.

    Merry Christmas!
    ————————————–
    *John 11

    The Plot to Kill Jesus

    45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

    “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

    49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

    51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+11:45-57

    Notice, high priest Caiaphas says Jesus’ death would be, “for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one”! While the rest of the Sanhedrin want Jesus to die now, out of fear of Roman retribution, Caiaphas reminds the Sanhedrin that the time is not yet for Jesus’ death, otherwise, “the whole nation [would] perish.”

    • Addendum II

      A more recent discovery, which I forgot to include above…

      Note that Roman governors throughout the eastern Roman Empire were also told not to execute Paul and Peter, who were likewise attracting large crowds on their journeys in the eastern provinces outside of the Levant!

      • kentgeordie

        Very interesting – got a reference for these instructions to governors?

        • “Very interesting – got a reference for these instructions to governors?”

          There are no written Roman records that I currently know of,* simply the quotes from Josephus on how Roman governors in Judea immediately behaved towards charismatic figures that attracted large crowds. Needless to say, that policy also existed in all the Roman provinces in order to maintain the Pax Romana.
          ——————————
          *Though we know how Roman governors behaved towards charismatics that attracted large crowds. As Professor Candida Moss says in her most recent work (“The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom”, 2013):

          “If we give any credence to the apocryphal acts and believe that the apostles attracted large crowds, then we have to concede that the apostles might have been viewed as revolutionaries. If they were arrested, then the charges levied against them may have been insurgency or inciting unrest among the people. As the death of Jesus shows, Romans had no problems executing people who caused trouble or could potentially start a rebellion. They were taking elementary precautions.” — Page 137.

          I’m not clear why Professor Moss had to bring the apocryphal acts into the subject she’s discussing, since we already have Josephus mentioning what a Roman governor of Judea did to those individuals that attracted large crowds, and Acts itself tells us that Paul attracted large crowds in his journeys throughout the eastern Roman provinces.

          Now, contrary to Professor Moss’ observation (“As the death of Jesus shows, Romans had no problems executing people who caused trouble or could potentially start a rebellion.”), Rome did have a problem in executing Jesus, since (1) it takes the Sanhedrin to get Pilate to act on Jesus; and (2) even when Jesus is presented to Pilate, Pilate tries to get out of adjudicating Him by sending Jesus off to Herod Antipas (whose in Jerusalem for Passover) for adjudication, but Antipas incredibly goes against Pilate and sends Jesus back to Pilate! Yet we’re told in Luke that Herod Antipas had a contract out on Jesus…

          “At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”‘

          http://biblehub.com/luke/13-31.htm

          Did Herod Antipas have a change of mind in wanting to kill Jesus, or was he trying to dissuade Jesus from coming to Jerusalem, because he saw what Jesus was headed for if He entered Jerusalem?

  • Tim Gilling

    I’ve just read this for the second time and I’m still unclear why my faith should be shaken.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    In hardship postings, it really is amazing how the happy-clappy Muppets confuse Christmas with Easter.
    Comes to something when an Atheist has to tell these dog-collar vampires what they’re supposed to believe. Immaculate conception/virgin birth.

    Read more:http://www.thenation.com/article/193185/cia-didnt-just-torture-it-experimented-human-beings

  • David Lewis Stokes

    Damian, I enjoy your writings, but for you to give attention to Carroll’s warmed over variations on 19th Century Formgeschichte is surprising indeed. As an occasional reader of the Boston Globe, Carroll’s paper of record, let me assure you: the man is no heavy weight. Any churchgoer unsettled by John Carroll probably deserves to be.

  • Scheveningen

    What a nasty (racist and sexist) description of old ladies saying the rosary!

  • cestusdei

    I am not unsettled. I read Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth.

    • kentgeordie

      Right – put yourself in the hands of a reliable guide.

  • Eadweard Blameworthy

    Not to disagree; the book might indeed make interesting reading. C.J. Doyle’s “Vichy Catholic” (online at catholicculture.org) is sure to prove so, should more background be required on what sort of Catholic Carroll is. Interesting comparison to Fr Berrigan. Perhaps Mr Carroll communes so frequently to prove he is not a Jansenist. 🙂 Mind you, the modus operandi of these Modernists is not without its resemblance to that of the Jansenists. And they’ll tell you black is really white. The moon is just the sun at night. And when you walk in golden halls. You get to keep the gold that falls.

    The latter has certainly been Mr Carroll’s experience.

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