The Schmooze

A Historical Goose Chase for the Real Jewish Jesus

It seems obvious to note that Jesus — like Don Juan, Oedipus and Count Dracula — has a cultural life having little to do with his original narrative. Although it is now widely believed that he did exist, Jesus is so buried in centuries of Christian tradition that in 1906 Albert Schweitzer declared the search for a historical Jesus dead. Every scholar, Schweitzer wrote, merely produces a Jesus in his own image. Geza Vermes, a one-time Catholic priest, Emeritus Professor of Jewish Studies at Oxford, and author of such books as “Jesus the Jew,” pointedly disagrees. As the title of his latest book suggests, he claims to have located the “Real Jesus” beneath the many guises of Christ.

“The Real Jesus: Then and Now” (Augsburg Fortress) collects many short pieces on subjects surrounding early Judeo-Christian history. Though the collection would have been better served by a stricter edit, Vermes’s scholarship remains impressive. His Jesus is a Galilean Jewish mystic, a charismatic healer, exorcist and miracle worker, who preached a Kingdom of Heaven that would arrive in his lifetime. He recruited 12 apostles and 70 disciples, and was crucified as a rebel by the government of Pontius Pilate, with the cooperation the religious authorities, after causing a scene at the Temple of Jerusalem.

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A Historical Goose Chase for the Real Jewish Jesus

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