LETTER TO IRISH TIMES
PUBLISHED ON 30TH MARCH 2004
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST
Madam, - Vincent Browne (March 24th) makes the point that "treating the gospels as reliable historically is problematic, as is acknowledged by many Biblical scholars nowadays, including Catholics". One group of such scholars, the Fellows of the Jesus Seminar, when considering the sections of the gospel narratives that speak of the period from Jesus' entry into Jerusalem through to the claims of his resurrection thinks that there is little historical data to be found. Like some other scholars, they argue that the way to think of these narratives is as theological writing, rather than as primarily historical writing. The Fellows of the Jesus Seminar explain that one of the main theological concerns of the first Christian writers was to show that the Hebrew scriptures could give meaning to Jesus' death.
It is fascinating to discover how they sifted through their scriptures, for example Zechariah, Isaiah, and the Psalms, and out of these sources constructed accounts, for example, of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey and of his alleged words uttered on the cross. For too long most Christians have been taught to regard these accounts as historically accurate. Some of the Jesus Seminar scholars have written critical responses to the Gibson film that may be found on Beliefnet.com.
Of course, the question remains whether at a theological level 21st century Christians will concur that a gory death had to be a necessary part of the so-called divine plan of a god of love. It does not make sense to me. - Yours etc.,
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