*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

Servant Jesus, liar Paul?

by
04 April 2014

Henry Wansbrough considers a theory

iStock

Plain Jesus: The events on Nisan 14
N. Micklem
Matador £7.99
(978-1-78088-535-3)
Church Times Bookshop £7.20 (Use code CT706 )

THE thesis of this unusual book is that on 14 Nisan Jesus was crucified. On the previous evening, he had had supper with his disciples, at which the only significant event was that he washed their feet. Jesus saw himself as a servant, in accordance with Isaiah 42, quoted at the baptism of Jesus.

The companions of Jesus (whom the author calls "the servant persuasion") took as their manual of discipline the traditions that were within 20 years assembled in the Didache. The "pith" of this training manual was that the companionsof Jesus should be gentle, long-suffering, harmless, and good. Saul persecuted them.

Then Saul met the risen Lord. As Jesus had been killed on the day of the sacrifice of the Passover lambs, Paul excogitated two ideas: "the repugnant idea that God planned the death of his son in cold blood" as a sacrifice; and that Jesus had been the Messiah. Paul spread these ideas energetically, still persecuting the companions of Jesus, and now also everything to do with Judaism.

The trouble was that he had a chip on his shoulder because he had never met the historical Jesus or witnessed any of his life; so he scorned the original companionsof Jesus as simple folk. Paul could afford to be highly inventive and economical with the truth. His interpretation was later taken up and perpetuated by the Synoptic Gospels.

The book is written in a cheerful and informal style, with plenty of homely examples - "left-handed leg-spinners", training raw recruits how to use a rifle. The author selects facts at random, on the grounds that "scholars with all their learning cannot agree", with occasional reference to established as well as less well-known scholars.

Even the message that the book intends to convey is shrouded in over-confidence, so that the ramifications of the central import become clear only halfway through.

Fr Henry Wansbrough OSB is a monk of Ampleforth, emeritus Master of St Benet's Hall, Oxford, and a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission.

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)