The Passion Paperback – 3 Mar 2005
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About the Author
Geza Vermes was born in Hungary in 1924. From 1957 to 1991 he taught in at the Universities of Newcastle and Oxford. Professor Vermes is the editor of The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (1997) and author of The Changing Faces of Jesus (2000) and The Authentic Gospel of Jesus (2003). He lives in Oxford.
Top customer reviews
The Prologue sets out the key questions, for example the strange change of attitude of the ordinary people towards the Nazarene; they flocked to him to hear his words and to be healed, but during the crucifixion they are portrayed as suddenly hating him. Serious students of the Gospels cannot fail to notice this inexplicable contrast. This is one of the questions examined by Vermes: why the evangelists presented such an extraordinary change in attitude.
He also looks at how the Gospel accounts relate to one another, how they conform to Jewish and Roman reality from non-New Testament sources, and what motivated the various chronicles of the crucifixion. Vermes explores these problems and then attempts to find answers of what really transpired on the day of the crucifixion.
Chapter One: Literary & Historical Preliminaries, includes sections on the sources, Jewish history and legal systems in force in Judea at the time of Jesus: the historical background, the Roman provincial system, the biblical legal system, Jewish law courts according to the Mishna, death penalties, and the temple authorities and Jesus.
In Chapter Two: The Evangelists' Account of the Passion, the author sketches, interprets and queries the way that the evangelists describe the events during the final day of the life of Jesus, from the Last Supper to his death and burial. It includes, to mention a few: the arrest, the interrogation, the night trial, the morning meeting of the Sanhedrin, Pilate, Herod Antipas, the crucifixion, the death and burial.
In Chapter Three: The Passion Accounts Compared With One Another and with Sources from Outside the New Testament, Vermes considers the agreements on seven incidents of the Passion account and the five disagreements. Here is included the content of the 4 Gospel narratives in parallel columns. Then follow comments on (a) the general agreements (b) disagreements between the Synoptics and John (c) some peculiarities in Luke.
Chapter Four: Denouement, provides the findings, including a reconstruction of the sequence of events from the Thursday evening to Friday 14 Nissan or 7th April AD 30 which was the eve of Passover. The Epilogue discusses the leading actors in the Passover narrative: The Jews, Caiaphas, Pilate and Jesus Christ.
As for the Jewish people, the only rational explanation of why the evangelists portrayed them as hostile to Jesus, is the obvious anti-Judaism of the early Gentile Church. Caiaphas is seen as an efficient quisling, Pilate is whitewashed; in reality he was brutal and cruel as is evident from many other sources. It was politically correct to blame the Jewish people and absolve Pilate - I have to agree with Vermes on this point.
I do not agree with the author on all his conclusions about the Savior's words during the Last Supper and on the cross. Vermes may misunderstand the meaning of the vow not to drink wine again until the coming of the Kingdom and why Jesus exclaimed, "why has Thou forsaken me?" There are so many different theories on these matters.
The book contains a political map of the Levant at the time of Jesus and a map of the old city of Jerusalem, a bibliography of modern and classical sources, and concludes with an index. This work is highly illuminating and confirms, to my sorrow, the Antisemitism that existed in the Gentile Church from the earliest times. For further information, please consult Our Hands Are Stained With Blood by Michael L Brown and Why The Jews? The Reasons for Antisemitism by Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin.
He was delighted to receive it.
The cost was more than that printed on the cover-however it was explained that the book was out of print and hence the higher price.
Overall the present achieved its' purpose.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
For those interested in the subject, this book is the best.
First, I must start by saying that in general this short work is quite readable, and it does provide a number of challenging arguments and interesting points that given me something to think about. Although I denote an underlying intent that gives me cause for concern, I still would recommend The Passion to those open to critiques of the Gospels and all of there obvious or supposed contradictions.
Here are the two main problems that I have with the author's conclusions.
a) His agenda. Toward the end it's clear that Vermes is intent on portraying the Gospels as anti-Semetic propaganda. The evangelists are trying to make their message appealing to (prospective) Gentile converts whilst placating the Roman authorities in the wake of the first Jewish-Roman war. The Jewish religious authorities weren't really all that bad and the Jewish populace--or at least a significant number of them--just couldn't have suddenly turned on Jesus and act in accordance with the rules of mass hysteria and mob mentality.
b) In relation to the above, the quite unconvincing argument that the sudden hostility on the part of the common folk is illogical. The way I see it, it makes perfect sense. Jesus for a year or so quickly gained a large (if not relatively huge) following by truly performing miracles, convincingly arguing that he was the Messiah, and essentially flaunting the law. But then he's arrested. For those who follow the law, it is not uncommon for public perceptions of guilt to be founded on the fact that the individual is merely charged with a crime. Not only that, Jesus does not act to save himself, and in short order is tried, convicted, and executed. Naturally, it came as a big letdown to many; so why is it a surprise that the mob would suddenly turn on him?
c) Issues with dating and timing. Vermes makes assertions that there are problems in particular with how the Synoptic gospels portray the chronology of events and, of course, the apparent contradictions that abound. Certain things are just illogical or implausible, and to demonstrate this he refers to other (near) contemporary sources. In so doing he's is obviously approaching the subject as a scholar rather than a man of true faith. This I find unfortunate. As I see it, since the "problems" that the authorities were having with Jesus--the JESUS, Son of GOD, Messiah, performer of miracles, etc.--were so unique, it doesn't seem all that unreasonable that they would have bent the rules to eliminate an obvious threat to their authority, when the opportune time came--regardless of when that was.
But then who am I--certainly not an authority or expert, professor or fellow... In the end, it really doesn't change much for me; in some ways it affirms what I believe, and even deepens my conviction toward the Truth.
The best way to put it is described by noted Christian writer and speaker, Ellsworth Kallas: "The Gospels are like political biographies, written by people seeking to emphasize certain points to certain audiences...." Nothing wrong with that, nothing at all...but what about the facts, the facts, mam, nothng but the facts, as Jack Webb used to say in the old "Dragnet" TV series.
That's what Vermes does: give us the facts, nothing but the facts from a dispassionate "Lay-It-Out-There" perspective.
He takes various Gospel accounts of the Passion and compares them, noting where some timing sequences are just impossible, and, untimately, pointing to John as probably the most historically accurante Gospel.
Also points out that the Gospels seek to minimize Pilate's responsibilty in the Cruxification, casting more blame on the Jews, when in reality, when the Gospels were written, the writers were seeking to convert Romans and other Gentiles to the faith, having for the most part, given up on converting Jews. Hence, they "went light" on Pilate and followed the anti-Jewish tenor of the times in which the Gospels were written.
A very good book. Very informative and provocative.
So, Who Really Did Kill Jesus? Read the Book. Then you will know...