Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Invention Of The Christian God (Part 4)

Part 1 is available here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.

AP: This is the final post dealing with the book Gesù. L'invenzione del Dio cristiano by Paolo Flores d'Arcais. In the last post and now this one, I'm just offering some observations and short commentary. The first two parts basically just summarized the book.

In other chapters like "The Son and the Virgin" and "Heresies" I very much agree with the author. The expression "Son of God" is entirely Jewish and was applied to kings and prophets. The Jews saw in this "Son" a mere human being. It was understood in a very different way among Hellenistic, non-Palestinian Judeo-Christians, and above all among pagans that converted to Christianity. They viewed him as an authentic, physical, and real child of God.

I also agree with Flores that this divinizing theology is expressed in the New Testament in very diverse and contradictory christologies. I think that the initial christology was an "adoptionist" one, that is to say, Jesus was a mere human being, but he was adopted as a child of God following his baptism (Mark 1:9) or at his resurrection (Rom. 1:4).

With respect to heresies, I think that to maintain that "there were as many Christianities as there were local communities or churches would be exaggerated, but much less exaggerated than to speak of Christianity in the singular and of heresies as deviations and aberrations from a source of unit light or from the channel of a recognizable religion" (p. 59).

I think, however, as I have tried to show in my book Los cristianismos derrotados (Madrid: Edaf, 2008), that the second hypothesis (unitary provenance of Christian doctrines) is clear from the thought of Luke in the Acts of the Apostles and that "Paulineism"––the only mode of Christianity that will succeed into the future––was already a strong and influential orthodoxy much earlier than "when Christianity becomes a state religion" (p. 59: I imagine he refers to the decree of Theodosius II, and I'm quoting from memory).

Finally, I strongly agree with the proposal of Flores, which gives substance to a hypothesis already embraced by Hans Küng, that the human and strict monotheistic Christ of Mohammad and the Qu'ran depends on the knowledge of the prophet of Judeo-Christian texts, which showed a basic interpretation of the historical Jesus much more in line with reality than the Pauline.

Allow me just a quick tangent about translation. (You know that this is one of my favorite subjects.) I congratulate Trotta who finally decided to fully dignify the translator by entering his name on the cover of the book. Other publishers such as Sígueme and Verbo Divino, which do a wide array of translations, should follow this example.The translation of José Luis Sandoval is, generally speaking, very good with respect to its readability and concord with the syntax of Castilian. I would have some minor disagreements that do not detract from my overall assessment.

In summary, and returning to the content of Paolo Flores d'Arcais's work: This is a very brief, readable, well-informed book that offers us good material for reflection, by which we contrast certain inveterate traditions that are incompatible with the consensus of historians about what could probably be the historical truth.

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