RECEIVING THE FAITH OR INVENTING THE FAITH?
The Resurrection & the Priesthood: Only the Real Thing, Please

October 1994By Mark P. Shea

Mark P. Shea is a Seattle writer and the author of This is My Body: An Evangelical Discovers The Real Presence, published by Christendom Press.

It is always funny to me when I read the results of modernist "scholarship" from the splendidly incestuous mutual admiration societies styling themselves as "Jesus Seminars" and whatnot. With­out fail, these folks (who have, like Dr. Science, a de­gree in Theology and therefore Know More Than You Do) love to speak of the people who witnessed and bore witness to the life of Jesus as though they were a pack of idiot savants.

In the modernist wonderland, Jesus was a fuddled rabbi with hopes of a better world. He was, we are assured, a profoundly inspiring person, a charis­matic leader, and a mesmerizing speaker. How inspiring, charismatic, and mesmerizing? Why, so much so that He galvanized a movement of Jews into ignoring everything He said and did, utterly forgetting His un­forgettable oratory and replacing it with reams of quotations with the precise historical value of a load of dingo kidneys. Yes, though He never walked on water or calmed a storm, the Jesus of the modernist scholar is nonetheless a miracle worker of sorts. Why, just by uttering a few sketchy epigrams about being nice, this itinerant preacher (who did not, we are as­sured, make claims of deity, multiply loaves, raise the dead, or even compose the "Our Father") managed to transform unlettered Jewish monotheists into men who willingly blasphemed the God He preached by deifying this Nazarene cipher. So deeply inspired by the awesome figure of Jesus were they, that out of profound reverence for Him they obliterated virtually every trace of His memory and substituted in its place the ingenious fabrication called the "Gospel."

So, it is said, there is a radical discontinuity between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith. But, lest this disturb the faithful whose alumni donations to universities form such a vital part of the work of those who delight in being called "brilliant scholars" by The New York Times, we must here enter into what those scholars obliquely refer to as the "Easter Event." What, pray, was that? Well, it's far too subtle for people as ignorant as you and me to understand, but in plain bafflegab it goes something like this: The Resurrection (and the entire Gospel) is a mythic expression of the gestalt of messianic expectation alloyed with Yahwist apocalyptic, pagan fertility myth, and certain psycho­logical factors catalyzed by the Christ Event and find­ing its locus in the transsignification of the Christian community's own self-empowering transcendence of the death of Jesus of Nazareth and exaltation of His ministry into a mode of "divine revelation."

Translation: The real Jesus (whoever that was) is dead as a doornail and was probably eaten by wild dogs soon after the crucifixion. But since the Apostles believed in Him real hard and, like idiot savants, cre­ated the Gospel story out of whole cloth to relieve their guilt, disappointment, and religious psychosis, then we can say the Resurrection is "true" in some Pickwickian sense, so as not to disturb believing yo­kels like you and me, who fund colleges with "brilliant theologians" on their faculty.


You have two options:

  1. Online subscription: Subscribe now to New Oxford Review for access to all web content at newoxfordreview.org AND the monthly print edition for as low as $38 per year.
  2. Single article purchase: Purchase this article for $1.95, for viewing and printing for 48 hours.

If you're already a subscriber log-in here.



Back to October 1994 Issue

Read our posting policy Add a comment
Be the first to comment on this story!