This book by Richard E. Rubenstein examines the battle between Arian and Nicene Christology. In this well-researched book the author steps into the hi...moreThis book by Richard E. Rubenstein examines the battle between Arian and Nicene Christology. In this well-researched book the author steps into the historical and political context that initiated, shaped and "terminated" this conflict. Indirectly, the author taps into many of our commonly accepted views and challenges them. This conflict, which is mostly about the nature of the relationship between Jesus (the son) and the Father is not simply a theological issue. Civil wars and imperial strategies fueled it and were fueled by it, and it resulted in a deep division between the Western Catholic church and the Eastern Orthodox church. The war between Arianism and Nicene Christology is not a simple battle between two individuals, Arius and Athanasius; it is a conflict between two different Christianities. How people understood the relationship between Jesus and the Father affected their lives. To take Jesus to be subordinate to the Father, and to take Jesus to be co-equal with the Father have two different implications, and result in two different lifestyles. This historical conflict lasted nearly a century and resulted in numerous church councils. It brought out the best and worst of people and bishops. Mischievous plans were made by bishops against bishops. It turned one Augustus against another Augustus, brothers against brothers, and weakened the Roman empire. It is, certainly, a major contributing factor to contemporary Christology. If you do have an interest in early church history, then you would enjoy this book. You would realize how history is, often, written by the victors. One downside with this book is that it is confusing when it comes to chronology. It jumps back and forth, often, to connect historical events together. Aside from that, it's a good book and easy to read.(less)
This is a very intriguing book. The main question that the author examines and answers throughout the book is the following. "How did a young rabbi bec...moreThis is a very intriguing book. The main question that the author examines and answers throughout the book is the following. "How did a young rabbi become the God of a religion he wouldn't recognize, one which was established through the use of calculated anti-semitism?"
Of course, at first glance, this question may seem quite loaded, filled with flawed assumptions. However, throughout the book, Wilson unlocks this question and decompresses it in order to convey his theory, which according to him is the only theory that coherently explains the persistent Christian anti-semitism.
He labels his theory, The Jesus Cover-Up Thesis. According to Wilson his thesis contends that "early Christianity effectively killed off the historical Jesus." He states, "the transformation [of a young rabbi to a god-human christ] brought about by the Christification process [which he explains in his book] was so successful that the religion of historical Jesus was replaced by the cult of Christ." According to Wilson, the originator and the first proponent of this cult was Paul, whose vision was the beginning point of a new religion, a religion completely different from the religion of Jesus. Wilson says,
"... the early church 'killed off' the historical Jesus, focusing, instead, on the worship of the Christ. the myth of the christ was so effective that it is very difficult now to reconstruct the contours of the authentic teachings, sayings, and doings of the historical Jesus. To get at the Jesus of history, we have to leap over Paul and try to peel away the layers of Christifying efforts to see the Jewish, human Jesus underneath. No wonder that the heroic task of the twentieth-century biblical scholarship - the quest for the historical Jesus - has proven so difficult. The prism of Paul and the Christifiers stands in the way, blocking our view."
Furthemore, "according to the Jesus Cover-Up Thesis, the guilt dynamic, lashing out at the witnesses, [mostly the Jews and Torah-observing followers of the historical Jesus] provides explanation for the sustained attack on Judaism throughout Christian history."
Overall, this book is very interesting. It paints a coherent historical big picture to answer the main question that I stated right at the beginning.
If you are interested in reading a book about early Christian history from a not-so-familiar scholarship perspective, I would recommend this book. I believe Jews, Christians and Muslims would all find somethings that are very interesting and perhaps eye-opening in this book.
Wilson at the end of his epilogue section states,
"A valiant Jewish challenger to Rome's Imperial power. A potential Jewish Messiah. A teacher with great insight. That was how Jesus' earliest followers in Jerusalem viewed him - Jewish, as they were. This is not a modern invention. It was the original view of Jesus."(less)