Geza Vermes on the Synoptics

“From the very moment of his proclamation of the imminence of the Kingdom of God, he showed himself, and exhorted his followers to be single minded, absolute and decisive, concentrating on the inward aspects, and putting the accent on the root causes of every religious action.

The best summary of the programme pursued by Jesus, presenting also the quintessence of his religious persona, is the resolute determination to do all that is required for the fulfillment of the plea, ‘Thy Kingdom Come’. And the absence of a literal fulfillment of his belief does not detract in any way from the fundamental truth that no religious attitude is real without an all pervading sense of urgency which converts ideas into instant action. (pg 210, ‘The Changing Face of Jesus’, Geza Vermes) 

Not sure why that stood out to me – but it did. Maybe I see Geza affirming something I continually re-ittirate concering the synoptics (namely Matthew)…we are dealing with the ‘here and now’ in the message of Jesus – not the ‘there and then’ so much. Also, our actions are important and the teachings of a teacher (ie: Jesus) are not recorded for lip-service – but for the actual idea of ‘converting ideas into instant action’.

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7 thoughts on “Geza Vermes on the Synoptics

  1. The Synoptics are novels and they fulfill the definition as stated in the Websters dictionary. At best, they are cobbled together stories based on little fact and much imagination.

  2. “they are cobbled together stories based on little fact and much imagination” (Which bible)

    I think both are involved in that process…I think there are things Jesus actually said in the gospels and the crafting of stories to fit those sayings.

    The thing is no one can actually verifably know what Jesus did and didn’y say – and you lean towards there is ‘little fact’ in those compilations (synoptics). I tend to think we can find a pretty accurate picture of Jesus in those writings.

    • I disagree with the direction of your thought. You say no one can actually verify but then you think we can find a pretty acurate picture. That’s a little bit of a flip flop. The synoptics can tell us a lot about the authors, the time in which they wrote, but we have little evidence that Jesus existed as the man they try to reveil.

  3. “You say no one can actually verify but then you think we can find a pretty acurate picture.” (Which bible)

    We cannot verify anything because we don’t have no way of re-constructing what exactly happened…a lot of any of the biblical study in terms of historicity is based on assumption and supposition…factually it is hard to determine what someone said outside them writing or being recorded.

    “The synoptics can tell us a lot about the authors, the time in which they wrote, but we have little evidence that Jesus existed as the man they try to reveil” (Which bible)

    I tend to think the gospels did actually record the sayings of Jesus and wrote them later on. Now that is also quite the process in and of itself – but it doesn’t help to say ‘he said nothing or contains few facts’…doesn’t seem to line up with the type of genre that was dedicated to the man…the gospels – narrative stories and teachings. Why bother framing stories, namely teaching one’s, where the person did not teach?

    I think it says a lot about the authors as well – they shaped the direction of the gospels they wrote. Says a lot about then they were likely written or re-written (which may be the case with Matthew – there is minor speculation on that).

    However, I don’t think that detracts from that fact there was a historical Jesus figure that is attested to in those stories, someone that is a teacher and healer of his time period. He obviously attracted enough attention for someone to bother writing about him.

    I think the sayings we have about him in the synoptics (in general) are a good indicator of who and what Jesus taught on and about. Many of teachings could easily have been sugar-coated and changed for various crowds – but seem not to be.

    For example, we have Jesus declaring he is sent to ‘the lost house of Israel’…pretty bold claim for a book that will be circulated only amongst Gentiles don’t ya think? Jesus main debates occur with other Jewish religious sects – not with Gentile religions…pretty accurate for a man that narrowly ventured out of the Galilee region. The gospels teach on the resurrection, an idea that had Paul laughed out of a Gentile court in Acts (for it’s silliness)…yet it still presented (in what i would contend was a Jewish context).

    This person seems legitimately plausible in many ways – namely on the strength of his teachings.

  4. He may seem plausible but the truth is that Jesus makes little sence outside of the Galilee except to those with a weak mind or those who wish to control the weak minded. If you read the scholars, both the Christians and the non Christians, you find the non Christians reseachers to be in agreement while the Christian scholars are all over the place tring to justify their logic. When an author writes that Joseph was sold to a camel caravan I known that the author is not writting in 2000BCE but instead of in 900 BCE. If an author writes about the Jesus being in the Temple and forcasting the destruction of the temple, I know he is writting about things that happen in the late first century or second century. The Pharasees were of no consequence until well after the 1st century. The saying of Jesus are, all but a few, about life in the Galilee long after Jesus’ death. Written by his followers to deal with their enviroment. When versus are added to Mark and John in the 4th and 5th century to justify the trinity and the resurrection story I know the Gospels are contrived to keep the masses in order and to continue a good living for the priesthood.

    The first rule to true research is to accept the information as possibly wrong. Then prove it if we can. If we want to except Jesus saying as they stand, we have to except the Gnostics as well. “Salvation through self-knowledge, enlightenment in union with God”. A modern paraphrase is “the truth will set you free”.

    Gods relationship with man is not changed one bit by Jesus alledged teachings. The OT makes a Jew and the NT makes a christian yet even without the Bible anyone who lives a good life and serves his fellow man is one of Gods children and will be blessed.

  5. “If you read the scholars, both the Christians and the non Christians, you find the non Christians reseachers to be in agreement while the Christian scholars are all over the place tring to justify their logic” (Which bible)

    That’s not a bad thing – it just shows that the non biblical scholars are willing to make the concessions they need to reach their verdict and the Christian groups are not (depending on what each and every denomination is saying about the scriptures). Since when is the truth of an object held by a majority vote?

    I agree the non-Christian groups are making some great headway – no problems there. However, what I am noticing is a newer version of study that is being done by Jewish adherents of this NT scripture (namely the gospels and Paul) and they are finding there is some obvious Jewish traits in the teachings of Jesus – and some of Paul. That’s an area of study that needs more time dedicated to it before I start ruling Jesus’ teachings out of the question.

    I take the stand – from my own studies into the NT and Judaism – that Jesus taught and it may have been recorded by his students (the disciples)…all of whom lived (for quite a while) after their teacher was gone. I think in this sense it remains plausible the teachings were preserved with some length of integrity – sculpted into a story called a gospel…by students of the disciples camps.

    I am basing my work on a field of research that needs more work – I admit that – but also the most plausible field of study – a Jewish person taught and Jewish disiples followed – and this needs to be looked at closer by actual Jewish adherents that understand the core ideas and thoughts from within Judaism – not from within Christianity nor other fields based off of Christianity’s views.

    “Gods relationship with man is not changed one bit by Jesus alledged teachings” (Which Bible)

    I tend to agree with you here – but Christianity has changed that version forever. We have to live with the changes made by Gentile communities on scriptures they interpreted and may not have fully understood.

  6. I’m always amazed at how hard we work at making the words of Jesus ( or his followers) fit our everyday. Jesus, (whether God or not) was speaking for His here and now. He never meant anything to be applied to our here and now. Because He didn’t believe there was an earthly future. The Kingdom was to come within a short time. “There are those among you who will not taste death before” The son of man/the kingdom come, etc, etc. So, our studies have to start with His or their everyday enviroment in order to have any true understanding of the sayings. There are many sources available to do exactly that. I’ve always said, we must apply and understand the context of the authors when reading historical literature. Then we can know whether they understood and what they understood.

    It’s only after I’m confident that writers like Gaza understand their historical sources that I can accept their premise. Be it the Gospels or a modern critique of them, the bases for their sources must be established in historical studies.

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