A Passion(ate) Agenda,
This review is from: The Passion: The True Story of an Event That Changed Human History (Paperback)
I do not feel myself qualified to provide a truly "expert" assessment of this work, however there are some issues that I specifically have with a few of his conclusions that compel me to make note of them.
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.