This is the best book when it comes to looking at Jesus Christ through the Historical Jesus lens This book talked about all the things that my history side was in conflict with the spiritual and belief side This book is not for a layman reader I have a degree in secondary education History and enough religion classes from evangelical churches and Bible college under my belt that it was a pretty easy read With all the written, this is an opinionated book and I did not agree with everything but it is extremely well researched. A stirring and challenging attempt to find the meaning, history, and relevance of Jesus Christ in a secular age Carroll seeks to recover a sense of the Jewishness of Jesus by investigating how the records of his life became distorted by the early Christians who wrote about him Were this the book s only contribution it d still be worth reading, although it is merely reaffirming the conclusions of other scholars of the last few decades who have returned Jesus to his Jewish roots But there sinvolved in Carroll s task He argues that Jesus could only be Jesus IN RELATION to others Therefore, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, and other witnesses including women who have been subsequently downplayed in the tradition are indispensable to Jesus s development as well as the picture we have of Jesus in the Christian scriptures Carroll s own understanding of Jesus then is dependant upon other disciples Bonhoeffer, Dorothy Day, and the unexpected Albert Schweitzer who sought Jesus by following his actions Plenty of provocative moments throughout, but a reader need not agree with all Carroll offers in order to appreciate the effort or to selectively borrow from the author s answers to any number of questions or to borrow the questions so eloquently posed themselves. A New York Times Bestselling And Widely Admired Catholic Writer Explores How We Can Retrieve Transcendent Faith In Modern Times Critically Acclaimed And Bestselling Author James Carroll Has Explored Every Aspect Of Christianity, Faith, And Jesus Christ Except This Central One What Can We Believe About And How Can We Believe In Jesus In The Twenty First Century In Light Of The Holocaust And Other Atrocities Of The Twentieth Century And The Drift From Religion That Followed What Carroll Has Discovered Through Decades Of Writing And Lecturing Is That He Is Far From Alone In Clinging To A Received Memory Of Jesus That Separates Him From His Crucial Identity As A Jew, And Therefore As A Human Yet If Jesus Was Not Taken As Divine, He Would Be Of No Interest To Us What Can That Mean Now Paradoxically, The Key Is His Permanent Jewishness No Christian Himself, Jesus Actually Transcends Christianity Drawing On Both A Wide Range Of Scholarship As Well As His Own Acute Searching As A Believer, Carroll Takes A Fresh Look At The Most Familiar Narratives Of All Matthew, Mark, Luke, And John Far From Another Book About The Historical Jesus, He Takes The Challenges Of Science And Contemporary Philosophy Seriously He Retrieves The Power Of Jesus Profound Ordinariness, As An Answer To His Own Last Question What Is The Future Of Jesus Christ As The Key To A Renewal Of Faith Carroll, who wrestled so artfully with Christianity s, and particularly, the Roman Church s denigration of Jews throughout history, applies a similar treatment to what he calls a modern understanding of Jesus Christ Carroll argues that the experience of the Jesus people changed radically in just the hundred years or so since the death of Jesus The explicit rejection of the Jewishness of Jesus, says Carroll, not only created the terrible history of Western Christian relations with Jewish people that culminated in the Holocaust, but also distorted the lens through which followers of Christ came to view Him Carroll take the Holocaust and the atomic bomb detonation at Hiroshima to be turning points in modern human history, which challenge us to re examine existence, including faith, for a modern people What he arrives at is a need for a simple faith, but not a blind one Rejecting slavish devotion to literal textual interpretations, he revisits the life of Jesus as man, and as Jew, in his time and place He argues that the cataclysmic Roman violence against Jews in the first century shaped the population of Jewish Jesus followers, leading them to explicitly distance themselves from other Jews as a means of survival Increasingly, the hierarchical Western church devised a complex dogma, based upon Hellenic philosophy, that became a self perpetuating religious machine, that deviated significantly from the simple goodness and dignity of the carpenter from Nazareth.What Carroll concludes is that modern Christians need to find their way to an unknowable God through imitation of Jesus his humility, compassion, and service to others The book is well reasoned and well documented As is always the case with Carroll, hard line Catholics will call him a blasphemous heretic, while others, theist and atheist alike, will find much to consider. I was motivated to read this book after reading Carroll s novel The Cloister, which tells the story of Peter Abelard, and in the process highlights the scourage of Christian anti Semitism in the 15th century Christ Actually begins with the Holocaust and the struggles of imprisoned Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeeffer who grappled with the meaning and relevance of Christ in a post Nazi, post Holocaust world and asked who is Christ actually for us today While acknoledging the great contributions the Church has made to the world over the centuries, Carroll grapples with the horrific acts of violence inspired by religion in the 20th century the Holocaust, Hiroshima, 9 11 and .The overarching purpose of the book is to revisit the life and story of Jesus to highlight that he operated in and was interpreted within an entirely Jewish context, and that only as the Church moved into the Graeco Roman world and then was blessed by the emperor it took on a starkly anti Jewish tone Carroll draws heavily on the work of the Jesus Seminar and other attempts to reconstruct the historical Jesus and provides a scholarly and provocative look at Jesus.Carroll writes as a devout but critical Roman Catholic and so his quest is both scholarly and personal While doing an excellent job of reviewing recent scholarship highlighting the Jewish context of the gospels and the writings of Paul, Carroll does not take up the question of the Christian response to the modern nation of Israel and whether as some say that anti Zionism and anti Semitism are the same All in all, this was a thought provoking book, which causes one to re examine his her assumptions about the Bible and the relevance of Jesus for today probably not that interesting if you don t answer to a vague self description as christian as a reading experience i d probably give this a 3.5 4 i think carroll gives human beings too much credit, if anything there is a bit of repetition and some of thespeculative passages necessarily speculative, but still speculative are unsatisfying simply because there s nothing anyone can be sure of but i really dug the overall message act like jesus, the guy, not the god , and it doesn t really matter what you think about divinity or life everlasting, you will have solved something permanent and important about making the world around you better and pace martin buber all real living is meeting , that world is made pretty much exclusively of your connections with other human beings this was a nice and welcome antidote to some spiritual weariness i d been feeling sparked my imagination and made me think about history in a new way also nice to read a book about christology that gives a plausible rebuttal to some of the unpleasant misogyny that creeps into the NT anyway, i will see you outside in the world good job james carroll. How do we believe in God in the post religious twenty first century How do we follow Christ after the Holocaust and the Death of God According to Carroll s beautifully written analysis, both Judaism and Christianity emerged out of just such faith shattering events as the world witnessed in the twentieth century As we continue to come to terms with the twentieth century Holocaust, that spiritual black hole that inevitably bends and distorts our panglossian attempts to construct a conception of the world in which everything works for our own good, Carroll reminds us that Judaism, as we know it today, was born out of a series of Holocausts of a sort brutal episodes in which the powers that be attempted to crush the cult of Yahweh and its subversive tendencies The Torah materialized fully during and just after the Babylonian exile of the sixth century BCE The prophetic Book of Daniel was written in the wake of the Maccabean Revolt against the Greco Persian Seleucid Empire The Jesus movement was the newest iteration of a long tradition of prophetic activism against oppressors of the Jewish people It was only after a great deal of cultural and theological reworking of the movement begun by the likes of Jesus, Peter, and Paul that Christianity emerged as a religion distinct and separate from Judaism Jesus was a Jew Christians know this, of course, but rarely stop to consider the implications of this fact Jesus lived and died as a Jew He was not some otherworldly divinity with luminous white garments and a halo floating over his head He was a Palestinian Jew who lived, taught, and met his death in a world scarred by war and genocide His life and teachings find their proper context in a world defined by the suffering the Jews experienced under the oppression of a pagan empire and its clients The understanding of Jesus as Christ, the Son of God, or the Son of Man by the earliest Christians, among them the Gospel writers, can only be understood in the context of the catastrophic Roman suppression of the Jewish Revolt and the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 CE Like other prophetic movements of the Jewish tradition, the Jesus movement was inaugurated by war Carroll is very sophisticated in demonstrating how Jesus, even Jesus as Christ, can be understood in a thoroughly Jewish context Most interpreters of Christianity make a sharp distinction between, in Marcus Borg s terms, the Pre Easter Jesus of the Jewish tradition, and the Post Easter Christ of the Greek New Testament Carroll shows that there was plenty of room within the Jewish tradition for someone to be spoken of as both human and divine I particularly enjoyed Carroll s analysis of the plight of women in the early Christian community Jesus s teaching and Paul s early, authenticated writings seem to be radically sexually egalitarian Mary of Magdala was one of the most important of Jesus s disciples, only to have her importance diminished within the Christian tradition by the erroneous association of this aristocratic patroness of the Jesus movement with the repentant prostitute who washes Jesus s feet while he dines with the Pharisees By the end of the first century CE, the writings attributed to Paul have transitioned dramatically from the egalitarianism of a Paul who trusts his letter to the Romans to a woman named Phoebe, considers a woman named Julia to be an apostle like himself, and places the blame for the fall of man solely on Adam, and not on Eve to a very conservative and patriarchal conception of church life in which woman are not to speak in church or assume any leadership position Fascinatingly, Carroll associates this post temple destruction patriarchalism with a sort of national shame that must have wounded the pride of the Jewish community following their brutalization at the hands of the legions of Vespasian and Titus Starkly put, one of the great unspoken consequences of war for a civilian population is rape, and the Roman legions, as much as any marauding army of ancient or modern times, were notorious for practicing wanton sexual violence against the women of the peoples they conquered When the women of a defeated people are raped, this is not only an act of violence and denigration toward the women themselves, it is directed as the ultimate insult toward the men of the defeated nation It demonstrates that the men cannot fulfill their primordial role as protectors of their women According to Carroll, it is quite likely that the Roman reconquest of Jerusalem was accompanied by an atrocious bout of rape by the Roman legionaries This shame at having one s women defiled in this way was internalized by the post temple churchmen of the Jesus movement, and Carroll speculates that this is what gave rise to the mandated subjection of women in some of the most notorious writings of the New Testament The despair of seeing one s women victimized in this way was internalized by the defeated men, and this shame led to a presentation of women as a source of shame, rather than the partners in discipleship which they seem to have been in the earliest decades A fascinating book, both in its exploration of the historical context of Christianity and in its putting forward of a vision of renewal of faith in Christ as something to be lived out rather than something to be believed, in our age which seems ready to discard belief altogether. I suppose as an agnostic hedging my bets I suppose , it is somewhatdifficult to take on ascholarly text dealing with Jesus and Christianity The main disadvantage is vocabulary, terminology and religious historical context But I stayed with Carroll s argument for the Jesus and God he sees or understands I have to say I am convinced by his argument and view of Jesus as a servant of the poor and oppressed, the champion of non violence and the focus of community awareness and cooperation Our modern tendencies toward selfishness and narcissism sadly deviate from these principles allowing the distortions of history to validate such male dominated individual and collective behaviors that have aided antisemitism and other forms of bigotry, devolving into wars of destruction with Holocaust and Hiroshima end results What I learned from this reading Jesus was born, lived and died a Jew He was a man though followed as a divine being Antisemitism among Christians was induced through historical inventions and distortions The Romans were brutal and responsible the first Jewish Holocaust, circa 70 AD.The Nazi s responsible for the 2nd, circa 1940 AD.A male dominated Church was not consistent with Jesus teachings or interactions with his followers.Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran theologian, died defending Jews during WWII.Dorothy Day, a nun who was founding editor of the Catholic Worker and an anti war, anti nuclear weapons protestor, was a living example of what it means to embody the essence of Christ, the imitation of Christ or Christ actually. A Review of James Carroll s book,Christ Actually The Son of GodFor the Secular AgeBy Greg CusackDecember 6, 2014James Carroll is a gentleman of my generation and, as my friend Ken Wolf has pointed out from his reading of Carroll, experienced similar rites of passage as most of us of that time and place did One of his most memorable experiences as a young man, for instance, was volunteering at the same Catholic Worker facility where the great American Dorothy Day labored to serve the poor and outcast of that time Ordained a Catholic priest, he left that ministry over frustrations with the Church s growing doctrinaire conservatism following the initially hopeful years of Vatican II Over the years he has written numerous books, the most notable of which was likely his Constantine s Sword The Church and the Jews A History There is some echo of that in this present book, in that he makes frequent reference to how the Church came to distort and suppress the deep Jewishness of Jesus, his followers, and his message He attributes this to the fateful First Jewish Revolt of 66 70, in which vengeful Romans destroyed Jerusalem and its great Temple, in the process wiping out most of that city s influential Jewish Jesus followers This terrible event began the process over time of separating Jesus and his teachings from the core reality of his Jewish identity and vision, as well as introducing a hierarchical Church modeledafter the Roman imperial system than anything mirroring the collegial, servant model Jesus represented Predictably, this also meant both the elevation of the priesthood, indeed, all of the hierarchy, above the common folk and the rapid suppression of the memory of the real prominence of women as respected equals in the lives of Jesus and Paul Carroll s central thrust confronts the Church s early fateful choice to focus on what to believe about Jesus rather than on what Jesus taught In one place, for instance, he argues, Jesus did not say, Believe these things but, rather, Follow me Carroll argues that it is the Church s vain attempts to hold on to the faithful through emphasizing the doctrines of the Church, rather than urging people to walk in the Way of Jesus, that is causing such disenchantment among Christians in our time The faith that matters that is, one that emphasizes the need for us to be loyal in act and deed to the teachings of Jesus the Beatitudes, for example is not one that can primarily be learned or held dear in any way through passive absorption of words alone Rather, it is in the act of doing what Jesus did caring for the poor, being open to the different and outcast, for examples that we truly learn and become converted This reminds me of the phrase attributed to St Francis Preach constantly and, when necessary, speak To better allow the flavor of Carroll s insights to reach you who are reading this review, I now turn to several direct quotations from his book Just before doing so, however, I wish to state that, while I found much in this book that encouraged me in my own journey, in which similar thoughts have occurred, I, nonetheless, was a little disappointed in one aspect of the Carroll s argument perhaps because I still have a ways to go in my own journey It is this one of the points he makes several times is that just as the memory of Jesus and his teachings never have survived throughout the centuries unless his original followers, and those who have since received his message, believed that he was truly a divine figure the Son of Man who appears in Daniel so also does he argue that it is essential that we come to a similar experience conclusion I think, but am not sure, that his answer lies in the paradox of in doing so you will be able to see and, thus, believe Well, in any case, on to some direct quotations In the beginning, Jesus wasto be imitated than worshipped He was, in the Gospel s supremely simple word, to be followed This following, Bonheoffer wrote, does not create constitutions and decrees, but brings human beings into relation with one another In the life of the movement that takes its name from Jesus Christ, the primacy of discipleship over decree must regularly be recovered Indeed, the generating impulse to imitate Jesus remains the Church s permanent and multifaceted principle of indictment, self criticism, absolution, and moral renewal Jesus is the mark on history against which Jesus people have no choice but to measure themselves p.248 The key to the actuality of Christ is precisely in the imitation of Jesus the study, in Dorothy Days phrase, of our life conformed to his Why Because what was revealed in Jesus what made others eventually see him as Son of Man, Christ, Logos, God was that his capacity for transcendence transfiguration, resurrection, call it what you will was exactly a capacity that lives in every person Not just in those we designate as saints That is why the profound ordinariness of transcendence as beheld in him was essential it was ordinary enough for each one of us to match, with our fears, irascibility, vanities, and doubts also our hopes, gifts, desires, and strengths Acting fully as who we are, the imitation of Christ is the way to actualize in ourselves what makes Jesus matter We have problems believing that Jesus is God because we don t really know what that word God refers to The intuition that Jesus is the Christ, and therefore somehow of God, far from being the product of naivet or superstition, can be rooted in a profoundly sophisticated grasp o the meaning of existence It pushes past the boundaries of what is readily known and suggests that the realm out there is real pp 265 6 We do not know with certain what or who God is, but it is equally true, in fact, that we do not actually know what a human is The inability to grasp the mystery of our own meaning as humans defines the contemporary crisis of identitysharply than anything God is not the problem We are the problem to ourselves We see now, through the insights of science and the traumas of political conflict, that all of the traditional points of reference in relation to which humans have understood themselves have been upended Our ideas are not what they were All is flux, which humans have felt forever We can no longer take the measure of our world with anything like precision, because the measures themselves are always changing To be human, therefore, is to be on the way to becoming something else pp 267 8 The I AM of God, of Jesus, is the I am of every person, and it consists in every person being aware of herself or himself And that awareness points beyond itself Consciousness leads to self consciousness leads to self transcendence I know, leads to I know that I know leads to I know that I am known Here is what we mean by the image of God in which we humans are created Image and imitation are linguistic variations on I AM p 273 The presence of God, therefore, lies in what is ordinary Not in supernatural marvels nor in a superman with whom we have nothing in common Not in saints Not in a once only age of miracles long ago Not first in doctrine, scholarship, or theology but in life The life of Jesus must always weighthan his death And to repeat, the revelation is in the ordinariness of that life His teaching his permanent Jewishness, his preference for service over power, his ever respectful attitude towards women and others on the social margin is available to us because his followers passed the teaching along, which continues Again and again he turned to God, and, as the tradition says, he turned into God but that, too, occurred in the most ordinary of ways Day by day Act by act Choice by choice Word by word Ultimately lifted up, as John says, on the cross which was the Resurrection And the cross is central to this meaning not because God willed suffering but because, in Jesus, God joined in it What does this leave us with A simple Jesus An ordinary Christ One whom the simplest person can imitate, the most ordinary person bringing Christ onceto life day by day, word by word, bread by bread, cup by cp In all of that we see divinity, which, paradoxically, is what makes Jesus one of us Whatever sort of God Jesus is understood to be, it must be the God who is like humans, not different p 279 So we are here less to believe in Jesus than to imitate him We imitate him above all in nurturing the conviction that the Creator of the universe cares for us a p parent loves a child, which is the conviction, finally, that rescues meaning in an otherwise pointless cosmos Meaning is itself how God is revealed For as long as humans exist, meaning will define the human horizon, and at every human approach, that horizon will withdraw, even while still beckoning Follow, it says And as we do, the word meaning moves from lowercase to upper pp 281 2 I wanted to like this book I loved Constantine s Sword And I must say that after writing this review, I find itvaluable that I thought I would But it s a bit of a hard slog, for some reason, which is odd because much of it is historical Jesus scholarship, which I often enjoy Perhaps it s because he makes a big deal of stuff that to me seems pretty standard i.e., that Jesus and the gospels were deeply critically formed by their context of living through a brutal Roman occupation Having read Crossan and Aslan, and having studied this in graduate school, none of that is new news for me Perhaps I ll skip ahead to the what does this mean and enjoy thatFor some reason, his prose style also feels tangled and awkward to me About every other paragraph ends withon this later, which feels inelegant and like amateur hour in terms of writing.I skipped to the end If you haven t read any historical Jesus scholarship and aren t familiar with modern textual critical and historical methods of scholarship on the texts and their cultural context, this could be interesting However, it s written in a very tangled style, and Crossan and Aslan are better and clearer What he makes of all this, in terms of the conceptual way he frames it, feels like intellectual oatmeal there s no there there see the final paragraph The examples he gives of it are somewhatsatisfying That Bonhoeffer s life is an interpretation of Christ actually in the middle of the twentieth century courage that is not separate from, but embedded in, the fear endemic to violenceThe German martyr was a man through whom the actual meaning of Jesus Christ clearly shines Bonhoeffer was a morally compromised man, who opposed anti Semitism but refused to preside at the funeral of his sister s father in law, who had not been baptized When Bonhoeffer joined the conspiracy to kill Hitler, declaring himself ready to carry out the deed in person if necessary, he regarded himself as plunged in evil a lesser evil than Hitler s, to be sure, but still evil Quoting Charles Marsh, Bonhoeffer s biographer, Bonhoeffer moved within an inescapable paradox he gave his blessings to those who conspired to murder the Fuhrer while affirming the essential nonviolence of the gospel Bonhoeffer did not try to resolve the paradox by assuming moral innocence, but accepted the paradox by incurring the guilt born out of responsible action 247 This seems an important point, but it s buried deep in the book and surrounded with too many qualifications and grammatical circuities.His main points the surviving biblical texts must fundamentally be understood in the context of the extreme Roman violence against the Jews Hitler killed one in three living Jews, a a ratio the Caesars may well have matched 54 The Temple dominates the story of Jesus in 30 because the Temple in its destruction by Rome dominated the story in 70 of those who wrote the Gospel, read the Gospel, and heard the Gospel 58 Instead of the usual way of seeing Jesus agony and death on the cross as unique, a one time instance of transcendent suffering extreme enough to redeem the fallen cosmos, the view from the year 70 recall the ten thousand corpses hung on crosses ringing the Temple Mount would necessarily have seen the crucifixion of Jesus as mundane The consolation offered by the Passion account had to be less a matter of Jesus as the substitute sufferer than of Jesus as the fellow sufferer One could imagine surviving the Temple destroying savagery only because Jesus had Here, of course, is the power of the proclaimed Resurrection, the hope that evolved into conviction that survival, even of the worst fate imaginable, was a possibility nay, a promise 59 the destruction of the Temple, and the attendant mass violence, were precisely what created the urgent need among the Jesus people for these texts just then 67.Mark s apocalypse in Chapter 13 was an almost literal description of what was happening to the people for whom Mark was written Horrors not hallucinationsassaults come from warrior Jews attacking Jesus people as rejecters of the anti Roman rebellion and, always, assaults coming indiscriminately from Romans, who were crucifying five hundred Jews every day 72 the Gospels post death and Resurrection, post failure to return, post Temple destruction, and post dispersal from Palestine attributed meaning to Jesus that he simply could not have embraced himself 125.Buddhist connection Salvation, Jesus says, is the recognition of a God who isinterested in rushing out in greeting, with the fatted calf prepared for the feast, than in dispensing justice as the only GodCreation is all the redemption we need Because this recognition happens now, hope moves from the future to the present 133.random thing of interest, from a footnote Crossan cites medical anthropologists to distinguish between illness and disease Disease is purely physical illness includes the personal, social, and cultural reactions to disease Jesus miracles affected change in the latter, not the former 313.
James Carroll was born in Chicago and raised in Washington, D.C He has been a civil rights worker, an antiwar activist, and a community organizer in Washington and New York He was ordained to the priesthood in 1969 and served as Catholic chaplain at Boston University Carroll left the priesthood to become a novelist and playwright He lives in Boston with his wife, the novelist Alexandra Marshal
- 368 pages
- Christ Actually
- James Carroll
- 04 September 2019 James Carroll