Dec 20, 2011

I stole a book

I have now stolen a book from the Eucharistic Chapel at St. George's, titled Rabbi Jesus by Bruce Chilton. I originally borrowed this book to review it, but having arrived at certain conclusions about this book, I made up my mind to steal it. I can't return it to the Chapel.

Chilton assumes a false air of Orthodoxy when he appears to attack those Modernists who doubt everything about the historical narrative concerning the birth of Jesus, stating that "modern scholarship has left the circumstances of Jesus' birth in a haze of doubt...[with] many scholars hav[ing] ruled Bethleham as Jesus' birthplace." I say false air of Orthodoxy because Chilton's next sentence, p.8, is "Recent discoveries show that is a mistake." However Chilton does not make the claim that the historical narrative is correct, he feebly and with a lack of originality joins the attack on the historical narrative.

Chilton's attack on the historical narrative concerning the birth of Jesus is based on the fact that there is a very small town in Galilee named Bethlehem, seven miles Northwest of Nazareth, and mentioned in Joshua 19:15, known as Bethlehem of Galilee so as not to be confused with its well known neighbor to the south, Bethlehem of Judea, 5 miles south of Jerusalem, north of the land of Moab (see the Book of Ruth), and celebrated as the birthplace of Jesus Christ since the time of Jesus Christ. The sepulchre of Rachael is about 1 mile north of Bethlehem of Judea, and is still visited by Islamic, Christian and Jewish pilgrims. 'Our Bethlehem' is attested to as the birthplace of Jesus by St. Matthew, who knew the messiah would come from the Davidic line and be born there, and also by Luke, a gentile, who quite possibly was unaware of the prophesy of Micheas. This mini-debate about which Bethlehem Jesus was born in was "unknown to the ancient writers, who reproduce simply the Gospel narratives with additions, in some cases possibly historical. About 150 we find St. Justin Martyr referring (Dialogue with Trypho 78) to the Savior's birth as having taken place in a cave near the village of Bethlehem; such cave stables are not rare in Palestine. Expository Times, May, 1903, 384; Bonaccorsi, "Il Natale", Rome, 1903, 16-20.)" - Catholic Encyclopedia. Origen wrote about a century later: "In Bethlehem the cave is pointed out where He was born, and the manger in the cave where He was wrapped in swaddling clothes, and the rumor is in those places and among foreigners of theFaith that indeed Jesus was born in this cave". (Against Celsus I.51) The apocryphal gospels (Pseudo-Matt., xiii, ap. Bonaccorsi, op. cit., 159-163; Protevang. of James, xvii sqq., Bonaccorsi, 155-159; Gospel of the Infancy, II-IV, Bonaccorsi, 163-164) concur. "Over the traditional spot of the Nativity stands a church (St. Mary of the Nativity), surrounded on the northwest and southwest by the convents of the Latins (Franciscans), Greeks, and Armenians, respectively. The building is, apart from additions and modifications made by Justinian (527-565), substantially the work of Constantine (about 330). Underneath that most ancient and venerable monument of Christianity, a favorite resort of pilgrims throughout the centuries, is the grotto of the Nativity."

So why does Chilton dredge up an old ruse about Bethlehem of Galilee as the birthplace of Jesus, instead of 'Our Bethlehem'? (Chilton fails to credit his source, Adolph Neubauer, in this book). He is "attacking the historical value of the Gospel narratives...; this is done by almost all those who deny the historicity of the Infancy."

When I started to read what can only be called blasphemies against the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph, I realized why Chilton made a big deal about a small detail - it was the only historical piece of his entire argument.

I think I will offer to pay the cover price to anyone willing to admit they slipped this arrogant replay of the Original Sin into the Chapel, but I'm not putting it back there.


Paul Anthony Melanson said...

I burned a book once. Yes, this even though I am a Logophile. You see, it was a book on New Age spirituality left at the retreat house at St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer.

And I would do it again.

JayG said...

John Meier, Prof or New Testament at Notre Dame says "Once again Prof Chilton shows his imaginative power in challenging the received wisdom about the historical Jesus..."
Craig A. Evans, Director of Graduate Program in Biblical Studies at Trinity Western U., B.C. Canada says "Chilton's Rabbi Jesus offers an imaginative yet very informed and plausible account of the life and ministry of Jesus..."
I don't recall Jesus using that word 'imaginative', but He did tell the Scribes that their own words condemned them.

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

There is an increasingly hostile attitude toward Sacred Scripture on the part of many who believe that they can "correct" God's Word. Still others alter the scriptures because a particular verse convicts them. Contrast this arrogance with the Church Fathers. When confronted with such an arrogant approach to God's Word, they responded in no uncertain terms:

"They have not feared to lay hands upon the sacred Scriptures, saying that they have corrected them. Nor is it likely that they themselves are ignorant of how very bold their offense is. For either they do not believe that the sacred Scriptures were spoken by the Holy Spirit, in which case they are unbelievers, or if they regard themselves as being wiser than the Holy Spirit, what else can they be but demoniacs." (St. Hippolytus of Rome, "Fragment" in Eusebius, History of the Church, 5, ch. 28).