Invincible Ignorance

I'm sure there will be worse reviews of Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth, but it's hard to imagine there will be many that are more annoying that Lisa Miller's, in Newsweek. Here's a representative passage:

In a discussion elsewhere in "Jesus of Nazareth," Benedict goes to lengths to show that when Jesus said, "The Kingdom of God is at hand," he didn't mean the apocalypse. What he meant, the pope writes, is that "God is acting now—this is the hour when God is showing himself in history as its Lord." This interpretation may be profound and in keeping with Benedict's Christ-centered message; it is not, many scholars would say, historically accurate.

Ah - those "many scholars." All honor and glory be theirs! There is, indeed, an interpretation of Jesus of Nazareth's life that holds that when he said "the Kingdom of God is at hand," he meant "the end of the world is coming, prepare to be raptured!" But it is by no means the consensus view, and the Pope - who has, one might venture, read slightly more recent Biblical scholarship than Lisa Miller, "religion editor" of Newsweek though she may be - ought to be able to argue with this interpretation without being accused of painting over "historical accuracy" in the service of a fairy tale - er, "Christ-centered message." (Particular by a writer whose summary, elsewhere in the piece, of recent historical-Jesus forays starts with the Jesus Seminar and ends with the Jesus tomb.)

And then we have this:

"Jesus of Nazareth," then, will not bring unbelievers into the fold, but courting skeptics has never been Benedict's priority. Nor will his portrait join the lengthy list of Jesus biographies so eagerly consumed by the non-orthodox—the progressive Protestants and "cafeteria Catholics" who seek the truth about Jesus in noncanonical places like the Gnostic Gospels. Moderates may take "Jesus of Nazareth" as something of a corrective to fundamentalism because it sees the Bible as "true" without insisting on its being factual. Mostly, though, "Jesus of Nazareth" will please a small group of Christians who are able simultaneously to hold post-Enlightenment ideas about the value of rationality and scientific inquiry together with the conviction that the events described in the Gospels are real.

All the other Christians, of course, will be too busy snake-handling, blowing up abortion clinics, and beating their wives to read it. Plus they're illiterate.

(More in this vein here and here.)