Thomas Brodie

The Good

Thomas L. Brodie is that rarest of creatures, a believing Christian who happens to also be a New Testament minimalist. As such, he gives the lie to the claim (often repeated by some historicists) that to doubt the historicity of Jesus is just an expression of atheist rancor. He is not just Christian; he is a Dominican priest, has a doctorate in theology, has taught advanced Hebrew scriptures and New Testament studies, and was even the founder of the Dominican Biblical institute in Limerick, Ireland, an academic department devoted to historico-critical study of the Bible. By his own admission, he has been a closet mythicist since the mid-1970s, but didn't make it explicit until his most recent book, Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus, a work that compelled his ecclesiatical "superiors" to censure him immediately after its publication and to ultimately forbid him from teaching any longer. In this respect he brings to mind Alfred Loisy, who was similarly repressed by the Church for the radical nature of his scholarship around the turn of the twentieth century.   Neither Loisy nor Brodie recanted their views, which is a testament to their academic integrity, given that doing so would have averted the harsh treatment they each received (Loisy would eventually even be excommunicated outright). As in Galileo's case, no one would have blamed them for deferring to the authority of the Church for the sake of their comfort and well-being.  But back in those days a heretic's very life was at stake when the full weight of the magisterium decided to come down upon one. This is not the case in the twentieth (and twenty-first) century, when the Church is relatively innocuous, and a scholar like Brodie could at least stand by his scholarship without mortal fear, and could thus afford such a "here I stand" moment.    Meister Eckhart once said, "Truth is something so noble that if God could turn aside from it, I could keep to the truth and let God go." Brodie's courage (and Loisy's) reflects a profound understanding of this seemingly irreverent sentiment. Far from irreverent, Eckhart never strayed from his religious commitment, even in the face of the threat of excommunication (I recommend reading his responses to those who charged him with heresy. It's in archaic theological language, but it is a rewarding —and even humorous—read). Brodie's coming out as a mythicist serves as a riposte to those who would say, "Even atheists believe that Jesus existed." One could now say, "So? even Christians believe he didn't. How about constructing an actual argument now instead of appealing to authority or consensus?"  

Selected Bibliography:

  • Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus (2012)
    — A book I highly recommend, part scholarly treatment/ part biographical memoir. His analysis of the New Testament viz mythicism chiefly consists of arguments from mimesis (imitation) of Old Testament narratives, particularly the parallels involving the Elijah/Elisha cycle and Deutoronomy.  A must-read for anyone interested in New Testament minimalism.
    Rating: ★★★★★


Post a Comment

anonymous comments may or may not be published ...