Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Exegetical catastrophe

E. D. Freed recently published The Stories of Jesus' Birth: a Critical Introduction, The Biblical Seminar 72 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001). This builds on his earlier work such as an article on the women in Mt's genealogy of Jesus.

His argument for the four women isn't the worst (it's also not the best), but this book contains some frankly frightening statements for something published by SAP in such a series. I admit I haven't read the whole, but this in particular was worth comment regardless of how the rest of the book turns out. The skeptic in me suggests that it goes to show that if you put the word "critical" in your work, and try to contradict orthodox belief, the standard just isn't that high (in every case). Whatever the case, this is one of the worst paragraphs I've read in "serious" scholarly literature in quite some time. From Freed, page 20-21:

"Except for a few passages in the Gospels, Jesus as a descendant of David (as in the genealogies) was never an important belief for New Testament writers. The theologian who wrote the letter to the Hebrews argues that Jesus was a priest like Melchizedek. Therefore, like that priest, Jesus had no genealogy." [I can't help myself, I have to interrupt: Hebrews says no such thing; read chapter 7 once or one hundred times and it's clear the reference is about Melch, not Jesus.] "The author of Hebrews writes that Christ was the Son of God and eternal high priest. He was 'without fahter, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.' But according to the author of Hebrews, Christ was not descended from the priests: 'He does not have their genealogy' (Heb 7:6). The important thing in Hebrews is that, as with Aaron, Christ was called by God. We might question whether the author of Hebrews was actually trying to negate the tradition about Jesus preserved in the genealogy, if not the stories of Jesus' birth altogether."

Of all the things that could be said of this, the only thing I'll waste time on here is noting Hebrews 7:14...where the author of Hebrews explicitly notes Jesus' origin from the tribe of Judah and states that it is common knowledge. (One also wonders whether Freed has ever read Paul's description of his gospel in the opening verses of Romans 1, Revelation, etc...) Did he not bother reading the chapter he was citing?


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