Paperbacks: Jesus Christ: The Gospels, Presented by Terry Eagleton
Tuesday 08 January 2008
Verso's "Revolutions" series, which includes Slavoj Zizek introducing Mao, Trotsky and Robespierre and Geoffrey Robertson introducing the Levellers, now expands to take in the New Revised Standard Version of the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, with an introduction by Terry Eagleton. It's the most interesting in the series, not just because Eagleton is on such good form iconoclastic, intellectually spry and eloquent but because Jesus's revolutionary credentials are the least well established. "I did not come to bring peace but a sword," He said (Matthew 10:34), and He certainly kept what Eagleton calls "some shady political company" (mentioning no names, Simon the Zealot). But why, if they were known insurrectionists, were His disciples not rounded up after His execution and arrested?
Jesus leaves others to label Him, and "there is a sense throughout the text of His deliberately evading definition." He never claims to be the Son of God, except once, "implausibly", in Mark. Nor does He claim to be the Messiah, which in first-century Jerusalem would have been understood as a warrior-king kind of figure. Born in a stable and crucified on the cross, Jesus, says Eagleton, was "a sick joke of a Messiah", and his arrival in Jerusalem on an ass a "satirical" anti-Messianic gesture. He probably saw himself as the prophet foretold by the Old Testament, whose arrival would herald the advent of the Kingdom of God.
There is no room in an early first-century worldview for historical self-determinism, which is why Jesus cannot be a revolutionary in the sense that, say, Lenin was. The Kingdom of God was coming whether people wanted it to or not; Jesus was just there to prepare them for it. Etymologically, then, as well as because of His utterly extraordinary actions and teachings, it comes to make sense to call Him, as Eagleton does, an avant-gardist.
MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word
Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Film More romcom than S&M
Review: The Imitation Gamefilm
Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars
TVNetflix gets cryptic
TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth
Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Not suppost to cry': 9-year-old lists the worst things about being a boy
- 2 'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
- 3 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 4 Lana Del Rey rape video: Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking leaked footage
- 5 Largest ever study into the gay gene 'erodes the notion that sexual orientation is a choice'
Lee Evans announces his retirement from comedy on The Jonathan Ross Show
Iggy Azalea responds to Eminem rape lyrics: 'I'm bored of old men threatening young women'
Angelina Jolie confirms retirement from acting: 'I've never been comfortable on-screen'
Lana Del Rey rape video: Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking leaked footage
Willow and Jaden Smith talk duality of apples, holographic realities and the melancholia of the ocean in incredible New York Times interview
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
'Muslims pre-date Columbus in discovering America,' says Turkish president Erdogan
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Former Tory PM Sir John Major says 'we would not have an NHS without migrants'