h i s t o r y the Kingdom of God among people far and wide, Paul ‘institutionalised’ the Jesus message in his numerous epistles to emergent Christian communities: he provided strong leadership by bishops, such as his friends Timothy and Titus – Jew and gentile – in Ephesus and Crete respectively; he conceptualised the communal meal as a sharing of redeeming blood; he linked redemption to Adam’s sin and Jesus’s life and death; and he transformed the deep memory of the sacrifice of Isaac into a foreshadowing of Jesus’s life, death and resurrection as the Paschal Lamb, which John would develop into the powerful Agnus Dei. Yet despite all this change, Paul still believed in Jesus as a chosen messenger, the Son remaining inferior to the Father.
At the end of the first century an important new step was taken towards the growing ‘deification’ of Jesus in the Gospel of John – so different from the Synoptic Gospels. John, who was probably a Jew immersed in Greek scholarship, imagined Jesus as a superior being. ‘In the beginning was the Word’, opens his Gospel, echoing the beginning of Genesis. He argued that, with the Incarnation of Jesus, a whole new world was made. While John was not a maker of institutions,
he created the Christian faith, in Christ’s divinity – the Word made Flesh.
This birth of faith marked the beginning of the end for Jewish Christianity. The Epistle of Barnabas, written around AD 135, all but recognises Jesus as God, and at the same time dismisses the Jewish covenant with God as long superseded by the new dispensation. As Christian identity emerged with new tenets of faith, powerful mages, and the inspiring examples of martyrs, so Jews and Judaism were rejected and vilified. In the great cities of the Roman Empire, pagan converts to Christianity – Justin, Melito of Sardis – were often vicious in their attacks on Jews and those perceived as Judaisers. The great exegete Origen applied Jewish traditions of commentary to reinterpret the Jewish bible, making it Christian scripture. Christianity was now institutionalised and established; when a rift opened up between Christian priests in Alexandria, due to the suggestion by the priest Arius that the Son was subordinate to the Father, the Emperor Constantine stepped in to seek and impose clarity.
What is also striking about these early centuries is the almost total absence of discussion of Jesus’s mother, Mary, who became paramount during the Middle Ages, who was refigured in the Reformation, and who was adopted by Catholic missionaries in order to convert the people of the Americas. She was relegated to accounts of the Nativity in Luke and Matthew, and mentioned only once – indirectly – by Paul. But there are nonetheless suggestive glimpses of future themes of the cult of Mary, and of the role she came to play in polemical exchanges between Christians and Jews. In Justin’s theology of supersession, Mary appears as the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy that a ‘virgin’ shall conceive the Logos, the principle of divine action in the world, the Son of God. A generation later, in the theology of Irenaeus of Lyons (c AD 130–200), Mary also appears as an agent of the emergent salvation: if Adam was recapitulated in Jesus, then Eve was in Mary.
So much of our language, so much of the creative imagination – literary, visual, musical, ethical – is bound up in the story so expertly told here. Geza Vermes leads us from first-century Nazareth to fourth-century Nicaea – from charisma to institutions – with insight and not a little sense of loss. To order this book for £20, see the Literary Review bookshop on page 37
Master’s in Diplomacy Diplomacy and Global Affairs from 1814 to the Present
September 2012-August 2013 A one-year, London-based course examining key issues in diplomacy and world politics since the Congress of Vienna, directed by Professor David Armstrong and Professor Richard Langhorne, two of Britain’s leading authorities in the field. Participants undertake independent research under expert supervision on a topic of their choice. Assessment is by a dissertation of at least 20,000 words. A feature of the programme is its series of ten evening seminars and post-seminar dinners at a London club in Pall Mall, SW1, at which participants can engage in questioning and argument with the speakers. Those who wish to attend the seminars and dinners, but not to undertake a dissertation, may join the course as Associate Students.
The ten seminars are led by internationally distinguished experts including: Sir Rodric Braithwaite, former ambassador to Russia Sir Brian Crowe, former ambassador to Austria Sir Richard Dearlove, former Head of MI6 Bridget Kendall, BBC Diplomatic Correspondent Sir Christopher Mallaby, former ambassador to Germany www.buckingham.ac.uk/humanities/ma/ diplomacy-research Course enquiries: Professor David Armstrong: email@example.com
T H E U N I V E R S I T Y O F B U C K I N G H A M
The University of Buckingham is ranked in the élite top sixteen of the 120 British Universities: The Guardian Universities League Table 2012-13
Literary Review | a u g u s t 2 0 1 2 10