Discussion of GV’s latest work began on blogs yesterday. Out today (but actually dated “March 24, 2008”) Daniel J Harrington, SJ has a very professional review, “No Evidence?,” in America: The National Catholic Weekly. Obviously, as this review reveals, Vermes’ book is much more comprehensive than previous reviews and interviews have intimated (see below). As a review, Harrington’s seems to be just the right balance of summarizing the material presented in the reviewed work while also offering a fresh critique. For example:
On the whole, Vermes’s treatment of the Jewish evidence is comprehensive and balanced. However, he tends toward minimalist interpretations, especially in treating the Dead Sea scrolls, where some of his own translations point in the direction of a lively hope for blissful existence after death, and some even suggest bodily resurrection. And he ignores three Jewish writings (Pseudo-Philo’s Biblical Antiquities, 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch) that deal extensively with life after death and are contemporary with the New Testament writings. Minimalist also is his conclusion that the notion of bodily resurrection propagated by the Pharisees was alien to first-century Hellenistic Jews and was unfamiliar in most layers of Palestinian Jewry.
If I had doubts before (not really) I will definitely now purchase the book. Certainly Harrington’s review is worth a read. Some of our biblicablogging cadre will not, however, take well to his final exhortation.
For a fuller, sounder and more orthodox treatment of the material that Vermes covers, I recommend N. T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God.