I always begin reading The Economist starting at the last page, the obituary page.Â I am always entranced by the way the authors choose and depict the deceased. So, this morning, I discovered Geza Vermes:
His fans adored his polyglot erudition, charm and brains. His seemingly radical argument about Christâ€™s Jewishness became mainstream, at least in Christian theological thinking. The â€œShorter Oxford Dictionaryâ€ adopted his definition of Jesus as â€œa Jewish preacher (c5BC-cAD30) regarded by his followers as the Son of Godâ€, replacing the earlier â€œFounder of Christianityâ€. Others found him thin-skinned, narrow, repetitive, and selective in his approach. He could brilliantly link texts that suited his arguments, but seemed to brush aside evidence that contradicted them: Johnâ€™s gospel, for example, or the writings of the Apostle Paul. Some wondered if he was spurred by grudge or guilt.He found such criticism most unfair. He had not reduced Jesus to a â€œpale Galilean charismaticâ€. Indeed, he described him as the â€œunsurpassed master ofâ€¦laying bare the inmost core of spiritual truthâ€. But a dead man, not a resurrected deity.