Owens, C.W., Son of Yahweh
Owens’ introduction of literary criticism into the study of the origins of Christianity feels like being led into a refreshing oasis. The main part of his essay, the discussion of the four canonical gospels, of Acts and of the famous “abomination of desolation” sentence, offers a lot of original observations, but most of all the paragraph on apocalyptic writing (the ‘Error 3’-section of the first chapter) is a good read. It is of an exceptional clarity, the best discussion of the subject I have ever read.
This doesn’t mean that I follow Owens’ main thesis that the Gospels are fictional accounts that only intend to describe the catastrophe of 70 CE. While reading I couldn’t free myself of the impression that Owens doesn’t take his own thesis all too serious, that he sees it more like an intellectual game. A game he plays very well.
In his conclusion Owens asks the reader to unblock his/her imagination, to abandon an orthodox or doctrinal reading of the gospels, and to question the incomprehensible gap between the events related in the gospels and their writing down. Here and elsewhere in his book he suggests that the gospels are an allegory of the destruction of the Jewish nation. This may be so in part, but I think we should consider – using our unblocked imagination – that a real life Jesus was active during the war, that he preached and organized the revolution in Galilee, fled to Jerusalem, participated in the capture (‘cleansing’) of the Temple, helped his depressed friend Eleazar son of Ananias, talked with Nakdimon bar Gourion, was hungry during the siege and therefore cursed a fig tree without fruits, was crucified and rose again. Then also the “abomination of desolation” or “summit of humiliation” becomes concrete as the erection of the divinized standards of the Roman legions in front of the burning Temple, Titus’s entrance into the Holy of Holies and his acclamation as imperator by his troops.