Rowan Williams’s has an excellent response to Geza Vermes’s, Christian Beginnings: From Nazareth to Nicaea, AD 30-325 over at the ABC Religion & Ethics site. Countering the all too common, but hardly substantiated charge that the Nicene Creed and Christological formulations represent foreign accretions upon a pure Jesus of history, Williams writes:

Someone reading the convoluted texts of early Christian argument might well see them less as a series of baroque elaborations on a theoretical theme than as a series of attempts to capture an elusive but inescapable insight. Each effort generates more unfinished business; and the impetus is not to clarify ideas for their own sakes but to do justice to the sense that whatever Jesus introduces into the world is new and awkward enough to need a new vocabulary.

It is surprising that the once dominate strand of 19th century German historical scholarship continues to exert an influence, as Williams comments about Vermes’s book. Yet Williams notes that it is a position that is slowly but surely losing ground to post- and pre-modern forms of historical inquiry. History in this German mode cannot account for the Jesus event’s inauguration of a “new vocabulary.” Nicaea, far from introducing a foreign element into the purity of the Christ event, is the very wrestling with this new vocabulary.

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