Tuesday, October 5, 2010

José Antonio Pagola: "Jesus is a very dangerous challenge for the Church today"

Priest and author of Jesus: An Historical Approximation. Forty thousand copies of the most recent Spanish edition of his book were sold in two months before the Spanish Bishops Conference took action on the matter and the work was withdrawn from church and diocesan bookstores by the Catholic publishing house that issued it. In his view, the Church is far from following the message of its founder.

by Matías Valléslvalencia (English translation by Rebel Girl)
October 4, 2010

Do you consider yourself a victim, because of the reactions against you caused by Jesus: An Historical Approximation?

No. In my book on Jesus, I present Him as "controversial and dangerous." Now I have seen for myself that He was and always will be. When you know His fiery words, His freedom to defend the people, His plan for a society of service to the least and His criticism of a religion devoid of compassion. Jesus generates mixed reactions of attraction and rejection. I think that, in large part, my book has caused concern when it is grasped that Jesus can be a dangerous challenge for the current Church, as we ordinarily understand it, experience it and organize it today.

Was Jesus Christ more man than God?

Probably nobody has had as much power over hearts as Jesus, no one like Him has expressed the concerns and questions of human beings, no one has raised as many hopes. Even today, when ideologies and religions are experiencing a deep crisis, Jesus continues to nourish the faith of millions of men and women. Why? Where does the secret of this power of attraction lie? We Christians believe that Jesus is so fully human that He isn't like us. Leonardo Boff said that "only God can be so human." We believe that through this man, His words, His actions and His whole life we find God as we cannot anywhere else. For me, Jesus is God speaking to us, accompanying us and saving us through this dear man.

Will you read Stephen Hawking's book, to refute the scientist's opinion about God?

No. I've always been interested in Hawking's work on astronomy, but not his assumptions about God. What Hawking said is nothing new. Among experts in the dialogue between faith and science, the general position is that no religion can prove the existence of God, nor can science prove His nonexistence. In the face of the ultimate mystery of reality, only a positive or negative act of faith is possible. Believers believe that God exists but they can't prove it, atheists believe He doesn't but they can't prove it either.

It sometimes seems that modern man has decided that what human beings can't prove scientifically, does not exist. However, this conclusion can't be proven scientifically.

Is God necessary?

God is not necessary to make money, gain power or achieve wellbeing. Nor to dispense us from evil, suffering, or the misfortunes of life. God helps us believers to face the harshness of life and the mystery of death with a light, a stimulus and a new horizon. The God revealed in Jesus helps me to live, love and work for a more humane life, to treat a human being like Jesus, to defend my freedom and not end up a slave to any idol, to continue to seek the ultimate truth of life, to not lose hope in the human race, to not live half-heartedly, to never feel alone or misunderstood, to feel forgiven and renewed inside, to be patient with myself.

Are these times too dark to properly discuss an "historical approach" to the life of Jesus?

It's not possible to write a biography of Jesus in the modern sense of the word. However, research carried out in modern times — in Papyrology, textual criticism, literary analysis, excavations and archaeological findings, application of social science, cultural anthropology -- enable us to approximate the profile of His person, the basic features of His actions, the powerful lines and the substance of His message, the attraction aroused in His followers and the hostility He generated among religious leaders. Excluding Paul of Tarsus and Josephus, Jesus is the best known Jewish figure of his time.

Would you like to have an open discussion with Benedict XVI about the contents of your book?

I would like for Rome to listen to the various theological movements that exist today within the Church, not only in Europe, but above all, I would be happy if the hierarchy would dare to lead a movement of conversion to Jesus Christ and His project of the Kingdom of God. Nothing is more urgent than this in the Church today.

Did Jesus Christ ended up in a mass grave, like the disappeared from the Spanish Civil War?

No. Historically, it is very unlikely. This hypothesis by the American John Dominic Crossan is not accepted at all among specialists.

Would Jesus expel the merchants from the Vatican?

You don't have to wait for Jesus to return. From the millions of hungry and malnourished of the earth, from the poor forgotten by the churches, from women humiliated among all peoples, Jesus is crying out right now to the leaders of the Vatican and to all of us who call ourselves Christians to expel from the Church wealth, power, grandeur and interests that conceal His message of hope. Those barriers prevent us from working for a world where the last begin to be the first to get our attention.


  1. When the inner man has been enlightened, the scaffolding that was shaping and holding the outer man upright, is no longer necessary and must be removed. Thus…the light from within will dissolve any unnecessary structures and obstacles that stand on the way. J.

  2. And reading his book right now and it is great:

    "Podemos decir sin temor a equivocarnos que la gran revolución religiosa llevada a cabo por Jesús es haber abierto otra vía de acceso a Dios distinta de lo sagrado: la ayuda al hermano necesitado". pp. 193-194

  3. I just finished reading Jesus, an Historical Approximation. I grew up in a Christian family and I had some theological studies. I've never read anything like this about Jesus. Jose Pagola has allowed me to know a Jesus I didn't really knew.
    C Raimundo Sydney Australia

  4. Cet auteur est-il traduit en français?
    Michèle Jeunet

  5. Non, je ne crois pas que les oeuvres de JA Pagola ont été traduits en français, malheureusement.