Monday, December 3, 2018
November 16, 2018
Translator's Note: I have many questions about López Vigil's assertions in this article, which don't seem to me to be supported by the Bible or standard Biblical scholarship but his perspective is interesting.
"Paul of Tarsus, who didn't know Jesus of Nazareth, invented Jesus Christ and, moreover, since he was misogynist, proslavery, and homophobic, he created a Church in his image and likeness." He says it all in one fell swoop and, when finished, asks those present, "Have I spoken many heresies?" And the truth is that, with his long beard, gray hair and glasses, José Ignacio López Vigil seems a holy father rather than a heretic. Of course, he speaks and writes very clearly, as he has been demonstrating, for years, on his radio programs and in his books.
Yesterday, specifically, he presented his latest work ¡Frente a frente! San Pablo Apóstol, el que inventó a Cristo y María Magdalena, la que conoció a Jesús ["Face to Face! Saint Paul the Apostle, the one who invented Christ, and Mary Magdalene, the one who knew Jesus" -- Ediciones feadulta.com, 2018], before a large audience which filled the auditorium of Chaminade High School. A new book that, like all the previous ones, is written in four hands with his sister, María López Vigil, who is also a journalist.
The introduction of the table, which included the author along with theologian Xabier Pikaza, was given by Africa de la Cruz, professor emeritus of psychology at the Autonomous University of Madrid, who began by recalling "the important role that the two sibling writers played in my spiritual evolution." With several of their works, but especially with Un tal Jesus, the most famous and the most controversial one, but that served as food for generations of believers, who, from their hand, "made the mortal leap from the Jesus of the Creed to the 'brown man from Nazareth,' from a God to be feared and basically hated, to the God of love and only love."
Of the new book, the object of the presentation, the professor praised its "casual and irreverent style, its apparent simplicity and its simplification and, even, its sense of humor and its engaging narrative form."
Then, a video of theologian José María Castillo, author of several books on the subject, who says that "the problem started with Paul," was screened. After greeting those present, he described the López Vigil siblings as "people of significant gospel depth and remarkable intellectual competence."
Regarding the work, Castillo wanted to emphasize that the expository simplicity is not at odds with the depth, although "there are people who confuse the simplicity and clear-sightedness of direct communication with lack of intellectual depth." In his opinion, to speak plainly and clearly like Jesus, "is not to lower the level of reliability" and, in addition, one reaches many more people that way.
"There are mentalities formed in high speculation that give more value to theories, but Jesus spoke in parables and his teaching was narrative theology, a theology that is as valuable as the purely speculative and, in many cases, goes further and reaches to what is deepest in the faith of the simple," concluded the theologian, asserting that the authors "have that gift of the narrative theology." A gift "that few have."
After thanking Castillo, who appears in the series initially composed as radio chronicles, one of the authors, José Ignacio López Vigil, jumps into the arena, picks up the microphone and with his accent a mix of Asturias Spanish passed through Latin America for many years (and he is still there), goes straight to the point from the beginning. As if he wanted to shake up and provoke those present who, on the other hand, came wanting to be shaken up.
And he launches a series of clear and emphatic statements: "Paul wrote his letters knowing nothing, absolutely nothing about Jesus. He neither knew Jesus nor ate fish with him. He just had a revelation on the way to Damascus and began to write, without even going back to Jerusalem to speak with Mary, his mother, or with Mary Magdalene, his companion."
Therefore, "in Paul's letters there is no geography nor history." So much so that Paul, the traveler, the intellectual of the Pharisaic school of Gamaliel who knew three languages (Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek) and knew how to write while "the other disciples and Jesus himself were illiterate," that Paul "invented Jesus Christ."
Moreover, "Paul of Tarsus was not only homophobic, misogynist and proslavery, but he also invented the theory of original sin and, as a consequence, the thesis of expiation." To redeem the world from that terrible sin, God, enraged, sends his own Son to be killed and with his blood he washes away the sin and God is quiet. Terrible."
The opposite face of nascent Christianity is offered, according to López Vigil, by Mary Magdalene, "the founder of Christianity, who proclaimed 'he is alive and his project did not end on the cross'." The one who is opposed in the book, to the homophobia of Paul of Tarsus. Among other things, because "all those who go to communion have prayed before the prayer of a gay man, the Roman centurion, who says to Jesus, 'Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter my house (to heal my partner), but one word of yours will be enough to heal him.' " *
The worst of these two opposing forms of Christianity is, for López Vigil, that "the Church opted for that of Paul of Tarsus and completely marginalized that of Mary Magdalene." Therefore, in his opinion, "it is crucial to recover the gospels and Mary Magdalene."
After the author's first intervention, Xabier Pikaza, like the great biblist he is, wanted to clarify López Vigil's statements a little and said that, contrary to what is usually thought, "the Paul of whom you speak is the popular Paul, to whom are attributed some assertions that are obvious interpolations, such as what he says about women."
According to Pikaza, "Paul did admirable things and, most important, he said that Jesus was God." The biblical scholar acknowledges that "it seems that Paul had a misogyny problem, but in his Church women were equal to men." And he ended by stressing that "Paul was fundamental and, without him, Christianity would not have been able to move forward" and by asking the authors for new installments of their work on the authentic Paul.
López Vigil accepted the challenge to keep on discussing and writing about Paul of Tarsus in new books, to then submit to the questions of those present. In his answers, he recalled for example that he wrote Un tal Jesús "in the beautiful days of Liberation Theology, which John Paul II busied himself ruining."
Asked again about Magdalene, he asserted that "although the Church, to marginalize her, characterized her as a prostitute, she was really a fish seller who fell in love with Jesus and Jesus with her, an extraordinary woman, a fighting Galilean." Therefore, in his opinion, "you have to reclaim her, because she was the apostle of the apostles."
To connect the current Church to Mary Magdalene's Christianity, López Vigil asked the Pope for "a Church that abolishes celibacy and a Church with women leaders, not women priests, because if the Church doesn't have a feminine face, it isn't the Church of Jesus."
Asked about the relationship between celibacy and clergy abuse, López Vigil denied a direct relationship but he stated that "the Church prohibited priests from marriage to defend its heritage and imposed celibacy so that priests' wives could not inherit anything," and he proclaimed that "celibacy is an anti-natural law that can cause anti-natural reactions and, therefore, it must be abolished."
Contrary to what is usually argued, López Vigil said that "Jesus was a happy and talkative peasant, who liked to tell jokes and riddles, as well as someone radically revolutionary, although he couldn't write and could barely read, stumbling."
And he ended by proclaiming that the Church must "remove fear and guilt, because, if you believe in hell, you don't believe in God," and inviting to hope, because "another God is possible," as the title of another of his works says.
* Translator's note: For a summary of the scholarship behind the interpretation that the Roman centurion was gay, see Jay Michaelson's 2012 article "When Jesus Healed a Same-Sex Partner."