There is some puzzlement at how readily the book has been embraced by the Church establishment. Many people would point out that there is a difference between a book of scholarly investigation, and a novel that employs plausible data, such as this. From the Press release, it would not appear that this distinction has been clearly remembered. The Press pack states, for example, that “the authors suggest … Jesus did not walk on water or turn water into wine at the marriage feast at Cana – ‘These things never happened’ declares Judas.”
This statement appears to go beyond saying that the (fictional) Judas did not believe these things happened. It implies that neither Mr Archer nor Professor Moloney believe that Jesus performed these particular miracles. This raises questions about the authors' relationship to events later in the novel, such as this: "Judas could not accept that Jesus had risen from the dead, and he parted company with Peter."
However, Professor Moloney is a Biblical Scholar of the highest standing within the Church, and a friend of Cardinal Martini. An interesting statement from Fr Stephen Pisano, Rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute, seems to distance the Institute from the book; “The only reason we accepted to allow the book to be presented is the presence of Fr Francis Moloney, who is a well known and very capable New Testament scholar… I would like to emphasize that allowing the presentation of this book does not imply that the Biblical Institute itself, or the Vatican or the Pope endorses this book in any way.”
Not being at the launch, I cannot enter the discussion fully. Some seminarians from Allen Hall (pictured standing, left) were present, and speaking to one afterwards, he was concerned that the novel, written as though it were a 'Gospel', presents no notion of Jesus’ awareness of his death as a sacrifice, or of his fulfilment of the will of God as worked out in the Old Testament.
All together, an odd evening. I wonder what Archbishop Gregorios (far left of the picture, above) made of it all!