Dutch filmmaker to publish controversial book on life of Jesus

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The book by filmmaker Paul Verhoeven runs contrary to Christian faith and suggests that Jesus could be the son of a soldier who raped Mary.

24 April 2008

AMSTERDAM - An Amsterdam publishing house said Wednesday it will release a biography of Jesus written by filmmaker Paul Verhoeven.

Verhoeven is best known as the director of blockbuster films including "Basic Instinct" and "Robocop," but he is also a member of "Jesus Seminar," a group of scholars and authors that seeks to establish historical facts about Jesus.

Marianna Sterk of the publishing house J.M. Meulenhoff said the book, "Jezus van Nazareth" includes several ideas that run contrary to Christian faith, including the suggestion that Jesus could be the son of a soldier who raped Mary during a Jewish uprising against Roman rule in 4 B.C.

The book, subtitled "A realistic portrait," also claims that Judas Iscariot was not responsible for Jesus' betrayal, she said.

The movie director's claims were greeted with some scepticism among those who have dedicated their careers to studying the life of Jesus. One issue is that there is very little information about the life of Jesus, outside of the Gospels, that dates to the first century - and the Gospels as understood by Christians for nearly 2,000 years do not support Verhoeven's ideas.

William Portier, a professor of religious studies at the University of Dayton, in Ohio, said that "Jesus Seminar" is at an extreme "minimalist" end of the range of New Testament scholarship, and known for making provocative claims, but "they are real scholars - you have to deal with them."

However, he said Verhoeven's ideas sounded "pretty out there".
John Dominic Crossan, one of the founders of "Jesus Seminar," agreed. He said that while Verhoeven was a member in good standing, there is little evidence for the view that Jesus was illegitimate.

He said the claim is first reported in a second century polemic against the Book of Matthew, intended for a Jewish audience.

"It's an obvious first retort to claims that Mary was a virgin," he said.

"If you wanted to do a hatchet job on Jesus' reputation, this would be the way."

The most likely scenario for people who don't accept that Jesus was literally the son of God and had no human father is simply that he was the son of Joseph, Crossan said.

Sterk said the book will be published in September and translated into English in 2009. Verhoeven hopes it will be a springboard for him to raise interest in making a film along the same lines, she said.

Verhoeven, 69, has dreamed of making a movie about Jesus' life for decades, she said.

Asked whether it would be difficult to follow Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" and Martin Scorsese's 1988 "The Last Temptation of Christ," she said Verhoeven knows he may be somewhat late to market.

"He is painfully aware of that," she said. "However, he has quite a different angle."

[AP / Expatica]

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