Thursday, June 05, 2014

The chief error in Wills’s attempt at primitivist reformation is the mistaken assumption that first-century people must be just like 21st-century people. The picture we get of the early Church in Why Priests? is a demythologized reversal of a fanciful Catholic Last Supper, with Jesus wearing a fiddleback chasuble, stole, and maniple. Rather than take pains to show why early Christians must have really meant and implied everything that the Council of Trent taught, Wills takes pains to show why early Christians must have really denied and abhorred everything that the Council of Trent taught.

Wills might consider the possibility that first-century people did not think and keep records like 21st-century people do. Not only was their culture more deeply oral; compared to ours, it was so saturated in ritual and cult that the unbloody “oblation” of Christians to their one God would have seemed utterly atheistic and anti-religious.

Pagans had trouble recognizing Christianity as a religion not, as Wills suggests, because it had absolutely no sacrifice and no priests, but because its sacrifice bore little resemblance to anything that they called sacrifice, its priests differed markedly from their own cultic leaders, and its God seemed unrecognizably divine.

Read it all.

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