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Faith today

„It is not what we think but how we live that matters. I think this holds for everyone regardless of ideology. In religion, this means that it is not the dogma, as that are decisive, but the moral message from Jesus. That is why the Herbst book was so important for me,” says Andras Gromon, the translator into Hungarian of The Real Jesus (Der wirkliche Jesus. Das total andere Gottesbild), written by Karl Herbst of Germany, the book  which then became a subject of stormy disputes in Hungary. Father Gromon believes that the real heretic is not one who beleves differently from the doctrines of the Church but who does not act as he should in accordance with the moral teachings of Jesus. It seems, that condemning „moral heresy” is not a hot issue of the Catholic Church – says Gromon. 

The Jesus described in Herbst’s book regarded himself a man and „the son of man” (in Aramaic dialect Jesus spoke the term meant an „ordinary man”). While he was protecting from the power of the priest, the pharisees and the false prophets, the same time he criticized these titles. He did not consider himself either Messiah or God. Herbst points out that the doctrine „Jesus is God” should be accepted on the terms that „Jesus Christ himself taught us”, as the Calcedonian Synod declared some one-and-a-half-thousend years ago. He adds: „We, theologians of today, become guilty if we do not research whether the historical Jesus (rather  than a Christ of faith!) did in fact identified himself with God.”

This is by no means underestimation, says Herbst, for „there is no title of greater dignity than just ’Modest Seeker of God’.” In Herbst’s interpretation, it was just rumored of this seeker that he performed miracles. The sick he touched recovered becouse their faith, their trust in God and Jesus. Nor does Herbst accept that Jesus walked on water. In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 14., the case cited by the Apostle Peter expressed as a meaningful dream, while Paul’s faith in resurrection was a belief rooted in a vision. 

Doubts concerning resurrection are now often mentioned in Christian theology – even apart from the excommunication of the Hungarian translator of the Herbst book. The Easter issue of Newsweek, for instance, reports on dozens of books questioning the resurrection of Jesus, writings whose only common denominator is that each differs from the traditional teachings. There are a lot of different explanations becouse it is a fact that devout people who think rationally find a lot of things that need explanation. 

To this day there is no rational, non-ambivalent explanation on what happened between the sighiting of the empty grave and the appearance of the resurrected Christ as described in the Gospel. The reports on the manifestations of Jesus are in themselves controversial. According to Lukes, Jesus appeared to his disciples in Jerusalem. Matthew’s account is that he was seen in Galilee. Matthew asserts that Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalen, Luke speaks about his becoming initially visible to Peter. In the earlier Gospel of Mark, Jesus did not manifest himself to anyone after resurrection.

Lack of reliable data is one of the reasons why there are more theories of resurrection today than at any time in the past. Holger Kersten says in his book published in Germany that Jesus lived in India and continued to live there even after the Easter in question. This is not a new idea, as in Kashmir, visitors are taken to the grave of Jesus, and even to the grave of Moses, nearby.

Gerd Lüdemann and Alf Özen, whose work What Happened with Jesus – A Historical Approach to Resurrection (Was mit Jesus wirklich geschah – Die Auferstehung historisch betrachtet) recieved wide popular response in Germany, postulate that there was no resurrection, but what happened was that the body of Jesus fell to ashes in his grave and his manifestation to Peter was a matter of „subjective vision” due to feelings of guilt over his denial of the Master when Jesus was cought.

Ferenc Szabó, a Hungarian Jesuit, wrote in the November 26, 1995 issue of the Új Ember (New Man, the Catholic weekly appearing in Budapest) the following about Karl Herbst, the author of the Real Jesus (Der wirkliche Jesus): He „demystifies the Gospels, and degrades Jesus into an ordinary human being seeking God, and in this way scandalously and heretically eliminates the mystery of Easter, the essence of Christianity. The scandal is made more appealling by the fact that this pseudo-scientific book was written in German by a Catholic priest, and was translated into Hungarian and is circulating in this country by a Catholic priest”.

Herbst and Gromon admit that the „demiracleizing” is on their part quite deliberate, for in their mind faith, the trust in God, needs not the evidence of miracles. People who live in the spirit of love, the love of the enemy and charity develop this faith more easily, the less is spoken about miracles. 

According to the thesis postulated by Herbst and Gromon but condemned by the Church, Jesus is a man who believes and not a God one has to believe in. One can be a good Christian without believing in Jesus’ resurrection on Easter. For the German author and his Hungarian translator faith means trust in God – a human decision.  That is why Gromon preached in a sermon delivered while he still held his pulpit: „Faith is not God’s gift to man, but man’s gift to God.” 

(G. F. in HVG, 4. May 1996)


related article:

The Excommunication of Father Gromon

Hungarian versions:

Gromon plébános kiközösítése

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