Jesus the Wicked Priest - wow, what an attention-getting and provocative title. Appropriate, too, for the inevitably controversial ideas put forth in Vining’s book. More than likely this book will be an equal opportunity offender of every religion that can trace its roots back to a belief in Jesus. My mother practically gave birth to a cow just from seeing the title.
It gets a bit convoluted, but the general gist is that while Vining considers (as Christians do) that Jesus was concerned with doing good, he questions whether or not doing so coincided with the Essenes, the religious sect in which he was raised. The traditionalist Essenes saw Jesus as a rebel who broke the sanctity of the Sabbath and were aghast that he associated with all people, including prostitutes and lepers.
The premise for this interesting interpretation comes from the Dead Sea Scrolls, which speak of the Teacher and the Wicked Priest. Vining extrapolates somewhat wildly from there, careening from orthodox to unorthodox theological sources to frame his arguments so often that you may get a bit dizzy while reading it.
Some of the suggestions will be extremely offensive to the devout, but then again the blindly devout would never consider Jesus the Wicked Priest: How Christianity Was Born of an Essene Schism as possible reading material. Still, be warned that some speculations will stretch your credulity.
Despite the seemingly heretical topic, Jesus the Wicked Priest is a fascinating read and I strongly recommend it if you can stomach ideas as far from the zip code of usual teachings as the Earth is from the moon.