April 1, 2010
WW: Many books have been written about Jesus, at least one of which is still in print. So why this book, and why now?
Paul Verhoeven: You could argue that nearly all books that are written about Jesus where people have done thorough research, are written by Christians. And here is somebody [me] who looks at it from a completely secular point of view. So I think that would be interesting for people who also have their doubts about divinity, but are still perhaps interested in the figure of Jesus, as a historical person who changed the whole world by his teachings. That’s what it is all about and not, not in my opinion, that Jesus was elevated to divine status. That, I think, was a mistake.
You’re trying to restore what you see as his ecumenical ethics to the man himself.
Yeah, clear. In my opinion Jesus was wrong about certain things, but even as he was really wrong in thinking that the Kingdom of God was going to be there shortly, and that the exorcisms were approved, at the same time—I call it a paradox nearly—he invented these parables, and the parables are expression of an innovative ethics.
… The book is a beginner’s guide to the Gospels. It also has your personal theory of Jesus as a cross between Che Guevara and Bertolt Brecht.
I would say the parallel is slightly there with Che Guevara, but of course Che Guevara’s ethics are different than Jesus’. And if I compare him with Brecht, that is only in the way Brecht has tried in his work to keep distance, to avoid the identification that happens in American movies, where for the pleasure of the audience you can identify with the hero or the heroine. And I think the parables Jesus invented and spoke follow a little bit more Brecht than, say, Hitchcock.
For the rest of the interview, please see the Willamette Week.