- Paperback: 290 pages
- Publisher: Paulist Press (November 1, 1976)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 080912081X
- ISBN-13: 978-0809120819
- Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,182,503 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Jesus the Christ Paperback – November 1, 1976
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He wrote in the Foreword to this 1974 book, "In its present form... it is intended primarily as a stimulus to further thought on the subject. Jesus Christ is one of those figures with whom you are never finished once you have begun to explore his personality... I have written this book for all those who read and study theology as well as for clergy and laity in the service of the Church. But I also intend it for the very many Christians for whom participation in theological debate is now part of their faith." (Pg. 9)
He states, "The starting point of Christology is the phenomenology of faith in Christ; faith as it is actually believed, lived, proclaimed and practised in the Christian churches. Faith in Jesus Christ can arise only from encounter with believing Christians. The proper content and the ultimate criterion of Christology is however, Jesus Christ himself: his life, destiny, words and work... Jesus Christ is primary, and faith of the Church the secondary criterion of Christology. Neither of the two criteria can be pitted against the other. The question is of course how the two criteria are to be joined together." (Pg. 28)
He admits, "Literary criticism reveals a tendency to intensify, magnify and multiply the miracles. According to Mk 1:34, Jesus healed many sick; in the parallel Mt 8:16 he heals them all. In Mark Jairus's daughter is on the point of death; in Matthew she is already dead. The healing of one blind man and one possessed becomes the healing of two blind men and two possessed. The feeding of the 4000 becomes the feeding of the 5000, and the seven baskets left over become twelve. If this tendency to develop, multiply and intensify can be found in the gospels themselves, then naturally it must also be presumed to have existed in the period before our gospels were compiled... The result of all this is that we must describe many of the gospel miracle stories as legendary. Legends of this sort should be examined less for their historical than for their theological content." (Pg. 89, 90)
He notes, "Did Jesus claim to be the Christ: that is, the Messiah? The title Messiah or Christ was regarded even in the New Testament as so central that it finally became a proper name of Jesus... Did Jesus himself claim to be the Messiah?... it is no surprise that in the Gospels the title Messiah is never found in the mouth of Jesus. It could have too many meanings, and was too liable to misunderstanding to be a clear description of his mission. The title is always applied to Jesus by others, and he corrects or even criticizes it (of Mk 8:29-33)." (Pg. 104-105)
About the difference in the Last Supper between the Synoptics and John, he says, "There is... much to be said for the Johannine account. It is unlikely, for example, that the Sanhedrin would have met on the most solemn Jewish feast day. Also, the facts that the disciples ... and the arrest party ... are armed, and that Simon of Cyrene is returning from work in the fields... support the view that Jesus died on the day before the Passover feast, that is 14th Nisan." (Pg. 113)
This book will be of considerable interest to many Christians (particularly Catholics) studying the historical Jesus, but also of the doctrinal development about him.
Kasper's JESUS THE CHRIST (1974) remains one of the more comprehensive surveys of Christology in print. All of the central issues in Christology are touched upon. The focus is on the New Testament teaching, but there is discussion of later doctrinal developments and Kasper interacts with other theologians (such as Bultmann and Tillich).
What is most surprising is how liberal this work is. Kasper doesn't have much confidence in the accuracy of the New Testament. Like most of contemporary Catholic biblical scholarship, the infancy narratives are dismissed as mostly unhistorical. All the "nature miracles" (walking on water, raising the dead, the transfiguration, the multiplication of the loaves, etc.) are also unhistorical "legends." Kasper then proceeds to discuss Jesus' healings and exorcisms, the authenticity of some he appears to accept, but his subsequent discussion of the theology of miracles makes you wonder if he believes Jesus performed miracles in the way commonly assumed. Kasper believes that Jesus had some insight into the salvific meaning of his death, but how and why he isn't sure. Was the tomb empty? We can't be sure, but what really matters is the apostolic preaching of the risen Christ.
It's too bad that Kasper didn't interact with more conservative writers. Most authors Kasper discusses are German, and of a fairly liberal perspective. English writers that could have provided balance, such as F.F. Bruce, aren't mentioned. The end result is a comprehensive, if one-sided discussion of Christology.