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Jesus the Liberator: A Historical-Theological Reading of Jesus of Nazareth Paperback – March 1, 1994
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Unlike the academic endeavors regarding the historical Jesus that leave us either disconnected from Jesus by limiting him to a finite context in history, or, reduce him to symbol of our personal wishes - thus creating him in our image, the Jesus we meet through Sobrino is a spiritual challenge that, like the proclamation of the Kingdom of God - the central message of Jesus' teaching and life actions, we are faced with a kyros of decision. This decision we face is not just a decision about who Jesus was and is for us today, but, a decision for life's living and what that means for our own interconnectedness to others and the entire world we live in.
This work, considered his magnum opus, may be also thought of as the modus operandi of the Christian church in the world today. It is hoped that the newly elected pope, Francis, will draw from Sobrino's insights to truly lead a church for the poor of the world in action and not just as empty slogan.
Although under a decades-long dark cloud generated by the Vatican, Fr. Sobrino continues to write and teach at the University of Central America. As of this writing, Pope Francis seems to be orchestrating what some call the "rehabilitation" of liberation theology. (Witness the warm welcome being extended to the Peruvian Dominican theologian, 86-year-old Gustavo Guttierrez, as a key speaker at a Vatican event this week.)
So it seems an apt time to revisit this book, one of the classic texts on any liberation theology reading list. The book appeared two years after the massacre mentioned above; its sequel, Christ the Liberator: A View from the Victims, came out in 1999.
Under the previous two pontiffs, for an influential element in the Catholic Church (from the top down?) liberation theology equaled a certain understanding of Marxism. And, apart from its theological dimensions, that non-nuanced understanding of Marxism ineluctably was tied into any suggestion that political, social, or economic inequality is not part of God's plan for the right ordering of the universe. So Sobrino's bold contention that "the Kingdom of God is for the poor" (p. 100) managed to mingle heresy and leftishness in certain quarters. Hopefully the multiplicity of Jesus-as-liberator Scriptural citations throughout this book has scrubbed away that stain for a 21st-century readership.
Even in the time of Jesus, however, there was what Sobrino calls the Anti-Kingdom, "against which the Kingdom must be preached." (p. 24) In our own day, Sobrino says: "The deepest impact of liberation theology, I believe, lies in helping the poor to overcome this feeling of helplessness and powerlessness, to believe that liberation from [today's Anti-Kingdom] is possible." (p. 94)
Well annotated, well thought-out, insightful, in-depth, the book uses a wide range of sources to bring the author's argument forward. This is one of the most accessible works of liberation theology for the inquisitive reader.