the relevance of Jesus Christ: a modest proposal (i)

Speaking of judicious speculation, I’ve been pondering how and why Christ is relevant today.

Now, there’s a simple and obvious answer to this — He is Lord. Case closed. But I was reading Nathan Kerr’s recent book Christ, History and Apocalyptic, and I got to thinking about what we mean when we say, Jesus is Lord.

8th Century Byzantine Coin (from CNG coins) -- with Jesus on one side and Emperor Justinian II on the other

8th Century Byzantine coin (from CNG coins) with Jesus on one side and Emperor Justinian II on the other

Classically, of course, what we mean has been tied to the intuition that in Jesus we’re not only dealing with a human being but with God. That is, that the One who ‘made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, and being found in human likeness became obedient unto death’ is the same One who enjoyed — but did not exploit — equality with God (Phil 2.6-9).

Hence, when He stepped into our history, how could He be anything but relevant?

Jesus walked around first century Palestine. A Jewish man living at a particular time in a particular location. Speaking one (or maybe two) particular languages — no doubt with an accent. Interacting with particular, historical people — people like Pontius Pilate. But His relevance transgresses the boundaries of this historical particularity and spatio-temporal ‘locatedness’. He’s not just a man. When we have dealings with Him, we’re dealing with God Himself.

Don’t we feel that we have to say this? Or something very much like it? Isn’t it more or less inescapable? (And who would even want to escape it anyway?)

Well … the problem is that this isn’t how the New Testament usually speaks of Jesus’ lordship. It can give the impression that we need to pierce the veil of Christ’s humanity in order to perceive His — fundamentally ahistorical — relevance. That His historical particularity somehow obstructs our view of His lordship. But as Kerr puts it (p 133):

[T]he dogmatic basis of the Christian faith — the confession that ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ — is a statement concerning the most radically contingent and most thoroughgoing historical reality of all, namely, the event of the crucifixion and resurrection of the man Jesus of Nazareth.

This what I hope to unpack in my modest proposal for understanding Christ’s relevance without compromising his historical particularity…

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7 comments

    1. Great to hear from you, Geoff. I knew signing up to Facebook would eventually pay off in generating blog traffic!

      Numismatic… Ah, yes — the coin! (I had to look it up.) I hesitated about including it because I wondered whether an imperial coin implicitly claiming Jesus’ divine sanction might be exactly the wrong kind of relevance to claim. What do you think?

  1. I would modify the ‘Topic/Subject’ to read: The Relevance of (the) Lord.

    “Jesus Christ” notwithstanding, the Life, Light and Love of such a One personifies my point (and I daresay was and is ‘His’ point as well).

    Like a Lighted Candle, He lights another… and is, in a timely manner, no more upon the earth. Alas, the Light is the same as before. Such it was before the Incarnation of the historical personality of “Jesus”… Such it is even unto this very day.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Roland. But I think that’s exactly what I don’t want to say — or (at least) I don’t want to say it in that way. My sense is that when it comes to what we know of the Lord, there is no ‘Jesus Christ notwithstanding’. There’s no way around His concrete history.

      If the relevance of the Lord (as you put it) is unchanging and bears no connection to ‘the Incarnation of the historical personality of “Jesus”‘, then why bother with the incarnation or the historical Jesus at all?

  2. “If the relevance of the Lord (as you put it) is unchanging and bears no connection to ‘the Incarnation of the historical personality of “Jesus”‘, then why bother with the incarnation or the historical Jesus at all?”

    I honor and respect Past Masters or ‘Lords’ in each their domains and periods, -Moses gave us the ‘Law’; Solomon, his wisdom; Hippocrates, the ‘Father of Medicine’ did wonders for all those who partook of his kindly hand… however, If I were in need of legal advise; wisdom and/or medical attention, I would seek among the living to satisfy my need. In that I am in need of spiritual instruction, it behooves me to sit at the Holy Feet of the Living Master or Lord.

    I Don’t “bother with the incarnation or the historical Jesus at all”.

    ‘History’ has been and is corrupted (‘translated’ by those who either do not respect it as it is or, remove or omit certain valuable information that ‘they’ find embarrassing or too revealing… thereby retaining ‘certain valuable information’ for ‘themselves’.

    Modern-day ‘Scholars’, ‘word-wise’, have not the heart or mind to plumb the ‘words’ of the Master (without Knowing Him directly).

    The ‘history’ as it concerns “Jesus Christ” i.e. the Holy Gospels, is a latter-day created ‘document’ -written to ‘appear’ as though it was written in His day… it Wasn’t.

    Who the hell is Mark and Luke anyway?

    Screw Saul of Tarsus and his epiphany.

    Roland, a reluctant iconoclast

    1. Wow. It sounds like you’re pretty fired-up about all this, Roland. And that you have some genuine concerns about the reliability of what the New Testament says about Jesus. I’ve done a little bit of research and come to some quite different conclusions, so I’d be interested to read anything you could direct me to that has led you to your conclusions.

      Chris

  3. I assumed that the box (Website) http://jesusbarabbas.info would be included in the Post… wherein I have ‘answered’ or come to my ‘conclusion on the matter’, mainly as it concerns Jesus Barabbas’, are well known.

    Yes, I am “…pretty fired-up about all this”, -particularly and mainly as it concerns Jesus Barabbas, -the object of my nearly fifty year search, study, torment and deep contemplation.

    Not knowing who was ‘Barabbas’ was ‘a thorn in my side’, so to speak, since I first remember hearing about Him at the age of eleven or twelve years old; knowing ‘Barabbas’ has been ‘a thorn in my side’ since I was thirty-seven… “Jesus Christ” became ‘a thorn in my side’ at that time… that was thirty years ago.

    There really was a corporal or physically living, sentient Jesus Barabbas; and, there was (is) the ‘documented evidence’ i.e. the Holy Gospel as it concerns “Jesus Christ”. They are inexorably intertwined, even “if”, as in the words of Josephus, “it be lawful to call him a man”, (…for he was a doer of wonderful works -a teacher of such men as receive truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians , so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”) , -on the one hand, a partially switched truth; on the other hand, unabashed and blatant hyperbole.

    Of the ‘partially switched truth’ that Jesus Barabbas was anything other than as His Aramaic appellation, is plain, -to wit, written in the original Greek Gospel according or attributed to Mathew (27:17), His birth name was removed or omitted from the Latin translation of the same text (around 390 c. e.) and most of the subsequent translations thereafter… leaving us latter-day people with only ‘Barabbas’ in stead. ‘Barabbas’ is not a proper name or surname per se’, any more so than is “Christ”, -it is what He (this particular Jesus) was called, it means: Bar = Son + Abba = Father (as in ‘the Father of us all’ or ‘God’), if you will. Although portrayed exclusively in the Holy Gospels, Jesus Barabbas is “a notorious robber, murderer and insurrectionist” (without evidence, much less proof) who was incongruently chosen by the Jews of ‘those days’ to be released from prison (because they had a ‘custom’ -never before or since chronicled) while, at the same time, demand the death (penalty) of ‘the descendant of David and Jewish messiah’. This one wonders why… on both accounts. Despite His notoriety, no historian wrote a single word concerning Him. His actual name was Judas the Galilean (or Judas bar Judas) (Acts 5:37).

    Saul of Tarsus -aka the Apostle and eventual Saint Paul, namesake, fellow tribesman and descendant of the first ‘anointed’ king of the Jews, -whose great-great grandfather was rebuked by the unseen Lord, dishonored and ashamed “fell upon his own sword” (ostensibly to avoid being capture by the enemies of Israel), thus bringing everlasting ‘dishonor and shame’ to his heirs and descendants, -not to mention barring his heirs and descendants from ascending the royal throne of Israel to his heirs and descendants for all time…

    Born around the same time as Judas the Galilean, -author of a fourth sect among the Jews, rose up in the days of the census or taxation (around 6-7 c. e.) , a failed Pharisaic student of Gamaliel and temple thug, he plotted the demise of his life-long nemesis and arch enemy… the ‘descendant(s) of David and Jewish messiah’ -who replaced the tribe of Benjamin on the throne.

    …prompt me for more

    Roland, a reluctant iconoclast.

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