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From Christ’s Death to Jesus’ Life

A Critical Reinterpretation of Prevailing Theories of the Cross- Translated by Joyce J. Michael

Jakub S. Trojan

This book began to materialize in the 1960s and 1970s during clandestine seminars organized by the author for Czechoslovak thinkers who dared to ponder theological questions during the communist era. It therefore provides a revealing glimpse of some of the issues that were of concern to people living under the domination of both the Nazi and communist regimes. This aspect of the book is evident in its emphasis on questions of theodicy which are raised by the idea that Jesus’ death was initiated by God.
At the same time, the book is very much concerned with contemporary issues. By analyzing traditional understandings of the cross held by a number of prominent theologians, the author seeks to address the fact that classic theories of the atonement do not speak in a compelling way to today’s secularized, post-Christian milieu. After examining perspectives that place central emphasis on the salvific consequence of Jesus’ death, the author presents his own views regarding the significance that Jesus’ life may have for the present age. He challenges his readers to venture a living interpretation of Scripture and explores the possibility that God’s plan of salvation is most faithfully represented by the compassion and justice that Jesus modelled throughout his entire life.


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Preface xiii


Preface Why did I write this book? For many years, I have thought about the question, which is the crux of the thesis that I will put forth; namely, what significance does Jesus’ death on the cross have? Is it really the core of the Christian faith, the key to understanding what is at stake in it? Is it the most important pillar of the message that connects all of the main streams of the Christian tradition? Is the statement ave crux, spes unicam actually – or exclusively – valid? During the past few years, I have devoted attention to this issue in my lectures at the Protestant Theological Faculty of Charles University. The students registered for these classes under the title ‘Jesus’ Story’. The name of the course should have signalled that it would involve a consideration of the whole range of encounters, sermons, conversations and acts of healing that Jesus carried out; his dealings with people who were on the fringes of society; his discussions with individuals who were the bearers of both temporal and spiritual authority; and everything else that was in contrast to Jesus’ death and was a most significant corroboration of God’s salvific dealings with the human race. In my remarks to the students, I also wanted to keep in mind how the man from Nazareth understood his message and especially, the Jewish tradition to which he belonged. Consequently, we could not skip the Sermon on the Mount, which presented a sort of mission statement about ‘the...

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