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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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Translator’s Introduction xvii


Translator’s Introduction To provide a context for the discussion that will follow, a brief biographical sketch of the book’s author may be in order. In a sense, Professor Jakub S. Trojan is a ‘hero’ of Czech Protestant scholarship. During the communist era, he was forced to work as the manager of a state-owned cooperative, rather than being permitted to serve as a pastor or teacher. He was repeat- edly followed, harassed and held for questioning because of his commit- ment to human rights and his opposition to the dehumanizing policies of the communist regime. He was a signatory of the important human rights document known as Charter 77, and he delivered the funeral sermon for Jan Palach, the university student who set himself on fire to protest the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Professor Trojan also regu- larly hosted ‘apartment seminars’, where Czechoslovak thinkers gathered secretly to discuss theological issues and to consider Western scholarship that had been obtained clandestinely. Thus, Professor Trojan remained actively informed about scholarly developments, and following the Velvet Revolution in 1989, he became the chair of the department of ethics at the Protestant Theological Faculty of Charles University in Prague. He also served two terms as dean of the Faculty, and although he of ficially retired a few years ago, he continues to teach at PTF, where his lively mind challenges his students to take a step beyond the tendencies toward fundamentalism and secularism, which are characteristic of this era. Professor Trojan’s approach...

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