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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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Part III - The Author’s Interpretation of Jesus’ Story 313

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Part III The Author’s Interpretation of Jesus’ Story Chapter 16 Jesus’ Story: A Challenge for Us Introduction We have a long journey behind us. We have analyzed several key theological figures from the Czech tradition. However, our gaze has also been focused on prominent European thinkers, primarily from German-speaking areas. In addition, we have given consideration to the Japanese proponent of the theology of God’s pain. In the course of analyzing the positions of specific thinkers, I have added a number of critical comments. At the very beginning of this final section, let us attempt to summarize those scattered objections in a few points. 1) I have stressed that it is necessary to de-emphasize Jesus’ death on the cross. That is not the exclusive or pivotal subject of the New Testament message about salvation. My arguments have been based on the recognition that in the New Testament canon, we find ‘theologies’ of Jesus’ story that are dif ferent than the ones which the author of the Gospel of Mark and the Apostle Paul elaborated. I have suggested factors that led the authors of the gospel accounts and the New Testament Epistles to associate the specific understandings that have prevailed in the Christian tradition for many centuries with Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Those understandings will be the focus of our attention in this part of the analysis. 2) I have opposed the idea that the cross is the single decisive point in Jesus’ story, and have placed the emphasis on...

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