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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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A Word in Conclusion 425

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A Word in Conclusion We have travelled a relatively long way. En route, we have posed a number of questions that first arose from an analysis of the current situation in Christian churches: in their witness, confessions and theological theory and practice. We have stopped several times to consider both interna- tional (primarily European) and Czech theologians. I have also directed my considerations toward questions that characterize the life and thought of secular people – the citizens of our postmodern society. Jesus’ story has been the focus of my analyses. In these, I have mainly attempted to underscore Jesus’ incomparable witness to God and his coming reign. I have also sought to stress the significance that this witness has for us – although we are separated from the Nazarene’s public activity by the veil of historical distance. I have been concerned to accentuate the pre- passion phase of Jesus’ life, which I regard to be the crux of his message. What occurred between the time that the Son of man was arrested and his crucifixion was – in an heightened form – what God’s most faithful witness had already experienced throughout his life pilgrimage. In this sense, the message about Jesus’ crucifixion on Golgotha is an organic part of the mes- sage about his life. Jesus’ death on the cross is confirmation of the salvific nature of his earlier life. However, the essence of Jesus’ good tidings lies in his life from the very moment of his first public appearance; during innu- merable encounters...

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