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Jesus, the Unprecedented Human Being

Giosuè Ghisalberti

Does Jesus remain concealed by the very traditions intended to portray him? History and theology define Jesus to be a 1st-century Galilean or the son of God, a man limited by his time and place or exalted as the Messiah and Christ. He has been recognized as a Jewish rabbi or the prophet of a coming apocalypse. The quest for the historical Jesus and theology’s Christ of faith may both be essential and undeniable in the history of scholarship. Secular historians and the Christian church have made their claims. Jesus’ self-conception, however, has been neglected, his consciousness largely ignored. A new interpretation of the gospels presents Jesus as a unprecedented human being who will "utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world" (Matt. 13:35) and make their meanings significant for the here and now. Jesus’ life from the virgin birth to the resurrection can neither be reduced to history’s scepticism nor theology’s affirmation. Is it possible to re-imagine the life and words of Jesus? He reveals himself to be a "first-born" who makes possible the second act of creation for every individual no less than for the social world.

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Hermeneutics of the Gospels

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As the gospel writers each begin their account, for their present and for a future posterity they cannot possibly anticipate or imagine, they are burdened with an almost overwhelming responsibility of representing events in the life of Jesus (his acts and his words) and to make him present to their readers despite being separated both from the man himself and the sources available to them. With compelling motivations, and recognizing the fragility of their communities and the hostility of the social world around them, the writers of the gospels attempt to portray Jesus as someone who comes into the world to be an inauguration and to begin to actualize in being what has remained, until him, inconceivable. However, despite sensing Jesus’ dynamic ability to initiate such a possibility for the first time since creation, from out of himself in the fullness of his human presence, they always return him to a prior scriptural history. They need to give him an origin in a three-part tradition announcing him from the past and thereby making him legitimate, with the most authoritative credentials related to Abraham the patriarch, David the king, and the prophets as world-historical individuals. Each writer distinguishes himself from all oral traditions because their gospel is now permanent. They avoid the discrepancy of word-of-mouth versions by creating what they believe to be two related and complementary historical events, each with a source and chronology: the life of Jesus as previously handed down by oral testimonies and, perhaps, by...

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