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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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5 Nature


The exclusive self-designation “the son of man” was used by Jesus to repeatedly affirm an aspect of himself no one, including his disciples, had the capacity to understand; its meaning and consequences eluded them, even when Mark claims “he explained everything” (Mark 4:34) to them. Unlike well-known titles from tradition (i.e. Messiah and, later, Christ) calling himself the son of man was a provocative title because it was unique, unheard-of, with no prior reference at all. For a reason that remains mysterious and enigmatic, Jesus refrained from fully, clearly, revealing his self-conception or his ultimate purpose – leaving everyone who survived his death to dedicate themselves to his teaching and from an understanding they were familiar with. For his Jewish followers, scriptural history gave him a context; they could access and relate him to the prophetic past for comparison and assurance. Despite the considerable effort by the gospel writers to faithfully represent Jesus, his acts and words, the reader today continues to be led by a responsibility to the text as it has been preserved. His presence does not require support. He stands, fully, on his own.

There are moments in his life when he must confront his humanity and its necessary relation to the created world, to nature, and his body. The son of man is human in the most basic way. Daily. There are innumerable instances of Jesus, the human being, perhaps none more poignant than when he is hungry (when he has a...

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