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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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7 Death

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The one tragic consequence of Jesus’ birth and the slaughter of the innocents in the gospel of Matthew creates a long-lasting trauma, a perpetual awareness of death and the anguish of mourning – the unparalleled grief physically expressed with tear and laments – a pathos Jesus himself feels and identifies with as he experiences the death of others and the extreme loss of those who remain in the world. In the gospels, death is omni-present: it begins in Matthew with the extreme brutality of Herod and the acts of his soldiers compelled to obey his command: “he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem that were two years old or under” (Matt. 2:16). From the event – told to Jesus by his mother Mary, as one conversation amongst many during his childhood and upbringing – Jesus understands his life and ministry as irreducibly related to his emergence in the world in the shadow of a death he perpetually confronts, as a healer, as someone who revives, and brings others back to life. Children were murdered as they slept while Jesus’ parents carried him to safety in Egypt, most probably to the city of Alexandria and its large diaspora population. Their deaths left him with a constant burden, one he could only overcome by an absolute dedication to others as a healer and who expressed himself in love, as a healer. Mourning may very well be the prototypical human suffering since death leaves one with an irreparable loss, in...

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