Jesus Christ (In Theology)
JESUS CHRIST (IN THEOLOGY)
"The theology of Jesus Christ" in this article refers to the effort of Christian thinkers, subsequent to the New Testament writers, to arrive at a deeper understanding and to draw out the full consequences of the divinely revealed truth of the incarnation. The subject therefore prescinds so far as possible from the closely allied mysteries of Christ's preexistence as God (see trinity, holy) and of His principal activities on earth as savior of mankind [see redemption (theology of)], founder of the Christian community [see church, ii (theology of)], and source of Christian holiness (see sacramental, the ology). This article is divided into three major parts. The first traces classical christological dogma as it developed in the patristic era. The second describes its development in the context of scholasticism, both medieval and modern. This section of the article will close with an account of the paradigm shift in christology in the twentieth century. The third part deals with individual questions of special importance in christology.
The Formation of Classical Dogma
By the close of the New Testament period, as Pliny the Younger observed, Christians were singing hymns to Christ as to a god. They imaged Jesus as the Son of Man who at his Second Coming would exercise the divine prerogative of judgment. They pictured him as Lord, seated at God's right hand, having received the name at which every knee should bend and now pouring forth the gift of God's Spirit. They found in him the pattern according to which God had created the universe and the goal toward which God intended it. On two occasions in the fourth Gospel (Jn 1.1; 20.28) and once in the Letter to the Hebrews (1.8) Jesus is called "God."
In all of this, the New Testament suggests that in the context of their liturgical experience, the religious imagination of early Christians was so being shaped that they found themselves placing the man Jesus together with the one he called Father on the other side of the line which for Jews separates the transcendent Creator of the universe from all else. In worship they were experiencing an exigence to broaden the term "God" to somehow include Jesus as well.
Confessing Jesus as divine is one thing. Thinking through what this involves is another, and this task the New Testament bequeathed to subsequent generations. Two specific questions presented themselves. First, how can the Father be one, the Son another, both be divine, and yet there be only one God? Second, if the man Jesus be confessed as truly divine, how is the union of the divine and the human in him to be conceived without slighting one or the other? The literature of the patristic era documents a centuries-long process of trial and error in which first the one, then the other of these questions was addressed and out of which the classical dogmas of the Councils of Nicea (325 a.d.), Chalcedon (451 a.d.), and III Constantinople (681 a.d.) emerged.
Early controversies: denying the problem.
Viewed schematically, the simplest solution to the problem posed by confessing the man Jesus as divine is to deny one term or the other of the tension. It was Jesus' humanity, not his divinity, that first proved problematic. This issue came to the fore in Gnosticism, a highly complex religious movement which had originated before Christianity had appeared and which culminated during the 3d century a.d. in the form, and under the more familiar name, of manichaeism. Convinced that flesh is radically antagonistic to spirit, Gnostics conceived salvation as deliverance from the sordidness of the material world. Their myths pictured a heavenly redeemer sent from above to impart true knowledge, the liberating message that human beings' destiny lies in the realm of the spiritual and divine. They found a true incarnation of the redeemer inconceivable. Hence the New Testament accounts of the conception, birth, sufferings, and death of Jesus were not to be taken at face value. In various ways Gnostics affirmed that the mortal career of Christ was an illusion: he only "seemed" to be a man, he only "appeared" to suffer and die. Hence their position is known as Docetism (from the Greek verb meaning "to
seem"). Some early form of this movement may have been known to the authors of Luke and John. Irenaeus of Lyons wrote extensively against its later, more developed forms. Ignatius of Antioch uttered a passionate warning against Docetism on his way to martyrdom:
Be deaf, therefore, when anyone speaks to you apart from Jesus Christ, who was of the family of David and of Mary, who was truly born, both ate and drank, was truly crucified under Pontius Pilate, was truly crucified and died in the sight of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth…. But if, as some affirm who are without God—that is, are unbelievers—His suffering was only a semblance (but it is they who are merely a semblance), why am I a prisoner, and why do I even long to fight with the beasts? In that case I am dying in vain. [Trall. 9–10, tr. K. Lake, Loeb Classical Library (New York 1912—)]
The other extreme lay in denying the divinity of Christ. This was the charge leveled by Tertullian against the Ebionites, a second-century offshoot of Jewish Christianity
living in Palestine. Their persistence in archaic imagery and thought-forms drew criticism from Eusebius as well; in his Church History (3.27), Eusebius reports that they denied the preexistence of Christ and imaged him as a messianic being especially created by God.
Arian crisis. A fierce storm arose at the beginning of the fourth century when arius, a presbyter of Alexandria, resolved the ambiguities attendant upon previous Word christologies by affirming that strictly speaking the Word was not divine at all but rather God's first creature. He is the most exalted of God's creatures, authorized by God to be His agent in the work of creation, and adopted as His Son. The word, then, is specifically different from the Father. He is a secondary deity, subordinate in nature to, not the equal of, the Father. With this position Arius brought to its logical conclusion the subordinationism generated by various Greek philosophical assumptions in earlier thinkers like Tertullian and Origen for whom, although both Father and Son were divine, the Son, or Word, was less divine than the Father. Arius' position, in effect, undercut the reality of the Incarnation, undermined the salvific efficacy of Christ's mediatorship, and dissolved the Trinity. In response, the Council of Nicea (325 a.d.) affirmed the full divinity of Christ.
Apollinaris and the soul of Jesus. Nicea secured the full divinity of Jesus Christ but left unresolved the problem of the relationship between the divine and the human in him. This problem came to the fore with apol linaris, bishop of Laodicea and a staunch defender of Nicea in the confusing period that followed that council. Though a resolute anti-Arian, Apollinaris nevertheless borrowed some elements of Arius's teaching to formulate a theory of the Incarnation that would exclude from Jesus the presence of a human soul. His motives were beyond reproach. Utterly convinced of Christ's true and complete divinity, Apollinaris reasoned that if Christ were to be one, He could not simultaneously possess a true and complete humanity. Two wholes, Apollinaris contended, cannot form one whole; two beings already perfect, God and man, cannot coalesce into unity. To ensure ontic unity in Jesus, therefore, the divinity and humanity must be thought of as complementing each other, one component contributing what the other is incapable of supplying. Hence Apollinaris theorized that the Word took a human body without a human soul, and that in Christ the Word substituted for the spiritual soul. The Incarnation, therefore, is adequately described as the union of the Word with living flesh.
These metaphysical reasonings seemed to find confirmation in the necessity of postulating in Christ total sinlessness and utter conformity to the divine will. If a human intellect and a human will were to be permitted to Christ, He could not be denied freedom of decision, and consequently there would be grave risk of His escaping, so to speak, the divine control. Made dependent on the good will of Jesus' humanity, the divine plan for the Redemption of the human race might have gone awry if a humanly free Jesus had refused to cooperate. To safeguard Christ's ethical goodness and to ensure the certainty of Redemption, therefore, Apollinaris argued that Christ was subject to transience only in His organic material being. His spiritual thinking and willing, on the contrary, were unalterable, for they were divine. He had but a single intellect, a single will, a single consciousness, and these were His deity. Thus Christ was a "heavenly human" insofar as He derived His flesh from Mary, but His thinking and willing He possessed from eternity.
Despite its good intentions, Apollinaris' position rendered Christ less than human by denying him a spiritual, rational, immortal soul. On this position, the Incarnation and redemption were drained of relevance. If Christ had no human soul, he was not like us. An alien to the human race, he could be neither the exemplar of human-kind nor the model of every virtue. If he assumed no human soul, his presence among us could not redeem, purify, and divinize our human souls. This was the line of criticism set down tirelessly by the Cappadocian Fathers.
gregory of nazianzus [Epistulae 101; Patrologia Graeca 37:182–183] expressed this argument succinctly in a letter to Cledonius against Apollinaris.
An official condemnation was pronounced at the Synod of Rome in a.d. 382 under Pope Damasus I: "We condemn those who claim that in his human flesh the Word of God dwelt in place of a rational and intellective soul. Rather, instead of substituting for a rational and intellective soul, the Word and Son of God Himself assumed and thereby saved a soul like ours (that is, a rational and intellective soul) but without sin" (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum 159). Apollinarianism was also condemned by name at the Ecumenical Council at Constantinople in a.d. 381.
At the close of the fourth century. In the closing years of the fourth century, the elements of the christological problem proper were in place. Against the Docetists, the Church had established the reality of Christ's flesh; against Arius, his full divinity; and, in opposition to Apollinaris, his possession of a truly human soul. Implicit in these affirmations was a notice that however the union of God and humankind in Jesus was to be understood, no solution involving either a dilution of his humanity or a dissipation of his divinity was to be accepted. This insight, however, remained negative. The crucial question still remained: how was the union of divinity and humanity in Jesus to be positively understood. This was the intricate question that largely focused attention from the fifth to the seventh centuries. In summary, one may say that an answer was arrived at in three successive movements, each of which culminated in an ecumenical council: Ephesus, Chalcedon, and III constantinople. These councils dealt in turn with the challenges of nes torianism, monophysitism, and monothelitism, seeking in each case to balance the conflicting views of the rival schools of thought in the Eastern church of the era, at Antioch and Alexandria.
Theodore of Mopsuestia. Apollinarianism took Alexandrian theology to an extreme and drew a sharp reaction from the school of Antioch; the latter placed emphasis on the human nature of Christ. The two most important Antiochene theologians were diodore of tarsus and his pupil theodore of mopsuestia; only the latter's thought has been amply preserved. Theodore objected strongly to the Alexandrian "Word-flesh" theology. He argued that if Christ were a divine nature imprisoned in a human body, then he would have been immune from all its weaknesses and defects, such as hunger, thirst, and fatigue, since these defects are not intrinsic to the body but come from imperfections of the soul that presides over it. Theodore concluded that the Word took not only a body but a complete human being, composed of a body and an immortal soul. As for the Apollinarian argument that the human soul is sinful, Theodore suggested that divine grace kept Christ's soul free from all taint of sin. Hence Theodore of Mopsuestia's scheme may be designated as a "Word-man" rather than a "Word-flesh" scheme. He proposes a human nature, complete and independent, that grows in knowledge and experience. He most often describes Christ in his earthly life as the "man assumed" by the Word. Though Theodore gives the impression of positing a duality between the Word and Christ, he rejects the idea of two Sons and argues that the distinction of natures does not prevent their being one individual.
Theodore's chief weakness lay in accounting for the unity of Christ. His best effort appeals to the image of indwelling. The Word dwelt in the humanity as in a temple. In support of this he cites Jn 2.19, where Christ identifies his body with the Temple. Thus the God-man is a unity for Theodore. "The Son is unique," he declares, "because of the perfect conjunction of natures operated by the divine will" (Hom. cat. 3.10; Studi e Testi 145:67). Again, "we point to difference of natures [physeis ], but
to unity of person [prospon ]" (De incarn. 11; Patrologia Graeca 66.983).
One hundred years after his death, the doctrine of Theodore of Mopsuestia was condemned by Pope Vigilius in 548, and by the Second Council of Constantinople in 553. These condemnations stemmed from events set in motion by Theodore's pupil Nestorius.
Nestorius. In 427, Emperor Theodosius II elected nestorius, a presbyter of Antioch, as patriarch of the imperial See of Constantinople. Nestorius promptly became embroiled in controversy. Being educated in the Antiochene school, which emphasized the distinction of the two natures in Christ, Nestorius protested against giving the Virgin Mary the title of theotokos, Mother of God. She should be called either "Mother of the man" or "Mother of Christ," but not "Mother of God." Nestorius strongly objected to attributing human properties to the Word, emphatically denying that the Word participated in the sufferings of Christ's human nature. There was a union, but not a union of essence, between God and man. It was rather a "conjunction" which was described as "perfect," "exact," and "continuous." "The man" was the temple in which "the God" dwelt.
The most remarkable feature of Nestorius' teaching is his description of the two natures in the God-man as a single prosopon. By this term he seemed to have meant an individual considered from the point of view of his outward aspect or form. According to Nestorius, "It is Christ who is the prospon of the union." He took it for granted on philosophical grounds that for a nature to exist in reality, it had to possess a prosopon. Hence, the reality of the two natures in Christ demanded that each continue to exist in its own prosopon as well as in the "prosopon of union," the latter resulting from the coalescence of the divine and human natures but identical with neither the prosopon of the Word nor that of the humanity.
Cyril of Alexandria. Nestorius found a bitter and brilliant opponent in cyril of alexandria. In Cyril's view, Nestorius's attack on the title Theotokos for the Virgin Mary meant that Nestorius divided Christ into two, the divine Word and an ordinary human being who because of his moral excellence was favored with an exceptionally full indwelling of the Word. From Cyril's viewpoint, Nestorius rendered the Incarnation an illusion and robbed Christ's sufferings of redemptive significance.
None of this, modern scholars have recognized, was what Nestorius intended, but the Antiochene weakness in articulating the unity of Christ left him vulnerable to such a negative reading. Antiochene theology began with the concrete human being whom it confessed to be one with the divine Word; this theology has often been named an assumptus-homo theology for its emphasis on the human being whom the Word assumed as his own. Alexandrian theology, on the other hand, began with the divine Word who became human. The subject of this union is the divine self of the Logos. Even after the Incarnation, there is only one subject in Christ. This subject, the Word, assumed human nature physically and not through some moral act of the will. It follows that the actions of Christ as both God and human have one subject, the Logos. One can therefore legitimately say: "The Logos became human and suffered"; and also, in answer to the phrase over which the controversy began: "Mary is the Theotokos—the Mother of God."
Cyril began his attack on Nestorius with a sharp exchange of letters. He also sent his account of Nestorius's thinking to Pope Celestine, who called a synod at Rome that quickly decided against Nestorius. The pope entrusted Cyril with the task of calling Nestorius to order. Among the letters Cyril sent Nestorius was one that listed twelve propositions, provocative in language and unacceptable from an Antiochene perspective, to which Nestorius was to submit. Nestorius refused, and the Emperor Theodosius convened an Ecumenical Council at ephesus in 431. The proceedings of this council were highly irregular and confused. Taking advantage of the delay of the Antiochenes, Cyril had an assembly of bishops favorable to himself condemn Nestorius and canonize Cyril's second letter to the latter, in which the phrase "Theotokos" occurred, as an official commentary on the faith of Nicea. When John of Antioch and his bishops finally arrived, they held a council of their own and condemned Cyril. Eventually the papal legates endorsed Cyril's meeting, and thus Nestorius was condemned. After two years of mutual excommunication, the Antiochenes and Alexandrians were reunited through the acceptance by both sides of a creedal formula contained in a letter of John of Antioch to Cyril. The formula spoke of the "union of two natures" in "one prosopon," while emphasizing the distinctness of the natures after the union. It also identified the subject in Christ as the eternal Word.
Monophysitism. Tension between the two schools erupted once again in 448, when Flavian, patriarch of Constantinople, found the archimandrite eutyches guilty of heresy. Eutyches refused to accept the creedal formula mutually agreed upon in 433 and stubbornly insisted on the phrase "after the union, one incarnate nature," a phrase that he had received from Cyril and that had originated, unbeknownst to Cyril, with Apollinaris. While in Cyril's usage the phrase simply meant that Christ was a single concrete individual, human and divine, Eutyches seemed to take it to mean that, though there were two natures before the Incarnation, after the Incarnation there was but one, the human being absorbed into the divine.
After his condemnation, Eutyches fled to Alexandria, where Dioscorus had succeeded Cyril as patriarch. Flavian reported the proceedings of the trial to Rome, and Pope Leo responded approvingly with a dogmatic letter known as the "Tome of Leo" in which he affirmed the completeness of each of Christ's two natures. Meanwhile, however, Dioscorus engineered a meeting in 449, which was subsequently known as the "Robber Synod of Ephesus." At this meeting, he refused to allow a reading of Leo's Tome, rehabilitated Eutyches, condemned Flavian on a technicality, and deposed other major Antiochene bishops from their sees.
Upon the accidental death of Emperor Theodosius, however, his sister Pulcheria assumed the throne, and she and her husband, Marcian, began undoing the mischief Dioscorus had wrought. In 451, with Pope Leo's reluctant consent, they convened the Fourth Ecumenical Council, first at Nicea and then closer to the capital at Chalcedon. The definition of faith at which this council eventually arrived marks a climax to the development of christological doctrine in the ancient church. Reiterating the creeds of both Nicea and I Constantinople, it confesses Christ as one and the same, complete in divinity and complete in humanity. Four times over it affirms this, balancing Nicea's confession of Christ's full divinity with an equally strong affirmation of his complete humanity: he is truly human, homoousios with us, composed of a rational soul and a body, like us in all things except sin. Summing up the two sets of attributes, divine and human, it predicates of the Son, the definition of faith introduces a technical term; he exists in two physeis (natures), and these are neither changed nor confused, nor are they divided or separated. Reaffirming Christ's unity, it states that these natures come together in one prosopon and one hypostasis or person.
Chalcedon thus articulated the dogma of the hy postatic union, the union of the two natures in the one person of Christ, and this dogma, with its terms of "substance," "person," and "nature," would come to provide subsequent Catholic christological reflection with its starting point, terms, and framework.
Monothelitism, adoptionism. Alexandrians interpreted Chalcedon as a victory for Nestorius and rejected it, and the eventual Monophysite schism proved to be permanent. Seeking reconciliation, Chalcedon's defenders stressed Chalcedon's compatibility with Cyril's thought, and this led to a condemnation of the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia and two other Antiochenes, Ibas of Edessa and Theodoret of Cyr, at II Constantinople in 553. Meanwhile the difficulties raised by Apollinaris regarding a possible conflict between the human and divine wills in Christ persisted, leading some to propose that there was in Christ a single energy (Monenergism) and, as Patriarch Sergius of Constantiople had it, only one will (Monothelitism). The Third Council of Constantinople, however, meeting in 681, rejected this Alexandrian view and drew out the implications of Chalcedon's two natures by affirming in Christ the existence of two natural operations and two wills. It thus reaffirmed that the union of the human nature with the divine subject in no way diminishes the fullness of Christ's humanity.
In the following century, an adoptionist position emerged briefly in Spain. Its proponents held that with respect to his human nature Jesus could only be regarded as God's adopted son, not his true Son. A synod in Frankfurt in 794 rejected this position and repeated that the human nature of Christ had its foundation in the divine subject, the Second Person of the Trinity. Thus concluded the formation of a body of classical patristic conciliar doctrine that proved a stable possession throughout the Middle Ages and beyond.
[w. p. loewe/
j. j. walsh]
Scholasticism, Medieval and Modern
Western Christendom in the Middle Ages saw the development of schools and eventually universities, and the latter provided the context for the flourishing of such theologians as thomas aquinas, bonaventure, and duns scotus. Anselm of Canterbury had identified their task as fides quaerens intellectum, faith seeking understanding. Taking classical doctrine developed in the patristic era as a given, the medieval doctors sought to develop a methodical, systematically ordered, metaphysically coherent account of its intelligibility. Not surprisingly, philosophical differences among them yielded differences in their accounts of Christ's inner constitution in the hypostatic union and of the perfections that accrued to his humanity because of it, namely, his holiness and fullness of grace, his sinlessness, freedom, and human knowledge. If it can be said that medieval theologians thus focused on what Christ is and what he has, post-Tridentine theologians then turned to a third point, what he wrought for our redemption, devoting their efforts to systematic understandings of Christ's satisfaction and merit. Soteriology thus emerged as a closely connected but separable sequel to christology.
Medieval issues. The most fundamental issue explored by medieval theologians was the inner constitution of Christ. They sought some a degree of understanding of how it was that the divine Person of the Word brings it about that two natures, human and divine, make up a substantial unity while each remains itself, wholly unchanged. On this issue, philosophical differences came forcefully into play. In Thomas Aquinas' position, there exists a real distinction between nature or essence, on the one hand, and existence on the other. A person is constituted when a particular kind of nature, namely, an intellectual nature, receives its own proper existence. Christ's human nature, however, lacked its own proper existence, and hence there was in him no human person. In its place was communicated an "existence of union," that is, a created participation in the proper existence of the divine Word. In this manner, Aquinas safeguarded the unity of Christ's person. Duns Scotus took another route to the same end. His philosophical background lay in the idealist tradition, and he denied the distinction of essence and existence. In his thought, to be a person consists in the negative attribute of a nature not being assumed by another subject. In Christ's case, since his human nature was assumed by the Word, there was no human person. The advantage of Thomas's solution lies in the intimate union it reveals between the human nature of Christ and the Second Person of the Trinity. The advantage of Duns Scotus's view is that it safeguards the fullness of Christ's humanity in every way. These, very briefly, are only two of many interpretations offered by theologians as they probed the central mystery of their faith in search of a richer and deeper understanding of the revelation of the living God. [ see hypostatic union; person (in theology); nature.]
Adoration. If Christ is both God and man, what should be one's religious posture with respect to him? In his anathemas drawn up before the Council of Ephesus, St. Cyril of Alexandria rejected the Nestorian notion of "co-veneration" of the man Jesus with the Logos. Cyril set it down as Catholic teaching that the Word-madeflesh was to be worshiped with a single adoration. This is based on Christ's own teaching recorded in John's Gospel, where He requires that the same worship be given to the Incarnate Son as to the Father: "… that all men may honor the Son even as they honor the Father" (Jn 5.23). Paul repeats this teaching when he writes to the Philippians "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven, on earth and under the earth" (Phil 2.10).
Hence, Scripture and the Fathers make it quite clear that one should worship the God-man. But, another question can be asked: Can one worship the humanity of Christ? The humanity of Christ is a creature; it is not God. The medieval theologians, despite their differences on the question of the inner constitution of Christ, commonly held that the humanity of Christ is to be worshiped in itself though not for its own sake. The humanity of Christ, in such an act of worship, is the material object adored, but it is not the motive for the adoration. It is worshiped as the visible manifestation of the Second Person; and it is only the Second Person of the Trinity who is formally worshiped.
Christ's holiness, sinlessness, and freedom. A lack of common understanding of what was meant by sanctity led to controversy on Christ's holiness. Theologians in the Thomist line distinguished between substantial and accidental sanctity in the created order, while uncreated sanctity could be attributed to God alone. Created sanctity is defined as union of the creature with God. If this relationship is in the substantial order, as is true of Christ by virtue of the hypostatic union, then one can say that his humanity possesses substantial sanctity. Duns Scotus, however, seems to have understood substantial sanctity as identical to God's uncreated sanctity, and thus he rejected the Thomist position.
If Christ's substantial sanctity was a matter of dispute, his possession of accidental sanctity, that is, sanctifying grace, the reality by which a created human soul participates in the very nature of God, was not. (It is called "accidental" not in the sense that it could be lacking to Christ; that would be impossible; but in the sense that its principle is sanctifying grace, which, ontologically speaking, is an accident as opposed to a substance.) Taking their lead from John—"And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us … full of grace and truth…. And of his fullness we have all received, grace for grace" (Jn 1.14, 16)—theologians ascribed sanctifying grace in its fullness to the human soul of Christ. Though the human nature of Christ is holy by reason of its intimate relation to the Word, yet this does not give the human nature as such a share in the divine nature. As head of His Mystical Body, the Church, it is also fitting that Christ possess the fullness of the grace that flows to the members.
The negative side of Christ's holiness is his sinlessness. Scripture attests to this many times. "He did no sin; neither was deceit found in His mouth" (1 Pt 2.22). "For we have not a high priest who cannot have compassion on our infirmities, but one tried as we are in all things except sin" (Heb 4.15). And Jesus Himself challenges His enemies: "Which of you can convict me of sin?" (Jn8.46). Chalcedon had taught that he is "like us in all things except sin," and the Council of Florence (1442) taught that he "was conceived, was born, and died without sin" (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum 1347). Besides the fact of Christ's sinlessness, it was also commonly taught that he was absolutely incapable of sinning. This followed from the hypostatic union. All actions are attributable to the person, and in the case of Christ, the person is the divine Word, making it inconceivable that he could sin. It followed further that being impecccable, Christ was also free from concupiscence, the human inclination to sin, since this is the result of original sin.
If Christ was incapable of sinning, the question then arose, how was this compatible with his human freedom? The solution that would concede only one will in Christ had been rejected at the third Council of Constantinople in 680. This solemn definition posited two really distinct, physically free wills in Christ. In this it merely confirmed what is implied in Scripture where Christ prays in His agony: "Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me; yet not as I will, but as thou willest" (Mt 26.39; cf. Lk 22.42). Again, in John's Gospel one finds Christ saying: "For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me" (Jn 6.38). Here the path to an answer lay through analysis of the concept of freedom. Freedom of choice is intrinsic to the earthly human condition, but the choice of evil is an abuse of that freedom. Hence being incapable of choosing evil rendered Christ free in a more basic sense, in that he enjoyed perfectly and without hindrance the freedom to achieve the destiny and fulfillment for which humankind is made, union with God.
Christ's human knowledge. Medieval theologians attributed three kinds of human knowledge to Christ. The Gospels say that Jesus "advanced in wisdom" (Lk 2.52). The Epistle to the Hebrews states that Jesus "learned obedience from the things that he suffered" (Heb 5.8). At face value, these texts say that Jesus did experience a definite progression in learning. Aquinas affirmed that, like all human beings, Christ acquired ordinary experiential knowledge. This was the kind of knowledge by which he came to know the world around him and the society of his day as he grew up. The Franciscans Bonaventure and Duns Scotus, and later the Jesuit Suarez, denied this kind of knowledge in Christ, since they thought it superfluous in light of the other sources of human knowledge he enjoyed.
Second, Aquinas and his contemporaries attributed infused human knowledge to Christ. This was a knowledge not acquired through ordinary sense experience but directly implanted or poured in by God. This seems to have first been proposed by Alexander of Hales (d. 1245). Thomas argued to this kind of knowledge on the basis of the principle that Christ's humanity must be as perfect as possible, to which was added the consideration that as redeemer, Christ ought to have been equipped with the knowledge that would facilitate his mission. Thus it was fitting, for example, that he be able to predict the future.
Third, it was taught that from the moment of his conception, Christ enjoyed the beatific vision, that face-to-face knowledge of God otherwise reserved for the saints in heaven that constitutes ultimate fulfillment and happiness for human beings. That Christ had such knowledge is perhaps implied in such texts from the Scriptures as: "Not that anyone has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father" (Jn 6.46). "I speak what I have seen with my Father" (Jn 8.38). And Jesus prays at the Last Supper: "Just Father, the world has not known thee, but I have known thee" (Jn 17.25). Although the Fathers of the Church apparently did not consider the question as such, they did frequently write of the perfection of Christ's knowledge. Moreover, it was taught that it was precisely through the Beatific Vision as knowledge of the Triune God that Christ humanly knew his divine identity as the Second Person. Obvious questions arose: how was this possession of the Beatific Vision to be reconciled with the ignorance implied in Christ's growth in experiential knowledge? And how was it to be reconciled with the reality of Christ's suffering in the Passion? With regard to the first, recourse was had to the limited character of the Beatific Vision. Christ's human intellect is a created thing and therefore finite. It could not possibly comprehend God to the extent that God comprehends Himself. Jesus, in His human intellect, does not grasp God totally and at once in a single act. This is a limitation common to all created intellects enjoying the beatific vision. Furthermore, it was held that the vision of God is nonconceptual. It is not knowledge that is expressed in what we now know as concepts. Hence it does not remove the possibility of knowledge coming from sense experience. Sense experience may well be the means of conceptualizing discursively what is grasped in the Beatific Vision. To this problem and to the difficulties offered by indications of certain ignorances in Jesus revealed in the Gospels, Duns Scotus suggested that Jesus' knowledge from the vision of God was potential knowledge. By way of contemplation He would realize this potential knowledge when His Father's will required it.
With regard to the question of the reality of Christ's suffering, Thomas made a distinction between the soul considered according to its essence and the soul considered according to its parts and powers. Thus Christ would have enjoyed the Beatific Vision in the essence of his soul even while suffering the Passion in his soul's parts and powers.
Modern manuals. Late in the 19th century, Jesuits of the Roman school sought a return to medieval scholasticism as an antidote to modernity's turn to the subject, and Pope Leo XIII commended Thomas Aquinas as the model for Catholic theology. In this context, the neoscholastic manual of christology, modeled after a tract composed by the Jesuit Cardinal Franzelin, came into common usage and dominated Catholic clerical education until shortly after Vatican II. Catholic seminarians marched through a logically ordered sequence of courses. Fundamental theology established that Christ was from God and had established the Catholic Church, so that whatever the Church taught was to be believed. A course on the one God (De Deo Uno ) established the existence of God and God's general attributes. There followed a course on the Trinity (De Deo Trino ), and then the course on christology (De Verbo Incarnato ).
In one fundamental way, these neoscholastic tracts differed from their medieval antecedents. The basic unit of a medieval Summa was the quaestio, and the goal was enhanced understanding of the truths of faith. The basic unit of the manual, however, was the thesis; its goal was certitude, and the path to certitude lay through proving the thesis. The proof in turn often consisted in an appeal to authority, be the authority that of a council or of Scripture.
The course on christology commonly fell into three parts. First, since the triune character of God had already been established, the first issue to arise was how it was possible for the divine Second Person to become incarnate. In response, one worked out the metaphysics of person and nature as elements in the hypostatic union. Second, the ramifications for Christ's human nature of being assumed by a divine Person were deduced in terms of his human intellect (experiential and infused knowledge and the Beatific Vision) and his will (impeccability, freedom, fullness of grace). Third, an account of how the agent of redemption, thus equipped, performed his task was offered, generally with some version of satisfaction theory, sometimes with a fuller treatment of Christ's triple office as prophet, priest, and king.
Within this neoscholastic context old debates resurfaced, a new question suggested itself, and hesitations about traditional positions developed. As for old debates, medieval theologians had split on the question of the primary purpose of the Incarnation. Rupert of Deutz had been the first to assert that the Word would have become incarnate even if Adam had not sinned. Thomas Aquinas prudently disagreed. For him, scripture indicated that as a matter of fact Christ had come to redeem the human race, and regarding what might have otherwise occurred we have no data on the basis of which to speculate. Scotus, however, taught the opposite, positing the glorification of Christ as the primary purpose of the Incarnation. Thus the party lines were set for succeeding generations. The issue arose again in modern times with the publication in 1867 by a French Capuchin of a dissertation defending the Thomist view, and debate continued into the twentieth century along traditional lines, while a version of the Scotist view would live on beyond the demise of neoscholasticism in the theology of Karl Rahner.
An even more ancient debate revived when a new question came to be entertained. Scholastic theology was metaphysical in its treatment of person, natures, operations, and wills. It was settled doctrine that in Christ there was one person in whom were joined two natures, two operations, and two wills. But modern culture posed a new question: what did all this mean psychologically, in terms of Christ's consciousness? One approach, suggested by Déodat de Basly, revived the Antiochene theology of the assumed humanity, positing a fully human psychological ego in Christ. It followed that Christ humanly knew himself to be divine only through the Beatific Vision. On the other hand, the Alexandrian emphasis on the Word as subject of all Christ's activities found expression in those theologians who posited that the divine Word experienced himself humanly in all his conscious human acts. Yet proponents of this position disagreed philosophically among themselves on the meaning of consciousness and its relation to reflective knowledge.
Misgivings arose among neoscholastic theologians regarding the scope of human knowledge traditionally ascribed to Christ. Thomas had defended the role of experiential, acquired knowledge in Christ against those who found it superfluous because of the infused knowledge and Beatific Vision that he enjoyed. In conceiving Christ's knowledge, however, Thomas appealed to a principle of perfection: as the humanity of the Son of God, Christ's humanity ought to enjoy every perfection possible. It followed from this principle, for Thomas, that Christ knew all that could be known, that no ignorance could be ascribed to Christ, and that he did not learn from other people. Indeed, Christ freely assumed only those human weaknesses necessary for his redemptive passion and death, while from other defects, such as susceptibility to disease, he was free. Later commentators followed up on Thomas with claims that during his lifetime Christ already knew modern mathematics, science, and languages. Others, however, reacted against such exaggerations by setting reasonable limits to his human knowledge. They allowed as infused only that knowledge necessary to his mission, and they acknowledged in Christ an experiential knowledge fully subject to the conditions of the time and place in which he lived.
Paradigm shift. The year 1951 marked the fifteen-hundredth anniversary of the Council of Chalcedon. The scholarship generated by that occasion marked a turning point in Catholic christology. What became clear first of all was a gap between the dogma of Chalcedon and the christology of the neoscholastic manuals. Chalcedon unambiguously affirmed the full humanity of Jesus. The manuals, however, as well as their medieval antecedents, exhibited a "neochalcedonianism" hearkening back to the period directly after Chalcedon when Alexandrian emphases in interpreting that dogma had prevailed.
A number of critiques of the neoscholastic manuals of christology began to be voiced. With regard to method, the question was raised whether the "high, descending" approach that simply and unproblematically took the divinity of Christ, the Son of God and Second Person of the Trinity, as its starting point was not inappropriate to a cultural situation in which the very existence of God was no longer self-evident. Was there not a need to render some account of how belief in Christ's divinity had arisen and developed, rather than simply taking that belief as given? With regard to content, the manuals were found to have narrowed the christology of Thomas Aquinas and other medieval scholastics. Whereas Thomas pursued a full exploration of the New Testament narrative of the various mysteries of the life of Christ, the manuals were content to deal with Christ's humanity under the abstract metaphysical rubric of nature. The manuals thus presented a christology that took no account of the specific shape and events of Jesus' life, of how his life issued in his crucifixion, or of his resurrection. Finally, besides what the manuals took for granted and what they omitted, a problem of language was noted. Simple repetition of the terminology of "one divine person in two natures" in an age which had come to construe the notion of person psychologically rather than metaphysically engendered on the popular level what Karl Rahner called a "cryptomonophysitism." People faithfully recited the orthodox formula, but they tended to imagine Jesus in docetic or Apollinarian fashion as a historical figure whose consciousness was divine though his outward form was human, so that he obviously was capable of reading minds, predicting the future, and exercising miraculous powers over nature.
Precisely out of faithfulness to Chalcedon, Catholic christology set about recovering the full humanity of Christ. In the 1950s and 1960s, this movement operated on two fronts, the one philosophical and the other biblical. Karl Rahner, for example, drew upon his contemporary reinterpretation of Thomism to forge a theological anthropology capable of dispelling any crudely mythological understanding of the Incarnation. On his view, the hypostatic union effected the supreme and gracious fulfillment of the universal call to self-transcendence into the holy mystery of God that constitutes humanity as such. Similar philosophical resources enabled Bernard Lonergan to meet the difficulties attending the traditional language of a single divine, and hence not human, person in Christ. Transposing the Chalcedonian terms into the realm of human interiority, he showed how the Chalcedonian formula calls for a full, free, and developing human subjectivity in Jesus coherent with the contemporary, psychologically informed understanding of what it means to be human. Meanwhile, on the biblical front, exegetes began to highlight in the gospel portraits of Christ precisely those human features—ignorance, sorrow, anger, weariness, and the like—which the dogmatic textbooks with their principle of perfection had tended to explain away.
Meanwhile, scholarly developments in other fields were making ever more evident the inadequacies and poverty of the neoscholastic manuals. In France "la nouvelle théologie" had set about recovering the riches of patristic theology. Burgeoning liturgical scholarship was restoring the centrality of Christ's Paschal Mystery to Christian sacramental life and spirituality. The 1964 Instruction of the Pontifical Biblical Commission marked the full emancipation of Catholic biblical scholars, and within a short time they had joined the forefront of their field. Their practice of source, form, and redaction criticism rendered available the prehistory and variety of New Testament christologies, while newer sociological and literary methods of analysis and interpretation facilitated the appropriation of those christologies in the contemporary church.
If the project of recovering the full humanity of Jesus began as a self-corrective movement within the paradigm of the neoscholastic manual christology, that wineskin burst when, in the mid-1970s, Catholic theologians as diverse as Walter Kasper, Hans Küng, and Edward Schillebeeckx began drawing on the results of the so-called New Quest for the Historical Jesus, a project initiated in the 1950s among German Protestant exegetes trained by Rudolf Bultmann. With this development, the ahistorical classicism of the manuals yielded fully to the historical consciousness of modernity.
This profound shift in horizon bestowed a new shape on Catholic christologies. Whereas the christology of the manuals was basically commentary on Chalcedon, the new christologies offer a genetic and evaluative account of the entire christological tradition with a view toward mediating the revelatory and redemptive import of Jesus Christ into the contemporary situation. Very often they begin with the question of the historical Jesus, offering some account of what can be known of Jesus' earthly career by historical means and taking a position on the theological significance of these historical data. Proceeding next to Jesus' resurrection, they take a position on the nature and knowability of this event and of its significance both in relation to Jesus' life and death and to such anthropological constants as human hope and the quest for meaning. Having secured the factors accounting for the genesis of Christian faith, namely, Jesus' earthly career remembered in light of his resurrection, the new christologies survey the development and diversity of the christologies of the New Testament and then proceed to reconstruct the development of the classical dogmas of the patristic era.
Within this new christological paradigm, the dogmas of the patristic councils find themselves relocated as particular moments within the ongoing tradition, normative moments to be sure, but no longer defining the entire christological enterprise. Thus relocated, classical dogma requires interpretation, while that interpretation in turn comprises only one task within a more broadly conceived christological project. It should be noted that in the post-neoscholastic situation there exists a pluralism of philosophical foundations and methodological options among theologians. These come into play in the new christologies to render the meaning and significance of classical dogma a less than secure possession. Specifically, one not uncommonly finds the formulae of both Nicea and Chalcedon interpreted as confessions of the unique presence of God in the man Jesus, a line of interpretation which some find helpful in relation to other issues posed by contemporary culture, while others regard it as regressive to a pre-Nicene stage of development if not an outright denial of classical dogma.
The first task of the new christologies as we have been surveying them is retrospective, a critical determination of what the tradition has been in the past. Next, having reviewed the tradition, they face a second major task as a further question arises. Given what the tradition has been, what should the christological tradition be in the present? At this point, as theologians seek to discover and articulate what it means for God's salvation to be mediated through Jesus Christ here and now, soteriology rejoins christology.
As the church recognizes inculturation as necessary to its self-constitution, the variety of cultural and social contexts that concretely determine the present situation comes to the forefront. Within this variety, each specific context presents its own conditions for both the intelligibility of the gospel and for the significance of its saving message. Sin and redemption are concrete realities, and their shape varies among cultures and societies. For this reason also contemporary christologies exhibit a pluralistic character.
Bibliography: o. cullmann, The Christology of the New Testament, tr. s. c. guthrie and c. a. m. hall (rev. ed. Philadelphia, Pa. 1963). r. garrigou-lagrange, Christ the Savior, tr. b. rose (St. Louis, Mo. 1950). r. guardini, The Lord, tr. e. c. briefs (Chicago, Ill. 1954). m. j. scheeben, The Mysteries of Christianity, tr. c. vollert (St. Louis, Mo. 1946), esp. 313–465. p. fredriksen, From Jesus to Christ: The Origins of the New Testament Images of Jesus (New Haven, Conn. 1988). a. grillmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition, v. 1, From the Apostolic Age to Chalcedon (451), tr. j. bowker (2d ed., rev. Atlanta, Ga. 1975). b. studer, Trinity and Incarnation: The Faith of the Early Church, tr. m. westerhoff, ed. a. louth (Collegeville, Minn. 1993). l. d. davis, The First Seven Ecumenical Councils (325–787): Their History and Theology (Collegeville, Minn. 1983). b. lonergan, The Way to Nicea: The Dialectical Development of Trinitarian Theology, tr. c. o'donovan (Philadelphia, Pa. 1976). k. rahner, "Current Issues in Christology," Theological Investigations 1, tr. c. ernst (Baltimore, Md. 1961) 149–200. w. kasper, Jesus The Christ, tr. v. green (New York 1976). h. kÜng, On Being a Christian, tr. e. quinn (Garden City, N.Y. 1976). e. schillebeeckx, Jesus: An Experiment in Christology, tr. h. hoskins (New York 1979).
[w. p. loewe/
j. j. walsh]
Theology has a number of foci of special interest in its study of Jesus Christ and His work. Certain of these, although they may have been treated in the historical portion of this article and elsewhere, receive specific treatment here.
1. BEATIFIC VISION
The human knowledge of Christ includes the beatific, or intuitive, vision of God. This is today common and certain doctrine. See the decree of the Holy Office, June 5, 1918 (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum 3645–46), and Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi in Acta Apostolicae Sedis 76 (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum 3812). Both scholastic theologians of the past and modern theologians teach that Christ in His humanity (i.e., in His human intellect, from the very first instant of the Incarnation) had the immediate vision of God. The main difficulty lies in explaining the coexistence in Christ of the vision and His Passion.
The fact of Christ's vision of God may not be explicitly stated in Scripture, but a solid foundation for a theological proof is found in Jn 1.18 and 3.11, and in Mt 11.27. Christ had a knowledge of the Father that no one else ever had, not even Moses (see, e.g., Ex 24.9–11) or Isaiah (Is 6.1–5). The Fathers, however, do not give any unambiguous statement of Christ's vision of God, except, no doubt, St. Augustine, in an indirect way, when saying that He is the only one who saw God when in the flesh (Divers. quaest. 60; Patrologia Latina 40:60).
The theological reason is mainly twofold: Christ's mission and the hypostatic union. He was to be, as man, the revealer of the Father; this function, which He discharged in His human nature, supposes that He knew the Father by His human (not only by His divine) knowledge (see St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae 3a, 9.1 ad 1). As the head and fountain of all grace, He had to have the fullness of grace, including the vision (ibid. 3a, 9.2). Yet the reason is not cogent. His function as revealer did not require that He have the vision from the first instant of the Incarnation; nor is the vision expressible in human concepts and terms and so does not serve immediately for that function. Furthermore, only in the fullness of His glory is Christ the source of glory for His members.
Perhaps more stringent is the proof from the hypostatic union: the two, hypostatic union and vision, of necessity go together. The scholastics of former times said so on the basis of the principle of perfection: Christ must have had all the time all perfections He could have, including the vision. Modern theologians introduce into the argument a new element drawn from the psychology of Christ. Christ's self-awareness as a Divine Person in His human nature includes the beatific, or immediate, vision of God. Here again there is a twofold approach in conceiving the connection between His self-awareness and the beatific vision. One starts from the vision and shows that only in the vision Christ-man sees that He is, as He always was, the eternal Son of the Father (cf. H. Bouëssé). Another takes its starting point in Christ's self-awareness: He knows, as is clear from the Gospels, that He and the Father are one (Jn 10.30): He is aware of being God. In this very self-awareness He is aware of the Father and of the Spirit: He has an immediate vision of God (cf. K. Rahner).
Here, Rahner insists, one has some clue to the difficulty, or the mystery, of Christ being both viator and comprehensor, not being exempt from suffering though having the vision. His vision of God is identical with His self-awareness as Son of God, i.e., it is the awareness of Himself as subject, not as object. That is why, Rahner suggests, this intuitive vision of God can be immediate without being beatific. This explanation seems simpler than the more common one, namely, that it is by a special dispensation, a sort of permanent miracle, demanded by Christ's mission to save men by His Passion and death (and Resurrection), that the glory of the vision did not all the time transform and beatify His humanity, as it did at the Transfiguration.
Christ's vision of God, it is common teaching, was not comprehensive with regard to its primary object, the divine essence; it was limited because it was human. Nor did it extend, as to its secondary objects, to all that the divine knowledge comprehends, but only to what pertains to the object of God's vision-knowledge (scientia visionis ), not to the object of the knowledge of simple understanding (simplicis intelligentiae ); and here it extends particularly, if not exclusively, to all that pertains to His mission and men's salvation.
See Also: beatific vision, 6, 7; jesus christ, articles on.
Bibliography: a. michel, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., (Paris 1903–50) 8.1:1273–74;14.2:1651–53. Ibid. Tables générales 2:2583–86, 2650–54. k. rahner, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 1957–65) 5:955; in h. vorgrimler, Dogmatic versus Biblical Theology (London 1964) 241–267. c. chopin, Le Verbe incarné et rédempteur (Tournai 1963) 98–100. j. galot, Nouvelle revue théologique 70 (1960) 648–649.
[p. de letter]
Christ came to save all men from sin and its consequences through His Passion, death, and Resurrection: this is the faith one professes in the Credo. Death, a violent death, the death of the cross, was an essential part of His redemptive mission. To be considered are the fact and the manner, the reason and meaning, and various aspects of Christ's death, in the plan of salvation.
Fact. The gospel, the New Testament, and the early Christian tradition bear witness to the fact that Christ actually suffered and died (and rose again from death). Historically His Passion and death came about through the opposition of the Jewish leaders of the time to His spiritual messianic mission—their opposition and rejection of the God-Man symbolizing the rejection of the Holy One of God by sinful mankind. With the Fathers of the Church, one may see here how God's providence allows the wickedness of men and uses it as a way toward the fulfillment of His designs. Even so, the death of Christ is not only a historical fact but also a mystery.
Manner. Death was not for Christ, as it is for other men, a natural necessity and a penal consequence of sin. He, the Sinless One, was not bound by the law of death that in the present divine economy is for men a sequel to sin (cf. Rom 5.12). His hypostatic union and beatific vision well might have, perhaps should have, excluded for Him the possibility of dying (freely); but for the purpose of men's Redemption, He took a passible and mortal human nature so as to be able to suffer and die for men. Why did the way of men's salvation decreed by the Father include the death of Our Savior (when apparently it could have been accomplished otherwise)? Because of the very meaning and purpose of His redemptive mission.
Reason. Christ came, as second Adam and new head of the human race, summing up in Himself men's entire history, to restore what was lost by the first Adam (cf. Rom ch. 5). The fall of men in Adam meant the loss of the life of grace and of the original gifts that were to be its sacramental sign—freedom from concupiscence and from death. With sin, death and disorder entered into the world. Fallen man could not redeem himself, yet for the honor of mankind no less than for His own glory God willed—according to what theologians call the principle of immanent reparation—that one of the human race should offer condign satisfaction for sin. Only through the insertion into human history of the Son of God made man could one of the race make good what Adam undid. In that manner, St. Thomas says, the Incarnation was "necessary" for men's Redemption (Comp. theol. 200). Christ came and freely took upon Himself the penalty of sin—death and suffering—and by so doing He made satisfaction for the sin of man. Being God and man, He could do what only a man can do: suffer and die; and do what only God can do: have a hold on and restore the whole of our human nature and race. (No single merely human individual could do so; if Adam could so act, for the worse, it was because he happened to be the head of the race.) By the very fact of His Passion and death, Christ restored to men's nature the lost gifts, including freedom from death, and so worked men's Redemption. By dying He killed death. He rose from the dead, and so shall we.
Meaning. This basic concept of traditional and contemporary soteriology, expressed here after the teaching of St. Thomas (cf. Comp. theol. 227–230), manifests the meaning of Christ's violent death on the cross. He suffered and died in order to "repair" our fallen nature, by freely taking upon Himself the penalty of sin. He died a violent death because in our fallen race reparation of sin implies suffering unto death, and because, as theologians say, on account of the perfect harmony of His humanity, suffering and death could come to Him only from external violence. He died the death of the cross of His own free will (though His human nature shrank from it; cf. Mt 26.39) in obedience to the Father's plan of salvation and out of love for men. His death freely accepted led to a life of glory; it was a paschal mystery, a passage to life. It was also the highest revelation of God's love: by dying out of love for sinful men, Christ gave them the highest proof of love a man can give (cf. Jn 15.13) and so told them, not in words but in deeds, that God is love (1 Jn 4.8).
Various aspects. The complex richness of the mystery of Christ's death is proposed in the various theologies of the Redemption systematizing the teaching of the Church and that of Scripture and tradition. These are complementary, as it were, so many of its facets. Christ's death on the cross meant condign satisfaction for the sins of mankind: the offer to God of a more precious gift and greater glory than had been rejected by the offense of sin. By dying freely, out of love for God and men, Christ merited our Redemption and all graces included in it, removing the obstacle to grace that is sin. He expiated our sins by freely taking up suffering and death; He bore our sins, not by substituting for us sinners, but by doing on our behalf, as the new head of the race, what no one else could do, viz, offer vicarious satisfaction. He thus liberated us from the slavery of sin and of the prince of this world, setting us free from sin and death, turning our own death into a sharing in His paschal mystery. By restoring grace and with it the pledge of all the original gifts, He repaired our fallen human nature and so reconciled us with the Father. His death was the sacrifice offered in expiation and reconciliation; it was the visible and effective sacrament of our reunion with and rededication to God, the efficacious sign of our restoration to grace, its acceptance being sanctioned in His Resurrection. The paschal mystery of Christ's death and Resurrection is made permanent in both the heavenly liturgy (cf. Heb 7.24–25) and in the memorial of the Passion and Resurrection that is the Eucharistic Sacrifice. It equally reveals the transformation of death for those who die in Christ: Christian death is no longer a mere natural necessity or a penalty of sin; it is a means of satisfying for sin and the way to enter upon glory. Both Christ's death and that of the Christian are inconceivable without the Resurrection.
See Also: crucifixion, theological significance of; death (theology of); expiation (in theology); redemption (theology of); reparation; resurrection of christ, 2; sacrifice of the cross; satisfaction of christ.
Bibliography: j. lebreton, Dictionnaire de la Bible, suppl. ed. l. pirot (Paris 1928) 4:1045–62. k. rahner, On the Theology of Death, tr. c. d. henkey (Quaestiones disputatae 2; New York 1961). f. bourassa, Sciences ecclésiastiques 15 (1963) 351–381. r. feuillet, Revue biblique 66 (1959) 481–513. l. malevez, Revue du clergé africain 18 (1963) 3–26.
[p. de letter]
Christ's divinity is in a true sense the basis of the Christian faith: with it stands or falls the religion named after Him. Of this central mystery this article (1) states the meaning as expressed in the Credo, (2) sketches the growth in the awareness of the Church, from Scripture to Credo, and (3) indicates the bearing on Christ's mission and men's salvation.
Meaning of the faith. When the Catholic Church confesses that Jesus Christ is God, it states a mystery beyond men's comprehension, yet it knows definitely what it means and does not mean to say. Christ is truly God: He is not a divinized or heavenly creature, as Gnostics said; or the first and greatest of God's creatures, Word of God, as Arius held; or a God subordinate to the Father, as Semi-Arians said. He is not a man adopted as son of God, however unique and excellent adoptionists fancied His adoption to be. He is not a mere man, God's minister of salvation, as Socinians and Unitarians felt compelled to say. Nor is the Jesus of history different from the Christ of faith, a man made into God by a process of apotheo sis, as Modernists and liberals once said and the demythologizers of the New Testament say today. The Church repudiates all such attempts at eluding the mystery, as it also discarded the view of ancient modalists, who, misunderstanding the Trinity, believed that Christ is not only consubstantial but identical with the Father.
The Church believes that Jesus Christ is true God, Son of God made man, the Second Person of the Trinity, who took unto Himself a human nature and so exists not only in the divine but also in a human nature: one divine Person in two natures. The man who in His earthly life was known as Jesus of Nazareth was not a human person made one, as Nestorius said, in a unique way of moral unity, with the Person of the Son of God. He was God, Son of the Father, made man for men's salvation.
Reason and history are unable to prove the mystery as a fact. The eyewitnesses of Christ's life saw the man in Jesus but did not see God; they saw only signs, the miracles, and on the strength of them believed in the divine power He claimed. Historical evidence about Christ's life, death, and Resurrection can make His divinity reasonably acceptable or credible; it cannot prove it with logical stringency. To accept the divinity of Christ requires a free assent of faith assisted by the light of grace and justified before reason by guarantees of its truthfulness. Only so can one enter into the mystery of Christ's divinity. No wonder rationalism rejects it and endeavors to explain "rationally" the facts of the life of Christ and of the history of Christianity.
Growth of the faith. The starting point of the faith is Scripture, God's message of salvation to men. It may be doubted whether the Old Testament writers ever suspected that the Messiah, the Savior of men, was to be more than a man chosen and elected by the God of Israel for the salvation of His people. Even though they knew He was to be the Son of God, filled with His sevenfold spirit (Is 11.1–3), this need not mean nor could it have meant to the monotheists of Israel that He was God.
In the New Testament, the revelation of Christ's divinity was gradual, discreet, and mainly indirect. One never meets a blunt statement: Christ is God. It had to be so if that faith was to find entrance with the Jews. Christ's own testimony about Himself was explicit as to His being the Messiah and in continuity with the Old Testament expectation, though He repudiated a temporal messianic kingdom for a higher spiritual one. With regard to His divinity, His testimony was more implicit than explicit, more indirect than forthright. His works and miracles more than His words were to prove to men that He had divine power, even in another way than others had who worked miracles before. He meant to suggest that He had the power to forgive sins to the very people who thought that God alone forgives sins (Mt 9.6). In St. John's Gospel, Christ's testimony about His divinity is more definite, yet even here more indirect than plain. He never says in so many words, "I am God," but He says that He is one with the Father (Jn 10.30), a Son of God in a unique sense, in more than the messianic sense of the phrase (cf. Jn 5.18; 16.25–28; 20.17). He claims for Himself the prerogatives of the divine nature and confirms that claim in deeds. He has power over the Sabbath (Mk 2.28; 3.1–5), the power to give life (Jn 10.10), the power to judge (Jn5.27). All power is given Him in heaven and on earth (Mt 28.18). He claims preexistence with God the Father from the beginning, before He came down to earth (Jn 8.58). He claims for Himself unity in being and power with the Father and mutual immanence with the Father (Jn 14.10). In men's religion He claims a central place, the same as that of God the Father; to believe in Him and to abide in Him means to believe and abide in God (cf. Jn 15.7–8). Thus in word and deed Jesus testified He was the Son of the Father equal with Him in divinity. How shocking this was to Jewish ears is apparent from their reaction. They understood His testimony in the way He intended it and accused Him of blasphemy. Nor did the disciples understand it in any other way, but they believed.
The Church of apostolic times shared the faith of the eyewitnesses of Christ's life, death, and Resurrection. The very titles of Yahweh and His attributes were given to Christ, Lord of all, and not merely Messiah (cf. Jn 20.28; Acts 10.36). Doxologies meant to be addressed to God alone were addressed also to Christ (cf. Rom 16.27). St. Paul is a witness to the faith in Christ's preexistence as the eternal Son of God, participating in the divine nature, though appearing among men in the form of a slave (Phil 2.6). If He nowhere explicitly calls Him God (except perhaps Rom 9.5), but only Lord and Savior, it was because to his mind God was synonymous with Father. More definite is St. John's intention of teaching that Christ Jesus is the Word incarnate: Word of God, true God, made flesh to dwell among us (Jn 1.1, 14). John is explicit about the Incarnation and the divinity of Christ. This faith of the Church is explicitly referred to Christ's testimony in word and deed—His life, death, and Resurrection.
When later the Church expressed its faith in Christ, inherited from the Apostles, it said in its Credo: "I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, only begotten Son of God, born from the Father before all times … consubstantial with the Father … who for us men and our salvation… was incarnate by the Holy Spirit from the Virgin Mary, and became man" (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum 150). It could not say more explicitly that Jesus Christ is truly God, Son of God become man for men's salvation.
It was the task of the Fathers of the Church and of the early councils to formulate the mystery of Christ, true God and true man, in accurate and technical terms, the mystery of the incarnation and of the hypostatic union.
Christ's mission and men's salvation. The Son of God became man so that the sons of men might become sons of God (cf. St. Augustine, Epist. 140.3.9; Patrologia Latina 33:541). The Word was made flesh so that men might be deified (St. Athanasius, Inc. 54). These words express Christ's mission: He came for men's salvation and divinization. But unless He was truly God, the Fathers reason, He could not divinize men; nor would they become in Christ adoptive sons of God if He were not the true Son of God [cf. St. Athanasius, Adv. arian. 3.24; see É. Mersch, "Filii in Filio," Nouvelle revue théologique 65 (1938) 551–582, 681–702, 809–830].
Christ could not be men's Savior and the agent of their divinization unless He were the new head of the race, the second Adam, head of the Mystical Body, in which membership is through grace. He could not be such if He were a mere man. Only a God-Man, St. Thomas reasons, could remake fallen nature (cf. Comp. theol. 200) or take unto Himself the entire human race to make it into His Body (cf. Summa theologiae 3a, 7) and the new people of God. Thus the divinity of Christ is the ontological foundation both of His mission as men's Savior and of their salvation and deification as God's adopted sons.
Faith in Christ's divinity, then, is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. No doubt the mystery that the man Jesus is truly God baffles one's understanding. Yet, from the Church's teaching on this, faith and the work of its doctors seeking some understanding of that faith, one comes to have some insight into the mystery. The doctrine on Christ, or Christology, explains how the Divine Person of the Son of God subsists in two natures, divine and human, both of these unaltered and undiminished in the hypostatic union. Christ is true God and true man. And the Church's teaching on men's salvation in Christ, or soteriology, shows that only one of the human race who is truly God could, by immanent reparation, save men from the Fall and its consequences and divinize them so as to make them into sons of God by regenerating adoption. Men's faith in the divinity of Christ, therefore, is postulated by their faith in the history of their salvation through Him. Thus, for those who believe in Christ, the theology of Christ Our Savior shows that the mystery of His divinity, for all its exalted transcendence, in the context of the Christian faith stands to reason.
Bibliography: j. lebreton, Dictionnaire de la Bible, suppl. ed., l. pirot (Paris 1928) 4:1025–34. a. michel, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a vacant et al. (Paris 1903–50) 8.1:1172–1213. Ibid., Tables générales 2:2548–2655. k. rahner, Lexikon für Theolgie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 1957–65) 5:954. k. adam, The Son of God, tr. p. hereford (London 1934). l. cerfaux, Christ in the Theology of St. Paul, tr. g. webb and a. walker (New York 1959). j. guitton, The Problem of Jesus, tr. a. g. smith (New York 1955). a. george, Revue biblique 72 (1965) 185–209.
[p. de letter]
Jesus Christ was truly man. His humanity is not only a fact of observation or of history; it is also a mystery of faith. Hence the twofold question: What do we believe of the humanity of Christ? What does this faith mean in Christology and soteriology?
We believe that Christ was (and is) a real and perfect man, one of the race of Adam. He had a real and complete human nature, including a real human body like ours, not only the appearance of a body, as Docetists and Manichees both in ancient and medieval times fancied. For them the flesh was evil. Nor was it a celestial body, whether ethereal, as the Gnostic Valentine said, or created in heaven by the Holy Spirit, as imagined by the Priscillianists (6th century) and the Anabaptists (16th century). Christ's humanity included a human soul like ours. The word did not take the place of His soul (as Arius said) or substitute for the "rational" soul (as Apollinaris held). His human nature was complete with all the potencies of the sense and bodily life, no less than with its human spiritual faculties of mind and will. (Monothelites excluded the latter.) He was born a real man from a human mother, the Virgin Mary, of Adam's race (but—a sign of the mystery—He was conceived and born miraculously). Thus He was consubstantial with us. Yet—and here lies the mystery of Christ's humanity—His human nature, perfect and complete, was not a human person distinct from the Divine Person of the Word, as Nestorius implied when he refused to call Mary the moth er of god; it was the human nature of a Divine Person. This point of our faith enwraps the humanity of Christ in full mystery. The Son of God is this man known as Jesus of Nazareth.
The foundation of this faith lies in what the Gospels and other New Testament writings say of Christ's life and death (and Resurrection). Christ is presented there as an individual man, who was born and died, who lived a human life, felt hunger and thirst, loved and wept, prayed and obeyed. To His contemporaries these facts showed Jesus as a true man. This by itself may not exclude Docetism. But Christ said He came to die and give His life for our Redemption; were He not a true man, He would have been deceiving, not redeeming, us. His human life included true human knowledge and a human will distinct from the divine will. To interpret the facts of Christ's life and message in a Docetist sense, or in the sense of His having an incomplete human nature, would basically ruin the witness of the Gospels as reliable documents. Moreover, the place that the tradition of the Church gives to the humanity of Christ in its faith in Christ and the Redemption supposes faith in His real and complete humanity.
Faith in Christ, Son of God made man for our salvation, includes belief in His humanity. Our Redemption by His Passion, death, and Resurrection supposes that Christ's human nature was real and one like ours from the race of Adam. The Son of God became man that as man, by immanent reparation, He might restore our fallen nature. Redemption supposes that He took a complete human nature. "What was not taken on [by the Word] cannot be healed…" (St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Epist. 101; Enchiridion patristicum 1018). In a word, unless Christ's humanity was real and complete, our Redemption could not be real and the restoration of our fallen nature complete.
Our faith in Christ, the God-Man, supposes that His humanity is not a human person (the mystery). For if it were, and if there were a duality of persons in Christ, then the Divine Person would not really be man but only united with a man; Christ would not be what our faith says He is. Theology may struggle to "explain" the hypostatic union and to show why His humanity is not a human person (see hypostatic union); it remains true that there is a mystery of Christ's humanity, real and complete and yet not a person, that is implied in our faith in the Incarnation.
Two consequences must be noted here. Christ as man is the natural, and not the adoptive, Son of God, because He is solely a Divine Person, not a human person. Christ's humanity is worthy of adoration, because it is the humanity of a Divine Person, and adoration goes to the Person.
One providential fact, symbolic of the mystery of Christ's humanity, is our ignorance of His human appearance. To His contemporaries this was known, but it veiled the mystery of the Person. To us this ignorance symbolizes the mystery of His humanity.
See Also: jesus christ, articles on; mystery (in theology); theandric acts of christ.
Bibliography: a. michel, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a vacant et al. (Paris 1903–50) 8.1:1148–64. Ibid. Tables générales 2:2548–2655. k. rahner, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 1957–65) 5:954–955. r. guardini, The Humanity of Christ, tr. r. walls (New York 1964). b. leeming, The Irish Theological Quarterly 22 (1955) 293–312.
[p. de letter]
5. NATURAL DEFECTS
The doctrine of the hypostatic union implies that an ontologically perfect, concrete human nature was assumed by the Second Person of the Trinity. But a human nature qua human nature is created and composed, and thus a limited and imperfect nature, susceptible to certain deficiencies and weaknesses (i.e., defectus ) by this very fact. Thus, in respect to Christ's own concrete human nature, the question arises whether and to what extent it was subjected to those infirmities of both body and soul that are characteristic of human nature in communi.
Scripture, while it, of course, says nothing explicitly about the ontological necessity or nonnecessity of this question, clearly testifies to the historical fact that, by reason of Christ's voluntary acceptance of all that in any way would fittingly contribute to His accomplishing the end of the Incarnation, viz, mankind's Redemption, His human nature was exposed to all those natural infirmities that are not in themselves directly sinful. The Synoptic Gospels in their descriptions of Christ's Passion and death, St. John's Gospel in its preoccupation with asserting Christ's true humanity (probably against the already rising heretical Docetist theories that argued Christ had only the fictitious appearance of a body that could suffer and undergo death), and many texts of St. Paul in their insistence on the efficacy of Christ's suffering for our salvation—all these can be seen as summarized in 4.14–5.10 of the Epistle to the hebrews: "For we have not a high priest who cannot have compassion on our infirmities, but one tried as we are in all things except sin…. And he, Son though he was, learned obedience from the things that he suffered, and when perfected, he became to all who obey him the cause of eternal salvation …" (cf. the 12th of the anathemas of St. Cyril against Nestorius, H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum 263).
Further theological determinations and explicitations are presented by St. Thomas (Summa theologiae 3a, 14, the bodily defects assumed by the Son of God; 15, the defects of soul assumed by Christ). He formulates the principles implied in Scripture: (1) Because the human nature of Christ was assumed by the Divine Person of the Word, it could, by this very fact, have been preserved immune from those defects intrinsic to human nature in communi by reason of the human nature's ontological structure; (2) but the Divine Person Incarnate voluntarily chose not to enjoy this due immunity in order to accomplish in a superabundant and most suitable fashion the purposes of His becoming man. Thus, Christ would (a ) satisfy for the sins of mankind by undergoing the punishment due to sin, such as hunger, thirst, fatigue, pain, and death; (b ) confirm the faith of mankind in the truth of the Incarnation; and (c ) give the Christian an example of those virtues of patience and endurance he ought to imitate in his own life.
Finally, St. Thomas derives from these two a third principle whereby it is possible to judge whether or not a specific human deficiency was assumed by the divine Word: Christ accepted all those infirmities of nature that are not actually repugnant to the dignity of the Divine Person, and are truly fit and suitable (convenientes ) to either the principal or secondary purpose of the Incarnation. Such deficiencies, voluntarily endured and not allowed to be obliterated either by the divine nature itself or by the beatific vision enjoyed by the human nature, became meritorious for mankind's salvation.
Thus specifically, Christ assumed those bodily defects that are common to all human nature as consequences of original sin, but not those that are present only in some men as consequences of particular causes, for instance, sickness or disease. In Christ's soul there was no sin or any irrational inclination to sin (fomes peccati ), no error or privative ignorance, although His soul was truly passible, i.e., subject both to bodily passions and to the animal or psychological passions, i.e., the sensitive appetites (see propassions of christ).
See Also: impeccability of christ.
Bibliography: k. adam, The Christ of Faith, tr. j. crick (New York 1957) 210–232. r. garrigou-lagrange, Christ the Savior, tr. b. rose (St. Louis, Mo. 1950) 401–419. e. hugon, The Mystery of the Incarnation, tr. a nun of St. Dominic's Priory, Carisbrooke (London 1925) 233–243. f. lakner, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 1957–65) 3:188–189. l. lercher, Institutiones theologiae dogmaticae (5th ed. Barcelona 1951) 3:124–135. b. j. lonergan, De Verbo incarnato (Rome 1961) 146–180. a. michel, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a vacant et al. (Paris 1903–50) 8.1:1155–64, 1327–28. a. schlitzer, Redemptive Incarnation (3d rev. ed. Notre Dame, Ind.1962). b. m. xiberta y roqueta, Enchiridion de Verbo Incarnato (Madrid 1957), Index Doctrinarium 22.
[d. r. grabner]
Christ being God and man had both a divine and a human knowledge. His divine knowledge was infinite, one with that of the Father and the Spirit; and because of the communication of idioms this man Christ could be said to have an infinite knowledge. This article deals only with Christ's human knowledge, which, though unique, was not infinite. It examines (1) the teaching of the faith based on Scripture; (2) its theological systematization, viz, Christ's threefold human knowledge (the vision, infused knowledge, and experimental knowledge); and (3) the objection to such knowledge from Christ's ignorance of the Last Day.
Faith about Christ's Human Knowledge. It is a doctrine of the faith, though not defined, that besides the divine there was in Christ human knowledge. This is a consequence of His real and complete humanity: His human mind and sense faculties had their own operations, as is attested abundantly in the Gospels. It is, moreover, postulated by His mission to preach to men in human concepts and words the message of salvation. The Gospels exalt the excellence of Christ's human knowledge. As a 12-year-old child, He astonishes people by His knowledge (Lk 2.40, 47), and later, during His ministry, all are wondering at His teaching (Mt 7.28–29;13.54–55). He knows distant things (Mk 13.42); He reads the hearts of men (Lk 6.8; 7.39–40; Mk 2.6–8). He foretells the future—His Passion, the fall of Jerusalem, and His Second Coming. St. John calls Him full of grace and truth (Jn 1.14). St. Paul says that in Him are "hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col 2.3).
Christ Himself says that He draws His teaching from His knowledge of the Father (Mt 11.27; cf. Jn 1.18;3.11–36). He speaks of what He has seen with the Father. Besides, He observed men and things, as is shown in His parables. He learns from experience what obedience means (Heb 5.8). He learns what was said by the Prophets of the Old Law. He asks questions and wonders at the answers He is given (Mk 5.31; Jn 11.34; Mt 8.10).
Accordingly, from Holy Scripture Christ's human knowledge appears as excellent and exceptional, multiple too—some of it He derives from His contact with the Father; some He learns from experience. On one occasion, however, He says (Mk 13.32) that He does not know about the Day of Judgment—this raises the problem of His "ignorance."
Christ's threefold human knowledge. Theology has systematized the teaching of Scripture on Christ's human knowledge (the Fathers did little more than take up the problem of His "ignorance"). Theologians have done so on the basis of two principles: (1) the principle of perfection, meaning that Christ, being the most perfect of all men, had to have all possible perfection of human knowledge (possible in His concrete situation); and (2) the principle of equipment for His mission, meaning that He had to have the knowledge of God and men needed for His mission as Word-Incarnate Redeemer. Hence theologians say that He had the beatific vision, infused knowledge, and acquired knowledge.
Beatific Vision. Concerning the beatific vision of Christ, see part 1 of this article. One remark is to be made here. The sharing of Christ's human intellect in the vision, a connatural consequence of the hypostatic union, was not immediately serviceable for His mission as revealer of the mystery of salvation, because the vision is inexpressible in human concepts. But it was the reason for Christ's infused knowledge.
Infused Knowledge. The fact of this knowledge in Christ is commonly held by theologians. They distinguish, in the knowledge that Scripture says Christ derived from His contact with the Father, the vision of God (without species and ineffable) and the infused knowledge, or knowledge by infused species (expressible in human concepts and words). The distinction may be implicit in Scripture (cf. Jn 7.16; Mt 11.27).
The nature of this infused knowledge is akin to that of angelic knowledge. Angels know not by acquired but by infused species; this is their natural way of knowing. For Christ's human intellect, infused knowledge was not natural but supernatural, either absolutely, in the case of supernatural mysteries, or relatively, in the case of objects that can also be known naturally. The first is per se infused, the second infused per accidens.
The reason for this knowledge in Christ is not any imperfection or insufficiency in His immediate vision of God; rather it is the very perfection of this vision. Because vision knowledge is incommunicable in human terms, and Christ's mission entailed the communication to men of divine mysteries, a communicable knowledge of these mysteries was necessary. And so Christ's vision connaturally postulates as its complement the infused knowledge of the mysteries of salvation. The specific reason for the existence of infused knowledge in Christ is derived from His mission rather than from the principle of perfection.
The extension of Christ's infused knowledge is conceived differently, depending on the reason given for its existence. St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa theologiae 3a, 11.5), on the basis of the principle of perfection, says that by infused knowledge Christ knew all that pertains to human learning and all that men know through divine revelation (not, however, the divine essence, object of the vision). He adds that infused knowledge (unlike the vision) is not actual all the time but only habitual. Today theologians incline to explain the extension of Christ's infused knowledge from the purpose and nature of His mission; this was a coming in lowliness, not in glory, and did not require the knowledge of all human learning (infused per accidens) but only of all that pertains to men's salvation (mainly infused per se). This was necessary and sufficient for Christ to discharge His mission. In this latter supposition, Christ's infused knowledge was mainly, if not exclusively, supernatural, or per se infused; in that of St. Thomas, His infused knowledge of human learning was natural in substance but supernatural quoad modum (angelic), or infused per accidens.
Acquired Knowledge. The fact of Christ's experiential, or acquired, knowledge is considered certain by theologians today. (It was not so in the past; for fear of having to admit real progress in His knowledge, some postulated a complete infused knowledge and allowed only new manifestation of knowledge.) Since His humanity was complete and included sense faculties and a human intellect, to deny acquired knowledge in Christ seems to tend to Docetism. And without His having this knowledge, many sayings in the Gospels hardly have meaning.
The extension of this knowledge is conceived in different ways. St. Thomas, on the a priori principle of perfection, teaches that Christ knew by acquired knowledge all that could be known by the agent intellect (Summa theologiae 3a, 12.1). Some commentators went so far as to say He knew all about mathematics, the sciences, languages, etc. (A. Lépicier). This, however, goes against the very nature of Christ's experiential knowledge, which, like that of anyone else, was limited and restricted. Nor did His mission require such a knowledge. Today it is commonly said that Christ's acquired knowledge was perfect in keeping with the concrete circumstances of His time and place, age and mission, and His dealings with people for His redemptive and prophetic mission.
The question of Christ's progress in knowledge causes no difficulty today and is commonly answered in the affirmative. It is of the nature of acquired knowledge to grow with observation and experience and to become more perfect. And cf. Lk 2.40, 52. Nor is there any difficulty about the question as to whether or not Christ learned from other people. St. Thomas (Summa theologiae 3a, 12.3–4) held that, because it is unbecoming for the first mover in any field of action to be moved by inferiors, Christ could not have been taught by others. What he said applies no doubt to the message of salvation that Christ learned from none but His Father. But it lies in the nature of one's acquired human knowledge, including that of Christ, that one learn from others; men are naturally social and dependent on one another to acquire the knowledge necessary for a human way of living. Jesus, then, learned from His parents, as later He also received, in answer to His questions, information that He did not yet know from experience. This in no way is contrary to the perfection of Christ's acquired knowledge.
Unity and Harmony of Christ's Threefold Knowledge. Christ's divine knowledge did not make unnecessary or meaningless His human knowledge. So also the three kinds of human knowledge in Christ, required by what Scripture and revelation say of the God-Man, did not hinder or exclude but rather complemented one another. The three were required on different grounds and existed on different levels, while uniting in one human consciousness for the purpose of Christ's mission.
The vision, though always in act, could coexist with infused and acquired knowledge, because it existed on a different level and was not conditioned by any created species. (But the mystery remains: Christ is both comprehensor and viator ). Both infused and acquired knowledge depend on species, but on species of different origin: one depends on species infused by God, the other on species acquired through sense experience. Because the first kind of species pertains to objects that per se do not come within sense experience, they do not apparently stand in the way of acquired knowledge. A difficulty may arise, not easily soluble, as to whether the exercise of one of these two kinds of knowledge can go together with that of the other. Perhaps, as has been suggested, the experience of mystics in whom the more perfect mystical knowledge does no longer hinder (as it did in a less perfect stage) ordinary sense experience and experiential knowledge may be a hint that the perfect infused knowledge in Christ did not hinder His acquired knowledge. In the case of a knowledge infused per accidens, this should not hinder but rather help the cognate acquired knowledge.
Moreover, because the three kinds of knowledge in Christ referred to different objects, they complemented one another. His vision knowledge, ineffable and incommunicable, was the spring of His communicable infused knowledge of the mystery of salvation. Without being perfected by the latter, it was complemented by the infused knowledge, which made His mission as revealer of the Father possible. This infused knowledge, in turn, was in need of the acquired knowledge, because it was to be communicated to particular persons in the particular concepts and words of a particular language, to be learned from experience and intercourse with people. To that extent it was conditioned for its effective communication by Christ's experiential knowledge.
The three kinds of knowledge were the acts and possession of one human intellect and one human awareness; they were distinct, not separated. Their perfect harmony, however, remains mysterious; it is part of the very mystery of Christ.
Christ's ignorance of the Last Day. The text of Mk 13.32 was a problem in the time of the Fathers. Some seemed to say that Christ had no human knowledge of the Last Day, e.g., St. Gregory of Nyssa. Others, such as St. John Chrysostom and most of the Latin Fathers, rejected the supposition of a real ignorance in Christ. St. Augustine proposed the solution that has become universally accepted: Christ had no communicable knowledge of the Last Day, because it did not pertain to His mission to reveal it. Augustine said this in the context of the question about human infirmities taken on by Christ; his solution here too has prevailed: Christ took all of these infirmities, except ignorance, which is not only a consequence but also a principle of sin (Divers. quaest. 83.60). According to the scholastic systematization of Christ's threefold human knowledge, one should say then that Christ knew the Last Day in His vision knowledge, not in His infused knowledge.
A century after St. Augustine, the error of the Agnoetae, e.g., Themistius, categorically affirmed Christ's human ignorance of the day. It was condemned by Pope St. Gregory (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum 474). Since then, both East and West have rallied to the teaching of St. Augustine.
Bibliography: a. michel, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 1903–50) 14.2:1628–65. Ibid., Tables générales 2:2548–2655. "Wissen Christi," Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 1957–65) v. 10. c. chopin, Le Verbe incarné et rédempteur (Tournai 1963), 93–102. a. doolan, The Irish Ecclesiastical Record 93 (1960) 249–254. j. galot, Nouvelle revue théologique 82 (1960) 113–131; condensed in Theology Digest 12 (1964) 48–52. b. leeming, Irish Theological Quarterly 19 (1952) 135–147, 234–253.
[p. de letter]
Just as there are two complete and perfect natures in Christ, one divine, the other human, there are two wills in Christ, one divine, the other human. This is a doctrine of faith, and its denial was declared to be heretical by the Third Council of Constantinople (680–681), presided over by Pope Agatho through his legates, and confirmed in its acts by his successor, Pope Leo II. "According to the teaching of the holy Fathers, we proclaim that there are two natural wills in Him [Christ], and two natural operations, neither divided nor changed, neither separated nor intermingled" (H. Denz, Enchiridion symbolorum 556).
The occasion of this doctrinal declaration of the Church was the theologico-political attempt by Sergius, patriarch of Constantinople, to reconcile Monophysites (who held one nature in Christ) with orthodox Catholics. (see monotheletism.) The theory that in Christ there is only one principle of operation was sufficiently ambiguous to be satisfactory to Monophysites, while Catholics might be led to acknowledge the single principle of operation as the Divine Person, operating through two natures. It even drew a timid and controverted approbation from Pope honorius i (d. 638). Monotheletism, although clearly condemned, continued to count adherents among Orientals as late as the Middle Ages.
Existence and nature of human will. Sacred Scripture testifies to the existence of a human will in Christ that is distinct from His divine will. His words "not my will but thine be done" (Lk 22.42) were addressed to His Father. Moreover, works of honor are attributed to Christ, such as prayer, obedience, merit, which cannot proceed from the divine will, since they are manifested to a superior. They can proceed only from a created will. In His Incarnation the Son of God assumed a perfect human nature, at the same time retaining His perfect divine nature. But there is no human nature without the human will, just as there is no divine nature without the divine will. St. Thomas adds: "Whatever was in the human nature of Christ was moved at the bidding of the divine will, yet it does not follow that in Christ there was no movement of the will proper to human nature" (Summa theologiae 3a, 18.1 ad 1). By this one is to understand that the human will is no useless appendage but an operating faculty in the human nature of Christ.
The will is defined as the intellectual appetite—an inclination to the good apprehended by the intellect. As human, the will is colored by the operation of the human intellect. Its operation is twofold, one with regard to the end, the other with regard to the means to the end. The human will is necessarily moved by the concept of happi ness, of perfect goodness, as well as by goods that are desired in themselves, such as health. This function of the will denominates the will as nature. With regard to the means to the end, to created goods as distinguished from the absolute and perfect good, the will is in control of its movement. Hence this operation denominates the will as reason. Both of these functions are essential to the human will, and therefore must have been in Christ.
Freedom of will in Christ. Christ certainly enjoyed freedom of will, as is evident from the fact that the proper act of the will as reason is to choose, and this is also the proper act of free will. Not only had Christ free will, but He enjoyed perfect freedom (cf. Jn 10.17–18). The fact that His will was perfectly subject to the divine will in no way impaired its own proper motion and tendency. This conformity to the divine will was rather the guarantee of the perfect freedom of Christ, giving it its special value, so that having its own activity, it exercised it under and in accord with the divine influence. This is true of all human activity that is morally good. It befitted Christ in a special fashion, for He was not only sinless but impeccable.
Christ did not exercise free will where other men did not exercise it, i.e., in desire for the end, happiness, in the operation of His will as nature, in His love of the divine essence clearly seen in the beatific vision. Yet it was always within His power, under the efficacious motion of God, to turn toward this or that created good, which, because of its inherent limitation, cannot fully satisfy the aspiration of His will toward the complete and unalloyed good. This is the root of human freedom.
Impeccability of Christ. By reason of the hypostatic union, His possession of the beatific vision from the first instant of His conception, and the immutable fullness of grace, Christ's will not only always factually conformed to the divine will, but, more than this, it could not defect from this conformity; Christ could not sin. It is a common fallacy that the inability to sin in some fashion curtails freedom. The erroneous foundation of this assumption is exposed by a little reflection that the power to choose indifferently good or evil (the apparent good) is really a sign of deficiency in the faculty whose object is the good as apprehended by reason.
While the choice between good and evil was not open to Christ, it was always within His power, under the efficacious motion of God, to turn toward this or that created good, which, because of its limitations, could not fully satisfy the aspirations of the will toward the perfect and absolute good. And yet in spite of all this, we are still forced to admit that Christ's impeccability presents a serious problem when considered in relation to His obedience to His Father's command.
Harmony of human and divine wills in Christ. Because He was truly man, Christ had a sensible nature and therefore a sensitive appetite. Because He was perfect man, His sensitive appetite never escaped, anticipated, or rebelled against the control of His reason. Therefore, because of this rational control, the sensible appetite in Christ is called the will in an extended sense. The field of the sensible appetite is sensible pleasure and pain. So theologically speaking, one can distinguish in Christ four wills: divine will, human will as reason, human will as nature, human will as sensuality. There was perfect harmony between the divine will and the human will as reason. Its perfect conformity was proof of its perfection. On the other hand, the will as nature and the will of sensuality, because of their natures, allowed by the Son of God to do what belonged to them (Summa theologiae 3a, 18.6), shrank from sensible pain and bodily hurt, as foreseen in His Passion. So Christ's words in the Garden of Olives, "Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me; yet not as I will, but as thou willest" (Mt 26.39), expressed first of all the movement of the will of sensuality and the will as nature, then the absolute conformity of His will as reason to the divine will.
The natural shrinking of the will as sensuality and the will as nature from the suffering of the Passion, and the eager desire of Christ's will as reason joyfully to embrace that suffering in complete obedience to the command of the divine will, did not constitute civil war within Christ. The salvation of the human race, the reason for the divine command, is a good beyond the scope of the sense appetite. Will as nature could love this goal as a good, but was incapable of ordering the Passion to it as a means to the end. Only the will as reason could do that. Nor was the will as reason impeded or retarded by the movement of the will of sensuality and the will as nature. So, just as the human will has its most proper operation, free choice, though it is perfectly subject to the divine will, so too the sense appetite and the will as nature in Christ have their full and proper operation in their perfect subjection to the will as reason. Both properly fly from sorrow and pain, but with the limitation of that flight to the demands of reason. So proclaimed the Third Council of Constantinople: "The human will is compliant, and not opposing or contrary; as a matter of fact, it is even obedient to His divine and omnipotent will" (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum 556).
Bibliography: thomas aquinas, Summa theologiae 3a, 18–20. a. michel, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 1903–50) 8.1:1160–64, 1267–69, 1290–1312. m. jugie, ibid. 10:2307–23. Sacrae theologiae summa (Madrid 1961) 3:1.408–447. h. rahner and a. grillmeier, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche (Freiburg 1957–65) 7:570–572. r. garrigou-lagrange, Christ the Savior, tr. b. rose (St. Louis, Mo. 1950) 439–486. w. r. farrell, Companion to the Summa, 4 v. (New York 1942) 4:99–104. c. hÉris, The Mystery of Christ, tr. d. fahey (Westminster, Md. 1950) 63–69.
[j. r. gillis]
8. POWER AND THEANDRIC ACTS
The power of Christ considered here is not His divine power that as Son of God He has in common with the Father and the Spirit and that He exercises independently of His humanity in such activity as pertains to creation, but the power of His humanity. Because of its being the "joined instrument" of the Word, Christ's human nature has, besides its own power, natural and supernatural (through grace), a unique instrumental virtue, or power. The actions of the second power are called theandric in the strict sense of the term.
Christ's own human power. The power of Christ's humanity operative in those actions in which His human nature acts as chief cause, either in natural activity, such as walking, eating, speaking, or in supernatural operations, such as acts of infused virtues (e.g., fortitude, temperance) does not essentially differ from that of another man—except on two points. First, because of the unique perfection of His humanity and His sanctifying grace, these operations too have a unique perfection. Second, this activity is the human or supernatural (created) activity of a Divine Person.
These actions, however, are not theandric, because in them Christ's humanity acts as chief cause. They may, however, be called theandric in a broad sense, not only because of the special divine, natural or supernatural, help that guides them, but specifically because they pertain to the Person of the Word in virtue of the hypostatic union.
His power in theandric actions. Theandric in the strict sense are those actions of Christ in which His humanity acts as the joint instrument of the Word, His divine Person and nature being the principal cause. The "instrumental virtue" added to His humanity by the hypostatic union is a power that enables it to be the instrument of the Word in theandric actions. Though not infinite, and therefore not omnipotent, because His humanity is finite, it yet extends to effects that are beyond purely human or created causality.
This unique power of Christ's humanity is manifested mainly in two kinds of activity: in working miracles and in dispensing sanctifying grace. In both of these activities, the two natures of Christ are active: the divine nature as principal cause and the human nature as instrumental cause. The activity of His humanity is here raised in its conjoint activity with the Word so as to be actually the subordinate and instrumental cause of divine effects. In this sense, Christ's humanity has a unique power. When other persons or creatures are assumed by God as ministers or instruments to work miracles or give grace, their instrumental causality differs from that of Christ's humanity. They are separated instruments, persons or things distinct from the Person of the chief cause; Christ's humanity is the permanently joined instrument of the Word, the principal cause. Because of this aspect of the hypostatic union, Christ's human will and activity coincide with the divine will in a manner other created wills cannot. His instrumental causality in the dispensation of grace has an excellence that transcends that of any minister or Sacrament of grace.
Different theological concepts of this instrumental virtue have been proposed. Some reduce it to the moral causality of an infallibly efficacious intercession, after Scotus and G. Vázquez, in reference to Jn 11.41. Others, more commonly and more aptly, see it as an instrumental efficiency of Christ's humanity. This latter concept fits better such texts as Lk 6.19 and 8.46, where a power is said to go out from Jesus, or Jn 15.5, about the vine and the branches. When this instrumental efficient causality is conceived as physical (analogically) or intentionally perfective, i.e., as the expression of a divine command or will, then Christ's working of miracles or granting of grace appears as something unique, in the sense that His human will, being the human will of the Word, of necessity coincides freely with His divine will, and so the man-Christ works miracles and grants grace on His personal authority.
This instrumental power of Christ's humanity in giving grace is also manifested in the giving of the Holy Spirit; the Apostles receive the Spirit when Jesus breathes over them through the human words that He pronounces. Another element of the power of Christ is His prayer, which has a unique power of intercession.
See Also: theandric acts of christ.
Bibliography: a. michel, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 1903–50) 8.1:1312–23. pius xii, Mystici Corporis Christi in Acta Apostolicae Seids 35 (1943) 50. b. raigneau-julien, Revue thomiste 55 (1955) 615–628. c. chopin, Le Verbe incarné et rédempteur (Tournai 1963) 105–108.
[p. de letter]
9. MESSIANIC CONSCIOUSNESS
This question deals with a fact and not the conditions for its possibility. Whether Jesus actually attributed to Himself messianic prerogatives is the point under consideration, not how He was able to do so or what type of knowledge this presupposed. The method employed will be biblical rather than apologetical. It may not, however, be amiss to note that the Apostolic proclamation of Jesus as messiah presupposed His own assertion of the same. Even the hypothesis tracing this kerygma to an erroneous acceptance of His Resurrection must admit that predisposition was necessary for His followers to witness such "apparitions." This in turn has its most plausible explanation in His own pretensions before death. To investigate the function He attributed to Himself either directly or by acquiescing in the titles that others gave Him, recourse will be had above all to the Synoptics.
Although the Old Testament gave the Messiah the traits of king [Ps 2, 109 (110)], prophet (Dt 18.15; Is 42.1–9; 49.1–6; 52.13–53.12), and transcendent figure of the last days (Dn 7.13), all these were not, at the proper time, combined immediately and with ease so as to represent to people's minds a single historical individual. Even Jesus' Apostles were not exempt from a popular conception emphasizing the first to the exclusion of the second (Mk 8.31–33; Mt 16.21–23); a distinction was also made on occasion between the Messiah and the Prophet (Jn1.21, 25; 7.40–41).
It will be recalled that the Gospel narratives in their present form were not the first books of the New Testament to be written. They presuppose an oral and written tradition; there are differences of perspective between them and other parts of the New Testament. One of the titles, son of man, given to Jesus most frequently in John and the Synoptics, appears almost never in the rest of the New Testament. Conversely, Christ is used in the Synoptics to refer directly to Jesus only rarely and with qualifying restrictions, though it is His normal title elsewhere.
To speak of His messianic consciousness is to inquire into His way of identifying Himself in terms of functions He fulfilled. These are described variously and can be analyzed in His titles. Messiah : both in the Greek text and in the Latin version, this rendering of the Hebrew is most infrequent. When it does appear, Jesus is not represented as using it (Jn 1.41; 4.25). Son of David : a messianic title; those seeking aid apply it to Him (Mk 10.47–48; Mt 20.30–31; Lk 18.38–39). Emphasizing the already popular regal qualities of the Messiah, the title son of david only too easily lent itself to misinterpretation. Jesus explicitly approved its application to Himself only at the end of His public life and teaching (Mt 21.9, 15–17); He did not hesitate to point out its incompleteness as a means of designating the Messiah (Mk 12.35–37; Mt 22.41–46; Lk 20.41–44).
Christ : if the kerygmatic discourses in the Acts of the Apostles apply the title christ to Jesus without hesitation and the Pauline Epistles treat it almost like a personal name, the Gospels are different in this regard. When it is attributed to Him, He does not receive it with perfect equanimity. Not His usual way of referring to Himself, when He does accept it, it is an adaptation to the form of questions put by others (Mk 14.61–62; Mt 26.63–64; Lk 22.66–69), or an accommodation to their usage (Mk 8.30; Mt 16.17–20; Lk 9.20–22). This often introduces the whole into a prophetic context of approaching suffering and death (Mk 8.31; Lk 9.22; Mt 16.21), or else into the apocalyptic frame of reference of Dn 7 (Mk 14.62; Mt 26.64; Lk 22.69).
Son of Man (cf. Dn 7.13): although the title is employed almost exclusively by Jesus in reference to Himself before His Resurrection, its biblical meaning is not always messianic (Ps 8.5). Still the repeated usage in the third person (with the definite article in the Greek text), when a subject is speaking of himself, is unusual and calculated to draw attention to the speaker. In the Synoptics, the title serves to designate Jesus in His functions, some exercised in the present and others to be fulfilled in the future.
The Son of Man as pictured in the first group has characteristics that are antithetical. Lord of the Sabbath (Mk 2.28; Mt 12.8; Lk 6.5), forgiver of sins (Mk 2.10; Mt 9.5–6; Lk 5.24), the Son of Man is already endowed with superhuman prerogatives. But He lacks what even the foxes and birds possess (Lk 9.58; Mt 8.20) and is subjected to misunderstanding and accusations on the part of men (Mt 11.19; Lk 7.34).
The future role of the Son of Man is likewise twofold. Again it will be both one of ignominy and suffering (Mt 17.22; Mk 10.45; Lk 11.30; Mt 12.40), as well as one of transcendence and glory (Mk 13.26–27; 14.62; Mt 26.64). The prophetic and the apocalyptic are thus introduced.
While announcing the presence of the kingdom of god ushered in by John, Jesus gradually revealed His own identity as Messiah in terms of present and future endurance and action. This messianic secret He did not tell to all (Mk 4.11), or to the unprepared. The progressive steps in its revelation were psychologically capable of transforming an excessively political concept of God's Anointed into a more spiritual and religious one. Whereas He is not represented by the Synoptics as rejecting strictly messianic titles, He did not accept them, in the traditions these Gospels represent, immediately at the outset of His preaching without qualification and clarification. The designation He Himself chose to use included in its meaning the simultaneous verification of opposites in the present, together with emphasis on a future when He would realize in Himself transcendent apocalyptic glory through and after suffering as Yahweh's Servant (see suf fering servant, songs of). Before His death and Resurrection, He was already the Messiah and conscious of so being, but His messianic work was as yet incomplete. This temporal element in His progressive verification and manifestation of messianic properties was better expressed with a term that did not connote immediately the idea of triumph complete from the start. In this perspective certain messianic titles, with the associations they had at the time, were more likely to confuse than convey the desired message. Their avoidance and the choice of another term capable of progressive development and explanation are hardly coincidental in the Synoptics.
See Also: jesus christ, in the bible; messiah; messianism.
Bibliography: a. michel, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 1903–50), Tables générales 2:2551–53, 2598–2605, 2621–23. h. gross et al., Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 1957–65) 7:336–342. A. Vögtle, ibid. 7:297–300. a. vÖgtle and r. schnackenburg, ibid. 7:922–940, Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. l. hartman (New York 1963) 1142–56, 1510–25. e. dhanis, "De filio hominis in Vetere Testamento et in iudaismo," Gregorianum 45 (1964) 5–59, r. bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, tr. k. grobel, 2 v. (New York 1951–55).
[c. j. peter]
10. PSYCHOLOGICAL UNITY
No more is intended in what follows than an exposition of the general positions taken by Catholic theologians. First, however, some explanation is necessary about the point under consideration. That Jesus Christ is unique in His divine personality and dual in His natures is an article of faith; whatever He did, whatever He endured, it was God the Son who was acting and suffering. This faith has its origin in Christ's revelation of His own ontological unity, that of a subject with attributes both divine and human. But to communicate this mystery of His unity to others in word and deed, He had first somehow to come to know it Himself.
If He enjoyed a variety of types of intellectual knowledge, how was it that He recognized Himself as the common subject of them all? Did He know Himself as such only as an object of contemplation in the vision of God? Or was He aware of this fact in other ways as well? Was the ego of the Suffering Servant divine or human? If the first, was the Word of God conscious of Himself in the pain experienced through and in and by virtue of His body and soul? Christ's subjective unity as grasped in His life of sense experience, intellection, and affection is what will be discussed here. What were the psychological conditions presupposed by His revelation of His oneness? How did that experience or knowledge arise?
Presuppositions. Constants appear in most Catholic attempts to answer these questions. The first is that in Jesus of Nazareth the one Person is that of the Word, who alone became incarnate and was man. The Father and Holy Spirit could not be conscious of themselves in His humanity since it belonged to or was united to the Person of neither of them. Second, no operation of the Son through the divine nature is proper to Him alone. Furthermore, a complete and perfect humanity in Christ is in no way impeded by either of the foregoing. If unconscious suffering is not real for man, neither is it for Him. Finally He had a special knowledge, usually reserved for the blessed in the final phase of God's kingdom, the vision of God. In this He saw the Word and His own human nature. He recognized that He was God the Word made man and realized that the ultimate subject of His human activity was the eternal Son of God.
Theologians discuss whether or not He experienced the same divine subject in acts of human knowledge other than beatific. When He was hungry, thirsty, tired, scourged, and crucified, was His divine Ego aware of itself in a human way precisely because of and in this sense experience? Was the Word conscious of Himself in all the acts of sensation, knowledge, and love realized in His humanity?
Here profound differences appear, based on philosophical conceptions of consciousness. These are probably as much as any other the reason for the diverse theological opinions. Consciousness is proposed as the exercise of introspection or reflection in which the feeling, knowing, loving subject becomes the object of explicit consideration. As such it could not properly speaking be found in God, who knows Himself without reflecting on any prior act of cognition or volition. If not this, then consciousness is the self-presence or awareness a subject necessarily has of itself in every psychological act. Such experience provides the prerequisite data for introspection and for scientific studies of the subject as such. In addition, there is disagreement as to whether an ontological unity of person is compatible with a plurality of psychological egos. Must the latter be really identified with the person?
Theology of the assumed humanity. This theory is preoccupied with preserving the psychological integrity of the manhood in Jesus. What was present through reflection on acts of knowing and loving was a human ego. In this His situation was like that of other men. But He was different, since His Person was not human but divine. In His purely human or natural acts, He was present to Himself without being aware of the fact that He was the eternal Son of God. The latter He was and realized full well in an act of human knowledge that was supernatural, namely, the vision of God. Knowing Himself as the Word, He was nevertheless not strictly conscious of so being in acts other than the beatific vision. What He was conscious of in such activity was what appeared to Him in introspective reflection; that was a human ego, as His human nature was complete and the principle of His human actions. The subject of that ego was recognized as a Divine Person only through the beatific vision.
Theology of God-with-Us. The distinguishing characteristic of this theology, which embraces a number of different opinions, is that it maintains that Christ is conscious of His divine Ego through and by virtue of human acts other than the vision of God. What He experienced in such activity is not a human ego but the divine Ego of the Word. That experience of the eternal Word, however, is not described by all in the same way. It may take place in an act of reflection on one that precedes it; or it may be presupposed by and offer the grounds for such reflection. In either case, the reality experienced is divine though present in a human way. So too, though a divine Ego is experienced or falls within the field of human consciousness, the vision of God may be a necessary complement to it for Christ's assertion of identity between the subject He experienced and what He knew of God's own Son.
See Also: communication of idioms; hypostatic union; incommunicability; person (in theology); theandric acts of christ.
Bibliography: a. michel, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 1903–50), Tables générales 2:2650–54. k. rahner, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburgh 1957–65) 5:959–961. "Wissen Christi," ibid., v. 10. p. galtier, L'Unité du Christ (2d ed. Paris 1939). p. parente, L'Io di Cristo (2d ed. Brescia 1955). b. j. lonergan, De constitutione Christi ontologica et psychologica (3d ed. Rome 1961). h. diepen, La Théologie de L'Emmanuel (Bruges 1960).
[c. j. peter]
11. PROPHET, PRIEST, AND KING
In treating of the incarnate Word's principal activity of redemption, many theologians prefer to propound the doctrine by considering the three messianic offices or functions of Christ, which can fittingly be said to comprehend His whole work as Redeemer and Mediator: (1) the prophetic or magisterial office, (2) the sacerdotal office, and (3) the kingly office. A detailed study of these three is ordinarily preceded by general considerations of the concept of Redemption, i.e., the unique restitution of the original justice mankind possessed before the Fall.
Prophetic or magisterial office. The scriptural teaching (especially of St. John) concerning Jesus as the logos or word of the Father and the many related themes (e.g., wisdom, light, truth) stress the fact that man's attaining Redemption or salvation requires his coming to know God and God's positive will as revealed in sacred history. Thus Jesus must, first of all, be the concrete manifestation of God's will for man, i.e., of the divine precepts and promises: "Now this is everlasting life, that they may know thee, the only true God, and him whom thou hast sent, Jesus Christ" (Jn 17.3; cf. Heb1.1–5).
The infallible efficacy of Christ's teaching power (magisterium ) in bringing mankind to that indispensable knowledge of faith that is necessary for salvation derives ultimately from the fact that He is a Divine Person and thus uniquely enabled to know and make known the eternal mystery of the Father's will: "All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and him to whom the Son chooses to reveal him" (Mt 1 1.27).
The infallible magisterium of the Church, by reason of Christ's authentic delegation of power and mission to teach given to the Apostles and their successors, is thus ultimately a participation in Christ's unique teaching power.
Sacerdotal office. The consideration of Christ in His priesthood, perhaps more than in any other aspect, brings out the totality of His mediatorship between God and man. As eternal High Priest, He offers Himself as a perfectly dedicated and consecrated Victim in a sacrifice of adoration, praise, thanksgiving, petition, and vicarious reparation, an infinitely pleasing sacrifice to God the Father. Thus He restores that intimate union between God and man that had been destroyed through sin.
The principal treatment in Scripture of Christ's priesthood and sacrifice is the Epistle to the hebrews, in which the author, through a detailed comparison of the New Covenant with the Old Covenant, shows the infinite superiority of the one over the other; he insists that Christ, called to this task by a unique vocation of God and taken from among men, whose lot He has shared in all things except sin, exercises a priesthood and offers a sacrifice that has a once-for-all and eternal efficacy: "It was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, set apart from sinners, and become higher than the heavens" (Heb 7.26; see whole section4.14–7.28).
Kingly office. At His trial, Jesus answered Pilate's question as to whether or not He was a king: "Thou sayest it; I am a king. This is why I was born, and why I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth" (Jn 18.37). The Synoptic Gospels, preoccupied with announcing the Good News of the coming of the Kingdom of God, give a certain stress to the theme of Christ's kingship, to which they add, however, a number of other related themes. The general truth that these themes all illustrate in their own way is that into the hands of Jesus, as the Lamb of God, have been entrusted all "blessing and honor and glory and dominion, forever and ever" (Rv 5.13). For a great number of relevant scriptural texts, see the Mass and Office for the feast of Christ the King.
Bibliography: i. solano, Sacrae theologiae summa (Madrid 1961) 3:1, 694–791. a. michel, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 1903–50) 8.1:1345–59. o. cullmann, The Christology of the New Testament, tr. s. guthrie and c. hall (Philadelphia, Pa. 1959). a. graham, The Christ of Catholicism (New York 1947) 214–260. c. v. hÉris, The Mystery of Christ, tr. d. fahey (Westminster, Md. 1950). a. schlitzer, Redemptive Incarnation (2d ed. Notre Dame, Ind. 1956) 184–307.
[d. r. grabner]
The primacy of Christ is taught by St. Paul in Col1.18: "… that in all things he [Christ] may have the first place." The following article outlines the historical development of this doctrine.
Early Christian writers considered Christ's primacy mainly in such partial, concrete aspects as His kingship and priesthood. Only St. Irenaeus took as his central theological viewpoint God's plan to sum up all things in Christ (see recapitulation in christ). St. Jerome and St. Maximus, however, pointed out that the universe tends toward Christ as its goal, and many other Fathers, including the Cappadocians, stressed Christ's role as exemplar of the cosmos.
Rupert of Deutz, a medieval theologian, first asserted that the Word would have become man even if Adam had not sinned. This thesis was rejected by most scholastics for a reason given in a sermon of St. Augustine (Serm. 175, Patrologia Latina 38:945–949): without the disease, there is no need for a physician; without sin, no need for a redeemer. St. Thomas took a prudent stand: "We do not know what God would have done had He not foreseen sin" (In 1 Tim. 1.4). Yet because of Augustine's authority, he conceded that there probably would have been no Incarnation without a prior sin (Summa theologiae 3a, 1.3). Duns Scotus, however, pointed out that although Christ is certainly man's Redeemer, His role in the universe cannot be reduced to the Redemption exclusively. He would exist as man, then, even without the sin of Adam (In 3 sent. 7.3, Vivès ed., 14:354–355).
Scotists continued to hold this view, and Thomists the opposite one. L. Molina, seeking to reconcile these positions, taught that Redemption from sin and the glory of Christ were "equally first" as reasons for the Incarnation (Concordia, Paris 1876, 477–490). This solution clearly transferred the controversy from the hypothetical question (whether Christ would have come) to the question of fact: how does the Incarnation fit into the divine plan? Yet it was not widely accepted; most theologians continued to insist that one of Molina's "equally first" reasons for the Incarnation was in fact prior to the other.
Interest in the subject gradually waned, and it lay dormant until 1867, when Hilary of Paris, a Capuchin, published a dissertation defending the Thomistic view. A lively controversy then arose, in which several questions were clearly distinguished for the first time: the relation of Christ's humanity to other creatures, the primary reason for the Incarnation, the order of the divine intentions, and the effect of sin on God's plan.
The traditional division of opinion was still apparent and continues to this day. Thomists maintain a "relative" primacy, resulting from an adjustment in God's plan brought about by sin. In this view, the angels and man's first parents before the Fall belong to a different economy from that of redeemed mankind; the former partake of the "grace of God"; the latter, of the "grace of Christ." Molinists continue to propose a "middle way," in which Christ's glory and man's Redemption are "equally first" in God's plan. Scotists set forth the doctrine of Christ's "absolute" primacy, which allows for only one economy, based on the Incarnation. According to traditional Scotism, the God-Man was originally destined to come as a glorious king, but the Fall caused a modification of the divine plan and brought about the "passible mode" of the Incarnation.
A recent adaptation of Scotism, worked out by J. F. Bonnefoy, OFM (1897–1958), and accepted in its broad outlines by such independent theologians as K. Rahner and C. Davis, rejects even this modification in the divine plan. It maintains that out of many possible worlds, God chose to create one in which sin, although neither willed nor positively permitted by Him, would set the stage for a redemptive Incarnation. Even in God's primitive plan, which remains forever unchanged, Christ is here envisioned as one who will enter history in the passible flesh of sinful mankind, suffer, die, and thus enter into the glory prepared for Him by His Father (Lk 24.26).
As developed by Bonnefoy, the doctrine of Christ's primacy now has the following structure. Its basic premise is the revealed datum that Christ's human nature, by reason of its intimate union with the Godhead, occupies the first place among creatures. From this fact is deduced the corollary that the Incarnation was willed by God "in the first place" and all other created realities only "after"—i.e., in dependence upon—Christ's human nature.
This dependence is said to consist in a threefold causal bond: Christ as man is (1) the meritorious cause of all other creatures and events, (2) the exemplar whose perfections are imitated in all other creatures, and (3) the proximate goal toward which the entire created order tends. Mary, as Christ's mother and noblest of all mere creatures, is "second" in God's plan; angels and the rest of mankind are then willed as the Body of Christ, as sharers in His glorified life. The material universe, finally, is envisioned as the "home" of Jesus, Mary, and other men. The order of actual creation is thus the opposite of the order in God's plan, as is to be expected in the work of an intelligent agent.
See Also: incarnation.
Bibliography: j. f. bonnefoy, Christ and the Cosmos, tr. m.d. meilach (Paterson 1965), contains full bibliography. i. m. rocca and g. m. roschini, De ratione primaria existentiae Christi et Deiparae … (Rome 1944). u. lattanzi, Il primato universale di Cristo secondo le s. Scritture (Rome 1937). f. m. risi, Sul motivo primario dell'Incarnazione del Verbo …, 4 v. (Rome 1897–98).
[m. d. meilach]
13. THE HISTORICAL JESUS
The question of the historical Jesus arises once biblical scholarship has made apparent the theological character of the NT witness to Jesus as the Christ. Given the New Testament theological articulations of Jesus' religious significance as grasped by Christian faith, what can be known about Jesus through the lenses made available by the modern discipline of critical history? This question has given rise to the so-called Quest for the Historical Jesus, an ongoing scholarly movement that has unfolded in three distinct phases.
The first phase, commonly referred to as the "old quest," began in the late eighteenth century with the German deist H. S. Reimarus and ran until 1906, the year in which A. Schweitzer published a magisterial summary and critique of the movement. After a hiatus of almost half a century, a "new quest" took its impetus from a programmatic lecture delivered in 1953 by E. Käsemann. Three years later G. Bornkamm's Jesus of Nazareth provided the basis of a consensus that would hold sway until 1985. In that year E. P. Sanders' Jesus and Judaism offered the sort of retrospective critique that Schweitzer had provided for the "old quest," and the same year saw the organization of a group known as the Jesus Seminar under the leadership of R. Funk and J. D. Crossan. A "third quest" has emerged in which such figures as J. P. Meier, N. T. Wright, and M. Borg play a prominent role. Profound conflict regarding what sources are relevant to historical inquiry into Jesus' earthly career and regarding what methods are most appropriate for obtaining historical knowledge of Jesus from those sources marks this phase of research. The result has been widely varying historical portraits of Jesus of Nazareth.
From the outset of the "old quest," a major ambiguity attendant upon the project became apparent. Within the context of the Enlightenment prejudice against religious traditions, H. S. Reimarus, and after him figures like D. F. Strauss and B. Bauer, sought to wield history as a weapon with which to discredit the Christian church. On their account, the real Jesus was the historical Jesus, and the discrepancy between the historical Jesus and Jesus as the Church confessed him undermined the plausibility of that confession. To the Christ of faith they opposed the real, historical Jesus. At the same time, liberal figures in the "old quest," like A. von Harnack, took a similar tack, though with a different goal. Their goal was not to discredit Christianity but to reconcile it with modernity, and to this end they appealed to the historical Jesus as the basis and norm of Christian faith. Thus Harnack sought contemporary relevance by proposing the historical Jesus and his simple message as the essence of Christianity, while dismissing the patristic doctrines about Jesus' divine status and inner constitution as a cultural husk whose day had passed.
The same maneuver toward the same goals can be observed among some exegetes as well as systematic theologians in the period of the "third quest" as well. For these scholars the historical Jesus is the real Jesus, and the real Jesus ought to be the basis and norm of Christian faith. This apparently commonsense approach masks, however, an ambiguity. There is no doubt that the real Jesus is the Jesus who lived two thousand years ago. This is the Jesus about whom historians inquire. This is also the Jesus whom Christians confess as Christ, Lord, Son of God. But when Reimarus, Harnack, and now scholars like Funk identify the historical Jesus with the real Jesus, they are claiming that historical inquiry has an exclusive franchise on the objective truth about Jesus. Such a claim is inflated, on two scores. First, the difference between the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith is epistemological, not substantive. The two terms refer, not to two different entities, but to one and the same entity grasped according to two distinct modes of knowing, each with its own scope, operations, and conditions for objectivity. Hence, to restrict the reality of Jesus to what can be grasped by historical method betrays a positivist constriction of human knowing. On the other hand, a refusal in principle to engage the significance of what historical research proffers constitutes fideism.
Furthermore, an analysis of what constitutes a historical portrait of Jesus discloses why no such portrait can of itself provide the basis and norm of Christian faith. The goal of arriving at a historical portrait of Jesus involves one in three distinguishable sets of historical operations. First, there is the question of determining what data are relevant as possible sources of historical information about Jesus. Answering that question imposes such tasks as determining dates for the possibly relevant sources, ascertaining the literary relationships among them, and delving into their prehistory. Conventionally, these have been the tasks that have defined source and form-critical analysis of the New Testament and related documents. Second, there is the task of extricating from the sources a set of more or less probable facts about Jesus—what he actually did and said. This task has been pursued through the application of such criteria as the principles of embarrassment, dissimilarity, multiple attestation, and coherence, though these criteria have themselves been subject to critique and refinement, and alternative procedures have also been proposed. Third, once such a set of facts has been established, they become data for the further question of what they add up to, what image renders them historically intelligible within the world of the first century. Though logically distinct from and posterior to the second question, in practice there is an interplay between image and facts. One commonly begins with some image, or several, as a hypothesis and then employs it or them as a heuristic guiding one's critical probe of the sources for determining the facts about Jesus; in the process that initial hypothesis is confirmed, revised, or replaced.
Thus, the historical Jesus refers to a complex construct that rests on a set of more or less probable judgments about what sources are relevant and to what degree. There follows a second set of judgments, again of greater or lesser probability, determining what Jesus actually said and did. Those judgments, in turn, supply the data for yet another judgment regarding what image or images best renders the facts constituted by the second set of judgments historically intelligible. The historical Jesus, concretely, is always someone's historical Jesus and always in principle subject to revision. Hence, appeals to the historical Jesus as the real Jesus that should norm Christian faith are misguided.
On the positive side, the project of historical inquiry about Jesus serves christology as a strong counterweight to the perennial tendency toward docetism. It provides a vivid reminder that the one whom his disciples came to confess as Christ, Lord, and Son of God first encountered them as one like them in all things except sin, as a first-century Jew among his fellow Jews. Furthermore, when historical reconstructions of Jesus' earthly career are drawn into the horizon of Christian faith, the coherence of these images and narratives with the transformative values appropriated in the tradition's confession of Jesus as the Christ may come to light. Then, in a manner analogous to the initial formation of the christological tradition, these historical constructs may provide the material for new christological symbols and postcritical narratives that function to disclose both Jesus' identity as the self-presence of God to the community and the values inherent in a response of faith to this Jesus as the Christ.
Bibliography: a. schweitzer, The Quest for the Historical Jesus, tr. w. montgomery (New York 1968). g. bornkamm, Jesus of Nazareth, tr. i. and f. mcluskey (New York 1961). e. p. sanders, Jesus and Judaism (Philadelphia, Pa. 1985). j. crossan, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant (San Francisco, Calif. 1991). j. meier, A Marginal Jew, 3 vols. (Garden City, N.Y. 1991, 1994, 2001). n. t. wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Philadelphia 1996). m. powell, Jesus as a Figure in History (Louisville 1998).
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14. CHRIST AND THEOLOGIES OF LIBERATION
Historical consciousness recognizes the historical process and all the societies and cultures it has brought forth as the product of human agency. Humankind therefore faces the task of assuming responsibility for history itself. Theologically, this requires reconceiving sin and grace as factors in conflict not only in the lives of individuals but in the dynamics of globalization presently at work in the economies, politics, and cultures of every human society. In this context, a theological discernment of "the signs of the times" becomes a crucial dimension of proclaiming the gospel.
Against this background, the full significance of the projects of liberation theologies and their European counterpart, political theology, stands forth. Latin American liberation theology began with the insight that the poverty endemic to the peoples of Central and South America is more than an unfortunate state of affairs. Rather, situations in which a wealthy elite in service to neocolonial economic powers control the political institutions of society and maintain their status by violent means if necessary stand opposed to God's will. Such situations are sinful. In addition, in Latin America the societies in question have been culturally Catholic, and the Church has been complicit in creating and sustaining them.
Hence, liberation theology begins with a call to repentance. Theologically, this translates into the exercise of a hermeneutics of suspicion that asks what elements of the Christian tradition may have contributed to the present sinful situation. With regard to christology, two traditional images of Christ come under criticism. First, popular devotion to the suffering Christ has functioned ambiguously. Concentration on Christ's suffering apart from his resurrection fosters a christology of resignation that serves to reconcile victims of social injustice to their state in life; the element of protest implicit in the image of Christ suffering remains latent. Second, the image of the imperial, conquering Christ too easily colludes with the imperialist projects of the colonial and neocolonial eras in Latin America, inducing docility in those whom such projects oppress and exploit.
Liberation christologies begin from within the faith of the Church, but rather than starting from the classic dogmas of Christ's divinity and inner constitution, they seek to historicize those dogmas through recourse to narratives that explicate the redemptive significance of belief in Jesus as Son of God and Son of Man. Hence, they commonly appeal to the historical Jesus and his praxis as the starting point and basis of their christological narratives. This appeal differs significantly, however, from the maneuver noted above, in which the historical Jesus refers epistemologically to Jesus as reconstructed by historicalcritical methods and in which such reconstructions are accorded a normative basis for critique of Christian belief. The historical Jesus, for liberation theologians, refers rather to Jesus as a historical subject and to the account of his praxis that emerges from a reading of the Synoptic Gospels, in some cases augmented by results of the "new quest," from the perspective of the impoverished and oppressed peoples of Latin America. This is a reading from faith to faith quite different from the positivist reductions of Enlightenment authors and their successors.
As the Son of God in history, Jesus proclaimed and enacted the reign of God, and this commitment placed Him in solidarity with the economically exploited, politically oppressed, and socially marginalized among his people. His ministry assumed a conflictual character that eventually led to His death. Jesus called twelve disciples to his inner circle, signaling that the time of Israel's renewal was at hand. He cured the ill, including those among them who were ritually unclean, and He proclaimed God's forgiveness to prostitutes and sinners. He challenged scribes and Pharisees and denounced the wealthy. Finally, He unmasked the violent, murderous character of the anti-reign and the system it sustained and, celebrating a final meal with his disciples, He poured himself out in loving trust of the Abba-God whose reign He proclaimed. Though the establishment condemned and executed him, God raised Him up and made him a life-giving Spirit to those who would find in following him the gift and task of liberation from the idols of this world. In Jesus' life, death, and resurrection they discover God's salvation urging them to continue Jesus' struggle for justice in the sure hope that not even death can overcome the power of self-sacrificing love.
Bibliography: i. ellacuria and j. sobrino, eds., Mysterium Liberationis: Fundamental Concepts of Liberation Theology (Maryknoll, N.Y. 1993). j. sobrino, Jesus the Liberator: A Historical-Theological Reading of Jesus of Nazareth, tr. p. burns and f. mcdonagh (Maryknoll, N.Y. 1993).
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15. FEMINIST CHRISTOLOGIES
The women's movement began with a challenge to the taken-for-granted character of the cultural and social place commonly assigned to women. Rather than reflecting the natural order of things, women's relegation to inferior and dependent status derives from patriarchy, an unjust system of relations in which males dominate the social order. Patriarchy, in turn, finds cultural expression in androcentrism, which accords universality to male experience, so that reality comes to be defined from a male perspective.
Applying the analytic concepts of patriarchy and androcentrism to the Christian tradition, feminist theologians find that Jesus' maleness has become entangled in an androcentric set of dualisms that associate the male with spirit, rationality, and power and the female with matter, emotion, and weakness. Hence, it comes to seem self-evident that women be excluded from roles of leadership and decision making within a hierarchically ordered ecclesial community. At the same time, Jesus' redemptive passion becomes a warrant for women to accept not only their subordinate role but even, in the extreme, the violent abuse that can accompany it.
For Christian feminists, the tradition is ambiguous, not simply oppressive, and hence they pursue a hermeneutics of remembrance. Like liberation theologians, they highlight the iconoclastic Christ of the Synoptic Gospels whose proclamation and enactment of the reign of God brought wholeness and liberation to the marginalized and oppressed of society. Without claiming that Jesus was a feminist, they note within all four gospel narratives the ways in which Jesus transgressed the social code of his day. Thus, Jesus healed and exorcized women; he formed friendships with women, called them to discipleship, taught them, and included them in His entourage as He pursued His itinerant ministry. Further, His address to God as "Abba" subverted patriarchal conceptions of both God and human fatherhood. In contrast to Peter and the male disciples who fled upon Jesus' arrest, the women were faithful to Jesus to the end. The emptytomb narratives portray women as the first to hear the good news of Jesus' resurrection, and Mary Magdalen is the first to see the risen Lord.
Pushing behind the gospel narratives, feminist biblical scholars find indications that the early Jesus movement was a community of equals in which women exercised leadership roles conjointly with men, functioning as apostles, prophets, and heads of household churches. Soon, however, the mores of the Hellenistic world prevailed, and the same Paul who numbered women among his co-workers and declared that in Christ there is neither male nor female, also admonished women to cover their heads and be silent in church.
Classical dogma also yields liberating insights. In rejecting subordinationism and confessing Christ's coequality in divinity with the Father, the Council of Nicea (325) limned the mystery of ultimate reality as no isolated and monadic supreme monarch but as constituted by a community of persons with relationship at its very heart. Human beings, it would then follow, created in the image of God, are fundamentally relational and achieve their humanity through participation in community. The Council of Chalcedon (451), in turn, so distinguished person from nature that the former is never reducible to the latter, an insight that counters every form of sexism and racism.
Yet according to feminist theologians, the mysteries of Trinity and Incarnation find androcentric expression when Christians weekly profess belief "in one God, the Father almighty … and in His only Son, Jesus Christ." Despite the constant doctrine of the divine transcendence, the dominant imagery of God in the Christian tradition has been male and so fosters the androcentric dualism that devalues women and deprives the tradition of the insights generated by women's experience. To overcome this imbalance, feminist theologians turn to scriptural passages that ascribe maternal concern to God and that image divine creativity and redemptive activity as birthing; at the same time, they trace out a trajectory that continues this feminine imagery for God and Christ in patristic literature and in the writings of medieval doctors and mystics.
The biblical wisdom tradition plays a central role in the feminist project of recovery and reconstruction. Starting from the Greek literature of the late Old Testament period that personifies the divine wisdom in the figure of a woman, Sophia, who is preexistent agent of creation, and continuing in the New Testament, where Jesus is portrayed as both Sophia's emissary and her embodiment, the wisdom tradition offers a resource for constructive rearticulations of the mysteries of Trinity and Incarnation that bring balance to the dominant Logos tradition.
Bibliography: r. ruether, Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology (Boston, Mass. 1983). e. a. johnson, She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse (New York 1992). a. carr, Transforming Grace: Christian Tradition and Women's Experience (New York 1988). e. schÜssler fiorenza, In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins (New York 1983); Jesus Miriam's Child, Sophia's Prophet (New York 1994).
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16. JESUS CHRIST AND WORLD RELIGIONS
At the Second Vatican Council the Roman Catholic church adopted a new stance of ecumenical openness not only to other Christian communities but to the great world religions as well. The council's "Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions" affirmed the genuine holiness and truth to be found in Hinduism and Buddhism. It expressed high esteem for Islamic belief and worship, and it recognized the special ties and common heritage that bind Christians to Jews. With respect to all, the council urged dialogue and collaboration.
With this stance of openness and appreciation toward other world religions, the council was retrieving an ancient stream of Christian tradition. Patristic writers like Justin Martyr had expressed an inclusive universality whereby Christians recognized in both Judaism and Hellenistic philosophical culture the work of God's Logos. More typically, however, in the context of Christendom an exclusive attitude came to prevail, emblemized in the famous phrase of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) "extra ecclesiam, nulla salus."
Distinctively, contemporary cultural factors fostered the council's revival of a more inclusive tradition. Foremost among these is globalization, the process carried out by international economic networks and electronic communications media rendering different cultures immediately present and interactive with one another. Interaction becomes interpenetration as geopolitical and economic factors unleash new waves of migration, so that temples and mosques are taking their place on the Western landscape among the more familiar synagogues and churches; religious communities formerly distant and strange to one another now find themselves neighbors. Globalization, in turn, hastens the end of Eurocentric classicism, while contemporary anthropology suggests an empirical understanding of human cultures as constructs based on particular, historically generated sets of meanings and values, an understanding congenial to Vatican II's acknowledgment of other religions and their beliefs as responses to the questions posed by "the profound mysteries of human existence."
Recognition of religious authenticity in other world religions requires development in the Christian understanding of the salvific role of Jesus Christ. How is this central Christian belief to be conceived when no historical mediation of the Christ-event to the majority of the world's population can be discerned, when universal conversion to the Church seems an unlikely possibility, and when God's saving grace is acknowledged outside of Christianity?
Karl Rahner addressed this issue in a manner particularly congenial to the stance expressed in the council's declaration. On the one hand, he argued, God's efficacious will to save is universal, so that being human is as such conditioned by a "supernatural existential"; if human beings find their authentic humanity in fidelity to the unrestricted desire they experience to know the real and love the good, the secret of that desire, its origin and goal, is the lure of Holy Mystery, God's own self-offer in grace. Furthermore, human beings are intrinsically historical and social, requiring a mediation of grace that meets these dimensions of their humanity. Thus, on wholly inner-Christian grounds Rahner could conclude to the likelihood that it is precisely through the world religions as historically and socially constituted that God's saving grace is mediated to most of humankind. Yet this in no way relativizes either the Christ-event or the Church, for in the plan of salvation history Christ becomes, in scholastic terms, the final cause of the grace mediated through the world religions, while the Church functions as sacrament rendering present and explicit the meaning of the grace operating anonymously, as it were, in the world religions.
Rahner's position and variants on it break with Christian exclusivism, recognizing salvific efficacy in other religions. At the same time, they maintain intact the basic Christian narrative of salvation history, the story of preparation for Christ, His Incarnation, death, and Resurrection, His continuing presence in the Church until the Second Coming. Other religions now find a place in this story as mediators of the grace that heads toward Christ and is available in its fullness in the Church. Much as in Justin Martyr, Christianity now, in a sense, includes the other religions, recapitulating, correcting, and fulfilling them. Other religions have value, but that value is ultimately constituted by Christ and imperfect in comparison with the Christian Church. In this sense, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam join Judaism as praeparatio evangelica, even if the preparatory period is now likely to perdure until the eschaton.
Once religious authenticity is recognized in other religions, however, further questions arise. If in other religions God's salvation is indeed being mediated through savior figures other than Christ, what becomes of the Christian confession that He and He alone is universal savior? Similarly, on what grounds does one decide a priori that all other religions are in some way deficient and imperfect in comparison to Christianity? Do not the dogmatic assumptions of even an inclusive Christian approach to other world religions betray an unconscious hubris and lingering traces of Western cultural imperialism? Does not Christian inclusivism therefore ultimately reduce to the former exclusivism?
Among Catholic theologians, issues such as these have animated the work of R. Panikkar, P. Knitter, and R. Haight. On the position toward which they head, Jesus is one savior among others, decisive for Christians and deserving their total religious commitment, and also relevant to all other human beings. The savior figures of other religions are similarly decisive for their devotees and relevant to all, so that each religion remains itself while open to learn from the distinctive religious experience and insights of the others.
This position involves, in the work of all three, a radical christological revision. Pannikar, for example, elaborates a distinction between Christ and Jesus: Christ symbolizes the expressive dimension of ultimate reality, a non-dualistic theandric principle, and while Jesus' identity is fully constituted as the embodiment of Christ, Christ is in no way exhausted in that embodiment. Hence, while one may say that Jesus is Christ, one may not say simply that Christ is Jesus, for Christ is also Krishna and many others.
In the name of completely open dialogue, Knitter has espoused moving beyond the christocentrism of positions like Rahner's, first to a theocentrism like that expressed in the mission of self-understanding of the historical Jesus, and ultimately, since not all religions are theistic, to a soteriocentrist stance. New Testament passages that clearly express an exclusive view of Jesus as the sole savior can be ascribed to various cultural conditioning factors, and such passages are to be regarded as confessional, performative language rather than declarative assertions. To say, for example, that Jesus is Lord is always to say that Jesus is Lord for me, not that He is universally Lord. With regard to the Incarnation, both Knittter and Haight argue that Johannine symbolism must not be allowed to overpower the dynamic and evolving diversity of New Testament expressions of Jesus' religious significance, nor must such symbolism be literalized. This linguistic requirement holds especially for the interpretation of the classical dogmas of Nicea and Chalcedon, whose point, Haight asserts, reduces to the saving presence of God in the man Jesus, such that Jesus is the symbol of God for Christians. From this perspective, contemporary interpretations of the Chalcedonian formula like Rahner's become dogmatically arbitrary when they assert that the Incarnation can occur but once.
A declaration from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2000, Dominus Iesus, met such revisionist christologies with a firm reiteration of traditional Catholic belief. Other theologians, notably Jacques Dupuis, find in the classic Christology and Trinitarian theology of the Christian tradition ample resources for addressing issues of religious pluralism and interreligious dialogue. First, Chalcedonian dogma suggests recognition of the historical and cultural particularity of both Jesus and the Church. While affirming that the identity of Jesus is that of the eternal Son of God, Chalcedon stressed that in the Incarnation the Son became fully human, "like us in all things except sin." Under contemporary cultural conditions, in which the empirical counts for as much as the essential, faith does not cease to recognize in Jesus the Incarnate Son. Faith also, however, perceives him as a first-century Jew with all the limitations of experience and knowledge implied by that ancient and alien cultural particularity. By His kenosis, the Son of God accepted the conditions of human historicity.
The same holds for the movement issuing from Him. The Church's expression of the mystery of grace that constitutes it is always subject to historical limitation and, precisely as the expression of mystery, that understanding and expression will always remain imperfect, analogous, and subject to development. Because the Church's identity and redemptive mission is always realized through concrete historical experience, it follows that at any moment the Church only exists as culturally embodied and thereby also limited.
If the Chalcedonian dogma of the hypostatic union bespeaks the human particularity and limitation of both Jesus and the Church, Nicea and I Constantinople suggest positive principles for Christian engagement with the world religions. The First Council of Constantinople confessed the full divinity of the Holy Spirit. Christians discern in their authentic religious experience, in their desire to love the Lord their God with their whole hearts, the gift of God's Holy Spirit, the Spirit whose love in turn illumines their minds to recognize God as triune and to recognize in Jesus and His Church the mediators of God's love to them. Yet by that same principle Christians may discern the operation of God's Holy Spirit in the authentic religious experience mediated by the other world religions as well.
This stance in no way implies a simple relativism. For all the historical particularity of Jesus and His Church, Christians will also recall Nicea's doctrine that given the full divinity of the Son, whatever can be said of the Father can also be said of the Son and vice versa, save what is proper to being precisely Father or Son. In that case, recalling the imperfect and analogous character of their understanding of the truth of God as triune mystery, Christians will advance into dialogue open to discerning in other world religions the operation of the Spirit who is always Spirit of both the Father and the Son and to enriching their understanding of the triune divine mystery from the experience and insights of other traditions.
In dialogue with other world religions, Christians encounter interpretations of Jesus in conflict with their own. In Judaism the Talmud reflects polemical antagonism, portraying Jesus as the illegitimate son of Mary and a Roman soldier, who performed wonders by black magic and was rightfully executed as a sorcerer. The contemporary scene reflects a softening of these harsh attitudes. Among some Jewish scholars there is a movement to reclaim Jesus as one of their own people. They stress, for example, his affinities with the Pharisaic movement of His day as well as His resonances with the classical prophetic tradition. For all this, however, Jews stand firm in rejecting Christian claims to a messianic title for Jesus. In their view, the messianic day of salvation clearly did not arrive with Jesus' advent. Rather, history continues as before, bloodily unredeemed, and Israel's sufferings have only intensified at the hands of those who claim to follow Jesus in the Christian churches.
Islam honors Jesus a son of the virgin Mary, a miracle-working prophet raised up by God to confirm the Torah and to prepare the way for a greater prophet yet to come. Jesus died a natural death, not at the Romans' hands on the cross. With their confession of Jesus' divinity, Christians crudely betray the utter transcendence of Allah.
Hindus like M. Gandhi have discerned in Jesus' teaching strong affinities with the way of bhakti, loving devotion and surrender to God. Yet they strongly reject the claim that in Jesus alone the divine has become incarnate even while they seem to devalue any incarnation as an occurrence in history and hence in the realm of the ultimately unreal.
In such conflicts over Jesus and His religious significance, two things should also be noted. First, each contested issue also points to areas of common conviction, and, second, each can provide a stimulus to refined Christian self-understanding. With the experience of prophecy, for example, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam intersect, while Jewish resistance to Christian messianic claims can dislodge any naive and triumphalistic realized eschatology in favor of heightened attention to authentic redemptive praxis. Hindu devotion, in turn, can illumine the significance of contemporary reconstructions of the teaching of the historical Jesus.
Bibliography: k. rahner, "Jesus Christ in Non-Christian Religions," in Foundations of Christian Faith, tr. w. dych (New York 1978) 311–321. r. panikkar, The Unknown Christ of Hinduism (rev. ed.; Maryknoll, N.Y. 1981). p. knitter, No Other Name? A Survey of Christian Attitudes toward the World Religions (Maryknoll, N.Y. 1985). r. haight, Jesus Symbol of God (Maryknoll, N.Y. 1999). j. dupuis, Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism (Maryknoll, N.Y. 1997).
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