Sunday, April 19, 2009

Jesus Christ According to Benedict XVI- Part I.

In Benedict XVI's spiritual, theological and pastoral writings, it is evident that he is committed to restoring the disconnect caused by modern historical scholarship between the “historical Jesus” and the “Christ of Faith.”

Benedict XVI points out that the “title of ‘Christ’ has largely given way to the personal name ‘Jesus.’” The title “Christ” implies the Jesus of “faith” as the Church understands and confesses him to be which is the God-man. Leaving the "Christ" out of the title "Jesus Christ" emphasizes his humanity over his divinity which is a reduced understanding of who he is.

This disconnect has been further popularized through the various television documentaries on the life of Jesus. The "Jesus of history" is often contrasted with the "Jesus of faith." Believers and nonbelievers alike have suggested that the historical Jesus (what is exclusively known of him solely by historical evidence) is quite different and oftentimes contradictory to the Jesus understood by those in the Christian tradition and revelation.

Putting fanciful (and fallacious) histories of Jesus aside, a true believer should not disregard the historical-critical method of biblical scholarship. There are two reasons for this. The first reason is that the Christian Faith is a historical religion. By becoming incarnate, God entered human history through the life and events of Jesus of Nazareth. Second, because if the Faith is true, it cannot and will not be contradicted with what history (and further science) provides. Benedict XVI calls the method an "indispensable tool." Historical scholarship can aid in understanding Jesus by providing the historical context of the four Gospels.

Benedict XVI clarifies that it is crucial to remember that the method, however, is limited and that not everything that is true about a person can be shown by historical evidence. Oftentimes theories are treated as certainties only later to be disregarded as erroneous. One must also consider the personal agenda of the particular scholar and that historical documents can be found to be inauthentic and misinterpreted.

The restoration of the gap between the supposed “historical Jesus” and the “Christ of faith” is imperative if one is to understand Jesus Christ in the totality of his being. Thus, the “Christian interpretation begins with an act of faith in Christ that is consistent with historical reason but transcends it.” The historical-critical methods that claim to present a purified (apart from the Christian revelation) representation of Jesus are ultimately inadequate. "Jesus only subsists as the Christ and Christ only subsists in the shape of Jesus."

Benedict XVI portrays Jesus beyond the limitations of historical criticism and “draws on the resources of Christian faith which is much more logical, and, historically speaking, much more intelligible than the reconstructions provided by the historical quests of recent decades.”

Simply put, the Christ of Faith is the Jesus of history.

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