Who said it? Friendship with Jesus


Came across this today in my reading. I won’t reveal the source. Any guesses who it comes from? And no, it isn’t Barth! If you are one of those people who knows which book I am now reading, please don’t spoil the fun for the rest.

As historical-critical scholarship advanced, it led to finer and finer distinctions between layers of tradition in the Gospels, beneath which the real object of faith–the figure [Gestalt] of Jesus–became increasingly obscured and blurred. At the same time, though, the reconstructions of this Jesus (who could only be discovered by going behind the traditions and sources used by the Evangelists) became more and more incompatible with one another: at one end of the spectrum, Jesus was the anti-Roman revolutionary working–though finally failing–to overthrow the ruling powers; at the other end, he was the meek moral teacher who approves everything and unaccountably comes to grief. If you read a number of these reconstructions one after the other, you see at once that far from uncovering an icon that has become obscured over time, they are much more like photographs of their authors and the ideals they hold. Since then there has been growing skepticism about these portrayals of Jesus, but the figure of Jesus himself has for that very reason receded even further into the distance.
All these attempts have produced a common result: the impression that we have very little certain knowledge of Jesus and that only at a later stage did faith in his divinity shape the image we had of him. This impression has by now penetrated deeply into the minds of the Christian people at large. This is a dramatic situaiton for faith, because its point of reference is being placed in doubt: Intimate friendship with Jesus, on which everything depends, is in danger of clutching at thin air.

To be sure, there isn’t anything “ground-shaking” in this brief evaluative analysis of the “quest for the historical Jesus.” It was the source and the last line taken together that struck me the most. Any guesses?


9 thoughts on “Who said it? Friendship with Jesus

  1. Dale Harris

    I was going to say Wright, too (first chapters of Jesus and the Victory of God?), but I’m interested: Brad, why would you least expect this from Wright? This is almost exactly what I’d expect from him.

  2. If only I had offered a prize to the one who guesses, Bill would have won! Congrats, Bill, for guessing correctly.

    Yes, it was Pope Benedict XVI in his relatively recent book, Jesus of Nazareth (Doubleday, 2007).

    I said originally that the last line about “intimacy with Jesus” was surprising given the source. Not that I have a hard time believing that the Pope is interested in the relational elements of being Christian, but that the phrase sounds so much more “evangelical” than I expected to hear from the “top Roman Catholic” where ecclesiology and Christology are so much more closely related than in evangelical ways of thinking.

    But his point is well taken, isn’t it? If all we can say at the end of the historical quest is that Jesus was like this or like that, without reference to the Jesus who lives today, we have no practical advantage to following Jesus today than when we first begun.

  3. I should add that Pope John Paul II also spoke of friendship with Christ. If I had to pick a book, it would be Ratzinger’s “Jesus of Nazareth”. Not that I’ve read it, but I might expect it there.

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