Dear Ichthus readers, we’re excited to announce the theme of this semester’s issue of the Ichthus (Vol 10.1, Spring ’14) is “Who is Jesus?” As a teaser, here’s my current draft of the Editor’s Note. More to follow! — S.G.M.
[Draft] EDITOR’S NOTE for the forthcoming “Who is Jesus?” issue, Spring ’14
“What if God were one of us?” Thus sang Joan Osborne. I confess I can’t decide whether that song is sacred or profane. In either case, it presses itself upon me and cannot be ignored. For the central affirmation of Christianity is that God did become one of us.
Yeshua of Nazareth (7–2 BC to 30–33 AD): son of a little-known Jewish carpenter, for three years an itinerant preacher. As the eminent scholar of comparative religion Huston Smith writes in The Religions of Man, the man Jesus “was born in a stable, died at the age of thirty-three as a criminal rather than a hero, never traveled more than ninety miles from his birthplace, owned nothing, attended no college, marshaled no army, and instead of producing books did his only writing in the sand.”
You mean to say that that Jesus was God?
Not just any god, but the God, Yahweh, the one and only God, transcendent, almighty, the uncreated creator of all spacetime, omnipotent, omnivident, omni-everything, the ultimate reality. Spacetime is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, one might say.
You mean to say that that God, the infinite, the fathomless, became human?
If you identify as “spiritual” in any way, the claim that Jesus is God (yes that God) should strike you as outrageous and even offensive. It is offensive both ways: offensive to say that a mere man should be divine, and (how much more) offensive to project personal (anthropomorphic?) qualities onto the transcendent. It is hubris.
For good reason, then, most prophets and wise men do not claim to be God. Mohammed did not claim to be Allah, Buddha fervently insisted he was nothing more than a man, Lao Tzu would never have dreamt of calling himself the Tao. There is no other world religion that insists that its central prophet figure is also its God.
There was something special about Jesus. There had to be. There must be a reason why Jesus’s birth and death and resurrection are commemorated across the world, and the religion that has sprung up concerning Him is currently the largest religion in the world. There must be a reason why Jesus’s eleven closest friends were willing to maintain their confession, even to the point of death, that Yeshua the carpenter’s boy was God and Christ. In this issue of the Ichthus, we pick up the threads of the millenia-old investigation into who Jesus was, and what he means for us today.
Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae. Gloria in excelsis Deo.