Dialogika

Vatican Curia

Instruction on Scripture and Christology

This document was published in 1984 in France in two languages. Latin was called the "official text" and French "the working text". There are very many differences between the two versions. There was no official English translation. In 1985, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J. published his own annotated translation of the document in Theological Studies (46): 407-479. It included many notes about translation variances between the Latin [L] and French [F] texts. Also note that the numerous italicizations are present in the original.

 

PREFACE OF THE SECRETARY OF THE COMMISSION

It is not the function of the Pontifical Biblical Commission itself to engage in exegetical work. The mandate given to it is to promote biblical studies in a correct and proper way and to provide worthwhile assistance to the Church's magisterium. Having been asked about biblical teaching concerning the Christ-Messiah, it has no intention of composing a document destined directly for biblical scholars or specialists in exegesis, or even for catechists, who have their own proper responsibility.

To promote an understanding of the Bible and to aid pastors in their mission, the Commission considers its task to be:

1. To carry out a careful examination of present-day studies in biblical Christology in order to reflect their diverse orientations and different methodologies and not neglect the risks that the exclusive use of some one methodology runs vis-à-vis a comprehensive understanding of the biblical testimony and of the gift of God given in Christ.

2. To present a summary of what the Bible affirms:

in the Prior or Old Testament about God's promises, the gifts he has already bestowed, and the hope of God's people about a future Messiah;

in the New Testament about the faith-understanding that Christian communities finally arrived at concerning the words and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth, understood in the light of those texts which Jewish communities had already come to acknowledge as of divine authority.

The Commission has deliberately left to a properly exegetical, literary, and historical investigation the study of the gradual composition of the biblical writings in order to concentrate on the testimony that has been arrived at in the canon of Scripture. Hence the title of this document: Scripture and Christology.

But it has also seemed useful to present pastors with some further treatment of the themes that the official document has only sketched. Certain members of the Commission were asked to compose additional texts, which they would publish on their own authority, but which the Commission would make use of in its common work. In those texts the reader will not find properly exegetical studies, fitted out with technical footnotes, but rather theological syntheses or biblical methodologies bearing on disputed topics in Christology.

Henri Cazelles, P.S.S.


TEXT: SCRIPTURE AND CHRISTOLOGY

Many people today, especially in the West, readily admit that they are agnostics or nonbelievers. Does this mean that they show no interest in Jesus Christ or his role in the world? It is clear from studies and writings that are being published that this is scarcely so, even if the way of treating this question has changed. Yet there are (also) Christians who are deeply disturbed either by the variety of ways of handling the problem or by solutions proposed for it. The Pontifical Biblical Commission is anxious to offer some aid in this matter to pastors and the faithful in the following ways: (1) by presenting a brief survey of such studies to point out their import and the risks they run; and (2) by setting forth summarily the testimony of Scripture itself about the expectation of salvation and of the Messiah, so that the gospel may be rightly seen against its antecedent background, and then by showing how the fulfillment of such expectation and promises in Jesus Christ is to be understood.

PART I: A SURVEY OF METHODOLOGIES USED TODAY IN CHRISTOLOGY

Chap. 1--A Brief Overview of the Approaches

There is no question of setting forth here a complete account of the studies of Jesus Christ. Attention is rather being directed to various approaches used in such studies. These approaches are summarily described in categories that make no pretense at a logical or chronological order, and the names of certain authors, who are the principal exponents of them, are mentioned.

1.1.1. THE "CLASSICAL" OR TRADITIONAL THEOLOGICAL APPROACH

1.1.1.1. This approach is used in speculative dogmatic tracts that present a doctrine systematically worked out, beginning with conciliar definitions and the writings of Church Fathers--the tract De Verbo incarnato (cf. the Councils of Nicaea, A.D. 325; Ephesus, A.D. 431; Chalcedon, A.D. 451; Constantinople II and III, A.D. 553 and 681) and the tract De redemptione (cf. the Councils of Orange, A.D. 529; Trent, sessions 5 and 6, A.D. 1546, 1547).

1.1.1.2. The tracts so worked out are enriched today with many elements introduced by the progress of modem research:

(a) Normally they make use of biblical criticism so that the data of individual books or of groups of books are better distinguished. As a result, their theological exegesis rests on a more solid basis (e.g. J. GaIot etc.).

(b) Under indirect influence of a theology centered on salvation history (Heilsgeschichte, see 1.1.6 below), the person of Jesus Christ is more firmly anchored in the disposition of means of salvation called by the Fathers the oikonomia (or dispensation) of salvation.

(c) Given the different aspects from which theological questions are viewed today, some questions already well developed in the Middle Ages have been recently examined anew, e.g. the "knowledge" of Christ and the development of his personality (e.g. J. Maritain etc.).

1.1.2. SPECULATIVE APPROACHES OF A CRITICAL TYPE

1.1.2.1. Some speculative theologians think that the critical reading, which has brought so many advantages [F = positive results] to the field of biblical studies, must also be applied not only to the works of the Fathers and medieval theologians, but even to the definitions of the councils. These very definitions have to be interpreted in the light of the historical and cultural context from which they have come.

1.1.2.2. From the historical investigation of the councils it is clear that their definitions are to be regarded as attempts to overcome scholastic controversies or differences of opinion or ways of speaking that divided theologians among themselves, even when all of them were desirous of reaffirming the faith that stems from the New Testament. Yet those attempts did not always fully overcome the conflicting views. When the cultural context and the language of acknowledged formulas are subjected to critical scrutiny, e.g. those of the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451), the object of the definitions can be better distinguished from the formulas used to express it correctly. But once the cultural context changes, the formulas can easily lose their force [F omits vim suam] and their effectiveness in another linguistic context, in which the same words do not always keep the same meaning [F = the same words would no longer be used in the same sense].

1.1.2.3. Formulas of this sort, then, have to be compared anew with the basic sources of revelation, with special attention being given to the New Testament. [F = in returning with more sustained attention to the NT itself]. Hence, some investigations about "the historical Jesus Christ [F = the historical Jesus] have led certain theologians (e.g. P. Schoonenberg) to speak of his "human person." But would it not be better to speak of his "human personality," in the sense in which the scholastics used to speak of his "individual" and "singular human nature"?

1.1.3. CHRISTOLOGY AND HISTORICAL RESEARCH

Still other approaches proceed with the methodology of scientific history. Since this methodology had already proved its worth in the study of ancient texts, it was suitably applied also to the texts of the New Testament.

1.1.3.1. From the beginning of the nineteenth century, studies have, in fact, concentrated on the historical reconstruction of the life of Jesus--what sort of person he seemed to be to the people with whom he lived--and on the consciousness that he might have had of himself. Disregard of Christological dogmas was readily adopted by rationalistic writers (e.g. Reimarus, Paulus, Strauss, Renan, etc.). The same disregard was picked up by so-called "liberal" Protestants who wanted to substitute a critically established "biblical" theology for a "dogmatic" theology, which seemed to them to exclude all positive investigation (cf. A. Hamack, Das Wesen des Christentums). However, this inquiry into "the historical Jesus" led to such conflicting results that the "Life of Jesus research" (Leben-Jesu-Forschung) finally came to be regarded as an unsuccessful undertaking (A. Schweitzer, 2nd ed., 1913). On the Catholic side, even though M.-J. Lagrange firmly established "the historical method" [F = firmly posited the principle of the historical method] in the study of the Gospels (La méthode historique, 3rd ed., 1907), the same difficulties were actually avoided only by postulating the integral "historical" truth of everything, even the most minute details found in the Gospel texts (thus: Didon, Le Camus; with some slight nuancing: Lebreton, Lagrange himself, Fernandez, Prat, Ricciotti, etc.). The approach of R. Bultmann (see 1.1.8 below) found its starting point in the impasse which the "Life of Jesus research" seemed to have reached.

1.1.3.2. Since that time the "historical method" has been enhanced with new and important features. Historians themselves have been calling in question the "positivistic" conception of objectivity in historical study.

(a) This sort of objectivity is not the same as that in the natural sciences, since it has to do with human experiences (social, psychological, cultural, etc.), which occurred once in the past and so cannot be fully reconstructed. If, then, one would lay bare the troth about them, it could only be done by recourse to vestiges and testimonies related to them (monuments and documents). Yet one gets to the truth about them only to the extent that those same experiences are somehow understood "from within."

(b) The attempt to do this necessarily brings a certain amount of human subjectivity [both L and F use the plural, subiectivitates humanas; subjectivités humaines] into the investigation carried on. This element is sensed by the historian to be present in every text that recounts events or depicts the authors of events [F = en évoquent les personnages] without prejudice to the value of the testimonies so preserved.

(c) The subjectivity of the historian himself is mingled with his work at every step, as he inquires into the "truth" of history (cf. H. G. Gadamer). For he treats the matter under investigation according to the aspects which most attract his own attention and interest. There is a certain "preconceived view" of them (Vorverständnis) that he has to adjust little by little to the testimony of the texts he is studying. Even though he scrutinizes and judges himself [F has only one verb, il se critique lui-même] in the course of such a contact, it rarely happens that he sets forth the conclusions of his study without them being conditioned by his own view of the meaning of human existence (cf. X. Léon-Dufour).

1.1.3.3. The historical study of Jesus is the most obvious example of this situation in which historians find themselves. It is never neutral. Indeed, the person of Jesus has an impact on all human beings, even on the historian--because of the meaning of his life and his death, the import of his message for human existence, and the interpretation of his person attested in different New Testament writings. The circumstances in which every study of this question is carried on explain the great diversity of results arrived at by either historians or theologians. No one can study and present in a completely "objective" way the humanity of Jesus, the drama of his life crowned in death, or the message he left to humanity in his sayings, deeds, or very existence. Nevertheless, this sort of historical investigation is quite necessary that two dangers may be avoided, viz. that Jesus not be regarded as a mere mythological hero, or that the recognition of him as Messiah and Son of God not be reduced to some irrational fideism.

1.1.4. CHRISTOLOGY AND THE HISTORY OF RELIGIONS

1.1.4.1. Another element has emerged that extends the basis of historical investigation, viz. "the history of religions" [L: scientia religionum; F: la science des religions]. It studies the contacts at work among religions. Must not one adopt this mode (of investigation) to understand, e.g., how the transition was made from the gospel of God's kingdom, such as Jesus preached according to the Gospel texts, to the gospel of Jesus the Messiah and Son of God, found in texts setting forth in diverse form the faith of the primitive Church?

1.1.4.2. Beginning with the nineteenth century, the comparative study of religions underwent a great development, and old approaches in this area of study were given new impetus. The two causes for this development were: first, the recovery of the literature of the ancient Near East, as a result of the decipherment of Egyptian and cuneiform inscriptions (Champollion, Grotefend, etc.), second, the ethnological investigations of so-called "primitive" peoples. From this it became clear that the phenomenon of religion could not be simply reduced to other human phenomena (cf. R. Otto, Das Heilige, 1916) and that it was made up of very diverse elements, in both beliefs and rites.

1.1.4.3. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the History of Religions School (Religionsgeschichtliche Schule) tried to explain [F adds: in a genetic and evolutionary fashion] not only the origin and growth of the religion of ancient Israel, but also the rise of the Christian religion. The latter began with Jesus, a Jew living in the Hellenistic world fully imbued with syncretism and gnosticism. R. Bultmann unhesitatingly adopted this syncretistic premise in his attempt to explain the origin [F = the formation] of Christological language in the New Testament (see 1.1.8 below). The same premise is commonly admitted by those who do not espouse Christian faith. But when that premise is admitted, Christology is deprived of all substance. Yet the latter can be preserved without the denial of the value of the History of Religions.

1.1.5. THE APPROACH TO JESUS FROM JUDAISM

1.1.5.1. The Jewish religion is obviously the first to be studied so that the personality of Jesus may be understood. The Gospels depict him as one deeply rooted in his own land and in the tradition of his people. From the beginning of this century Christian scholars have cited many parallels between the New Testament and the writings of Jewish authors (cf. Strack-Billerbeck, J. Bonsirven, etc.). More recently, the literature from Qumran and the recovery of the ancient Palestinian targum of the Pentateuch have reopened questions and spurred on the study of these areas. Earlier, it was often the concern of this sort of study to shed light on the historical value of the Gospel texts. Today, however, the effort is rather to recognize better the Jewish roots of Christianity, that its individual character [F = the originality of this one] be more accurately described, without any neglect of the trunk from which it has sprung [F = on which it has been grafted].

1.1.5.2. After the First World War some Jewish historians, abandoning a centuries-old animosity---of which Christian preachers were themselves not innocent--devoted studies directly to the person of Jesus and to Christian origins (J. Klausner, M. Buber, J. G. Montefiore, etc.). They sought to bring out the Jewishness of Jesus (e.g. P. Lapide), the relation between his teaching and rabbinical traditions, and the unusual character, prophetic or sapientiai, of his message that was so closely tied up with the religious life of the synagogue and the temple. Certain borrowings were investigated either in Qumran literature--by Jewish historians (Y. Yadin etc.) or by persons quite alien to Christian faith (Allegro)---or in the liturgical paraphrases of Scripture (targums)--by Jewish authors (e.g.E.I. Kutscher etc.) or Christians (R. Le D6aut, M. McNamara, etc.).

1.1.5.3. Some Jewish historians, turning their interest and attention to "brother Jesus" (S. ben Chorin), have set in relief certain lines of his personality; they have found in him a teacher like the Pharisees of old (D. Flusser) or a wonder-worker similar to those whose memory Jewish tradition has preserved (G. Vermes). Some have not hesitated to compare the passion of Jesus with the Suffering Servant, mentioned in the Book of Isaiah (M. Buber). All these attempts (at interpretation) are to be accorded serious attention by Christian theologians engaged in the study of Christology.

1.1.5.4. However, some Jewish writers (e.g.S. Sandmel etc.) are inclined to attribute to Saul of Tarsus aspects of Christology that transcend the human image of Jesus, especially his divine Sonship. Such an explanation is close to that of scholars of the History of Religions School (Religionsgeschichtliche Schule), even though it does not neglect the profoundly Jewish character of Paul himself. In any case, such studies of Judaism with all its variety in the time of Jesus are clearly a preliminary and necessary condition [F = a necessary preamble] for the full understanding of his personality and for the comprehension of his role in the "oikonomia of salvation" that early Christians have attributed to him. Moreover, this is the basis on which a fruitful dialogue between Jews and Christians can be initiated, apart from all apologetic concern.

1.1.6. CHRISTOLOGY AND SALVATION HISTORY

1.1.6.1. In the nineteenth century some German Protestant theologians (e.g. J.T. Beck, J. C. K. von Hofmann), in order to offset either liberal "historicism" (see 1.1.3.1 above) or the idealistic monism derived from Hegel, which then enjoyed no little vogue, adopted the idea of "salvation history" (Heilsgeschichte). This idea was somewhat similar to what the Church Fathers and medieval theologians called the "oikonomia of salvation": when the gospel is heard with faith, meaningful events are found in human affairs, in which God has put, so to speak, traces of his intervention--events by which He has been directing history to its fulfilment. These events even make up the very texture of Scripture itself [L = tramam; F = la trame même de la Bible] and the "consummation" of history understood in this way takes on the name of "eschatology."

1.1.6.2. Under the heading of "salvation history," Christology manifests diverse forms according to the idea on which the whole treatment is based [F = according to the point of departure chosen to construct it].

(a) As in (other) works devoted to the New Testament titles of Christ (cf. F. Hahn, V. Taylor, L. Sabourin, etc.) or to Christ as "the Wisdom of God" (A. Feuillet etc.), O. Cullmann has worked out on the basis of such titles an essentially "functional" Christology that prescinds entirely from "ontological" considerations of a metaphysical sort. The titles in question are either those used by Jesus of himself, intimately connected with his deeds and his conduct, or those that preachers of the gospel attributed to him in the New Testament. Such titles denote either the task carried out by him in his earthly life, or the task being accomplished by him at present in the Church, or the last, eschatological task toward which the final hope of the Church is oriented. Such titles also have to do with his pre-existence (P. Benoit). Thus soteriology (or the theology of redemption) becomes part of Christology itself, in a way that differs from the classical theological tracts that separated them, one from the other.

(b) W. Pannenberg starts out from the fact of Jesus' resurrection and considers it as the anticipation (or "prolepsis") of the end of all history. Since he holds that the truth of this fact can be proved by historical investigation (Historie), he thinks that the divinity of Jesus is demonstrated in this way [F = at the same time he thinks that the divinity of Jesus is firmly established]. His treatment of the life and ministry of Jesus takes its starting point in this conviction: Jesus' preaching inaugurated God's kingdom among human beings; his death brought them salvation; and by his resurrection God has confirmed his mission.

(c) J. Moltmann adopts from the outset an eschatological perspective: all human history appears to be turned toward a certain promise [F = all human history in its entirety seems to be polarized by a promise]. Those who accept this promise in faith find in it the source of a hope that is oriented toward the gaining of "God's salvation." This salvation, however, ought to have an impact on the whole of human existence in all its aspects. Indeed, this impact was already found in the prophetic promises of the Prior Testament. These promises the gospel now fulfils as it announces the death and resurrection of Jesus. For by means of the cross the Son of God took (upon himself) human punishment and death [F = at the cross, God took on in His Son human suffering and death] so that in an unexpected way he might make of them the instrument of salvation. Moved indeed by love, Jesus became one who shared humanity burdened with sin and sufferings that he might free human beings in every way, whether in their relation to God, or in their psychological life (anthropology), or in their social life (sociology and politics). In this way the theology of redemption necessarily leads to a program of action. A similar concern is also found in "social exegesis" (cf. G. Theissen, E. A. Judge, A. J. Malherbe, etc.).

1.1.7. CHRISTOLOGY AND ANTHROPOLOGY

Under this heading are grouped various methodologies that have as a common characteristic a starting point in diverse aspects of human experience or of anthropology [F = different social aspects of human experience and of anthropology]. In their own way these methodologies reopen questions debated in the nineteenth century and the first part of the twentieth about the "signs of credibility" that lead to faith. Such studies began with the examination of external signs (classical apologetics), or with religious experience generically considered (the "Modernist'' endeavor), or with the intrinsic exigencies of human "action" as such (M. Blondel). In the meantime these problems have undergone various changes; and the changes have influenced the study of Christology.

1.1.7.1. P. Teilhard de Chardin presented humanity as "the final branch" [L = "fruticem finalem"; F = le "bourgeon terminal"] of evolution in the whole universe. Jesus Christ, as the incarnate Son of God, is thus considered as the unifying principle of all human history and of the whole universe from its very beginning. So, by his birth and resurrection the meaning of the entire "human phenomenon'' is fully disclosed to those who believe.

1.1.7.2. According to K. Rahner, the starting point of Christological reflection is to be sought in human existence, in what he calls its "transcendental" aspect: this consists basically in knowledge, love, and freedom. These aspects of existence, however, find their full perfection in the person of Jesus, in the course of his earthly life. By his resurrection, by his life in the Church, and by the gift of faith granted by the Holy Spirit to those who believe, Christ makes it possible that the perfect image and goal of humanity are realized, which without him could never be brought to realization [F = il rend possible à tous la réalisation du projet hurnain qui, sans lui, aboutirait à un échec].

1.1.7.3. H. Kiing, concerned about the present-day conflict between the Christian religion and other world religions and various forms of humanism, concentrates his study on the historical existence of the Jew that was Jesus. He examines the way in which Jesus took upon himself the cause of God and that of humanity; then the sad events that brought him to his death; and finally the mode of life of which he was the promotor and initiator and which does not cease to flow in the Church, thanks to the Holy Spirit. Hence, Christian conduct is seen as a "radical humanism" that gives human beings real freedom.

1.1.7.4. E. Schillebeeckx so studies Jesus' personal experience that he sets up a connection and a link [F has only one noun, à jeter un pont entre ....] between Jesus' experience and the common human experience, and first of all with that of the people who were his companions in his lifetime. The death that Jesus underwent as an "eschatological prophet" did in no way put an end to their faith in him. The announcement of his resurrection, understood as a divine ratification of his life, shows that the same people recognized in Christ a sign of God's victory over death and a pledge of the salvation promised for all those who would follow him in his Church.

1.1.8. THE "EXISTENTIALIST" INTERPRETATION OF JESUS CHRIST

A similarly anthropological approach to Jesus is found in the "existential'' (or "existentialist") interpretation proposed by R. Bultmann, exegete and theologian.

1.1.8.1. As an exegete, Bultmann picks up on the negative results to which the "liberal" Protestant studies of the life of Jesus had come; such studies, he maintains, can in no way constitute the basis of theology. Together with those who adhere to the History of Religions School, he agrees that the faith of primitive Christianity originated in a syncretism: Jewish elements, especially those which grew strong in apocalyptic milieu, were mingled with pagan elements coming from Hellenistic religions. As a result, the "Jesus of history" is separated as far as possible from the "Christ of faith" (according to the principle proposed by M. Kähler at the end of the nineteenth century).

1.1.8.2. Nevertheless, Bultmann wants to remain a faithful Christian and sets himself a truly theological task. In order to protect, however, the authority of the gospel "kerygma," which has been preceded by the way in which Jesus conducted himself before God, Bultmann proceeds to reduce this message to the proclamation of forgiveness extended by God to sinners. This message is signified by the cross of Jesus, the genuine "word" of God inscribed in a historical fact. In this the message of Easter is contained; to it, indeed, one must respond with "a decision of faith" (cf. S. Kierkegaard). Such a decision alone offers a human being the possibility of entering with security [F omits the adverb secure] into a new and fully "authentic" existence. Yet this faith as such has no doctrinal content; it belongs to the "existential" order in that it consists in a pledge of "freedom" by which a human being commits himself entirely to God.

1.1.8.3. According to Bultmann, the "mythological" language of the period has been used to express the Christological and soteriological formulations found in the New Testament. This language, he says, has to be "demythologized," i.e. interpreted, with due respect for the laws of mythological expression, so that an existential interpretation may emerge. The purpose of such an interpretation is that not only the practical consequences of the gospel message may come to light, but also the "categories" on which the structure of a "saved" human existence depends. In this regard Bultmann's reasoning depends heavily on the philosophical principles set forth by M. Heidegger in Sein und Zeit.

1.1.8.4. In his exegetical work Bultmann, no differently from his contemporaries M. Dibelius and K. L. Schmidt, goes beyond classical literary criticism and tums to the critique of the literary "forms" that have contributed to the "formation" of the texts (Formgeschichte). Theaim of such (critical) study is not so much to derive from the Gospel texts the historical truths themselves about Jesus as to establish the connection between those texts and the concrete life of the "primitive community," by determining their setting and function (Sitz im Leben), in order to uncover in a vivid way the diverse aspects of faith in the same community. However, students of Bultmann himself, though they have not rejected the principal studies of their master, have nonetheless sensed the need of situating Jesus himself at the outset and origin of Christology (E. Käsemann etc.).

1.1.9. CHRISTOLOGY AND SOCIAL CONCERNS

1.1.9.1. Since human existence depends on life in society, a number of "readers," theologians and others, preoccupied with practical problems of social life, have turned their attention in particular to Jesus. While observing, or even experiencing themselves, the evils of human societies, they have recourse to the "praxis" that Jesus followed to find there an example that can be applied to our age. In the nineteenth century some Socialists, called "Utopians" (cf. Proudhon), had already devoted studies to the social principles of the gospel. Even K. Marx, though he completely rejected religion, was nevertheless indirectly influenced by biblical messianism. F. Engels, in accord with his theory of "class straggle,'' proposed an interpretation of the hope of primitive Christianity such as is found, for instance, in the Book of Revelation.

1.1.9.2. In our times exponents of various forms of liberation theology, which have been worked out especially in Latin America, are trying to find in "Christ the liberator," whom some historians have depicted as a political opponent of the Roman empire (cf. S. G. F. Brandon), the foundation of a certain hope and "praxis." To bring a social and political freedom to human beings [L is garbled: Ut liberationem socialem et politicam hominibus afferatur (with main verb in a past tense)], as they say, did not Jesus espouse the cause of the poor and rise up against the abuses of authorities who were oppressing the people in economic, political, ideological, and even religious matters? Theologies of this sort, however, take different shapes. For some of them, the necessary liberation has to embrace all human affairs [F = to stress the global character of the liberation needed], among which is included the basic relationship of humans to God (e.g. G. Gutiérrez, L. Boff, etc.). Others concentrate mainly on the social relations of human beings among themselves (e.g. J. Sobrino).

1.1.9.3. Furthermore, some Marxists, even though atheists, seek for a "principle of hope" (E. Bloch) and consider the "praxis" of Jesus, based on brotherly love, as a way open to the eventual emergence in history of a new human society, in which integral "communism" will find its perfect form (e.g. M. Machove¹ ) [F: to cause to emerge in history].

1.1.9.4. There are also readers of the Gospels who admit in principle the interpretation of social phenomena and human affairs proposed by contemporary Marxists, who subject the writings of the New Testament to the analytical methods of this school, and who set forth a materialistic reading of them. In this way they deduce from such writings principles of a certain liberating "praxis" that is, according to them, so uninvolved in any "ecclesiastical ideology" that they may base on it their own social activity (F. Belo). Certain groups of scholars, some of them sincere Christians, have recourse to this method to join theory and action, without, however, necessarily pursuing the theoretic goals of "dialectical materialism."

1.1.9.5. Such modes of "reading" (the Gospels) center all their attention on the "historical" Jesus. According to these views, Jesus as a human being supplied, indeed, the starting point for a certain new, liberative "praxis"; and this mode of action must be reintegrated into the world of today, with the aid of new methods and means. In a way these attempts at interpretation take the place of what in classical theology were regarded as the doctrine of the redemption and social ethics.

1.1.9.6. From a notably different point of view some studies have emerged today that are aimed at a practical theology. They are concerned with social and political questions and seek to offer human beings, especially the poor and oppressed classes, a hope that is real and that can be realized: through the cross of Christ, God has made Himself an intimate member (sodalem) of suffering humanity to bring about its liberation (cf. J. B. Metz). In this way a transition is made to the ethical domain.

1.1.10. SYSTEMATIC STUDIES OF A NEW SORT

1.1.10.1. Under this heading are grouped two syntheses, in which Christology is understood as a theological revelation of God Himself. One comes from K. Barth, the other from H. U. yon Balthasar. In each synthesis the more recent results of biblical criticism are not neglected; each one makes use of the entire Bible to present a systematic synthesis. Jesus of Nazareth and the Christ of faith are merely two aspects intimately joined to make up the self-revelation of God in human history. This revelation is clearly disclosed and made evident only through faith (K. Barth) [F = This revelation makes itself clearly known only in faith]. According to H. U. von Balthasar, the "kenosis" of Christ, manifested in his absolute obedience to the Father, even unto death on the cross, reveals an essential characteristic of the life of the Trinity itself; at the same time it brings about the salvation of sinful humanity, as he undergoes the experience of death for it.

1.1.10.2. According to K. Barth, Christ's entire existence takes on meaning only from the fact that he is the supreme Word of the Father. In communicating this Word through His Spirit in His Church, God opened the way to an ethic that demands of those who believe an involvement in the affairs of this world, even in those of a political nature. But according to H. U. yon Balthasar, who advocates a contemplation of God by a mode that he calls "esthetic," rational reflection, historical investigation, and the involvement of human liberty governed by love coalesce in the very mystery of Easter itself. In this way a theology of history is sketched out that avoids the too restricted conclusions of Idealists and Materialists.

1.1.11. CHRISTOLOGIES "FROM ABOVE" AND CHRISTOLOGIES "FROM BELOW"

1.1.11.1. Among the above-mentioned Christologies, those that begin with "the historical Jesus" seem somewhat like Christologies that proceed "from below." On the contrary, those that concentrate on Jesus' relation to God the Father can rightly be called "Christologies from above." A number of contemporary writers try to combine both aspects. Beginning with a critical study of the (New Testament) texts, they show that the Christology implicit in the words of Jesus and in his human experience forms a certain continuum and is profoundly united with the different Christologies that are explicitly found in the New Testament. Yet this bond of union is discovered in very different ways (e.g. L. Bouyer, R. Fuller, C. F. D. Moule, I. H. Marshall, B. Rey, Chr. Duquoc, W. Kasper, M. Hengel, J. D. G. Dunn, etc.).

1.1.11.2. Although the approaches and the conclusions of these authors are far from being in agreement, the two following principal points are common to them:

(a) One must distinguish, on the one hand, the way Jesus presented himself to his contemporaries and was able to be understood by them (his family, opponents, disciples); on the other, the way those who came to believe in Jesus understood his life and his person after the manifestations of him as one raised from the dead. Between these two periods there is, indeed, no interruption [L = interruptio; F = coupure]; nevertheless, an advance [L = progressio; F = transformation] of no little importance is noted, consistent with the early views, and it is to be regarded as a constitutive element of Christology itself [L has cum prirnigenis sententiis congruens, which is missing in F]. This Christology, if it has to take into account the limits of the humanity [L has humanitatis, which is missing in F] of "Jesus of Nazareth," has to acknowledge in him at the same time "the Christ of faith," fully revealed by his resurrection in the light of the Holy Spirit.

(b) Also to be noted are the different ways of understanding the mystery of Christ that already appear in the New Testament books themselves. This is seen, however, when an Old Testament mode of speaking is employed, and when Scripture is said to be fulfilled in Jesus, the savior of the world. For the fulfillment of Scripture presupposes a certain amplification of meaning, whether it is a question of a meaning that the biblical texts originally bore, or of a meaning that Jews, rereading these texts, were attributing to them in the time of Jesus. Indeed, such an amplification of meaning should scarcely be attributed to secondary [L = secundariae; F = simple] theological speculation; it has its origin in the person of Jesus himself, whose own characteristics it sets in a better light.

1.1.11.3. With such considerations (these) exegetes and theologians approach the question of the individual personality of Jesus.

(a) This individual personality was cultivated and formed [F has only one verb, a été faconnée] by a Jewish education, the positive values of which Jesus took fully to himself. But it was also endowed with a quite singular consciousness of himself [L = conscientia sui ipsius plane singulari; F = conscience de soi originale] as far as his relation to God was concerned as well as the mission he was to carry out for human beings. Some Gospel texts (e.g. Luke 2:40, 52) lead us to recognize a certain growth [L = progressum; F = développement] in this consciousness.

(b) Nevertheless, (these) exegetes and theologians refuse to get involved in a "psychology" of Jesus, both because of critical problems in the texts and because of the danger of speculating (in some wrong way, either by excess or by defect) [F = en raison du danger des spéculations abusives, qu' elles soient majorantes ou minimisantes]. They prefer a reverent circumspection before the mystery of his personality. Jesus took no pains to define it precisely, even though through his sayings or his deeds he did allow one to catch a mere glimpse of the secrets of his intimate life (H. Schürmann). Various Christologies in the New Testament, as well as the definitions of councils--in which are repeated, in an "auxiliary language," things already contained in Scripture have indicated the route along which theological [L has theologica, which F omits] speculation can proceed, without exactly demasking the mystery itself.

1.1.11.4. In their studies of Jesus Christ, (these) exegetes and theologians also agree that Christology should in no way be separated from soteriology. The Word of God was made flesh (Jn 1:14) to play the role of mediator between God and human beings. If he could be a human being "fully free" and "a man for others," that was so because this freedom and this gift of himself flowed forth from a source none other than the intimate union of himself with God, since he was able to turn to God as Father in a special and quite unique sense. Questions, then, about the knowledge and pre-existence of Christ can in no way be avoided; but each of them pertains to a later stage of Christology.

Chap. 2--The Risks and Limits of These Different Methodologies

Each of the approaches mentioned above has its strong points, is based on biblical texts, and also possesses advantages and stimulative qualities. But a number of the approaches, if used alone, run the risk of not explaining fully the biblical message or even of proposing a watered-down picture of Jesus Christ. [F adds a sentence: It is necessary then to judge precisely the limitations of several of them.]

1.2.1. The approach of Classical Theology encounters two hazards:

1.2.1.1. The formulation of doctrine about Christ depends more on the language of theologians of the patristic period and the Middle Ages than on the language of the New Testament itself, as if this ultimate source of the revelation (about him) were less accurate and less suited to setting forth a doctrine in well-defined terms [F = as if this ultimate source of the revelation, in itself, were too imprecise to furnish the doctrine with a well-defined formulation].

1.2.1.2. Recourse to the New Testament, if it is had with the sole concern of defending or establishing the so-called "traditional" doctrine in its "classical" formulation, runs the risk of not being open, as it ought to be, to certain critical questions that cannot be avoided in the exegetical area. For instance, it can happen that the historical character [L has indoles textuum plane historica, where the adverb plane is scarcely intelligible; F has rather: the historicity of all the details in certain Gospel episodes] of the texts is too easily admitted when in certain Gospel episodes it is a question of all the minute details. These might rather have had a theological purpose according to a literary convention of that time. Or the word-for-word authenticity of certain sayings attributed to Jesus in the Gospels (is again too easily admitted), even though they are recounted in diverse ways in different books [F = in these Gospels]. Hence, a number of questions may be disregarded which are rightly discussed in our day. So it can happen that doctrinal propositions are made to rest on critical conclusions that are too "conservative," when in reality they are controversial [L = in conclusionibus criticis nimis "conservativis," quae reapse in controversia versantur; but F = critical solutions of a "conservative" type, which are disputed].

1.2.2. The attempt at theological speculation that proceeds from a critique of the language employed by theologians and councils is basically correct. But lest the testimony of Sacred Scripture be distorted, this critique must be tempered by two conditions [F = two conditions are essential].

1.2.2.1. The "auxiliary" languages employed in the Church in the course of centuries do not enjoy the same authority, as far as faith is concerned, as the "referential language" of the inspired authors, especially (that) of the New Testament with its mode of expression rooted in the Prior (Testament). That "the absolute value of the revelation" [L =absolutum pondus revelationis; F = l'Absolu de la ræ væ lation] may be grasped through the medium of some relative language, even given the continuity between the basic experience of the apostolic Church and the subsequent experience of the Church, distinctions and analyses necessary for research [L = ad investigandum, which is missing in F; the latter reads: the necessary distinctions and analyses cannot sacrifice the formal affirmations of Scripture] cannot be made if the express affirmations of Scripture are done away with.

1.2.2.2. In this matter the risk is that an absolute value be ascribed to modes of thinking and speaking that are proper to our age, with the result that the understanding of Christ which flows from the Gospels can be called in question. This would certainly be the case if New Testament texts were to be subjected to a selective process or an interpretation that various philosophical systems would call for. But a Christology cannot be solidly worked out unless the equilibrium be preserved that flows from Sacred Scripture taken as a whole and from the various modes of speaking which it employs [L is garbled here: quod effiuit e Sacra Scriptura in toto apprehensa variis e que loquendi modis quibus utitur. F = qui ræ sulte de l'ensemble de l'Ecriture et en assumant la variæ tæ des langages qu' elle utilise].

1.2.3. Historical investigations are of great importance for the understanding of people and events of bygone days, as is clear to everyone, and they are certainly also to be used with regard to Jesus of Nazareth. Obviously, one cannot disregard what historical investigation has uncovered about the circumstances of times and places in which the testimonies (about him) have been received and passed on (cf. 1.1.3 above).

1.2.3.1. Nevertheless, the simple analysis of texts does not suffice. For those texts were composed and received in a community of human beings that lived not on abstract ideas but on faith. This faith has its origin and progressive growth in Jesus' resurrection; it was an event of salvation introduced among people who already shared the religious experience of diverse Jewish communities [F = which did not live on abstract ideas, but on a nascent faith that gradually deepened in the resurrection of Jesus, an event of salvation inserted into the experience of diverse Jewish communities].

1.2.3.2. Since a great difference is noted between the faith of Jewish communities and the faith of the Christian Church, one could easily become oblivious of the historical continuity between the primitive faith of the apostles based on "the law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms" (Lk 24:44) and the faith which they themselves acquired from their relations with the risen Christ. Yet this continuity is equally a historical fact. There was continuity in their religious recognition of the God of Abraham and of Moses both before and after the Easter event. They lived with "the historical Jesus" before they lived with "the Christ of faith." Hence, no matter what may be the subjective inclinations of today's experts, it is incumbent on ail to investigate that profound unity that the Christology of the New Testament manifests as intimately bound up in its own development.

1.2.4. Though the aid that comes from the comparative study of religion is needed in any inquiry into the origins of the Christian religion, the use of it runs two risks.

1.2.4.1. It can be vitiated by a preconceived view: that the religion of Christ has to be explained, as in analogous cases, by a fusion or syncretism of elements pre-existent in the social milieu in which this religion arose, viz. some from Judaism, some from contemporary ethnic religions [F = des paganismes contemporains]: the religion of Christ would have sprung from the joining of a certain group of believers of Jewish background with a Hellenistic social milieu, from which it had to pick up a number of elements. But as early as the third century B.C. Judaism had already confronted the problems of Hellenization, either by rejecting elements contrary to its own tradition or by assimilating good elements with which it could be enriched. When, however, it passed on to subsequent ages the Sacred Scriptures translated into Greek, it already manifested the success of its own "inculturation." Early Christianity, which inherited these translated Scriptures, followed along the same path.

1.2.4.2. There is also the risk of ascribing to primitive Christian communities a creative force deprived of all internal check, as if individual churches were without roots [L = radicibus; F = encadrement] or a solid tradition. Some historians have gone so far as to regard Christ as nothing more than "a myth" devoid of all historicity. Such a view, paradoxical as it is, is usually avoided; but not a few historians who are nonbelievers maintain that Christian communities emerging from Hellenism transformed the "savior'' of the Jewish tradition into the chief "hero" of a "religion of salvation,'' scarcely different from the cults of the mystery religions. The comparative study of religions, however, does not require such an ev-olutionistic principle that would be the foundation for such an interpretation. It tries to uncover "the constant laws" [F = the constants] in the history of religions, but it does not level out religious beliefs so as to deform them. As in the study of other religions, so too in the study of the Christian religion, the task of such investigation is to discover the specific character of the religion of Christ, linked to the newness of the gospel. Thus, by the skew of phenomenology, it too can open a way to Christology itself.

1.2.5. The diligent study of Judaism is of utmost importance for the correct understanding of the person of Jesus, as well as of the early Church and its specific [L = peculiaris; F = originale] faith.

1.2.5.1. If to understand Jesus studies are conducted only along these lines, there is always the danger of mutilating his personality, precisely at the moment when stress is being put by such studies on his Jewish background and character. Would he be only one of many teachers, even if the most faithful of all to the tradition of the Law and the Prophets? Or a prophet, a victim of a disastrous mistake? Or a wonder-worker like others whose memory has been preserved in monuments of Jewish literature? Or even a political instigator finally put to death by Roman authorities in collusion with the chief priests, who did not understand him?

1.2.5.2. It is true that the disputes in which Jesus was involved with groups of Pharisees espousing stricter discipline [F = It is correct that the tensions that set Jesus is opposition to the pietist current of Pharisees resemble the controversies ....] do not seem to differ from controversies among brothers who share the same heritage. But the vitality later on [F adds: after his rejection by the religious leaders of his nation] of the movement that started with him clearly shows that the chief cause of that disagreement was much more profound, even though we admit that the Gospel accounts could have described more harshly than was right the original state of affairs [F = even if one admits that in this regard the Gospel accounts could have hardened the original situation]. For this disagreement had as its object a new way of understanding one's relation to God and" the fulfilment of Scripture," which Jesus had brought to the people of his time through the gospel of the kingdom [F adds: of God]. An accurate study of Jesus' Jewish character cannot pass over this aspect of him.

1.2.6. As for the approach to Jesus Christ from the idea of so-called salvation history, one has to agree that it has introduced important advantages into the study, even if the expression Heilsgeschichte be too vague. The questions raised by this approach vary with the different proponents who espouse it.

1.2.6.1. In modem languages derived from Latin as well as in English, the word "history" does not have the same meaning when it is a question of Jesus as a "historical" person and of "salvation history." German makes a distinction between Historie and Geschichte; but the terminology to be used really poses a difficult question. For the historical understanding of Jesus is based on empirical facts or on experience, access to which is gained by the study of documents [F = The history of Jesus belongs, in fact, to the empirical domain accessible through the study of documents]. But so-called "salvation history" is not so based. It embraces a common experience, but it presupposes a certain understanding to which one has access only by the intelligence that comes with faith. This distinction must always be kept in mind so that Christology may be put in a true and proper perspective. This suggests that in both the historian and the theologian there must be an open-mindedness toward a lively faith [F = to the life of faith.] and toward the "decision of faith," by which access to it is gained.

1.2.6.2. This consideration must be applied in a special way to the resurrection of Christ, which by its very nature cannot be proved in an empirical way. For by it Jesus is introduced into "the world to come." This can, indeed, be deduced as a reality from the appearances of Christ in glory to certain preordained witnesses [F = to privileged witnesses], and it is corroborated by the fact that Jesus' tomb was found open and empty. But one may not simplify this question excessively, as if any historian, making use only of scientific investigation, could prove it with certainty as a fact accessible to any observer whatsoever. In this matter there is also needed "the decision of faith," or better "an open heart," so that the mind may be moved to assent [F = here once again, the "decision of faith," or better, the "openness of heart," controls the position taken].

1.2.6.3. As for the titles of Christ, it is not sufficient to distinguish between those titles that Jesus used of himself during his earthly life and those that were given to him by theologians of the apostolic age. It is more important to make the distinction between functional titles, by which the roles of Christ are defined in his salvific activity on behalf of humanity, and relational titles, which pertain to his relation to God, of whom he is both the Word and the Son. In the treatment of this question, Jesus' habits, deeds, and conduct are to be examined no less than the titles, since they reveal what is most profound about a person.

1.2.6.4. That salvation history is tending toward eschatology and that a hope springs from this (tendency) brings with it consequences important for Christian "praxis" in human societies. But the word "eschatology" is in itself ambiguous. Are "the last times" to be regarded as beyond historical experience? Did Jesus announce the end of "this world" before the generation of his own time would pass away? Or did he thus introduce a new way of considering the conditions in which the course of human history would mn? Was it not rather a question of the last stage of the oikonomia of salvation, inaugurated by the message of the gospel of the kingdom, but not yet consummated, which extends through the entire span of church history? A Christology tree to its colors ought to explain all questions of this sort.

1.2.7. The risk run by the anthropological approaches to Christology, which embrace a whole gamut of different modes of reflection, is noted in their tendency to play down certain components that make up a human person in his existence and history. Hence a Christology that is defective can emerge in this way.

1.2.7.1. With regard to the human phenomenon, has its religious aspect been sufficiently studied in its historical development so that the person of Jesus and the founding of the Church are precisely situated in their Jewish milieu within the course of universal evolution? Does the optimistic interpretation of this evolution, aimed at the "Omega point," allow sufficiently for questions about evil and for the redemptive activity of the death of Jesus, even if account is otherwise taken of the crises that human evolution is to overcome? Studies about the person of Jesus and about the Christologies of the New Testament will supply the complements needed in this matter.

1.2.7.2. Speculative attempts dealing with the philosophical analysis of human existence run the risk of being rejected by those who do not grant the philosophical premises involved. Certainly, the biblical data (regarding Jesus Christ) are not disregarded (in this approach); but they ought often to be scrutinized anew in order that the demands of biblical criticism [F omits "biblical"] and the multiplicity of the New Testament Christologies be better met. Only in this way can a philosophical anthropology be rightly applied, on the one hand, to the personal existence of Jesus in this world, and, on the other, to the role that the glorified Christ plays in Christian existence.

1.2.7.3. It is legitimate, indeed, to begin a historical investigation about Jesus considering him as a true human being, but that involves many things [the last clause is missing in F]: his life as a Jew; his way of acting and his preaching; the awareness that he had of himself and the way he proposed his mission; the preview he had of his death and the meaning that he could have given to it; the origin of faith in his resurrection and the ways of interpreting his death in the early Church; the progressive working out of a Christology and a soteriology in the New Testament. But the risk is that doctrinal elements amassed in this way depend too much on the critical hypotheses employed at the outset to achieve this end. If as a result of this methodology only those hypotheses are admitted that are as restrictive as possible, then a Christology emerges that is lacunary. That is especially noticed when texts regarded as "older" are taken as the only trustworthy ones, whereas the more recent texts are written off as speculations born of a later period [F = secondary speculations] that have completely [F = substantially] changed the "original" data coming from the "the historical Jesus." Were not these (later) texts [F adds: ´ leur æpoque] rather aimed at making more explicit, thanks to new meditation on the Prior Testament and a deeper reflection upon Jesus' words and deeds, a faith-understanding of Christ--such as was present from the beginning, as it were, in a kernel and implicitly? The risk is that the role played by the Prior Testament, the authority of which neither Jesus nor his disciples ever called in question, is too much disregarded in this matter. The result is that the very interpretation of the New Testament may turn out to be erroneous.

1.2.7.4. Legitimate, indeed, is the attempt to establish continuity between Jesus' experience and that of Christians. But then it must also be established, without reliance on hypotheses that are too minimal, how and in what sense Jesus, "the eschatological prophet," came to be acknowledged in faith as the Son of God; how the inchoative faith and hope of his disciples could come to be transformed into a firm certitude about his triumph over death; how among the conflicts that affected the churches of the apostolic period, one was able finally to come to recognize the true "praxis" that Christ desired--that which was the basis of the authentic "sequel of Jesus"; how, finally, the different interpretations of his person and mission as mediator of God and human beings, which are found in the New Testament, could at length be considered as presenting the true picture of Jesus, as he really was, and of the revelation that took place in him and through him. Only on such conditions will ambiguity be avoided in proposing a Christology.

1.2.8. The approach (to Christology) based on an existential analysis. In constantly demanding of believers that they bear themselves before God according to the example of obedience given by Jesus himself, (this approach) brings to light the close connection joining exegesis, theological study, and living faith. By an accurate critical analysis of the texts, this method often discovers the function played by the texts in the Christian communities for which they were composed--and consequently their function too in the Church of today. Nevertheless, many exegetes and theologians, of differing confessional backgrounds, have pointed out the limits and the deficiencies of this approach.

1.2.8.1. Those who espouse a radical critique have limited the scope of their Gospel studies to a very tiny nucleus, the more so because they consider the knowledge of Jesus as a historical personage to be of minimal importance for faith. And so Jesus would no longer really be at the origin ofChristology. Christology would have rather taken its start from the Easter kerygma, not from the existence of Jesus, a Jew who in himself fulfilled the law ( = Torah) under which he lived. But if this law has as its only function to show by its own collapse that human beings cannot save themselves, does not the entire theology of the Prior Testament also disappear into thin air?

1.2.8.2. The symbolic language used in the New Testament to pass on the Easter kerygma, in order to declare who Christ is and in what his role consists, is restricted to the limits of "mythological" language. As a result, the relation between the two Testaments is reduced to the extreme. Finally, does not the "existential" (or "existentialist") interpretation proposed for the understanding of "mythological" language run the risk of reducing Christology to an anthropology? [F =does it not risk ending logically in an anthropological reduction of Christology?]

1.2.8.3. If Christ's resurrection and exaltation are to be considered only as mythological transformations of the Easter message, it is not understandable how Christian faith could have been born of the cross. Again, if Jesus is not the Son of God in a unique sense, it is scarcely evident why God has addressed His "last word" to us in him through the medium of the cross. Finally, if, to get around the rationalistic conception of "proofs" that establish the faith, the "signs" on which it is based are also suppressed, is not this, in effect, an invitation to fideism?

1.2.8.4. To the extent that this approach to Jesus would consist exclusively in a decision of faith, would not the social aspects of human existence be excluded? Again, in this way a certain "morality of love," vaguely defined, would be radically opposed to a "morality of law" that should include the positive demands of justice. For all these reasons the disciples of R. Bultmann have undertaken to restore Jesus to the origins of Christology, without rejecting the global aim of his interpretation based on an "existential" analysis.

1.2.9. Proponents of liberation theology rightly recall that the salvation brought by Christ is not solely" spiritual," i.e. wholly dissociated from affairs of this world [For the last phrase F merely has: disembodied (dæ sincarnæ )]. It is intended to free human beings, by God's grace indeed, from every tyranny oppressing them in their present situation. However, from such a general principle risky consequences can be drawn, especially if the doctrine of the redemption is not clearly joined to a system of ethics that is fully consonant with the precepts of the New Testament.

1.2.9.1. Though some Marxists indirectly refer to Jesus' gospel to find in it the ideal form of social life based on brotherly relations, they do not abandon their method of analysis of social facts [F = But that leaves intact their method of analysis] from an economic and political point of view. This method is tied to a philosophical anthropology, the theoretic basis of which includes atheism. This method of investigation and the "praxis" associated with it, when adopted uncritically, so that the God of the Bible becomes the artisan of the "liberation" so conceived, runs the risk of falsifying the very nature of God, the correct interpretation of Christ, and in the long run even the understanding and comprehension of humanity itself.

1.2.9.2. Some "liberation theologians" firmly maintain that "the Christ of faith" has to be retained as the ultimate principle of hope. Yet, in reality, only the "praxis" of the "Jesus of history" is actually considered, portrayed even more or less arbitrarily with a "mode of reading'' of the text that partly falsifies it. Hence, "the Christ of faith" is considered as a mere "ideological" interpretation, or even a "mythologization" of his historical personage. Moreover, since the idea of "power" in the Christian communities, subjected as they were at that time to the Roman empire and its local governors, is given no accurate analysis, that idea itself runs the serious risk of being interpreted with Marxist nuances.

1.2.9.3. Consequently, the activity of Christ the liberator at work through the Holy Spirit in the Church is no longer considered. Jesus is no more than a "model" of the past. His "praxis" is to be promoted by other means better suited to our times and capable of greater results. In this way Christology runs the risk of being completely reduced to anthropology.

1.2.10. Studies in speculative theology about Christ take as a principle, and not without reason, the refusal to depend on critical hypotheses that are always subject to revision. There is, however, in this approach the danger that, because of an excessive concern to make a synthesis, the variety of New Testament Christologies be obscured, when in reality that variety is to be greatly esteemed. Or even that the elements in the Prior Testament that are preparatory be dismissed or so belittled that the New Testament would be deprived of its roots. It is desirable that exegetical studies find a more precise and well-defined place in the study of revelation, which from the beginning and through the whole course of its development has been tending toward its ultimate goal in the totality of the mystery of Christ. Herein lies a certain divine "pedagogy,'' in a sense different from that of Paul (Gal 3:24), that is leading humanity to Christ.

1.2.11. All attempts to unite a Christology "from below" with a Christology "from above" are on the right track. However, they leave in suspense certain questions that call for an answer.

1.2.11.1. In the area of exegetical studies many problems remain to be resolved, in particular critical questions about the Gospels: the way the sayings of Jesus have come to be formulated in them; the more or less "historical" character (in the strict sense) of the narratives that concern Jesus [L = indoles plus minusque "historica" stricto sensu narrationum quae ad Eum attinent; F = l'historicitæ plus ou moins dense des ræ cits qui le concernent]; the date and authorship of individual books; the modes and stages of their composition; and the development of Christological doctrine. This area of studies lies open to investigation; it is not only legitimate but even necessary and capable of bearing fruit for systematic Christology itself.

1.2.11.2. In order to comprehend the great and unique importance that Christ has in the course of world history, one cannot dispense with a study of the place of the Bible in the development of various cultures. Because these sacred books enter the history of these cultures at a relatively [L = sero; F = ´ une date relativement tardive] late date, one must not disregard the way certain elements of these cultures were taken up into the books, to be used in the service of revelation. The Jewish character of Jesus, inserted into various cultures, is somehow the bearer of his total humanity. This approach to Jesus, spurred on especially by archeological and ethnological discoveries of the last two centuries, has scarcely been tapped. But in order to understand how Jesus is the savior of all human beings of all ages, one has to consider his pre-existence, recognizing him as the Wisdom of God and the Word of God (cf. the Johannine Prologue), as well as the author and exemplar of creation and the powerful governor of the whole course of human history.

1.2.11.3. Moreover, to understand how the glorified Christ continues to act effectively in this world [L = quomodo Christus glorificatus efficaciter operans maneat in hoc mundo; F = comment le Christ glorifiæ continue d'agir efficacement dans ce monde-ci], more accurate studies of Scripture have to be undertaken concerning the relations between the Church, which is his body guided by the Holy Spirit, and the societies in which it develops. Given such a consideration, ecclesiology becomes an essential aspect of Christology, and precisely at the moment when it is confronted by the studies of sociologists.

 

Chap. 3--How Are Such Risks, Limitations, or Ambiguities To Be Avoided?

The approaches mentioned above show that it would not be sufficient, in order that remedies be found for all such risks, to set forth a few trenchant formulas proposing the definitive "troth" or even to work out systematic treatises that would handle all these problems and solve them right off.

1.3.1. Solidarity in faith with the whole ecclesiastical tradition bids biblical scholars [F = tells the theologian] to have constant recourse to the basic tradition of apostolic times (understood broadly to embrace the whole New Testament). This solidarity, however, in no way excuses one from engaging in studies of the Bible as a whole: of the place that it had in Israel, and of the new branch grafted into it through Jesus Christ with the writings of the New Testament up to the closing off of the"canon," i.e. the norm for Christian faith and life [F = up to the closing of the "canonical" list, i.e. normative for faith and practical life] With regard to this last point, though a funadmental disagreement exists between Jews and Christians, nevertheless the principle of canonicity is firmly established for both of them.

1.3.2. The literary development of the Bible itself is in a way a reflection of that gift of God that has brought his revelation and salvation to human beings. For Christians the apex of this gift is the Son of God, true man "born of the Virgin Mary." The unity in the Scriptures is thus seen in the promises received by the patriarchs, expanded through the prophets, then through the expectation of God's kingdom and of a Messiah; but these promises and this expectation have found fulfillment in Jesus, the Messiah and Son of God. The use of Scripture in Christology is governed, then, by the principle of totality, which the Fathers and the medieval theologians well recalled [F = which neither the Fathers nor the medieval theologians ever neglected], even though they were reading and interpreting the biblical texts according to methods suited to the culture of their own times. Other, indeed, are the methods that the culture of our age furnishes; but the way to make use of them and their goal remain the same [F = but the orientation according to which one must use them remains the same].

1.3.3. That readers who are believers may discover this integral Christology in the Scriptures, it is a desideratum that biblical studies be conducted with the aid of the exegetical methods of our age and that they become more advanced in research and investigation than they are at present. Indeed, many problems still remain obscure about the composition process of the sacred writings that finally emerged from their inspired authors. As a result, those who would dispense with the study of problems of this sort would be approaching Scripture only in a superficial way; wrongly judging that their way of reading Scripture is "theological,'' they would be setting off on a deceptive route. Solutions that are too easy [F = oversimplified (simplistes)] can in no way provide the solid basis needed for studies in biblical theology, even when engaged in with full faith. But the Pontifical Biblical Commission judges that, if one prescinds from details of minor importance, such studies have made sufficient progress that any believer can find in their results a solid basis for his/her study about Jesus Christ.

The following treatment, divided into two chapters, takes up these questions: 1. Promises and expectation of salvation and of a savior in the Prior Testament; 2. Fulfillment of these promises and expectation in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

PART II: THE GLOBAL TESTIMONY OF SACRED SCRIPTURE ABOUT CHRIST

Chap. 1---God's Salvific Deeds and the Messianic Hope in Israel

Jesus and the primitive Christian community clearly acknowledged the divine authority of the Scriptures that we call the Prior or the Old Testament. Indeed, as its sacred writers have borne witness, Israel came to believe that its God had willed its salvation and that He was also aware of its paths. This primary experience of the relations between God and His people stands, then, on a solid basis, and its importance rightly demands that it be properly assessed.

In these writings, then, three items are to be considered that Christians will find to have been completely fulfilled in Christ Jesus: (a) the knowledge of the true God, who is distinct from all other gods and the basis of Israel's hope; (b) the experience of God's salvific will [F uses this phrase in the plural, des volontæ s de salut] that Israel enjoyed in the course of its history amid other peoples; (c) the different forms of mediation by which the observance of the covenant and the communing of God and humanity were continually promoted. It is not a question here of sketching various stages of the divine revelation made to Israel, but rather of recalling the principal witnesses in this "Prior Testament," to which the Christian community listened and which it understood in the light of Christ who had already come.

2.1.1. GOD AND THE REVELATION OF HIM IN THE PRIOR TESTAMENT

2.1.1.1. All peoples of the ancient Near East seeking for God were, "as it were, groping for him" (Acts 17:27). According to the Book of Wisdom, they went astray in their quest because, captivated by the beauty of things, they considered the powers of this world to be gods and paid no attention to how much more beautiful was the One who had fashioned them (13:3). Yet God manifested Himself to Israel as One seeking out human beings: He calls Abraham (Gen 12:1-3) and grants him descendants that will become His own people among all the peoples of the earth (Exod 19:5-6; Deut 7:6), and indeed out of sheer favor (Deut 7:8). In Abraham and his posterity the nations of the earth will receive their blessing (Gen 12:3; 22:18; 26:4). In this God alone they will find salvation (Isa 45:22-25), and on Him alone they are to base their hope (Isa 51:4-5).

2.1.1.2. God, the creator of the universe (Gen 1:1-2:4), manifests himself to Israel especially as the Lord and Moderator [F = Lord and Master] of history (Amos 1:3-2:16; Isa 10:5 ff.). He is "the First and the Last," and besides Him there is no other god who can act as He does (Isa 44:6; 45:5-6). There is no God but in Israel (Isa 45:14), and He is the only one (Isa 45:5). In a special sense He manifests Himself to human beings as king. Though He has already revealed this kingly authority by His power in creation (Ps 93:1-2; 95:3-5), He displays it still more in caring for the fortunes of Israel (Exod 15:18; Isa 52:7) and for His kingdom yet to come (Psalm 98). This kingly authority finds its central focus in the worship that is paid to God in the city of Jerusalem (Isa 6:1-5; Psalm 122). After Israel on its own chose masters for itself (1 Sam 8:1-9) and finally experienced the heavy yoke of such kings (1 Sam 8:10-20), it then found in its God the good shepherd (Psalm 23; Ezekiel 34), for he is ever "faithful... just and upright" (Deut 32:4), "merciful and clement... patient and rich in kindness and fidelity" (Exod 34:6).

God, then, as one close to human beings, constitutes, as it were, the very substance [F = constitutes the very heart of Israel's faith] of Israel's faith. His name, expressed by the tetra-gram YHWH, is an acknowledgment of this faith (cf. Exod 3:12-15), and it at once defines the form of the relation into which He wants to enter with His people, as He summons them to fidelity.

2.1.2. GOD AND HUMANITY: PROMISES AND COVENANT

2.1.2.1. By His own unswerving will (Jer 31:35-37), made manifest in an oath sworn "by Himself" (Gen 22:16-18), this God has entered into a pact with human beings fashioned into a people [F = human beings fashioned as one people]. He set over this people leaders whom He bade carry out His designs: Abraham (Gen 18:19), Moses (Exod 3:7-15), the "judges" (Judg 2:16-18), and kings (2 Sam 7:8-16). Through their activity God was going to free His people from every bondage or foreign domination (Exod 3:8; Josh 24:10; 2 Sam 7:9-11), give them the promised land (Gen 15:18; 22:17; Josh 24:8-13; 2 Sam 7:10), and finally bring about deliverance (Exod 15:2; Judg 2:16-18). Through their activity God was likewise going to pass on to this people His commandments and laws (Gen 18:19; Exod 15:25; 21:1; Deut 5:1; 12:1; Josh 24:25-27; 1 Kgs 2:3). The observance of these commandments and laws was to be the special way in which Israel would acknowledge its faith in God, thus expressing respect for the person and property of its neighbors (Exod 20:3-17; Deut 5:6-21; Exod 21:2 ff.; Lev 19). The connection between this gift of the land and obedience to the law is expressed in Scripture under the juridical notion of "covenant" (bÆ r­ t). By it new bonds are set that God decides to establish between Himself and human beings.

Clearly this people and its leaders freely submit themselves to this covenant (Exod 24:3-8; Deut 29:9-14; Josh 24:14-24). They were, however, always being seduced by temptation to worship gods other than YHWH (Exod 32:1-6; Num 25:1-18; Judg 2:11-13 ), to oppress their neighbors with every form of injustice (Amos 2:6-8; Hos 4:1-2; Isa 1:22-23; Jer 5:1 ff.), and so to break that "covenant" made with God (Deut 31:16, 20; Jer 11:10; 32:32; Ezek 44:7). Some of their kings were especially notorious in the practice of such injustice (Jer 22:13-17) and in breaking the covenant (Ezek 17:11-21). Nevertheless, God's fidelity would at length overcome the infidelity of human beings (Hos 2:20-22), by concluding a new covenant with them (Jer 31:31-34), a covenant that would be everlasting and unbreakable (Jer 32:40; Ezek 37:26-27). This covenant, indeed, would be extended not only to Abraham's posterity marked by the sign of circumcision (Gert 17:9-13), but to all human beings by the sign of the rainbow in the sky (Gen 9:12-17; cf. Isa 25:6; 66:18).

2.1.2.2. The prophets denounced the scandal caused by the manifold violation [F = If the prophets have been scandalized witnesses of this breach of the covenant in all its forms] of this covenant, which they witnessed: that was the reason why the people chosen by God were condemned (2 Kgs 17:7-23). Nevertheless, the prophets too became the main witnesses of God's fidelity, which was to surpass all human infidelities. For this same God would radically transform the human heart, granting it the ability to satisfy its obligations through obedience to the law (Jet 31:33-34; Ezek 36:26-28). Though the covenant was being broken so often by Israel [F = Despite, then, the repeated breaches of the covenant on Israel's part], the prophets never lost hope that God would one day bring deliverance to (His) people because of His boundless love and leniency (Amos 7:1-6; Hos 11:1-9; Jer 31:l-9)---and this even when (their) history was at its saddest (Ezek 37:1-4).

For in David God had fulfilled His earlier promises to make out of many tribes Israel, a free people in its own land (2 Sam 7:9-11). Though David's successors scarcely followed in his footsteps, the prophets looked forward to that king who, as David had done (2 Sam 8:15), would administer equity and justice, especially to the poorest and the lowliest in the realm (Isa 9:5-6; Jer 23:5-6; 33:15-16). Such a king would manifest God's "zeal" toward His people (Isa 9:6) and would assure the peace promised from the beginning (Amos 9:11-12; Ezek 34:23-31; 37:24-27).

The prophets also announced in advance that the city of Jerusalem, (once) purified, would also be restored, (as the place) where God would dwell in His temple. To it would be given certain symbolic names, e.g. "City of Righteousness" (Isa 1:26), "The Lord Is Our Righteousness" (Jer 33:16), "The Lord Is There" (Ezek 48:35); and its walls would be called "Salvation," its gates "Praise" (Isa 60:18). All nations, already related to the everlasting covenant of David (Isa 55:3-5), would be called to share in the salvation of the God of Israel in the holy restored city (Isa 62:10-12), because from Zion would go forth law and righteousness, to be extended to the ends of the earth (Isa 2:1-5; Mic 4:1-4); in YHWH alone would they find salvation (Isa 51:4-8).

2.1.3. VARIOUS WAYS OF MEDIATING SALVATION

2.1.3.1. It is indeed God Himself who saves His people and the whole human race; but to do this He makes use of different forms of mediation.

(a) The king occupies a special place in this coming of salvation. In adopting the king as a son (2 Sam 7:14; Ps 2:7; 110:3 LXX; 89:27-28), God confers on him the power to conquer his people's enemies (2 Sam 7:9-11; Ps 2:8-9; 110:1 ff.; 89:23-24). With this power the judges had earlier been graced as saviors (Judg 2:16). Endowed with divine wisdom (1 Kgs 3:4-15, 28), the king was to be faithful to the God of the covenant (1 Kgs 11:11; 2 Kgs 22:2) and see to it that equity and justice would be preserved throughout his realm, especially toward the poor, the widows, and the orphans (Isa 11:3-5; Jer 22:15-16; Ps 72:1-4, 12-14). Rightly, the Book of Deuteronomy insists on the king's obligation to carry out all his covenantal duties (Deut 17:16-20). Moreover, only if the king is faithful in preserving justice will he insure the peace and freedom of his people (Ps 72:7-11; Jer 23:6; Isa 11:5-9). If, however, as (often) happened, the king is found faithless in covenantal obligations, he will drag the people with him into disaster [L = securn trahet ruinam populi sui](Jer 21:12; 22:13-19). The nations themselves are everywhere invited to share in the blessings of this gift given to humanity by God (Ps 72:17).

(b) Though kings performed priestly functions (2 Sam 6:13, 17-18; 1 Kgs 8:63 ff.; etc.), such functions were properly carried out by the levitical priest (Deut 18:1-8). Yet that priesfly function is strikingly defined by its relation to the law (Jer 18:18): the priest is the guardian of the law (Hos 4:6; Deut 31:9); he teaches (Mai 2:6-7) the various commandments that make it up (Deut 33:10). In his cultic function he sanctities himself as well as the whole Israelite community so that the offering of a sacrifice acceptable to God may be possible (Deut 33:10). But since divine [F omits the adjective "divine"]worship used to celebrate past events of salvation (Ps 132; 136...) and recall Israel's obligations toward God (Isa 1:10-20; Hos 8:11-13; Amos 5:21-25; Mic 6:6-8), priestly worship, according to the unambiguous testimony of the prophets, only achieves its end to the degree that each priest performs his role as a minister of the law (Hos 4:6-10).

(c) The prophet performed a function of great importance in Israel in its experience of salvation throughout its history [F = The prophet played an important role in the experience that Israel had of salvation]. Haunted by "the word of God" (Jer 18:18), a prophet is always present at the most serious crises of (this) history (Jer 1:10). The primary task imposed on him is to denounce the infidelities either of the people or (their) leaders, in political as well as in religious matters (1 Kgs 18). For the honor of his God, the prophet demands that respect be shown to human beings both in their persons and in their property, according to the commands of the Sinaitic covenant (1 Kgs 21; Amos 2:6-8; 5:7-13; Hos 4:1-2; Mic 3:1-4; Jet 7:9). Every transgression of the law [F = The scorning of the law] calls forth God's judgment on the sinful people, which the intercession even of the prophet himself cannot avert (Amos 7:7-9; 8:1-3). Only the sincere conversion of the unfaithful will bring it about that God will again manifest His salvation (Amos 5:4-6; Jer 4:1-2; Ezek 18:21-23; Joel 2:12-17). Yet since this sort of conversion is seen to be ephemeral and fragile (Hos 6:4), if not entirely impossible (Jer 13:23), only God can bring it about (Jer 31:18; Ezek 36:22). That is why the prophet can announce better times for the future, even when disasters are the most serious (Hos 2:20-23; Isa 46:8-13; Jer 31:31-34; Ezekiel 37). This sort of paedagogy prepares for the victory of divine love over the sinful condition in which humanity is mired (Hos 11:1-9; Isa 54:4--10).

It is the lot of the sage, the teacher of wisdom, to perceive the sense of this universe, which the Creator has entrusted to human beings (Sir 16:24-17:14), as at once the gift of God and the manifestation of His goodness (Gen 1:1-2:4; Psalm 8). The sage must also gather and rightly assess, in the light of revelation, the varied experiences of human beings, of persons who live in society and are obligated to pass on such experiences to coming generations, either as a goal to be aimed at and attained (Proverbs 1-7), or as a mystery to be respected (Prov 30:18-19). But it can happen that the sage may overrate his own counsels (Isa 5:21; 29:13-14) and, led on by them, may even do violence to the law of the Lord (Jer 8:8-9). Hence it is of great importance that the sage come to realize the limits of such wisdom so as to acquire for humanity happiness and prosperity (Qoh 1:12-2:26).

2.1.3.2. History itself has shown [L = res ipsae testatae sunt; F = l'histoire a montræ ] that these different forms of mediation proved inadequate to establish for human beings an abiding mode of communing with God. After continued recurrence of setbacks, God stirred up in the conscience [F adds the adjective "religious"] of His people the hope of new mediators, through whose activity His kingdom would at length be permanently inaugurated.

(a) In comparison with bygone Davidic monarchs, the King-Messiah would be lowly; he would put an end to war and bring peace to all nations (Zech 9:9-10; cf. Ps 2:10-12). Though the definitive inauguration of this messianic kingdom would be the work of God Himself (Dan 2:4445), it would be achieved through the activity [L = opera; F = la mæ diation] of His holy people (Dan 7:27), when "everlasting justice" and "the anointing of the Holy of Holies" (Dan 9:24) would take place.

(b) A Servant of the Lord, still enshrouded in deep mystery, would seal a universal covenant, manifest to the whole world the unique and true Savior-God, and inaugurate an order decreed by God (Isa 42:1-4; 49:1-6). Sharing in the sufferings of his straying people, he would bear the weight of all (their) sins in order to bring the many to righteousness (Isa 52:13-53:12).

(c) Finally, when the times would be fulfilled, there would appear the Son of Man (then interpreted as the people, "the saints of the Most High," Dan 7:18), "coming before God with the clouds of heaven" (Dan 7:13-14), to receive eternal power over all peoples of the earth who would obey him (Dan 7:27).

2.1.3.3. To depict their faith in this activity of God in the world and human history, the people of Israel employed certain figurative powers [L = quarundam potestatum figuris; F = figures de certaines puissances] (which in pagan religions were even considered at times as deities, but which were subordinated to the God of Abraham), to express His creative and salvific presence.

(a) The Spirit as a force of God presided over the creation of all things and does not cease to renew them (Ps 104:29-30). It is especially at work in the course of history. As God's power, it makes human beings capable of accomplishing certain tasks. It is the Spirit that takes possession of the judges to set Israel free (Judg 3:10; 6:34; 11:29); that comes down upon king David (1 Sam 16:13) that he may bear the perfect image of a king (Isa 11:2) [F = upon the ideal king (Isa 11:2)] and upon the Servant of the Lord (Isa 42:1-4)--to make all of them true mediators of God's kingdom in the world. It is the Spirit that gives prophets an understanding of their times (Ezek 2:1-7; Mic 3:8) and a hope of approaching salvation (Isa 61:1-3). In the end-time the same Spirit will create a new people that will rise from the dead (Ezek 37:1-14) to keep God's commands (Ezek 36:26-28). Finally, every human being will be inhabited by this Spirit that will open to him the gate of salvation (Joel 3:1-5).

(b) The Word of God has not only been given to human beings as a message (cf. Deut 4:13 and 10:4: the "ten words"), but it is also and in a special sense an active force that reveals everything. For God Himself by His word "spoke, and it was made" (Ps 33:6-9; cf. Gen 1:3 ff.). Creation was the work of His Word as well as of (His) Spirit (Ps 33:6). God's words, put into the mouths of prophets (Jer 1:9), become for them at times a joy (Jer 15:16) and at times a fire (burning) in their bones (Jer 20:9, cf. 23:29). Finally, the Word, as also the Spirit, gradually assumes personal traits: it settles in the mouth and in the heart of Israel (Deut 30:14); "it stands firm forever in heaven" (Ps 119:89); it is sent forth to fulfil tasks entrusted to it (Wis 18:15-16) and never returns ineffective (Isa 55:11). The rabbinic tradition will insist greatly on this figure: then the word of God (Memra) will make manifest the activity of God Himself in His relations with the world.

(c) Wisdom, in the Book of Proverbs, is no longer only an attribute proper to kings or an art whereby one succeeds in life; it also appears as divine creative Wisdom (Prov 3:19-20; cf. 8:22 ff.). By it kings are enabled to govern (8:15-16); it invites humans to follow its ways that they may find life (8:32-35). Created before all else, it even presides at the creation of all [L = universae creationi praesidet; F = elle præ side d l'apparition de l'univers] and takes its delight in being among the sons of men (8:22-31). Later on it says that it has "come forth from the mouth of the Most High" (Sir 24:3) in such wise that it can declare that it is the same as the Book of the Covenant and the law of Moses (Sir 24:23 [24:22E]; Bar 4:1). In Solomon's Book of Wisdom possession of the Spirit that penetrates everything is attributed to it (Wis 7:22); it is nothing other than "the refulgence of eternal life, the spotless mirror of God's majesty, and the image of His goodness" (7:26).

2.1.4. AN EVALUATION OF THAT PRIVILEGED RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE

2.1.4.1. The books of the Prior Testament have been read over and over again and interpreted without cease. They remain the privileged testimonies of those experiences (of Israel) and of that hope briefly set forth above. In the time of Jesus the hope of the Jews took on diverse shapes, according to views prevalent among different groups of political factions. Though the final fulfilment of that hope was regarded as certain, vague indeed remained the modalities of that fulfilment. For instance, Pharisees believed that a Messiah king would come forth from David's line [F = Whereas the Pharisees believed in the coming of a Davidic Messiah]; but in addition to such an anointed king, whose power would be political, Essenes were also awaiting a priestly Messiah (cf. Zech 4:14; cf. Lev 4:3), who would take precedence over the former, and even a Prophet, who was to precede both of them (cf. Deut 18:18; 1 Macc 4:46; 14:41).

2.1.4.2. The expectation of God's kingdom, which was to bring salvation to all human beings and radically change the human situation, existed above all as the chief point of the faith and hope of the people of Israel. But its coming, the content of the good news (or gospel) [L = Adventus autem eius, in quo Boni Nuntii (seu 'Evangelii') materia continebitur; F = Son avÀ nement, objet d'une Bonne Nouvelle ....] would make Jerusalem arise and enlighten the whole world (Isa 52:7-10). That kingdom, based on equity and justice, would manifest to all human beings the real aspects of the holiness of God, who wants all to be saved (Psalms 93, 96-99). The powers of this world, however, that have usurped the kingly authority of God, would be stripped of their vain titles (Dan 2:31--45). Among the grand manifestations of God's kingship would be especially His victory over human death, to be achieved in resurrection (Isa 26:19; Dan 12:2-3; 2 Macc 7:9, 14; 12:43--45).

It would be the role of John the Baptist to announce the imminent coming of this definitive kingdom, to be inaugurated by one "who is stronger than" he (Mt 3:11-12 and par.). The times would now be fulfilled [L = tempora iarn impleta erunt; F = Les temps sont maintenant accomplis]; everyone who does penance for his sins [F = who repents of his sins] would be able to experience true salvation (Mk 1:1-8; Mt 3:1-12; Lk 3:1-18).

Chap. 2--The Fulfillment of the Promises of Salvation in Christ Jesus

2.2.1. THE PERSON AND MISSION OF JESUS CHRIST

2.2.1.1. The Gospel Testimony

"When the fullness of time had come" (Gal 4:4), Jesus of Nazareth, "born of a woman, born under the law," arrived on the scene to bring the hope of Israel to fulfillment. According to his own words, by his preaching of the gospel "the time has been fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand" (Mk 1:15). In his person this kingdom is now present and is at work (cf. Lk 17:21 and the kingdom parables). Miracles and mighty deeds performed by him through God's Spirit show that God's kingdom has arrived (Mt 12:28). Jesus has come "not to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfil them" (Mt 5:17).

Yet this fulfillment cannot be conceived of as similar to that which the people of his time had derived from the(ir) reading of Scripture. To appreciate the difference between the two interpretations, one must accurately weigh the testimony of the Gospels. These writings stem from disciples, who were witnesses [F = who lived (through) the experience of his words and his deeds] of his words and deeds (Acts 1:1) and have handed them on to us under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit [F = with the authority of the Holy Spirit] (2 Tim 3:16; cf. Jn 16:13). The Spirit's activity not only saw to it that this handing on would be done quite faithfully; rather, with the passage of time and through the Spirit-inspired reflection of the sacred writers, it caused the tradition about Jesus' deeds and acts to be expressed in an ever richer and more developed way. Thus are to be explained the variety and diversity in the manner of writing, the ideas, and the vocabulary detected, for instance, between the Synoptic Gospels and the Fourth Gospel. [F = The Spirit's activity did not consist, indeed, merely in insuring a materially faithful transmission; rather it made fertile a reflection that produced in time an ever richer and more developed expression of the story of the deeds of Jesus. Whence (come) the differences of tone, conception, and vocabulary that are detected, for instance, between the Synoptics and the Fourth Gospel.] Since, however, this recollection and this understanding of Jesus' words have come to maturity in the primitive apostolic community under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Christians may rightly accept with firm faith these variant representations of Jesus and his message in their differing degrees of development as the authentic word of God, guaranteed by the authority of the Church.

2.2.1.2. How Jesus Had Recourse to the Tradition of the Prior Testament

The way Jesus regards not only the law but also the titles ascribed by Scripture to various mediators of salvation depends essentially on the relationship that he enjoys with God, viz. that of a son toward his father (see 2.2.1.3 below).

(a) It is not surprising that he accepted the titles "Master" (Mk 9:5 etc.) and "Prophet" (Mt 16:14; Mk 6:15; Jn 4:19). Indeed, he attributed the latter to himself (Mt 13:57; Lk 13:33). Though he denied that he was a "king" and a "messiah" in a mere earthly sense (cf. Lk 4:5-7; Jn 6:15), he did not refuse the name "Son of David" (e.g. Mk 10:47 etc.). Indeed, he presented himself as a Davidic king the day he entered Jerusalem with the acclamation of the crowds, in order to fulfil Scripture (Mt 21:1-11; cf. Zech 9:9-10). He conducted himself in the temple as "one having authority," even though he refused to tell the priests with what authority he was acting (Mk 11:15-16, 28). In this case his role actually appeared to be more that of a prophet than of a king (cf. Mk 11:17, where Isa 56:7 and Jer 7:11 are quoted).

(b) Jesus permitted Peter to acknowledge him, in the name of the twelve disciples, as the Christ (i.e. the Messiah). Yet he immediately forbade (them) to say anything about this to anyone (Mk 8:30 ff.), because such a profession of faith was still very imperfect, and Jesus was already thinking about his own final outcome and death (Mk 8:31 etc.). The way in which he conceived of the Messiah, son of David, differed from the interpretation proposed by the Scribes. This, indeed, becomes evident when he shows them that according to Ps 110:1 that person is actually David's Lord (Mt 22:41-46 and par.). In the Synoptic Gospels, when the high priest inquires of Jesus whether he is the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God (or, of the Blessed One; cf. 2 Sam 7:14; Ps 2:7), Jesus gives an answer in terms that differ according to the individual evangelists (Mk 14:62; Mt 26:64; Lk 22:67-70, where the question itself is even divided into two parts). Yet in the three cases he openly declares that the Son of Man (cf. Dan 7:13-14) will soon sit at the right hand of God (or of the Power), as a king in divine glory. In John's Gospel, when Pontius Pilate, the procurator [F = the prefect], interrogates Jesus, whether he is the "King of the Jews," he states that his "kingdom is not of (ek) this world," and that he himself has come "to bear witness to the truth" (Jn 18:36-37) [F = he exercises it (his kingship) by "beating witness to the truth" (Jn 18:36-37)]. In fact, Jesus never presents himself as a lord, but only as a servant, even as one bound in slavery (Mk 10:45; Lk 22:27; Jn 13:13-16).

(c) The title Son of Man, which Jesus alone uses of himself in the Gospel texts, is of great importance. It designates him as the mediator of salvation according to the Book of Daniel (cf. 7:13). Yet up to his passion [F adds: or at least up to his reply to Caiaphas] this title remains somewhat ambiguous, because it could sometimes designate the person himself who is speaking, according to a rather frequent expression in Aramaic. Jesus thus conducts himself and speaks in this way as if he is apparently reluctant to reveal explicitly the secret---or rather the mystery--of his person, for people would not yet be able to understand it. According to the Fourth Gospel, Jesus utters only those things that his disciples "can bear" (Jn 16:12).

(d) At the same time, however, Jesus insinuates many things that will only later become clear with the help of the Holy Spirit (Jn 16:13). Thus, at the Last Supper when he utters the words over the cup (Mk 14:24 and par.), he seems to allude to the mission of the Suffering Servant, who lays down his life for many (Isa 53:12), as he himself seals a new covenant with his blood (cf. Isa 42:6; Jer 31:31). We may, indeed, think that he already has this in mind when he states that the Son of Man has come "not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mk 10:45).

(e) Still other things, however, are to be considered. For God not only announced His coming through certain human beings, but also by means of divine attributes, viz. through His Word, His Spirit, and His Wisdom (cf. 2.1.3.3. above). In fact, Jesus presented himself speaking in the name and with the authority of the Father, both in the Fourth Gospel (Jn 3:34; 7:16; 8:26; 12:49; 14:24; cf. its Prologue, where he is called the Logos, "Word") and in the Synoptics: "You have heard that it was said .... but I say to you..." (Mt 5:21 ff.; cf. 7:24, 29). Elsewhere he declares that he is speaking and acting with the Spirit of God (Mt 12:28), that he possesses this divine power, and that he will send it upon his disciples (Lk 24:49; Acts 1:8; Jn 16:7). Finally, he insinuates that God's Wisdom is present and active in himself (Mt 11:19; cf. Lk 11:31).

Thus the two ways, one "from above" and the other "from below," which God in the Prior Testament had prepared for His coming among human beings, are seen to meet in Christ Jesus (see 1.1.11.1): "from above," in that humans are summoned more and more proximately by God's Word, Spirit, and Wisdom [F adds: which descend into our world], but "from below," in that better and better drawn pictures of a Messiah as a king of justice and peace, of a lowly Suffering Servant, and of a mysterious Son of Man emerge and bring it about that humanity rises, along with them, closer to God Himself. Thus two routes of Christology are opened up: in the one, God reveals Himself in Jesus Christ as one coming among human beings to save them by communicating to them His own life; in the other, the human race finds in Christ, the new Adam, the primordial call to be adoptive children of God.

2.2.1.3. Jesus' Relationship to God

(a) The ultimate explanation, or rather the mystery, of Jesus lies essentially in his filial relation to God. For in his prayer he addresses God as "Abba"; in Aramaic this word denotes "Father" with a nuance of familiarity (cf. Mk 14:36 etc.). He also gives himself the name "Son" in the very verse in which he affirms that only the Father knows the day of final judgment--not even the angels, nor indeed the Son (Mk 13:32). This mode of presenting himself as "Son" in the presence of "the Father'' is found a number of times, either in the Fourth Gospel (e.g. Jn 17:1: "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you"; cf. also Jn 3:35-36, 5:19-23) or in the so-called lohannine "logion" of the Matthean and Lucan Gospels (Mt 11:25-27 = Lk 10:21-22). This familiar [F omits the adjective "familiar"] relationship of Jesus with God appears so intimate that he can assert: "All things have been entrusted to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him" (Mt 11:27; cf. Lk 10:22).

(b) This is the intimate secret from which originate, as though from a spring, all the deeds of Jesus and his mode of conduct--or, to put it another way, this is his true sonship (or filial condition) [L adds the parenthetical phrase; F has merely sa væ ritable "filialitæ "]. Of this relationship he is conscious even at a young age (Lk 2:49); and he manifests it by his perfect obedience to the Father's will (Mk 14:36 and par.). This filial condition does not prevent him from being perfectly human; he is one who "advances in wisdom, age, and grace before God and human beings" (Lk 2:52). Thus he grows more and more in the awareness of the mission entrusted to him by the Father, from his childhood up to his death on the cross. Finally, he experiences death in as cruel a fashion as any other human would (cf. Mt 26:39; 27:46 and par.); or, as the Epistle to the Hebrews puts it, "Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered" (5:8).

2.2.1.4. The Person of Jesus as the Origin of Christology

Thus we see that all the titles, all the roles and mediatory modes related to salvation in Scripture have been assumed and united in the person of Jesus. Those who believed in him, however, had to interpret ail these things in an entirely new way. Paradoxically, it turned out that the kingdom of the Messiah (i.e. of the Christ) came into being through the scandal of the cross, once Jesus had undergone death as God's Suffering Servant (1 Pet 2:21-25, echoing Isaiah 53) and had entered by his resurrection into the glory of the Son of Man (Acts 7:56; Rev 1:13; cf. Dan 7:13-14). Thus he came to be acknowledged in faith as "the Christ, the Son of David," and also as "the Son of God in power" (Rom 1:3-4), as "Lord" (Acts 2:36; Phil 2:11, etc.); as "the Wisdom of God" (1 Cot 1:24; cf. Col 1:15-16; Heb 1:3), "the Word" of God" [L = "Sermo (vel "Verbum") Dei"; F = "comme Parole (ou Verbe) de Dieu"] (Rev 19:13; 1 Jn 1:1; Jn 1:1-14); "the Lamb of God," slain yet glorified (Rev 5:6 ff.; Jn 1:29; 1 Pet 1:19), the faithful "Witness" (Rev 1:5), the true "Shepherd'' (Jn 10:1 ff.; cf. Ezekiel 34), "the Mediator" of the new covenant, functioning in a royal "priesthood" (Heb 8:1-10:18); and finally as "the First and the Last" (Rev 1:17), a title given to God alone in the Prior Testament (Isa 44:6; 48:12). Thus the Scriptures have come to fulfilment in Jesus in another and a better way than Israel had ever expected. Yet this can be apprehended only in an act of faith, by which we acknowledge that he is the Messiah, the Lord, and Son of God (Rom 8:29; Jn 20:31).

2.2.2. THE ORIGINS OF FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST

2.2.2.1. The Light of Easter

(a) The faith of Jesus' disciples, even though they had "believed in him" (cf. Jn 2:11) for a long time, remained very imperfect as long as he was alive. Indeed, it was completely shattered at his death, as all the Gospels testify. Yet it emerged more fully and clearly once God raised him (from the dead) and granted him to be seen by his disciples (Acts 10:40f; cf. 1.3; Jn 20:19-29). The appearances, in which Jesus "presented himself alive with many proofs after his passion" [F omits the last prepositional phrase] (Acts 1:3), were in no way expected by the disciples, with the result that "they accepted the truth of his resurrection only with hesitation" (Leo the Great, Serm. 61.4; cf. Mt 28:17; Lk 24:11).

(b) As the light of Easter began to shine, a number of sayings of Jesus that had at first seemed rather obscure became clear (cf. Jn 2:22), as did a number of his deeds (Jn 12:16). But especially the meaning of his passion and death was laid bare, once he himself "opened (their) minds to the understanding of the Scriptures" (Lk 24:32, 35). In this way, then, they were made witnesses (Lk 24:48; Acts 1:8; cf. 1 Cot 15:4-8); their words became the foundation on which the faith of the primitive community was based. Through their testimony all that was written about Jesus "in the law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms" (Lk 24:44) was to be believed. At the same time one could discern how God's promises had come to fulfillment in him.

(c) At the same time such appearances (Acts 10:4041; Mk 16:12-14) also spelled out the meaning of those events that were seen as the sequel of his resurrection [F adds: from the dead]: the gift of the Holy Spirit, given on the evening of Easter itself according to the Fourth Gospel (Jn 20:22), the coming of the same Spirit upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16-21, 33), and miracles of healing performed "in the name of Jesus" (Acts 3:6 etc.). From that time on the core of apostolic faith was not only God's kingdom, the coming of which Jesus had announced (Mk 1:15), but even Jesus himself, in whom that kingdom had found its beginning (cf. Acts 8:12; 19:8, etc.)--that Jesus whom the apostles had known before his death and who by his resurrection from the dead had entered into his glory (Lk 24:26; Acts 2:36).

2.2.2.2. The Development of Christology

(a) According to Jesus' own promise (Lk 24:49; Acts 1:8), his disciples "were endowed with power, as the Holy Spirit came down upon them," once "the day of Pentecost had come" (Acts 2:1-4; cf. 10:44). This was, in fact, the special gift of the New Covenant. Through the former covenant the law had been given to the people of God; by the new one the Spirit of God was poured out upon all flesh according to a prophetic promise (Acts 2:16-21; cf. Joel 3:1-5 LXX). Through his baptism "in the Holy Spirit" (Acts 11:16; cf. Mt 3:11 and par.) the apostles received the morale and the courage to bear witness to Christ (Acts 2:23-26; 10:39, etc.), to proclaim God's word with boldness (parrhgsia, Acts 4:29, 31), and to perform miracles in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 3:6 etc.). So there came into being the community of believers in Jesus Christ. Later, the Church, built up "in the Holy Spirit" (Acts 9:31; Rom 15:16-19; Eph 2:20-22), so grew among Jews and in the midst of the nations that testimony was borne to Christ and God's kingdom and spread even "to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

(b) The gospel traditions were gathered and gradually committed to writing in this light of Easter, until at length they took a fixed form in four booklets. These booklets do not simply contain things "that Jesus began to do and to teach" (Acts 1:1) [F = are not simple collections of "what Jesus did and taught"]; they also present theological interpretations of such things (cf. the Instruction of the Pontifical Biblical Commission of May 14, 1964; AAS 56 [1964] 712-18). In these booklets, then, one must learn to look for the Christology~ofeach evangelist. This is especially true of John, who in the patristic period would receive the title "Theologian." Similarly, other authors whose writings are preserved in the New Testament have interpreted the deeds and sayings of Jesus in diverse ways, and even more so his death and resurrection. Hence one may speak of the Christology of the Apostle Paul, which develops and takes on new forms from his first letters up to the tradition that issues from him. Still other Christologies are found in the Epistle to the Hebrews, in 1 Peter, in the Book of Revelation, in the Letters of James and Jude, and in 2 Peter, although they do not have the same amount of development in such writings.

These Christologies do not vary among themselves only because of the differing light by which they illumine the person of Christ as he fulfils the Prior Testament. But one or other brings forth new elements, especially the "infancy narratives" of Matthew and Luke, which teach the virginal conception of Jesus, whereas the mystery of his pre-existence is brought out in the writings of Paul and John. Yet a complete treatise on "Christ the Lord, Mediator, and Redeemer" is nowhere to be found. The New Testament authors, precisely as pastors and teachers, bear witness indeed to the same Christ, but with voices that differ as in the harmony of one piece of music.

(c) But all these testimonies must be accepted in their totality in order that Christology, as a form of knowledge about Christ rooted and based in faith, may thrive as true and authentic among believing Christians. An individual may legitimately be inclined to accept this or that testimony because it seems more apt to express the meaning of Christ in a given mentality or culture. But all these testimonies constitute for the faithful the unique gospel proclaimed by Christ and about him. No one of them can be rejected on the grounds that, being the product of a secondary development, it would not express the true image of Christ, or on the grounds that, bearing the traces of a bygone cultural context [L = vel quasi in se vestigia impressum ab antiquis culturis imbuta(?); F = ou comme si, marquæ e par un contexte culturel ancien], it would be of no importance today. The interpretation of the texts, which remains quite necessary, should by no means end up by throwing out any of their content.

(d) The modes of expression used by these (New TestamenO authors in presenting their Christology deserve serious attention. As has already been noted (2.2.1.4), these expressions are very often derived from Scripture itself. Nevertheless, once the gospel message came into contact with various Hellenistic teachings and religions [F = Hellenistic philosophies and religions], pastors and teachers of the apostolic period gradually began to adopt prudently terms and figures from the contemporary way of speaking among Gentiles, giving them interpretations consonant with the demands of the faith. Examples of this sort, however, are not numerous (e.g. the word plgr6ma in Col 1:19), but they are not to be ascribed to some false syncretism. For the inspired authors [This subject is not explicitly expressed in F] seek in this way to describe the same Christ that others depict with expressions drawn more directly from the Scriptures themselves. But they have thus opened up a way for theologians of all ages who have felt the need, and still feel it, of finding "auxiliary" languages to clarify for the people of their day the special and basic language of Scripture so that the correct and integral proclamation of the gospel might be brought to human beings of all ages [F = in order to proclaim the gospel in its fullness correctly to all].

2.2.3. CHRIST AS THE MEDIATOR OF SALVATION

2.2.3.1. Christ Present in His Church

(a) Christ remains with his own until the close of the age (Mt 28:20). The Church, whose entire life is derived from Christ the Lord, has to carry out this mandate: to plumb the depths of the mystery of Christ and to make it known to humanity. Yet this can only be done in faith and under the influence of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:10-11). This Spirit, indeed, apportions His gifts to each one as He wills (cf. 1 Cor 12:11), "for the building up of the body of Christ, until all of us attain to the unity of faith and the knowledge of God's Son, to mature manhood, and to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph 4:12-13). Thus the Church, inserted into the world, experiences through its faith Christ present in the midst of it (cf. Mt 18:20). For this reason it strains with a firm hope toward the glorious coming of the Lord. This is the desire it expresses in prayer, especially when it celebrates the memorial of his passion and resurrection, vigorously calling for his return, "Come, Lord Jesus" (Rev 22:20; cf. 1 Cor 16:22).

(b) It is the proper function of the Church to recognize authentically the presence and activity of Christ in the diverse situations of human history. Hence the Church must be concerned to scrutinize "the signs of the times" and to interpret them in the light of the gospel (cf. Gaudium et spes §4). To do this, the ministers of the gospel and the faithful, each according to one's proper function, are to preserve the doctrine of God, our Savior (Titus 2:10), and "guard the deposit" (1 Tim 6:20), lest they "be carried about with every wind of teaching" (Eph 4:14). Therefore true faith in Christ, authentic activity of the Holy Spirit, and correct "praxis" of faithful Christians must always undergo "discernment" (1 Cor 12:10) and "testing" (1 Jn 4:1).

True faith is faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who has come "in the flesh" (1 Jn 4:2), who has revealed to human beings the name of the Father (Jn 17:6), who "has given himself as a ransom for all" (1Tim 2:6; cf. Mk 10:45 and par.), who rose [F =qui est resuscitæ ; 1Cor 15:4 reads eg gertai (RSV: "was raised")] on the third day (1 Cor 15:4), who has been taken up into glory (1 Tim 3:16), who sits at God's right hand (1 Pet 3:22), and whose glorious coming is awaited at the end of time (Titus 2:13). A Christology that would not profess all these things would be departing from the testimony of apostolic tradition, the ultimate rule of faith according to St. Irenaeus (Dem. apost. §3): "the rule of truth," preserved in all the churches by the succession of the apostles (Adv. haer. 3.1,2) and received by every Christian in baptism (ibid. 1.9,4).

(c) Similarly, the activity of the Holy Spirit is to be discerned with the help of sure signs. The Church is led by God's Spirit along its paths. But just like anyone of the faithful (Rom 8:14), it cannot "put credence in every spirit" (1 Jn 4:1). For the Spirit of God is none other than "the Spirit of Jesus" (Acts 16:7), that (Spirit) without whom no one can say "Jesus is Lord" (1 Cor 12:3). This same Spirit brings to disciples' minds [F = recalls]all that Jesus has said (Jn 14:26) and guides them into all the truth (Jn 16:13), until the "words of God" (Dei verbum §8) are brought to fulfillment in the Church.

Through this Spirit the Father has raised Jesus from the dead (Rom 8:11) that He might create in him a new being "in true righteousness and holiness" (Eph 4:24 [RSV]). Through the same (Spirit) God will raise up all those who have believed in Christ (Rom 8:11; 1 Cor 6:14). Through faith and baptism (1 Cor 6:15) Christians become members of Christ and are united with him even in their bodies, which share in his life and become the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19). Thus all make up only one body, which is the crucified and risen body of Christ himself. This body, animated by one Spirit (1 Cor 12:12 ff.; Eph 4:4), assumes all the baptized as its members: so the Church is constituted (Col 1:24; Eph 1:22). Christ is the head of this body, which he vivifies and to which he gives growth (Col 2:19) by the "power" of his Spirit (Eph 4:16). This is "the new creature" (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15)[F = the new creation] in which Christ reconciles all that sin had divided. He reconciles human beings with one another (Eph 2:11-18), sinners with God, enemies of whom they had become through disobedience (2 Cor 5:18-20; Rom 5:10; Col 1:21), and even the whole universe, in which Christ has vanquished the powers of evil oppressing humanity (Col 1:20; 2:15; Eph 1:10, 20-22).

2.2.3.2. The Total Christ As the Goal of All Things

(a) The salvation brought by Christ must, therefore, be termed "total,'' for it touches human beings even in their bodies (Rom 6:3-4; Col 2:11-12) through the grace of Baptism, of the Eucharist (cf. 1 Cor 10:16-17), and of the other sacraments. The holiness of Christ, communicated to the Church, thus flows into the very life of Christians that through them it may reach the world in which they dwell. In imitation of their "first-born" brother (Rom 8:29), they participate in the building up of God's kingdom, which Christ came to establish among human beings, proposing his program of love, justice, and peace (Gal 5:22-23; Phil 4:8; Col 3:12-15). Following the example given by the Master, they too are "to lay down their lives for the brethren" (1 Jn 3:16).

Since Jesus has been sent to preach the gospel to the poor, to release captives, and to set at liberty those oppressed (Lk 4:18-21), his disciples must be concerned to continue this task of liberation. Thus his Church prepares for the coming of Christ's definitive kingdom, in which he will have subjected all things to himself and then subject himself to his Father, "that God may be ail to ail" (1 Cor 15:28). That this goal may be attained, the Church as of now inserts itself into this world through its members. Far from ordering them to leave this world, it works through them so that the spirit of the gospel may be able to penetrate into all its structures, familial, social, and political. Thus Christ, present in the affairs of this world, pours forth his salvific grace upon them. He "who has descended into the lower parts of the earth" and "has been raised above all the heavens" now "fills all things" (Eph 4:9-10).

(b) None of this can happen without toil and suffering (Mt 5:11; Jn 15:20; 16:33; Col 1:24). Sin that has already entered this world from the beginning (Rom 5:12) continues to wreak its havoc in it. God's kingdom, though already inaugurated, has not yet been fully manifested. Little by little it advances with the pangs, as it were, of a woman in travail (Mt 24:8; Jn 16:21-22). What has been created [L = creatura ipsa; F = La cræ ation elle-mà me] has been subjected to futility and awaits freedom from the bondage to corruption (Rom 8:19-21). But Christ by his death and resurrection has triumphed over sin; he has overcome "the prince of this world" (Jn 12:31; 16:11, 33). Therefore Christians, taking their cue from him and sustained by his grace, have to do battle and suffer even unto martyrdom and death, if this be called for (Mt 24:9-13 and par.; Jn 16:2; Rev 6:9-11), that good may triumph over evil, until there arrive "the new heavens and the new earth, wherein righteousness dwells" (2 Pet 3:13).

Then He who loved us first (1 Jn 4:19) will be acknowledged, loved, and worshiped; he will be served by all human beings, who will become His adoptive children (Eph 1:5). So will his salvific activity come to its term in blessed eternity. For God Himself with mercy, fidelity, and indefatigable patience (Rom 2:4-5; 3:25-26; 9:22) is pursuing it, ever since His first summons, from which humanity chose to withdraw, even to the day when all will enjoy unending happiness and will acclaim Him: "To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing, honor, glory, and power for ever and ever" (Rev 5:13).