Six Critics Review Walter Wink's the Human Being: Jesus and the Enigma of the Son of the Man: A Summary and Appreciation

By Ellens, J. Harold | Cross Currents, Summer 2003 | Go to article overview

Six Critics Review Walter Wink's the Human Being: Jesus and the Enigma of the Son of the Man: A Summary and Appreciation


Ellens, J. Harold, Cross Currents


Walter Wink is a professor at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City. His specialty and faculty discipline is Biblical Interpretation. In this important world of very specialized scholarship he has published an impressive spate of sturdy books, a number of which have won prestigious awards. In 2002, Fortress Press brought out a volume which is something of the crown of his creation, the fruit of his long scholarly endeavor at understanding the Bible and sharing his insights with us. That volume is entitled, The Human Being: Jesus and the Enigma of the Son of the Man. (1) It addresses what may well be the knottiest theological problem in Christianity and in the Second Temple Judaism from which Christianity arose, namely, the problem of the meaning of Jesus' apparent self-designation, the Son of Man.

Marcus Borg, of Jesus Seminar fame, declared that Wink's new book is impressive, brilliant, passionate, powerful, and provocative. He called it a remarkable integration of religion, psychology, politics, the quest for Jesus, and our yearning for "The Human Being" that we see in Jesus. He says that Wink, and his new book, fill us with a passion for becoming truly human. There is good reason for Borg to praise this work. Wink's objective in this volume is to recover the true meaning of the humanity of Jesus, which was to a large extent appreciated by the Jesus' movement and by the earliest Christian church, but was eclipsed already by the mid-second century when the church became preoccupied with the question of the divinity of Jesus.

Amy-Jill Levine, Professor of New Testament Studies at Vanderbilt, approves of Wink's undertaking, describing it as an admirable scholarly endeavor that conjoins rigorous historical-critical analysis of Son of Man traditions in ancient Judaism with sound reflections on philosophy, psychology, and mysticism. She sees in this new book rich insights into the ancient exilic texts of Ezekiel and Daniel, and into the late first and early second century C.E. texts of the gospels. Levine thinks Wink leads us to a new understanding of Jesus within his own immediate context, thus recovering not only Jesus' humanness but also the ideal possibilities of our humanness. The book is a lens through which we can discover what it means to be human, regardless whether we agree with Wink on his own personal theological perspective or religious identity.

Wink's previous books alerted us to the powerful impact this one could be expected to have. He edited Peace is the Way: Writings on Nonviolence from the Fellowship of Reconciliation, as well as Homosexuality and Christian Faith: Questions of Conscience for the Churches. He has written a dozen books, including his prize-winning series on The Powers--The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium, Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination, Unmasking the Powers: The Invisible Forces That Determine Human Existence, Naming the Powers: The Language of Power in the New Testament, and When the Powers Fall: Reconciliation in the Healing of Nations. In addition, we have from his pen such worthies as Violence and Nonviolence in South Africa, The Bible in Human Transformation, John the Baptist in the Gospel Tradition, and Transforming Bible Study.

In this present volume, Wink offers us seventeen chapters, organized in six parts, plus three appendixes, a glossary, and appropriate detailed indexes. Fortress has packaged it in a genuinely attractive binding. The message of the book is organized in six parts: 1) The Original Impulse of Jesus, 2) The Antropic Revelation: The Human Being, 3) The Human Being: Pre-Easter Sayings, 4) The Human Being: Post-Easter Sayings, 5) The Human Being in Jewish Mysticism and Gnosticism, and 6) Results and Conclusions.

The themes are developed in detail by such chapters as 'The Human Being in the Quest for the Historical Jesus," "The Enigma of the Son of the Man," "Feuerbach's Challenge," "Other Biblical and Extrabiblical Reference to the Human Being up to 100 C. …

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