The History of the Christ: The Foundation for New Testament Theology

Article excerpt

The History of the Christ: The Foundation for New Testament Theology. By Adolf Schlatter. Translated by Andreas J. Kistenberger. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997, 426 pp., $29.99.

This work surveys Jesus life from the preparation for his ministry through his teaching as an offer of God's grace to Israel to the opposition leading to the cross, and concludes with a brief treatment of the resurrection narratives. Schlatter wears his learning lightly and provides a very readable overview that is nonetheless profound because of his comprehensive knowledge of the history and of the issues. His commentaries on Matthew and John, his History of Israel and his Theology of Judaism detail the scholarship that undergirds the perceptive sweep of the present volume and gives it a depth lacking in most popular presentations of Jesus life and thought.

In The History of the Christ he weaves together the teachings of all four gospels and gives attention to a variety of themes. Jesus spoke of himself as the fulfillment of Scripture and as the one whom God sent to Israel. His call to repentance rendered his ministry a confrontation with many, not just for that motif but because he addressed it to religious people while at the same time overlooking the sins of those who repented. He confronted the rich for allowing money to draw away their love from God and provoked the churchmen, the Pharisees, because their piety was subverted by pride and was focused on glorifying Israel rather than glorifying God. Assuming a corporate view of man, Jesus treated the nation and its cities as units with a common will and thus as objects of a corporate indictment, and he put special responsibility on the religious leaders for the destiny of the whole.

Jesus' ethical pronouncements were not a demand for improvement but were "parts of his call to repentance" (p. 140). Like the Baptist, Jesus rejected the piety of mysticism that seeks only an internal unity with God and proclaimed history and nature as the places in which God's kingdom was to be realized. …