The Jesus Tradition: Images of Jesus in the West

The Jesus Tradition: Images of Jesus in the West

The Jesus Tradition: Images of Jesus in the West

The Jesus Tradition: Images of Jesus in the West

Excerpt

Every age gets the Jesus it wants and needs. No age gets the Jesus it deserves. This figure of mystery, however he is viewed, is pure gratuity: God self-given for those who believe in him as the Word incarnate, a human being writ larger than our puny race for those who do not.

Was Jesus a person whose mental states and emotional responses we can reconstruct from what we know of him? Or is he a historical cipher we fill in with our own conceptions, whether of the perfect human or of limitless perfection, deity itself?

Novelists and dramatists have attempted the reconstruction of Jesus ever since those art forms were first developed -- drama by way of liturgy -- in a Christian milieu. The reconstructions fall woefully short. What story, play, or poem comes to mind which includes Jesus as a character and develops him like the rest, which then is acclaimed great art? None, surely. Perhaps it is the wisdom of the centuries that accounts for this, the most gifted in the literary craft abstaining consistently from this foolhardy venture. Is it the skill of the evangelists that has succeeded in putting them off? The figure of Jesus in all his simplicity found in their portrayals may explain the later reticence.

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