Christology and Myth in the New Testament: An Inquiry into the Character, Extent and Interpretation of the Mythological Element in New Testament Christology

Christology and Myth in the New Testament: An Inquiry into the Character, Extent and Interpretation of the Mythological Element in New Testament Christology

Christology and Myth in the New Testament: An Inquiry into the Character, Extent and Interpretation of the Mythological Element in New Testament Christology

Christology and Myth in the New Testament: An Inquiry into the Character, Extent and Interpretation of the Mythological Element in New Testament Christology

Excerpt

This enquiry is a contribution to the current theological discussion of the problem of the demythologizing of the New Testament. The spearhead of the controversy is, of course, Professor Rudolf Bultmann, who has so far received little support in theological quarters. Yet whatever may be one's views about Bultmann's method of solving the problem, the issues raised are of immense importance, for they involve the major questions of the interpretation and the validity of biblical thinking and the terminology in which it is expressed. For if this thinking does not express statements which are factually true, what is its meaning? How far are we committed to accepting all the New Testament affirmations in their present form? How far does religious 'truth' require 'mythological thinking' for its expression? What do the New Testament terms really mean, not only for those who used them but for modern Christians and for those whose task it is to make the faith acceptable or intelligible to the so-called 'modern' man? Questions such as these do not permit of evasion; and while Bultmann and others may be criticized for attributing too much importance to the modern man (whose modernity is neither the final word nor incapable of change) it is, after all, to the modern man of any age that the New Testament speaks. It may with justice, therefore, be urged that it should speak to him in terms which he can understand and not through an obsolete cosmology and a naïve anthropology.

To the existential (and existentialist) interpretation of New Testament 'myth' which Bultmann considers so important I have referred only from time to time, as it does not seem to me, notwithstanding the place given to it in the demythologizing controversy, to be as fundamental to the problem and its solution as he insists. The reader who wishes to pursue the matter further had better turn to what Bultmann himself says together with the counter-arguments and replies of his critics. It is clear that the Gospel has its 'existential' aspect, as any kind of thought is bound to have if it deals in any way with man's experience and with his actual situation in his world; but it is not primarily . . .

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