Academic journal article Theological Studies

Jesus of Galilee from the Salvadoran Context: Compassion, Hope, and Following the Light of the Cross

Academic journal article Theological Studies

Jesus of Galilee from the Salvadoran Context: Compassion, Hope, and Following the Light of the Cross

Article excerpt

THIS ARTICLE RESPONDS to a request for a reflection on Jesus of Galilee from the perspective of El Salvador. The fundamentals of what I have to say have already been set out, for better or worse, in two books: Jesucristo liberador: Lectura teologica de Jesus de Nazaret (1991) and La fe en Jesucrist:. Ensayo desde las victimas (1999). In these books I have tried to deal from the perspective of faith with the totality of the life and destiny of Jesus and with his ultimate reality. Here I will concentrate on certain elements that, while central to the Gospels, I see as especially clarified by the Salvadoran context.

The task of selecting these fundamental elements is not simple. I will take the cross into special account, not only because the Gospels are "a passion narrative with an extended introduction" (Martin Kahler, 1896), (1) but because the Salvadoran context is, above all else, the reality of "a crucified people" (Archbishop Oscar Romero, Ignacio Ellacuria). It is not simply metaphorical to say that we live here under a "reign of the cross," while in other places it is possible to live under a "reign of the good life." This is not to devalue the paschal experience as a whole, which is truly central to Christian faith, but the experience of crucifixion Christianizes the suffering of the Salvadoran people. Nonetheless, I will not treat the cross thematically, but rather as a principle, more useful than others, for interpreting the totality of the life of Jesus and its fundamental elements.

Among these elements, I will focus on mercy, which--and this is important-takes the form of justice; and I will focus on hope, which above all takes the form of liberation and of life. Building around these themes, it is possible to analyze many realities. Some are positive: the kingdom of God, the God of the kingdom, the Father and ultimate mystery, the little ones, liberation, resurrection, faith, and grace. Others are negative: the antikingdom, oppression, idols of death, sin, and crucifixion. All of this will be held implicit in what follows.

Finally, I will also focus on following. While following is not everything, it is the axis around which the Christian life--and Christology--must turn in order to "put on" Jesus. Following is central in the biblical text: "'follow me' are the first and last words of Jesus to Peter," as Bonhoeffer noted. (2) And following is central for the Salvadoran context. "A great cloud of witnesses" (Heb 12:1) has emerged here, martyrs who have been distinguished followers. If the following of Jesus is not central, the edifice of Christianity falls. It is still the articulus stantis vel cadentis vitae cristianae (the article of faith by which the Christian life stands or falls) in today's world.

As necessary as it is to use exegetical and historical-critical methods in presenting the reality of Galilee and Jesus, I have nothing to add to the many studies on these topics. I will expand, rather, on the importance of the context, because being consciously and actively immersed in the reality of El Salvador during the 1970s and 1980s has greatly enhanced my understanding of Jesus of Galilee. This methodological consideration may be perhaps the most specific contribution I can offer.

Finally, I will comment on two elements that have been recently and especially influential in these reflections. First, regarding the reality of the context of a world of oppression and repression, I will mention the generosity, love, and martyrdom of many men and women, led by Archbishop Oscar Romero. Second, regarding thought, I will focus on the work of Ignacio Ellacuria to illumine this reality in the light of Jesus of Galilee.


It used to be thought that theology was universal, a notion that contributed to the almost exclusive emphasis on the use of sources: Scripture, tradition, and magisterium. Location was taken into account only for pastoral reasons. …

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