Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ

Article excerpt

The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ. By Fleming Rutledge. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2015, Pp. xxx, 669. $45.00.)

Fleming Rutledge is recognized as one of the Episcopal Church's outstanding preachers. Her published sermons are as lucid as they are profound, combining a mastery of scripture with extensive analogies from art, music, and literature and with frequent references to contemporary events. In this work, she reveals a grasp of theology and scripture that would do credit to a full professor at a major seminary. Rutledge's latest volume tackles nothing less than the crucifixion of Jesus, a topic she finds the most significant event that ever took place, the unique feature by which everything else, including the resurrection, is given its true import. Though she disarmingly refers to this book as a "theological reflection," her thorough account is the product of eighteen years of labor. The book is so rich that some chapters could serve as the bases of small individual treatises.

The author engages in dialogue with many of the theological greats, ranging from Augustine and Origen to Karl Barth and Ernest Käsemann, whom she considers the most important New Testament scholar since Rudolph Bultmann. Her treatment of Anselm is particularly strong, for she ably defends the eleventhcentury theologian against claims that he offered a vengeful, indeed immoral, theory of "satisfaction." As with her previous books, she draws skillfully from a host of cultural sources, among them the works of G. F. Handel, J. S. Bach, Dante, Meville, and John Updike. Footnotes are often descriptive in nature, themselves containing valuable information. Though she includes many quotations from scripture, some quite lengthy, the reader will find it best to keep a bible on hand.

Though space limitations prevent this review from presenting more than a bare outline of this rich work, a brief sketch is in order. Rutledge starts with the paradox of a crucified Messiah, attracting the scorn of the worldly and sophisticated. Subsequent topics include the motifs of satisfaction, substitution, rectification, and divine wrath. She ends by affirming the ultimate and encompassing power of God righting all wrongs. …

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