In the earlier volume I sought to draw attention to two implications of the way in which I believe modern historical research now requires us to regard the life of Jesus. 1 The first concerned the radical nature of the kenosis that took place in the incarnation. God in entering into the human condition did not exempt himself from the normal rules of historical conditioning that apply to us all, and so the significance of Jesus' life for us today lies not in him standing apart from the particular culture and assumptions into which he was born but in bringing them to the fullest and best expression that that particular context allowed. Then, secondly, precisely because later contexts have often been very different, what was then initiated was not the appropriation of an unchanging past but its development as new contexts made possible the building of fresh insights upon those initial foundations. The process had begun with Paul's different attitude to the Law, but continued well beyond the closure of the canon in numerous ways, not least in attitudes to art, as the chapter on 'Art as revelation' sought to illustrate. Not only was the incarnation seen as legitimating the violation of the second commandment forbidding images of the divine, that violation eventually made possible a much deeper sense of God's identification with us in all our humanness, especially in our suffering.
In establishing a connection with this volume, one of my main contentions in Tradition and Imagination needs to be put bluntly and starkly: were Christ only a figure in the history of first-century Palestine, then much, if not most, of what was later developed in