The Politics of Jesus: Vicit Agnus Noster

By John Howard Yoder | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
The Disciple of Christ and
the Way of Jesus

The question with which our study began was whether Jesus’ teaching or example can have been of such character as to provide the substance of guidance in social ethics. We concluded, according to the Gospel accounts and counter to the prior assumptions of many modern interpreters, that his deeds show a coherent, conscious social-political character and direction, and that his words are inseparable therefrom.

But that is not yet the whole story. The traditional axioms can be rephrased so as to place between Jesus and the early church the gap that previously was posited between Jesus and social ethics. Jesus, the reformulated argument may now run, may after all have conceived his ministry as a socially relevant messianity; and the Gospels are accurate enough not fully to have hidden this fact. But still, it is possible to argue, early Christianity turned out to be a far cry from the kingdom he had announced. There must be a hiatus somewhere between the human Jesus’ proclaimed kingdom at Jerusalem and the worship of the heavenly Christ in the Gentile churches of Greece and Asia Minor.

The second phase of our study turns therefore to several strands of the apostolic ethical tradition. The thesis we have just posited shall find its response not in detailed debate on its own terms (it is no longer being argued thus simply by New Testament scholars)1 but by independent induction from the texts. Looking one by one at several distinct

1. It was stated and challenged most clearly by E. C. Hoskyns, The Riddle of the
New Testament
(London: Faber, 1947).

-112-

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