Robert Lassalle-Klein, Ed., Jesus of Galilee: Contextual Christology for the 21st Century

By Bargar, Pavol | International Review of Mission, April 2012 | Go to article overview

Robert Lassalle-Klein, Ed., Jesus of Galilee: Contextual Christology for the 21st Century


Bargar, Pavol, International Review of Mission


Robert Lassalle-Klein, ed., Jesus of Galilee: Contextual Christology for the 21st Century. Maryknoll, New York, Orbis Books, 2011, xii + 276 pages

In 2007 Pope Benedict XVI invited Christian believers and scholars to answer the following question: "What has Jesus really brought ... if he has not brought world peace, universal prosperity, and a better world?" As the Introduction to the volume under review has it, "responding to Benedict's invitation, theologians from around the globe gathered in Galilee to dialogue about the significance of this unforgettable Jew for his followers among the nations of the world" (p. 3). Jesus of Galilee: Contextual Christology for the 21st Century, carefully edited by Robert Lassalle-Klein of Holy Names University in Oakland, Calif., provides the reader with a very intriguing account of this dialogue. Reformulating Benedict's initial question, the authors of the individual essays ask, "Who was Jesus of Galilee, and what does it mean to follow Jesus Christ today?" (p. 2), and seek to give an answer with regard to their respective contexts. Even though the final collection varies in methodological approaches, scope of exploration, as well as particular perspectives, all contributions emphasize the historical reality of Jesus and the early church; they put in the foreground Jesus' (and God's) preferential option for the poor as well as his insistence on the impending character of the reign of God, and they pay much attention to intercultural dynamics.

The whole book is divided into four distinct, albeit intrinsically related parts exploring the points of departure for the research on Jesus of Galilee, the Bible, theology, and spirituality respectively. The authors include both renowned experts (e.g., Sean Freyne, Gustavo Gutierrez, Virgilio Elizondo or Jon Sobrino) and younger scholars (e.g., Francis Minj or Caroline N. Mbonu).

The relevance and unique contribution of Jesus of Galilee can first and foremost be perceived in two main areas. Firstly, the field of systematic theology can greatly benefit from the contextual Christology that the volume presents. In contrast to most conventional teachings on Jesus Christ, it seems that Christology in the twenty-first century will not be atemporal, universal and abstract, but rather contextual, particularistic and plural. Secondly, Jesus of Galilee is also very important for missiology as it muses on the concept of the mission of the church in this century, and seeks to elaborate its relevant and up-to-date modes. It seems that most contributors to the volume agree that the primary missionary task for the church today consists in taking crucified people(s) down from the cross, and being God's partners in inaugurating God's reign in the contemporary world.

I would like to make a few specific and possibly critical observations. Firstly, the reader might (or might not) be surprised that most essays in Jesus of Galilee represent so-called low Christology. Fr Francis Minj of India is the only one who elaborates elements of "high Christology" through his own notion of Jesus Christ as Paramadivasi, which represents an indigenous Indian (Adivasi) analogy to the concept of pre-existential Logos. Furthermore, the subject matter of a number of the essays is not Christology in the true sense of the word; at most it is a very implicit Christology (Christologia absconditum), which primarily seeks to figure out how the churches are to respond to Jesus' life and work in their everyday praxis. These include, for example, the papers by Mary Doak, Michael Lee or Daniel Groody. Given the subtitle of the book ("Contextual Christology for the 21st Century"), some readers might therefore be bewildered because of getting something else than they originally expected.

Secondly, according to the Introduction and the book cover, the contributors include "theologians from all around the world." Nevertheless, a certain "preferential option" for the Hispanic and especially Roman-Catholic can be noted. …

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