Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The reality of Jesus Christ

The significance of Jesus Christ (his example, deeds, teachings, etc) should not be confused with the personal historicity of Christ. In fact, the only Christ we can observe in any scientific sense is the literary Christ; the character in the Bible. But this one and only "scientifically real" Christ in turn is obviously also based on something. All literary characters have to have links to reality or else the audience can't relate and the story fails (which explains why there are no novels about stones or slugs and such), and the quest for the "historical Jesus" tries to answer what, exactly, inspired the literary Christ; which historic stamp caused Jesus the literary imprint, what historic reality is represented in the literary Christ.

The most popular answer has always been that the gospels are literary snapshots or observations caught in precise verbal realism. Nowadays we know that this clumsy literary technique didn't exist back then, and you might as well say that the evangelists recorded it all on an iPhone. The gospels aren't journalistic realism. They are also not a rock opera, excursions in dadaism or manuals for the internal combustion engine. They are, however, part of the most sophisticated literary tradition the world has ever seen. They operate on a level of complexity that has never been paralleled since. The gospels as literary works are right up there with the pyramids of Giza, Da Vinci's Mona Lisa and our very own space shuttle.

The Hebrews realized that neither the world nor the people in it are governed by the erratic whims of warring deities but by a sort of law. This law, they observed, always worked, always worked the same, and always worked the same for everybody (Romans 2:11). It was one with the universe but also ran the universe, and thus outranked the universe and thus must have also governed the creation of it. This natural law they called the Word of God, and they additionally realized that knowing this law would ease living and give power. The Bible is full of references to folks who purported to capture and harness this natural law (Genesis 3:6, Luke 20:10), or who tried to make others believe that they had indeed mastered it and were its emissaries, even its divine representatives on earth (Exodus 32:1, 1 Kings 18:26).

The world isn't governed by the erratic whims of warring deities but by a sort of law

But others saw that man had been equipped to merge with this natural law, to become one with it in heart and soul (Deuteronomy 6:5). Man, they realized, is not only an integral element of the creation that this law brought about and continually upheld, but was given the capacity to embody it consciously. If man embodied the whole of natural law, he would subsequently embody the whole of the universe, from its inception to it finest working principles (1 Kings 10:3-5). He would be like God and with God. He would be entirely free (John 8:32).

The literary character of Jesus, we are told in the story, personifies truth, which in turn encompasses everything that can be known about everything that can be known, or that which the Bible calls the Word of God. This Word is what reality is based on, and what Jesus embodies (Isaiah 45:7, John 1:3, Romans 11:36, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Colossians 1:15-17, Hebrews 1:3). The literary Jesus is the truth (John 14:6), which is why the sum of God's word is truth (Psalm 119:160) and in Jesus are all the treasures of knowledge and wisdom (Colossians 2:3).

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