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Christus Faber: The Master Builder and the House of God.

These essays constitute a unified effort to follow up on the themes of Meyer's The Aims of Jesus. M.'s study of Jesus under the classic messianic image of the master builder of the temple of God is unique in locating its historical inquiry in a theological context. Although Jesus did not explicitly intend to found a Church, the development of the Church out of eschatological Israel was a result of what was latent in the message and aims of the historical Jesus.

Part 1 manifests M.'s indebtedness in historical research to his mentor, Joachim Jeremias. The essays, even the more synthetic ones, concentrate on specific aspects of M.'s problematic, and so there is considerable repetition and overlap among them. M. conceives of Jesus as the eschatological prophet who expects the imminent in-breaking of the reign of God. He sees three phases in Jesus' mission. Jesus begins as an associate of John the Baptist gathering Israel for eschatological judgment. (Thus from the outset his mission is eschatological.) John's arrest propels him into a second phase, proclaiming the imminence of this eschatological reign throughout Galilee. Jesus initially expects the Jews' acceptance of their eschatological vindication, but as they begin to reject his transforming message he sees that a short ordeal must occur. This threat of rejection opens a third phase, in which Jesus asks about his own identity and turns to esoteric teaching of his disciples to prepare them for the ordeal. Their mission continues his outreach to eschatological Israel and, through it, to the nations. He teaches them that his death, as Isaiah's suffering servant, is an expiation for Israel's rejection and leads to its restoration on the day of the Son of Man. But only his little flock of the simple and the afflicted accept his climactic offer of salvation, and so constitute as an open remnant the messianic restoration of Irseal. The temple "riddle" (Mk 14:58 parr.) and the cleansing of the temple, together with his founding his Church on Peter as its rock, constitute the principal events by which the Messiah builds the eschatological temple of God. This community, however, understands his resurrection as the beginning of the end time, and so interprets the ordeal as extending through history, to be finally realized on the day of the Son of Man. Thus their anamnesis of the Last Supper was not only the one cultic act replacing all temple sacrifice, but also their calling on God to end their ordeal by Jesus' final vindication. Thus they arrive at an eschatology inaugurated and yet still in the process of realization.

Part 2, "Jesus and the Church," articulates anew Lonergan's heuristic outline of the divine solution to the human problem of evil. Jesus as suffering servant provides the model of human authenticity through which divine-human collaboration can reverse human decline. The Church, then, is the structured outgoing process which proclaims this solution and bears within it its healing power. Finally M. paints the Church as the New Temple built by the Messiah, and sketches its revelation of the Jesus who created it as the beginning of the emergent full solution to the problem of evil.

This book's dense argumentation, its presumption of familiarity with a century of historical-Jesus research, and its presumed familiarity with M.'s previous work make it a difficult read. But a lifetime of brilliant insights make it indispensable for those doing historical Jesus research. Those who view the historical Jesus as a teacher of wisdom will have difficulties with the conclusions and with M.'s historical methods. Others will object to a Jesus so thoroughly eschatological that he can be neither revolutionary, nor reformer, nor pacifist. Curiously, M. devotes very little space to texts which specifically address the Christus Faber theme (e.g. Mt 16:17-20, dealt with on two scant pages). In my view, M.'s most important insight is his challenge to those who do historical Jesus research solely from the horizon of the (secular) historian. His insistence that a theological horizon opens up the proper perspectives on Jesus and actually enables historical research seems correct. Specifically, a Lonerganian expects that a good and omnipotent God's solution to the problem of evil intends a community which carries on the work of the Messiah in the extended time of the ordeal. But exactly how this heuristic intent uncovers Jesus' historical aims in this continuing work is either too subtle for this reader or more intimated than worked out. This book demands a more focused and systematic sequel.
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Author:Topel, John
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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