Contact Us

On being a Christian

30 November, 1999

Probably the best modern book on Christianity, this classic from Hans Küng was written in 1974 and has been re-issued in 2008 by Continuum Books. Küng himself regards it as his “magnum opus” and says of it: “It seeks to bring to light for this present time the original Christian message and particularly the figure of Jesus of Nazareth.”

720 pp. Continuum Books. To purchase this book online, go to www.continuumbooks.com



List of Abbreviations 
Translator’s Foreword 
Those for whom this book is written 


I. The Challenge of Modern Humanisms

1. Turning to man 
Secular world 
Opening out of the Churches 

2. Christianity for sale? 
Has Christianity lost its soul? 
No return 

3. No abandonment of hope 
Humanity through technological evolution? 
Humanity through politico-social revolution? 
Between nostalgia and reformism 

II. The Other Dimension

1. Approach to God 
The future of religion 
Proofs of God? 
More than pure reason 

2. The reality of God 
The hypothesis 
Ambiguity of the concept of God
The task of theology

III. The Challenge of the World Religions

1. Salvation outside the Church
Revalued religions
Wealth of the religions
2. Bewildering consequences
Anonymous Christianity?
Superior ignorance?
3. Challenge on both sides
No leveling down
Helpful diagnosis
4. Not exclusiveness, but uniqueness
Christian existence as critical catalyst
Common quest for truth


I. What Is Special to Christianity?

1. The Christ
Dangerous memory
Taking concepts at their face value

2. Which Christ?
The Christ of piety?
The Christ of dogma?
The Christ of the enthusiasts?
The Christ of literature?

II. The Real Christ

1. Not a myth
In time and place

2. The documents
More than a biography
Committed testimonies

3. History and faith’s certainty
Counterquestions about Jesus
Justifiable faith
Historical criticism – an aid to faith?

III. Christianity and Judaism

1. The sufferings of the past
Jesus the Jew
A history of blood and tears

2. Future possibilities
Increasing understanding
Discussion about Jesus?


I. The Social Context

1. Establishment?
The religio-political system
Neither priest nor theologian
Not with the rulers
Radical change

2. Revolution?
The revolutionary movement
Hope of a liberator
Not a social revolutionary
Non-violent revolution

3. Emigration?
Apolitical radicalism
Not a religious
Not for the elite, but for all

4. Compromise?
The devout
Moral compromise
Not a pious legalist
Against self-righteousness
Provocative on all sides

II. God’s Cause

1. The Center
God’s kingdom
Apocalyptic horizon
Demythologizing inevitable
Between present and future
God is ahead

2. Miracles?
Concealing embarrassment
What really happened
What was transmitted
Christian science
Indications, not proofs

3. The supreme norm
No natural law
No revealed law
God’s will instead of legalism
The meaning of the Sermon on the Mount

III. Man’s Cause

1. Humanization of man
The changed awareness
What God wills
Relativized traditions, institutions, hierarchs

2. Action
Both God and man
The person who needs me here and now
Even enemies
True radicalism

3. Solidarity
Partisan for the handicapped
Which poor?
The moral failures
The law of grace

IV. The Conflict

1. The decision
Those who were for him
A Church?
Without office or dignity
The advocate

2. The debate on God
Not a new God
The God with a human face
The God with qualities
Revolution in the understanding of God
Not an obvious form of address

3. The end
In face of death
A last meal
In vain?

V. The New Life

1. The beginning
The ultimate reality
Origin of faith

2. The criterion
Honorific titles
The definitive standard

3. The ultimate distinction
Beyond fanaticism and rigidity
By faith alone
No other cause

VI. Interpretations

1. Discriminating interpretation
Limits to demythologization
Truth is not simply facticity
Narrative presentation and critical reflection

2. Interpretations of death
No uniform theory
Slain for us
God and suffering

3. Interpretations of the origin
Become man
Deification or humanization?
True God and true man
Born of a woman

VII. Community of Faith

1. Inspired and inspiring word
Word of God?

2. The one Spirit
Unholy and holy Spirit

3. The pluriform Church
Assembly, congregation, Church
Community in liberty, equality, fraternity
Charisms, offices, ministries
The diverse constitutions
A Petrine ministry?

4. The great mandate
Provisional Church
Serving Church
Guilty Church
Determined Church


I. The Practice of the Church

1. Decision for faith
A personal decision
Criticism of the Church

2. Decision for the Church
Why stay?
Practical suggestions
Against discouragement
Why can we hope?

II. Being Human and Being Christia

1. Norms of the human
Human autonomy
Man’s theonomy
The unconditioned in the conditioned
Uncertainty of norms

2. The criterion for deciding what is Christian
Specifically Christian norms?
Concrete person instead of abstract principle
The distinctive Christian element in ethics
The basic model

III. Being Christian as Being Radically Human

1. Social relevance
No political short cuts
Social consequences
Commitment to liberation
No uncritical identifications

2. Coping with the negative side
Misused cross
Misunderstood cross
Understood cross

3. Liberated for freedom
Justification or social justice?
What is not ultimately important
What is ultimately important

4. Suggestions
Freedom in the legal order
Freedom in the struggle for power
Freedom from the pressure of consumption 
Freedom to serve 
Human existence transfigured in Christian existence 

Basic Theological Literature 




(pp. 119-144)

1. The Christ

The word “Christian” today is more of a soporific than a slogan. So much – too much – is Christian: Churches, schools, political parties, cultural associations, and of course Europe, the West, the Middle Ages, to say nothing of the “Most Christian King” – a title conferred by Rome, where incidentally they prefer other attributes (“Roman,” “Catholic,” “Roman Catholic,” “ecclesiastical,” “holy”) which they can then without more ado simply equate with “Christian.” Inflation of the concept of “Christian” leads – like all inflation – to devaluation.

Dangerous memory
It is a fact too rarely remembered today that this word – which arose in Antioch, according to the Acts of the Apostles (1) – was first used within the context of world history more as a term of abuse than as an honorable title.

It was so used about 112 by Pliny the Younger, Roman governor in the province of Bithynia in Asia Minor, when he consulted the Emperor Trajan about “Christians” accused of various crimes: his investigation had shown that they did in fact refuse to worship the emperor, but otherwise only recited a hymn (or perhaps a creed) to Christ as to a god and bound themselves not to commit theft, brigandage, adultery, breaches of faith (2).

A little later, Cornelius Tacitus, a friend of Pliny, working on a history of imperial Rome, gave a more or less exact account of the great fire of
Rome, generally ascribed to the Emperor Nero himself, who however shifted the blame onto the “Christians”: the name was derived from someone executed by Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius, a certain “Christus,” after whose death this “pernicious superstition,” like everything vicious and shameful, spread to Rome and there gained an immense number of followers (3).

A little later again, but far less accurately, Suetonius, the emperors’ biographer, reports that Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome, since they were continually creating disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus (impulsore Chresto) (4).

Finally, the earliest Jewish testimony is provided, about A.D. 90, by Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian who was in Rome at that time. He mentions with obvious reserve the stoning in 62 of James, “the brother of Jesus, the so-called Christ” (5).

So much for the earliest pagan and Jewish testimonies. A great deal would have been achieved if it were remembered today also that Christianity is obviously not some sort of world view nor a kind of idealist philosophy, but has something to do with a person called Christ. But memories can be painful, as many politicians have discovered when they wanted to revise a party program. In fact, memories can even be dangerous. Modern social criticism has again drawn our attention to this fact: not only because generations of the dead control us, have their part in determining every situation in which we are placed and to this extent man is predefined by history (6), but also because recollection of the past brings to the surface what is still unsettled and unfulfilled, because every society whose structures have grown rigid rightly fears the “subversive” contents of memory (7).

Christians, Christian Churches, without remembrance. It seems to be precisely the opposite way round. The Christian Churches appear to be chained to the past. If they suppress history at all, it is the always sinister future which they dismiss in order to concentrate on the present state of the Church, assumed to be eternal, in dogma, worship, discipline, piety. We comfort ourselves with memories of the past, positively cultivate them in the Churches, in order to sustain the present. Cultivation in a general sense: we “cherish” age, honor what is old, old people, the elders; we venerate tradition and traditions; we restore churches, chapels, statues, pictures, hymns, theologies. But there is also cultivation in the special sense of “cult”: Christian worship is essentially recollection. Is not this the reason why we have been reading aloud from the same book, continuously for almost two thousand years? Is not this the reason why we have celebrated uninterruptedly the same meal – this is obviously what Pliny was talking about – which has been called from the earliest times anamnesis (recollection, remembrance), memoria Domini (commemoration of the Lord), and in which millions still take part on Sunday all over the world?

Oddly enough this very cult of remembrance has contributed to no small degree to wiping out the memory of the past. The texts were read aloud, often mumbled or sung in an unintelligible, ancient language and without any sort of explanation, in order to keep up the old custom and carry out a duty. The meal was celebrated, often scarcely recognizable beneath the ostentatious ceremonial, in order to satisfy religious needs. People cherished the past to avoid facing the challenge of the present and the future. The great tradition was acclaimed but confused with ideas which just happened to be handed down. The old were honored and the young forgotten, antiquity esteemed and the modem world neglected, restoration was taken in hand only to result – often unnoticed – in degeneration. Paper flowers were dusted when roses might have been cultivated.

Memory in itself could be a great opportunity, a springboard, flexible, with a free end permitting an immense leap. Memory can awaken past terrors as a warning, but it can also – more dangerously – rouse hopes which have not been fulfilled. Memory can curb the excessive power of the factual, can divert the pressure of existing facts, can break through the wall of reality, of what has been effected, can get rid of the present and open the way to a better future. Merely as recollection, it can do this at least for brief moments. Really activated, it can do this permanently. It can do so particularly stubbornly whenever it has remained undischarged.

Christianity means the activation of memory. As J. B. Metz – here linking up with Bloch and Marcuse – rightly insists, it is the activation of a “dangerous and liberating memory” (8). This indeed was originally the intention behind the reading of the New Testament writings, the celebration of the memorial meal, life lived in imitation of Christ, the whole, multifarious involvement of the Church in the world. Memory of what? The first pagan and Jewish accounts of Christianity, already quoted, belonging to the time of the later New Testament writings, bear the mark of this obviously disturbing memory. But the account of these world-transforming memories is found mainly in the Christian testimonies themselves. Memory of what? This basic question arises for us today in the light of both the New Testament and Christian history as a whole.

Firstly: the diversity, contingency and up to a point the inconsistency of the writings contained in the New Testament collection are often and rightly stressed. There are detailed, systematic, didactic writings, but also answers – showing little sign of planning – to questions from the addressees. They include a brief letter, scarcely two pages long, written for the occasion, to the master of a runaway slave, and the more long-winded description of the acts of the first generation and their chief figure. There are gospels, mainly giving an account of the past, and prophetical epistles directed to the future. Some are in an easy-flowing style, others are carelessly written; language and ideas show that some are by Jews, others by Hellenists; some were written at an early date, others almost a century later.

We are certainly justified in asking what really holds these very different twenty-seven “books” of the New Testament together. The answer, according to the testimonies themselves, is amazingly simple. It is the memory of one Jesus, called in New Testament Greek Christos (Hebrew mashiah, Aramaic meshiah: Messiah =Anointed).

Secondly: the rifts and breaks, the contrasts and inconsistencies in tradition and in the history of Christendom as a whole are likewise often and rightly stressed. For centuries Christians formed a small community, for centuries afterwards a large-scale organization; for centuries they were a minority, then became a majority for long ages; the persecuted became the powerful and even quite often the persecutors. Centuries of an underground Church were followed by those of a state Church; centuries of martyrs from the time of Nero by those of court bishops from the time of Constantine. There were ages of monks and scholars and – often intertwined – those of ecclesiastical politicians; centuries of the conversion of the barbarians and the rise of Europe were succeeded by centuries of the Holy Roman Empire, newly founded and again ruined by Christian emperors and popes; there were centuries of papal synods and centuries of councils aimed at reforming the papacy. After the golden age of both Christian humanists and secularized Renaissance men came the ecclesiastical revolution of the Reformers; then came the centuries of Catholic or Protestant orthodoxy and again of evangelical awakening. In sum: there were times of adaptation and times of resistance, dark ages and the Age of Enlightenment, centuries of innovation and centuries of restoration, periods of despair and periods of hope.

Again it is not surprising that people ask what really holds the very oddly contrasting twenty centuries of Christian history and tradition together. And again there is no other answer than this: it is the memory of the one Jesus, called also throughout the centuries “Christ,” God’s last and decisive ambassador.

This however really amounts to a first answer to our opening question: admittedly very provisional and sketchy, but remarkably concrete insofar as it relates to this person. And now that we have not been sparing in our criticism of the Christian position, but slow to give our own answers, we shall perhaps be expected to follow this up with equally clear, positive statements about Christianity. Self-criticism is of little interest unless it includes a modest degree of self-confidence; yet it is just the latter which many Christians, insisting on trust in God, seem to lack, although it is the very thing expected of them by people who hold different views.

Taking concepts at their face value
The outlines will have to be filled in later. But at a time of theological confusion and conceptual obscurity plain speaking is necessary. The theologian is doing no service to Christians or non-Christians if he does not call things by their true names and take concepts at their face value.
As we saw (9), Christianity today is confronted with the world religions which likewise reveal truth, are ways to salvation, represent “legitimate” religions and can indeed also be aware both of the alienation, enslavement and unredeemed state of men and of the presence, the grace, the mercy of the Divinity. The question is thrust upon us: if all this is so, what is there special about Christianity?

The answer – still sketchy but exactly to the point – must be: according to the earliest testimony and that of tradition as a whole, according to the testimony of Christians and non-Christians, the special feature of Christianity – it will eventually become clear that this answer is far from being banal or tautologous – is this Jesus himself, who is known even today by the ancient name of Christ. Isn’t this so? None of the other religions, great or small, however much they may occasionally venerate him even in a temple or in their holy book, would regard him as ultimately decisive, definitive, archetypal for man’s relations with God, with his fellow man, with society. The special feature, the most fundamental characteristic of Christianity is that it considers this Jesus as ultimately decisive, definitive, archetypal for man in these various dimensions of his. And this is just what was meant from the beginning by the title of “Christ.” It is not without reason that this title, together with the name of “Jesus,” developed even then into a proper name.

As we also saw (19), Christianity is confronted at the same time with the post-Christian humanisms – evolutionary, or revolutionary – which likewise stand for all that is true, good and beautiful, which uphold all human values and fraternity together with freedom and equality, and which often intervene more effectively for the development of the whole man and of all men. On the other hand, the Christian Churches and theologies also are seeking in a new way to be human and philanthropic: modern, relevant, enlightened, emancipatory, dialogic, pluralist, involved, adult, worldly, secular – in a word, human. The question is inescapable: if all this is so, or at least ought to be so, what is there special about Christianity?

The answer – again only sketchy, but still quite precise – here too must be: according to the earliest testimony and that of tradition as a whole, the special feature of Christianity is again this Jesus himself who is constantly freshly known and acknowledged as Christ. Here too there is a countertest: none of the evolutionary or revolutionary humanisms, however much they may occasionally respect him as man and even set him up as an example, would regard him as ultimately decisive, definitive and archetypal for man in all his dimensions. The special feature, the most fundamental characteristic of Christianity is that it considers this Jesus as ultimately decisive, definitive, archetypal, for man’s relations with God, with his fellow man, with society: in the curtailed biblical formula, as “Jesus Christ.”

From both perspectives the conclusion emerges that, if Christianity seeks to become relevant, freshly relevant, to men in the world religions, to the modem humanists, it will certainly not be simply by saying later what others said first, by doing later what others did first. Such a parrot-like Christianity does not become relevant to the religions and the humanisms. In this way it becomes irrelevant, superfluous. Actualization, modernization, involvement, alone, will not make it relevant. Christians, the Christian Churches, must know what they want, what they have to say to themselves and to others. For all their unreserved open-mindedness toward others – this is not to be stressed again here – they must speak of what is their own, bring it home, make it effective. Hence Christianity can ultimately be and become relevant only by activating – as always, in theory and practice – the memory of Jesus as ultimately archetypal: of Jesus the Christ and not only as one of the “archetypal men” (11).

If then today the North American theologian, occupied mainly with psychology, sociology, politology, the intellectual as a committed Christian
in France, Spain, Germany or Holland, the students’ chaplain in Islamic Jakarta, the missionary in Africa or India, or even a Catholic-educated
Roman contessa helplessly asks what is really Christian, what on the whole distinguishes Christianity from other religions or quasi-religions, philosophies or world views, it is because they are looking for the answer in some sort of abstract axioms, concepts, principles, ideas. But they cannot find it there, since Christianity – as its name alone suggests – cannot in the last resort be reduced to any kind of eternal ideas, abstract principles, human attitudes. The whole of Christianity is left hanging in mid-air if it is detached from the foundation on which it is built: this Christ. An abstract Christianity is of no importance to its followers or to the world. In point of fact Christians ought to know this. But they often assume with astonishing naiveté that they also know already who and what this Jesus Christ is. So they do not expect any answer from that quarter. They look for it elsewhere: in some kind of philosophy or world view, in youth culture, in black culture, in India, in a romantic Third World or any other cultural or ideological refuge of modern times, in psychoanalysis or in sociology, in cybernetics, linguistics, behavior study, in the very latest wave of science. But the question remains: how does one know so certainly as a Christian who and what this Jesus Christ is? Is he perhaps precisely the unknown in Christendom and outside it, himself making Christianity the great unknown?

For the time being we may point out once again quite briefly that it seems possible to answer the questions urgently raised on all sides by Christians about the distinctive feature of Christianity only by reference to the person of this Christ. This claim can be tested by a few examples.

First: Is a meal celebrated with deep faith in God by Christians and Muslims in Kabul, in which prayers from the Christian and Sufi traditions are used, a celebration of the Christian eucharist? Answer: Such a feast can be a very genuine, even very laudable religious service. But it would be a Christian eucharistic celebration only if it specifically recalled the person of this Jesus Christ (memoria Domini).
Second: If a very devout Hindu with faith in God bathes in the Ganges at Benares, is this equivalent to Christian baptism? Answer: From a religious standpoint bathing in this way is certainly a very significant and salutary rite of purification. But it would become Christian baptism only if it took place in the name of Jesus Christ.
Third: Is a Muslim in Beirut who upholds everything said of Jesus in the Koran – and that is a great deal – already a Christian? Answer: He is a good Muslim as long as the Koran remains binding on him and in this way he may gain salvation. But he becomes a Christian only if Muhammad is no longer the prophet with Jesus as his precursor, but if this Jesus Christ becomes authoritative for him.
Fourth: Is the defense of humanitarian ideals, human rights and democracy in Chicago, Rio, Auckland or Madrid Christian proclamation? Answer: This is a social commitment urgently required of individual Christians and the Christian Churches. But it becomes Christian proclamation when what is to be said in the light of this Jesus Christ is brought home practically and concretely in modern society.

Keeping in mind the clarification already given in the first part of this book and anticipating the concrete details to be discussed in this second and in the third and fourth parts, in order to avoid confusion and unnecessary misunderstandings, without discriminating against other views, with conviction but without undue emphasis, we can and must venture to make the following plain demarcations:

Christian does not mean everything that is true, good, beautiful, human. Who could deny that truth, goodness, beauty and humanity exist also outside Christianity? But everything can be called Christian which in theory and practice has an explicit, positive reference to Jesus Christ.
A Christian is not just any human being with genuine conviction, sincere faith and good will. No one can fail to see that genuine conviction, sincere faith and good will exist also outside Christianity. But all those can be called Christians for whom in life and death Jesus Christ is ultimately decisive.
Christian Church does not mean just any meditation or action group, any community of committed human beings who try to lead a decent life in order to gain salvation. It could never be disputed that commitment, action, meditation, a decent life and salvation can exist also in other groups outside the Church. But any human community, great or small, for whom Jesus Christ is ultimately decisive can be called a Christian Church.
Christianity does not exist wherever inhumanity is opposed and humanity realized. It is a simple truth that inhumanity is opposed and humanity realized also outside Christianity – among Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists, among post-Christian humanists and outspoken atheists. But Christianity exists only where the memory of Jesus Christ is activated in theory and practice.

Now all these are primarily distinguishing formulas. But they are not merely theoretical, still less empty formulas. Why?

They refer to a very concrete person (12).
They have behind them the Christian beginnings and the great Christian tradition.
They provide a clear orientation for both present and future.
They are therefore helpful to Christians and yet can also win the agreement of non-Christians, whose convictions are respected in this way and whose values are expressly affirmed without being appropriated by dogmatic sleight of hand for Christianity and Church.

Just because the concepts of what is Christian are not diluted or arbitrarily stretched, but precisely grasped, just because the concepts are taken at their face value, two things are possible: to maintain open-mindedness for all that is non-Christian and at the same time to avoid all un-Christian confusion. In this sense these distinguishing formulas – however sketchy they must seem for the time being – are of great importance. Provisional as they are, they serve to distinguish what is Christian.

Against all well-meant stretching, blending, misinterpreting and confusing of the meaning of Christian, things must be called by their true names. The Christianity of the Christians must remain Christian. But it remains Christian only if it remains expressly committed to the one Christ, who is not any sort of principle, or an intentionality or an evolutionary goal, but – as we shall later see more closely – a quite definite, unmistakable, irreplaceable person with a quite definite name. In the light of this very name Christianity cannot be reduced or “raised” to a nameless—that is, anonymous – Christianity. To anyone who thinks a little about the two words anonymous Christianity is a contradiction in terms, like wooden iron. Being humanly good is a fine thing even without the blessing of the Church or theological approval. Christianity however means a profession of faith in this one name. Nor can Christian theologians spare themselves the question: what or who is really concealed behind this name?

2. Which Christ?

The Christ of piety?
Philosophers have taken more trouble with the Platonic dialogues, to find out who Socrates really was and what he wanted, than quite a few
Christian theologians have done with the original Christian documents, to discover what lies behind the name of Jesus Christ. They think they can take it for granted that Christians know all about him and all that they have to do is to speculate more deeply on this knowledge, apply it in practice and make it freshly relevant for man and society today. Why, how can they – so naively, we must say – take this knowledge for granted? If for the time being we set aside an understanding gained without much reflection from the Bible, it must be assumed that knowledge of Christ comes mainly from Christian piety and Christian dogma.

Christian experiences of the one Christ however can be very different. And the same experiences can be for some the reason why they have kept the Christian faith, for others the reason why they have given it up. There are Christians who got to know Christ at an early date as the pious, ever friendly divine Saviour and have never parted from this “sweet Jesus”: consequently the social-critical Jesus of Pasolini’s film on St. Matthew’s Gospel leaves them anxious and disturbed. Others, perhaps in the youth movement between the two world wars, got to know him as the great leader and still sing as enthusiastically as ever “Follow me, says Christ our hero,” even though it is not always clear today in which direction they are to go. Others again were touched by his gentle and humble heart, so that for them “the Sacred Heart” became a proper name, whereupon the theologians began to develop a sublime theology of the “personal center.” For very many the name reminds them of Christmas and the “holy infant so tender and mild”: every year they sing the old hymns and forget it all promptly by New Year’s Eve at the latest. Others again recall his name and think simply of God on earth and ignore the fact that the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Father. And yet again for others this is the name of the divine Son of a much more human and lovable virgin mother, more close to us, who can then become so important that she stands on our altars – as at Lourdes – even without her Son.

We could go on in this vein, but we really have no wish to hurt anyone’s most sacred feelings. The author too likes to celebrate Christmas and sings “Silent Night, Holy Night” without too many inhibitions. He also appreciates poetry. But he thinks that poetry and reality should not be confused. This holds not only for songs about the moon – particularly blatant in this cosmic age – but also for the praises sung – recently more than formerly by very different kinds of singers – of the Star, indeed the Superstar of life.

Innumerable hymns have been sung in all the languages of the world over the past two thousand years, particularly to him, and to him more than anyone. Innumerable images of this one man have also been painted, struck, cut and cast, in a thousand ways. And this is not the least that can be said about him. And yet this very diversity of images, which cannot be traced back – as with the Buddha, who always looks the same – to a very few formalized basic postures, raises the question: which is the true image of Christ (13)?

Is it the beardless, young-looking, kindhearted shepherd of the early Christian art of the catacombs or is it the bearded emperor and ruler of the world, in the image forms of the imperial cult of late antiquity, in courtly-rigid inviolability and menacing majesty before the gold background of eternity? Is it the Beau-Dieu of Chartres or the German Miserikordien-Heiland (man of sorrows)? Is it Christ the King and Judge of the world, enthroned on the cross, on Romanesque portals and apses or the cruelly realistic suffering Christ in Dürer’s Christus im Elend and in the last Grünewald crucifixion still preserved? Is it the handsome Christ untouched by suffering in Raphael’s Disputa or Michelangelo’s Christ, suffering a human death? Is it the sublime sufferer of Velazquez or the tormented-quivering Christ of El Greco? Is the true image conveyed by the smooth “Enlightenment” salon portraits of Rosalba Camera and of a Fritsch presenting the elegant popular philosopher Jesus or by the sentimental Sacred Heart pictures of Catholic late baroque? In the eighteenth century is it Jesus the gardener or apothecary dispensing virtue powder or later the classicist Saviour of Thorwaldsen which offended his Danish compatriot, Kierkegaard, by eliminating the scandal of the cross? Is it the meek and mild human Jesus of the German and French Nazarenes and the English Pre-Raphaelites or the Christ – pointing to quite different dimensions – of the twentieth-century artists: Beckmann, Corinth, Nolde, Masereel, Rouault, Picasso, Barlach, Matisse, Chagall?

The theologies lying behind the pictures are no less varied. Which Christology then is the true one?

In antiquity is it the Christ of Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons or of his disciple Hippolytus (anti-Pope to Calixtus), is it that of the brilliant Greek thinker Origen or that of the Latin stylist and lawyer Tertullian? Is it the Christ of the Constantinian court bishop and historiographer Eusebius or that of the Egyptian desert Father Anthony, that of Augustine the greatest Western theologian or that of Leo the most outstanding Pope of the first five centuries? Is it the Christ of the Alexandrians or that of the school of Antioch, that of the Cappadocians or that of the Egyptian monks?
In the Middle Ages is it the Christ of the Neo-Platonic speculative thinker John Scotus Erigena or of the ingenious dialectician Abélard, that of Peter Lombard’s Sentences – on which so many commentaries were written – or that of the sermons by Bernard of Clairvaux on the Song of Songs? Is it the Christ of Thomas Aquinas or that of Francis of Assisi, that of the powerful Pope Innocent III or that of the heretical Waldensians and Albigensians whom he opposed? Is it that of the brooding apocalyptist Joachim of Flora or that of the daring thinker Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa, that of the Roman canonists or that of the German mystics?

In modern times is it the Christ of the Reformers or that of the Roman popes, that of Erasmus of Rotterdam or that of Ignatius of Loyola, that of the Spanish inquisitors or that of the Spanish mystics whom they persecuted? Is it the Christ of the Sorbonne theologians and the French crown lawyers or the Christ of Pascal, is it that of the Spanish scholastics of the baroque age or that of the German theologians of the Enlightenment, that of Lutheran and reformed orthodoxy or that of the older or modern Free Churches? Is it the Christ of the philosopher-theologians of German Idealism – Fichte, Schelling, Hegel – or is it that of Kierkegaard, the opponent of these philosopher-theologians? Is it that of the historical-speculative Catholic school of Tübingen or that of the Neo-Scholastic Jesuit theologians of Vatican I, that of the Protestant revival movements in the nineteenth century or that of the liberal exegesis of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, that of Romano Guardini or that of Karl Adam, that of Karl Barth or that of Rudolf Bultmann, that of Paul Tillich, of Teilhard de Chardin or of Billy Graham?

It seems there are as many images of Christ as there are minds. Even today piety provides very diverse answers to the question: “Which Christ? What does he mean for me?” As the latest investigations (14) among all possible classes, callings, denominations show, some acknowledge him within the Church in prayer and acclamation, sacraments and liturgy, as Son of God, Redeemer, Risen Lord and Founder of the Church. Others he meets as a fellow human being, in ordinary life “outside,” in social commitment as friend, elder brother, champion, instigator of unrest, enthusiasm and true humanity. Personal experiences of conversion, spontaneous professions of faith in him, are opposed by dogmatic formulas, doctrines restated in catechism style and in rigid forms. For some he signifies love, meaning, support, ground in life, and is the embodiment of happiness, calm and consolation even in disappointments, in despair and suffering. For others he is harmless, means little, cannot help. And if he challenges some to reflection, meditation, adoring contemplation, others respond tersely, are even irritated, avoid the issue or are simply at a loss.

The Christ of dogma?
It would be wrong to get the impression that in these images, theologies, interpretations, experiences of Jesus everything is equally important or equally correct, still less that nothing is correct or important. What must be made clear is that apparently we cannot so simply and naively assume that what lies behind the name of Christ is known from Christian piety, literature, art and tradition. Too many diverse and – where possible – touched-up photographs of one and the same person make detective work difficult. And Christian theology to a considerable extent is constantly detective work, often an extremely absorbing and exhausting work of discovery.

Yet this is just what some theologians would deny. What could be discovered about this person has been discovered once and for all and private detectives are not wanted. It is a question here of something more than Christian piety, experience, literature, art, tradition. It is a question of the Church’s teaching – to be more precise, the official teaching of the ecclesiastical magisterium (15). The true Christ is the Christ of the Church. Perhaps it is not Roma locuta that counts here, but certainly Conciliis locutis: what the ecumenical councils of the Church from the fourth to the eighth century have pronounced, defined, marked out, against heresies of right and left. In the light of all this who then would the true Christ be?
In any case, even according to the councils, he would not be simply “God.” Certainly, as a result of an educationally inadequate, superficial religious instruction and a liturgy and art which overexalted him, the answer of believers and (therefore) of unbelievers is often unfortunately “Jesus= God.” And how often do we see children pointing to a crucifix and saying: “That is God, hanging on the cross.” But, however much they may be due to the influence of the Church’s dogmatic definitions emphasizing the divinity of Jesus, these are misunderstandings: they produce an irresponsible dilution, superficiality, simplification and even a heretical one-sidedness of the well-thought-out and secure teaching of the early councils. “God in human form” is Monophysitism. “God suffering on the cross” is Patripassianism. No early council ever simply identified Jesus with God in the way that the Germanic tribes a little later were converted from the God Wotan to the God Jesus: it is for this reason that the name of Jesus is omitted from the Confiteor in the Frankish-Roman Mass and that he is addressed directly in other prayers, without reference to the Father.

Even according to the first ecumenical Council of Nicea (325, in the imperial summer residence), Jesus is only “consubstantial with the Father” (16). And, according to the counterbalancing Council of Chalcedon (451, near Constantinople), he is “consubstantial with us men”: one person (a divine hypostasis) in whom are united two natures – a divine and a human – without confusion or change, without division or separation.” This is the classical answer in terms of the “hypostatic union” and the “God-man” which has been repeated since then in innumerable theological textbooks and catechisms of the different Churches of East and West.

And yet, is it so simple? As Athanasius, the leading figure at Nicea, testifies, the ecumenical councils at the beginning made no claim to propositional infallibility (18). This venerable conciliar history is not without fluctuations and – up to a point – even contradictions. This is evident at least to anyone who knows a little more than is contained in the theological manuals about Nicea I and II, Ephesus I and II, Constantinople I, II, III and IV (19). And the great Council of Chalcedon itself was also the occasion of the first great and lasting schism in the Church – not yet overcome – between the Chalcedonian Churches and others which stood by Ephesus II. Chalcedon then had by no means solved the problem permanently. A few years later a dispute of exceptional violence broke out on the question opened up by Chalcedon, whether Christ – being God – could suffer at all. And this “Patripassianist, Theopaschite” controversy dominated from then onwards the whole sixth century and turned in the seventh century into the “Monothelite” dispute (one will or two wills in Christ, one divine and the other human?) (20).

For us today the problem lies deeper. Only too often behind the Christ image of the councils there can be perceived the unmoving, passionless countenance of Plato’s God, who cannot suffer, embellished with some features of Stoic ethics. The names of these councils show that they are exclusively Greek. But Christ was not born in Greece. Both for these councils and the theology behind it the work of translation must be continued. The whole doctrine of the two natures is an interpretation in Hellenistic language and concepts of what Jesus Christ really means. The importance of this teaching should not be belittled. It has made history. It gives expression to a genuine continuity of Christian faith and provides important guidelines for the whole discussion and for any future interpretation. But on the other hand no one should get the impression that Christ’s message today could or should be stated only with the aid of these Greek categories – unavoidable at the time but inadequate – only with the aid of the Chalcedonian two-natures doctrine, only with the aid, that is, of what is called classical Christology. What is a Jew, a Chinese, a Japanese or an African, or even the average European or American today, to make of those Greek ciphers? Recent attempts – both Catholic and Protestant – at a solution of the Christological problem go far beyond Chalcedon (21). And the New Testament itself is infinitely richer.
The Chalcedonian formula therefore must be regarded – as Karl Rahner puts it in a well-known phrase – more as a beginning than as an end (22). Here we shall merely summarize briefly the roots from which the different objections to the traditional solution of the Christological question – two natures in one (divine) person – have grown (23):

a. The two-natures doctrine, using terms and ideas which bear the imprint of Hellenistic language and mentality, is no longer understood today. In practice therefore it is avoided as much as possible in the proclamation of the Church’s teaching.
b. The two-natures doctrine did not solve the difficulties even at that time, as is evident from the post-Chalcedon history of dogmas. On the contrary it led to ever new logical dilemmas.
c. The two-natures doctrine, in the opinion of many exegetes, is by no means identical with the original New Testament message about Christ. Some regard it as displacing or – up to a point – even corrupting the original message, others as at least not the sole possible and certainly not the best interpretation.

Very similar objections can of course be raised also against the traditional Protestant triple office doctrine of Jesus as prophet, priest, king, developed by Calvin and later adopted by Catholic theology. Is this doctrine, in such a brief, systematic form, founded in the New Testament? And are these three – of all titles – still supposed to have any meaning for man in our secularized society? (24).

Certainly it is thanks to the Christian tradition in piety, literature and art that the memory of this Christ remained alive, that he himself did not become a monument of the past, but again and again proved to be relevant to the concerns of a new age. Without the continuity of a believing community, if perhaps we had been forced to rely only on a book, there would be no living message of Christ and no living faith in Christ. Each generation appropriated the recollection of him in a new form. Any theologian who neglects this great tradition will pay dearly for it. It is right to honor even today the professions of faith of the ancient councils, which were both brief summaries and defensive demarcations. They are not merely antiques and curiosities. They are signs of the stability of the Christian faith throughout the centuries of change. We shall have to return to them later.

At the same time it must not be forgotten that this great tradition is surprisingly complex. The testimonies to one and the same Christ are very varied, full of contrasts, often disparate and contradictory. And truth and poetry particularly at this point need a close theological scrutiny. Even traditionally minded theologians must admit that not everything in this tradition can be equally true, not everything can be simultaneously true.
The great conciliar tradition too therefore raises the question: which Christ is the true one? And particularly anyone who cherishes a Christological tradition in theology and piety, declared to be exclusively orthodox, will have to ask himself whether just this “orthodox” Christ, lodged in a very fine Church, hospitalized, domesticated, is the true Christ. For not only dust, but also too much gold, can cover up the true figure.

The Christian message aims at making intelligible what Jesus Christ means and is for man today. But does this Christ become really intelligible for man today if we simply start out dogmatically from established teaching on the Trinity? Can he be understood if we simply take for granted the divinity of Jesus, the pre-existence of the Son, and then merely ask how this Son of God could unite to himself, could assume, a human nature, frequently leaving the cross and resurrection to appear as something which happened purely as a result of his “becoming man”? Can modem man understand if we emphasize the title of Son of God and suppress as much as possible the humanity of Jesus, denying him existence as a
human person? Will he understand if Jesus is more adored as divinity than imitated as earthly and human? Would it not perhaps correspond more to the New Testament evidence and to modem man’s historical way of thinking if we started out like the first disciples from the real human being Jesus, his historical message and manifestation, his life and fate, his historical reality and historical activity, and then ask about the relationship of this human being Jesus to God, about his unity with the Father. In a word, therefore: can we have less of a Christology in the classical manner, speculatively or dogmatically “from above”, but – without disputing the legitimacy of the older Christology – more of a historical Christology “from below,” in the light of the concrete Jesus, more suited to modem man? (25).

The Christ of the enthusiasts?

Wanted—For Sedition, Criminal Anarchy
Vagrancy, and Conspiring to Overthrow
the Established Government
Dresses poorly. Said to be a carpenter by trade. Ill-nourished, has visionary ideas, associates with common working people, the unemployed and bums. Alien – believed to be a Jew. Alias: “Prince of Peace,” “Son of Man,” “Light of the World,” etc., etc. Professional Agitator, Red Beard, marks on hands and feet the result of injuries inflicted by an angry mob led by respectable citizens and legal authorities.

So runs the now well-known “warrant” which first appeared in a Christian underground newspaper in the United States.

Charismatic Jesus movements have existed at all times, on the margin or outside of the established Churches: non-conformist appeals to the original, true Christ against the Christ appropriated by the Churches. These fanatical movements were often wildly revolutionary, aggressive, violent; often gentle, introverted, mystical. Even in the early Church there were various apocalyptic enthusiasts. Then came the “spirituals,” flagellants and apostolic brethren, of the Middle Ages, the enthusiasts and Anabaptists of Reformation times. Later came radical pietism in Germany, Independents, Quakers and Plymouth Brethren in England, the various revival movements in the United States. Finally, there is the Pentecostal movement which made its entry in a quite orthodox way into the Catholic Church after Vatican II. All these are possible forms of charismatic movements (26).

Often too there were simply lone wolves who followed their own, often scarcely orthodox Christ: these too were active in early, medieval and modem Christendom, producing books, pamphlets, novels, or simply adopting a special way of life. The list of those who ignored their Church but loved their Christ would be a very long one: among them were quite notable great minds, theologians, writers, painters. There were also Jesus disciples, clowns, freaks, beatniks in wild variety, but at least they were not as boring as the orthodox Latin and Greek Christology of the second millennium after the close of the great controversies in the East. And there was the Jesus clown of our millennium, acknowledged by all the Churches: Francis of Assisi.

No one familiar with history therefore need be surprised that even today – after so much talk of secularity, evolution and revolution – this Jesus has again become popular and, it seems, for secular evolutionaries and revolutionaries alike. And in America, now that the “death of God” itself is rapidly dying and Jesus after almost two thousand years still had the honor of “making” the cover story of Time magazine twice in one year (27), those time-conscious theologians who always like to ride on the crest of the latest wave, hoping to reach a new shore, have noted that the wind has changed again: from secularity to religiosity, from publicity to interiority, from action to meditation, from rationality to sensitivity, from the “death of God” to interest in “eternal life.” Perhaps as Christians – after Marx, Freud, Nietzsche and other bringers of salvation of our day – they find it still more important to be occupied with Jesus.

The present new orientation could be instructive also for the future. Whether any of these movements turns out to be enduring or brief, it should not be played off by the Church against revolutionary movements. They are frequently also a protest against the domesticated plaster Christ in the Churches who neither feels nor can feel pain. They are not always signs of conventionality and Church loyalty. Too many impulses from the revolutionary movement have been preserved: the attitude of protest against concentration on a successful career and acquisition of wealth, against the consumer- and efficiency-oriented society, the technologically automatized and manipulated world, uncontrolled progress, even the established Churches. In some of these movements too we find an expressionist style, a trend to romanticism, frequent irrationalism. What we said earlier about the cultural criticism of revolutionary humanism (28) has therefore by no means become superfluous.

The initial difficulties also of young people could remain the same for a long time: apart from the general situation of society, the problems with parents, teachers, superiors, often uninspiring work, and all kinds of dubious or even not so dubious pleasures, up to an inner void, boredom and despair. But for some the objectives of the search have changed again. After all the disturbances, manifestations and provocations, some are no longer looking for politico-revolutionary action, but for inward peace, security, joy, strength, love, a meaning to life. Charles Reich’s “Consciousness III” (29) is more than ephemeral feelings of flower children and veneration of a fellow rebel. It means a different awareness, transcending the machine, rising above existing conditions to liberation; the choice of a new life-style, development of new human capacities, a new independence and personal responsibility; it means a new determination of values and priorities, a new man and for that very reason a new society. But the demands of the Jesus enthusiasts are less abstract than those involved in Consciousness III. Some of these skinheads or long-haired people have lost their fear of religion, even the fear of calling Jesus by his name. After they have tried everything – sex and alcohol, hashish, marijuana, LSD and other drugs which widen the field of consciousness – some seem to find Jesus the “greatest trip.” “The Beatles are more popular than Jesus Christ”: after this arrogant dictum of the Beatle John Lennon in 1966 came the song “My sweet Lord, I really want to know you” by ex-Beatle George Harrison in 1971. Bible, prayer – yes, even baptism – are in, at least for the time being.

The importance of all this must not be exaggerated. Much of it is merely fashion, business, kitsch, inflation by the news-hungry mass media and profit-hungry managers. It is part of the system that every protest against commercialization itself becomes commercialized. Nevertheless: if drugs now as before present the greatest problem to the American police (more than half the offenses against property are due to the influence of drugs), we can hardly be sorry that a way of release has been found for some of the hundred thousand or so (mainly young) addicts in New York alone (30). Christianity as seen in the person of Jesus is certainly not a substitute for drugs: the opiates are not to be replaced by an “opium of the people,” nor one ecstasy by another. But, for some drug addicts or those who are despairing of life altogether, Christianity as seen in Jesus can obviously provide a reliable opportunity of overcoming their paralysis and making fresh activity possible.

Critics, however, fear naiveté, romanticism, contempt for reason in these religious waves; they object to the childish trust in miracles, missionary enthusiasm, political and social apathy and escapism; even detect reaction, restoration and counterrevolution. All this can in fact be involved. The only question is, why? Why are such religious movements wrongly appropriated by the Right and then wrongly condemned by the Left? They are equally close to and remote from both sides. Many revolutionaries now as before also appeal to Jesus. But – and this is more important – such religious trends are a sign that neither the bourgeois ideology of progress nor a superficially revolutionary criticism of society can satisfy these young people: not prosperity culture nor its counterculture, not the noise and bustle of civilization nor drug-produced ecstasy, not evolutionary or revolutionary humanisms. And even those superficial “liberals” who see in mere “liberalization” a universal panacea must at least understand that this liberalized youth would now also like to know what really was the point of being liberalized. People like this think they have avoided the question of the place of the individual in the whole and are then immensely surprised and disgruntled when young people, already accustomed to a literature quite free of taboos, find even the obscenities boring (not every writer is a Henry Miller or D. H. Lawrence), turn to Segal’s Love Story or again to Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf or Siddhartha and – hostile to institutions, but not remote from religion – seek happiness in a different direction.

Against this background it is and remains in any case a surprising phenomenon, after all the fashions falling over one another – not forgetting, in addition to psycho and sensitivity training, the trend toward Far Eastern mysticism – that this Jesus is and becomes constantly freshly relevant, apparently as fascinating as ever. Nor is this any longer Jesus regarded exclusively as a fellow rebel in the fight against war and inhumanity: it is
Jesus seen also as the victim abused by everyone, as the most constant and most available symbol for purity, joy, final surrender, true life. And, oddly as some of it may sound to the satisfied bourgeois, could not Jesus revolution, God trip, baptism or therapy of the Holy Spirit perhaps be a new expression of a primitive longing of mankind? Of a hunger for true life, true freedom, true love, true peace, which in the long run cannot be suppressed?

Who indeed would have thought that the secular closing message of the popular musical Hair – “Life can begin again inside you. Let the sun, let the sunshine in” – might be taken up in just this way? Jesus’ presence there was only marginal: “My hair, like Jesus wore his. Hallelujah: I like it .. . Mary loved her Son. Why doesn’t my mother love me?” Is it so surprising, in view of unsuccessful revolts and in view of the orgies and hippie murders which succeeded only too well, that some of the younger people think that “life” – so extolled in that song of the sun – is not worth living without another kind of inwardness and brotherliness, without unselfishness, purity of heart and that love which is more than sex. The question of the meaning of life – of a life that is successful, happiness-creating and happy, fulfilled and therefore right – cannot be suppressed, cannot be dismissed either through analyzing the psyche or through changing society. Quite a few today are again convinced that they can find precisely in Jesus the answer to the question thus formulated in Hair:

Where do I go?
Follow the river.
Where do I go?
Follow the gulls.
Where is the something,
Where is the someone
That tells me why
I live and die?
Follow my heart beat.
Where do I go?
Follow my hand.
Where will they lead me?
And will I ever
discover why
I live and die,
I live and die?

Nevertheless, despite all positive aspects of the charismatic Jesus movements, it would be quite wrong to link the future of Christianity with any sort of fashions or “waves,” still more to base it on emotions, hysterias or ideologies of intoxication. Movements of religious enthusiasm to – often symbioses of rebel counterculture and conservative biblicism – are ambivalent. Sometimes even in the same individual they take the form of a mixture of dubious religiosity, genuine religion and – again something different – Christian faith. They have their time, are changed and often only their vestiges remain. Enthusiastic movements venerate their Christ and appropriate him at the same time. And the true Jesus Christ anyway is not the “Superstar” who could be “made,” “built up,” “composed,” finally “staged” as desired, and then even “consumed.” Christianity must not be confused with show business or the narcotics industry.

Not that there is anything against linking Christianity with fascinating music. How fruitful the association is can be seen in its history from Gregorian chant to Igor Stravinsky, Krzysztof Penderecki and the spirituals. Nor is there anything particularly against setting biblical themes to music in beat and rock rhythms. Others however may be left to judge the quality of the mixture that emerges from the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Serge Prokofiev and Richard Strauss. From the Gospels at any rate we cannot mix everything together for Jesus’ last week – even guided by the highly accomplished Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen’s Life of Christ (31). And if the Christ of the devotional objects of a Christian piety and the God beyond this world of a Christological dogmatism have no support in the Gospels, then still less does the all-too-earthly idol of ecstatics and addicts. There is nothing against the authors of the song, of the long-playing record, of the musical and finally of the film Jesus Christ Superstar: the young Englishmen Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, who yielded to the fascination of the “incredible drama” of the Jesus story and brought in for the stupendous, elaborate Broadway production of the profitable rock opera the shrewd and versatile director of Hair (T. O’Horgan: “The swing is back to the superrational consciousness”).

It was suggested at the time that these people knew nothing about religion or Jesus, but the question may also be asked whether those who know more could make it intelligible for others and particularly for younger people. And anyone who says that this sort of thing is a sacrilegious distortion of the story of Jesus might well reflect how often in the past excessive piety has trivialized it. Critics who claim that only Jesus’ humanity is portrayed here should remember how frequently his divinity alone was brought out in the Churches. The complaint that the resurrection is left out of these presentations may be countered by pointing out how often theologies treated the crucifixion as no more than an unfortunate incident between the incarnation and the resurrection.

In any case, Jesus Christ Superstar together with a number of similar productions gives very many people an opportunity to reflect a little more about this Jesus: which is at least no worse than reflecting on My Fair Lady, Hello, Dolly! or Man of La Mancha. Moreover, we may confidently hope that the “superb story” of this Christ is strong enough to shine out in its own light even through the multimedia) glitter of a popular-ingenious Broadway spectacle. But what is this light?

The Christ of literature?
“If anyone could prove to me that Christ is outside the truth, and if the truth really did exclude Christ, I should prefer to stay with Christ and not with truth.” Fyodor Mikhailovitch Dostoevsky wrote this shortly after his release from prison (32). Measured not only by Dostoevsky’s standard but also by the profound seriousness with which the problem of Jesus is treated in modern literature as a whole, the Jesus songs of the Beatles and others, as also the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, and even the more deeply penetrating Godspell (=gospel), seem very trivial.

What is typical of the attitude of contemporary literature to Jesus of Nazareth? (33). First of all, while religion is subjected to criticism and the Church largely ignored and rejected, the figure of Jesus is conspicuously “spared,” with the result that an express rejection – as with Gottfried Berm and the later Rainer Maria Rilke ‘(34) understandable after reading their predecessor Nietzsche- occurs comparatively rarely. Above all, the attempt is made – so to speak – to edge toward the figure of Jesus, speaking of him only very indirectly and almost timidly. As the cave dwellers in Plato’s allegory see only the silhouettes outlined by the sun, so modern writers see more of the shadows he casts than of himself in the light of day. Jesus is seen in his reflection. He is observed in the effects he produces in the people who come into contact with him. Jesus is not described, not furnished with predicates, not adorned with titles. He is approached as we pass by the place where he is standing: at one time this might have been described as a very “modest approach.” This sort of thing – which must not be misunderstood – is evidence of enormous respect, of absolutely unique reverence toward this figure.

This new orientation also means of course that the time for a more or less orthodox, conventional portrayal of Jesus in historical and psychological terms is past. This may perhaps be a matter of regret for those who read Giovanni Papini’s poetic Story of Christ (1921) (35) in their early years as students or – with even greater enthusiasm – the empathic twenty-four Nicodemus letters by the Polish author Jan Dobraczyfynski with the programmatic title Give Me Your Cares (1952) (36); the latter also went into almost innumerable editions and describes the figure of Jesus from the standpoint of a Jewish scribe, himself struck with his wife’s sickness, who links together the problem of Job and the problem of the cross and thus solves them. It will also be regretted by those who recall Par Lagerkvist’s Barabbas (1950) (37): the man burdened with guilt, doubting, seeking, unable to get away from Jesus who had been executed in his place. The same applies to the book The Master (1952) (38) by the Jewish author Max Brod (Kafka’s executor). Here Jesus is described in the light of a first growing but finally waning sympathy between the nihilistic-existentialist Jason-Judas, a Greek official in the Roman administration in Jerusalem, and his almost Mary-like foster sister Susanna: he is an authentic human figure in the style of the great Jewish prophets.

All these literary portrayals of Jesus, like some earlier ones at the turn of the century (39)  were by no means lacking in aesthetic quality or theological depth. Not least when they were written by authors outside or on the margin of the Church. But they were based on a naive and word-for-word reading of the Gospels. These writers, unburdened with recent exegetical and historical problems, made brilliant use of literary imagination and modem psychology in a tacit attempt to update the Gospels, reading into them what cannot be read out of them. They used the Gospel accounts as chronicles in need of embellishment and employed all the aids of history, psychology and aesthetics to produce a kind of fictional biography (40). Taken together, these works may be regarded as the poetical counterparts of the historical lives of Jesus by the liberal (or orthodox) exegetes of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

This indirect approach to Jesus on the part of modern writers finds support in the theological interpretation of the Gospels, which shows that they do not provide anything like a biography and simply cannot be used without more ado as historical sources (we shall have to look into this matter more closely here). It is also doubtful whether the stylistic aids and methods of literature are really adequate to give expression in words to the life of Jesus, his person and cause, the divine and human elements brought together in a historically concrete person.

Of course the conventional novels about Jesus were themselves meant to be more than history: it is not easy to be neutral and impartial when writing about Jesus. In one way or another they were testimonies to the religion of their authors. For the most part even the conventional portrayals of Jesus emerged out of an interest in bringing the divinely exalted, unworldly and thus irrelevant Christ of dogma, liturgy and theology down to earth, in making him again humanly intelligible “from below,” challenging, inviting, and thus at the same time giving expression to our own individual and social problems.

While however the conventional novels about Jesus – despite their religious interest – had a more or less poetic character, the new Jesus portrayals are primarily critical. This holds particularly for those poetic-real Jesus portrayals which have a basis at least remotely in the context of the New Testament and where Jesus, even though alienated, appears as a real person. The very person of Jesus here constitutes a radical criticism of the different forms of Jesus kitsch and false Jesus piety. This approach breaks through the walls of the ecclesiastical-sacral sphere and deliberately seeks to bring down the exalted Christ as a divine cult figure. Jesus is to be freed from the rigidity of dogma and cult and liberated for men: an example of authentic human existence even to the extremes of ugliness, cruelty and brutality. Unlike the books on Jesus by earlier authors, the New Testament evidence here plays only a slight role. The more recent authors begin with modem man’s horizon of experience and have no intention at all of providing an authentic image of Jesus.

Against this background it is not surprising that – apart perhaps from two novels which appeared in 1970, Gunter Herburger’s Jesus in Osaka and Frank Andermann’s The Great Countenance (41) – there are now scarcely any Jesus portrayals in the form of larger literary works, in novels or plays, where Jesus is explicitly the “hero” at the center of events. On the other hand the literary forms are very varied: an abundance of ideas which frequently take form in religious genres and for their content are mostly linked with the key points of Jesus’ life – birth, passion, death and resurrection. This is seen particularly in poetry: there are impressive examples in the work of Peter Huchel and Paul Celan (42). But there are also short stories, for instance, by Friedrich Diirrenmatt and Peter Handke, plays like the Spaniard F. Arrabal’s Auto Cemetery and short prose pieces as in Gunter Grass’s novel The Tin Drum (43).

The literary techniques are as varied as the literary forms. As in other fields of contemporary literature, the traditional narrator’s standpoint appears to be superseded, as the traditional verse and strophe forms are also superseded in poetry. Instead we have reflections, alienations, refractions, parodies, travesties, associations, evocations, transferences of familiar patterns of language and ideas into a different context or finally montages of linguistic forms of diverse provenance (44) Here are three examples which are important also for their content.

Multiple refraction is used by Walter Jens to convey the presence of Jesus. From a novel, Herr Meister, he quotes a passage (subsequently deleted by the author) containing sentences from the Jesus analysis of the novel’s hero: “You supported his steps, his sweat touched you; you smelt his blood-trail and heard his terrible moaning: at first far away, then coming closer, rattling and loud, then drowned by the street-criers or the shouting of people watching at their windows, slowly dying away. And if you didn’t want to watch, if you were shut up in a room, hiding in cellars or courtyards, you must have seen his shadow glide past. The sun cast the shape of the cross upon the wall, the stones became eyes, all the walls picked up his reflection and nothing has been effaced”(45).

An example of the way in which his person is reflected in the people concerned with him is found in a short play by Ernest Hemingway. Three Roman soldiers, slightly drunk, come into a tavern late on a Friday evening. Brutally, but deeply impressed, they tell how they nailed him to the cross and lifted him up: “When the weight starts to pull on ’em. That’s when it gets ’em.” “It takes some of them pretty bad.” “Ain’t I seen ’em? I seen plenty of them. I tell you, he was pretty good in there today.” The last sentence, repeated several times, runs like a refrain through the play (46).

Alienation is achieved by Wolfgang Borchert through transference to another context. A soldier nicknamed Jesus has to lie down in graves to test their capacity for the bodies of the fallen. Despite the order he suddenly refuses to perform this service, “he won’t put up with it any longer.” “Why in fact do they call him Jesus .. . ? No particular reason. The chief always calls him that, because he looks so gentle. The chief thinks he looks so gentle. So they call him Jesus.” “‘Yes,’ said the sergeant as he got a new charge ready to blast the next grave, I’ll have to report him, we can’t do without graves.’ “(47).

Finally the literary themes and motifs are as varied as the literary forms and techniques in present-day portrayals of Jesus. Throughout all the literary epochs of the century there persists of course the theme of the returning Jesus (Jesus redivivus), beginning with Balzac and Dostoevsky, continuing with Hauptmann and Rilke, up to Ricarda Huch and Giinter Herburger (48). “Why do you come to hinder us?” These words of Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor could be put up over practically all the contem- porary portrayals of Jesus. Everywhere the time planes are telescoped in such a way as to depict Jesus as a disturbing factor of the first rank for the present-day ecclesiastical and social order: whether as in Dostoevsky he turns up in the Church as defender of human freedom or as in Hermann Hesse, the early Rilke and Bert Brecht, (49) he appears as brother and friend of the poor and oppressed. For others – from the naturalism of Arno Holz, by way of the left-wing expressionism of a Carl Einstein, to Erich Caster – he appears as a social revolutionarv (50). For Andermann he is a resistance fighter or again for Dostoevsky, Hauptmann and the expressionists he is the model of all fools, clowns and lunatics, the sufferers and God-obsessed.

From here there is a direct line to the pop scene with which we are already familiar: Jesus as a marginal figure and an outcast from Church and society, precursor of all beatniks and hippies; dream figure and synthetic art figure, projected by modern longings (whipped up by Marx, Freud and Marcuse) for liberation from any form of coercion, for an unburdened, happy life. So, for instance, in Herburger we have a democratic “Everyman”-Jesus, emancipated on all sides (in relation to a Japanese combine, a Zen master, the Pope, a television woman theologian, the rich man of capitalist society). Does he represent the pop temper of a future generation? In any case these are no more than ambiguous, utopian outlines of the future without any clear result. Even with the Dadaist Hugo Ball, Jesus was one who made men become children again; now with Herburger the Jesus who finally identifies himself with children and children’s partisans. This is a Jesus descended from the cross in order to be identified with men.

The crucified – or the empty cross? This is a central problem of the modern literature on Jesus which was stated long ago in Jean Paul’s dreadful vision of a “speech of the dead Christ from the roof of the world that there is no God” (in Siebenkäs, 1796-97) (51), admittedly in the form of a merely hypothetical warning. But its influence can be seen in Romanticism in the works of all possible “monks of atheism” (Heinrich Heine) up to Dostoevsky’s “demons.” For Dostoevsky in particular the figure of this very crucified and forsaken Christ represented a colossal temptation. After his flight from Russia to Basle, he barely avoided an epileptic fit when looking at Holbein’s dead, crucified Christ (52). This picture plays an important part in the first part of The Idiot, written three months later in Geneva. Prince Myshkin cries out in horror: “Why, that picture might make some people lose their faith” (53). The Idiot provides the early classical example of a Jesus portrayal no longer direct but indirect, poetic-transfigural, in which the Jesus event is seen – so to speak – as the concealed basic pattern behind a person, an action, a set of circumstances or a conflict. In regard to this novel Heinrich Boll admits: “I still do not know any better literary portrayal of Jesus” (54). Dostoevsky never wrote the book he had planned on Jesus Christ. But when he was dying, he asked his wife to open at random the Gospel – which had scarcely ever left his side since his release from prison – and read a page to him. He dedicated to his wife his last and greatest work, The Brothers Karamazov. It carries as a motto what amounts to Dostoevsky’s legacy:

Truly, truly, I tell you:
if a grain of wheat that falls into the ground
does not die, it remains alone;
but if it dies, it yields much fruit

Against the “blockheads” among the critics of The Brothers Karamazov, who “lack any understanding of the stubborn denial of God which I portrayed in the legend of the Grand Inquisitor and in the subsequent chapters of my novel,” Dostoevsky says: “In Europe there is not and never has been so powerful an expression of atheism. Consequently I do not believe in Christ and I do not profess this faith like a child, but my hosanna has passed through the great purgatory of doubt, as the devil says of himself in my last novel” (56).

Here too perhaps this psychologically and theologically uncannily clear-sighted author saw more deeply than others the significance of Jesus. Certainly more deeply than Andermann, who has Jesus taken down alive from the infamous cross (a touching gesture on the part of a Jew after so much suffering in the Nazi and war period). More deeply too than Herburger, whose emancipated Jesus does not want to die, ostentatiously climbs down from the cross and has it burned, so that he can be wholly a man indistinguishable from the rest of men. To the cliché of the “empty cross” there corresponds in literature the cliché of the “resurrection in ourselves” or of the “unending crucifixion” (with Marie-Luise Kaschnitz, Kurt Marti, Kurt Tucholsky) (57). This approach helps to make clear how Jesus represents human existence lived and endured to its very roots and how the key points of Jesus’ life can be understood also as the key points of our own existence. So for instance in the novel The Greek Passion by Nikos Kazantzakis (58), whose life and work were stamped by the conflict between religious theory and ecclesiastical practice in Greece: the actors in a Passion play, presented before their un-Christian village priests and the newly arrived miserable refugees, begin to identify themselves with their roles as Christ and the apostles and are therefore themselves beaten and crucified.

The Christ-Jesus antithesis has frequently become a Jesus-God antithesis. Jesus as man and brother has been set up against the sinister, cruel, often incomprehensible God. It is not least in this connection – as we observed at the beginning of this section – that in all the radical theocriticism and criticism of religion Jesus is spared and even in the midst of all talk about the death of God in literature is roused again to new life.

After this brief survey, is it necessary to insist again on how much literature can help us to understand the Jesus event? Are not the writers often more alert, perceptive and sensitive than the theologians? Literature reveals areas of language and images which translate afresh, transpose, render intelligible the Jesus event. It opens up new possibilities of confronting and reconciling our human experiences with the message of this Jesus Christ. It enables us – so to speak – to take an outsider’s view, to highlight the strangeness of what had once seemed familiar, to bring out the inexplicable in the commonplace.

A writer certainly does not want to draw an objective, historically accurate picture of Jesus, containing all the relevant details. What he seeks is
to bring out and emphasize one aspect which he thinks important, to bring  together a number of themes, to throw a clearer light on one point. Style is achieved by subjective emphasis. The writer as such is not interested in historically exact investigation. But in view of the many Christ images not only of the councils, of the devout and the enthusiasts, of theologians and painters, and also of the writers, it is the theologian who must answer the question: which portrait of Christ is the true one? To which of them should we cling in practice? The question therefore at the end of this chapter, even more than at the beginning, is: which Christ is the real Christ?



  1. Acts 11:26; cf. 26:28; 1 Pet. 4:16.
  2. Pliny, Letters X, 96 (English translations of these and other early documents will be found in either Henry Bettenson (ed.), Documents of the Christian Church, London/New York, 1943, or C. K. Barrett (ed.), The New Testament Background. Selected Documents, London, 1956, both).
  3. Tacitus, Annals XV, 44.
  4. Suetonius, Claudius XXV, 4.
  5. Cf. Josephus, Antiquities XX, 9 n. i.
  6. P. L. Berger, Invitation to Sociology, New York, 1963, pp. 85-87, London, 1966, pp. 101-4.
  7. H. Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man, Boston/London, 1964, p. 98.
  8. J. B. Metz, “Zur Prasenz der Kirche in der Gesellschaft” in Die Zukllnft der Kirche (Report of the Concilium Congress, 1970), Zuirich/Einsiedeln/Cologne, 1971, pp. 86-96. Cf. the same author, Reform und Gegenreformation heute. Zwei Thesen zur ökumenischen Situation in den Kirchen, Mainz, 1969, PP. 40-41, and “Glaube als gefahrliche Erinnerung” in A. Exeler/J. B. Metz/K. Rahner, Hilfe zum Glauben, Zurich/ Einsiedeln/Cologne, 1971, pp. 23-37.
  9. Cf. A III.
  10. Cf. A I.
  11. K. Jaspers, Die massgebenden Menschen, Munich, 1964, 19714.
  12. It is only in this way that an unequivocal answer can be given to the question of the “essence of Christianity” in the new form in which it has been raised since the Enlightenment. Otherwise, as emerges indirectly from the work of H. Wagenhammer, Das Wesen des Christentums. Eine begriffsgeschichtliche Untersuchung (Mainz, 1973), the essence of Christianity “can never be absolutely concretely grasped” (p. 256).
  13. On what follows cf. H. Küng, Menschwerdung Gottes, Freiburg/Basle/ Vienna, 1970, Chapter II, 5: “Das Christusbild der Modemen.”
  14. H. Spaemann (ed.), Was ist Jesus von Nazareth – fur mich? 100 zeitgenossische Zeugnisse, Munich, 1973. A. M. Carré (ed.), Pour vous, qui est Jesus-Christ?, Paris, 1970, served as a text for Spaemann’s survey.
  15. On the concept of the teaching office see H. Küng, Infallible? An Inquiry, New York/London, 1971, Chapter IV, ii.
  16. DS 125.
  17. DS 302.
  18. Cf. H. Küng, Fehlbar? Eine Bilanz, Ziirich/Einsiedeln/Cologne, 1973, Chapter E VI: “Die wahre Autorität der Konzilien” (with reference to the studies of H.-J. Sieben).
  19. As an introduction to the historical and theological problems see H. Küng, Menschwerdung Gottes, Excursus I–IV. In addition see the great works on the history of dogma by L.-J. Tixeront, T. de Régnon, J. Lebreton, J. Riviere, etc., and, on the Protestant side, by A. Harnack, R. Seeberg, F. Loots, W. Koehler, M. Werner, A. Adam. On the Christological problems see especially A. Grillmeier, “Die theologische und sprachliche Vorbereitung der christologischen Forynel von Chalkedon” in Das Konzil von Chalkeldon. Geschichte und Gegenwart, Vol. I, Würzburg, 1951, pp. 5-202; A. Gilg, Weg und Bedeutung der altkirchlichen Christologie, Munich, 19552; B. Skard, Die Inkarnation, Stuttgart, 1958; J. Liébaert, “Christologie. Von der apostolischen Zeit bis zum Konzil von Chalcedon” (with a biblical-Christological introduction by P. Lamanche) in M. Schmaus/A. Grillmeier, Handbuch der Dogmengeschichte, Vol. III, 12, Freiburg/Basle/Vienna, 1965; A. Grillmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition, New York/London, 1965.
  20. Cf. especially H. Küng, Menschwerdung Gottes, Excursus 11: “Kann Gott Leiden?” Also W. Elert, Der Ausgang der altkirchlichen Christologie. Eine Untersuchung über Theodor von Pharan und seine Zeit als Einführung in die alts Dogmengeschichte, Berlin, 1957.
  21. Cf. H. Küng, Menschwerdung Gottes, Excursus V: “Neuere L6sungsversuche der alten Problematik” (especially K. Rahner, H. U. von Balthasar, K. Barth, E. jiingel, D. Bonhoeffer, J. Moltmann). Important for the discussion on traditional Christology is P. Schoonenberg’s recent book, The Christ, New York/London, 1971, especially Chapter II.
  22. K. Rahner, “Current Problems in Christology” in Theological Investigations, Baltimore/London, 1961, p. 150.
  23. The classic formulation of the objections is to be found – even before the histories of dogma which followed on the work of A. Ritschl (especially A. Harnack) – in F. Schleiermacher, Christian Faith, New York/London/ Edinburgh, 1928 (German original, Berlin, 1831), 596, pp. 391-98. Recent formulations are found – on the Protestant side – in W. Pannenberg, Jesus: God and Man, Philadelphia/London, 1968, 58, and – on the Catholic side – P. Schoonenberg, op. cit., pp. 50-105.
  24. Cf., for example, W. Pannenberg, op. cit., 6, 1.
  25. It is good to see this plea confirmed by J. Ratzinger in his Introduction to Christianity (London, 1969) where he caricatures dogmatically “from above” the conclusions of the modern quest for the historical Jesus (cf, especially pp. 157-59: “A modern stock idea of the ‘historical Jesus'”). More recently however Ratzinger has expressed a wish for a book “which takes account of the present state of our knowledge as a whole of Jesus of Nazareth, of the Jesus tradition of the New Testament and of the development of the Christological dogma, and in it makes clear today the presence of Jesus Christ, the positive content of our faith in him. In saying this, I assume that the Christ in whom the Church believes and the Jesus of history, the Jesus newly discovered today (as long as it is a question of an authentic discovery), are really one and that it must be possible in principle also to describe the connection” (“Im Dienst der Durchsichtigkeit des Glaubens” in Notwendige Bucher. Heinrich Wild zum 65. Geburtstag, Munich, 1974, P. 134). In the same volume Karl Rahner – with a somewhat different orientation – asks for a “small catechism for adults” (pp. 129-32). I cannot entirely agree with the arguments of H. R. Schlette, who asks for a book “providing reasons or motives, at the present level of scholarship, to explain why Jesus – particularly Jesus –a s distinct from others is still of interest” (“Warum gerade Jesus,” op. cit., pp. 136-39).
  26. On Enthusiasm historically and in principle see H. Küng, The Church, London/New York, 1967, C 11, 4.
  27. “The Jesus Revolution” in Time, 21 June 1971; “Jesus Christ Superstar” in Time, 25 October 1971; likewise as front-page story “Jesus im Schaugescbaft” (“Jesus in Show Business”) in Der Spiegel (1972), No. 8. Out of the immense flood of articles and books in different languages the following particularly have a documentary value: H. Hoffiliann, Gott im Underground. Die religiose Dimension der Pop-Kultur, Hamburg, 1971; Jesus People Report, Wuppertal, 19722; W. von Lojewski, Jesus People oder die Religion der Kinder, Munich, 19722; W. Kroll (ed.), Jesus kommt! Report der “Jesus-Revolution” unter Hippies und Studenten in USA und anderswo, Wuppertal, 19722. G. Adler attempts a discriminating analysis in Die Jesus-Bewegung. Aufbruch der enttäuschten jugerid, Dusseldorf, 1972.
  28. Cf. A I, 3: “Humanity through technological evolution?”
  29. C. Reich, The Greening of America, New York, 1970/London, 1971, especially Chapters XI–XII.
  30. J. Frenzel, “Killer Nummer sins” in Die Zeit, 27 August 1971.
  31. F. J. Sheen, Life of Christ, New York/London, 1959.
  32. Letters of Fyodor Michailovitch Dostoevsky to His Family and Friends, New York/London, 1962, P. 71.
  33. I am grateful to Walter Jens, my colleague in Tübingen, for his firm grasp of the problems raised in this chapter and for numerous suggestions in detail. I obtained important information from K.-J. Kuschel, my collaborator in the Institute for Ecumenical Studies, who is preparing a dissertation on the image of Jesus in recent literature; cf. also P. K. Kurz, “Der zeitgenossische Jesus-Roman” in F. J. Schierse (ed.), Jesus von Nazareth, Mainz, 1972, pp. 110-34. Also K. Marti, “Jesus–der Bruder. Ein Beitrag zum Christusbild in der neueren Literatur” in Evangelische Kommentare 3 (1970), pp. 272-76.
  34. Cf. G. Bern’s poems “Requiem” and “Gedichte” in Gesammelte Werke, edited by Dieter Wellershoff, Vol. I, Wiesbaden, 1960, pp. lo and 196; R. M. Rilke, “Der Brief des Jurgen Arbeiters” in Sdmtliche Werke, Vol. 6, Frankfurt, 1966, pp. 1111-27 (for an English translation see “The Young Workman’s Letter” in Rainer Maria Rilke, Selected Works, Volume I Prose, translated by C. Craig Houston, with an introduction by J. B. Leishman, published by The Hogarth Press, London/Clarke, Irwin and Co., Toronto, 1954, pp. 67-77).
  35. G. Papini, The Story of Christ, London, 1923.
  36. J. Dobraczyriski, Listi Nikodema, 1952 (German translation: Gib mir deine Sorgen. Die Briefs des Nikodemus, Freiburg, 1962).
  37. P. Lagerkvist, Barrabas, London, 1952/New York, 1968.
  38. M. Brod, Der Meister, Gfitersloh, 1952.
  39. J. Schlaf, Jesus und Mirjam. Der Tod des Antichrist, 1901; G. Frenssen, Hilligenlei, 1905; G. Hauptmann, Der Narr in Christo Emanuel Quint, Berlin, 1910.
  40. Cf. L. C. Douglas, The Big Fisherman, New York, 1948/London, 1949; R. Graves, King Jesus, London, 19602/New York, 1967.
  41. G. Herburger, Jesus in Osaka, Neuwied/Berlin, 1970; F. Andermann, Das grosse Gesicht, Munich, 1970.
  42. P. Huchel, “Dezember 1942” in K. Marti (ed.), Stimmen vor Tag. Gedichte aus diesem Jahrhundert, Munich/Hamburg, 1965, P. 31; P. Celan, “Tenebrae” in Sprachgitter, Frankfurt, 1959, P. 23•
  43. F. Dijrrenmatt, “Weihnacht” and “Pilatus” in Die Stadt 1952, Zurich, 1962, pp. 11 and 169-93; P. Handke, “Lebensbeschreibung” in A. Grdbner-Haider (ed.), Jesus N. Biblische Verfremdungen-Experimente, Ziirich/Einsiedeln/Colo.-ne, 1972, pp. 14-15; G. Grass, The Tin Drum, London, 1962 (especially the chapter on the imitation of Christ); F. Arrabal, Autofriedhof (produced in Tubingen, 1973: no published text yet).
  44. Cf. especially K. Marti (ed.), Stimmen vor Tag; J. Hoffmann-Herreros (ed.), Spur der Zukunft. Moderns Lyrik als Daseinsdeutung, Mainz, 1973.
  45. W. Jens, Herr Meister. Dialog fiber einen Roman, Frankfurt/Berlin/ Vienna, 1974, P. 58; cf. also pp. 291–96.
  46. “Today is Friday” in The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway, New york, 1954, PP. 357-58; E. Hemingway, Men Without Women, London, 1961, pp. 198-204, especially p. 201.
  47. W. Borchert, “Jesus mach nicht mehr mit” in Das Gesamtwerk, burg, 1959, PP. 178-81•
  48. H. de Balzac, Jesus-Christ en Flandre, 1831; F. M. Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, Chapter 5, 5: “The Grand Inquisitor”; C. Hauptmann, “Hanneles Himmelfahrt” (1893) in Das gesammelte Werk 1st Section, Vol. 11, Berlin, 1942, PP. 253-300, and Der Narr in Christ, Emanuel Quint, Berlin, 1910; R. M. Rilke, “Christus. Elf Visionen” in Sdmtliche Werke, Vol. III, Frankfurt, 1966, pp. 127-69; R. Huch, Der wiederkehrende Christus. Eine groteske Erzdhlung (1926). G. Herburger, Jesus in Osaka, Neuwied/Berlin, 1970.
  49. H. Hesse, “Jesus und die Armen,” quoted by K. Marti, Jesus der Bruder, P. 273; cf. R. M. Rilke, Das Stundenbuch III, Das Buch von der Armut und vom Tode, 1903 (English translation: Rainer Maria Rilke. Selected Works, Vol. II Poetry, translated by J. B. Leishman, The Hogarth Press, London/Clarke, Irwin and Co., Toronto, 196o, pp. 88-104); B. Brecht, “Maria” in Bertolt Brecht. Selected Poems, edited by K. Wö1fel, Oxford University Press, 1965, p. 64.
  50. Cf. A. Holz, who in his Buch der Zeit (1885) called Jesus the “first socialist”; E. Kdstner, “Derr Revolutionar Jesus zum Geburtstag” in Das Erich Kästner Buch, edited by R. Hochhuth, Zurich (n.d.); C. Einstein, “Die schlimme Botschaft” (1921) in Gesammelte Werke, edited by E. Nef, Wiesbaden, 1962, PP. 353-419•
  51. J. Paul, “Siebenkäs” in Werke, Vol. II, edited by G. Lohmann, Munich, 1959, PP- 7-565; pp. 266-71: “Bede des toten Christus vom Weltgebaude herab, dass kein Gott sei.”
  52. The Diary of Dostoevsky’s Wife, edited by R. Fülop-Miller/F. Eckstein, London, 1928, P. 419•
  53. F. M. Dostoevsky, The Idiot, Heinemann, London, 1913, P. 212.
  54. H. Böll, “Glick zuriick in Bitterkeit” (on R. Augstein’s book, Jesus Menschensohn) in Der Spiegel (1973), No. 15.
  55. John 12:24.
  56. Cf. the ideas noted down from the years 1880 and 1881, shortly before his death: F. M. Dostoevsky, Tagebuch eines Schriftstellers, Munich, 1972 (2), p. 620.
  57. M. L. Kaschnitz, “Auferstehung” in Stimmen vor Tag, pp. 74-75; K. Marti, “Ihr fragt wie 1st die Auferstehung der Toten” in Leichenreden”, Neuwied/Berlin, 1969, p. 26, and in Spur der Zukunft, P. 82; Cf. also the text by K. Tucholsky printed in K. H. Deschner (ed.) , Das Christen tum im Urteil seiner Gegner, Vol. 11, Wiesbaden, 1971, p. 120.
  58. N. Kazantzakis, The Greek Passion, New York, 1954.

Tags: ,