by Jose A. Pagola
Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.
In the opening lines, Jose Pagola, asks the question “Why have I written this book?” He answers it in the same way I would: “This is not a new idea for me. I have always felt the need to spread the word of his person and His message. I am convinced that Jesus is the best we have in the Church and the best we can offer today to modern society……Jesus is the best that humanity has ever produced.” His study of the historical Jesus should not be confused with a study on the Christ of faith in whom we Christians believe.”
The author points out that his study of the historical Jesus should not be confused with a study on the Christ of faith in whom we Christians believe. The reason for historical research is that if we believe in Jesus as the Son of God incarnate in our own history, how can we not use all the methods available to us to understand better his historical dimension and his concrete human life. Our faith itself demands it. Historical research can awaken in many people an attraction, interest and admiration for Jesus. This kind of research can help renew the faith of believers in Jesus Christ. This research brings us a flesh and blood Jesus that makes his humanity concrete and alive.
The author has followed the criteria of historicity most widely accepted by scholars: the criterion of difficulty, as a measure of plausibility, of multiple testimony, of coherence. The important thing is to try to grasp the essential; the basic profile of Jesus; the most common characteristics of his activity, the content and thrust of his message. The author tries not to be tied to the personal reconstruction of even a highly respected author. Scholars in recent years have designed different models of Jesus, such as the social reformer, the itinerant cynic, the eschatological prophet, the wisdom teacher, and the pious charismatic. The author does not find his work of historical research at all incompatible with his faith in Jesus Christ. The first thirteen chapters bring the author nearer to ‘modern’ Jesus by tracing his principal features step by step: 1. Galilean Jew, 2.resident of Nazareth 3. Seeker of God, 4. Prophet of the reign of God, 5.poet of compassion, 6. Healer of life, 7. Defender of the least of these, 8.friend of women, 9.teacher of life, 10.creator of a renewal movement, 11. Faithful believer, 12.troublemaker and endangerer, 13.martyr of the reign of God. Chapter 14. does not cover everything we Christians confess about Jesus Christ, raised by the Father from among the dead. Chapter 15. briefly evokes the work that Christians must still begin, starting with their experience of the risen Christ, in order to deepen their understanding of Jesus’ identity.
The purpose of this book is not to unravel the complex paths of the early development of Christological faith. It is to help readers discern some of the first steps taken in the Christian communities to deepen the mystery that lies within Jesus. The gospel writers were re-reading the story of Jesus in the light of the risen Christ, in order to deepen their understanding of his person, activity and message. There is also a summary of the efforts of the early Christians to find who Jesus is, capable of expressing his true identity. The author believes that knowledge/love of Jesus happens when we begin to trust God as he did when we believe in love as he did, when we come to suffering people as he did, when we defend life as he did, when we look at people as he did, when we confront life and death with hope as he did, when we pass on the contagion of the Good News as he did.
The author presents the information in a very readable manner. It is beautifully crafted and for those who have a deep interest in understanding/knowing/loving Jesus Christ.