Chapter 5

 

Passing Over

 

What is a vocation?  A call and a response.  This definition does not say everything: to conceive the call of God as an expressed order to carry out a task certainly is not always false, but it is only true after a long interior struggle in which it becomes obvious that no such constraint is apparent.  It also happens that the order comes to maturity along with the one who must carry it out and that it becomes in some way this very being, who has now arrived at full maturity.  Finally, the process of maturing can be a mysterious way of dying, provided that with death the task begins...there has to be a dizzying choice, a definitive dehiscence [rupture] by which the certitude he has gained of being called is torn asunder.  That which—as one says, and the word is used rightly here —consecrates a vocation and raises it to the height of the sacrifice which it becomes is a breaking of the apparent order of being, with its formal full development or its visible efficacy.         (Pierre Emmanuel, La Loi d’exode,

                                                                                                 Translation by Thomas Merton)

 

In some ways, this quotation, which caught the attention of the popular American religious writer (The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton, 1968, p.169) shortly before his death, sums up the mystery of the final weeks of Jesus’ life.  The unitive experience of the Transfiguration, for all its glory, was but the prelude to the Cross.  The brief triumph of Palm Sunday was to end in the ignominy of Calvary.  The raising of Lazarus from his tomb was to lead to Jesus’ own sojourn among the dead.

     All this brings us to a further question about the faith of Jesus.  Did his faith reach perfection in his short life?  To answer this, we have to go back and examine what faith development theory itself says and only then assess the possibilities and the probabilities on the basis of what we read in the gospels.

     One of the most controversial areas in the whole topic of faith development, is whether there is really a unitive stage beyond the fully individuated and integrated form that James Fowler has termed “Conjunctive Faith”?  The answer to that question, of course, depends a great deal on whether we are talking about a new, distinctive type of faith or simply a new deepening of what already is there.  Most often it is a case of the latter, but that it is not something that a person can bring about on his or her own initiative.  Although it may be objected that this is true regarding any growth or stage in faith, this is particularly true of this final stage.  It is a transformation of that faith that already exists, but it is a change that is brought about most of all by divine initiative.

     That the Transfiguration represents such a transforming unitive experience—at least to the apostles’ minds—there can be no doubt.  However, here again Maslow’s distinction between what is a “peak experience” and a “plateau experience”, would be useful.  True mystical experience is, almost by definition, unitive.  Still, just as a peak experience does not necessarily lead to a plateau or continuation of the same, neither does a momentary mystical transport, even one specially initiated by God, necessarily result in a constant state of conscious awareness of union with God.  Yet it would be precisely this continuing state of awareness of divine union that can be understood to be unitive faith.

     Therefore, the second question that must be faced is whether Jesus himself did arrive at this final stage of faith.  Excepting those who see the whole topic of Jesus having to possess faith as non‑negotiable, here we have to face the presumption that if he did possess faith, his faith would have been necessarily the greatest that could be possibly imagined.  In short, how could we possibly countenance any doubt about the absolute perfection of the faith of Jesus?

     Nevertheless, if we are to be consistent in our approach, basing our estimation on the gospel indications of the psychological states of Jesus, as slim as this evidence may be, then no question is out of bounds, even if we have little hope of a satisfactory answer.

     Here too we have to face the fact that there are people who, looking at the evidence these slim documents provide, have concluded that Jesus’ faith was something less than perfect, at least until just before the very end.  Such an opinion, however, must be tempered by the realization that people’s judgments are affected by their own cultural and personal values.  For example, some would see Jesus’ decision—or was it an outburst of temper?  —to cause a scene in the Temple a second time as something not only provocative but downright reprehensible.  Likewise, there is the apparent peevishness evidenced during the final week of his life in the strange little story told about him cursing a fig tree for bearing no fruit and this out of fruit-bearing season!  (See Mark 11:12‑14 and Matthew 21:18‑19a.)  Moreover, Jesus still had his own cultural limitations, remaining a Jew up to the end—even if later writings reverse the impression by giving him an anti-Semitic flavor.

     In the last chapter, it was suggested that an experience like the Transfiguration can transform faith itself in some striking, even paradoxical ways, but most of all, the transformation takes place in the psychological stance of the believer.  Fowler has described the change as a radical “decentration” from self or a state of “egolessness”.  Normally, such a transformation is effected, according to Western mystical teaching, by a “dark night of the soul” or a “night of faith”—to use the terminology adopted from St. John of the Cross.  It is generally distinguished from the more active “night of the senses” and from other forms of self‑purgation and detachment by its passive nature, in that it is not normally sought but instead inflicted.  At the most, one might prepare oneself for this trial, but to actively court it, to force God’s hand, would probably be an indication that one is still too egocentric to be an apt subject for this final purification.  Instead, the situation takes on the character of an impasse where one, in attempting to carry out the divine will, reaches a point where nothing more can be done other than to deliver oneself up to a total and uncompromising dependence upon God.

 

Self‑Abandonment and Martyrdom

 

People like to suppose that when such a total transformation or abandonment to God’s will takes place that religious fervor somehow carries persons through their trial in a burst of confidence and consolation.  We like to think that if faced with such a trial, God’s grace would bring us through the ordeal psychologically, as well as spiritually, intact.  Indeed, there are enough martyr legends coming from the early days of Christianity, as well as more recent accounts from modern times, that give such an impression.  Undoubtedly, some specially graced persons, whether martyrs or mystics, or possibly both at once, seem to pass into such a state without any perceptible sense of spiritual trial.  Still, this is rare, and, probably more apparent than real.  More likely, they have already passed through this purgation in a less perceptible way—or perhaps the accounts are simply incomplete.  It is much more usual that the person in question suffers, for a time, a sense of total abandonment by God.

     The indications and implications are clear in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ passion and death.  Consider the story of the bloody sweat in the garden of Gethsemane (Lk 22:44) and the depiction by all three synoptics of his prayer to God that he might, if possible, escape the fate that awaited him.  These point to a trial of faith that goes much deeper than popular Christian piety, formed by ages of  “high christology”, can allow.  Usually, according to these views, his “Agony in the Garden” had two causes.  One would have been his natural physical shrinking from the torments that he knew awaited him—a view that also fits in well with the approach taken by this book.  The other interpretation would have the cause of his agony to have been his divine foreknowledge.  According to this view, despite what he was about to go through, he would have already known that his suffering would fail to save all those sinners, from Judas Iscariot on to the end of the world, who would refuse to repent and continue to resist divine grace to their own damnation.  This foreknowledge, in turn, would have made his agony all the worse.

     However, even without such divine foreknowledge, we must not deny the enormity of the suffering that merely premonitions such as these would have caused.  Undoubtedly, Jesus had seen, first hand, Roman treatment of criminals before his own arrest, and with such a fate in mind, he would now particularly agonize over the seeming failure and utter futility of his mission.  Still, such an analysis of the cause of his suffering seems superficial compared to what may have really been the case.  One could suffer such dread and disappointment without one’s faith being really tested to its depths.  Yet it seems clear, from the account of his words on the cross, that he truly suffered such a test of faith.

     Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani!  (“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”)  How can we explain away such heart-rending words?  Centuries of theological debate have not reduced the puzzle or the scandal of this cry.  True, they form the opening line of Psalm 22.  No doubt, in the evangelists’ minds they conjure up the memory of this whole psalm as somehow prophesying the passion and death of Jesus, or even represent an effort to tell us what final prayers were on Jesus’ parched lips.  Yet that he was actually abandoned by God, or even thought he was abandoned, seems unthinkable.  Elaborate theories were fashioned by medieval theologians to explain how this could be, such as a suspension of his human consciousness of his unity with the Father or a momentary deprivation of his habitual enjoyment of the “beatific vision”.  That his sense of faith had reached a nadir—which was paradoxically at the same time the epitome of pure, unalloyed abandonment into the hands of the Father—seemed impossible to imagine, particularly if one rules out the possibility of Jesus having faith in the first place.

     Here we also have to face more specifically one question that we have already explored in our earlier consideration of Jesus’ predictions of his suffering, death, and resurrection.  Particularly, what are we really to think of the statement, “On the third day he will rise”?  So again, we must face, as from the onset, that this prediction, if not these predictions in their entirety, is generally considered by modern scholars to be a retrospective interpolation by the evangelists—a stock creedal formula from the earliest kerygma.  No doubt, this could be possible without destroying our view of the general reliability of the gospels.  Such an explanation also makes the incomprehension of the apostles a little more believable, since otherwise the statements that they didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about at the time sound just a trifle naïve.  More likely, they simply didn’t believe him.  Nevertheless, if Jesus made these predictions about his being delivered up and put to death, it makes more sense, psychologically speaking, as well as for the reasons outlined earlier (in Chapter 3), to hold that he also believed he would rise.

     The reason for holding this opinion is this: if Jesus had come to the conclusion that the only way his mission could be completed was through his own death, then it is only logical to believe that he, as a believer in the resurrection of the dead, also believed that his mission would be vindicated by his being raised again.  If he had come to identify in his own mind, rightly or wrongly, with the Isaian “Suffering Servant” songs, the mysterious “Son of Man” figure in Daniel, and those associated with the somewhat ambiguous popular speculation on his “messiahship”, it seems only consistent that he also would grasp at belief in his vindication through resurrection—even should he otherwise fail.

     There is an eerie parallel here to the temptations during his desert fast.  Then it seemed that two routes that promised pseudo‑success were rejected; popular demagogic ideas concerning the messiah on the one hand, and political intrigue on the other.  Perhaps the first was still possible.  The “Palm Sunday” reception in Jerusalem symbolizes the continuing temptation in this direction.  Yet the second was no longer a viable option.  He had become the implacable enemy of the establishment.  Yet a third possibility, to force God’s hand in a radical gesture of abandonment to divine providence, was no longer a seemingly suicidal “tempting of God”.  It was now being demanded of him!  If he really believed in God, and really could have been tempted by the belief that God’s angels would bear him up, “so you will not dash your foot against a stone” (Mt 4:6b, Lk 4:11b, Ps 91:12) how much more must he now face this test of faith sent to him directly as part of his God‑given mission as he now understood it?  Now it was all or nothing, and he knew it.  It was either this or the abandonment of his whole mission—or what was left of it.

     Nevertheless, there is another reason for my contention regarding Jesus’ own belief in his resurrection.  When we speak of the “faith of Jesus”, it is not simply speaking of his human trust in God.  True, this book has emphasized an understanding of faith that leans heavily toward a notion of risking oneself in radical trust, this instead of seeking consolation in doctrinal security.  Still, one has faith in a specific form, and trust in God is never intellectually content‑free.  We generally believe that God will do such and such for us and, if God cares for us and if we live our lives for God, our lives will not have been lived in vain.  The apparent failure of Jesus’ life‑mission would have been, to all appearances, complete—unless it were vindicated by something more than just a tragic memory.

     St. Paul saw this clearly, and argued in a context that was not very receptive to the idea of resurrection: “If there is no resurrection from the dead, then neither has Christ been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Co 15:12‑14).  So too, in the context of Jesus’ own beliefs, there could be no trust in God apart from the hope of his own resurrection.  To have denied this would have been the first step toward capitulation to the alternatives he had already clearly rejected—popular or political immortality, such as it exists.

     Still, like that fatalistic temptation in the desert—perhaps repeated more than once along that temple balustrade where his disciple James would be hurled to his death not many years later—death must be the ultimate test of faith.  “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down...” (Mt 4:6a).  So now, he must let himself be thrown down, to be nailed to a cross‑beam and then be “lifted up” not by the wings of angels, but by rough Roman soldiers, to die.  As for the “stone”, it would be rolled against his tomb, should he be lucky enough to be given one.

     No doubt, from an existentialist point of view, Jesus’ decision to deliver himself into the hands of his enemies can be seen only as the ultimate leap of faith, while his dereliction on the cross—his “Godforsakeness” as the German evangelical theologian, Jürgen Moltmann (The Crucified God) termed it—remains as the outward expression of what only could have been the greatest test of faith imaginable.  So too his forgiveness of his enemies and his final abandonment into the hands of God, his Father, remain the highest expressions of faith imaginable.  Beyond this, little else can be said.

     At this point, if the gospels remain silent—the Gospel of Mark reaching its climax with the death of Jesus (Mk 15:37-39) and apparently  ending (at least in the oldest manuscripts) with the startled women fleeing the empty tomb (Mk16:8).  However, before we can move to a more optimistic belief, we must first explore the meaning of death itself.  Surely, the self‑abandonment of Jesus on the cross was not the end.  However, neither could a more reflective Christianity leap to the belief in the resurrection without first understanding that a “passing‑over” must also be a passing‑through.

 

The Descent into Hell

 

The “decent into hell”, found in the Roman version of the traditional baptismal or “Apostles’ Creed”, and alluded to in the First Epistle of Peter (3:19), is a long‑neglected and widely misunderstood theme of Christian antiquity.  Indeed, it seems to have been relegated to the status of a theological curiosity kept artificially alive by the Eastern Church liturgies more than by any doctrinal concern.  Just what is the meaning of this strange, mythological‑sounding phrase?

     For one, it should be made clear that the words, at least in the present Latin version of that same creed, are “descendit ad inferus” not “infernus” (sic).  That second letter “n” makes a big difference.  The reference here is not to “hell” in the sense of “gehenna” or the place of punishment depicted in the synoptic gospels.  It is rather to sheol, the grave or “pit” of Old Testament usage.  This netherworld of the dead (the realm of “Hades”) reflects the ancient Hebrew uncertainty about the fate of the dead.  To the Jewish mentality of that time, lacking a clear concept of an immortal soul, the only possible way that a person could survive death would by its complete reversal.  Yet even here there is no Hebrew noun for the idea, only the verbal affirmation that the dead, at least those of pious memory, will “rise up (or be raised up) again”.  Hence eventually there appeared the term “resurrection”, or in Greek, Anastasia  (literally to exist or “to stand again”).

     Obviously, this belief in the resurrection of the dead was controversial, even in Jesus’ time.  The biblical first hints of the concept are found, in Ezekiel’s (37:1-14) famous vision of the “dry bones” but it is clearly meant as a symbol of the restoration of the Jewish nation.  In the book of Daniel (12:1-4), we find more than what appears to be just a literary device.  A clearly doctrinal statement comes only in 2 Maccabees (7:14), a book not accepted in the present Jewish canon of scriptures—hence termed “deuterocanonical” by Catholics and “apocryphal” by the Reformation churches.  Inter-testamental Jewish literature gives evidence that the idea was widespread, even if not universally accepted, by Jesus’ time.

     One point of debate, even among those who accepted the idea, was whether this raising up would be universal—including both the wicked as well as the good—or that instead it only applies to the good.  St. Paul’s discussion of the matter in his letters to the Corinthians and Thessalonians would seem to favor the latter opinion.  Resurrection can come about only through our mystical‑sacramental identification with Christ, and even then, it is more of a transmutation into a whole new type of existence instead of any continuation or repetition of the old.

     On the other hand, the gospel references to resurrection, especially as found in John 5:29, seem to be a resurrection to either reward or punishment.  The wicked will rise to be given their just deserts.  Hence, Jesus’ frequent allusions to gehenna, especially in the Gospel of Matthew where it appears seven times.  “The Valley of Hinnom” was the city dump of Jerusalem—where the fires burned day and night and plenty of worms were to be found.  (This same image is found at the very end of the book of Isaiah the Prophet—it is not some notion of divine vengeance unique to Christianity!)

     So what is my point?  It is this: Jesus’ belief in the resurrection, as firm as it may have been, was bound to have been not only controversial in the first place, but somewhat uncertain in specific content as well.  Clearly, like Paul, he did not see it as a continuation of our old earthly state, as can be seen from his sharp rebuttal of the Sadducees who derided the whole idea from the start.  According to Jesus, “In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Mt 22:30, Mk 12:25).  Yet, on the other hand, he seems to have taken the idea of nether-worldly physical torment as a punishment for sin as a distinct possibility.  To write off his warnings about gehenna as a mere concession to the folk‑mentality of his listeners is to take an easy way out of what has become an embarrassment to modern sophistication.  On the contrary, it may just as well have been a scandal to his hearers of that time, especially to the more sophisticated Jerusalem crowd, the Sadducees in particular—who didn’t believe in angels either.

      How could Jesus be so sure of his views?  Or was he really all that sure?  Perhaps we’ll never know.  And this is also my point in my excursion into this ancient teaching about the “descent” to the netherworld, to the grave, in death.  In his death, Jesus, humanly speaking, was giving himself up totally to the unknown.  He was experiencing in himself totally, existentially, that terror which death inspires.  Faith—in the sense of belief —is a kind of knowledge, but it is a knowledge that is sure only to the extent that it is prepared to give itself over entirely to uncertainty in trust.  As the mystical theologian, John of the Cross, wrote in The Ascent of Mt. Carmel:

 

         To come to the knowledge you have not,

         You must go by a way you know not. 

                                  (Book I, 13.11)

 

The same might be said, just as truly, about the ascent of Calvary and the descent into the grave.

     Early Christian, especially Greek and Oriental Christian theology, elaborated this “descent” theme in various ways.  One takes the form of a mythic triumphal procession, as it were, through the Gates of Hades or, more optimistically, to the “Paradise of the Fathers”, roughly equivalent to the Jewish concept of “Abraham’s Bosom”, to lead all the saints of the Old Testament to New Testament glory.  Another theme, frequently depicted in the standard resurrection icons of the Eastern Churches, is of Christ holding his cross, now as a scepter or standard of glory, leaning over to give his hand to help Adam and Eve emerge from their graves.  All this is, of course, a highly symbolic depiction of the ancient Eastern Christian Easter chant:

    

     Christ is raised from the dead, trampling death by death,

                     and giving life to those in the tomb.

 

     Here too we have echoes of an alternate theology of “original sin”.  Strictly speaking, there is no such theological term in the Eastern system: an “original fall” perhaps, but not as a “sin” properly speaking, a guilt which each of us somehow shares.  The sin of Adam and Eve is not seen so much as the cause of our dying, or even if it was seen as thus, this remains secondary to the fact that it is death itself that accounts for our sinfulness.  True, “the wages of sin remain death” (Rm 6:23), especially our eternal death, but death itself is the great unknown, and it is the fear of death that feeds our sinfulness.  Out of our fear of and futile attempt to escape death we bring upon ourselves all the ills that afflict the human race.  This was also a theme that was brilliantly expounded by the late Ernest Becker on purely psychological and sociological grounds in his 1974 Pulitzer Prize‑winning book The Denial of Death.

     Christians see that Jesus, in handing himself over totally in death, in total trust of the Father who seemed for a time to abandon him, experienced fully our often-repressed fear of death.  He gave himself up entirely to the great abyss of the unknown, of sheol, the pit, the grave, the unknown netherworld of Hades, from whence no one had ever been known to return. However, in doing so, Christ did not undergo the torments of “hell”, but instead “harrowed” or plundered hell of those destined to rise into eternal life.  This is the great underlying theme of the “descent into hell”, however it be phrased or envisioned.

     Nevertheless, despite this triumphal motif of ancient beliefs, death still haunts us.  Faith, from this point of view, is not a set of sure answers to the mystery of death.  Instead, it is a trustful, loving following of Jesus into, through, and out of the jaws of death.

 

Resurrection and Unitive Faith

    

Unfortunately, even when seen in the context of a soul‑less Hebrew anthropology, the meaning of “resurrection” took on an ancient literalness that few people can take literally today.  And, as we shall see (in the next chapter), few in the ancient non-Jewish world, or even in the Jewish world outside of the Pharisees, accepted it in any literal way.  So then, are we to reduce the concept of “resurrection” to a mere metaphor of hope for eternal life?

     If we have already explored, even if somewhat hesitantly, the hidden or deeper meanings of the words attributed to Jesus by the Gospel of John, it was partly with this question in mind.  Perhaps, in some cases, these utterances are based on the actual remembered words of Jesus.  Yet at the same time, they hardly need be.  They are, in a way, the unspoken words of the risen Christ that nevertheless shout across the barriers of time and space. Still, we must face it, these barriers are very real.

     Despite the proliferation of post‑resurrection stories in the gospel— indeed, when examined more closely precisely in view of them—we can say that Jesus did not “rise” in the sense of returning to this world.  Whatever he had hoped for, it was not some kind of resuscitation or miracle reversing the process of the grave that all, or even anyone, could see, such as reported in the raising of Lazarus.  Even in the Scriptures, no one is claimed to have witnessed the resurrection of Jesus.  Instead, they only experienced the Risen Christ.  True, we have stories of an empty tomb, but these in themselves prove nothing, nor for that matter, would the finding of his corpse, as disconcerting as that might have been.  What establishes the resurrection of Christ as fact, as history, is something that goes beyond observable happenings, something that is, again, as the Russian philosopher Nicolas Berdeyev put it, “metahistorical”, that is, transcending all ordinary states of existence.

     This is not to say that Mary Magdalene, the apostles, and the others did not really experience his presence, but we would have to understand it as an altogether “other” side of reality.  Note that in almost all the gospel accounts, at first, none of them recognized him.  Even Thomas, the doubting apostle, comes to his conclusion only after making the connection through the signs of the wounds.  Although there is a certain continuity between this person and the Jesus they knew a few days before, he comes to them from another dimension in time and space—or from even beyond them—of which we know nothing.

     Likewise, there is another curiosity regarding these accounts.  In the earliest writings, Jesus is not spoken of as “rising from the death” but as being “raised from the dead”; in other words, in the passive sense as being acted upon by God, not as somehow asserting power in his own right.  Only later, when his divinity becomes more clearly established, does the language switch more generally to the active voice.  Most scripture scholars and theologians see the former as typical of the earliest mode of christological thought which is “adoptionist” in expression, tracing a line of “ascent” from his baptism where he is revealed as God’s beloved, through Peter’s confession and the Transfiguration, where he is revealed as “the Christ”, to the resurrection, by which he is lastly revealed to be God’s “Son”.  Only the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke and a few passages in the authentic Pauline epistles depart from this rule.  So, from this point of view it must be admitted that it is God who works the transformation upon Jesus.  It is the Father himself who speaks the final word in the act of raising up Jesus from the dead—and from our perspective—brings about the final transformation of Jesus’ own faith.

     How so?  Here we must examine another puzzle in the Johannine gospel.  Although this gospel has even more detailed post‑resurrection experiences than the others have, the language is remarkably different in one important respect.  The synoptics see Jesus’ glorification taking place by means of his resurrection or, as in the case of Luke, by means of his ascension.  Instead, in John’s gospel, in the long Last Supper discourse, Jesus is pictured as speaking of his death as being the moment of his glorification.  So striking is this Johannine approach that it is almost as if the resurrection accounts are an afterthought, and that Jesus’ being raised up in death on the cross is itself the manifestation of his glory!

     This would be unexplainable unless we remember that it is in delivering himself over to death, voluntarily, in total abandonment to God, which constitutes Jesus as the Savior.  “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself” (Jn 12:32).  Again, in the account that John (11:45‑52) gives us of the conspiracy to kill Jesus, the chief priests and Pharisees are depicted as being swayed by the argument that Jesus must be eliminated, not just to save their own influence, but for the sake of the whole nation, which they rightly saw as jeopardized if the Romans were to conclude that their limited Jewish home‑rule was no longer viable.  Then, as the author takes pains to note, this was to be even more true than their leaders suspected, for through his death would be gathered “together into one the dispersed children of God.”  No doubt, this gospel emphasizes a particular irony here: several decades after the death of Jesus, the revolt of other Jewish leaders did in fact lead to the destruction of their nation and its temple cult, bringing about a new diaspora situation, wherein Jewish Christians now went out to spread the gospel to the nations.

     Someone may rightly object that none of this concerns verifiable changes in Jesus himself, but theological reflections on the image of Jesus after his resurrection, now perceived as the glorified Christ.  No doubt, this is true, yet to admit this is not to say that this is not what precisely happened.  The claim that God had raised Jesus from the dead remains controversial, to say the least.  However, in itself, a miracle of resurrection, like that claimed in John’s gospel regarding Lazarus, and oddly ignored by the synoptic writers, would prove nothing.  It would remain, perhaps, merely a curiosity, or at best, a possible motive or catalyst towards belief.  Contrary to the old saying, seeing is not necessarily the same as believing.

   There is a remarkable contemporary example.  Only a few years ago there was something of an uproar when a Jewish scholar, Pincus Lapide, entertained the possibility that Jesus actually did rise from the dead or at least that the belief that he did might represent an “authentic Jewish experience of faith” (see Hans Küng, Eternal Life?, p. 275, note 17).  To my knowledge, Professor Lapide did not later become a Christian.  The logic of faith may indeed assert that “if Christ was not raised… then your faith is in vain” (1 Co 15:17), but this statement can not be extended to claim that even if we are convinced that Christ has risen, then faith must automatically follow.  Belief in the resurrection of Jesus and a living faith are two different things.  The one has to do with what actually happened at some past point in time: the other has to do with its effects in subsequent history.

     This comment in some way takes us back to the differences between the earthly or historical Jesus and the historic Jesus as one who influences history or the “Christ of Faith”.  Jesus of Nazareth, the Jewish religious leader who lived and died in the Roman occupied province of Palestine during the reign of Tiberius Caesar was hardly noted by the historians of his time.  Yet this would‑be—at least in the eyes of his followers—Jewish Messiah was to be proclaimed before long, eventually even by the successors of these same emperors, as “the Christ”, the “Son of God”, the “King of Kings” and “Lord of Lords”, the Pantocrator—the ruler of the universe!

     In this chapter, I have tried to show how the faith that Jesus had in his own mission led him, despite the horrors that faced him, to give his life up entirely into the hands of God.  In doing so, his faith was transformed into victory.  Yet, this being said, just how this transformation of Jesus’ own faith in God and in the resurrection became the foundation for our faith in the risen Christ is another story, one that I can only begin to attempt to sketch out in the chapter that follows.