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What Does the Text Say?
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Jack Miles
Christ, a Crisis in the Life of God (NY:  Alfred A Knopf, 2001.  332p.)

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Miles serves up a stimulating literary analysis of the New Testament as a literary unity, in contrast to textual and historical critical analysis.  This is a Christology, but not a classical philosophical construct.  Rather Miles focuses on the biblical text to discover the personality of Jesus and the concept of Christ we find in the writings of his followers in the New Testament texts.

Miles builds on a historical perspective on the growing understanding of God through history that brings us to the time of Jesus, referencing the biblical texts of the Tanakh (Old Testament).  That full story is developed in Miles' previous volume God: A Biography.

Here he investigates how this biblical portrayal of God with its radical declarations of the meaning of Jesus the Messiah created troubling questions for the more rationally and philosophically oriented worldview into which Christianity moved.  How can God be incarnate?

The conflict starts in the disparity between the Jesus of the Gospels, with whom his followers lived, and the growing conviction among his followers that this Jesus was a personality beyond time. Paul states, for instance, "God was in Christ" (2 Cor 5:19).  What did this mean? Simply put, the basic question is How God could become human.  This is the core conundrim for both followers and distractors of the new faith.

Various conflicting answers to these troubling questions gradually arose out of the philosophical maelstrom of the Mediterranean world where Christian faith finally took deep root.  We are treated to a astute and competent display of the conceptual conflicts that develop, the philosophical crisis the Miles refers to.

The title of the volume indicates the focus of the study.  Miles examines the picture that we can actually perceive from the text itself, reading the books that make up the library collection of the New Testament, in sequence.

Casual readers will be surprised to see how the actual picture in the text differ from a composite view that draws a single picture from the various glimpses of the various texts, a process which tends to be guided by our preconceptions.  When Miles actually looks at what the text says, the picture that unfolds refreshingly differs in some way from most of the "received" or "normative" views.

He investigates how the term "Christ" is used as a reference or title to the living Jesus and again is used to refer to the eternal entity identified with the "Word of God" in John's gospel or the risen Jesus.  Some keen, challenging insights arise on the meaning of the Incarnation in the composite story of the New Testament writers.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[review] A History of God
[Review] A Phenomenology of Jesus
[review] Cultural Drama in Christian Beginnings
[Review] Jewish Analysis of Christian Beginnings with Paul
[PDF] Life, Resurrection and Judgement:  the Hope of the Believing Community
[PDF] The Unity of Jesus And God In The Fourth Gospel

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Reading notes written April 2005
Amazon Review posted 31 July 2005
This expanded review posted on Thoughts and Resources 24 February 2009

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2009 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
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