Reviews - What do customers think about The Identity of Jesus Christ?
The play's the thing... Jan 16, 2004
Hans Frei never achieved the recognition of being a 'great' theologian of the twentieth century -- being a perfectionist, his output was slow and sparse, particularly in comparison to heavyweights such as Barth, Tillich or Rahner. Frei did have the virtue of not fitting into traditional modes of thinking, having a feeling that much of theological and biblical scholarship deriving from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, from liberal to conservative and fundamentalist, was fundamentally on the wrong track.
Frei's influence on fellow theologians is significant, particularly in postliberal and narrative theological schools of thought. (Narrative theology is a the theological movement with which I am most intrigued at present.) Frei doesn't see the authority of scripture as consisting either in its historical accuracy or in its role as 'life's little guidebook' as some would make it out to be. The stories, the narratives, are key to Frei. However, these must be treated with care, not simply as historical 'chunks' or as mere fables or fairy tales with a moral. Jewish rabbinical tradition has remained more true to the narrative aspect than the Christian tradition has, Frei argues.
Too much of Christian theology starts from the wrong basis, Frei contends. They start with overarching principles or grounded-in-the-present guidelines that try to relate the text either to the present day in artificial ways or to an historical situation of which we have very little knowledge and even less direct experiential access. Perhaps Shakespeare's pronouncement that 'the play's the thing' serves as a good encapsulation -- one must begin with the stories, the narratives, the play, and be led from those, rather than trying to fit them into preconceived notions of existential or philosophic paradigms.
This particular text, 'The Identity of Jesus Christ', first appeared as an article in 1967, only later being reprinted as a book. It sets forth a Christology based on Frei's narrative principles. This essay reaffirms a sharp distinction between dogmatic theology and apologetics; it also affirms Frei's belief that there is no single path, theoretically or practically, to Christianity. That the logic of Christian belief does not require a certain ordering is not to say that it cannot be described, and this is key to Frei's thought -- description is very important, often more important that explanation or intellectual justification. Frei respects the plurality of human experience and the diversity inherent in scripture and the interpretations possible by describing his methods as one possible way, but not necessarily the only way toward understanding the scripture and the presence of God.
There is no single strand of thought even within the school of narrative theology. Other theologians such as Ricoeur, Hauerwas, Niebuhr, Crites and MacIntyre have different emphases and concerns in the development of narrative. While Frei was familiar with and interacted with these, they are not explicit in this text; however, their influence is unavoidable, and at different places one can see responses to others' concerns being addressed. This text is not simply for other theologians, despite Frei's influence being almost exclusively within the province of professional theology -- this is a text that calls for faithful discipleship, based on the narrative reading bringing forth the presence of Jesus Christ in the life of congregation.
In re-emphasising the importance of scripture apart from particular theological and hermeneutic frameworks, Frei's contribution to the ongoing process of theology will be felt for a long time to come.
Contributes Significantly to the Discussion Sep 26, 2003
As he so often did, Dr. Frei argued in this book for the primacy of the received form of the Biblical text as the foundation for all Christology and other Christian theologies. In so doing, he implicitly declared that speculative systematic theology, Biblical archeology, and history were admirable, but secondary endeavors, which must be subordinated to the study of the Holy Scriptures, especially the New Testament.
Dr. Frei argued, brilliantly, that theology is derivative from the canonical form of the text, rather than the interpretive principle by which we judge the Scriptures. In so doing, like Luther, this man of God wrested the Bible out of the hands of the clerics and academics, and gave it back to the people.
A joy to read Jan 13, 2003
Frei is best known for his work on narrative theology, particularly for his work "The Eclipse of the Biblical Narrative". Written almost 20 years ago, "Eclipse" is still being used in seminary curricula and its effect has not diminished. With "Identity", the reader will be able to see Frei using the argument in "Eclipse" with reference to the person of Christ. Interesting enough, this book was actually written prior to "Eclipse".
The argument of this book is essentially this: to know the identity of Christ, the particular person who is Jesus of Nazareth, is to know his "real" presence. This astonishing claim is central to the text. It is up to the reader to determine his success.
Some may find Frei to be difficult to read; it took me taking a course and essestually being forced to read him that I was able to finish it, but it was well worth it.