Following are some passages from Pelikan's Jesus through the Centuries:
“As even her most fervent enthusiasts acknowledge, Christian language about the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Orthodox and Catholic traditions has let itself get into great difficulties whenever it has made her an object of devotion in her own right rather than, in Dante’s phrase, as “the face that most resembles Christ’s,” who was her Son and her Lord and Redeemer. And in the Protestant traditions, on the other hand, the violent act of separating loyalty to Jesus Christ from the celebration of Mary of which it has so long been an essential partner has led not to the glorification of Him alone, as was intended, but to Christological chaos instead of Christological confession.” – Preface to the History Book Club Edition
“Everyone must acknowledge, therefore, that Christian tradition had precedence, chronologically and even logically, over Christian Scripture; for there was a tradition of the church before there was ever a New Testament, or any individual book of the New Testament. By the time the materials of the oral tradition found their way into written form, they had passed through the life and experience of the church, which laid claim to the presence of the Holy Spirit of God, the selfsame Spirit that the disciples had seen descending upon Jesus at his baptism and upon the earliest believers on the fiftieth day after Easter, in the miracle of Pentecost. It was to the action of that Spirit that Christians attributed the composition of the books of the “new testament,” as they began to call it, and before that of the “old testament,” as they referred to the Hebrew Bible. Because the narrative of the sayings of Jesus and of the events of his life and ministry had come down to the evangelists and compilers in this context, anyone who seeks to interpret one or another saying or story from the narrative must always ask not only about its place in the life and teachings of Jesus, but also its function within the remembering community.” Jesus through the Centuries, p. 10
“Very often, of course, this description of the opposition between Peter and Paul, and between law and gospel, was cast in the language of the opposition between Roman Catholicism (which traced its succession to Peter as the first pope) and Protestantism (which arose from Luther’s interpretation of the epistles of Paul). Luther’s favorite among those epistles, the letter to the Romans, became the charter for this supposed declaration of independence from Judaism.
Since then, however, scholars have not only put the picture of Jesus back into the setting of first-century Judaism; they have also rediscovered the Jewishness of the New Testament, and particularly of the apostle Paul, and specifically of his Epistle to the Romans. They have concluded, in the words of Krister Stendahl, that “in this letter Paul’s focus really is the relation between the Jews and the Gentiles, not the notion of justification or predestination and certainly not other proper yet abstract theological topics.” For such a reading of the epistle, moreover, “the climax of Romans is actually chapters 9-11, i.e., his reflections on the relation between the church and synagogue, the church and the Jewish people – not ‘Christianity’ and ‘Judaism,’ not the attitudes of the gospel versus the attitudes of the law.” Jesus through the Centuries, p. 18
“For that assertion of Tertullian represents nothing less than a new understanding of the meaning of history, and understanding according to which Jesus was not simply going to be the end of history by his second coming in the future, as a naïve and literalistic apocalypticism had viewed him, but already was the Turning Point of History, a history that, even if it were to continue, had been transformed and overturned by his first coming in the past. …During those centuries, however, it was…also the cultural significance of Jesus as hinge on which history turned and therefore as the basis both for a new interpretation of the historical process and for a new historiography.” Jesus through the Centuries, pp. 25-26
“Thus the entire history of Israel had reached its turning point in Jesus as prophet, as priest, and as king. After the same manner, he was identified as the turning point in the entire history of all the nations of the world, as that history was encapsulated in the history of the “mistress of nations,” the Roman empire. Although this was in fact a leitmotiv of the third, fourth, and fifth centuries, the most massive and most influential monument of that identification was what the author himself called in his preface his “great and arduous taks,” Augustine’s City of God. For this task of locating Jesus within world history, as indeed for the entire enterprise of interpreting the person and the message of Jesus to the Gentile world, the New Testament, as a book written chiefly by Jewish Christians, offered far less explicit guidance than it did for the specification of his locus within the history of Israel. But it did speak of his having come only in the fullness of time.” Jesus through the Centuries, p. 28
“And the clinching argument against the theory of cycles in history was the life and person of Jesus Christ: Because “Christ died for our sins once and for all, and, rising from the dead, dies no more,” it also had to be true that Plato had taught in the Academy at only one point in history, not over and over again “during the countless cycles that are yet to be.” It was the consideration of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, as an event that was single and unrepeatable and yet at the same time as a message and “mystery announced from the very beginning of the human race,” that made it possible for Christopher Dawson to call Augustine, with only slight exaggeration, “not only the founder of the Christian philosophy of history,” but “actually the first man in the world to discover the meaning of time.” Jesus through the Centuries, pp. 29-30
“The modern skeptical world has been taught for some 200 years a conception of the human nature in which the reality of evil, so well known to the ages of faith, has been discounted. Almost all of us grew up in an environment of such easy optimism that we can scarcely know what is meant, though our ancestors knew it well, by the satanic will. We shall have to recover this forgotten but essential truth – along with so many others that we lost when, thinking we were enlightened and advanced, we were merely shallow and blind.” Walter Lippman, 30 October 1941. Jesus through the Centuries, p. 76.
“The clinching argument in favor of the holiness of marriage came for Augustine from some other words of the apostle Paul: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for it…This is a great sacrament [magnum sacramentum], and I take it to mean Christ and the church.” Marriage was a sacrament of Christ and the church.” Jesus through the Centuries, p. 78
“Jesus was the only unqualified exception that Augustine would grant to the rule of the universality of original sin. There was, however, one other exception that he had to consider: Mary the Virgin Mother of Jesus. After rejecting the contention that various other saints, both male and female, had been totally sinless, Augustine continued: “We must except the Holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honor to the Lord; for from him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and to bear him who undoubtedly had no sin.” Jesus through the Centuries, pp. 80-81
“whenever devotion or speculation glorified Christ as Lord and King in such a way as to lose touch with the Man of Nazareth, Mary would become a substitute for him – human, compassionate, accessible. And then the devotion to her and the speculation about her were no longer being carried on “out of honor to the Lord.” Jesus through the Centuries, p. 81
“Because the one who by excellency of nature transcends all quantity and size and magnitude, who has his being in the form of God, has now, by taking upon himself the form of a slave, contacted himself into a quantity and size and has acquired a physical identity, do not hesitate any longer to draw pictures and to set forth, for all to see, him who has chosen to let himself be seen: his ineffable descent from heaven to earth; his birth from the Virgin; his baptism in the Jordan; his transfiguration on Mount Tabor; the sufferings that have achieved for us freedom from suffering; the miracles that symbolized his divine nature and activity when they were performed through the activity of his [human] flesh; the burial, resurrection, and ascension into heaven by which the Savior has accomplished our salvation – describe all these events, both in words and in colors, both in books and in pictures.” John of Damascus, On the Images, Jesus through the Centuries, p. 92
“Thus the God who had prohibited religious art as the idolatrous effort to depict the divine in visible form had now taken the initiative of depicting himself in visible form, and had done so not in metaphor or in memorial but in person and, quite literally, “in the flesh.” The metaphysical had become historical, and the cosmic Logos who was the true image of the Father from eternity had now become a part of time and could be portrayed in an image of his divine-human person as this had carried out the events of salvation history. The creation of Adam and Eve in the image of God had been an anticipation of the coming of Jesus the Second Adam and of Mary the Second Eve, so that the description of Christ and of his Mother could be at the same time the description of Christ and of his Mother could be at the same time the description of the true image of God in humanity. The image portrayed him in the individual specificity of his unique person, not as humanity in the abstract. Nevertheless, the humanity of his saints and of all who had been made alive in him, was a humanity suffused with the presence of divinity: it was, in this sense, the “deified” body of Christ that was being portrayed, and the most characteristic Eastern Orthodox way of speaking about the salvation granted in Christ has been to call it “deification” (theōsis in Greek, obozhenie in Russian). The iconography of the icon (to resort deliberately to an almost unavoidable tautology) was well designed to carry out both of these themes simultaneously: specificity and deification, and therefore what one of the most profound twentieth-century interpreters of icons, Evgenii Nikolaevich Trubetskoi, has called “theory of colors” or “contemplation in images.” Jesus through the Centuries, pp. 92-93
“The use of the sign of the cross, as a mark of identification and a means of warding off the power of demons, is not mentioned as such in the New Testament; but it appears very early in Christian history, and when it is mentioned it is already being taken for granted. Tertullian declares that “at every forward step and movement, at every going in and out… in all the ordinary actions of daily life, we mark upon our foreheads the sing,” and the sign of the cross became the prime evidence for the existence of an unwritten tradition that everyone observed even though it was not commanded in the Bible. Those who did not belong to the church could not help noticing the practice. The emperor Julian, whom Christians called “the Apostate” because he had forsaken the Christianity of his childhood, complained to the Christians in the fourth century: “You adore the wood of the cross and draw its likeness on your foreheads and engrave it on your housefronts…” Jesus through the Centuries, p. 96
“The Cross was believed to possess all of this victorious power because it had been the instrument for the greatest victory of them all, the cosmic victory of the power of God over the power of the devil in the death and resurrection of Jesus. “The word of the cross is called the power of God,” John of Damascus said, “because the might of God, that is, his victory over death, has been revealed to us through it.” The earliest versions of the idea had described this victory as a trick that God had played on the devil, death, and sin, the alliance of enemies who had held humanity in thrall. In one of the most striking – and one of the most problematical – of images for the trick, the devil whit his allies was depicted as a giant fish that had devoured every human being since Adam. When the humanity of Christ was cast into the pool, the fish took it to be yet another victim to be swallowed up. But hidden within this bait of the human nature of Christ was the hook of his divine nature, so that when the devil gobbled up the man Jesus in his death on the cross, he was impaled on the divinity. He had to regurgitate the humanity of Jesus, and with it all those whom Jesus had taken as his own; and death and the devil, who had taken the human race, were now themselves taken. Through the cross, therefore, liberation and victory had come.
In a more subtle and sophisticated form, this theory of the cross became the metaphor of Christus Victor, which Gustaf Aulén made the title of a controversial book on the meaning of the cross. Here, in what Aulén does not hesitate to call the “classic” theory of how the cross saves, the cross became the sign of God’s invasion of enemy territory and of the “wondrous battle [mirabile duellum]” by which Jesus Christ had accomplished the salvation of the human race. Shedding the cruder aspects of the earlier metaphor of deception, the theme of Christus Victor nevertheless retained the interpretation that the enemies of God and man were the ones with whom Christ on the cross had to contend. The death of Christ on the cross was therefore his capitulation to those enemies and to their power, before which he made himself weak. But he took those enemies into the grave with him. In the resurrection Christ was set free from their power, but they remained behind in the grave. Although this interpretation of the cross as the power of God was more prominent in the Greek East than in the Latin West, it was never lost even in the West; and, according to Aulén, the Reformation revived it…
As the act of divine power manifest in Christus Victor, the cross was interpreted as the enactment, in the arena of the cosmos and of world history, of the dramatic battle between God and the enemies of God over the future of humanity. Whatever its theological advantages or disadvantages may have been, this theory of the atonement had the advantage, in relation to the art and music of the Middle Ages, of being able to connect the cross with the resurrection as two parts of a single action. In the liturgical music of the Middle Ages, that connection took the form of setting Good Friday and Easter into the greatest possible contrast: Good Friday was the only day in the church year when the sacrifice of the Mass was not celebrated, because on that day it was the original sacrifice of the cross on Calvary that was to be commemorated. Following a tradition that went back at least to Origen in the first half of the third century, medieval art depicted the crucifixion as having taken place on the very place where the skull of Adam was buried; and the processions and the liturgical drama of the Middle Ages kept the motif of Christus Victor alive even when Latin theology was no longer able to deal with it adequately because of its preoccupation with interpreting the death of Christ as an act of satisfaction.” Jesus through the Centuries, pp. 99-101
“Abelard’s critics found such language [i.e. “to reveal the love [of God] to us or to convince us how much we ought to love him ‘who did not spare even his own Son for us] about the wisdom of the cross not so much incorrect as inadequate. Of course Christ crucified was an example of patience, everyone would agree; and no one would deny that the cross of Christ was the supreme revelation of the love of God, and indeed the very definition of love, whether divine or human. The question was whether this language exhausted the wisdom of the cross or whether a more profound consideration of the cross would lead to some other way of thinking and speaking about it. That other way found its definitive formulation in one of the most influential works of medieval thought, Why God Became Man (Cur dues homo) by Anselm of Canterbury. More than any other treatise between Augustine and the Reformation on any other doctrine of the Christian faith, Anselm’s essay has shaped the outlook not only of Roman Catholics, but of most Protestants, many of whom have paid him the ultimate compliment of not even recognizing that their version of the wisdom of the cross comes from him, but attributing it to the Bible itself.” Jesus through the Centuries, pp. 106-107
“Throughout his life Francis identified himself with the events of the suffering of Christ – so much so that it would probably be possible to reconstruct almost the entire Gospel history of the Passion from the individual scenes in which Francis has been depicted as a participant. “Christ hung upon his Cross, poor and naked and in great pain,” Bonaventure writes, “and Francis wanted to be like him in everything.” Jesus through the Centuries, pp. 139-140
“In the words of Beatrice to Dante that follow, Mary is “the rose in which the divine Word was made flesh,” but like all other flowers in the divine “garden,” she, too, “blossoms under the rays of Christ,” not finally of her own powers.” Jesus through the Centuries, p. 150
Labels: 2007, History, Quotations