This book contains twelve lectures given at an international conference at Tantur Institute for Ecumenical Studies, Jerusalem, in 2000. As its title suggests, the focus of the book is Christology, and the contributors, several of whom are "big names" in contemporary theology, attempt to answer Jesus' provocative question (Mk 8:29) for the people of today.
The essays can be divided into three groups: biblical/historical, systematic, and pastoral, to use conventional nomenclature. Jaroslav Pelikan explores the implications of the use of negative speech in conciliar teachings, from Nicaea I (325) to Nicaea II (787). Among these implications for theological method, Pelikan highlights what he calls "lexicon of transcendence," by which is meant that "the pious skepticism of apophatic language was the most effective weapon" against "the perennial temptation of the human mind ... to claim to know more than is possible" (29). Morna Hooker warns that the New Testament's issues and questions are not identical with those of our times and therefore its answers to Jesus' question cannot be repeated without necessary hermeneutics. Gerald O'Collins selects two christological titles of Lord and Teacher from among some 130 that the New Testament applies to Jesus and argues that they are "the primary means for expressing and stimulating our knowledge of Jesus, our discipleship, and our worship of him" (60).
The systematic section opens with George Lindbeck whose essay distinguishes two opposing strands in Christology, namely, messianic (which emphasizes particularity) and incarnational (which privileges universality) and suggests that they must be reconciled. James Buckley treats the claim of Jesus' particularity, universality, and unsurpassibility and calls for an "ascetic" "rebuke" among followers of Rahner ("orthodox Nestorians") and those of Balthasar ("orthodox Monophysites"). Buckley's stratopheric language is fortunately brought down to earth by Jon Sobrino's passionate and concrete reflections on the central role of the kingdom of God in Jesus' ministry and its importance for articulating a Christology for our times marked by poverty and injustice. In the same vein Johann Baptist Metz outlines a "after Auschwitz" Christology in which "dangerous memories" take precedence over metaphysical concepts. A Christology in dialogue other religions is discussed by the next three essays. Claude Geffré, following Jacques Dupuis, proposes a "constitutive christological inclusiveness" or "inclusive pluralism" (163). David Burrell discusses the relationship of "mutual illumination" (183) between Christianity and Islam. Michael Signer studies the relationship between Jews and Christians and argues that while the former cannot enter the "ontological horizon" in which the latter confess that Jesus is God, they can and should share the "temporal/eschatological horizon" in which they can acknowledge Jesus as fully Jewish and human.
The practical aspect of Christology are expounded by Elizabeth Dreyer and Lawrence Cunningham. Dreyer attempts to retrieve the positive elements in the images of Jesus as "lover" and "bridegroom" which describe Jesus as "the reality and symbol of the intimacy that is possible between the divine and the human and the wellspring of such love among humans" (226). Cunningham discourses on the Christos Mystikos who is worshiped by the community, served in gestures of care for the needy, and discerned in the various religious traditions of the world.
All in all, the twelve essays offered here as well as the detailed and informative introduction by John Cavadini and Kathryn Johnson are thoughtful, scholarly, and well-written. I would recommend them to any graduate seminar on Christology. On the other hand, what the book (or more precisely, the international conference whose papers it collects) omits is glaring. There is no serious discussion of the enormous contributions of feminist, ecological, Asian, and African theologies to Christology. For a book that claims to answer Jesus' question to meet the challenges and opportunities presented by "the advent of the third millennium" (ix) such an omission is tragic if it be an oversight, pernicious if it reflect an ideology.