The current theological landscape is one that has its roots in the 19th century. In an attempt to discover what Jesus taught and experienced, theologians began to use methods that were only historical in nature. An emphasis was placed on the historical and cultural context in which Christ lived. Though this has its place, who Jesus was started to get lost in the shuffle. Theologians began to come to conclusions about the person of Christ that were contrary to established Christian teaching. In some cases, the theories formulated were downright hostile. It is necessary to get back to the complete picture of theology and whom Jesus is. In short, a turn to the subject to in order.
These turns are nothing new in the realm of theology, but they can take a couple different turns. One way would be almost atheistic as was the case with Ludwig Feuerbach. Feuerbach reduces theology to anthropology (a theory of human being). It became further reduced as this anthropological trend became materialistic and was reduced to a series of economic factors by Karl Marx. Though this is an extreme, it is met by an equal extreme that says history should have no bearing on who Christ is (O’Collins 162). According to O’Collins, “This was to isolate faith from history and rely on direct experience of Jesus here and now” (O’Collins 162).
These are to examples of turning to the subject, and many theologians have made this turn. Historical consciousness is an important development in this process. Historical consciousness looks at individual and group experiences, as well as cultural and historical understandings. Though the New Testament, the Gospel accounts in particular, are critical to theology and Christology and about so much more than their interpretation and historical consequence. It is necessary to go back and investigate Jesus through the eyes of the disciples. This investigation begins with the meaning of Jesus with the disciples’ experience and not with a naïve interpretation of the texts of the gospels.
The New Testament is an expression of meaning from those who had encountered Jesus. Their experience is not something that can be overshadowed or discounted as it is their experience that is one of the foundations of the Christian faith. There are some scholars today who claim that the historical Jesus became mythologized and became deity over time (O’Collins 166). Those that claim this classify Jesus as a wise man and sage, but miss the experience of what those who knew Jesus really thought.
A turn to the subject would see early examples of Jesus being called Lord. The earliest know Christian writer we have is Saint Paul who holds to a very high Christology in his writings. Regarding this O’Collins writes, “Paul, the earliest Christian writer, quotes even earlier traditions that involved a ‘high Christology’ and the worship of Jesus” (O’Collins 167). A turn to the subject is about recognizing Jesus as more than just a historical figure, but a transformative figure who radically changed the lives of those who knew him. Their witness to who he was changed the world in which we all lived, and their testimony quickly went through the known word and lives were changed.
O’Collins, Gerald. “Developments in Christology: The Last Fifty Years.” Australasian Catholic Record Apr. 2013: 161-169. Accessed December 19, 2017.