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IMAGES OF LIBERATION: JUSTIN, JESUS, AND THE JEWS HOW DO THE various things a theologian says hang together? What sort of coherence is to be sought in the writings of a theologian? If these questions are asked descriptively, then the answer must be that different theologians in different periods have achieved .coherence and unity in quite different ways. The writings of Karl Rahner and those of Martin Luther each come together to form comprehensive visions of the Christian life and message; yet the two differ not just in the content of their vision, but also in the ways the varying things each says interrelate to form coherent unities. When we approach the writings of a theologian and ask what sort of coherence and unity holds together the various things said, we must be open to the many forms coherence and unity can take. The search for coherence and unity can be specially difficult with some of the early Fathers. If one's paradigm of theological coherence and unity is Aquinas or Schleiermacher, the writings of Justin Martyr or Ignatius of Antioch may seem to be a welter of implausible connections and hidden contradictions. The problem, however, might be more in the choice of paradigm than in the writings themselves. One might conclude that Justin or Ignatius is playing Aquinas' game poorly, when in fact they are playing a subtly different game. A mistake in soccer is not necessarily a mistake in rugby. We may decide that soccer is a better game than rugby, but that decision can only be made when we see that rugby is not simply soccer poorly played. In this essay I will ask what unity and coherence can be found in the statements of one patristic theologian, Justin Martyr, on one particular topic, the redemptive significance of 5H JUSTIN,. JESUS, AND THE JEWS 513 Jesus. My argument is that at the center 0£ Justin's understanding 0£ Jesus as savior is neither a theory nor a single controlling motif, but a set 0£ images which interpret the central Christian narratives. These images are not deployed at random , but fall into patterns 0£ mutual interpretation. As these patterns are laid bare, the peculiar unity and coherence 0£ what Justin has to say on this subject will become clear. This analysis is not disinterested. ' System ', ' theory ', and 'concept' have not been universally popular terms in modern theology. A return to a greater concentration on image and, more recently, on narrative has been called £or. Can contemporary theologians learn something from Justin about the possibilities and dangers 0£ a greater focus on image and narrative , especially in Christology? This essay will show that they can, especially in connection with certain images prominent in Justin and the New Testament and prominent again today. The essay has three parts. In the first part, I will develop some very formal interpretive tools with which to approach Justin. In the second part, Justin's discussion 0£ Jesus's redemptive significance will be examined. Finally, some inherent dangers in Justin's soteriology (and any structurally similar one) will be examined. These dangers come to light in Justin's harsh statements about .Jews. I As I have already intimated, Justin does not have a" theory 0£ atonement " 0£ an Anselmic sort. Rather, as with many early Fathers, we meet in Justin's writings an initially bewildering variety 0£ images and metaphors that embody his interpretation 0£ Jesus. First or even second glance does not uncover any comprehensive structure organizing these images. What is the interpreter to do in the face 0£ this variety? Simply repeating that the early Fathers were not systematic theologians is not enough. We must ask whether apparently divergent and merely juxtaposed statements are structured in 514 MICHAEL ROOT ways not the less subtle for being different from those of Barth or Calvin. But how do we dig out whatever structures of coherence might lie within Justin's discussion? We will need interpretive tools that are sufficiently formal so that they will be open to the unexpected and yet sufficiently concrete to provide guidance. A first step in the development of such tools is the recognition that the touchstone to which all...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 512-534
Launched on MUSE
2017-05-15
Open Access
No
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