Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quotation

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Contents

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pp. ix-x

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Preface

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pp. xi-xii

There are innumerable books about Jesus. The reason is obvious: we can never finish with him, and every age must encounter him anew. Some of the many Jesus books are very good. Some are very bad. The bad ones are bad because they are far from understanding that the real “historical Jesus” cannot be grasped independently of faith in him. ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xiv

This book is dedicated to the memory of Father Heinrich Bacht, SJ (1910–1986), in gratitude. He was professor of fundamental theology at the St. Georgen College of Philosophy and Theology in Frankfurt, and it was he who showed me the path to priesthood. ...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xv-xvi

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Chapter 1: The So-Called Historical Jesus

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pp. 1-23

Why is it that new books on the historical Jesus appear almost every year? Why aren’t the gospels enough for Christians? It must have something to do with the curiosity of Western people and their eagerness to know “the facts.” They want to know how it really happened. ...

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Chapter 2: The Proclamation of the Reign of God

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pp. 24-38

If we want to talk about Jesus—what he wanted, and who he was—we must speak first and above all about the reign of God. The expression “reign of God” is less familiar than “kingdom of God,” the phrase used most commonly in biblical translations, including the New Revised Standard Version. ...

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Chapter 3: The Reign of God and the People of God

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pp. 39-58

The preceding chapter showed that for Jesus the coming of the reign of God was no longer something in the distant or near future but something that was happening already, now, in the present hour. Rescue, liberation, salvation—for Jesus it had all irrevocably begun. ...

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Chapter 4: The Gathering of Israel

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pp. 59-71

In the preceding chapters I have already spoken more than once about Jesus’ “gathering of Israel.” It is high time to take a closer look at that idea, because it is not at all clear what it means. “The gathering of Israel” is not one of the classic theological concepts. ...

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Chapter 5: The Call to Discipleship

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pp. 72-85

How do the gospels picture the beginning of Jesus’ work? Often the beginning discloses everything that will come after. Is the first thing a sermon that summarizes what Jesus wanted? Or a healing story? Or a symbolic action like that in the temple? ...

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Chapter 6: The Many Faces of Being Called

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pp. 86-99

Jesus called people from Israel to follow him. He gathered disciples around him. The call to these disciples to follow after him and to place everything, without reserve, in the service of the reign of God must have accompanied his preaching from the very beginning. ...

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Chapter 7: Jesus’ Parables

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pp. 100-120

It is impossible to talk about Jesus without mentioning his language—not whether he spoke Aramaic, and also Hebrew or Greek. That question can be quickly answered: in Galilee, that is, where Jesus grew up, people spoke a West-Aramaic dialect. ...

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Chapter 8: Jesus and the World of Signs

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pp. 121-127

Jesus didn’t just talk. He didn’t just announce the reign of God. He acted not only through words but just as intensively through gestures, symbols, and signs. Obviously, language itself is a system of signs, but this chapter is about Jesus’ physical conduct, which surprisingly often was concentrated in formal “symbolic acts.” ...

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Chapter 9: Jesus’ Miracles

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pp. 128-152

Human words have enormous power. They can tear down or build up. They can gather and scatter. Words can thrust the world into deep distress, and they can give rise to an unending sequence of events. Once the concept of human rights was put into words it could no longer be banished from history. ...

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Chapter 10: Warning about Judgment

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pp. 153-165

To this point in the book we have spoken almost exclusively about the holiness of the reign of God that transforms the world. In the words of Jesus, in his parables, and above all in his deeds of power, this new and self-transforming world is presented again and again to our eyes. ...

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Chapter 11: Jesus and the Old Testament

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pp. 166-189

The title of this chapter conceals some problems. First of all, at the time of Jesus the Bible was not defined in the same way as it was later, through the definitive Jewish and Christian delimitations of the canon. The Pharisaic canon of sacred writings did play a decisive role already, ...

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Chapter 12: Jesus and the Torah

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pp. 190-215

Around the year 165, the philosopher and theologian Justin was executed in Rome, by the Roman state, because of his Christian faith.1 He came from Neapolis (today’s Nablus) in Samaria, became a Christian, and was then a renowned theologian of the second century. ...

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Chapter 13: The Life of Jesus: Living Unconditionally

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pp. 216-229

In the previous twelve chapters we were concerned primarily with “what Jesus wanted.” “Who he was” was indirectly visible. From now on, the second part of this book’s subtitle will be more in the foreground. Who was Jesus? ...

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Chapter 14: The Fascination of the Reign of God

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pp. 230-244

Where does anyone get the strength for discipleship such as Jesus demands? Is someone who abandons profession, house, and family not living contrary to every measure of humanity? Can anyone live that way? How did Jesus himself deal with such a life? Or did he? ...

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Chapter 15: Decision in Jerusalem

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pp. 245-256

Jesus’ whole existence was for the sake of the reign of God. That reign is not something vague and nebulous. Jesus was working toward the eschatological restoration of Israel, so that the reign of God might have a place. ...

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Chapter 16: Dying for Israel

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pp. 257-268

Skepticism and inability to understand the idea of atonement are widespread, not only in society, but also in many church circles.1 At least in Germany the word “atonement” does not appear in newer prayers and hymn texts. We may say there is resistance to any formulation that alludes to atonement. ...

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Chapter 17: His Last Day

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pp. 269-287

It is impossible to write a life of Jesus with the fullness and linkage of events required by a biography. The gospels do not provide the material—with one exception, namely, Jesus’ last day. That can be rather precisely reconstructed on the basis of the passion account in Mark’s gospel. ...

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Chapter 18: The Easter Events

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pp. 288-307

This book is about Jesus’ public life: What did he do? What did he want? Who was he? Is it even permissible to introduce the Easter events into this context? Shouldn’t we stop with Jesus’ death? Doesn’t something completely different begin with his resurrection—something that can only be grasped in faith? ...

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Chapter 19: Jesus’ Sovereign Claim

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pp. 308-328

This chapter was originally to be titled “Jesus’ Self-Awareness,” but I erased that. “Self-awareness” is too close to “self-assurance” or “self-importance,” and if we scarcely dare to say anything about the innermost thoughts of people around us we most certainly can say nothing about Jesus’ self-awareness and “inner life.” ...

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Chapter 20: The Church’s Response

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pp. 329-347

The church confesses and teaches: Jesus Christ is true human and true God—the latter, of course, in full unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit. It has said that not just since the Council of Chalcedon in the year 451.1 The New Testament says the same. ...

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Chapter 21: The Reign of God: Utopia?

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pp. 348-357

I spoke of Jesus’ proclamation of the reign of God at the beginning of this book (chap. 2). But that subject then continued like a scarlet thread through every chapter. It was for the reign of God that Jesus lived. For its sake he gave his all. He spoke of nothing else. It was for that end that he began to gather Israel. ...

Notes

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pp. 358-381

Index of Biblical Citations

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pp. 382-391