Saturday, 27 June 2015

opinion

Ian Paul asks What did Jesus look like?

The Patriarch of Constantinople and the Archbishop of Canterbury New York Times Climate Change and Moral Responsibility

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 27 June 2015 at 11:40am BST | TrackBack
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What did Jesus look like? Isaiah 53 says "there is no beauty that we should desire him." This description doesn't mean that he was homely or ugly just that he would appear as a common man. That'll do, won't it. Charlton Heston did look the part of Moses though!

Posted by: Pam on Saturday, 27 June 2015 at 12:49pm BST

If decisions with moral implications are driven by the tidal scale of capital transfer and speculative markets for profit... then arguably moral responsibility logically implies the overthrow of an economic imperialism which treats working communities as commodities, wreaks havoc at land and at sea, pillaging the planet, destroying countless species' habitats, and driving decisions with the end of channelling profit for the few at the expense of the labour of the money.

The resources of the world belong to ALL the peoples, and animals, of the world... not just the few.

So when raising terms like 'moral responsibility' I think one needs to be cautious about avoiding veneer and deckchair arranging, when in truth it is a whole system that needs challenge, resistance, and ultimate replacement.

Sometimes, religious establishments can seem embedded and cosied up in relationships with the capital establishment and privileged few. This is not to repudiate Justin Welby's efforts, but to suggest that the morals of climate change tend to be overridden by the alleged moral imperatives of profit and the markets.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Saturday, 27 June 2015 at 1:06pm BST

What did Jesus of Nazareth look like?
I have no idea what mass migrations of people, influx or outflow of different groups, occurred in what was then Judea, Galilee, etc., in the last 2,000 years, but I've always assumed Jesus looked like a present-day Palestinian.
I guarantee he didn't look like Max von Sydow or Jeffery Hunter.
In the sprawling novel "Ben Hur", the author Lew Wallace describes Mary, the mother of Jesus, as having the fairest auburn hair and blue eyes. Which I strongly doubt, unless Joseph travelled to Nazareth, Norway.

Ian Paul's close sums it up nicely:
"like the first generations of Christians, we can express who Jesus is in our own cultural terms—as long as we recognise that this is what we are doing, and allow others to express him in their cultural terms as well."

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Saturday, 27 June 2015 at 9:08pm BST

But Isaiah wasn't describing Jesus's appearance. He was writing a long time before the incarnation.

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Saturday, 27 June 2015 at 11:06pm BST

What did Jesus look like? Isaiah 53 says "there is no beauty that we should desire him." This refers to our lord on the cross.

Posted by: robert ian williams on Sunday, 28 June 2015 at 7:46am BST

Point taken, Simon Kershaw. But, really, do physical characteristics have anything to do with the kind of love Christians have for Jesus? I do like to think I'd pass Jesus in the street without a second glance. If he was speaking, that would be a different matter.

Posted by: Pam on Sunday, 28 June 2015 at 7:47am BST

Has Ian Paul read Rowan Williams' small - but significant - book of reflections on icons of Christ (The Dwelling of the Light - Canterbury Press)? His final piece in that book on Miriam Fortunatis's icon in the chapel of Westcott House explores the question Ian Paul has posed with a remarkable degree of insight, rooted (of course) in the author's deep immersion in the breadth of the Christian tradition.

Posted by: Will Richards on Sunday, 28 June 2015 at 10:58am BST

The passage of Isaiah is a prophetic vision of Jesus on the cross.

Posted by: robert ian williams on Sunday, 28 June 2015 at 1:50pm BST

RIW -- The writer of Isaiah may or may not have thought that he was prophesying a messiah in the person of Jesus of Nazareth; or conversely Jesus of Nazareth may or may not have been conscious of Isaiah's words and applied them to himself, or considered them to apply to himself; and we may or may not believe some or all of this.

But I don't think it's an article of the faith that we must believe that Isaiah was prophesying the physical appearance of Jesus of Nazareth.

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Sunday, 28 June 2015 at 4:52pm BST

Pam -- yes, I agree. The gospel writers presumably did not think that Jesus's physical appearance was of any relevance whatever. What he said and what he did were what mattered.

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Sunday, 28 June 2015 at 4:53pm BST

Significantly, mainstream Jewish exegesis has never regarded Isaiah 52/53 as a Messianic text.

Posted by: Simon R on Sunday, 28 June 2015 at 6:29pm BST

Thank you, Simon R on Sunday, 28 June 2015 at 6:29pm BST.
And some of us get tired of certain Crhistians seeing the entire Jewish Scriptures (aka "the Old Testament") as nothing more than an "upcoming preview and highlights" extended movie trailer of Jesus of Nazareth's life and mission.
The Jewish Scriptures stand on their own.

"The writer of Isaiah may or may not have thought that he was prophesying a messiah in the person of Jesus of Nazareth; or conversely Jesus of Nazareth may or may not have been conscious of Isaiah's words and applied them to himself" -- Spot on, Simon Kershaw.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Sunday, 28 June 2015 at 9:36pm BST

"The Jewish Scriptures stand on their own."

Well yes, they certainly do if you're a Jew. If you're a Christian, however, you read the Hebrew Bible within a tradition and an 'interpretive community' that interprets the Old Testament through the New (or, more accurately, through the person of Jesus). That's not the only valid way of reading the Old Testament, of course, but it is the reading strategy that Christians have adopted from the very earliest times.

What Isaiah 53 might mean in its own context is an interesting question for scholars of the Hebrew Bible, albeit one for which there will never be any satisfactory answer (we can never know for certain what texts meant to the communities that produced them). Likewise, we'll be very interested to know what our Jewish neighbours and friends make of the passage. But as Christians, I think it is a strategy responsible to our tradition to embrace the interpretation suggested by Pam and RIW. The point that the text of Isaiah predated the Incarnation is as irrelevant as it is obvious.

Posted by: rjb on Monday, 29 June 2015 at 3:41am BST

For me, Isaiah 52:13 prophetically uses the term "my servant" as a description of Christ. Isaiah 53 then follows the story of the "suffering servant". For me, that is Jesus. And for countless others, I suspect. Reading Scripture is a great delight and the Old Testament and New Testament are equally important.

Posted by: Pam on Monday, 29 June 2015 at 9:45am BST

"For me..." @Pam. I may be wrong, but I read in this repeated 'for me' the conviction that the interpretation of Scripture is an entirely personal matter. But to interpret Scripture in isolation from the corporate, historic experience of the Church - and, in the case of the Hebrew scriptures, the consensus of Jewish scholarship - is surely the way of the fundamentalist. How many jihadis have read the Qu'ran and concluded 'for me...'? If Judaism has never regarded Isaiah 53 as a Messianic text, shouldn't Christians be a bit more rigorous before jumping to too quick a conclusion about it in the light of NT Christology?

Posted by: Geoff Jones on Monday, 29 June 2015 at 1:44pm BST

peterpi/Peter Gross is Jewish, so that part of him gets fed up with systematic Christian appropriation of the Hebrew Bible. Very understandable.

But what if as a Christian one doesn't believe in prophecy? (I don't.) Then there are various possibilities: the interest in observing the developing Christian tradition of interpretation; the 'objective' parallels between Isaiah's suffering servant and Jesus; the probability ('pace' SK and GJ) that Jesus applied the Isaiah passages to himself and acted to some extent according to that 'script'.

Posted by: John on Monday, 29 June 2015 at 4:25pm BST

Two articles have elicited sixteen comments; but only one on the issue of climate change, so far. Sigh. Pope Francis, Archbishop Welby, and the Orthodox Patriarch are attempting to provide moral orientation on the the most crucial issue facing the planet; but if only we had a selfie of Jesus. Good to have our priorities in order.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Monday, 29 June 2015 at 7:13pm BST

@Geoff:
"But to interpret Scripture in isolation from the corporate, historic experience of the Church"

How can you say this as a Protestant* (I'm assuming you are, posting on a liberal Protestant site)?

*Yes I know there's a bazillion different types of "Protestant" within Anglicanism

"and, in the case of the Hebrew scriptures, the consensus of Jewish scholarship"-By definition I"m not sure how Jewish interpretation of the scriptures that dates from the rabbinic era to the present (i.e. after the split with Christianity) should be or is normative for Christians.

Posted by: Amanda Clark on Monday, 29 June 2015 at 9:56pm BST

We're told in several gospel passages that Jesus took his early followers on tours of the scriptures and pointed out to them 'the things concerning himself'.

Given that the New Testament authors seem to agree in interpreting Isaiah 53 in this way, it seems inconceivable to me that this chapter was not part of this tour.

Since I accept the historic Christian belief that Jesus is the Word of God 'par excellence', and that he is therefore the authorized interpreter of the scriptures, I'll continue to approach Isaiah 53 in this way, while being aware, of course, that Jewish interpreters naturally don't make the same connection.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Monday, 29 June 2015 at 10:22pm BST

Geoff Jones - your reading of the "for me" in my comment was both right and wrong. Sorry! My reading of scripture is personal. Everything about my faith is personal. But I also belong to a body of believers (even though this is hard going at times). I believe Jesus wants a personal relationship with each of us, ideally through a body of believers.

Posted by: Pam on Monday, 29 June 2015 at 11:03pm BST

Rod Gillis has got it in one. There's a very good 'Reply to Pope Francis' on Stephen Cherry's blog (stephencherry.wordpress.com).

Posted by: Simon R on Tuesday, 30 June 2015 at 4:21pm BST

Rod - mea culpa, you're right of course.

Mind you, the same thing happened with this article a week or two ago: http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/006987.html

Four comments on climate change. Forty on the following article, about the Nottingham tribunal, and twenty on the previous one, about the new bishop of Richmond.

But, as someone pointed out to me a while back when i made a similar observation, maybe this means that most people are in agreement with the general thrust of the post. Hey, we're human, so we prefer to post our disagreements than our agreements!

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Tuesday, 30 June 2015 at 7:04pm BST

Just for the record @Amanda Clark, I am not a Protestant. I am an Anglican - and one who values the Catholic ethos of Anglicanism - hence my concern that Scriptural interpretation belongs to the whole body of the Church rather than isolated individuals.

Posted by: Geoff Jones on Tuesday, 30 June 2015 at 9:22pm BST

"Two articles have elicited sixteen comments; but only one on the issue of climate change, so far. Sigh."

I agree with Tim that this usually means that people are in agreement with a post.

But there's also another point worth making. Those of us engaged with climate change can be active in a number of political spheres and pressure groups whose sole purpose is to effect a change in society and politics. Church isn't really a useful place for this.

We comment here on church internal matters because they're the only ones the church can actually change on its own.

There is only so much time in a day for campaigning and it makes sense to focus ones efforts on where they are most likely to have positive results.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 1 July 2015 at 11:35am BST

@ Erika

"Those of us engaged with climate change can be active in a number of political spheres and pressure groups whose sole purpose is to effect a change in society and politics. Church isn't really a useful place for this."

You're kidding me, right?

Posted by: Rod gillis on Wednesday, 1 July 2015 at 2:03pm BST

Ian Paul's seeming obesession with what Jesus 'looked like' seems somewhat out of touch with the present theological speculation of most worshippers in Anglican Churches. In any event, what does it really matter?

What is most important for us Christians is that Jesus was actually recognised to have been to most perfect human face of God The Father. In Jesus, according to Scripture, was revealed the fullness of God Incarnate - and yet in human form.

Both Son of God and Son of Man, Jesus was incomparable with other humans, and yet at one with all of us.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 1 July 2015 at 5:30pm BST

Rod,
why would I be kidding you?

What's the church track record on effectively influencing government policies on climate change?
As opposed to other prominent groups focusing exclusively on environmental issues?

What's its reach on influencing public opinion compared with groups like Greenpeace and the Green Party?

Why do you think church is the most effective place for people with concerns for climate change to focus their efforts?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 2 July 2015 at 11:56am BST

@ Erika. "why would I be kidding you?" Because it is difficult to take such a dismissive comment as "Church isn't really a useful place for this" seriously.

"What's the church track record on effectively influencing government policies on climate change?
As opposed to other prominent groups focusing exclusively on environmental issues?"

There is always room for more voices in the push to contend with climate change. The justice issues being raised by church leaders, linking the climate issue to poverty and unbridled capitalism are important.

"What's its reach on influencing public opinion compared with groups like Greenpeace and the Green Party?"

I'd say pretty good by comparison right now. The encyclical has attracted news, opinion and analysis, and controversy of major proportions.

"Why do you think church is the most effective place for people with concerns for climate change to focus their efforts?"

First off, within the church, climate change needs to raised as a moral issue, or a set of interlocking moral issues, for the faithful. See my comment in the Thinking Anglicans post above on climate change. The Canadian church has added environmental commitment to the baptismal covenant.Beyond that, social teaching provides us with a coherent perspective for wider public discourse. We live in an inter-disciplinary world. No reason the church should not be a participant.

If we just concentrate on "holy things" then we'll continue down the path we are on of becoming yesterday's rump.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Thursday, 2 July 2015 at 3:09pm BST

Rod,
I'm not saying that we should just concentrate on holy things.
I was trying to answer the question of why people comment more on same sex relationships (and did previously on women bishops) than on the environment.

To me it's obvious that people are most active where they believe their activism to be most effective.

I'm glad you see the church as one of the main players in this debate.
But even if that's true, it still means that Christians are more likely to engage in the political debate where it is most effective - not within church but with politics and in society.
There is still no great need to have a debate on Thinking Anglicans.

The comments on topics to do with same sex relationships etc. make sense, because people who will eventually be making those decisions read and comment here too and can be directly engaged with.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 2 July 2015 at 5:16pm BST

@ Erika, "There is still no great need to have a debate on Thinking Anglicans.", and yet here we are.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Thursday, 2 July 2015 at 5:25pm BST

This is probably one of the strangest TA debates - a debate about why we're not having a debate :)

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 2 July 2015 at 8:27pm BST

Actually Erika, the position that there is no need for a debate is itself something of a debating position on the issue. In any event, there is certainly a great deal of debate going on at the moment, inside the church and out, about the views of church leaders on climate change. Preparations are under may for the Pope's visit to The States where he will likely speak on the issue at both the U.N. and to Congress. Vested interests, including Catholics in the Republican Party are trying to spin the encyclical as "politics" rather than spiritual teaching, while secular Jewish Feminist and political economist Naomi Kline is also on side with the chruch. The Thinking Anglicans post (above) which discusses the differences between Archbishop Welby's position and that of the pope has generated interest as well. Here is a link to an article from NCR in The States.

http://ncronline.org/blogs/eco-catholic/vatican-sponsored-conferences-further-unpack-laudato-si-frames-farming-climate

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Thursday, 2 July 2015 at 9:56pm BST
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