Home > Archives > 02/03 - 2008 > Visible or invisible? An exchange of views on the reality of the Risen Christ
THE FAITH OF THE APOSTLES
from issue no. 02/03 - 2008

ET RESURREXIT TERTIA DIE SECUNDUM SCRIPTURAS

Visible or invisible? An exchange of views on the reality of the Risen Christ


Massimo Borghesi, Professor of Moral Philosophy in the Faculty of Literature and Philosophy of the University of Perugia, replies


by Massimo Borghesi


<I>The Incredulity di Thomas</I>, Caravaggio, Sanssoucis-Bildergalerie, Potsdam

The Incredulity di Thomas, Caravaggio, Sanssoucis-Bildergalerie, Potsdam

Dear Professor Torres Queiruga, I thank you for your letter which, in a stagnant theologico-philosophical prospect, offers the occasion to reflect on a theme of great importance. In my article reviewing your book La Risurrezione senza miracolo (La Meridiana Publications, Molfetta 2006) [The Resurrection without miracle], I did not deal systematically with your thinking1. I was struck by the idealist, Hegelian slant with which you dealt with the Resurrection of Christ. Your letter has induced me to go deeper into your thinking on the argument with particular concern for your Repensar la resurrección2. Reading it enables me to clarify that the object of my critical analysis is not your personal faith – that you have full right to claim – but rather the theology and the philosophy underlying your interpretation of Christianity.
You are firmly convinced that the transmission and understanding of the faith, in the contemporary world, demand a “change of paradigm”3 in theology, the “necessity of a total and structural change”4. By means of such one achieves a “deconstruction of the traditional view”5, a deconstruction “of the Easter narratives”6 that leads to a “non-fundamentalist reading7 of them, i.e. non literal. In so doing you take as guide and master Rudolf Bultmann, who “has demonstrated in an irreversible way” the New Testament vision, as expressed in the naively realistic language of the Gospels, to be ‘mythological’”8. For Bultmann mythological “is the conception in which the non-worldly, the divine, appears as worldly, human, and the afterlife as the here and now”9. The whole of Christian Revelation is, therefore, mythological to the extent to which it understands the workings of God in an historico-empirical way; miracles, perceptible signs of the divine power, are mythological. As Bultmann says, with disarming simplicity: “One cannot make use of electrical light and the radio, or resort in case of sickness to modern medical and clinical advances, and at the same time believe in the world of spirits and miracles proposed to us by the New Testament”10. You do not reach the same radical conclusions as the Marburg theologian. You follow him, however, in the basic idea whereby the New Testament discourse “as mythological discourse, is not credible to the men of today11. This persuasion leads you to the conviction that the time has come for a total overturning in the theology of the risen Jesus, the lines of which I shall try to sketch out shortly here.

Rationalist theodicy, theology of the “non-happening”, “Socratic” Christianity
The first and fundamental presupposition of Bultmann is expressed well by David Friedrich Strauss in his Leben Iesu of 1835: “The divine cannot have happened thus (first of all in immediate way, and then furthermore in crude fashion) or what happened thus cannot be divine12. It is a matter of the rationalist postulate whereby God (if He exists) cannot act or be manifested perceptibly in space and time. God cannot be cause of particular events but only source of the universal laws. This leads Strauss (and with him Bultmann) to a “philosophy of non-happening”13, to a theory that is the systematic negation of the possibility of the Incarnation. This is not surprising. From the Deus sive natura of Spinoza, to the “wide ditch” between accidental historical truths and the universal truths of Lessing, to the critique of the superstitious faith of Kant, the path is one and the same: God cannot manifest Himself in history. Pantheism and deism, from differing sides, are opposed to the Old and New Testament, to the Jewish faith as to the Christian.
In a singular way you, in your book Rethinking the Resurrection, accede to this point of view by criticizing the “interventionist deism [sic!]”14, which works through “miracles”, that is particular interventions in space and time. This idea of the divine, that is expressed in the prayers and in the formulas of Christian piety, is for you expression of an “imaginative schema”15 (of Kantian type) of a naive, popular mentality, that does not grasp that God, in reality, does not work through miracles but through a creatio continua that does not violate the autonomy of the world with its natural laws. In every moment God does “everything that is possible: ‘poet of the world’, He tries to carry it to the maximum realization allowed by the limits and incompatibility inherent to its finiteness”16. So you return (consciously) to Leibniz and his idea of the best of all possible worlds. “God ‘might’ not have created the world but, if He has created it, it is finite and, if it is finite, deficiency and contradiction cannot but appear in it: evil. Otherwise the world would be infinite like God”17. In such a way “evil, as Leibniz had already seen... has its condition of possibility in finiteness18. God, by creating the world as finite, creates, with it, the necessity of evil. Evil is necessarily co-natural with finiteness, ontologically intrinsic to finite nature. I do not know whether you are aware of the “gnostic” implications of this position and of its irreconcilability with Christian doctrine.
It is odd, however, that this “return to Leibniz” neglects Voltaire’s criticism, criticism from which emerge, in all their clarity, the limits of a rationalist theodicy. For it nothing truly new happens with Christianity, new in terms of antecedent causes. The “theology of the non-happening” is that whereby Christianity is reduced to manifestation of an on-going process, unveiling what, implicitly, is already present in nature.
If miracles do not exist and divine action is immanent in nature then “Revelation” becomes the act of knowledge whereby the religious person becomes aware of the divine character of the world. “Revelation” comes to coincide with a salvific gnosis. “After all, Revelation consists in ‘realizing’ that God, as founding origin and communicative love, is ‘already within’, in that He inhabits the creation and manifests Himself in it. He shows it above all in the human being, seeking to make us discover His presence, overcoming our blindness and breaking our resistance: noli foras ire: in interiore homine habitat veritas19. Revelation is resolved here in a “maieutic”, Socratic immanent process. It does not bring something truly new – the idea of survival after death is universal – but clarifies and reshapes an implicit certainty, it is the occasion for the passage from a confused faith to one clear and distinct. “As maieusis, the revelatory word is necessary for arousing and opening our eyes, but it does not introduce anything foreign, instead it helps to discover in reality itself the saving presence that inhabits and energizes it”20. Christianity becomes a “historical maieusis21, Christ a new Socrates who helps the disciples to find, in their inner experience, the certainty of a resurrection experience that does not need any outer confirmation. In this way, as remarked by Ratzinger in an ever relevant essay of 1970, “in Christianity no longer does something come to us from outside that we can receive as new and undeducable by ourselves, instead what remains always the horizon of our thought and our reflection becomes objective. In this way history, as extra, has become too insignificant and fundamentally bypassed in favor of ontology. The ek-stasis of faith has vanished for the en-stasis of the philosophic plummet”22.

“Is not the same thing suggested later, in the efforts of a gnosis ever recurring under many forms […] that have a fearful penchant quietly to empty of all richness and significance that which is above all a fact: the Resurrection of the Savior” Pope Paul VI
Structure against the Event
The assimilation of Revelation to the level of the creation, of grace to nature, exteriority – in the sense of Emmanuel Lévinas – to interiority, leads to the affirmation whereby Revelation is “present in all the religions and even in all philosophical knowledge23. You show, in this way, that you share the perspective of the “anonymous” transcendental Christianity already criticized by Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar24. It is a model that is on the one hand heir of post-Kantian Idealism and, on the other, prevailed in the climate of the ’seventies, marked, at the cultural level, by the hegemony of Structuralism. That current, as you know, does not admit events, qualitative leaps in the historical process. The event is comprised, anticipated, diluted, within a structure, a network of relationships already given, a prospect. Thus in the structural-idealistic model Jesus “becomes” God or “appears” as God only within an apocalyptic structure proper to Judaism. The structure traces the continuity of a process; what it does not see is discontinuity. It does not see the “new paradigm” that you, citing T. S. Kuhn, want to apply to contemporary theology. Thus it is true that in Christ the messianic, apocalyptic, proverbial expectations of Israel, are fulfilled, but the fulfillment is not given in the way of a synthesis but of a new figure who, by giving shape to heterogeneous aspects (the glorious King of Israel and the Just humiliated and suffering), cannot be deduced from what precedes him. The Event exceeds the structure. In not taking on this novelty theological structuralism is a steamroller that levels, annuls, smoothes out. The “theological structure”25, to which you refer, is a model whereby, in ancient Israel, the prophets, assassinated by men, are claimed by God. It is what happens in late Judaism with the episode of the Maccabee martyrs. God cannot but resuscitate the just of Israel. This model becomes, for you, the explanatory criterion of the consciousness of the Resurrection: “Belief in the Resurrection must take place within an identical structure”26.
This is constructed according to a twofold scansion. On the one hand Jesus is seen as the peak of the “hope that the current eschatology, apocalyptic in slant, set at the end of days”27. Here belief in the Risen One takes shape since “the Resurrection of Jesus could hardly be understood without this prospect: it has its roots in it”28. On the other hand Jesus is understood as “risen” by His particular destiny of death. As I indicated to you in my previous article your procedure here recalls Hegel’s contradiction-reconciliation dialectic: the positive can only occur through the abyss of the negative, the idea of resurrection through the experience of death. This dialectical reading leads you to reject the letter of the Gospel text, the one that insists on the scandal of the cross, the flight of the disciples, their fear. “This view relies undoubtedly on two strong props: on the one hand, the respect supplied it by its being very present in the editing scheme of the Gospel narratives themselves and, on the other, the way it lends itself to being used as easy apologetic resource: something had to happen between the lack of belief, that led to the cowardly escape, and the vivid faith that transformed the disciples into brave and audacious heralds. This something would be the exceptional and miraculous events that led them to profess the Resurrection”29.
This reasonable explanation, that motivates the passage from the scandal of the death on the cross to belief in the Risen One, is, however, rejected by you with an argument which, if you will allow me, is altogether disputable. According to your reasoning it is not admissible that the disciples, who were friends of Jesus, abandoned him in the hour of his death. “They would have to have been genuine monsters on the psychological level and a shameful exception on the historical level. Because every time that a great leader dies out of fidelity to his cause, what it provokes is precisely a strengthening in adherence and an increase in prestige”30. You argue here truly in an odd way. Your explanation might be plausible in the case of a political leader put to death: “The ‘criminals’ of Rome were the heroes of the people subjugated by them”31. But in the case of one who had advanced the claim of being the Messiah and the Son of God death is checkmate and failure. You cannot get around, as Idealism does, this knot, you cannot remove the scandal of the historical Good Friday and reduce it to a “speculative Good Friday” (Hegel). Death on the cross is not the “catalyst” of the Resurrection, it is the hour of the darkness in which the companions flee. Christian iconography has spent more than a millennium in depicting the crucified Christ in the throes of death. How can you think that that sight of Calvary, devastating for those who had seen it, could induce people “to imagine” someone who vanquishes death? Your trust that out of the negative proceeds the positive, is, in truth, the latest legacy of the Hegelian dialectic. If the dialectic is not the law of the history your reasoning is only opinion.

“Even today we see this tendency reveal its ultimate dramatic consequences, going so far as to deny, even among people who profess themselves Christians, the historical value of the inspired witness, or (more recently) to interpret the physical Resurrection of Jesus in a way that is purely mythical, spiritual or moral” Pope Paul VI
The “invisible” Risen One
The belief of the disciples is not born therefore out of “something” new – a happening – that occurred after the death of Christ on the cross. Not out of the overwhelming, empirical experience, of a pierced body that returns to live again in new forms, analogous to the previous physical condition. No. The certainty that Christ is risen depends only on the structure, on the transcendental, the pre-comprehensive mindset of the disciples, on a theoretical model. This model takes the shape of a syllogism: 1) God, as just, cannot but resuscitate all those who die for justice. 2) Jesus, dead on the cross, is just. 3) Jesus cannot but be resuscitated by God. The idea of Resurrection is a logical conclusion, the result of a process of reasoning.
As Giuseppe Barbaglio writes, in the issue of Concilium edited by you and devoted to “The resurrection of the dead”, what happened to the disciples was that “from a psychological catastrophe was born a personal ‘resurrection’: they rose to a new experience of trust in Jesus. How could it happen? They questioned themselves, they went over in memory the words and doings of the Master, they meditated – one supposes – on the Scriptures and concluded that this spiritual resurrection of theirs was not an independent enterprise: not a psychological process of working through the mourning, the loss, but a gift of grace from Jesus Himself; and they interpreted it as ‘apparition’”32. It was a deduction, an ‘apparition’ of Christ not to their eyes, but to their lives”33.
The paschal apparitions are interpretations, the result of a mental operation the source of which is attributed to God. Mentalism – what earlier I called Idealism – explains the ‘no’ to every realistic, perceptible, carnal description, of the Risen One. “The presence of the Risen One in Himself is not accessible to the bodily senses, therefore the ‘apparitions’ to the extent to which they were ‘physical’ could not be apparitions of the Risen One. Those who take these accounts to the letter, more or less, must realize they are faced with an interpretation, meaning a process by means of which some happening in the world induces in the protagonist the conviction of a non-worldly presence, of transcendent character”34. What is seen is the dead Jesus, not the risen Jesus. The transcendent character of the Resurrection is incompatible with an empirical experience: “To touch the Risen One with a finger, to see him come on the clouds of the sky or to imagine him while eating are shapings of undeniable mythological slant”35. The “vision of the Risen One... simply does not make sense”36, more, “is impossible”37. The Resurrection is not a miracle, “in the sense of an empirically verifiable event”38, is not an “historical event”39. Set in the space of the transcendent acting of God it does not have visibility in the world. It only becomes certain in that it corresponds to the structure, to the messianico-apocalyptic model that, in Christ, finds one of its exemplary representations. “In concrete, through the destiny of Jesus, the understanding of the resuscitatory action of the ‘God of the living’, already discovered beforehand in its fundamental meaning, reaches its peak”40. The experience of the disciples does not here lie in the “break in history through miraculous processes” but “in the right grasp and interpretation of what the concrete situation, as determined by the saving action of God..., is manifesting to the believing consciousness”41.
Christianity, as Event – new fact that breaks into history, “carnal” presence of the divine in the world – shifts here into hermeneutics, interpretation, grasping. It could not be otherwise, since on the empirical level nothing happens, nothing phenomenally checkable. “The Resurrection happens on the cross itself”42, there is no hiatus between the death and Resurrection of Jesus, the “theology of the three days”43 is unsustainable. As is that of the “intermediate stage”44 that separates the destiny of souls from bodily resurrection on the last day. That is possible because – and here, permit me, lies all the misunderstanding of your reading – the Resurrection does not indicate the resurrection of the flesh. “Rethinking the Resurrection”, for you, means purging the belief in personal survival after death of any physicistic connotation. This explains your calm acceptance of the “not-empty sepulcher”45 of Jesus, the affirmation on the “preservation of the identity of Jesus in spite of the time spent by his corpse in the sepulcher”46. Christ resurrects as soul, not in his bodily humanity. It’s not the body that rises, nor only the soul, “but the ‘person’ in his new (for us incomprehensible) configuration as opposed to the ‘corpse’”47.
In the dualism between soul-person and corporeality your thinking picks up the classic opposition between Hellas and Israel that Oscar Cullmann has taken to its extreme consequences. The belief in bodily resurrection, as expressed in the paschal narratives, is, for you, a consequence of the Jewish mentality of the disciples. “Given their cultural context and their anthropology, they could not either think or express otherwise the experience they were living”48. The disciples, that is, could think the Resurrection only starting “from the prevalently unitary character of Biblical anthropology”49. By “interpreting the Resurrection of Jesus according to the outlines of an empirical event (empty tomb, empirical apparitions) they did what was then culturally possible50. As with Bultmann, a 1st century Jew could not see the world but from the inside of the wrappings of myth. “He did not ‘see’ real things; “he interpreted”. He saw from inside a ‘worldview’ (Weltanschauung) that warped his vision. This premise of post-enlightenment historicism, whereby only we men of the 20-21st century are in a position to distinguishing between imagination and truth, leads you to deny the possibility that the disciples were eyewitnesses51, to deny juridical value to their testimony52. “Today we know that the narratives [on the risen Christ] cannot be taken literally since they are imaginative constructions on the basis of memories of the Jesus Whom the disciples had seen and heard”53.
The descriptions of the apparitions of the Risen One are “imaginative constructions”! Personally if I thought such I would not be Christian but the most radical of Idealists! The paschal apparitions, in the Idealist prospect, are theological constructions, not descriptions of facts that have theological importance. They are as such on a par with the miracles, including that of the resurrection of Lazarus that serves only as “symbolic illustration”54 of the resurrection of all. “The miracle of Lazarus never happened; the miracle of Lazarus happens always”55. This is indeed the theology of the non-happening.

“‘He is no longer bound by the frontiers of space and time; He moves with a new liberty, unknown upon the earth... But at the same time, it is strongly asserted that it is the same Jesus of Nazareth, in flesh and bone, just as He had lived formerly among his own, and not a mere phantom’. […] Thus, there is not simply a glorious survival of Himself” Pope Paul VI
The (Idealist) spirit against the (realist) letter
In my earlier article I did criticize your position as Idealist. In your reply you show yourself surprised at the attribution and claim to be decidedly “realist”. The reading of Rethinking the Resurrection confirms for me, however, that your perspective lies altogether within the Idealist-transcendental point of view. It is this point of view that leads you to deny the possibility of an empirical experience of Christ risen. It leads you to deny every physical connotation, obviously of a transformed physicality, to Jesus risen. Hence the ambiguous way in which you use the term “resurrection” that, from your point of view, is a “dangerous metaphor”56. In effect your “deconstruction” of the Gospel story, which would like to preserve the “spirit” while going beyond the “letter”, leaves in the reader – the words are yours – “a certain feeling of artifice or even of in-exegesis, as if something had been introduced into the texts that they in no way contain”57. I confirm, from my point of view, that the impression is a just one. The hermeneutic violence, proper to the Idealist position, is that of inverting the order of cause and effect. In the case of the Resurrection this implies that what comes after (the belief in the Risen One) becomes the cause of what comes before (the sight of the Risen One). Thus you pick up the reasoning of Wolfhart Pannenberg, derived from Paul Althaus, whereby the kerygma of the Resurrection “could not have stood up in Jerusalem for a day, for an hour, if the emptiness of the tomb had not been ascertained by all the interested parties as a real fact”58. For Jewish anthropology it was not possible to believe in Jesus risen if His corpse continued to lie in the sepulcher. You acknowledge that, in this case, it is a matter of “serious” reasoning, and yet you conclude from it, inversely, that “the experience of the Resurrection of Jesus worked in such fashion that the disciples believed the tradition of the empty tomb”59. You add that “the hypothesis of the not-empty sepulcher enables a reading much more coherent and of greater semantic force [sic!]”60. Why, I ask? Why would the hypothesis of the non-empty sepulcher be more plausible? From the rationalist point of view I understand it: the explanation that the disciples, secretly, smuggled away the corpse serves here. But from the point of view of the Gospel story? You yourself acknowledge that in the case of the empty sepulcher “it is not exegetically possible to untangle the question, since, in pure historical analysis, there are serious reasons both for the affirmation and for the denial”61. Granting and not conceding that things stand so, why then opt for the hypothesis of the non-empty sepulcher? The answer can only be one: because you accept Bultmann’s Kantianism as an indubitable axiom. Because of a philosophical choice, not because of exegetical argument. You opt for Bultmann, persuaded that only thus can the “spirit” of the Gospel communicate itself to modern man. You refuse the “letter” out of a sort of apologetics prey to modern Idealism. In such a way the Christian message might return to being accessible to ears that do not want to hear talk of miracles and a Risen One of flesh and blood. You neglect the fact that the scandal at one risen from the dead exists already in the pagan reaction to Paul’s speech on the Areopagos of Athens (Acts 17, 31-32). Your rationalism wants to be rid of this possibility. The way in which you resolve the dilemma of the empty tomb is typical. That is by asserting that “having gone beyond the trappings of the imaginary that represent the Risen One as having returned to a figure (more or less) earthly and taken in all seriousness the transcendent character of the Resurrection, the remaining or not of the corpse loses relevance”62. If the Risen One has no relationship with his own body the problem of the corpse, present or not in the sepulcher, no longer has importance. It is, however, hermeneutic violence that does not demythicize the “myth”, but, on the contrary, reduces to myth what, in the Gospel text, has historical value. You can do so because the exegesis is guided by an anterior philosophical conception that has already decided, in preliminary fashion, that the divine cannot be manifested and act in human shape. Thus in Bultmann “his exegetical conclusions are not the result of historical ascertainment, but come from a structured set of systematic presuppositions”63. Even you acknowledge this when you assert that “it is not the exegesis of the details that decides the final interpretation, but the overall coherence”64. This coherence must be able “to offer an answer to the legitimate demands of current culture”65, where for “current culture” is meant post-idealist rationalism. The philosophical prospect decides, in this way, the hermeneutics of the Biblical text. It takes on an Idealist priority. Thus you fully share the perspective of Bultmann’s who “is convinced that the facts, as they are described in the Bible, cannot have happened, and finds methods meant to show how they would have happened in reality. At this level, modern exegesis involve a “reductio historiae in philosophiam”: history is conducted back to philosophy and through philosophy”66. A genuine exegesis, on the contrary, cannot exclude, a priori, that God can enter and act “perceptibly” in human history. This hypothesis is the Christian Revelation.

“And the Church, still under the guidance of St. Augustine, exhorts her sons to seek for the solutions, by study joined with prayer: ‘And as for the scholars of the sacred texts, not only should they be encouraged to know the literary genres in use in the Sacred Scriptures […] but also, and this is the principal and most necessary thing, to pray to understand’” Pope Paul VI
A docetist Christology
Philosophical rationalism is expressed in the persuasion that the expression “resurrection of the flesh” is a mere “symbolism”67, a way of saying that Christ, even after death, remained the same person. But in this way the core of the Christian position is done away with. If Christ is not risen “in the flesh”, the Word has not been truly incarnated. To deny the “physicality” of the Resurrection is like denying the truth of the Incarnation. The affirmation of John’s Prologue – Et Verbum caro factum est (John 1, 14) – has as consequence the possibility of empirical experience of the Risen One. The sight of Jesus “alive” is the condition of possibility of faith. To think differently is to accede to the “docetist Christology” of Bultmann whereby, in the dualism between event and word, “the reality, that is the concrete and carnal existence of Christ and that of man in general, is excluded from the sphere of meaning”68. Differently from Bultmann, for whom the Risen One is solely in the preaching, the kerygma, you believe in the reality of Christ after His death, but it is a “reality” that does not include the flesh. Christ is “immortal”, on a par with Hercules, on a par with every man who dies. Why ever, then, the faith in Him? Why ever in Jesus does the understanding of the suscitating action of God “reach its peak”69, an “insuperable peak”70? If Christ is only the “firstborn of the dead”71, like every man who dying rises, if his “chronological supremacy sinks into ontological primacy”72, where is the difference between Christ and the human being in general? What is special about the life of “the maieutic”, Socratic Christ, who has been rid of miracles and signs of the divine as “mythological” residues? In the dualism between the spirit and the letter the figure of Jesus is split between the historical Jesus who, on the Arian model, is a virtuous man assumed by God, and the divine Jesus, risen, who assumes a “docetist” form. A “gnostic”, not Jewish Christ, for whom the flesh, on the one hand, is not useful for salvation, and, on the other, is not redeemed from the corruption of death. The new paradigm, you hope for, fights here against the Jewish vision, in the direction of a gnostic perspective. You acknowledge this also when you assert that “Biblical anthropology... hardly permits one to conceive and represent the Resurrection without taking account of the physical body. Hence the insistence on the visual and perceptible element… perhaps influenced by the anti-gnostic controversy”73. It is an important step. In your Christology human nature is not really assumed. Your Risen One, without body, inevitably shifts the Christology into a docetist prospect.

Three final considerations
I conclude my reply with three observations. First: by taking on Bultmann’s demythicization you think to reconcile Christianity and modern thinking. The price of this reconciliation, however, is precisely the fading of Enlightenment interest in Christianity. Differently from the Hegelian Idealism, for which religion is now “superseded” by philosophy, the Enlightenment battles with Christianity on the level of historical truth. This is demonstrated, currently, by the interest, even polemical, of the secular culture in Jesus of Nazareth by Benedict XVI74. Removing historical value from the Gospel story, “mythycizing” the history, you not only get rid of the ground being fought over but also that of possible interest. If the Gospels, when they speak of miracles, are mythical, not even your Risen One, of whom nobody was able to see the aspect and shape, will escape such judgment. Your “phantom” did not escape the criticism of Kant in the Träume eines Geistersehers. In reality your anti-empiricist position is taking a stance against the Enlightenment, a refusal to converse and measure itself against that type of culture. It is, secondly, a refusal to face that part of twentieth century thinking, Jewish in origin – from the dialogisch Denken (Buber, Rosenzweig), to the Frankfurt School (Horkheimer, Adorno), to political messianism (Benjamin) – in which the theme of the redemption of the flesh and history has crucial value. Your Idealism precludes for itself, moreover, every possible valorization of the realist tendencies emerging in contemporary aesthetics, tendencies in which an interest emerges in the Christian Resurrection as “aesthetic test of the possibility of hope”75.
Your anti-aesthetic position leads me to the second observation. Your vision of the risen Christ, who “does not have – nor can have – any of the physical qualities that constituted his mortal body”76, presents more than one analogy with the iconoclastic position as it emerges from the letter of Eusebius of Caesarea to the sister of the Emperor Constantine, Constance, studied by Christoph Schönborn in an important book of his77. For the Bishop Eusebius it was not possible to represent Christ in icon because, after his death, his glorious body no longer had any analogy with the mortal one. So that for her “to see him [the Risen One], would mean seeing something empirical and finite: not God, but an idol. And therefore, denying the possibility of the empirical apparitions is the only way to guarantee the authentic reality of the Risen One”78. To see God in human form is idolatry. The Old Testament prohibition comes back, in you, in the prohibition “to represent” the Resurrection. The Risen Christ by Piero della Francesca, like Caravaggio’s Doubting Thomas, belongs to the art of the past, to the mythological vision of the world proper to a time in which Christianity was marked by naïve and popular faith.
“In front of this mystery, we remain penetrated with admiration and full of wonderment, just as we feel before the mysteries of the Incarnation and the Virgin. Let us then enter, with the Apostles, into that faith in the Risen Christ which alone can bring us salvation” Pope Paul VI
The third and last observation concerns one of your basic persuasions. You assert on more than one occasion that “no responsible theologian today takes the Easter narratives to the letter”79. You likewise assert that “from serious treatments has vanished the insistence on ‘miracles’ – understood now mostly as ‘signs’ that do not interrupt the operation of the natural laws – or on the direct proclamation of his divinity by Jesus Himself. Whereas there is insistence on ‘indirect Christology’”80. Now, apart from the debatablity of the term “serious”, I would like to dwell on that “no responsible theologian”. How can you claim that? You yourself acknowledge that some of the greatest 20th century theologians are firmly persuaded of the full reliability of the paschal narratives. Such as Karl Barth who, in his Dogmatica, “stresses ever more the temporal realism of the apparitions and the empty tomb… insisting on the single character, in that physicist and perceptible, of the apostolic experience”81. Such as Wolfhart Pannenberg who emphasizes the historicity and the reality of the apparitions and the significance of the empty sepulcher82. Such as Rudolf Pesch who, in a sort of self-criticism of his earlier position, writes: “The visions of the Risen One – that I consider, correcting my previous opinion, sufficiently guaranteed as historical events – were visions in which Jesus appeared to witnesses as Son of Man”83. Such as N. T. Wright, whom you acknowledge, among those who currently argue in favor of the factual nature of the Risen One, for his “seriousness and wide erudition”84. To these one can add Karl Rahner to the extent to which he does not adhere to the new paradigm. “He still maintains, in effect, the inherited schema of the Resurrection of Jesus as ‘singular fact’, in the sense of distinguishing ‘between the Resurrection of Jesus [already happened] and our resurrection [still] to be awaited’”85.
Barth, Pannenberg, Pesch, Wright, Rahner, are names of “non-aligned” theologians that I take from your study. They are certainly not the only ones. I mention, among the others, the great disciple of Bultmann, Heinrich Schlier, whom you cite but only in passing, for whom in the paschal narratives “seeing Jesus” it is not “a deductive conclusion that is borrowed from the customary (Jewish) representations... It is not a matter of a ‘seeing Jesus’ that is then clarified through an interpretation, but a matter of an immediate perception of Jesus Christ who makes Himself perceived risen and raised up”86. Schlier and the writers mentioned earlier were leading figures in 20th century theology, nor can they be branded as “conservatives”. Their importance, the fact that they remain faithful to the traditional model in reading the paschal texts should invite one to greater caution in regard to the “universality” of the new paradigm, that is not at all “new”, for that matter, since (from Strauss onwards) it has at least two centuries behind it87. It should make one cautious on your claimed “undeniability” and undoubtability. You yourself acknowledge that your “thinking moves necessarily on a hypothetical terrain”88. But if that is so, how can you be so sure of it as to reproach Rahner, Pannenberg, Pesch for wanting to remain firm in a literal, mythological reading of the Gospel text? Is it not ingenuous to think that the “true” understanding of the Revelation begins only now, after being “bottled up” in the wrappings of myth for two millennia? Where was the Spirit in that span of time? Did he work like Hegel’s “mole” to bore through the form of the “representation” (Vorstellung) and arrive at the concept? I don’t think you really believe that.


Notes
1 M. Borghesi, The Resurrection without the Risen One, in 30Days, no. 10, October 2006, pp. 56-65.
2 A. Torres Queiruga, Repensar la resurrección. Diferencia cristiana en continuidad de las religiones y de la culture, Editorial Trotta, Madrid 2005. Page numbers refer to the Italian translation Ripensare la risurrezione. La differenza cristiana tra religioni e cultura [Rethinking the Resurrection. The Christian difference between religions and culture], Edb, Bologna 2007, and generally to Italian translations of other works.
3 Tr. cit., p. 26.
4 Op. cit., p. 38.
5 Op. cit., p. 131.
6 Op. cit., p. 200.
7 Op. cit., p. 31.
8 Op. cit., p. 39.
9 9 R. Bultmann, Neues Testament und Mythologie. Das Problem der Entmythologisierung der neutestamentlichen Verkündigung, Herbert Reich Verlag, Hamburg-Bergsted 1948.
10 Op. cit., p. 110.
11 Op. cit., p. 110.
12 D.F. Strauss, Das Leben Jesu kritisch bearbeitet, I, Tübingen 1835, p. 2
13 U. Regina, La vita di Gesù e la filosofia moderna. Uno studio su David Friedrich Strauss, Morcelliana, Brescia 1979, p. 132.
14 A. Torres Queiruga, Rethinking the Resurrection. The Christian difference between religions and culture, cit., p. 107.
15 Op. cit., p. 108.
16 Op. cit., p. 109.
17 Op. cit., p. 259.
18 Op. cit., p. 258. Cf. also p. 322.
19 Op. cit., p. 116.
20 Op. cit., p. 119. Maieusis “as category” it is not necessary to repeat “comes from Socrate


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