Taken from On the Resurrection of...

On the Resurrection of Jesus Christ 

Preface by Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI

I am very glad that 30Giorni is making accessible to its readers a new translation of the small book on the Resurrection of Jesus which Heinrich Schlier published with Johannes Verlag, the publishing house founded and directed by Hans Urs von Balthasar, in 1968, at a moment in which theories, that for some time and in various versions had circulated in Protestant circles, were being introduced into Catholic theology as something new and as scholarly advance newly won. Theories whereby Jesus was alleged to have risen “within the kérygma” (according to Bultmann’s formula) that is the meaning of the Resurrection would not be other than the acknowledgment by the disciples that “the cause of Jesus continues” (according to Willi Marxsen).
Schlier was an outstanding pupil of Rudolf Bultmann. In 1953, to the astonishment of the Master, he converted to the Catholic Church and said that his conversion had occurred in thoroughly Protestant fashion and that is through his relation with the Scriptures. All his life Schlier was grateful to Bultmann for everything he had learned from him on the way to approach Biblical texts, and all his life he was closely bound to the philosophical thinking of Martin Heidegger. So we are listening to a master of exegesis who did not know the problems of modernity only from the outside, but who grew up in them and found his path in the continuous confrontation of them.
It might be useful for the modern reader to begin a reading of the book with the last two pages, in which the author’s methodical knowledge emerges in very concise fashion but also for that reason very precise. Schlier was perfectly well aware that Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead represents a borderline case for exegesis; but it becomes particularly clear in it that the interpretation of the New Testament always deals with borderline problems if one aims at reaching the core of the question. The faith in the Resurrection of the New Testament writings faces the exegete with an alternative that demands a response from him. The exegete can certainly share the opinion (become vision of the world in historiography) of the homogeneity of the whole of history, whereby what really happened can only be what might always happen. But then he is forced to deny the Resurrection as an event and must seek to clarify what lies behind it, how ideas of the kind may be born. Or he may let himself be overwhelmed by the undeniability of a phenomenon that breaks the concatenated series of events so as then to seek to understand what it may signify. Schlier’s little book, in the end, shows simply this: that the disciples let themselves be overwhelmed by a phenomenon that revealed itself to them, by an unexpected reality, initially even incomprehensible, and that belief in the Resurrection sprang from that overwhelming and that is by a happening that preceded their thinking and willing, indeed that overturned it.
Anyone who reads Schlier’s book will see that the author underwent the same experience as the disciples: he himself is overwhelmed “by the undeniability of a phenomenon that revealed itself with naturalness by itself”, and that is a believer, but a believer who believes reasonably. All his life was a letting himself be overwhelmed by the Lord who guided him. Schlier does not trivially reduce the phenomenon of the Resurrection to the ordinariness of an everyday fact. The originality of this happening, which is mirrored in the very singular relations established by the Risen One, emerges clearly in his book. Not an event like all the rest, but a going outside of what ordinarily happens as history. Out of this arises the difficulty of an objective interpretation; from this one also understands the temptation to cancel the event as event so as to reinterpret it as mental, existential or psychological fact. Though Schlier – as we have already said – leaves what is singular to the Resurrection intact in its particularity, and what is in the last analysis incomprehensible to us, he firmly maintains – faithful to the testimony of the texts and to the undeniability of that beginning – “the irreversibility and the irriducibility of the sequence ‘apparition of the Risen One’ – ‘kérygma’ – ‘belief’”; that by Resurrection one means “an event, that is a concrete historical happening”; or, put in another way, that “the word of those who see the Risen One is the word of an event that goes beyond the witnesses”.
Since the temptations of 1968 are today no less current than then, this is a very useful book also today and I hope that it may find many readers.

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