Christology


Christology
Christological /kris'tl oj"i keuhl/, adj.Christologist, n.
/kri stol"euh jee/, n., pl. Christologies for 2.
1. the branch of theology dealing with the nature, person, and deeds of Jesus Christ.
2. an interpretation of the nature, person, and deeds of Christ.
[1665-75; CHRISTO- + -LOGY]

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▪ doctrine of Christ
Introduction
 Christian reflection, teaching, and doctrine concerning Jesus (Jesus Christ) of Nazareth. Christology is the part of theology that is concerned with the nature and work of Jesus, including such matters as the Incarnation, the Resurrection, and his human and divine natures and their relationship. Christology is dependent upon, but not identical with, the portrayal of Jesus in the New Testament, both the four Gospels and the Epistles. The underlying methodological assumption of Christology is that the New Testament contains the authentic and accurate record of Jesus, both explicitly and implicitly. The New Testament is taken to convey that the earliest followers of Jesus were convinced that God was revealed in him and that they attributed a number of titles to him, such as “Messiah,” “Son of Man,” “Son of God,” and “Lord.” Christian discourse uses the portrayal of Jesus in the foundational documents of Christianity as a point of departure. Traditionally, Christological reflection has focused on two specific aspects of that portrayal—namely, the person and the work of Jesus. It has also sought to clarify and systematize the meaning of the scriptural depiction of Jesus.

Sources and concepts
 The basic sources for the historical development of Christology are the New Testament, containing the foundational Christian writings; the creeds of Christianity, especially those from the first five centuries; and the reflections of theologians. Clearly, these three are interrelated, with theological reflection occupying a pivotal place. Theologians explicated what they understood to be the meaning of both the New Testament and the creeds. In so doing they played a crucial role in the formulation of the Christological creeds. The argument has also been put forward that the liturgy of early Christianity played an incisive role in the formulation of the creeds, including those of Christology.

      Reflections about Jesus dominated Christian discourse from the apostolic age onward. Most of this Christological reflection took place in the eastern Mediterranean, where it utilized the language (Greek) and concepts of Classical antiquity. The Christological debate is quite unintelligible without an awareness of how it was shaped by this context. Since there seem to be echoes of Classical concepts in Scripture, it is not surprising that Christian theologians appropriated them in order to explicate the meaning of Christian affirmations. Two notions in particular played important roles: logos theology and preexistence.

      Logos theology, which was formulated by the Jewish philosopher Philo (Philo Judaeus), sought to describe how God is active and effective through the divine will, reason, and power. That activity was named the logos (Greek: “word”) of God. Christian reflection understood Jesus as the manifestation of the divine will, reason, and power and therefore applied the concept of the logos to him—dramatically so in the opening of The Gospel According to John. (“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”) The startling newness of the Christian affirmation lay in the belief that the logos “became flesh.”

      There are intimations of the concept of preexistence both in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the thought of Classical antiquity. This concept held that everything good on earth was preexistent with God, existing in God's cognition. The good thus existed with God before any earthly appearance, which is merely the transition from hiding to manifestation. The concept of preexistence is related to the notion that there is nothing that God does not know, that there is neither past nor future with God, and that God is the Lord of History. In the New Testament, notions of preexistence, which Christian exegetes have found expressed in the Hebrew Bible, are applied to Jesus. The Letter of Paul to the Philippians (Philippians, Letter of Paul to the) (2:7), for example, speaks of the preexistent Jesus who is sent down by God “in human form,” while the Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians (8:9) portrays Jesus' Incarnation as an impoverishment, noting that he gave up his riches to become poor so that believers could become rich. According to the apostle Paul (Paul, the Apostle, Saint), Jesus is voluntarily obedient in his descent from heaven, which is followed by his return there.

Early history
      The four Gospels portray Jesus as having had a sense of mission much like the prophets in the Hebrew Bible, and they declare that Jesus saw himself as the decisive revelation of God to his people. This revelation consisted of his teachings, both about himself and about his role. Throughout the more than 2,000 years of Christian history there has been what might be called a dual emphasis with regard to Jesus: he has been seen both as teacher and as saviour, and accordingly either his teaching or his person has stood in the foreground of theological reflection.

      The earliest Christological reflection focused on the titles given to Jesus in the apostolic writings. These titles, some of which were used more widely than others, derived in one way or another from the Hebrew Scriptures. Son of Man, Son of God, and messiah were three terms prominently employed in the Gospel narratives. Jesus was also described as judge and as high priest (as in the Epistle to the Hebrews). John the Baptist referred to him as the Lamb of God on the occasion of Jesus' baptism, but this title hardly appears subsequently in the apostolic writings. It was used in the liturgy, however, and the iconography of the lamb, generally depicted with a cross, became one of the foremost Christian symbols. Another title used in the New Testament, but only sparingly afterward, was Servant of God.

      Despite its clear prominence in the Gospels, the term Son of Man enjoyed less extensive usage. In Jewish Scripture (e.g., the books of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Enoch) it has various meanings, but the Gospels most likely appropriated passages that referred to a heavenly figure who will come to judge the world. The term does not appear in the writings of the apostle Paul, and the Letter of Barnabas (Barnabas, Letter of) (12:10) expressly prefers Son of God, presumably because Son of Man was thought to emphasize the “human” Jesus and thus to diminish him.

      In antiquity the words God and son were rather ambiguous, as illustrated by the veneration of the Roman emperors, who were addressed as “my Lord and my God”; Jesus is addressed in the same way in the confession of the apostle Thomas (John 20:28): “Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!'” Moreover, the Christian understanding of Jesus as God and as the Son of God was consonant with the trend in late antiquity toward monotheism, particularly since the earliest Christian reflection did not ponder the precise relationship of the “son” to the “father.” The phrase only Son, which appears in The Gospel According to John (3:16) and proved so important in subsequent discussion, rarely occurs in apostolic literature. The appellation Son of God seemed consistent with the notion of the eternal preexistence of all that is good. In its broadest sense, the notion of the Son of God denoted a special relationship to the Father: Jesus is “the” Son of God, related to “his” Father in a special way.

      The assertion of Jesus' distinctive status as Son raised questions, from the very earliest days of Christianity, about the beginning of this status, about Jesus' relationship to the Father, and about the relationship between the divine and the human in Jesus himself. The Gospel According to John maintains that the status of Son is unique to Jesus. This affirmation marked the beginning of the orthodox Christian assertion that fully equated the Son of God with God, the Son. The other Gospels also commented on the attributes of the Son when they spoke about the Son's omnipotence and his effective role in the creation.

      The title Christ, from the Greek word meaning “anointed” or “messiah,” was one of several appellations for Jesus, but it increasingly took on a special and important meaning. The combination of the proper name Jesus with the appellation “the Christ”—Jesus, the Christ—became before long the name Jesus Christ, with both words conjointly denoting a single name, virtually akin to a family name. Accordingly, Jesus Christ became the standard appellation for Jesus, somewhat contrary to the earlier usage of Christ Jesus, meaning “the Messiah Jesus.” Clearly, the use of the term Messiah or Christ for Jesus by the early Christian community must be seen in the context of contemporary Jewish notions of the messiah. Christian scholarship traditionally argued that the Jewish expectation of the messiah at the time of Jesus focused on a political figure who would bring redemption to Israel through political might. Scholarship since the mid-20th century, however, has challenged this view, insisting that the picture was far more complex.

      The most widely used title for Jesus was Lord (Greek: Kyrios), undoubtedly because for non-Jews it was more comprehensible than Christ; the former term also implied adoration. As indicated by the preceding discussion, in the apostolic age the titles and appellations given to Jesus were often used in a guarded and tentative way, as in the Second Letter of Clement (written c. 125–140 by an unknown author) and in the writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch (Ignatius of Antioch, Saint) (died c. 110).

      Until the middle of the 2nd century, such terms emphasized two themes: that of Jesus as a preexistent figure who becomes human and then returns to God and that of Jesus as a creature elected and “adopted” by God. The first theme makes use of concepts drawn from Classical antiquity, while the second relies on concepts characteristic of ancient Jewish thought. The second theme subsequently became the basis of “adoptionist Christology” (see Adoptionism), which viewed Jesus' baptism as a crucial event in his adoption by God.

Christologies of the ancient world

The earliest controversies
      Strictly speaking, Christology should be distinguished from Trinitarian theology, though the two subjects are closely related. Trinitarian theology is concerned with “intradivine” distinctions: it explores the relationship between Jesus and God—between the divine nature of the Son and that of the Father (and the Holy Spirit). Christology, on the other hand, focuses on the relationship between the human nature of Jesus and his divine nature. Trinitarian theology is a prerequisite of Christological discourse, a fact reflected in debates between Christian theologians beginning in the 3rd century. The Arian controversy, for example, was not about Christology but about a Trinitarian issue: whether Jesus was divine (see Arianism). The basic contours of the controversy provided the context for the Christological debate that began once the church had concluded that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit formed a single Godhead and that the Son was fully divine. The remaining issue concerned how the divine nature of Jesus was related to his humanity.

      The richness of metaphor in the apostolic writings helped shape the early Christian understanding of Jesus. This extensive vocabulary was first given a coherent framework in the 2nd century, when Ignatius of Antioch rejected adoptionism to argue that Jesus was the conqueror of death, in whom both the divine and the human were present. According to Ignatius, Jesus was spirit and flesh, created and uncreated, suffering and nonsuffering. As spirit, Jesus was one and equal with the Father; as flesh, he was subordinate and altogether obedient to the Father. Ignatius did not reflect on how these contrasting characteristics could be harmonized, nor did he seem bothered by the fact that his views amounted to a series of paradoxes.

      The combination of the divine and the human in Jesus posed a formidable problem for 2nd-century theologians, especially the Gnostics (Gnosticism), who adopted a cosmological dualism and held that the material world was the creation of the Devil. The Gnostic thinkers Marcion (see Marcionite), Valentinus, and Basilides, for whom such a connection was unthinkable, proposed a Christology based on Docetism, which maintained that Jesus' assumption of the flesh was only apparent. Others taught that Jesus was wholly human, that he was wholly divine, or that the divine entered him at his baptism only to leave him at his Crucifixion. In response to the soteriological question Why did Christ come down? St. Irenaeus (Irenaeus, Saint), bishop of Lyon, argued that, in order to be the redeemer of humankind, Jesus, who was divine, also had to be human. But, because he was begotten by the Father, he was inferior to him. The Roman theologian Tertullian (d. c. 225) suggested that the two substances, the divine and the human, were mixed but not fused in Jesus. This enabled him to assert that “the Son of God died” and to speak of “the crucified God.” Sabellianism, named after Sabellius (fl. c. 220), possibly a Roman presbyter, sought to preserve a strict monotheism by holding that Jesus was a form of the one God, a temporary mode of God's revelation. Also known as “modalism” or “monarchianism,” this doctrine maintained that there were three such modes: the Father as creator and lawgiver, the Son as redeemer, and the Spirit as giver of life.

      Theological discourse in Alexandria, represented in the 2nd century by St. Clement of Alexandria (Clement of Alexandria, Saint), centred on the concept of the logos, which was understood as the source of all rationality, knowledge, and morality. According to logos theology, logos appeared as philosophy among the Greeks and as the Law among the Jews and reached its final form in Jesus. The problem lay in the difficulty of understanding Jesus as truly human. This was an issue for Origen (c. 185–c. 254), a theologian from Alexandria who sought to differentiate the logos from God and yet to locate it as close to God as possible. His solution was expressed in the phrase “the Son is eternally begotten of the Father.” Origen saw the Son as subordinate to the Father, though he did use the term homoousios (Greek: “of the same substance” or “of the same essence”), which proved to be crucial in subsequent Christological debate.

      Many of the participants in the controversies surrounding the divinity and humanity of Jesus came from the eastern Mediterranean. They wrote in Greek and employed the concepts and vocabulary of Greek philosophy. Most Western theologians, meanwhile, were preoccupied with other issues, though St. Augustine (Augustine, Saint) discussed the nature of Jesus in his magisterial work On the Trinity.

      The question in this bewildering diversity of positions and arguments—which, nonetheless, had at its core the effort to safeguard both the unity of Jesus with God and his separateness from God—is whether the debates led to a logical conclusion in the decisions rendered at the great ecumenical councils of the 4th and 5th centuries. Traditional historiography answered this question in the affirmative, maintaining that the apostolic faith was expressed in the resolution of the Trinitarian-Christological controversies through the canons of the Council of Nicaea (Nicaea, Council of) (325), which provided the orthodox definition of the relationship of God the Father and God the Son, and the formula of Chalcedon (451), which established orthodox teaching on the nature of Christ. According to this view, mainstream Christianity battled deviations from the implicit and explicit apostolic faith. The alternative perspective, presently held widely by scholars, sees the historical development of Christology in terms of a rich multiplicity of viewpoints, each with its own persuasiveness and biblical grounding. This perspective notes the serendipity of the course of the historical discussion and the arbitrariness of its resolution at both Nicaea and Chalcedon. Moreover, while the formulations of Nicaea and Chalcedon subsequently served to determine the parameters of orthodoxy and heresy, they were never universally accepted by all branches of Christendom, neither at the time nor afterward. It is not possible, therefore, to speak of a universal acceptance of classic Christology; rather, classic Christology was normative only in the Western church.

The Arian controversy
 The lingering disagreements about which Christological model was to be considered normative burst into the open in the early 4th century in what became known as the Arian controversy, possibly the most intense and most consequential theological dispute in early Christianity. The two protagonists, Arius (c. 250–336) and Athanasius (Athanasius, Saint) (c. 293–373), differed over matters of theology but were quite similar in temperament and personality—learned, self-confident, and unyielding. Both were from Alexandria, Arius a distinguished churchman and scholar and Athanasius a brilliant theologian.

      Arius's Christology was a mixture of adoptionism and logos theology. His basic notion was that the Son came into being through the will of the Father; the Son, therefore, had a beginning. Although the Son was before all eternity, he was not eternal, and Father and Son were not of the same essence. In Jesus, who suffered pain and wept, the logos became human.

      One strength of Arius's position was that it appeared to safeguard a strict monotheism while offering an interpretation of the language of the New Testament—notably, the word Son—that conformed to general usage and meaning. The weakness of his view was that, precisely because Jesus was capable of suffering as a human, it was difficult to understand how he could be fully divine and thus effect the redemption of humankind.

      According to Athanasius, God had to become human so that humans could become divine. Thus, at the heart of Athanasius's Christology was a religious rather than a speculative concern. This led him to conclude that the divine nature in Jesus was identical to that of the Father and that Father and Son have the same substance. He insisted on the need for the Nicene homoousios to express the Son's unity with the Father.

      The controversy did more than severely agitate and bitterly divide the Christian community; it also threatened the political stability of the Roman Empire. Eager for a resolution, Emperor Constantine convened and presided over the Council of Nicaea, which formulated the Nicene Creed, affirming the Athanasian position. Constantine, according to his biographer Eusebius of Caesarea, had sought to achieve a rapprochement between the two sides by suggesting the use of the word homoousios, which was accepted by all in attendance with the exception of Arius and two Libyan bishops. The Western bishops, who like most of the bishops in attendance had not given much thought to the issue, were not troubled by Constantine's term, which they understood as equivalent to the Latin word substantia, which Tertullian had used to describe the two substances of Jesus. The Nicene Creed states that Jesus is

eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, one in Being with the
Father.

      The council rejected the opinion of those who argued, as Eusebius put it in a famous letter, that

once he was not, or he was not before his generation, or he came to be out of nothing, or…he, the Son of God, is of a different hypostasis or ousia [Greek: “essence”], or that he is a creature, or changeable or mutable.

From Nicaea to Chalcedon
      The decision in favour of the Athanasian view at Nicaea did not immediately end the controversy. For more than a century the church wavered; the Council of Ariminum (Ariminum, Council of) (359) all but reversed Nicaea, and the emperor in Constantinople turned the Athanasian majority into a minority. Constantine himself leaned toward Arianism later in his reign, and his eventual successor, his son Constantius, was openly Arian. Several theologians continued the controversy, and a number of views vied for acceptance, including monophysitism (see monophysite), which held that Jesus had only a divine nature and that he had passed through his mother, Mary, “as water passes through a tube,” in the words of Gregory of Nazianzus. One question of particular importance throughout the controversy was whether Jesus had actually suffered. Answering the question affirmatively seemed to suggest that God himself had suffered; answering it negatively seemed to undermine Jesus' full humanity—and thereby his ability to redeem humankind.

       Apollinaris The Younger (c. 310–c. 390), bishop of Laodicea, Syria, and a student of Athanasius, addressed the question of “how two perfections can become one.” One of these perfections, the Godhead or the humanity, must yield, and Apollinaris concluded that it had to be the latter. Nestorius of Antioch (died 451), concerned with affirming the full humanity of Jesus, asserted that he possessed two natures. When Nestorius spoke of Jesus' “one nature,” he actually meant a juxtaposition in which the human nature is progressively attuned to the divine; God had not really become human but had united with a human. “Christ was one,” he said, “but as if with two eyes, separated into the human and the divine nature.”

      Late in the 4th century, the Church Father Gregory of Nazianzus (Gregory of Nazianzus, Saint) (c. 330–c. 389) and his brother Gregory of Nyssa (Gregory of Nyssa, Saint) (c. 335–c. 394), a theologian and mystic, affirmed the Nicaean decision. Meanwhile, Emperor Theodosius (Theodosius I) (347–395) convened the Council of Constantinople (Constantinople, Council of) (381), also known as the Second Ecumenical Council, which reaffirmed the Nicene Creed and once again condemned the Arians. Notwithstanding these efforts, much of Christendom during this period was Arian, including the Vandals in North Africa, the Visigoths in Spain, and the Lombards in Italy. Although much has been written about the subject, the reasons for the eventual decline of Arianism remain elusive. Undoubtedly, however, they include the fact that the Arians were never a united front and the fact that the Athanasians, using Greek philosophy, devised cogent rational arguments to support their position.

      A compromise position formulated following the Council of Ephesus in 431 stated that Jesus is “our Lord” who was

perfect God and perfect man, of the same substance with the Father according to his divinity and of the same substance with us according to his humanity. For a unity of two natures took place.

      But this concord did not survive. In 449 the third of the councils of Ephesus (Ephesus, councils of) favoured monophysitism, thus reaffirming that Jesus had only one nature. At this point Pope Leo I (Leo I, Saint), who called the gathering a “Robber Synod,” intervened with an epistle known as Leo's Tome, which argued against the notions that Jesus had only one nature and that his two natures did not fuse into one person. In 451 the Council of Chalcedon adopted Leo's position, thereby resolving the Christological controversy. The council concluded that Jesus was

perfect in Godhead and also perfect in humanity; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable soul and body; consubstantial with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to humanity; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages according to the Godhead.

      The Council continued its declaration as follows:

We apprehend this one and only Christ—Son, Lord, only-begotten—in two natures; without confusing the two natures, without transmuting one nature into the other; without dividing them into two separate categories; without contrasting them according to area or function. The union does not nullify the distinctiveness of each nature. Instead, the properties of each nature are conserved and both natures concur in one person.

      The Councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon were milestones in the history of Christology. Neither, it must be noted again, was universally accepted. The key terms at the centre of these turbulent controversies were homoousios (“of the same substance” or “of the same essence”) and homoiousios (“of like essence”). The virtual identity of these terms prompted Thomas Carlyle (Carlyle, Thomas), the British historian and essayist, to remark that Christendom was beset by a controversy over a diphthong.

      These great debates must not be seen as involving only theologians and churchmen. Far from it. The common people were very much caught up in the arguments of the theologians, even demonstrating in the streets with banners and chants in support of one side or the other. The Arians, moreover, engaged the public in a relentless fight against the main supporters of the Nicaean decision. One supporter, Eustathius of Antioch (Eustathius of Antioch, Saint), was publicly accused of adultery by a woman carrying an infant she claimed was his; Eustathius was condemned as an adulterer, as well as a heretic and a tyrant, in 330.

Eastern Orthodox Christology
 Christological discourse within Orthodox, or Eastern, theology (i.e., the theology of the Eastern Orthodox (Eastern Orthodoxy) churches) has been shaped since the 5th century by the doctrine of Chalcedon, which the Eastern churches accepted. Eastern theology interpreted the union of the divine and the human in Jesus as glorifying humanity and as preparing humanity for its deification—its exaltation to the divine life and its restoration to the dignity established for it at creation. Understandably, this entailed an emphasis on the divine nature of Jesus.

      A decisive difference between the Christologies of Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Christianity, as they would subsequently develop, lies in the importance of icons of Jesus. The Eastern practice of venerating icons was challenged in the Iconoclastic Controversy of the 8th and 9th centuries. After the acceptance of the practice by the second Council of Nicaea (Nicaea, Council of) (787) and a second wave of iconoclasm, veneration was formally restored in 843 by Theodora, the widow of the last Iconoclastic emperor, Theophilos. Tellingly, the Eastern churches celebrate the date (February 19) as the Feast of Orthodoxy (Orthodoxy, Feast of). Eastern Orthodoxy maintains the divinity of the icon of Christ; there is no essential distinction between the icon of Christ and Christ himself. Behind the icon of Christ—indeed, behind all icons—is the essence of the person. Quite in accord with a fundamental premise of Orthodox theologizing, which holds that the task of theology is to interpret the thought of the ecumenical councils of the early church, no major Christological developments are to be recorded for Eastern Orthodoxy.

The Middle Ages
      Because the dogmatic pronouncements of Nicaea and Chalcedon had set the parameters of orthodoxy and heresy for Christology in the West, the contributions of medieval theologians essentially amounted to a series of footnotes, amplifications, and minor deviations from the classical affirmations. St. Augustine's conception of Jesus' humanity as a true incarnation influenced a resurgence of adoptionist theology in Spain near the end of the 8th century. Promptly denounced as Nestorianism, the movement was condemned at no less than two councils—Frankfurt in 794 and Rome (under papal leadership) in 798.

      Medieval theology, particularly before the 11th century, generally emphasized Jesus' divinity over his humanity. Medieval ecclesiastics conceived of him as the “other”—as a stern judge manifesting the righteousness of God. Interest in Jesus' humanity was professed chiefly by mystics and visual artists. The former—beginning with Bernard of Clairvaux (Bernard de Clairvaux, Saint) (1090–1153) and continuing with Francis of Assisi (Francis of Assisi, Saint) (1181/82–1226), Meister Eckhart (Eckhart, Meister) (c. 1260–1327/28?), and Thomas À Kempis (1379/80–1471)—sought to bring about a mystical union between Jesus and the believer. Bernard was inspired by the erotic language of the Song of Songs (Song of Solomon (Solomon, Song of)), because he saw in its description of the intimacy of bride and bridegroom a paradigm of mystical union; this theme was echoed in the 18th century by the Pietist reformer Nikolaus von Zinzendorf (Zinzendorf, Nikolaus Ludwig, Graf (Count) von). Women mystics, such as Catherine of Siena (Catherine of Siena, Saint) (c. 1347–1380) and Julian of Norwich (c. 1342–after 1416), had visions in which Christ's body had the form of a staircase or a ladder or in which Christ appeared as a mother.

      Thomas à Kempis's devotional work The Imitation of Christ set Christian perfection as the goal of the spiritual life, challenging the believer to “imitate the form and the life of Jesus.” Thomas called upon Christians to appropriate the will of Jesus and thereby to be as spiritual as Jesus was. Only by conforming to the human Jesus, he insisted, is it possible to rise to conformity to the divine Jesus. This had also been the conviction of Francis of Assisi, whose attempt to imitate the life of Jesus was rewarded with the stigmata. In Thomas's time, the devotio moderna movement also emphasized meditation on and imitation of the life of Jesus.

 The major medieval contribution to Christology, however, lay in reflection on the purpose of Jesus' Incarnation. The traditional view of the Atonement maintained that, because humans had sinned, they were subject to the Devil, and a debt was owed to him; Christ paid this debt by dying for the sake of humanity. The sacrifice of Christ was seen as a ransom paid to release humans from the Devil's grip. It was also held that God had deceived the Devil by becoming human and that the Devil did not recognize the divinity beneath the human form. By subjecting him to death, the Devil had abused his authority and thus lost his power over humankind. In his epochal work Cur Deus homo (“Why God Became Man”), however, St. Anselm of Canterbury (Anselm of Canterbury, Saint) (1033/34-1109) formulated the most trenchant theory of the atonement of Christ. Anselm held that Jesus' death on the cross was absolutely necessary because there was no other rationally intelligible way in which sinful humankind could have been reconciled with God. If God in his mercy had simply forgiven humans for their sin, God's moral order would have been repudiated. God's righteousness, offended by human sin, demanded satisfaction; this satisfaction could be rendered only by someone who was both God—because God could overcome sin by sinlessness—and human—because humans were those who were guilty of sin. Anselm's theory was also significant for presenting a comprehensive system that focused on the interrelationship between God, Jesus, and humankind; Satan and the notion of Jesus dying a substitutionary death for humankind had been avoided.

      The French theologian Peter Abelard (Abelard, Peter) (1079–1142) advanced another theory of the Atonement in his commentary on Romans: God sent his son to be a teacher and role model and thereby to reveal God's love for humankind. Abelard noted further that Jesus awakens in sinners a love of God that is at once the ground for the divine forgiveness of sins and for reconciliation with God. Christ's intercessory prayer for humans augments the merits that humans can offer God.

The Reformation
      Much like the medieval period, the 16th-century Protestant Reformation was characterized by the restatement of earlier Christological positions rather than by the development of new formulations. Thus, the major Protestant reformers dissented from the orthodox Christological tradition mainly in matters of emphasis, as in their delineation of the doctrine of the threefold office of Jesus: prophet, priest, and king.

      The controversy among the reformers over the Last Supper, which centred on the question of Jesus' presence in the bread and wine of the Eucharist, echoed debates that had begun as early as the 9th century. It quickly became apparent that different Christological assumptions underlay the positions of the two protagonists, Huldrych Zwingli (Zwingli, Huldrych) and Martin Luther (Luther, Martin). Luther argued that the unity of Jesus' two natures, divine and human, meant that every statement about Jesus applied to both of his natures at once. Thus, God suffered and died on the cross, and the humanity of Jesus was omnipresent. Luther insisted that Jesus' bodily omnipresence entailed his real bodily presence in the elements of the offering (see transubstantiation). Calvin, in contrast, held that Jesus' human nature had died on the cross and that Jesus was now at the right hand of the Father. The Holy Spirit brought about Jesus' spiritual but not bodily presence in the communion ceremony.

      In Christological discourse outside the eucharistic controversy, Luther followed Augustine in emphasizing Jesus' human nature. Luther was particularly fascinated by the humility of Jesus; the fact that the ruler of the universe had been born in a stable was, for Luther, profound proof that the humble could be elevated and even the worst sinners forgiven. Jesus' cry on the cross that he had been forsaken by God signified that Jesus shared the lot of “the forsaken, the condemned, the sinners, the blasphemers, the accursed.” Indeed, this was the meaning of the Incarnation: that God, through Jesus, had chosen to experience the fullness of human despair. By embracing this vivid conception of the human Jesus, Luther arguably came closer to Sabellianism than he knew.

      The Anabaptists (Anabaptist) (members of a Reformation movement that was the precursor of the modern Mennonites and Quakers) did not challenge classical Christological dogma but emphasized, in ever-changing ways, the Christian imperative to “follow” Jesus. This meant not only observing Jesus' moral teachings as embodied in the Sermon on the Mount but also sharing in Jesus' suffering. Suffering, for the Anabaptists, was the hallmark of the genuine follower of Jesus. As the Anabaptist Hans Schlaffer wrote in a 1527 treatise: “Christ suffered for us, leaving us a model or example that we should follow in his footsteps” (1 Peter 2:21).

      The anti-Trinitarians, beginning with the Spanish physician and lay theologian Michael Servetus (Servetus, Michael) (d. 1553) and ending with the Socinian movement which followed the teachings of the Italian-born theologian Faustus Socinus (Socinus, Faustus) at the end of the 16th century, enunciated a Christology that returned to views that had been condemned as heretical in early Christianity. They rejected orthodox views that God existed in three persons and that God assumed human form in the Incarnation; their position was essentially Arian adoptionism. Thus, the Racovian Catechism (1605), the doctrinal statement of the Minor Reformed Church of Poland, asserted that Jesus had no divine nature. He was given divine power and authority by God to act on God's behalf.

Enlightenment Christology
      Traditional Christology, as expressed in the Nicaean and Chalcedonian creeds, was based on the belief in the sanctity of the New Testament, which was held to contain divinely revealed truth as represented in the accounts of eyewitnesses or divinely inspired authors. The Christological reflections of the Protestant reformers—including Luther, John Calvin (Calvin, John), and even the anti-Trinitarian Faustus Socinus—took for granted the traditional view of the Scriptures and thus added little to the positions of earlier centuries. Beginning in the mid-17th century, however, a growing chorus of voices insisted that, because other writings of the past were not allowed to press supernatural claims, the same stricture should be applied to the Old and the New Testament. This rational and critical approach to the Scriptures became the basis of a new understanding of the nature and truth of Christianity that came to be known as Deism. The English adherents of Deism, including John Toland (Toland, John) (1670–1722), Anthony Collins (Collins, Anthony) (1676–1729), and Thomas Morgan (d. 1743), undertook to present Christianity as a rational natural religion, and they increasingly defined authentic Christianity as a religion bereft of superstition.

      A key assumption of Enlightenment Christology was that theologians and clergy through the centuries had systematically perverted the true and authentic Christian religion and, in so doing, had obscured the true nature of Jesus. The task of modern theologians, therefore, was to remove these falsifications and to recover what would subsequently be called the “historical” Jesus—that is, the Jesus who actually existed.

 These thinkers subjected the New Testament—particularly the four Gospels—to severe scrutiny. Relying on critical principles that were becoming standard in many areas of historical scholarship, they concentrated on two central claims about Jesus in the New Testament: that he was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies and that he performed miracles to vindicate his divine mission. English Deist writers such as Toland, Thomas Woolston (Woolston, Thomas) (1670–1733), and Thomas Chubb (Chubb, Thomas) (1679–1747) argued vigorously that the authors of the Gospels reported incidents that they themselves had not witnessed and relied on accounts of dreams—such as Joseph (Joseph, Father)'s dream about being commanded to flee Bethlehem for Egypt—that were inherently unverifiable.

      From these reflections there emerged a picture of Jesus as a great moral teacher but not a divinity. With this as his premise, Matthew Tindal (1657–1733) argued in his book Christianity as Old as the Creation (1730) that Jesus had preached a gospel of “nature” that all of humankind could understand, were it not for the perversions introduced by priests and other religious functionaries. Other Deist interpretations of Jesus were Chubb's The True Gospel of Jesus Christ Vindicated (1739) and the Wolfenbütteler Fragmente (“Wolfenbüttel Fragments”) of Hermann Samuel Reimarus (Reimarus, Hermann Samuel) (1694–1768), which triggered an enormous controversy when it was published posthumously in the 1770s. Its rejection of all the supernatural elements of the Jesus stories was consistent with attempts by other writers, such as the German philologist Carl Friedrich Bahrdt (Bahrdt, Carl Friedrich) (1741–92) and the American statesman Thomas Jefferson (Jefferson, Thomas) (1743–1826), to “cleanse” the New Testament of religious interpretation and to distill its historical core.

      It may be argued, therefore, that both the consolidation of Christological dogma between the 4th and the 7th centuries and the dissolution of this dogma in the 18th and 19th centuries were affected by important cultural factors. In the first period theological reflection was influenced by Greek philosophy, in the second by the rise of science.

Post-Enlightenment Christology
 The scholarly reinterpretation of Jesus in the Enlightenment was not formally endorsed by any ecclesiastical tradition. Rather, it was the personal opinion of theologians that began to reorient Christian thinking about Jesus. The official teachings of all Christian churches, Protestant and Catholic alike, about Jesus remained largely unchanged. Christological reflection in the 19th century was encumbered by the critiques of the Enlightenment—the repudiation of the supernatural elements in the Gospels, the challenge to metaphysical thinking and to the notion of revealed morality. This assault on traditional views raised fundamental questions for the entire Christian religion and had substantial implications for Christology. Friedrich Schleiermacher (Schleiermacher, Friedrich) (1768–1834) focused on what classical Christology would have called the human nature of Jesus and argued that Jesus had a unique consciousness of God as well as ethical self-consciousness, the latter theme carried forward by Protestant theologians such as Albrecht Ritschl (Ritschl, Albrecht) (1822–89) and Wilhelm Herrmann (Herrmann, Wilhelm) (1846–1922).

      Scholarly reflection on the historical Jesus continued in the 19th century with the work of David Friedrich Strauss (Strauss, David Friedrich) (1808–74), whose Life of Jesus Critically Examined (1835) rejects both the supernatural and the natural interpretations of Jesus in favour of a “mythical” interpretation, according to which the story of Jesus illustrates timeless truths (“myths”) but not historical facts. In a brilliant study, The Quest for the Historical Jesus (1906), Albert Schweitzer (Schweitzer, Albert), later to gain fame as a missionary doctor in equatorial Africa, argued that the pursuit of the historical Jesus depended on a preconceived notion of Jesus as moral teacher that left the apocalyptic aspects of his message completely unconsidered. Schweitzer's book, along with neoorthodox (neoorthodoxy) Protestant theology (teachings that reaffirmed traditional Protestant Reformation creeds and rejected biblical literalism), cast grave doubt on the notion that it was possible to arrive at a historically objective portrait of Jesus. Nevertheless, the project was continued in the work of scholars such as Rudolf Bultmann (Bultmann, Rudolf) (1884–1976), who attempted to “demythologize” the New Testament, and E.P. Sanders (for an example of this approach, see Jesus (Jesus Christ)), who adopted a minimalist stance about what can be said about the historical Jesus.

      Roman Catholic Christological reflection since the 16th century has sought to come to terms with the challenges of the Enlightenment, especially as these have been raised by Protestant theology. Catholic discourse, all the same, has not had a distinctly Catholic orientation but sought to deal with issues germane to Protestant theology as well. Catholic post-Enlightenment Christology, more so than Protestant reflection, has encountered problems posed by the tension between historical-critical scholarship and dogmatic pronouncements; the teaching office of the Roman Catholic Church has sometimes set narrow parameters, such as in the Modernist Controversy of the late 19th and the early 20th century, for what was permissible historical scholarship. The Catholic understanding of the development of dogma as the unfolding of implicit prior affirmations suggested that the formation of the Christological dogma was the development of historically demonstrable claims as well as the self-understanding of Jesus. At the same time, Catholic theologians such as Karl Rahner (Rahner, Karl) and Edward Schillebeeckx have acknowledged the historicity of the dogmatic pronouncements and have insisted on allowing for new and fresh interpretations without forfeiting their essential content.

Contemporary Christology
      Christological reflection since the beginning of the 20th century can be divided into three somewhat overlapping categories. The first category restates traditional (pre-Enlightenment) Christology, as did the 1934 declaration of the Synod of Barmen (Barmen, Synod of) (Germany) in opposition to the Nazi-inspired interpretation of Jesus as an “Aryan.” Several churches, such as the United Church of Christ in North America, drafted and adopted new confessional statements with formulations about Jesus that can be read as being in harmony with or as emending the classic pronouncements of Nicaea and Chalcedon. A second category, reflected in various creeds and confessions from North America and Asia, used new language to describe the natures of Jesus while broadly affirming the tenets of the Christian faith. The Batak Protestant Christian Church of Indonesia, for example, stated in its Confession of Faith that

two natures are found in him, God and man inseparable in one person; Christ is true God but at the same time true man.

      A third type of contemporary Christology derives mainly (but not exclusively) from the developing world. New formulations put forward in Africa and Asia have often entailed strident criticism of traditional Western understandings of Jesus. These new Christologies are characterized by the search for an understanding of Jesus as “liberator.” African theologians, such as Kofi Appiah-Kubi, from Ghana, see Jesus as providing the weapons of the spirit in the fight against disease and discord and even as encouraging people to reverence departed ancestors, who are seen as custodians of morality. Jesus is a source of both healing and spirituality. Asian theology has identified Jesus' suffering as expressive of the suffering of all humans. Jesus' followers must experience what he experienced so as to attain resurrection, which is liberation. In Africa and elsewhere, Jesus has been conceived as a “Black Christ” who will release believers from bondage and oppression. The view of Jesus as liberator is perhaps best reflected in liberation theology, which was formulated primarily in South America in the second half of the 20th century but has been influential in Europe and North America as well.

      The third category of Christology is also represented by feminist theologians in the United States, such as Mary Daly and Rosemary Radford Ruether, who have challenged the centrality of the male figure in Christian devotion. Meanwhile, within African American theological discourse, writers such as Kelly Brown Douglas have argued for a “womanist” Christology that would better reflect the experiences of African American women. Here the theme of liberation theology is appropriated to speak meaningfully to the liberation of women.

      Two conclusions may be drawn from the contemporary situation. One is that, as has been the case throughout the history of Christian self-understanding, specific societal concerns form the backdrop against which the understanding of Jesus unfolds. Second, Christian theological reflection is no longer solely a European and North American enterprise, as it had been for centuries. How the Christologies of the developing world will evolve—and, indeed, how Western Christologies will react to them—remains uncertain.

Jesus in the visual arts

Painting and sculpture
      Given the dominating place the figure of Jesus has had in Western art, it is perhaps surprising that the pictorial portrayal of Jesus was a matter of considerable debate within the Christian church during its early centuries. Thus, whereas 2nd-century theologians such as St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, and Clement of Alexandria repudiated the notion that the divine could be captured in pictorial representations, Pope Gregory I (Gregory I, Saint) in the 6th century observed that images were the Bible of the illiterate. Theologically, the issue was how to represent the fullness of Jesus' divine and human natures in any artistic representation of him. Depicting Jesus' human nature risked endorsing the Nestorian heresy, which held that Jesus' divine and human natures were separate. Likewise, depicting Jesus' divine nature risked endorsing the heretical doctrine of monophysitism (monophysite), which conflated the two natures into one divine person. Along with these concerns, there was a strong tendency within early Christianity to view any representation of the divine as idolatry or paganism, and opponents of the use of images noted the biblical prohibition against them. Another issue was the possibility that pictures of Jesus would encourage certain abuses, such as the mixing of paint from such pictures with the bread and wine of the Eucharist to make magic potions.

      The first episcopal synod to provide strong support for pictorial representations of Jesus was the Quinisext Council (692), which asserted that such representations were spiritually helpful for the faithful, declaring that “henceforth Christ our God must be represented in his human form.” The emperor Justinian II promptly had a portrait of Jesus placed on imperial gold coins, though his successors restored the traditional emperor's portrait. The 8th-century emperors Leo III the Isaurian and Constantine V (Constantine V Copronymus) went further by inaugurating a policy of iconoclasm, believing that it was improper to attempt to portray the divine. The intense disagreement between those who advocated and those who rejected pictorial images, known as the Iconoclastic Controversy, was temporarily resolved in 787, when the seventh ecumenical council of the church, the second Council of Nicaea, affirmed the legitimacy of images (an additional council in 843 provided permanent resolution after a second wave of imperial iconoclasm). Thus, after 787, both parts of Christianity embraced the theological legitimacy of portraits of Jesus, and what followed was the artistic unfolding of this affirmation.

The Middle Ages through the 19th century
      Jesus has evoked a rich artistic tradition in Western culture, one that has spread to other cultures with the global expansion of Christianity in the 19th and 20th centuries. A stunning array of representations of Jesus characterizes the history of European art from the Middle Ages onward. Indeed, religious art, with a particular focus on Jesus, may be said to have dominated European artistic endeavour and aspiration. Although this dominance was traditionally regarded as an indication of the piety of previous centuries, contemporary scholars prefer a different explanation: the Christian church was by far the largest patron of the arts, and the building and decoration of churches throughout Christianized Europe called for the engagement of massive numbers of artists.

 In sculpture, Jesus was portrayed primarily in two ways: on the cross and on his judgment seat. His depiction on the cross gave rise to the crucifix (a representation of the figure of Jesus on the cross), which became the pivotal iconographic use of Jesus in the Roman Catholic Church. (Protestant churches, in contrast, have preferred the simple cross.) Portrayals of Jesus presiding over the Last Judgment became a characteristic of the western (main) portals of Christian churches, particularly those constructed during the Middle Ages. Notable examples are the Romanesque cathedral of Vézelay and the Gothic cathedral in Chartres (Chartres Cathedral). At the same time, the iconographic portrayal of Jesus as an infant or small boy in the arms of Mary must not be underestimated, nor, for that matter, should the portrayal of the dead Jesus in the arms of his mother, known as the Pietà, be neglected.

      Portrayals of Jesus in painting have tended to follow the artistic conventions of the time or to reflect contemporary theological developments. Indeed, one controversial thesis holds that the portrayal of the baby Jesus in the late 15th century—whether in Nativity scenes, on Mary's lap, or at the Crucifixion—reflects an emphasis on the centrality of the Incarnation in Christian theology. Three themes in painting were particularly important: Jesus' birth, his death, and his mother. The depictions of the Nativity have a uniform iconographic pattern, including a very young Mary and an aged Joseph, the latter to dispel visually any question regarding his ability to have fathered the child. The Three Wise Men, or Magi, who adored the infant Jesus as the king of the Jews, likewise are shown iconographically to represent three different ages and races of humankind. Other themes in painting were the Annunciation, the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt, and scenes from Jesus' public ministry, such as his healing of the blind man, his raising of Lazarus, his driving the traders from the Temple, the Last Supper, and the women at the Holy Sepulchre.

  These themes have been depicted in various ways. Mary, for example, is generally shown holding the infant Jesus, as in Raphael's Sistine Madonna (1513). Paintings of the Crucifixion, however, are much less sentimental. One notable example is Matthias Grunewald (Grünewald, Matthias)'s Isenheim Altarpiece (1515), which depicts Jesus' body ravaged by crucifixion yet evokes pointedly the Christian message of Jesus' horrible suffering; originally intended for a hospital, the altar painting may have been designed to provide comfort and solace to the sick. Pieter Bruegel (Bruegel, Pieter, the Elder)'s Flight into Egypt (1563), and even more so his complex The Way to Calvary (1564), are illustrative of the late medieval and early modern tendency to depict scenes from the life of Jesus in a contemporary idiom. In the latter painting, the centre of the scene, traditionally occupied by Jesus and the cross, contains a huge throng of people apparently going about their daily business. In the painting's foreground, however, the large figures of grieving women reveal the tragedy unfolding behind them. Radical in its iconography of Jesus is Michelangelo's Last Judgment (1533–41), in the Sistine Chapel, the world's largest painting, in which a giant, beardless, and virtually nude Jesus appears to use his muscular body to hurl the damned like an athlete. Other examples include Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn)'s Face of Christ (c. 1650); El Greco (Greco, El)'s striking The Disrobing of Christ (1577–79), dominated by Jesus' brilliant red robe; and Peter Paul Rubens (Rubens, Peter Paul)'s The Deposition (1612).

      Since the 17th century, Christian themes in painting and sculpture have been less prominent than they were in earlier centuries. A number of explanations have been offered for this trend, including the increasing secularization of European society and the emergence in the nobility and the bourgeoisie of a new class of art patrons interested in themes and motifs other than Jesus and Christianity. A related reason may be that, from the 18th century on, few churches were built in continental Europe; thus, the demand for new religious paintings and sculptures declined.

      Despite the relative decrease in the production of Christian art, a significant proportion of the painting of the 19th and 20th centuries was concerned with portrayals of Jesus. Camille Corot (Corot, Camille) and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (Ingres, J.-A.-D), for example, produced works of thoughtful piety and artistic brilliance. In the mid-19th century the Pre-Raphaelites (Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood)—Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Rossetti, Dante Gabriel), John Everett Millais (Millais, Sir John Everett, 1st Baronet), and Holman Hunt (Hunt, William Holman), together with the French painter James Tissot (Tissot, James)—painted remarkable canvasses depicting scenes of Jesus' life. These romantically idealized works were usually laden with heavy and unnecessary symbolism, as in Millais's Jesus in the House of His Parents (1850), Hunt's The Light of the World (1851–53), and Tissot's more than 300 watercolours of Gospel stories; another example is Fritz von Uhde's On the Way to Bethlehem (1890). While Tissot sought to place Jesus into his 1st-century Jewish setting, Uhde had the opposite goal—namely, to express the timelessness of Jesus' story by depicting him in contemporary settings. In his Come, Lord Jesus, Be Our Guest (1884), an iconographic Jesus with a slight halo approaches the dinner table of a Bavarian farmhouse. Uhde's approach was adopted by his contemporaries Jean Beraud, Odette Pauvret, and Christian Skredsvig, as well as by later artists such as Édouard Manet (Manet, Édouard) and Paul Gauguin (Gauguin, Paul).

The 20th century
      Among 20th-century artists an important figure was Georges Rouault (Rouault, Georges), a devout Catholic whose numerous works include paintings of the head of Christ that feature a stained-glass-like use of space; the penetrating, iconlike eyes of his Ecce Homo (1936) are particularly striking. Pablo Picasso (Picasso, Pablo)'s Crucifixion (1930) and his ink drawing of Jesus (1959) evoke the medieval “man of sorrow,” a tradition of depicting Jesus bearing the wounds of his Crucifixion. Although Marc Chagall (Chagall, Marc)'s Red Pietà (1956) contains hardly any direct biblical allusions—the cross is barely discernible—his White Crucifixion (1938) categorically puts Jesus in a Jewish context by depicting him with a Jewish prayer shawl around his waist.

      The 20th century was important for the portrayal of Jesus in painting for two reasons. One is that during this period, as in other centuries, the religiously most important visual representations of Jesus were popular images produced by lesser artists. The works of Warner Sallman, for example, became the most widely reproduced paintings of Jesus; his Head of Christ (1940) was distributed to U.S. soldiers during World War II. Sallman continued to paint Jesus in various settings, as in Christ in Gethsemane (1941), The Lord Is My Shepherd (1943), and Christ Our Pilot (1950).

      Sallman regarded his Christ at Heart's Door (1942) as a tool of Christian evangelism. Although his images of Jesus were influenced by Protestant fundamentalism (fundamentalism, Christian), their appeal was broader, which suggests that they reflected how mid-20th-century American Christians understood Jesus: as gentle, affirming, and comforting.

      Sallman's work was part of a long tradition of popular Jesus iconography. In earlier centuries these representations took a variety of forms, such as votive pictures and, in North America, fans decorated with a portrait of Jesus. The “Sacred Heart of Jesus” pictures, in which Jesus is depicted frontally with his crimson heart surrounded by thorns, became immensely popular in Catholic Europe when, in 1875, Pope Pius IX dedicated Catholics everywhere to the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

      A second distinguishing feature of the 20th century was what might be called the cultural pluralism of Jesus images. The emergence of indigenous Christian churches in Africa and Asia brought about a rich variety of Jesus images and portrayals, virtually all of which were characterized by the convergence of biblical narrative and indigenous culture. Charles Ndege of Tanzania, Frank Wesley of India, and André Kamba Luesa of Zaire, for example, depicted Jesus as part of their own ethnic cultures. Naturally, the same kind of cultural assimilation of Jesus iconography had taken place in Europe itself through the centuries, resulting in the traditional portrayal of Jesus as a northern European. In the process, Christian ambivalence—if not hostility—toward the Jews ensured that the physiognomy of Jesus was uniformly devoid of Semitic features. Shoulder-length hair and beard became defining features, even though the earliest images of Jesus from late antiquity depicted him, again in accordance with cultural patterns, as clean-shaven. At the end of the 20th century, perhaps reflecting increasing cultural globalization, the National Catholic Reporter, a U.S. newsmagazine, sponsored a “Jesus 2000” competition for a new image of Jesus. In the winning painting, Janet McKenzie's Jesus of the People, Jesus is dark-skinned, thick-lipped, and feminine.

      The overriding difficulty attending any portrayal of Jesus is the absence of any contemporary description of his appearance. Interestingly, Jesus' stereotypical shoulder-length hair and beard may reflect the influence of a 14th-century document purporting to be a copy of an account written by a contemporary of Jesus, Publius Lentulus. According to Lentulus, Jesus had a high forehead, shoulder-length hair parted in the centre, large eyes, a beard, and features devoid of any Semitic quality. Lentulus described Jesus' hair as “the color of a filbert, full ripe, and plain down to his ears, but from his ears downward somewhat curled and more orient in color,” his forehead as “smooth and plain,” and his beard as “somewhat thick, agreeable to the hair of his head for color.”

Film
      More films have been made about Jesus than about any other historical figure, a fact that demonstrates the continuing importance of Jesus in Western culture. Many of these films were noncommercial endeavours, produced by churches as evangelistic and missionary tools. In the 1930s and '40s, fundamentalist Protestants in the United States, while denouncing popular Hollywood movies as immoral, established their own production companies to make films acceptable to conservative Christian audiences. The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, for example, produced a series of documentary films that aimed to demonstrate that the natural world was created by an intelligent designer. Other companies, such as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, produced feature films in which the conversion of the lead character was the central motif. These companies, however, refrained from attempts to depict the life of Jesus.

      Three problems have severely complicated all efforts to portray Jesus in film. First, such films have had to contend with the fact that the main sources of information on the life and works of Jesus, the four Gospels of the New Testament, are not biographies in the customary sense. They leave large parts of Jesus' life uncovered, focusing on the short span of his public ministry and conveying almost nothing about his childhood or adolescence. Most films have tried to address this problem by adding fictitious narratives to the Gospel accounts, usually involving the Roman army or the Roman governor Pontius Pilate (Pilate, Pontius), as in George Stevens (Stevens, George)'s The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), Cecil B. DeMille (DeMille, Cecil B.)'s King of Kings (1927), and Franco Zeffirelli (Zeffirelli, Franco)'s Jesus of Nazareth (1977). The obvious difficulty with this approach is that these additions are either completely invented or, at best, highly speculative.

      The alternative approach, confining the narrative to a segment of Jesus' life—as suggested in the title of Martin Scorsese (Scorsese, Martin)'s The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)—has not been widely pursued. (Even The Last Temptation portrays more than Jesus' Crucifixion.) A more extreme example in this vein is the Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini (Pasolini, Pier Paolo)'s The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964), which is a strict rendering of the Gospel. There is no screenplay as such—Pasolini confined himself to the words found in the Gospel—and only scenes described by Matthew are shown.

      The second problem confronting films about Jesus (and, indeed, all biblical films) concerns the matter of interpretation. There is a wide range of perspectives, both religious and nonreligious, on the nature (or natures) and significance of Jesus, and no film about him can avoid, directly or indirectly, taking a position on these questions. One basic aspect of the problem has to do with Jesus' physical appearance. It is taken for granted that the actor portraying Jesus must be “handsome,” at least by the standards of the period in which the film is made. But beyond this and the traditional shoulder-length hair and beard, there is little consensus about how Jesus should look. In The Greatest Story Ever Told, for example, Jesus is portrayed as having blondish hair and blue eyes.

      The supernatural or miraculous character of many of the stories in the Gospels (and the Bible in general) is a third problem that filmmakers face. Whether the events in these stories are presented as natural happenings or as genuinely supernatural or miraculous, some segment of the viewing public is likely to be offended. In addition, in films that present a supernatural interpretation, there is the further problem of how to depict these events visually.

      Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ (2004) avoids some of the problems attending a film on Jesus by concentrating on the last 12 hours of Jesus' life, from his arrest to his Crucifixion. The film was criticized, however, for alleged anti-Semitism, excessive gore and violence, and its conservative theological message. The controversy surrounding the film indicates once more the conceptual impossibility of making a universally accepted motion picture portrait of Jesus of Nazareth at a time when the traditional understanding of Jesus has largely disappeared.

      A few films have attempted to depict Jesus in the present, suggesting—as did late medieval and late 19th-century paintings—the timelessness of Jesus' story. Denys Arcand's Jesus of Montreal (1990), for example, portrays a group of actors in Montreal who are hired to stage a Passion play. As they do, they come into conflict with the religious and political establishment; their leader is killed when a crucifix used in the play falls on him and is “resurrected” when his organs are donated to others. Another excellent illustration of this category is Celui qui doit mourir (1957; “He Who Must Die”), by the French director Jules Dassin.

      A related genre of film does not directly deal with Jesus but portrays “redeemer” figures who are more or less modeled after him. In Tony Richardson (Richardson, Tony)'s Sanctuary (1961; based on two stories of William Faulkner (Faulkner, William)), Stevens's Shane (1953), and Clint Eastwood (Eastwood, Clint)'s Pale Rider (1985), for example, a figure sacrifices himself (Sanctuary) or joins the side of good in a fight between good and evil (Shane, Pale Rider).

      Jesus has also been portrayed in musicals that were later made into films; perhaps the best-known examples are Andrew Lloyd Webber (Lloyd Webber, Andrew, Baron Lloyd-Webber of Sydmonton) and Tim Rice's Jesus Christ, Superstar (1971) and Stephen Schwartz and John Michael Tebelak's Godspell (1971). Although these films do not escape the narrative and interpretive problems noted above, the format of the musical has a way of translating Jesus' story into a lilting account of happy make-believe. A final genre of films about Jesus consists of satires of Jesus or of Christianity; it is well represented by Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979).

Hans J. Hillerbrand

Additional Reading

General works
There are numerous general studies of histories of Christian thought and Christology. Among the most useful surveys of Christian theology is Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, 6 vol. (2002). Jaroslav Pelikan, Jesus Through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture (1999); and Marvin W. Meyer and Charles Hughes (eds.), Jesus Then and Now: Images of Jesus in History and Christology (2001), examine the understanding of Jesus throughout history. John McIntyre, The Shape of Christology, 2nd ed. (1998), is a general survey of approaches to Christology; and David F. Ford and Mike Higton (eds.), Jesus (2002), is an extensive collection of sources on attitudes toward Jesus throughout history. Important works by contemporary scholars and theologians include E.P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion (1977); Edward Schillebeeckx, Jesus: An Experiment in Christology (1979); Mary Daly, Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women's Liberation (1985); Rosemary Radford Ruether, Mary, the Feminine Face of the Church (1977); and Rudolf Karl Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament (1970).

New Testament and early Christian Christology
Christology in Scripture and during the early history of Christianity are considered in Paul Fredriksen, From Jesus to Christ: The Origins of New Testament Images of Jesus, 2nd. ed. (2000); Martin Hengel, Studies in Early Christology (1995); C.F.D. Moule, The Origin of Christology (1977); Martin Hengel, The Son of God: The Origin of Christology and the History of Jewish-Hellenistic Religion (1976); Wilhelm Bossuet, Kyrios Christos: A History of the Belief in Christ from the Beginnings of Christianity to Irenaeus, trans. by John E. Steely (1970; originally published in German, 1913); Ferdinand Hahn, The Titles of Jesus in Christology: Their History in Early Christianity (1969); Oscar Cullmann, The Christology of the New Testament, trans. by Shirley C. Guthrie and Charles A.M. Hall (1968; originally published in German, 1957); Reginald Horace Fuller, The Foundations of New Testament Christology (1965, reissued 1979); and Aloys Grillmeyer, Christ in the Christian Tradition: From the Apostolic Age to Chalcedon (451), trans. by Pauline Allen and John Cawte (1965, reissued 1995; originally published in German, 1951).The debates of the 4th and 5th centuries are examined in Rowan Williams, Arius: Heresy and Tradition, rev. ed. (2002), a thoughtful work by the archbishop of Canterbury; Timothy D. Barnes, Athanasius and Constantius: Theology and Politics in the Constantinian Empire (2001); Richard P.C. Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy, 318–381 (1988); V.C. Samuel, The Council of Chalcedon Re-examined (1977); and A.A. Luce, Monophysitism, Past and Present: A Study in Christology (1920).

Christology in the Middle Ages
Developments in medieval Christology are treated in Rachel Fulton, From Judgment to Passion: Devotion to the Christ and the Virgin Mary (2002); Celia Chazelle, The Crucified God in the Carolingian Era: Theology and Art of Christ's Passion (2001); John C. Cavadini, The Last Christology of the West: Adoptionism in Spain and Gaul, 785–820 (1993); and Barbara C. Raw, Anglo-Saxon Crucifixion Iconography and the Art of the Monastic Revival (1990). R.W. Southern, Saint Anselm: A Portrait in a Landscape (1990); and Michael Clanchy, Abelard: A Medieval Life (1997), are biographies of two important medieval theologians.

Protestant and Eastern Orthodox Christology
An introduction to Christology in the Protestant tradition is provided in John D. Rempel, The Lord's Supper in Anabaptism: A Study in the Christology of Balthasar Hubmaier, Pilgram Marpeck, and Dirk Philips (1993), no. 33 in the series Studies in Anabaptist and Mennonite History; A. Schmidt, Die Christologie in Martin Luthers späten Disputationen (1990); and T. Mahlmann, Das neue Dogma der lutherischen Christologie. Probleme und Geschichte seiner Begründung. Gütersloh (1969). John Meyendorff, Christ in Eastern Christian Thought, 2nd ed. (1987; originally published in French, 1969), is an excellent examination of Eastern Orthodox Christology.

Modern views
There are numerous works on modern Christology by theologians and other scholars. Among the more provocative and informative are Joseph Pandiappallil, Jesus the Christ and Religious Pluralism: Rahnerian Christology and Belief Today (2001); John Macquarrie, Christology Revisited (1998); Alrah Pitchers, The Christology of Hans Küng: A Critical Examination (1997); Julie M. Hopkins, Towards a Feminist Christology: Jesus of Nazareth, European Women, and the Christological Crisis (1994); Alister E. McGrath, The Making of Modern German Christology, 1750–1990, 2nd ed. (1994); Victor Paul Furnish, Jesus According to Paul (1993), in the series Understanding Jesus Today; John Hick, The Metaphor of God Incarnate: Christology in a Pluralistic Age (1993); C. Norman Kraus, Jesus Christ Our Lord: Christology From a Disciple's Perspective, rev. ed. (1990); Schubert M. Ogden, The Point of Christology (1982, reissued 1992); Karl Rahner, A New Christology (1980); Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jesus, God, and Man, 2nd ed. (1977, reissued 2001; originally published in German, 1964); John Hick (ed.), The Myth of God Incarnate: Christology in a Pluralistic Age (1977, reissued 1993); and Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus: A Critical Study of Its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede, trans. by W. Montgomery et al., 3rd ed. (1954, reissued 2001; originally published in German, 1906).

Non-Western Christology
Studies of Christology in the developing world include A. Alangaram, Christ of the Asian Peoples: Towards an Asian Contextual Christology: Based on the Documents of Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences, 2nd rev. ed. (2001); V. Küster, The Many Faces of Jesus Christ: Intercultural Christology (1999, reissued 2001); Daniel Lucas Lukito, Making Christology Relevant to the Third World: Applying Christopraxis to Local Struggle (1998); Donald E. Waltermire, The Liberation Christologies of Leonardo Boff and Jon Sobrino: Latin American Contributions to Contemporary Christology (1994); and Douglas J. Elwood (ed.), Asian Christian Theology: Emerging Themes, rev. ed. (1980; originally published as What Asian Christians are Thinking: A Theological Source Book, with Supplementary Bibliography, 1976). Good introductions to African Christology include Diane B. Stinton, Jesus of Africa: Voices of Contemporary African Christology (2004); and S.O. Abogunrin, J.O. Akao, and D.O. Akintunde (eds.), Christology in African Context (2003).

Jesus in art
The history of depictions of Jesus in painting and sculpture is treated in Ron O'Grady (ed.), Christ for All People: Celebrating a World of Christian Art (2001); John Drury, Painting the Word: Christian Pictures and Their Meanings (1999); Jaroslav Pelikan, The Illustrated Jesus Through the Centuries (1997); Stanley E. Porter, Michael A. Hayes, and David Tombs (eds.), Images of Christ: Ancient and Modern (1997); Nancy Grubb, The Life of Christ in Art (1996); Leo Steinberg, The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion, 2nd ed., rev. and expanded (1996); Egon Sendler, The Icon: Image of the Invisible (1988, reissued 1999); Roland H. Bainton, Behold the Christ (1974); Gertrud Schiller, Iconography of Christian Art, trans. from German by Janet Seligman, 2 vol. (1971); Owen S. Rachleff, Rembrandt's Life of Christ: Paintings, Drawings, and Etchings by Rembrandt, with Quotations from the Gospels (1966); Marcelle Auclair, Christ's Image, trans. from the French by Lionel Izod, rev. ed. (1961); Cynthia Pearl Maus, Christ and the Fine Arts: An Anthology of Pictures, Poetry, Music, and Stories Centering in the Life of Christ, rev. and enlarged ed. (1959, reissued 1977); Marvin Ross and Bruce Rogers, The Life of Christ in Masterpieces of Art and the Words of the New Testament. Selection of Masterworks (1957); James Christopher Emerson (ed.), The Life of Christ in the Conception and Expression of Chinese and Oriental Artists: The Mystery of Christ as Conceived by the Oriental Mind (1939, reprinted 1979); and Wyke Bayliss, Rex Regum: A Painter's Study of the Likeness of Christ from the Time of the Apostles to the Present Day (1898, reissued 1905).

Jesus in film
Portrayals of Jesus in motion pictures are studied in Bryan P. Stone, Faith and Film: Theological Themes at the Cinema (2000); Richard C. Stern, Clayton N. Jefford, and Guerric DeBona, Savior on the Silver Screen (1999); Lloyd Baugh, Imaging the Divine: Jesus and Christ-Figures in Film (1997); and W. Barnes Tatum, Jesus at the Movies: A Guide to the First Hundred Years (1997, reissued 2004).Hans J. Hillerbrand

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Universalium. 2010.

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