Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Jesus Christ: The Human Being

Below is the text of an article called, “Jesus Christ: The Human Being,” by James W. Douglas that was published in a journal called The Critic , published by the Thomas More Association, in the summer of 1991. Ponder this article in light of all the war, terrorism, murder and abuse in the world today, including the violence depicted in Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ.

IN 1968, a team of archeologists discovered four cave-tombs just north of Jerusalem, the burial site of several families of Jesus’ time. The discovery has become famous because it includes the only extant bones of a crucified man, whose name was Jehonanan. His bones have made it possible to reconstruct the terrible ordeal of an execution by crucifixion under the Roman Empire. Perhaps as significant, the site reveals the overall systemic violence in the time of Jesus. The four caves contain the bones of thirty-six individuals, at least ten of whom were killed by oppression or violence. Specialists have determined that three of the children died of starvation; a child of four died from an arrow wound in his skull; a boy about sixteen years old was burned to death bound on a rack; a slightly older girl was also burned to death; an old woman was killed by the crushing blow of a mace-like weapon; a woman in her thirties died in childbirth, with her unborn child in her pelvis, because of the lack of a simple intervention by a midwife; and Jehonanan, the man, was crucified.

This was the oppression and violence suffered by Palestinian Jews in Jesus’ time.

Christians have paid slight if any heed to this systemic violence as the real situation out of which Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God. As with so many of the world’s peoples, then and now, Jesus had to decide how to respond to the overwhelming oppression surrounding and bearing down upon him. His response was a deepening vision of a nonviolent transformation of his people, in which the kingdom of God, and, “The Human Being,” became his principal terms for expressing a new reality.

That mysterious dimension of Jesus’ vision which he called, remarkably enough, “The Human Being,” Bar Enasha (or Bar Nasha) in Aramaic, is usually translated through an intermediate Greek phrase as, “The Son of Man.” It is commonplace of biblical scholars that Bar Enasha is the most authentic layer of Jesus’ self-identification in the gospels. As John L. McKenzie put it, “The very fact that the phrase is attributed to Jesus [82 times] and to no one else in the gospels is a persuasive consideration that the phrase goes back to Jesus. It then becomes a question of what he meant by the phrase” (New Testament Without Illusion).

The question of the meaning of Bar Enasha has mired scholars in endless debate, even as they have (perhaps not coincidentally) accepted, “Son of Man,” as the term for that debate. But as Mckenzie points out concerning, “Son of Man,” and its Greek derivation, “The phrase was as meaningless in Greek as it is in English.” The Aramaic idiom, with the nuances given it by Jesus, transcends what McKenzie calls the, “Excessively literal, ‘Son of Man,’” (Dictionary of the Bible).

TO BEGIN to understand Bar Enasha, we may need to see it through a more nuanced translation, as well as through those dimensions of our own experience which parallel most closely the human reality Jesus was probing. Scripture scholar Walter Wink has suggested a linguistic approach to Bar Enasha emphasizing its collective meaning. Concerning, “Son of Man,” Wink says, “Son of,” is merely a Semitic idiom meaning, ‘Of or pertaining to the following genus or species.’ To translate Bar Enasha as the, ‘True Humanity,’ or the ‘Human Being,’ or your own, ‘Divinely revolutionized humanity,” or M.L. King’s, ‘Beloved Community,’ would all be better [than Son of Man].”
Thus, perhaps it is in terms of the, “Human Being,”–understood personally, collectively, and interchangeably with the synonyms suggested by Wink – that we can begin to understand this self-designation of Jesus, fraught with overtones of something about to happen: “But that you may know that the Human Being has authority on Earth to forgive sins” – he said to the paralytic – “I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home” (Mark 2:10-11). Bar Enshasa stands a theological junction. Besides having been Jesus’ way to refer to himself, Bar Enshasa was to become the basis for the Christian church’s doctrine of Jesus’ second coming. In almost every passage of the gospels that has been interpreted to mean Jesus’ Second Coming, Jesus refers specifically to himself as the, “Human Being.” A vivid instance is Jesus’ parousia saying, “The coming (parousia) of the Human Being will be like lightning striking in the east and flashing far into the west” (Matthew 24:27).
That Bar Enasha or, “Human Being,” by which Jesus identified himself and his vision has, in its original context in the Hebrew Scriptures, a collective meaning as well. Bar Enasha bridges two powerful concepts. What was to become for the church a statement of Jesus’ return in glory was, for Jesus himself, a vision of Israel’s and the world’s non-violent transformation. The Palestinian Jew, Jesus of Israel, envisioned for his people, and strove to create a nonviolent society based on faith, a reality which for us remains all but unthinkable. A recovery of his vision, within the visions of the Synoptic Gospels, can mean our seeing for the first time the non-violent coming of God, both then and now.

I believe that the Second Coming of Bar Enasha, as the, “Human Being,” Jesus Christ, is happening right now. Christ the human being is coming into the world today, as Martin Luther King realized when he said, “ I see God working in this period of the twentieth century in a way that [people], in some strange way, are responding –something is happening in our world. The masses of people rising up. And wherever they are assembled today...the cry is always the same – ‘We want to be free.’ (I see the Promised Land.)” But this Second Coming of Bar Enasha, as identified prophetically by Martin Luther King, has been repressed in our consciousness and has gone unrecognized.


Blogger Talmida said...

Stephen, what a powerful article! I think I have to blog about this today...

11:12 AM  
Blogger 1dayin7 said...

Erm... not sure I follow this.

If you want to put a number to it, the "2nd coming" already happened... we must be into the millions by now...

or are you looking at it from a metaphorical sense of "post-Christian" civilisations?


6:20 PM  
Anonymous Viagra Online said...

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12:08 PM  

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