Historicity In The Consciousness Of Primitive Christianity

Now that is precisely what the New Testament proposes to us. The most clearcut example is Luke, who wrote a Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. He describes a real-Iife history. The life of Jesus begins in Bethlehem, continues in Nazareth and other parts of the nation, and culminates in Jerusalem. The book of Acts picks up the subsequent life of his Church. From Jerusalem it spreads to Samaria and Antioch. Through the missionary work of Saint Paul, it eventually reaches Rome. Luke's narrative depicts the historical growth of Christianity as a widening expanse of concentric circles, which start in Bethlehem and eventually end up in Rome. Rome is seen as the center of world history and the culmination of the process.

Here Christianity begins to take cognizance of its temporality, to interpret its own evolution and growth, thereby providing itself with a theology of history. The book of Revelation, like the works of Luke, tries to engage in historical self-interpretation also. In a prophetic vein it attempts to interpret very real events that were happening to Christians in the first century A.D. It interprets the persecutions suffered by the faithful along the line of Hebrew apocalyptic theology, which is another way of theologizing in terms of the concrete, sacred happenings that are befalling a community. The whole process of objectification within the Jewish communities of the Old Testament and the early Christian communities of the New Testament is a process of historical hermeneutics. Jesus is a real, concrete child who grows in wisdom, age, and grace; and after him, the Church grows in like manner. These primeval events are described, not in anecdotal terms, but in a way that gives them meaning and sense. The "description" is actually a theology of history.

This process continues in the movement known as Judaeo-Christianity, which begins around 60 A.D. and continues to 100 or 120 A.D. It is noteworthy because it is a Christian movement, but a Christian movement with a Jewish apocalyptic theology. The logical instrumentation for giving expression to its experience continues to be that of Hebrew thinking; hence it continues to operate on an historical level. Revelations are offered to the community which help it to interpret the course of certain Christian phenomena. Theology is still the description of a sacred history, of liberation.

At the end of the first century after Christ, however, there is a break. Theology, which had been the description or explicitation of God's revelation in history, begins to be hellenized. There is a shift from reflective consideration of the history of God's revelation to his people to a systematic theology which presents its argument in the manner of the Greeks.

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