entête

Michel Gourgues, Croce, in G. Ravasi, R. Penna, G. Perego (ed.), Dizionario dei Temi Teologici della Bibbia. Balsamo: Edizioni San Paolo, 2010, pp. 254-262.

(Full text)


Michel Gourgues, of the Order of Preachers Friars, is a full professor in the Faculty of Theology at the Dominican University College in Ottawa, Canada, and is responsible for courses on the New Testament. Born on August 22, 1942, he entered the Dominicans in 1963, made religious profession on August 4, 1964, and was ordained priest on May 30, 1970. After completing his studies in philosophy and theology at the Dominican University College in Ottawa, he obtained his Ph.D. in 1976 at the Institut Catholique de Paris ("Le Seigneur a dit à Mon Seigneur..." L'application christologique du Psaume 110:1 dans le Nouveau Testament). He is also a tenured student at the French Biblical and Archaeological School in Jerusalem. Michel Gourgues is the author of numerous publications. These include:

  1. A la droite de Dieu. Résurrection de Jésus et actualisation du Psaume 110:1 dans le Nouveau Testament (At the right hand of God. Jesus' resurrection and updating of Psalm 110:1 in the New Testament). Paris : Gabalda (Études Bibliques), 1978.
  2. Les psaumes et Jésus — Jésus et les psaumes (The Psalms and Jesus - Jesus and the Psalms), Cahiers Évangile no 25. Paris : Cerf, 1978.
  3. Jésus devant sa passion et sa mort (Jesus before his passion and death), Cahiers Évangile no 30. Paris : Cerf, 1979.
  4. L’an prochain à Jérusalem. Approche concrète de l’espérance biblique (Next year in Jerusalem. Concrete approach to biblical hope), La Vie Spirituelle 639. Paris : Cerf, 1980.
  5. L’au-delà dans le Nouveau Testament (The afterlife in the New Testament), Cahiers Evangile no 41. Paris : Cerf, 1982.
  6. « Pour que vous croyiez... » Pistes d’exploration de l’évangile de Jean ("For you to believe... " Paths to explore the Gospel of John). Paris : Cerf, 1982.
  7. "L'Apocalypse" ou "les trois Apocalypses" de Jean? ("The Apocalypse" or John's "Three Apocalypses"?), 1983, 26 p.
  8. Le défi de la fidélité — L’expérience de Jésus (The Challenge of Faithfulness - The Experience of Jesus). Paris : Cerf (Lire la Bible, 70), 1985.
  9. (Collaboration) À cause de l’Évangile (For the sake of the Gospel). Études sur les Synoptiques et les Actes offertes au Père Jacques Dupont, o.s.b., à l’occasion de son soixante-dixième anniversaire. Paris : Cerf (Lectio Divina, 123), 1985.
  10. (Collaboration) L’Altérité. Vivre ensemble différents (Otherness. Living together different). Actes d’un colloque pluridisciplinaire pour le 75e anniversaire du collège dominicain de philosophie et théologie, Ottawa, 4-6 oct. 1984. Paris-Montréal : Cerf-Bellarmin (Recherches, 7), 1986.
  11. Mission et communauté (Actes des Apôtres 1-12) (Mission and community), Cahiers Evangile no 60. Paris : Cerf, 1988.
  12. Le Crucifié. Du scandale à l’exaltation (The Crucified One. From scandal to exaltation). Montréal- Paris : Bellarmin-Desclée (Jésus et Jésus-Christ, 38), 1988
  13. L’Évangile chez les païens (Actes des Apôtres 13-28) (The Gospel among the Gentiles ), Cahiers Évangile no 67. Paris : Cerf, 1989.
  14. Prier les hymnes du Nouveau Testament (Praying New Testament hymns), Cahiers Évangile no 80. Paris : Cerf, 1992.
  15. Jean, de l’exégèse à la prédication I (John, from exegesis to preaching I). Carême et Pâques Année A. Paris : Cerf (Lire la Bible, 97), 1993.
  16. Jean, de l’exégèse à la prédication II (John, from exegesis to preaching II). Carême et Pâques Année B. Paris : Cerf (Lire la Bible, 100), 1993.
  17. Luc, de l’exégèse à la prédication (Luke, from exegesis to preaching). Carême et Pâques Année C. Paris : Cerf (Lire la Bible, 103), 1994.
  18. Foi, bonheur et sens de la vie: Relire aujourd’hui les Béatitudes (Faith, Happiness and Meaning of Life: Rereading the Beatitudes Today). Montréal : Mediaspaul, 1995, 102 p.
  19. Cinquante ans de recherche johannique. De Bultmann à la narratologie (Fifty years of Johannine research. From Bultmann to narratology), dans « De bien des manières ». La recherche biblique aux abords du XXIe siècle. Actes du Cinquantenaire de l’ACEBAC (1943-1993) édités par Michel Gourgues et Léo Laberge. Paris : Cerf (Lectio Divina, 163), 1996.
  20. Préface à l’ouvrage Les Patriarches et l’histoire. Autour d’un article inédit du père M.-J. Lagrange, o.p. (Patriarchs and history. Based on an unpublished article by Father M.-J. Lagrange, o.p.) Paris : Cerf (Lectio Divina), 1998
  21. La vie et la mort de Jésus. Une même dynamique (The life and death of Jesus. The same dynamic), dans Mourir, Christus 184. Paris : IHS, 1999.
  22. Les paraboles de Jésus chez Marc et Matthieu - D’amont en aval (The Parables of Jesus in Mark and Matthew - From Upstream to Downstream). Montréal : Médiaspaul, 1999.
  23. Jean-Marie Tillard, o.p. (1927-2000), La Vie Spirituelle 738. Paris : Cerf, 2001.
  24. Le Pater. Parole sur Dieu. Parole sur nous (The Father. Word about God. Word about us). Namur : Lumen Vitae (Connaître la Bible, 26) 2002, 75 p.
  25. Jésus et son père (Jesus and his father), dans La paternité pour tenir debout, Christus 202. Paris : IHS, 2004.
  26. Partout où tu iras... : Conceptions et expériences bibliques de l’espace (Wherever you go... : Biblical Conceptions and Experiences of Space), en collaboration avec Michel Talbot. Montréal : Médiaspaul, 2005.
  27. En ce temps-là... (In those days...), en collaboration avec Michel Talbot. Montréal : Médiaspaul, 2005.
  28. En esprit et en vérité. Pistes d’exploration de l’évangile de Jean (In spirit and in truth. Paths of exploration of the Gospel of John). Montréal : Médiaspaul, 2005.
  29. « Laisse donc voir ! » [Matthieu 5, 3-16] ("Let me see!" [Matthew 5:3-16]), La Vie Spirituelle 763. Paris : Cerf, 2006.
  30. Serviteurs du Christ à la naissance de l’Église (Servants of Christ at the birth of the Church). Paris : Cerf (Biblia, 64), 2007.
  31. Marc et Luc : trois livres, un Évangile : Repères pour la lecture (Mark and Luke: Three Books, One Gospel: Landmarks for Reading). Montréal : Médiaspaul, 2007.
  32. Les deux lettres à Timothée. La lettre à Tite (The two letters to Timothy. The letter to Titus). Paris : Cerf (Commentaire biblique : Nouveau Testament, 14), 2009.
  33. « Souviens-toi de Jésus Christ » (2 Tm 2,8.11-13) : De l’instruction aux baptisés à l’encouragement aux missionnaires ("Remember Jesus Christ" (2 Tim 2:8.11-13): From instruction to the baptized to support to missionaries), dans Les Hymnes du Nouveau Testament et leurs fonctions. Paris : Cerf (Lectio Divina, 225), 2009.
  34. « Croce », dans G. RAVASI, R. PENNA, G. PEREGO (ed.), Dizionario dei Temi Teologici della Bibbia. Balsamo: Edizioni San Paolo, 2010, pp. 254-262.
  35. Le crucifié (The Crucified One). Paris: Mame-Desclée, 2010, 200 p.
  36. Je le ressusciterai au dernier jour : la singularité de l’espérance chrétienne (I will resurrect him on the last day: the singularity of Christian hope). Paris : Cerf (Lire la Bible, 173), 2012
  37. Les pouvoirs en voie d’institutionnalisation dans les épîtres pastorales (Powers in the process of being institutionalized in pastoral epistles), dans Le Pouvoir — Enquêtes dans l’un et l’autre Testament. Paris : Cerf (Lectio Divina, 248), 2012.
  38. Ni homme ni femme : l’attitude du premier christianisme à l’égard de la femme : évolutions et régressions (Neither man nor woman: the attitude of the first Christianity towards women: evolutions and regressions). Paris-Montréal : Cerf-Médiaspaul (Lire la Bible), 2013
  39. Les formes prélittéraires, ou l’Évangile avant l’Écriture (Preliterary forms, or the Gospel before Scripture), dans Histoire de la littérature grecque chrétienne, 2. De Paul apôtre à Irénée de Lyon. Paris : Cerf (Initiations aux Pères de l’Église, 2013.
  40. Plus tard tu comprendras. La formation du Nouveau Testament (Later you'll understand. The formation of the New Testament). Paris-Montréal : Cerf-Mediaspaul (Lire la Bible, 196), 2019, 187 p.


The Cross


Summary

The crucifixion of Jesus is first of all an event that took place on April 7, 30 AD: crucified at 9:00 a.m., he died around 3:00 p.m., the day before the Sabbath which fell that year on the same day as the Jewish Passover. Thereafter, his disciples and the Christian communities lived a three-stage journey.

The first step is to speak about the death of Jesus while being discreet about his crucifixion. This can be seen in the early confessions of faith that speak only of death and resurrection, such as the one quoted by Paul in 1 Thess 4:14 ("We believe that Jesus died and rose again") or in the ancient hymns that present the death of Jesus as extreme obedience (see Phil 2:6-11). In what can be reconstructed from early Christian preaching (especially through the Acts of the Apostles), it seems difficult to avoid the known fact of his crucifixion, but there is an immediate insistence on his resurrection by God, in a very defensive reaction.

In a second stage, a better understanding of the cross will lead Christians to recognize that God wanted this state of weakness, as we see in Paul, in order to destroy human pretensions to wisdom and to insist on God's way of intervening through our weakness and on his power which resurrected Jesus. Or again, one will recognize the painful side of the cross and immediately invite the Christian to follow this model of endurance (see Hebrews 12:2). At the same time, the rereading of this event with the help of Scripture, in particular the fourth song of the Servant of Isaiah (52:13-53:12), introduces the idea of the soteriological value of this death (see 1 Pet 2:22-25: "He himself in his body on the tree bore our sins so that, dead to our sins, we might live for righteousness"). Moreover, since this death was bloody, it is compared to the sacrifices for sins and the rite of atonement for sins, like that of Yom Kippur.

The third stage appears in the Gospel accounts of the passion. First of all, they still echo the great discretion of Christians on the cross, so that it only appears at the time of Pilate's condemnation of Jesus. Secondly, his innocence is emphasized, especially through Pilate's assertions. But what characterizes this stage is the development of references to Scripture so that the various moments of the passion finally find meaning. There is even more. One turns to the Christian to say: if someone wants to place himself at the service of the Gospel, he too must take up his cross, i.e., be ready for the renunciations or uprooting arising from his choice to follow Christ.


 


  1. Introduction.

    7 April 30: this is the most probable date on which Christian sources lead historians to situate the crucifixion of Jesus. Crucified at 9 o'clock in the morning according to Mk 15:25, a little after midday according to Jn 19:14, Jesus dies around 3 o'clock in the afternoon (Mk 15:34), the day before the Sabbath (Mk 15:42) when the Jewish Passover fell that year (Jn 19:14). Apart from the Gospel accounts, the event is reported around 75 by Flavius Josephus (Ant., XVIII, 63-64) and around 115 by Tacitus (Annals, XV, 44), both of which link it to a condemnation by Pontius Pilate (26-36 AD). To this a quo date responds an ad quem date, almost three generations later, the advanced theology of the fourth Gospel. The cross is no longer seen as the scandal that it was at the beginning, but as the first moment of the Hour of Jesus and, with the resurrection, an integral part of his exaltation (3:14; 8:28; 12:32-33) and glorification (12:23-34). Between these two dates, the New Testament datum allows us to discern three stages through which the believer's better understanding of the mystery of the cross went. The pre-Paullian forms (between 30 and 50), the letters (between 50 and 70), and finally the Gospels, especially the passion narratives (between 70 and 100) testify to this.

  2. The oldest testimonies.

    As witnesses to the 20 years between the death of Jesus and the writing of 1 Thessalonians (Paul first letter), we are left with only fragments. Sometimes of a few words, sometimes of a few lines, more or less easy to spot, they are scattered here and there in the N.T., especially in the letters.

    1. Credos

      Forms of the first type, creeds or confessions of faith, are sometimes introduced more or less explicitly as citations. 1 Thes 4:14 is typical of this point of view: "We believe that Jesus died and rose again". The death and resurrection of Jesus: the formulations may vary, but the essential core is always the same: "God raised Jesus from the dead" (cf. Rom 4:24; 10:9); "he died and came back to life" (Rom 14:9). At times more elaborate, the proclamation is not content to affirm the fact of the death-resurrection, but expresses something of its salvific significance. This is the case in the ancient creed quoted by Paul in 1 Cor 15:3-5: "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (...), he rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures". In the same way in Romans 4:25, where the language of the fourth song of the Servant of Isa 52:13-53:12 is discernible as a filigree: "given over for our trespasses and raised for our justification", or more simply in 2 Corinthians 5:15: "...he who died and rose again for their sake". These ancient proclamations of faith, while they all mention the death of Jesus, nowhere do they mention its concrete modality. He "died for us", "died for our sins", "given over for our sins", but never "crucified" or "crucified for us".

    2. Hymns

      Alongside the creeds, the early Christian writings still echo the hymns, which are generally more developed and of a more lyrical nature. Not always reproduced literally, it is sometimes difficult to disentangle tradition and editorial work. Thus, in the magnificent hymn quoted by Paul in Phil 2:6-11 and celebrating the mystery of Christ according to a scheme of humbling (vv. 6-8) / exaltation (vv. 9-11), the mention of the cross is inserted just at the hinge point between these two sides (vv. 8b). But various clues point to an addition by Paul. The two stanzas of the first part present a play of correspondences and symmetries in construction, ideas and vocabulary:

      6a him being in [the] form
      of God
      7c having become in the [the] likeness
      of men
      6b did not considered as something to grasp
      to be equal with god
      7d and having been found in appearance
      as a man
      7a but he emptied himself8a he humbled himself
      7b having taken [the] form of a esclave8b having become obedient unto death
       (and [the] death of [the] cross)

      The final clause of v. 8 ("and the death of the cross"), as can be seen, does not find a corresponding element in the first stanza. On the other hand, an insistence on the paradox of the cross appears to be in line with Paul's theology (1 Cor 1-2; 2 Cor 13:4; Gal 3:13; 5:11; 6:14), which is intended to underline the extreme character of Jesus' obedience. There is also mention of the cross in the final clause of the hymn of Col 1:15-20, which appears as an echo of an existing form, of sapiential inspiration and celebrating the primacy of Christ in the order of creation (vv. 15-17) and salvation (vv. 18-20). Here again, it seems that the mention of the cross ("having made peace through the blood of his cross") was not part of the form used by Paul. Indeed, the vocabulary and themes of this passage are found elsewhere in the letters of captivity, notably in Eph 2:13-16 where the mention of the cross is also found. For the rest, the cross is absent in the other hymn-like relics (e.g. 1 Tim 3:16; 2 Tim 2:8.11-12; Eph 1:3-14; 1 Pet 3:18-22) identified as witnesses to early Christianity.

    3. Kerygma.

      An echo of early Christian preaching is generally recognized in Peter's discourses in the first part of the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:14-36; 3:12-26; 4:8-12; 5:29-32; 10:34-43) and in Paul's in Acts 13:16-41. Although they were composed by the author of the Acts, these discourses are similar to the creeds and hymns in that they have the same proclamation of the death and resurrection of Jesus as their central nucleus:

      Acts 2: 22-242: 363: 13-154: 105: 3010: 38-4013: 28-30
      Jesus of Nazareth... This JesusJesus... Jesus Christ of Nazareth Jesus Jesus of Nazareth... This one...
      you made him die by nailing him by the hand of the godless whom you crucified you killed the Author of life whom you crucified whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree they put him to death by hanging him on a tree they asked Pilate to have him killed.
      God raised him up, having freed him from death God has made him both Lord and Messiah God raised him from the dead whom God raised from the dead The God of our ancestors raised (him) up God raised him on the third day God raised him from the dead

      As can be seen from the central section of this diagram, where the death of Jesus is mentioned, the essential proclamation of four of the six discourses, unlike the hymns and creeds, includes the proclamation of the crucifixion: twice the verb "to crucify" (stauroô), twice the expression "to hang on the tree" and once the verb "to nail" (prospègnymi). Was it really so at the beginning, or is it to be attributed to Luke for having thus specified the manner of Jesus' death? In any case, the formulation must remember a true reaction of the first Christian preaching. It can be seen that wherever it appears, in one or other of the three forms, the mention of the cross is accompanied by the mention of the resurrection or the exaltation of Jesus. And in all cases, the negative intervention of Jewish leaders against Jesus is contrasted with the positive intervention of God in his favor. There is a defensive attitude here which makes it clear that if Jesus had to suffer the cross, it was because of human injustice and not because of God's reprobation or punishment. In 5:30 and 10:39, in particular, we find the expression "hanged on a tree" (5:30; 10:39). This is the expression found in the Greek text of Deut 21:22-23. This passage declares cursed by God the one who, found "guilty of a capital crime", was put to death and whose body, as a mark of infamy and as a deterrent, was publicly displayed on a tree. Now, the writings of Qumran (4 QpNahum; 11 QTemple) show that in Jesus' time it was already the custom to assimilate the experience of the crucified to that of the hanged described in this text of the Old Testament. From then on, the first Christian preaching in Jewish circles must have come up against the difficulty that Jesus, having died on the cross, was cursed by God. Paul himself, in Ga 3:13, in a polemical context with regard to Judaism, echoes this objection, which will be further refuted by the Second Justin (Tryph., 23) and Tertullian (Adv. Jud., 10). The insistence in Acts appears to be a defensive reaction to the difficulties raised by the preaching of the cross: no, Jesus was not cursed by God; on the contrary, God raised him from the dead.

    4. Silence, discretion and defensive reactions.

      Thus, the first proclamation of the Christian faith avoided focusing attention on the cross. Even once the idea of Jesus' death had been tamed and its basic meaning perceived, the disciples were not inclined to insist on how he had died. This attitude was dictated less by shame, no doubt, than by a pastoral sense. It is easy to understand when one considers what the punishment of crucifixion meant in the first century.

  3. Crucifixion: the cultural background.

    1. Custom

      One of the first literary attestations of the custum of crucifixion appears in the 5th century BC in Herodotus (Hist. VII,194) who attributes it to Darius, king of the Persians. This capital mode of execution was to survive until its abolition by Constantine in the 4th c. AD.

      1. In Antiquity

        Known to Plato as the worst of all tortures (Gorgias, 473c), the punishment of the cross, if we are to believe the late testimony of Curtius Rufus (Hist. Alex. IV,4,17), was already inflicted under Alexander the Great, before spreading in the Hellenistic period in certain regions, including Greece itself (Diodorus Sic., XIX,67,2; XX,103,6). A number of individual (Diodorus Sic., XXV,5,2; 10,2) and group crucifixions (Id., XXVI,23,1; Polybius, I, 24,6; 86,4-5; Titus Livius, XXVIII,37,2) are reported particularly in Carthage, from where the practice, well attested by several authors, was to pass to the Romans from the time of the Republic and to continue under the Empire (from 27 BC).

      2. In Palestine

        According to Flavius Josephus, Palestine was the scene of multiple crucifixions, from the time of Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 BC) until the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, when, with so many victims, "there was not enough room for crosses and crosses for bodies" (War II,451). Most of them were ordained by foreign leaders, either Antiochus himself (Ant. XII,256), or local representatives of Roman power, legates of Syria (War II,75; Ant. XX,130), procurators of Judea (Ant. XX,102; War II,253.308) or Roman army commanders (War II,321.449-451). One of the most murderous, however, was committed by a Jewish leader, Alexander Jannaeus (c. 88 BC) who, "driven to an ungodly crime, had 800 (Jewish) prisoners crucified in the city" (War I,97; Ant. XIII,380). Josephus, however, does not report any mass crucifixions during the first half of the 1st century, but only individual crucifixions, including that of Jesus under Pontius Pilate.

    2. The vision.

      1. "foolishness to Gentiles"

        The crucifixion, commonly referred to in Roman times as the "torment of the slaves" (servile supplicium), which the authors, apart from Seneca (Ad Lucil. 101:10-14), are reluctant even to describe, is the subject of unanimous judgment. It finds its famous expression in Cicero's description of the cross as "the cruellest and most repugnant form of torture", "the most extreme and infamous torture inflicted on slaves" (Act. Sec. in Verr. V,163.169). It is understandable that, in such a context, the preaching of a crucified Messiah could appear to be "foolishness" (1 Cor 1:23), as will be shown by one of the oldest graphic representations of the cross, a sarcastic graffiti discovered on Mount Palatine showing a Christian in veneration before a crucified man with the head of a donkey.

      2. "stumbling block for the Jews"

        "The most pitiful of the dead": this judgment, which joins that of pagan authors, is that of Flavius Josephus (War VII,202), who cannot help denouncing "the unheard-of cruelty of the Romans" (War II,308). His way of emphasizing that the Jews hastened to remove the bodies of the crucified before sunset (War IV,317) is an indication that this mode of execution must have appeared particularly repugnant. In addition to this, there was a theological, Scripture-based reason for reprobation in Judaism. According to the above-mentioned interpretation of Deut 21:23, the crucified was indeed under the divine curse. A heavy handicap initially weighed on a Christian preaching intended for Jewish audiences

  4. The time of maturation: better understanding in two ways

    The progressive understanding of the mystery of the cross to which the letters of the New Testament testify was carried out in a twofold direction: on the one hand, in relation to Jesus himself and his own existence; on the other hand, in relation to humanity and believers.

    1. The existential way.

      1. Peak point of an existence dynamic (Phil 2:8).

        We have seen that the mention of the cross at the core of the hymn in Phil 2:6-11 seems to have been added by Paul. Nevertheless, it is nonetheless of great significance in the text as it stands. On the one hand, the cross is linked to the whole of Jesus' historical existence: "obedient even to (mechri) the death of the cross". As an external manifestation of an interior disposition, it thus appears as the summit and ultimate expression of a dynamic of existence characterized by "obedience", that is, transparency and communion with the will of God. The cross is not detachable from what preceded it, nor is it detachable from what followed it: "Therefore also (dio kai) God highly exalted him....". To the yes of Jesus to God answered the yes of God to Jesus. An expression of communion and fidelity to God, the cross is also represented in Phil 2:6-8 as a place of communion with the human condition and destiny: "having been found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself... death of the cross".

      2. Expression of weakness (2 Cor 13:4).

        Some Corinthians reproached Paul for a certain weakness: "The letters, it is said, are weighty and strong. But when he is there physically, he is weak and his speech is contemptible" (2 Corinthians 10:10). Since it is a question of weakness, replied Paul, can we not evoke the precedent of Christ himself: "He was crucified because of weakness, but he lives by the power of God" (13:4a)? Applied to Christ, weakness cannot be understood here in the sense of an inability to dominate a situation, such as the one Paul was accused of, nor of a moral or other vulnerability (12:9). Rather, in the context of a refusal to dominate in an authoritarian way, to impose oneself by force: instead of asserting oneself in this way, Christ surrendered himself at the mercy of human beings, to the point of suffering the cross. To his attitude of "weakness" God's powerful intervention, which resurrected him, responded. As in Phil 2:6, this intervention of God in favour of Jesus responds to a quality of existence: there, obedience and availability towards God, here, the humble and poor attitude towards others.

      3. Expression of endurance (Heb 12:2).

        Chapter 12 of the Epistle to the Hebrews opens with an exhortation to the believers, including in each verse the verb hypomenô (12,2.3) or the noun hypomonè (12,1). In the context, the idea is that of endurance, resistance or constancy, associated with the imagery of a sporting event, a kind of obstacle course in which one has to overcome difficulties (v. 1) by going to the end without failing (v. 3). Twice (12:1-4), the obstacle to be overcome is identified with the sin that besieges believers (12:1.4). Before them, Christ himself, like a leader, experienced a similar trial, not that he, like the believers, was under the assault of sin, but rather that he was its victim, having had to endure opposition from sinners that was to lead him to the cross. The death of Jesus is thus evoked in the concrete form of the cross, which is itself represented as a painful experience with a character of disgrace. Before it Jesus did not back down, he "ran the trial to the end".

      4. Weakness of Christ and weakness of God (1 Cor 1-2).

        The cross of Christ constitutes the core of Christian preaching: "we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles" (1 Cor 1:23). Paul comes back to this a little further on in regard to his own preaching: "I wanted to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him as crucified" (1 Cor 2:2). These proclamations of the central place of the cross had already been anticipated in 1:13 and 1:17 in Paul's reaction to a certain claim to wisdom on the part of the Corinthians. Nothing less wise and less powerful in human sight than the cross of Christ. Through it, God has shown that His power can work through weak means. Thus, while 2 Corinthians saw in the cross the manifestation of Christ's weakness, 1 Corinthians saw in it the "weakness of God" which was revealed to be "stronger than men" (1:25). In the crucified Christ, foolishness in the eyes of the world, God's wisdom was manifested (1:21,23).

    2. The soteriological line.

      Alongside the texts expressing what the cross represented for Jesus himself, others give an account of what it represented for believers. No longer just "Christ crucified" but Christ "crucified for you".

      1. "According to the Scriptures" (1 Peter 2:22-25; Gal 3:13).

        1 Pet 2:22-25 introduces the model of Christ to encourage Christian slaves. To the exhortation of 2:20 to do good and suffer patiently responds in 2:22-23 the evocation of the figure of Christ who did not do evil and who, having had to suffer, did not threaten. Likewise, to the proclamation of 2:21, "Christ suffered for you", answers that of 2:24 which clarifies its meaning: "He himself in his body on the tree bore our sins so that, dead to our sins, we might live for righteousness". This passage from 1 Peter 2:22-25 seems to reflect a whole journey of the communities. First of all, we recognize in it the reference to the fourth song of the Servant of Isaiah (52:13-53:12). This text must have played a key role in the interpretation of the death of Jesus; no less than ten passages of the New Testament refer to it more or less explicitly. In the light of the resurrection, it was understood that Jesus' death, at first felt as absurd and scandalous (Lk 24:19-20), had a meaning in God's plan. In order to discern it, they naturally turned to the Scriptures (Lk 24:25-27) and, starting from the text of Isaiah, they came to proclaim: "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures". But how can we give an account of this conviction of faith? How can we give an account of the redemptive significance of the death of Jesus? 1 Pet takes a path of explanation which must also reflect the meditation of the communities. In proclaiming "he took our sins upon himself in his body on the tree", 1 Pet 2:24 seems to allude to Deut 21:23. For this text, hanging on a tree is a treatment reserved for "sinners": "If there was a sin in anyone that was punishable by death and you hanged him on the tree.... " (LXX). So by dying on the cross, Jesus experienced the death of a sinner. Yet, as 1 Peter 2:22 pointed out, Christ had "committed no sin. Therefore, if he died as a sinner, but without sinning himself, he took our sins upon himself (2:24a). A similar type of argument is found in Gal 3:13, which explicitly quotes Deut 21:23. From this same text, Paul holds, in relation to the curse, the same reasoning as 1 Pet in relation to sin. The Law, he argues, considers as cursed he who "hangs on the tree". By dying "hanged", i.e. crucified, Christ thus assumed the curse of the Law, so that we are freed from it. Thus Paul, taking up a traditional fact linked to Jewish polemics, turns it completely around: from being an objection to death on the cross, it becomes the basis of its salvific significance.

      2. The blood of the cross (Col; Eph).

        Crucified, Jesus had known a bloody death. A death that was also proclaimed to have brought the remission of sins. The junction of these two facts led us to think of Jesus' death in reference to the sacrificial regime of the O.T. This rapprochement must have helped above all the communities of Jewish origin, for whom "without the shedding of blood there is no remission" (Heb 9:22), to understand that "Jesus suffered outside the door in order to sanctify the people with his own blood" (Heb 13:12). Thus, in Rom for example, Jesus' death is brought closer to the sacrifice of Yom Kippur (3:25) and to the sacrifice for sins (8:3). But it is only in Col 1:20 and Eph 2:13.16 that the blood is explicitly related to the cross. In these two passages, however, the effect of Christ's death is expressed, not in terms of redemption and atonement for sins, but in positive terms (reconciliation with God, reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles).

  5. The passion narratives.

    Essentially, the four stories, from the arrest of Jesus (Mk 14:43) to his burial (Mk 15:47), present the same elements in the same order. If we allow ourselves to be guided by Jesus' prediction in Mt 26:2, we can distinguish two parts in this whole which are of particular interest to us:

    MtMkLkJn
    1) Jesus is given over 26:47-27:3114:43-15:2022:47-23:2518:2-19:16a
    2) Jesus is crucified27:32-6115:21-4723:26-5619:16b-42

    1. Reflections of the journey of the communities.

      The authors are divided on how to explain this proximity of the stories. It is generally assumed that there must have been an early primitive narrative that some believe could begin with the arrest episode and that would underlie the four narratives, which would then be the result of a long evolutionary process. In any case, it is striking to observe that the major features that we have traced in the journey of the communities with regard to the cross of Jesus (silence and discretion, defensive attitude, progressive understanding) are found in the passion narratives.

    2. Places of verification.

      1. Discretion.

        Apart from the notation proper to Mt 26:2, the language of the cross (verb stauroô and noun stauros) appears only in the account of Pilate's condemnation (Mk 15:13) and according to the following frequencies: 16 times in Jn, 11 in Mk, 10 in Mt, 5 in Lk. Thus, the fourth Gospel, in which the "theological taming" of the cross is more evident, does not seem to show any reservations about mentioning it. In Luke, on the other hand, it is as if he - or a previous tradition on which he would depend - had wanted to avoid mentioning it as much as possible. If we subtract from the five Lucanian occurrences the three "Crucify him" uttered at the time of the condemnation (Lk 23:21.23), only two remain, in 23:26 (the carrying of the cross) and 23:33 (the putting on the cross), that is the minimum that cannot be concealed in any way, without which we would not know the concrete modality of Jesus' death. Some omissions in particular (e.g. 23:29.35) appear revealing when we compare Luke's account with that of others. With regard to the cross, "foolishness for the Gentiles", is Luke or the story on which it depends to be attributed with a reluctance to speak of it similar to that of the first generation? For some reason, did the original reserve that was observed at the beginning persist in some cases in the following?

      2. Defensive Attitude.

        When we compare the stories we see a tendency to emphasize Jesus' innocence: 3 times in Mark, 5 times in Mt, 7 times in Lk and 7 times in Jn. In Luke, for example, Pilate pronounces his verdict of innocence 4 times (23:4.14.15.22a) and three times (23:16.20.22b) his intention to release Jesus. Doesn't such an insistence try to avoid the scandal of the cross by defusing the suspicion of the listener of the story that if Jesus was crucified by the Roman power, it must not have been without reason. On the contrary, Luke insists, neither Pilate nor Herod were convinced for a single moment of Jesus' guilt. As Peter will tell the Jewish leaders in Acts 3:13: "whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him". This is not far from the defensive attitude of the original kerygma, which made the crucifixion appear to be an unjust treatment for which the leaders of the people are responsible: "...this Jesus whom you crucified" (Acts 2:36; 4:10).

      3. Better understanding the mystery.

        What is striking in the last part of the passion narrative (Mk 15:21-47), especially when compared to the previous one (Mk 14:43-15:20), is the abundance of references to Scripture. In addition to the 4 or 5 present in Mk, there are 4 others in Mt, 3 others in Lk and 2 in Jn. So much so that, in the end, almost all the episodes immediately surrounding the death of Jesus, from the crucifixion to the descent from the cross, were read in the light of Scripture, whether it be the sharing of the garments, the insults of the passers-by, the darkness that appeared over the whole earth, the loud cry of Jesus, the rending of the curtain of the Temple, the recognition of the centurion or the stabbing of the spear. Thus, Christian meditation, little by little, sought to grasp and express the meaning and significance of the death of the crucified, as the passages in the letters of Paul and others concerning it testified.

  6. Cross of Christ and Cross of Christians.

    In all the passages of the New Testament where it appears (73 times), the language of the cross always refers to Jesus himself, except in two passages. The first is found in the three Synoptics in the same context, just after the first prediction of the passion: "If anyone wants to come after me, (...) let him take up his cross" (Mk 8:34 par.). Common to Mt and Lk, the other is presented in a slightly different formulation in each one: "Whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me" (Mt 10:38; Lk 14:27). In both passages, whether they concern the twelve or the disciples of all times according to the perspective of the narratives, the cross designates the trials, ruptures, renunciations or wrenching away resulting from the option of faith or from following Christ, from welcoming the Gospel or from the missionary service of it.

  7. Conclusion.

    Approaching successively the different strata of the New Testament, from the pre-Paulinian forms to the Gospel narratives, in relation to the theme of the cross, allows us to glimpse the various stages of a journey spread over three generations of believers. It is a place of verification par excellence of the words that John reports in his farewell discourse as Jesus prepares to face the cross: "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth" (Jn 16:12-13). The verb "to carry" (bastazô), is the same one that the Johannine passion story about Jesus will use: "Carrying cross by himsel, Jesus went out...." (Jn 19:17). It is also the same as in Lk 14:27 about the cross of the disciples: "Whoever does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple". From the original scandal to the proclamation of the glory of the crucified, it was through a long journey that the disciples became capable of "carrying" the cross of Jesus and their own.

 


Bibliography

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