(Published in The Greek Australian VEMA, February 2005)JESUS CHRIST – THE CENTRE OF OUR FAITH:An Historical Investigation
At the heart of the good news of the New Testament is the person of Jesus Christ.This means that fundamentally the Christian faith is neither a philosophical system,nor a set of doctrines or a conglomeration of rules, rituals and customs but is a wayof life centred on the person of Jesus Christ. Essentially the first confession of faithmade by the early Christians was that Jesus
, which literally means Saviour was theChrist. For this reason we say that the message of the New Testament is effectivelyChristocentric (centred on Christ). It is imperative therefore for every person whoclaims to be a Christian to become familiar with Jesus' identity and work by askingwho this historical Jesus was. According to the Synoptic gospels, it was precisely thissame question that was posed to his disciples on their way to Caesarea Philippi:
Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of CaesareaPhilippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do peoplesay that I am?
(Mk 8:27)The numerous answers given to this question in Biblical literature and all subsequenttheological writings throughout the ages suggest that this Christological question wasnot always unanimously proclaimed. Already in the New Testament the disciples pointto the wide span of opinion:
And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; andstill others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do yousay that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah
](Mk 8:28-29).Indeed from the first days of the Christian community there have been many answersgiven to this question - a clear reflection of the difficulty of encapsulating the mysteryof the person of Jesus. The various titles used by the early Christians to express their faith included:
prophet, teacher, shepherd, Messiah, Son of David, Son of Man, Sonof God, Lord, second Adam, bridegroom, light of the World, the Alpha and theOmega, the High Priest, the Suffering Servant, Saviour, Logos.
Therefore alreadyfrom the Biblical texts one can detect a rich variety of titles indicating the profounddepth of the question at hand. Indeed an entire discipline within theology is committedto the systematic study of the person and work of Jesus Christ and is known as
Regarding the name of Jesus, both the gospels of Matthew and Luke record that an angel of the Lordappeared to Joseph and said to him: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife,for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Mt 1:20-21). Compare also Lk 1:31.