Mauro Pesce and Adrianna Desto, Encounters with Jesus: The Man in His Place and Time.

Fortress Press, 2011. Chapter Six If the aim of Jesus was to ‘encounter’ people where they were and to minister to them then it only stands to reason that his physical presence was extremely important. But what kind of presence was it? That’s the question addressed here. First, though, they have to debunk some general misunderstandings. Namely, … we must not project onto him the mind-body dualism that is typical of one tendency in ancient and modern philosophy… In the Synoptic Gospels, the Greek noun psyche (‘soul’) does not indicate the soul as a spiritual and immortal substance separate from the body, but the life of the person in its entirety. … And with regard to life beyond this earth, we should not forget that resurrection concerns not the immortality of the soul but the revivification of the body (p. 130). That last sentence is very important indeed. Regardless of what many moderns may wish to think about the subject of the resurrection there is simply no doubt that for Jesus and his contemporaries resurrection meant revivification. P. and D. go on to discuss the family lineage of Jesus as described in Matthew and his fourteen generation schema and insist that According to calculations that were widespread in various religious groups at that time, this meant that Jesus was situated at the beginning of the final period of human history (p. 133). The fact that the Gospel writers never describe Jesus’ physical appearance stems from the fact that none of them had ever seen him and that they simply would have seen him as similar to everyone else. The chapter also discusses Jesus’ relationship to the crowds (who strive to touch him). The aim of the crowds was contact with Jesus (p. 145). But why? Fascinatingly, P. and D. suggest that the crowd wanted physical contact with him because Jesus’ body possessed healing power (p. 151).

And The power that dwells in the body of the thaumaturge is transmitted to the weak and imperfect body and cancels its imperfection (p. 152). Which is exactly why parents brought their young children to Jesus. Not because they were sick, but as a means of ensuring the protective power which contact with Jesus meant. However P. and D. make a mistake when, in connection with the story of Jesus’ transfiguration (Mt 17:1-9) they write Taken together, the changed face and the splendid garments bestow an unequivocal individuality on his entire person… This is not actually correct and their interpretation fails to take into account the fact that Matthew is here portraying Jesus as the ‘New Moses’ who – in a sense- receives at the transfiguration the mantles of both Moses and Elijah. Like Moses, Jesus’ face is transformed by his encounter with God on a mountain and like Elijah was to be heeded the people of God (the disciples) are to hear and heed what Jesus says. Hence the transfiguration isn’t a demonstration of Jesus’ ‘unequivocal individuality’ it is a demonstration of his ‘completion’ of the work of Moses and Elijah. It seems, then, that P. and D. have forgotten the Old Testament here and so misread Matthew’s intention. There remains yet one chapter to review: Chapter 7, Jesus and Emotion. That’s next.

Jim West Quartz Hill School of Theology

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