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Why It Matters Who Jesus Is

I have been reading, with both profit and delight, Thomas Joseph White’s latest book, The Incarnate Lord: A Thomistic Study in Christology. Fr. White, one of the brightest of a new generation of Thomas interpreters, explores a range of topics in this text—the relationship between Jesus’ human and divine natures, whether the Lord experienced the beatific vision, the theological significance of Christ’s cry of anguish on the cross, his descent into Hell, etc.—but for the purposes of this article, I want to focus on a theme of particular significance in the theological and catechetical context today. Fr. White argues that the classical tradition of Christology, with its roots in the texts of the Gospels and the Epistles of Paul, understood Jesus ontologically, that is to say, in terms of his fundamental being or existential identity; whereas modern and contemporary Christology tends to understand Jesus psychologically or relationally. And though this distinction seems, prima facie, rather arcane, it has tremendous significance for our preaching, teaching, and evangelizing.

In the famous scene at Caesarea-Philippi, Jesus turns to his Apostles and asks, “Who do people say that I am?” He doesn’t ask what people are saying about his preaching or his miracle-working or his impact on the culture; he asks who they say he is. St. John’s Gospel commences with a magnificent assertion regarding, not the teaching of the Lord, but rather his being: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…and the Word was made flesh and dwelled among us.” In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul writes, “Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God a thing to be grasped at,” implying thereby an ontological identity between Jesus and the God of Israel.

Read more at Catholic World Report. 

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