Jörg Frey, the Glory of the Crucified One, and the Dwelling of God in Jesus Christ

Alongside many other good moments at this year’s SBL, I especially enjoyed the review session that was dedicated to the most recent BMSEC volume, Jörg Frey’s The Glory of the Crucified One, which I co-translated with Christoph Heilig. For me, there were many highlights from this session. For example, Tobias Nicklas’ provocative exploration of features of John that may have facilitated the development of spiritualizing readings of the Gospel by certain readers in conversation with Frey’s sixth chapter on bodiliness and resurrection, Jo-Ann Brant’s probing questions regarding Frey’s discussion of predestination and his challenge to the validity of speaking of a “dualism of decision” in his fourth chapter on Dualism in John (e.g. 146-152, 165), Susan Hylen’s attention to the value of Frey’s historically differentiated discussion of noble death, effective death, vicarious death, and salvific death in the fifth chapter, and Daniel Weiss’ presentation of his own interpretation of the topic of ‘the Jews’ in John in dialogue with Frey’s second chapter on ‘The Jews’ in the Gospel of John and the ‘Parting of the Ways’ and his tenth chapter on God in the Fourth Gospel. And perhaps most of all, I found Susan Hylen and Jörg Frey’s substantive discussion of issues of methodology to be especially thought-provoking!

My only real disappointment with the review session is that little was said about my two favorite chapters in the volume! Accordingly, I would like to use this blog post to share two quotes from these chapters. As usual, I will alternate between the English and the German for those who are using this blog to keep up their German.

The first quotation comes from chapter 7, “The Glory of the Crucified One,” which I think captures especially well the particular way in which Frey reads John:

The Glory of the Crucified One 243: This Easter experience, which includes the concomitant experience of the Spirit, is reflected in the Johannine Gospel writing. It is not only the Farewell Discourses—in which Jesus’ impending death is programmatically interpreted—that aim to show the crucified one as the glorified one. The whole Gospel portrays the way of the earthly one in the light of his δόξα, i.e., in a perspective that was opened up to the witnesses only in retrospect, in the Spirit-effected remembrance and Spirit-effected reading of Scripture. Therefore, talk of the δόξα of the earthly one and especially talk of the δόξα of the preexistent one are likewise possible only in retrospect, in the believing recognition of the glorification of the crucified one. Here lies—at least noetically—the basis of the Johannine Christology.

Die Herrlichkeit des Gekreuzigten 646: Dieser Ostererfahrung bzw. die damit verbundene Geisterfahrung haben sich in der johanneischen Evangelienschreibung niedergeschlagen: Nicht nur die Abschiedsreden, in denen Jesu bevorstehender Tod programmatisch gedeutet wird, wollen den Gekreuzigten als Verherrlichten zeigen. Das ganze Evangelium zeichnet den Weg des Irdischen im Licht seiner δόξα, d.h. in einer Perspektive, die den Zeugen erst im Rückblick, in der geistgewirkten Erinnerung und Schriflektüre, erschlossen wurde. Die Rede von der δόξα des Präexistenten sind deshalb ebenfalls nur im Rückblick, in der glaubenden Erkenntnis der Verherrlichung des Gekreuzigten möglich. Hier liegt – zumindest noetisch – der Grund der johanneischen Christologie.

The second quotation comes from chapter 8, “The Incarnation of the Logos and the Dwelling of God in Jesus Christ.” While chapter 7 emerged as one of my favorite chapters from the moment I read it, it is interesting to me that chapter 8 first gained its ‘favorite status’ in the course of translating the volume. In short, in the course of working through this chapter I became convinced that sustained reflection on the stichos “and he dwelt among us” is indeed essential for interpreting the meaning and significance of John 1.14.

The Glory of the Crucified One 283-84: The “bridge” between the statement of the Logos becoming flesh and the beholding of his glory, which is established by the shekinah tradition, allows the full and unreduced humanity of Jesus of Nazareth and the presence of the divine δόξα in him, in his words, and in his way to be held together. … Theologically the shekinah theology provides an expression of the “condescension” of God, which is intensified in the Gospel of John all the way to the cross of Jesus, and precisely this horizon is already signaled in advance in 1.14 by the pronounced talk of the σάρξ. What the Gospel of John expresses in its narrative, which is directed to the passion—namely, that the crucified one is, in truth, the one clothed with glory by God and as such is the basis of faith and salvation—is already signaled in an anticipatory way in the collocation of σάρξ and δόξα in the Prologue, and the employment of the biblical model of the dwelling of God in the world or, more concretely, in “his people” illustrates this ostensibly paradoxical connection and fits it into the biblical tradition history. The becoming flesh of the Word—as a variation of the dwelling of God in the midst of his people—is aimed at the cross, where the sent one, who is crucified as “king of the Jews,” completes his way. And God’s nature and primordial loving will are, according to John, enduringly recognizable precisely in this glorified crucified one.

Das Geheimnis der Gegenwart Gottes 255-256: Die durch die Schechina-Tradition gebildtete “Brücke” zwischen der Aussage von der Fleischwerdung des Logos und der Schau seiner Herrlichkeit erlaubt es, die ganze und unverkürzte Menschlichkeit Jesu von Nazareth und die Gegenwart der göttlichen δόξα in ihm, seinen Worten und seinem Weg zusammen zu halten. … Theologisch bietet die Schechina-Theologie eine Aussageform der “Kondeszendenz” Gottes, die sich im Johannesevangelium bis zum Kreuz Jesu steigert, und eben dieser Horizont ist bereits in Joh 1,14 durch die prononcierte Rede von der σάρξ vorab angedeutet. Was das Johannesevangelium in seiner auf die Passion hinzielenden Erzählung zur Darstellung bringt, dass der Gekreuzigte in Wahrheit der von Gott mit Herrlichkeit Umkleidete und als solcher der Grund des Glaubens und des Heils ist, das ist in der Zusammenstellung von σάρξ und δόξα im Prolog schon vorausgreifend angedeutet und die Heranziehung des biblischen Modells der Einwohnung Gottes in der Welt bzw. konkreter in “seinem Volk” veranschaulicht diese augenscheinlich paradoxe Verbindung und ordnet sie in die biblische Traditionsgeschichte ein. Die Fleischwerdung des Wortes – als Variation der Einwohnung Gottes inmitten seines Volkes – zielt auf das Kreuz, an dem der als “König der Juden” gekreuzigte Gesandte seinen Weg vollendet. Und gerade im verherrlichten Gekreuzigten ist nach Johannes bleibend Gottes Wesen und sein uranfänglicher Liebeswille erkennbar.

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German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! I hope to be able to write at least one Monday blog post each month. Best, Wayne