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LTJ on the Character of Jesus


The literary character "Jesus" is distinct in each narrative: Mark's Suffering Son of Man, Matthew's Teacher of the Church, Luke's Prophet of God's Visitation, and John's Man from Heaven are impossible to harmonise fully. . . The narrative gospels bear witness to Jesus by the way in which they interpret him so diversely. Precisely the diversity of the witness, however, makes all the more startling the fact that these narratives converge on the heart of Jesus' character . . .

I speak here of the fundamental and defining dispositions of Jesus, in contrast to the diverse roles - wonderworker, teacher, prophet, revealer - emphasised by the respective narratives. These fundamental dispositions are utterly simple. In all the Gospels, Jesus is a human being totally defined by his relationship with God, a relationship expressed by faithful obedience to God's will. Jesus is not defined by human expectations or perceptions, his own or others, but by a radical stance of hearing and responsiveness to his Father. This "vertical" relationship of faithful obedience is expressed by an equally fundamental "horizontal" disposition toward other humans, a disposition of loving service. The narratives of the canonical Gospels - in this respect fully in agreement with the other canonical witnesses - see Jesus as "the man for others" precisely because he is also a completely "God-defined man."

Luke Timothy Johnson, "The Jesus of the Gospels and Philosphy" 
in Jesus and Philsophy: New Essays, ed Paul K. Moser (CUP 2009), 72-73

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