Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Witnesses

"Even the smallest, strangest, simplest, or obscurest among the biblical witnesses has an incomparable advantage over even the most pious, scholarly, and sagacious latter-day theologian. From his special point of view and in his special fashion, the witness has thought, spoken, and written about the revelatory Word and act in direct confrontation with it. All subsequent theology, as well as the whole of the community that comes after the event, will never find itself in the same immediate confrontation."
Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology


jakemaxwel said...

Interesting quote. It seems to me, though, that although it doesn't come close to compensating for what we miss, there is something to be said for the perspective of the passage of time. I look at some historic events I witnessed--the Birmingham Church Bombing, the assassination of MLK, the Attica Prison Riots, etc, and my understanding of what was going on was not all that insightful. Of course, I was not actually a face-to-face witness, but at times I have been, my perspective has been limited to my own personal take on events. Anyway, just something to think about, something to keep me motivated in my search for understanding.

revJohn said...

The thought of perspective in the passing of time is helpful. The Apostle Paul, who is not an eyewitness of Jesus' ministry, writes 20 to 30 years after the death of Jesus. The gospel writers pen their perspectives 40 or more years after Jesus, and each sees him in a different light. And all are still searching for meaning in his death. Their proximity to the Christ event does seem to provide them a special place in theological reflection, but not as a final, once-for-all answer to the meaning of the death of the one who came to be called Son of God.