Clear Statement Of Priorities

Jesus and the Revolutionaries, by Oscar Cullmann (Harper and Row, 1970, 84 pp., $3.95), is reviewed by Harold O. J. Brown, theological secretary, International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, Lausanne, Switzerland.

This short but timely work is an expansion of a lecture delivered in Paris on November 4, 1969. In it the author finds fault with those who rashly claim the authority of Jesus for their espousal of either revolution or the status quo. Both claims, he says, usually result from failure to place what Jesus actually did, said, and taught in its proper context, that is, in the social and political situation of his day. Professor Cullmann charges a host of modern interpreters with too little zeal for historical accuracy and too much eagerness to make Jesus speak for their own particular cause.

With his accustomed carefulness and sobriety, the author examines the relation between Jesus and the Zealot party on parties. While affirming the socially revolutionary implications of Jesus’ message, Professor Cullmann contends that Jesus promptly and vigorously rejected every attempt to make him into a this-worldly Messiah. The rebuke to Satan in Matthew 4 and to Peter in Matthew 16, as well as his statement to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), are all indicative of his persistent refusal to place political change in society ahead of personal change in individuals.

The various events in Jesus’ ministry which are used to support the currently fashionable contention that Jesus was a (political) revolutionary can be more adequately explained, Professor Cullmann believes, by placing them in their biblical and cultural context. Thus the triumphal entry into Jerusalem (to which the ...

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