--------------- CHRISTIANITY by Xavier Zubiri ------------------------------------- Chapter 4 (261-271) ---------------


§ 3


In his divine filiation Christ has constituted the integral and total fundament of the religious life of mankind, of those that believe in Him and even of those that do not believe, as we shall see further on. Here we have, therefore, the grandiose ascending and progressive march in five or six centuries from the New Testament data to the dogmatic formulations of the Church. A progressive march, which has constituted in all its unfathomable richness the Christological dogma. But let us understand that in the end all this says no more than what was said in that simple discourse of St. Peter to the Israelites we have seen above. It says it in a more precise, more rigorous, and clearer form, but in the end it says no more. And if it says something else it does not belong to dogma, but to the metaphysical philosophy of those who have formulated it. It is a kind of metaphysical dialectic about God, which always starts, of course, from a certain idea of reality and then understands what the reality of God is.

Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that here, just as in the case of the Trinity, an enormous abyss separates the language and concepts of the dogmatic definitions of the Church, from the concepts and terms used in the New Testament. If the New Testament had been written in terms of person and phúsis, who would have been able to understand it? There is an unfathomable abyss. This abyss has led to the thought that they are two completely different perspectives, which in a certain sense is true. The New Testament and Biblical perspective, called “functional”, expresses the divinity of Christ in this {262} case, and in general in all theological matters, within the dimension of functions of religious life. Next to it we have this other dimension, which is not illegitimate, but just different. It would be a speculative dimension adopted by the Church precisely after Adoptionism and at the start of Nestorianism.

In a certain way all this is true, but it is not the radical truth. From my point of view this is simply so because of two reasons. One, because it may be said with clarity and truth that the metaphysical system the Church has used in its expression of dogmas is a Greek metaphysical system, and as such is not canonized at all. This precisely leaves open to human ways a different metaphysical answer than the one left to us by the Greek world concerning what reality may be. On the other hand, less pleasing to those in favor of the functional dimension, is it true that the content of the New Testament, by not being speculative, only provides us with a functional perspective? And what is meant by functionality? No one tells us. It should have been made explicit when two theologies are going to be confronted the speculative theology, and the critical theology. The abyss that separates these two theologies essentially depends on a fundamental question. What is understood by that functionality? Will try to face this issue with three points.

I. In the first place, what is the person of Christ? Christ is the Son of God. This is the first issue we must develop.

II. In the second place, what is the life of Christ? In what did the personal life of Christ consist since He had an internal life while He was on Earth? This question is reduced to just one concept, from my point of view radical and ultimate, Jesus Christ is the filial subsistent religation.

III. In the third place, what did He do with that life? What was the work of Christ? What He did with his life was to mold that filial religation into a filial religion. It was the beginning and the foundation of Christianity.



Who is Jesus Christ? Obviously, when we speak of Jesus Christ as man it is necessary to keep in mind something that is often forgotten, or at least ignored when reflecting. That the man we are talking about is not an individual of the human species like any other man, but an absolutely concrete man, historically and geographically. The son of a carpenter, walking in Palestine on a certain year, etc. This is what we are talking about. To incarnate “into humanity” is a supreme abstraction. To incarnate means that this particular human individual is the Son of God, walking through the streets of Bethlehem or Jerusalem with all His historical and biographic concretion. He is not just a singularity of the human species, but an absolutely concrete individual. The question is who is this absolutely concrete individual? In what does this concrete man consist? Who is the person of Christ? The answer to this shall be accomplished in three successive steps.

A) The question of who he is, who is the one doing and performing what the Gospels tell us about him?

B) How does this man know he is the Son of God? This is no small matter. We shall see that this is one of the serious difficulties of current Christology.

C) And in third place, by virtue of his divine filiation, not only real, but also known, what is the position, which the person of Christ has in the whole of creation?

A) Who is He?

Who is the person of Christ taken by itself? Of course, this who involves two steps internally connected. {264} In the first place, who is, that is to say, what are the Gospels in the New Testament telling us the person of Christ was? It is the case of telling us who Jesus Christ is in the sense of what kind of substantive being is constructed throughout his own life like any other man. And in the second place, who is Christ as substantive reality that activates that kind of substantive being. Certainly these two questions are not unconnected, and we shall see throughout this exposition that they are internally and intrinsically connected, but they are two different steps.

I. In the first place, who is Christ from the point of view of the substantive being he builds in his life? In order not to complicate the exposition let us call this substantive being simply “I” (Sp. Yo). This is not a kind of amusing philosophical vagary, but is presented in order to obtain a theological apprehension of the problems we face here. Jesus Christ just like any man on Earth goes on living, and precisely in his life builds that I, his I. Certainly, this I is being constructed by the multiple acts he is performing throughout his life like anyone else, a life in which he is always the same, but never that same. Christ is building his substantive I throughout his life. It was important to insist Christologically on this point, and not take the life of Christ as if it were a kind of external dumping of the eternal Word upon a single member of the human species. That is not the case at all. It is the case of a man of flesh and bone that lives and is making his own life, that annoys his parents because one day he stays behind in Jerusalem, etc. This is what is all about.

Christ is constructing the figure of his own life. And in this case, just like the case in any other man, we have to state that what we call the I is not primarily a subject. That in addition it may also be a subject is another question. But {265} primarily it is not a subject of attribution. It is very easy to say that the human actions of Christ are divine because the subject to which they are attributed is the Word. Let us not be too hasty. Christ performs his actions just as I perform them; one day he is sleepy, and he sleeps in a boat; another day he is hungry, he is sorry for those who are hungry; has a friend, he loses him, cries, etc. It is not a subject of attribution or subject of inhesion. Just like any other man he performs his own acts. But what is primary in the acts man performs is not that they are inherent to a subject that performs them, but precisely to be the configurating moment of the I. I am not only the subject that writes or speaks, but to my moment of speaking I add the feature, hic et nunc, of being a speaking I. Precisely in this speaking characteristic is where the formal characteristic of the I resides, and not in the fact that I may perform an act called to speak.

Consequently, Christ, just as any other man on Earth, is configuring his own being. A configuration which is not primarily to be subject of attribution or subject of inhesion, but consists in having an intrinsic configuration that is being constructed throughout life. In other words, the I is above all, and primarily a configuration; the configuration of the substantive being in which man consists. I am obviously my substantive being, and reciprocally, what I call my substantive being is what I am. Christ constructed his own substantive being throughout his whole life just like any one of us.

It will be necessary to remember, because it will be important afterwards, that the acts of the life of Christ, and therefore, the configurational features on which he is molding his substantive being have different characteristics. I have just mentioned some. Generally they are only mentioned when dealing with the mysteries of the life of Christ; it is pointed out that the subject of attribution, of course, was born, lived, died, etc. But there is something much more radical, and profound, {266} the figure itself. And as a figure, the figure of the I of Christ is not only a divine figure; it is also a human figure. The I of Christ is not only the I that receives a revelation from his Father, but is the I that weeps, that walks, that is hungry, that sleeps. There is no doubt at all. He is not more of an I in one case than another. Certainly, these characteristics that compose the I are quite complex indeed. But, regardless of their type, all the characteristics are immersed in that figure we call I. And the figure of an I, in the case of Christ as well as in the case of any man, is not a mere addition of features, but these features always imply each other. The divine features that compose the figure of the I of Christ are intrinsically united and forming a unity with the other human features. It is not the case that He may be a man subject to sadness, sorrow, hunger or sleepiness, and that the same man may be the subject of a revelation from the Father. It is the case that the entire figure is, at one and the same time, a human figure and a divine figure.

Now that we have established our perspective on this matter we should recall what it is that we have hastily called the I. The I is not a characteristic of the substantive being of man initially and radically lived, and built up as an I. Man begins by constructing his I with characteristics much more modest than those we might find in an I solemnly enunciated. For example, the man himself eats an apple; I myself eat an apple. That myself is the medial form. I do not say that the act may be medial, but that the form in which that act is lived is precisely the medial-ness, it is a myself. Naturally, this myself is not a reflection; man is and senses himself a myself medially. Upon this myself, medially, the substantive being continues to acquire a more express and explicit characteristic, which is precisely the my. One can say, it is {267} my toothache, my hunger, my stomach, my leg, etc. In that case man performs a series of acts that move from the medial form in which he has lived to the form of the my in the sense of appropriation or property. And, in third place, upon this my, the most solemn and radical explicitness is based. That would be precisely the I we indicated above.

That does not mean that this I, founded on the my, and the my founded on myself, may be considered in its fullness something given immediately, not at all. That I, insofar as I, is being configured throughout life. And this configuration is not merely additive because the I continues to be more of an I throughout all that life or at least continues to be a more complex I in its form of being. It is an autopossession. In reality this is what constitutes the personality of man, the configuration of his own I. And an I in which man not only steps from myself to my, and from my to the I, but within the I it is not the same I that says “I want to go for a walk” when it is a boy, and the I that later confronts great problems facing the entire cosmos. That I, even though it is the same, has undergone a development that has taken it from the I of childhood to the I who meditates on the great problems.

None of this was alien to Christ, definitely not. Christ makes no exception at all to what we have just indicated. Throughout his life he continues to configure his own substantive being from myself to my, from my to the I, and in addition that same I continues to develop. In this fashion the two moments that compose his substantive being are never separated. The divine moment and the human moment constitute one very selfsame figure in which his different moments are essentially and intrinsically implicated. This is quite clear. The testimony of the Gospels, the place from which we must start and not from abstract speculations, tells us several times, for example when {268} Christ performs miracles, when he argues with the Pharisees or when he addresses his closest disciples, that the people sensed he spoke with an authority no one else had (cf. Mt 7:29; Mk 1:22-27; Lk 4:32-36). This characteristic of authority and power is neither human nor divine, it is precisely the intrinsic unity of what the substantive being of Christ is, at one and the same time human and divine.

Theologians have usually distinguished in the actions of Christ those they called merely human, for example, eating and sleeping. Clearly, to do this it is not necessary to be Son of God. On the other hand, it is mentioned that in order to perform a miracle, to resurrect someone, it would be, at least to perform it with his own authority. Then, if the first actions were called human, the second were said to be “theandric”. However, this may be true from the point of view of the actions of Christ as performed by him. But as figure of his I it is absolutely insufficient. The figure of his I is intrinsically, formally, and constitutively a theandric configuration. There is no separation of the features. Distinctions yes, as many as desired, but separations, never. It is an essentially theandric configuration.

From this follows precisely that as the substantive I of Christ (in his case as in the case of any other man, regardless of how different that substantive being may be) is acquired throughout his life, it is then necessary to insist that the theandric I of Christ is a relatively absolute I. Absolute like no other because it has a divine moment. But relative because it is acquired throughout life. It would be chimerical to think that Christ, when he was two months old, had the fullness of what he was as Son of God in the actual vision of his intelligence. This is illusory, and is not suggested anywhere. The I of Christ is an acquired I.

{269} In what does that I consist in the case of Christ as in the case of any other man? The I that I am constructing throughout life I fabricate with the acts I perform. Some will be free, others will be imposed by necessity, and others will be channeled through the living maze in which I have to live. But these performed acts; in what do they consist hic et nunc? They consist in the conformation of my I. What I call the I is the real truth of what I am myself as substantive reality at the moment in which I am activating my substantive I. As I mentioned above, the substantive I is not the subject of attribution or the subject of inhesion, it is an intrinsic configuration. And as intrinsic configuration it is the real truth in which my substantive reality consists with which I am constructing my substantive I.

Therefore, this is what happens to Christ. The I of Christ is precisely his own real truth, which he realizes as Son of God. And it is a real truth in a double sense. In the first place, because that I (where the characteristic of his divine moment is) reveals what the Father tells him, but in addition reveals it by being it. In other words, what is radical in what the Gospel tells us is not his being revealer, but his being the real truth of the Father. At least that is how I view the problem. The I of Christ consists in being the real truth of what he is as son of Mary, and of what he is as Son of God, in the sense we shall have to explain immediately. The I of Christ is the real truth of his substantive reality.

What we call substantive reality is the second act in which my substantive reality consists. It is precisely the figure of my substantive being, which I give to my reality. Reality does not consist in being, and being is not reality. But being is precisely the second act of that in which, as first act, the substantive reality that performs it, and produces it consists. Because of this, to say that in the case of Christ his I is the real truth, is to say that {270} it is in second act. Therefore, here resides the inexorable and intrinsic unity of Christology, and not simply in the duality of perspectives arbitrarily assembled, as many present day exegetes pretend. Of whom is it a second act? What is the first act of whom that second act is second act? Therein lies precisely the intrinsic unity of Christology. And that step from the I as second act to the first act is definitely not a vain speculation. It is precisely the great event of the entire life of Christ in the Gospels. The miracles of Christ, all his cures, made in whatever circumstances (it is not a question of making a historical criticism of the Gospels), his prodigious life, what he inspired as moral elevation, etc., were not for him true demonstrations of his divine quality. They were simply, as the Gospel tells us, semeía, signs (cf. Jn 2:11-23, passim). They are signs that promoted what he asked of his disciples, which was not metaphysical or theological erudition, but purely and simply an adhesion to his person. And the adhesion to his person is just the subjective ambit wherein is realized the transit from the second act to the first act, the step from what is the life of a man to what is his radical, profound intimacy.

It has been said often (I pointed to it some pages back while referring to the Gospel of St. Mark) that Jesus imposed on his disciples the “Messianic secret”, i.e., he tells them not to mention to anyone what they have seen in the transfigurations, in certain cures, etc. There has been much speculation over the character of this Messianic secret. From my point of view, and quite modestly (I am not going to make a critique of all the speculations that have been proposed) that Messianic secret is inscribed in the very reality of Christ. It is precisely the stepping from the second act of his I to what is the hidden, and {271} transcendent reality of his own substantive reality. That is the place where Christ lodged those that believed in him.

It follows that the immediate interpretation of Christology, from the point of view of the Gospels (at least from my perspective) is not, as has been said numerous times, a functional theology to which is added a metaphysical, and speculative theology. It is not functional theology; it is something much more radical, and important. It is precisely the theology of the substantive being of Christ, the theology of the I of Christ. This is not functionality, it is a different thing; it is the real truth in which the substantive being consists. Because it is not the case, in the first place, that Christ may be the revealer of the Father. Obviously, any other prophet could have been that. It is the case of something greater, that he is the truth of the Father, being such really, and actually, i.e., as real truth. It is the case then, not of the function of Christ, but of the very quiddity of Christ, and certainly in his I. That is the question. It follows that the intrinsic step from the second act, in which the substantive being consists, to the first act, in which the substantive reality of Christ consists, is not a vague metaphysical speculation. One could say that Greek metaphysics is speculation, and is not consubstantial to the faith, agreed. But what can never be done is to deny that to make an authentic Christology it will be necessary to replace that metaphysics by another one, and not avoid the problem. The unity of the problem is given precisely by the fact that the I of Christ is the formal topic of the Gospels, and not simply the revealing function that Christ has performed on Earth. The unity is based on the fact that this substantive being is the second act. As second act it necessarily involves, in the form of problem that of personal intimacy. It also involves what the substantive reality in which Christ consists is in first act.

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