Beginnings and Endings

The New Testament scholar, Dale Allison, has just published a new book, Constructing Jesus: Memory, Imagination, and History. It begins:

This is my fourth and, I hope, final book on the historical Jesus. I never intended to produce more than a single slim volume. But one thing led to another, or rather one book to another.

More than five hundred pages later, Allison concludes:

Although I have no desire to contract the circle of my readers, it seems to me both vain and inane to imagine that a book such as this can contribute to our knowledge of God, or that it should draw much attention from the theologians. Even though the quest has served many of us as a wake-up call from our dogmatic slumbers, it is no substitute for constructive theology. It can be, at best, only prologue.While it may be an "emotional necessity to exalt the problem to which one wants to devote a lifetime," and while I am proudly a historian, I must confess that history is not what matters most. If my deathbed finds me alert and not overly racked with pain, I will then be preoccupied with how I have witnessed and embodied faith, hope, and charity. I will not be fretting over the historicity of this or that part of the Bible.

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.

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