This project had its beginnings in a question. Several of them, actually.
Public discourse about Jesus tends to look backwards or inwards.
Backwards to the historical Jesus. Jesus before Christianity. What was he like? Did he even exist? Did he have any sense of mission? Did Jesus think of himself as divine? What did he actually say, and do? What criteria can we use to recover his authentic words and actions?
Inwards to the faith and practices of his devotees. Jesus within Christianity. By this stage, Jesus has become the Christ, the Messiah and even the Logos. The Saviour. The Lord. Second person of the Holy Trinity. God of God, Light from Light.
There is no shortage of books, articles, documentaries and artworks exploring the figure of Jesus within each of these domains.
However, the church no longer has (and perhaps never had) a monopoly on Jesus. Jesus has an afterlife outside first-century Galilee and beyond Christianity.
So the question which sparked this project was how to describe and explore some of the ways that Jesus matters to people, whether or not they describe themselves as Christians.
In Jesus Then and Jesus Now (2014), I wrote:
Perhaps the Jesus we need to share is the figure Jesus might become when released from his doctrinal straitjacket within Christianity and set loose to function as a source of spiritual wisdom and compassionate holiness in another religious context. (p 154)
This book, which has now grown into a set of three volumes, seeks to expand on the possibilities described in that earlier work.
What began as a question became an invitation to colleagues to contribute essays that describe and explore some of the afterlives of Jesus over time and in different contexts.
The project began with a question and then became a collaborative effort.
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