Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Jesus as a Shape-Shifter

A new translation has come out of a 9th-century Coptic manuscript known as Pseudo-Cyril of Jerusalem, which describes the life and the passion of Christ. As to why Judas had to betray Jesus with a kiss, the text says,
Then the Jews said to Judas: How shall we arrest him [Jesus], for he does not have a single shape but his appearance changes. Sometimes he is ruddy, sometimes he is white, sometimes he is red, sometimes he is wheat coloured, sometimes he is pallid like ascetics, sometimes he is a youth, sometimes an old man. . . .
But this, it turns out, is an idea with an old pedigree. Origen (185-254), the early theologian who is one of our best sources on the thinking of early Christians in Alexandria, wrote something very similar (Contra Celsus II:64):
to those who saw him [Jesus] he did not appear alike to all
Fascinating. Early Christians obviously spent a lot of time wondering what Jesus was like, and pondering the question of what it means to be both divine and human. As god, Christ presumably had the ability to appear however he wished, but did he renounce this power when he assumed a single human form? Let the Christological debates begin!

No comments: