Semper Informanda: Prolegomenon

"The Light of the Gentiles”

This is an excerpt from Jaroslav Pelikan's "Jesus Through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture" (New Haven, Conn.: Yale, 1985), 34-35.

"Nothing is so incredible," Reinhold Niebuhr has said, "as an answer to an unasked question." He went on to use that epigram as a basis to divide human cultures into those "where a Christ is expected" and those "where a Christ is not expected." But the disciples of Jesus, in their effort to explain the meaning of his message and work to their work during the first three or four centuries, carried out their mission on the growing assumption that there was not culture "where a Christ is not expected" and that therefore, in his person and in his teaching, in his life and in his death, Jesus represented the divine answer to a quest that had in fact been asked everywhere, the divine fulfillment of an aspiration that was universal, in short, what one of the earliest of them called "the ground for hoping that [all of humanity] may be converted and win their way to God," through Jesus the Christ, "our common name and our common hope." (Ignatius, Ephesians, 10.1; 1.2)

In addressing the message of that common hope to the Gentile world, they sought to discover in Greco-Roman culture the question to which that common name of Jesus Christ was the answer; as had been prophesied of him in his infancy, he was

Thy salvation
Which Thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples,
A light for revelation to the Gentiles
And for glory to thy people Israel.
(Luke 2:32; Prosper of Aquitaine, The Call of All Nations, 2.18)

Orlando Semper Informanda | Volume 6 Issue 15