Recensions et comptes rendusThéologie

Michel Gourgues, « Plus tard tu comprendras ». La formation du Nouveau Testament comme témoin de maturations croyantes (Lire la Bible, 196). Paris-Montréal, Cerf-Médiaspaul, 2019, 13,5 × 21,5 cm, 185 p., ISBN 978-2-89760-227-7[Record]

  • John S. Adimula

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  • John S. Adimula
    Graduate Studies - Faculty of Theology, Dominican University College, Ottawa

The book, as the title suggests, traces the development of the formation of the New Testament not in the sense of its canonicity or the arrangement of its books but on its content, that is, the core of what makes Christianity different, namely, the mystery of Christ. In general, it is concerned with three particular points in the development, continuity and advancement of the formation of the New Testament that can be verified from one stage to another, namely: 1) the central importance given to the paschal mystery, death and resurrection of Jesus; 2) the sense made of the cross of Christ; 3) and the attention given to the salvific value of Jesus’ death. It explores and practically demonstrates how faith in the mystery of Christ gradually evolved and was profoundly expressed and developed by the believing communities. In a bid to do this, the author, Michel Gourgues, divides the period of the formation of what is now seen as the New Testament into three stages – oral, epistolary and narrative. The first stage comprises the verbal expression of faith in Jesus Christ after his death and resurrection, from about 30-50 AD. How does one know what was involved at this oral stage? The author in answer to this question employs some criteria for detecting primitive vestiges found in the writings of the New Testament. He takes two passages, 1 Cor 15:3-5 and Phil 2:6-11, as examples among other passages and applies some of the criteria to show what remains from the oral tradition found in them. In the former passage, it is discovered that the manner of introducing the formula reveals the confession of the oral tradition. The author of the passage uses, for example, two revealing verbs, παραλαμβάνω (to receive) and παραδίδωμι (to hand on) which were followed by the proclamation of the death and resurrection of Christ. Using the same criteria on the latter passage, it is also discovered that the author was using oral tradition materials which talk about the preexistence, death, resurrection and exaltation of Christ. Within these elements of faith is the recognition of the value of the death of Christ: “died for our sins.” The second stage (50-70 AD) continues with these basic tenets proclaimed at the oral stage, expands and develops on them with emphasis on the cross of Christ which appears silent at the previous stage because of some known reasons: seen as a curse, scandal and foolishness. The epistolary stage consists primarily of the epistles of Paul. Gourgues analyzes the first recorded writings of the New Testament, particularly 1 Thess and 1 Cor and exposes the tenets of faith already present and advanced in these letters. Regarding the cross, Paul makes a radical development and interpretation on its value and connects the shedding of blood on the cross to the sacrifice of the Jews: “la croix se trouve réhabilitée, devenue source de bénédiction et de salut” (p. 83). While developing and advancing on the oral confessions, this stage arrives at some new themes, which cannot be totally separated from the foundation laid by the oral stage, among them are: imminent parousia, God who is addressed now as a Father (cf. Phil 2:11). The idea of obedience expressed in the hymn of Phil 2 was developed (cf. Rom 5, in particular v. 19). This stage strives to deepen the death of Jesus (“Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures,” 1 Cor 15:3) and gives a theological account of it. It does that in two different ways, namely, the sacrificial and existential perspectives. The former is based on the …