Faith and history in contemporary Catholic christology: The Jesus of history in Balthasar and Schillebeeckx

Steven Reynolds Shippee, Marquette University


This dissertation examines the faith-history relationship as articulated according to the diverse theological paradigms of ressourcement and mediationist theologies, as represented by Hans Urs von Balthasar and Edward Schillebeeckx, respectively. Early chapters consider Balthasar's historical and scriptural hermeneutics as a doctrinal-integrative mode of historical reasoning. They examine Balthasar's integration of the entire realm of freedom and history through the application of a historical schema derived from certain central doctrinal themes of the Christian tradition. Distinctive facets of Balthasar's scriptural hermeneutics are then shown to cohere with this doctrinal-integrative schema. These include his polemic against the project to reconstruct Jesus of Nazareth through historical critical analysis, his insistence upon an absolute reciprocity between pre-Easter Jesus and post-Easter Christ, and the resulting hermeneutics of aesthetic contemplation of the profound theological unity of the New Testament. Subsequent chapters consider Schillebeeckx's hermeneutical program as a diachronic-critical form of historical reasoning. This historical narrative is examined in light of the significant influences of a variety of interpretative strategies, including continental hermeneutics and critical theory. These strategies compel Schillebeeckx towards a diachronic understanding of history and the critical sifting and appropriation of traditions. This critical mandate is then shown to drive two central aspects of Schillebeeckx's christology: his historical critical reconstruction of Jesus of Nazareth and his articulation of the bi-polar structure of christological interpretation as consisting of Jesus himself as norm and the community's interpretative framework as context. The final chapter offers a comparative evaluation of these two paradigms, indicating both their substantial convergences (e.g., on the essential unity of christological faith and the necessity of converting historical sciences in light of revelation) and their irreducible differences (regarding, for instance, the theological usefulness of historical criticism and the way in which scripture operates as a norm for contemporary christology). While both Balthasar and Schillebeeckx have articulated the faith-history relationship in fidelity to the incarnational nature of Christian faith, this work demonstrates that such common ground does not deny the possibility of radically divergent estimations of the methodological and hermeneutical implications of that same incarnational faith.

Recommended Citation

Shippee, Steven Reynolds, "Faith and history in contemporary Catholic christology: The Jesus of history in Balthasar and Schillebeeckx" (1995). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9600863.